WWE’s Issue of Building Up Challengers


I was quite disturbed at something that I saw this past Monday night on RAW. It was the segment involving WWE Champion Kofi Kingston. The team of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens picked up a hard-fought and well-earned victory over New Day at Stomping Grounds. The next night, Kofi Kingston defeats Sami Zayn in singles action and then defeats Kevin Owens in a one minute throwaway match. Now that was egregious in of itself, but that is not the disturbing part. The disturbing part was what came after, which was Samoa Joe attacking him from behind, and in doing so, earning him a WWE Title match at Extreme Rules.

Why was I so disturbed at this? It was because WWE was playing me like a fiddle. For those who did not bother tuning into Stomping Grounds (and quite honestly I don’t blame you), Samoa Joe lost his first United States title defense to Ricochet, a man effectively half his size and has been on the main roster for about three months and even shorter as a singles competitor. Ricochet beat him clean and without controversy. Then, the next night Joe is challenging for the most prestigious title in the industry.

Here is the all-important question that WWE probably cannot answer. How are we supposed to believe that Samoa Joe can beat Kofi Kingston and become WWE Champion? Joe looks menacing and his signature submission hold is probably the human equivalent of a horse tranquilizer. But what has he done since coming to the main roster? He has won the US Championship, yes. But he hasn’t defeated anyone over half his size and sometimes, he doesn’t even get television time. Let’s also not forget, Joe was also one of the people Kofi beat in the gauntlet match that he had to earn a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania to begin with. How do you make the jump from losing your first US Title defense to challenging for the WWE Title? How many chances did he have against AJ Styles last year and failed every time?

What about Kofi’s previous challenger, Dolph Ziggler? Dolph Ziggler is a serviceable worker, and I was old enough to remember when people thought he should be the top star in the business around seven years ago. Seven years later, what is he now? A man who looks like he’s constipated every time he speaks and looks like he’s in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Let’s get real. Aside from Dolph cashing in his briefcase on Alberto Del Rio, Ziggler has lost every single big match he has competed in. There was never any reason to think that he can defeat Ziggler and effectively looked like an unworthy challenger.

What was it that made Kofi Kingston’s WWE Title victory at WrestleMania so incredible? It wasn’t because he actually won a title, but because of what he had to go through to win it and the caliber of talent that Daniel Bryan had become. Kofi’s victories against Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler were nothing special because his challengers have been booked to be either straight losers or incompetent performers that can never get the job done when it matters. Where is the fun in Kofi defeating people that he probably should beat?

Let’s go over to the Universal Championship side, Baron Corbin. Looking at Corbin right now, can you honestly say that Rollins would have any trouble in retaining his title against him in any capacity? Corbin’s gimmick as an evil Olive Garden waiter has resulted in endless, boring matches, unconvincing victories and a hollow character. Corbin failed to successfully cash in his MITB briefcase. He couldn’t last more than two PPV’s with his only US Title reign. His victory over Kurt Angle? Let’s get real. Not to mention, the week before Corbin challenged Rollins at Stomping Grounds, he was pinned in a tag team match. Then, when he had all the advantages at Stomping Grounds, he still couldn’t get it done.

Here is the bottom line. One of the primary reasons why the product is so pathetically dull right now is because there does not appear to be a significant challenge that the current world champions have to overcome. People can say that Brock Lesnar is carrying the briefcase around and could cash in any time. Let us be honest, though. He has had ample opportunities to win and what has he done? First, he destroys Seth Rollins to within an inch of his life on the RAW before Super Showdown, and he doesn’t cash it in. Then, when Friday comes, he fails and Rollins is able to get the better of him. Hell, he didn’t even know the rules of the briefcase that he had (which actually fits his character pretty well now that I think about it).

They say that the title doesn’t make the man, but that the man makes the title. Well, if that is the case, then the reign is only as good as the challengers for the title. One of the reasons why I admire Daniel Bryan incredibly is because he makes sure to put over his opponents to some degree. He understands that if he keeps talking about about them, beating them won’t mean anything. Looking at the career resumes of Ziggler and Owens, they are certainly at least above the majority of the rest of the roster. But in 2019, they are not serious challengers for anything.

WWE has done a remarkably poor job in building up the rest of the roster and viable challengers for their top titles, and it is very discouraging. That is why I cringe every time Corey Graves insists on labeling Kofi’s title run as a miracle fairytale of sorts. Where is the miracle in defeating Ziggler in 2 out of 3 falls. It’s DOLPH ZIGGLER.

This problem is easily salvageable. Just have superstars win on a consistent basis or at least look valiant in defeat. Do not just throw them away as side characters who can just take a pinfall because someone has to. Then, when Kofi and Seth are facing them, we can determine if they are in a certain level of trouble. But you cannot just bring up random challengers to fill time and expect us to take them seriously. It’s ironic that we were all celebrating that WWE did the “right thing” by having Seth and Kofi win their respective matches at WrestleMania. However, it’s looking more and more like both of their reigns may have peaked the moment they won it.

What do you think about the challengers that WWE has brought up? What would your solution be?

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