Genuine surprises can feel few and far between in modern WWE. It’s not to say that’s a bad thing – in long-form storytelling like wrestling, the predictable option is often the good one. But when moments like the SHIELD reunion are telegraphed weeks in advance, it can be nice to read a headline and come away thinking “wait, what?”
Hence my reaction to the double whammy news that 1) Kurt Angle was replacing Roman Reigns in the Shield at TLC and 2) Finn Balor would be fighting Smackdown’s AJ Styles for no conceivable reason. Even though both choices smack of last minute scrambling, I’m into both of these changes.
Although the Shield reunion has been super hype from the moment Dean’s music hit to join Roman a few weeks ago, I always felt like it was missing a little magic. The threat has escalated since the reunion with the addition of Strowman and Kane, but the modern era’s most dominant stable reuniting to take on the Miztourage felt a bit anticlimactic. Swapping out Kurt for Roman both delays the actual Shield reunion for Survivor Series (ostensibly still a big 4 pay per view) and gets Angle’s in-ring return out of the way, avoiding burning too much show-time and letting an overcomplicated build ruin the hype.
That last reason is exactly why I’m psyched for Balor vs. Styles. While I’m sure a storyline would’ve been good, especially featuring their Bullet Club past and roping in Gallows and Anderson, I don’t really trust WWE creative not to drag it out so long that it stops being cool. In this instance, it gets to just be ca great exhibition match with a story hanging over it, free to develop in the match itself. Too sweet.
Ordinarily, seeing storytellers scramble is off-putting. But given how WWE can overplan things (prime example: Balor vs. Rollins) I’m a bit relieved to see wrestling take a sharp left at the last second in the name of putting on a good show.
Written by Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph)
Image courtesy of wwe.com
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