Last week I touched on the fact that the success of some former WWE stars wouldn’t have been as big had it not been for a certain feud or opponent during their WWE run. This wasn’t a slight on the individual, but merely pointing out that sometimes success comes as part of a team or a wider perspective rather than through one’s sheer individual talent or hard work. Sometimes it takes a combined effort to reach heady new heights and in WWE today we can see that right across the board. Perhaps this has always been the way in professional wrestling, but though many wrestlers are friends, some are merely colleagues and to place your trust in someone – especially considering what a cutthroat business professional wrestling is, takes a lot of trust and respect in your fellow professional. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think WWE are finally utilizing their talent and the pairings are paying dividends. Let’s look at some.
Kevin Owens and Elias
Two men who have been floating around the Monday Night Raw roster for some time now, the pair have been slowly drawn closer together and are now a popular pairing. It’s quite apt that Elias was formerly known as ‘The Drifter’ as he’s forever drifting in and out of popular story-lines as a fodder for stars getting pushes, or as a plaything for monsters among men. His gimmick is consistent, and I believe his promos have improved a lot (much like his guitar playing), but I believe WWE have been smart in placing him alongside Owens at least for the foreseeable future.
Owens has been side-lined by the return of The Shield, was treated like a rag doll by Strowman on more than one occasion and has seen the impressive Drew McIntyre/Dolph Ziggler partnership overtake him on the card. I think he needs the break from the limelight, if only for a short while, while the big dog and his boys carry on their feud. The absence of the Intercontinental Title from the Raw mid-card, and the story-lines therein has left a void that has been filled by a great pairing of Owens and Elias. I have to say, the reaction they got from the loud Seattle crowd this past week on Raw was something special. I haven’t seen heat like that since the peak Vicky Gurrero days. Great job by both men and the Seattle fans.
Samoa Joe and AJ Styles
I think what sets this feud apart from others across WWE is the personal aspect of it and how both men have really bought into the story and delivered. I feared that AJ’s title run was in danger of becoming stale and with now real plethora of contenders on Smackdown Live to go up against, I worried the title would change hands to someone who couldn’t deliver the high standards that Styles has. Aside from Joe, there’s Randy Orton (no thanks), Rusev (yes, please, but I think that chance has gone – for now), Daniel Bryan (I think he’s better off out of the title picture), Miz (awesome) or The Bar (but they won’t split them up for a good while, at least while the New Day are still together).
Samoa Joe is a natural heel and with Styles has carried over the chemistry they had outside of WWE, and brought it to the big shows. His creepy, loner, arrogant persona is mirrored perfectly by AJ Styles who is honest, a family man and respectful – the polar opposite to Joe. I like the fact that the feud has escalated beyond the WWE arena and into the personal life of Styles. This doesn’t always work, but when it does, it brings an intensity and passion that realty transcends across into our homes. Think CM Punk & the Undertaker after Paul Bearer’s death. Think Randy Orton and Triple H when Orton was stealing kisses from a concussed Stephanie McMahon while Triple H looked on helplessly. They were personal and they worked. I think Samoa Joe has really embraced that aspect of the feud and Styles is responding in the only way he can; with fury and anger, desperate to crush Joe. The feud has gone beyond the title and being a champion and it’s down to both men for bringing it to that next level.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair
I’ve already said a lot about how much I enjoy this feud, but this week when watching Smackdown Live, I had a brief epiphany. All this time, I was reveling in Becky Lynch’s title run, when I thought about the flip-side of the coin, Charlotte. Now, a feud is only as good as its participants, and I think I’ve been neglecting to give Charlotte her due credit in what could be the feud of the year. I like how she has been portrayed by WWE as the baby-face against a heel Becky, but even though that hasn’t been palatable to the WWE Universe, she’s stayed the course and continued on in that role. Charlotte is unlikely to be heavily booed by the crowd, unless she goes back to her heel roots, but she commands respect from the audience and her fellow professionals. That is what makes this more interesting, in that she is very capable of beating Becky and snatching back the title.
For Becky’s part, she’s played the frustrated former friend to a tee. Not content with getting the gold, she now wants to build upon that by defining a legacy as Smackdown Women’s Champion. Her reluctance to turn chickenshit and run away from an enraged Charlotte brings so much more to her character. Becky is now on a crusade to right the wrongs she sees in WWE, especially when it comes to her. Her tweets about not being on the Australia Super Show-Down poster were right and proper for her character. She speaks her mind and that is a reflection of what the fans think. She should be the centerpiece of Smackdown – especially for the women and the edited poster was a nice touch. The fact that Charlotte beat her up doesn’t matter in the long run as it reminds us that Charlotte can beat Becky and vice versa. Much like the AJ/Joe feud, both Becky and Charlotte have elevated their feud beyond the norm and hopefully to another level that will see both deserving superstars get the credit and respect they so richly deserve.
I could go on and on. The point is that as talented as some of these WWE superstars are as individuals, they can be even better when paired with or matched up against somebody that brings out the best in them.