Absolution vs. Riott Squad: What WWE Is Doing Right and Wrong with These Stables

Anthony Mango@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2017

The stables are almost mirror images, for better or worse.
The stables are almost mirror images, for better or worse.Credit: original photos from WWE.com

Several weeks back, five women were called-up from NXT to the main roster in order to spice things up on Raw and SmackDown Live.

First, there was Paige's return after a long absence from injuries and suspensions, partnering with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville to form what is now referred to as Absolution.

The following night, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan popped up on SmackDown to announce themselves as new additions to the roster, forming The Riott Squad.

In some ways, this has been a welcome change to the status quo that has people talking about a multitude of matches they would like to see in the future.

On the other hand, there are plenty of problems with how these units were formed and the WWE creative team's storytelling to try to make the best out of the situation.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of what WWE is doing with the latest additions to the women's division.

            

Pro: Fresh Talent

The most obvious positive brought to the table whenever new wrestlers are brought on to a brand is that it opens up more variety of matches the fans haven't seen before—or, at least, haven't seen in quite a while.

For the past few months, nearly every possible match has been exhausted and repeated so many times on both Raw and SmackDown that there wasn't anything to be excited about.

If Bayley were to fight Nia Jax, would you care? Are you going to get excited about Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox again?

How many times do Naomi and Natalya have to fight before their feud is over, and why does that mean Natalya then has to fight Charlotte Flair 150 times in a row thereafter?

Just by virtue of never being on the main roster before, five of these women are already working with the interest factor of having first-time matches against different opponents.

Even Paige, who has been a longtime main-roster member and had her share of fights with some of those women, hasn't been seen in such an extended period of time that she feels fresh and has possible opponents she has never faced, such as Asuka.

If WWE wanted to spice things up, then that mission is accomplished.

           

Con: Too Many Similarities

If you keep getting these teams mixed up or you feel like there's an overwhelming sense of repetition, you aren't the only one.

One of the biggest problems with how this situation has gone down is that WWE has done virtually nothing to differentiate the two entities from each other.

First things first, why did they have to appear on the same exact week?

When looking at the results of Raw and SmackDown, it felt like someone copied and pasted the script by saying that three women would make their debuts (or in Paige's case, return) to form a stable of heels that would attack everybody.

That happened on the Monday night after Survivor Series and then on the Tuesday night. So by the time the SmackDown crew did it, fans had seen the exact same thing 24 hours earlier.

Also, if you want to be superficial about it, both stables have a tough brunette on the left, a pale brunette with a more hardcore edge in the middle as the leader and a striking blonde with attitude on the right.

If you boil down each individual, it isn't like Logan formerly trained in MMA like Deville or that Rose has exhibited any bit of the so-called "firecracker" spunk that Morgan has, but that's not to say there aren't enough similarities to make a casual fan forget who is who.

It will be easy for someone who doesn't follow things more closely to refer to Mandy Rose as Liv Morgan because there has been no effort to give either of them an identity. Not everyone will have watched NXT or done their homework to know about them ahead of time.

Worse, those same casual fans might not even bother to care to learn their names at all and just refer to them as "Paige's group" and "the group on SmackDown."

For all intents and purposes, the Raw faction seems to be three heel women who beat up anybody on the roster in order to make a statement, while the SmackDown faction seem to be three heel women who beat up anybody on the roster in order to make a statement.

The New Day is vastly different in attitude, character and style than The Wyatt Family, The Shield, The Miztourage and any other faction, but Absolution and The Riott Squad are carbon copies.

          

Pro: Paige's Heel Turn

At this point in her career, Paige absolutely needed to turn heel—not just for her sake but for everybody else on the roster as well.

There wasn't much, if anything, new or exciting left for her to do as a babyface on Raw or SmackDown outside of being run down by Nia Jax, clashing with Alexa Bliss and having a match or two with Lana.

As a heel, she can still do those same things, along with fighting Asuka, Mickie James and the other babyfaces she either has never gone up against or hasn't been paired with in a long while.

On top of this, the way Paige spent her time during her absence was just too indicative of a heel for her to come back as a goody two-shoes without seeming awkward.

Credit: WWE.com

Nearly everything Paige was involved with for far too many months to count related to her being suspended, having public arguments, causing a scene, fighting with Alberto Del Rio, complaining about various issues and so forth.

That type of atmosphere breeds a heel return much more than to have her come back to shake all of the hands of the fans in the crowd and kiss babies and talk about how honorable the other heels need to be while she remains the virtuous babyface.

When you cause controversy, you can either be the cool rebel like a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin or you can be the heel your personality naturally screams.

Turning Paige heel was undoubtedly the right judgment call for her career.

           

Con: Every Other Heel Turn

While Paige is a natural villain, that doesn't apply to everybody else so easily.

Deville and Rose were already heels, so they have undergone zero transitions in that department, which is fine—particularly as they are aligned with a heel Paige, so it makes sense.

However, the members of The Riott Squad were nothing of the sort, and for them to all suddenly become heels comes off as a bit strange.

Riott is still embroiled in a feud with Deville that is doing her no favors in the heel department, as she is clearly the face in that predicament.

She's been a face since her debut in NXT, fighting against the likes of a then-heel Nikki Cross and alongside folks like Morgan and Ember Moon and other babyfaces without displaying a single villainous tendency.

Morgan has been bubbly, playing up to the crowd and being colorful and vibrant with a positive attitude and all that accompanies it.

Logan hasn't had anywhere near as much screen time to showcase her personality as the rest of the women, but she's been portraying a Southern belle type that in no means was looking like a deceitful, disrespectful, vain or vicious type of woman.

What has been the rationale behind their jump to SmackDown and not only teaming up instead of remaining solo but also immediately attacking Becky Lynch and Naomi?

If your go-to answer is the simple "to make a statement" discussion, you can do that by being a babyface and fighting a heel just as easily, and it still goes back to the argument there isn't enough distinction between The Riott Squad and Absolution.

All the promos haven't given any reason why these three women to turn heel. Instead, WWE has just had them talk about how they are heels.

A little backstory and some motivation for a 180-degree flip for three different women would be appreciated instead of copping out and just saying "they're bad now, so go with it from here on out."

                 

Pro: Paige's Team Makes Some Sense

Given how little Rose was used in NXT, it was a surprise to see her jump straight to the main roster. The same goes with Logan for The Riott Squad.

With that being said, it at least makes sense why Paige would team up with Rose and Deville.

Too often in WWE, a pairing is the result of something behind the scenes and the group is forced to try to make it work with no foundation to set it up, but this one has some justification behind it.

Both Deville and Rose were on the same season of Tough Enough for which Paige was one of the judges, so they have a history together going back to the summer of 2015.

Rose and Deville became great friends because of their time together, and Paige, as a mentor to them, could have brought them up to the main roster with her to be her lackeys.

Since they have experience with following her lead, they would follow suit and keep listening to her as their teacher until the stable dissolves and everybody goes their separate ways somewhere down the line.

The Riott Squad's members have yet to give any reason why they have joined forces, but at least Absolution spawned from a commonality.

That connection might be loose and not mentioned enough to drive home the point, but it's a good enough connection nonetheless.

If WWE had put Paige with Logan and Morgan, only to pair Riott up with Rose and Deville, it would have been perplexing not to capitalize on the link the Absolution trio has with one another.

Thankfully, WWE didn't make that mistake and went with the right and logical decision.

                

Con: Did WWE Bother to Plan Ahead?

There doesn't seem to be much of a concerted effort to plan for the future.

This has been a problem plaguing WWE throughout 2017, with only a handful of ideas seemingly put forth as something to build around and the rest having to be thought of at the last minute.

We've seen numerous pay-per-views that had matches being announced on the go-home show to help fill the card and even a few instances when it would be the weekend of an event with little to no information about what would go down.

For that to happen a few times is understandable, but its alarming recurrence speaks volumes to a habitual problem of WWE shooting first and asking questions later.

It seems that mentality has found itself into the creative stages of these stables too.

The only thing that appears to be on the mind is that these copycat factions are both heel trios that will attack both heels and babyfaces in an effort to assert dominance over the Raw and SmackDown rosters.

It can't just be this two times per week for months on end.
It can't just be this two times per week for months on end.Credit: WWE.com

What is the end goal? With whom are they feuding? What are the plans for how to best utilize these women and the rest heading into WrestleMania?

There absolutely cannot just be three-on-three matches happening on both shows every week for the next five months; fans would get tired of it within just a few episodes.

Absolution can't feasibly trade off matches with Banks, Bayley and James while The Riott Squad fight off Lynch, Naomi and Flair over and over again with nothing else in mind.

This is especially true when factoring in the Road to WrestleMania and how utterly bland it would be to see those same matches happen every week as a build up to six-woman tag team matches for both Raw and SmackDown on the biggest show of the year.

If WWE simply wanted to bring more talent into the mix for these rosters, that could have been accomplished with a quick mention from the general managers saying there had been an influx of signings.

No heel stables would have needed to be formed, and all six women could have found their footing with a variety of characters, feuds and purposes.

Now WWE has committed to there being two factions, however, it feels as though the writing process revolved around the idea of a heel group attacking everybody and then question marks for the outline of what's to follow after that, with SmackDown copying off Raw's paper.

For this to all work out well, WWE has to establish a reason for these stables to exist, set up enough character work to differentiate between the two units, book some legitimate feuds and have a plan to execute when it comes to WrestleMania.

Without all that, this is going to feel like a chaotic mess in no time at all, with most of the backlash falling on the talented women who wouldn't have been given much to work with.

Time will tell how successful WWE is with both of these stables, but neither storyline is looking like a surefire hit nor a guaranteed failure.

              

What are your thoughts on Absolution and The Riott Squad's pros and cons? Sound off in the comments section below!

             

Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.