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WWE takes steps to build Network with Rusev winning U.S. title after Raw

On Thursday, WWE released its financial report, which included disappointing numbers for the WWE Network. On Monday night's Raw, the company took another step towards correcting that by having Rusev win the U.S. title on the Network.

After Raw ended on television, WWE had Sheamus defend his United States title against Rusev on the Network. This was advertised during Raw, and it was deemed a Network-exclusive. It was a pretty good match too, especially if you like two guys beating on each other. Finally, Rusev was able to make Sheamus pass out in The Accolade.

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While Rusev winning is certainly notable, him simply winning the belt doesn't merit a whole lot of discussion. Almost every anti-American heel has won the title at some point in his career. But what is notable, and worth discussing, is how he won it, on what amounted to a Raw post-show on the WWE Network.

For several months now, I've been saying that the WWE hasn't been doing enough to draw the average WWE fan to the Network. Personally, I love the old shows and documentaries. And while there are many people like me, most of those people already have the Network. You're not going to get much growth simply catering to the nostalgia factor. What they can build on however is attracting more of the people who are fans of the current product.

Right now, outside of the pay-per-views, there is no reason for someone who is only a fan of the main roster to get the Network. Sure, they could watch Main Event or Superstars, but nothing really happens on those shows, and while I think NXT is the best hour of wrestling on TV, that's also not going to immediately attract someone to the Network if they don't know about it.

So what they need to do is make the Network an essential part of your weekly watching. And they took a step forward in that Monday. Now, that they have to make that meaningful. They shouldn't show replays of that match on Raw, and they shouldn't have a rematch on television for a while.

That second part is the tricky one, as WWE loves to have the quick rematches. But in order to make the Network essential, they need to have big matches like this, or have storylines progress on the Network in other ways. There was a question about whether the WWE would be willing to take that risk, and make it so only Network-viewers fully understood the product. It certainly is a risk, as it could alienate people who don't have the Network, including those in the United Kingdom who had their Network launch delayed once again.

But if WWE is serious about the Network, it's a risk that must be attempted, and for at least one week, it seems like that the company is willing to give it a try.

The Rest of RAW:

** The big storyline on RAW revolved around Randy Orton and his participation in the Survivor Series main event. At the beginning of the show, Vince McMahon made a rare appearance on Raw, and announced that if Team Authority lost the match, Stephanie and Triple H would be out of power (more on this later).

In response, Triple H insisted that Randy Orton be part of Team Authority (joining Seth Rollins and Kane). Orton insisted that if he was going to be part of the team, he had to have a match later with Seth Rollins, which was granted. After a solid back and forth match, Rollins won with a backslide.

Triple H insisted that the two shake hands after, and while Rollins was apologetic, and held out his hand, Orton hit an RKO on Rollins. Then, after Triple H tried to settle him down, Orton hit Triple H. This sparked the rest of the Authority to attack him, ended with curb stomps to the announce table and the steel steps.

While they had been teasing the Orton face turn for a few weeks, I thought they would wait until Survivor Series or later to make it official. However, as it happens so often, outside factors contributed to speed up what might have been their plan previously. In this case, it was that Orton is starring in The Condemned 2, which is set to start filming this week. So this was an easy way to write him off for a few weeks, and it will likely result in him being the "surprise" last member of Cena's team at Survivor Series.

** While overall, this was a very good episode of Raw (perhaps another result of the financial report?), there were a few segments that, quite frankly, seemed forced. And both of them had to do with a question of motivation.

In my mind, motivation is one of the most important things in telling a story. Even if the motivation is extreme, you have to believe that a character has a reason for doing what he or she is doing. So when Vince McMahon came out and, unprompted, put Stephanie and Triple H's jobs on the line, it didn't resonate the way it perhaps should have. Why was he doing this to his family? No reason was given at all. So a stipulation that should have been a big deal felt underwhelming without the motivation behind it.

This brings us to the second odd segment of the night. Dolph Ziggler came out to the ring for a match, and once he was there, the entirety of the Authority came out. Triple H tried to recruit Ziggler not just to say no to Cena, but to join Team Authority.

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He pointed out, correctly, that Ziggler is one of the hardest working individuals in the company, and that he may not be getting the credit he's due. He offered Ziggler whatever he wanted, including title matches, to join The Authority's team. Ziggler not only refused, he said that he wanted Triple H and Stephanie to be fired.

But why? As well as I can remember, The Authority has never done anything against Ziggler to warrant his hatred. There's no reason for him to have strong feelings for the Authority. So again, this standup moment for Ziggler turned into a lesser moment because no motivation was given to the audience.

** The first match of the night was a good one between Dean Ambrose and Cesaro, which was won by Ambrose. This was notable because Bray Wyatt came out and observed the match from his rocking chair. Midway through the match, they did one of the classic Wyatt clips, and then immediately went to commercial break.

I will admit it, it was compelling enough that it caused me to use the WWE App to watch what was going on during a commercial break for the first time in months, if not longer. So, well done by the WWE there. It will be interesting to see what direction they go with the Wyatt/Ambrose feud, as they haven't done much to flesh it out so far.

** Tyson Kidd beat Sheamus in what might be the upset of the year so far on Raw. The two were fighting outside. As the count got to 9, Tyson maneuvered Natalya (who accompanied him to ringside) between him and Sheamus, then slid in the ring as Sheamus refused to run through Nattie. Tyson has done a great job in his NXT run, and it looks like he'll be getting more of a look on the main roster.

** Mark Henry and Big Show fought after Henry turned heel last week. Big Show ended up winning be DQ as Henry used the steel steps as a weapon. Before the match, Big Show did an interview saying he'd be happy to be on Team Cena if he was asked, and the Authority was shown watching Mark Henry, so it's very likely these two will be involved with the Survivor Series match.

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** Speaking of members of the team, Stephanie was shown asking Lana if Rusev wanted to be part of Team Authority after Rusev squashed Zack Ryder (both him and Sheamus pulled double-duty on Raw). Lana said they'd think about it.

** Fernando (of Los Matadores) beat Stardust after Stardust was distracted by Torito, Goldust and The Miz (who was on commentary) got involved in a scuffle. After the match, it was announced that the Dusts would be defending their title against the Usos (and early Jimmy Uso lost to The Miz) on Smackdown. This seems to be leading towards a match involving those four teams at Survivor Series.

** Two promo videos were played for WWE superstars. The first showed an extreme closeup on someone's -- possibly Luke Harper's -- eyes as a voice talked about him putting himself back together with pieces of "you." I'd say this was definitely Harper, but the odd thing is that it didn't sound like him at all.

The other was Xavier Woods shown in a James Brown type of gimmick, dancing with a choir behind him, saying that a New Day was coming. So I guess they're dropping the stable of Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E that they had been experimenting with at house shows.

** Ryback squashed Titus. It wouldn't surprise me if Ryback ends up on Team Cena at Survivor Series.

** Nikki, who apparently became No. 1 contender to the Divas title somehow, beat Emma. After the match, Nikki ordered Brie to slap AJ, who was on commentary.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster

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