It feels like WWE is walking a wince-inducing tightrope by taking it slow with LA Knight’s booking during SummerSlam season. So much so, it’s like watching two Superstars go up to the top rope for a risky maneuver that has a good chance of ending in a botch.
It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. There’s no reason for WWE to play with fire when it comes to one of the company’s most organically-over Superstars since the Daniel Bryan “yes” movement.
Especially since, according to PW Insider (h/t Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats), WWE executives are “extremely high” on Knight given how he’s gotten himself over. The report even suggests that his booking has been exactly to plan because they intend to strike at the most opportune time.
There’s even momentum suggesting he’s suddenly one of the company’s top merchandise movers.
One might think that SummerSlam, still arguably the second-biggest show behind only WrestleMania each year, is the perfect time to capitalize on all of this momentum Knight has established.
Instead, he’s in a 20-man battle royal sponsored match called the “Slim Jim SummerSlam Battle Royal.”
But WWE is so impressed that the result is…creating a sponsored match to put on the card that bumps off the likes of Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus? So impressed that he’s now in the most unfortunate sponsored gimmick match since the highlighter-heavy Mountain Dew match he had against Bray Wyatt (please don’t use actual beef sticks as props, if Knight snacks on one mid-match this whole thing is over in a Thanos-styled snap)?
WWE already took a major roll of the dice by putting Knight in the men’s Monday in the Bank ladder match, only for him to lose. It stuck with the plan, putting the briefcase on Damian Priest to enhance the inter-group feuding within Judgment Day. Fans could at least rationalize it because the stable is so good. Priest was probably the wrong 40-year-old to back, but the idea was SummerSlam would be where Knight finally gets his shine.
Instead, he’s in a Slim Jim’s match that runs the risk of alienating fans even more because it sure feels like the match was created to give him something to do on the card. Otherwise, he might’ve been left on the card entirely. And that means it feels inevitable he’ll win, too.
Who knows? Maybe this whole ordeal produces a stunner in the form of Knight getting a face off with a Steve Austin or The Rock, which would be fitting given the consistent comparisons he gets because of his mic work.
And we should admit WWE deserves some credit, too. The Triple H-led creative has worked harder to establish long-term stories. One could suggest it hasn’t let the sudden rise of Knight interfere and ruin long-term plans. One could even suggest the storytelling will organically lean into this perceived misuse for a very satisfying tale of Knight’s ascension in time.
But in the moment? It’s hard for fans not to feel anxiety here. Knight would have been a fantastic briefcase holder orbiting the title scenes. He would have been money in a meaningful feud at the summer’s biggest event. And worst of all, WWE fans know of all the missed opportunities the company has failed to capitalize on over the years. Or how the company seems to begrudgingly appease fans before angrily tossing it aside for bigger things (hello, Kofi Kingston getting squashed by Brock Lesnar).
It all just feels a little off too, right? Here’s Knight, an Attitude Era throwback who can reel in lapsed viewers with his performances and WWE goes with Priest, then stuffs him in an odd battle royale. He’s not around a title, he’s not in a feud and now every time his music hits, fans might have to listen to Michael Cole call him the Slim Jim SummerSlam Battle Royal winner.
In the long run, maybe Knight’s momentum is just that inescapable. Maybe he pops a Royal Rumble win or simply feuds for a top title. But those are a whole lot of maybes for something that seems impossible to deny, to the point of feeling like a botch.
Knight might end up just fine and realize his potential as a main-eventer, but WWE is risking quite a lot for what feels like the wrong reasons, giving him what feels like the unnecessary-but-expected WWE experience.
If it all ends up a fumble and the opportunity for a Knight era passes, it won’t just add to WWE’s extensive what could have been pile list. No, it will create a major black eye on this new era of creative and make fans more reluctant to buy into Superstars who haven’t been handpicked by the company.