“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” – Mahatma Gandhi
When Karrion Kross made his surprising return to Smackdown last week, he returned to make a statement and deliver an impactful return. By attacking the number one contender for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, Drew McIntyre, he did just that. It wasn’t just about attacking Drew though; it was also done to send a message to the champion, Roman Reigns, that he has eyes on the top prize.
As Kross stared down the Bloodline, his intentions were pretty clear that this time he isn’t in WWE to play around. The last time the WWE audience saw Kross, he was saddled with a horrible gimmick as a gladiator wearing a helmet, because for some reason the creative team thought that was a good idea. To the surprise of no one outside the creative team it failed spectacularly.
Kross suffered the same fate as so many former NXT stars in that once they hit the main roster, Vince McMahon, destroyed everything that NXT built. So many talents either were released or quit, because of their main roster treatment.
I’ve always been a strong believer in the philosophy if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. If you have a character that is successful in NXT, then bring that character up to the main roster as is. If it is not catching on as well as it did in NXT, then you make tweaks and changes.
In the case of Kross they not only changed his look and gimmick they removed his wife as his valet. Kross’ main roster call up and presentation was arguably the worst one. This was someone that was over with the NXT crowd as a dominate champion with the very attractive valet and for some reason WWE creative went nah let’s change it all. Without a doubt that is one of the dumbest booking decisions that I’ve seen in my years as a fan.
However, with man behind Kross’ NXT run now in charge of WWE creative, Triple H is out to correct the previous wrongs of his father-in-law. Hunter knows he has a really special talent and wants to present him as such and putting him in the middle of a world championship feud as part of his return is a huge statement on Hunter’s part as well. This will not be that version of Karrion that the WWE audiences saw prior to his WWE release in November. The version of the character that returned was an evolved version of his successful NXT run.
Bad booking can pretty much kill any story no matter how much potential it has, or talent involved. A prime example of that is Judgment Day. When the group started me and so many fans saw the potential of a GOAT like Edge leading a group of young talent giving them the rub to help elevate them. Edge’s focus during his second chance run has been all about giving back to the business he loves and helping elevate the full-time stars of today both on and off screen. The belief that many fans had was that the talent Edge was going to have in his stable was talent that he legitimately believed in and wasn’t just people WWE creative wanted in it. Based on Damian Priest, Rhea Ripley and Finn Balor being chosen for it, it seemed that the fans belief was likely accurate since Edge has publicly praised all of them in interviews long before the stable was even a thought.
Damian is someone that I first became familiar with during his run in ROH as Punishment Martinez and I remember thinking this guy is going to be really special in a few years. You could see the potential there as a fan and clearly Hunter’s team in NXT did as well as he was signed. His presentation in NXT to me was someone that Hunter saw tremendous potential in. Priest is one of those talents that when he went to the main roster, they really didn’t seem sure what they wanted to do with him. On one hand he had a U.S. title reign and was prominently featured in WrestleMania when he teamed with Bad Bunny, but he was also in the horrible zombie segment with Miz. His booking on the main roster has been a mixed bag at best.
Ripley was someone that Hunter viewed as a star, and it appeared WWE creative felt the same way about her. She has won almost all the top women’s championships in the company. She had prominent placement on the card, and it looked like she was going to be one of the rare NXT stars that didn’t suffer the main roster curse, but it was only delayed.
Ripley soon found herself in tag team with Nikki Cross, who changed her gimmick to Nikki ASH, which is like a Mighty Molly rip-off. They had a tag title run together and the team eventually disbanded when Nikki turned on Ripley. Her WWE run started out so well, but the then WWE creative clearly lost interest in her.
There may be no more tragic WWE call up than Balor. This is someone Hunter brought into NXT as a big deal and pushed him as a major star of the brand. He gets the call up in July 2016 and is literally put into the main event of Summerslam to crown the first ever WWE Universal Champion against Seth Rollins and wins the title. Of course, he did get injured and was forced to relinquish the title.
His run on the main roster upon his return was a series of ups and downs as it became clear that WWE creative did not see him as a top guy. Hunter brought him back to NXT and literally built him back up again into a top star, but when he returned to the main roster the same rollercoaster booking that plagued him the first time was happening again.
Having Edge recruit Finn to Judgment Day, only for Finn to take over the stable and kick Edge out was a surprising move, but one that gave some hope that maybe just maybe they might actually do something with the stable that up to that point it appeared the company was wasting.
Since that time, Hunter has taken over creative and there is renewed hope that he may be able to save this angle and elevate the stars in it. Right now, they are feuding with Edge and the Mysterios, but the jury is still out if this can become compelling, because right now it seems to be missing something in my opinion. Ripley has certainly benefited from Hunter’s booking now as she is a powerhouse in the group completely manhandling Dominik.
See stables typically serve one of two purposes, to just elevate the leader of the group or in the case of truly great stables they elevate all the members.
How To Book This To Make It All Work:
With rumors that USA Network wanting a world champion of their own, this gives WWE the problem of how can they split the titles to make their TV partner happy and at the same time don’t sabotage the story of the long reigning tribal chief before you’re ready to have him lose. First, I want to address USA suggesting an interim champion, I wrote about this previously when AEW did it with the TNT title it is a horrible idea.
Interim champions shouldn’t be a go to solution like AEW has done. It should be rare and make sense, it shouldn’t just be well the champion is injured, so we aren’t going to strip them of the title, but instead we are going to crown yet another person and make them champion too until we do a title unification. Why did Punk receive the special treatment of not relinquishing the title when so many others in other promotions have relinquished titles due to injury? In my opinion, the interim championship was misused by AEW here.
So, if USA Network is looking at AEW for the interim champion idea, it’s a bad idea. To me, the only logical interim champion that made sense was during the pandemic when the reigning Cruiserweight champion, Jordan Devlin was stuck overseas so he couldn’t travel to the states to defend it.
That story made sense because of the circumstances, and he was still able to defend the title in NXT UK, so having two champions simultaneously leading to a unification match made sense. When Razor Ramon won the IC title after HBK was suspended they didn’t call him an interim champion, yes it led to a unification match down the road, but HBK argued he was still the champ since he never relinquished nor was he defeated for it.
There has been rumors that Kross would challenge for one of Roman’s titles and Drew will challenge for the other at Clash at the Castle. It makes no sense to me why Kross wouldn’t challenge for both titles.
Based on a discussion during a WRTD watch party, I remembered a possible old option WWE has here. I am dusting off a concept that was used 22 years ago during a similar situation with a dual champion, that can solve WWE’s problem of separating the titles and at the same time protecting Roman.
At WrestleMania 2000, Kurt Angle was both the reigning IC and European champion and to my knowledge the first and only time this has ever been done they had a two-fall Triple threat match for the WWF Intercontinental and WWF European Championships. The first fall was for the IC and the second was for the European. Angle lost both titles and was not the one pinned in either fall.
They could do the same thing with the WWE & Universal Championships. Making it a triple threat with the same stipulation. Now it is entirely up to them if they want to take both titles off of him this way, which I sincerely doubt they will do that, but regardless I think Roman will not be the one that is pinned or submits in this match. If Roman is pinned it likely won’t be clean it will likely be the result of perhaps outside interference or a casualty of the triple threat rules.
Assuming they are just taking the one title off Roman, my guess is it might be the WWE Championship since he has held that for less time than the Universal. I’m thinking whoever he loses the Universal title to it will hopefully be a clean pin for maximum benefit to whoever takes the title. Whoever ends Roman’s 700 plus reign it should mean something and elevate whoever beats him and beating him clean certainly adds to the impact.
I think the strong belief is that Drew is going to win one of the titles especially in Europe since he was denied a crowd when he won the WWE title during the pandemic WrestleMania that had no crowd. That is certainly a possibility, however they could do something to shock the audience here as well setting up another feud. This is where you can go down one of two potential paths here to shock the crowd, you could have Judgment Day come down to cause a distraction to Drew, costing him the match and putting a title on Kross or you could have Drew pin Kross, but post-match Judgment Day arrives, and they take Drew out to spoil his celebration.
The other option that they have here is if Roman wants a reduced schedule and you are willing to pull the trigger have the match be for both titles and have either Drew or Kross appear on both shows. They can always split the titles like I suggested above some other time. Roman can take time off and return during mania season where he is likely facing the Rock at mania anyway.
There are a couple different roads you can take here but having Kross becoming the leader of the Judgment Day and taking a major world title in the process maybe the best option. The group itself needs a major jump start and adding Kross as not only the boss, but perhaps even the behind-the-scenes invisible hand mastermind that was behind the group turning on Edge.
Kross could make this revelation surrounded by Judgment Day and then says something like this:
“Edge had the right idea when he started this group, but he was never considered an unwanted by some old man in the back like we were. He wasn’t asked to put on a stupid helmet. Judgment Day has come and gone, everyone in our way has been found guilty. This right here is Doomsday and all of WWE will feel our wrath…tick…tock”
This opens the door for Kross to feud with people like Drew, Rey Mysterio and Edge over the title. Priest and Balor could target the Usos for the tag titles. Ripley can of course target the women’s championship as well. As the new Doomsday, dominates throughout WWE, the group itself is getting built up and its members are being elevated as well.
This can open the door for Balor and/or Priest to break free of Doomsday and challenge Kross. This can eventually lead to Balor finally taking his place back on top of the mountain. This is something they can build to by showing cracks in the foundation of the group.
That despite all their success the only thing that can kill the group is ego and paranoia. This sets up Balor, Priest and Kross all to be rivals feuding for a world championship. Ripley can be the dominate women’s wrestler that we know she is more than capable of being including winning Women’s championship gold.
If this is done correctly, this can reset the damage that was done to Kross and the members of Judgment Day and elevate everyone involved. I’ve always strongly believed that stables should elevate all the members and not just the leader. All the people involved are capable of being a much bigger star and now with the right creative mind in place in WWE, we may actually see that happen for all the people involved.
Lastly, I want to take a moment and thank Black Mass Design on Instagram for his amazing triple threat and Kross/Judgment Day images, which gave me the idea for this piece. He has some amazing custom images that I highly recommend that you check out.
Photo Credits – WWE & Black Mass Design’s Instagram