Leading into Survivor Series, WWE had found itself at a crossroads. John Cena and Brock Lesnar were off TV, and Randy Orton and Champion Seth Rollins had suffered long-term injuries. That's not far off the entire top of the card.
This wasn't an ideal state of affairs for the people looking at the bottom line, but for a creative team this should spell opportunity. There was nothing to be done in the circumstances except elevate a number of talented stars and let them sink or swim. WWE has been criticised for not building enough top tier talent in recent years, but while John Cena continued to sell tickets... why did they need to?
They have taken very risks and been reluctant to give anyone an identifiable push apart from Roman Reigns. But now with the roster looking thin at the top, Reigns alone was never going to be the solution. In fact, bringing someone up alongside him might take the pressure off the heir apparent to get over.
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This was a chance for WWE Creative to elevate the entire roster, put serious heat on individuals for the first time, and develop a new pecking order that isn't one never ending mid-card Battle Royal. But, sadly, they have already dropped the ball on more than one occasion.
The WWE title tournament achieved nothing. Kalisto beating Ryback was the only upset. Why not have Kalisto make the semi-finals at least and make it a story? Why not see how the audience reacts to Cesaro making the finals?
What if he had beaten Reigns on RAW and gone the whole way; making Reigns a fallible babyface, Cesaro a superstar who can beat anyone, and storylines for both moving forward? And why waste the audience's time by having Sheamus make the whole process pointless anyway?
I have nothing against Sheamus leaving as Champion; but having portrayed him so weakly as late, playing second fiddle to the New Day, it couldn't have been a colder cash-in. Why have Rusev and Barrett involve themselves on RAW only for all three to be bested by Reigns?
Speaking of Reigns, he is being portrayed as the strongest competitor in the company. So having him lose the title on technicalities so often isn't creating suspense, because the viewers know he's the "best". It doesn't help nurture the competitive environment WWE need.
He can be the top of the pecking order, but making him unbeatable is guaranteed to turn the fans against him once again. Had he lost against Cesaro we could have seen more outstanding matches from them both, rather than a showdown with Sheamus who can only win by interference.
Cesaro being injured as well doesn't help this, but WWE had nothing for him anyway. They have nothing for anyone. There is no excitement around the title scene, because they chosen the least risky, least creative route once again.
It would only take one or two decisions to put a spotlight on someone fresh like Ambrose, or Owens, or even Neville, or Bray Wyatt. None of them would rise at the detriment to Reigns, but to his benefit. Putting someone on his level and being the focal point of the company would at least get people tuning in. In a tournament, or with a clever promo you can make someone believable fairly quickly. A mission statement or momentum building upset can give a guy heat, but having them lose in boring fashion and steal the title does not.
It's easy for WWE to say that a guy isn't ready, but the way they're going with 50/50 booking, and promo-by-numbers, none of them ever will be.