For the better part of the summer, WWE fans were presented with a tease of a new faction making their debut on WWE television. As weeks passed, we were witness to attacks on the WWE rosters of both Raw and Smackdown. There were run ins from black hooded individuals who would destroy anyone and anything that crossed their path. They were portrayed as vigilantes and on a mission to destroy all things WWE.
In the beginning, the characters that would perpetuate the attacks were obviously a random hodgepodge of talent that was used to confuse the audience and prevent them from identifying who was actually crafting these heinous attacks. Even when we were allowed to hear them speak it was always limited at best. The story that they wanted us to buy into was that this was a non-contacted group that was running roughshod over the entire company. The insanity of the angle was mind boggling to begin with as the reality of any rival group showing up and destroying property with no calls to local law enforcement has always made these angles feel so juvenile in their planning.
If you fast forward a month or so, we started to realize that certain individuals were missing from NXT programming or were carefully written off of NXT television. Then we started to get a more consistent group of wrestlers doing the damage each week. When we finally heard them speak, it was clear who each and every member was. Domanick Dijakovic, Mia Yim, Mercedes Martinez, Dio Madden, and Shane Thorne were behind the masks and die hard wrestling fans knew it from the beginning.
The reality was that up until the point of their actual Raw debut, the angle, though mirroring that of the old Nexus program of 2010, still held the potential for compelling television. Despite fans knowing who was hiding under the masks and being able to see past the lack of creativity that went into booking this Nexus Angle 2.0, fans still had something to look forward to. A group that included both male and female wrestlers would present the possibility of Retribution members attempting to collect several WWE Championships across the brands. They could have established a reign of terror in WWE that would lead to several main event level matches on various Pay Per View events throughout the second half of 2020 which would have truly helped increase ratings during this insane COVID era of wrestling.
What did we get instead? The sudden dropping of any tie in with Smackdown. Then we are told that they have been signed to Raw exclusive contracts to avoid the medical expenses that occurred when they would attack. Again, stupid booking. People aren’t dumb and are willing to suspend disbelief if it makes sense. Invading non-contracted stars would have been arrested and forced to pay restitution. Anyways, we have a debut that left much to be desired.
Raw opens the show with the 5 core members of Retribution entering the ring, explaining their contracts, like fans need to hear that nonsense to begin with, and the worst part is when the fans are given completely new names for this band of misfits. T-Bar, Mace, Slapjack, Retaliation, and Reckoning were the new monackers for the members. The fans are supposed to forget that only a month or so ago, Donovan Dijakovic had lost an NXT Championship match to Keith Lee on television. We weren’t supposed to be able to see the resemblance between his new and former self. Mia Yim didn’t even purge her blue hair. If you were going to allow them to look essentially the same, I am fine with that but just reveal who they are. They can still come to the main roster and wreak havoc. They can still burn the place down. Just do it in an effective way so that fans who love to follow the careers of people like Yim and Dijakovic can do so without having to remember their crazy time as part of this insane storyline.
Then they give the faction their first televised match and because Vince McMahon loves the controversy so much and wants to honor old customs from yesteryear, a simple punch to the face of the outside man in a tag team match causes a disqualification and we get a complete let down in their first match. It was an opportunity to get them over as unstoppable and WWE dropped the ball hard. Instead, they came off as weak and incapable of putting up a fight on the main roster. Aside from that, they are fighting with the Hurt Business who are supposed to be heels as well while facing a babyface combination of Drew McIntyre and Keith Lee. Does any of that make sense to anyone?
After the big TV debut, the group must have thought it came off well because the word is that they threw a party afterwards and, go figure in 2020, several members may have been exposed to COVID carriers. What does that mean? They get to quarantine and get pulled from WWE TV right before a huge pay per view that they should have invaded, they miss the following night’s Raw, and there is still the issue of all of those attacks on Smackdown that went unanswered.
This could have been big. It could have injected WWE with new matches and new feuds that could have supported their programming all the way through the end of 2020 and potentially beyond. Instead, the angle is cold as ice and WWE will try to fix it with their incredible creative department that messed things up from the start. Now we have to hope that WWE management and Vince McMahon realize just how insane the name T-Bar is. We have to hope they allow them to take back their original names so there is character recognition and legitimacy to their position on the brand. We also have to hope they can find a way to make them believable as top heels when you already made them look so bad with their first in-ring action.
As a massive Dijakovic fan and someone who feels Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez deserve some time in the spotlight, I pray they find a way to make this work but let’s be honest. Raw Underground has been thrust upon us. The Fiend, the most “over” character in years has been relieved of the Universal Championship shortly after winning it, Braun Strowman is somehow on Raw Underground when he is a Smackdown Superstar and instead of destroying people in the ring has been assigned to fake shoot fights with talents that are green as gourds. What evidence is there that WWE will suddenly pull something creative and compelling out of their hat and make us believe in their storytelling any time soon?
If we are lucky, WWE will abandon the entire idea and let the wrestlers be themselves. Let them bring their talents to the ring without the crazy headgear and grumbling. Allow them to be a source of power and believability in the ring and forget the garbage match finishes. Then again, who am I kidding? We have been waiting for WWE to do something compelling for years and aside from a heel Roman 3 years too late, they have dropped the ball every single time.
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