Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.
At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.
Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.
Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.
Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.
The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…
Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.
Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.
I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?
Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:
He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.
Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.
Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.
Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.
And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.
Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.
Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Pittsburgh! December is here, meaning we’re now at the low point of the wrestling year. Yes, it’s possible things can actually get worse than they have been. Even longtime company man Mick Foley was downright despondent talking about how he may give up watching wrestling on Steve Austin’s podcast.
The good news is this week’s episode of Raw … wasn’t that bad. Granted, my expectations couldn’t be much lower, and I still fell asleep watching and had to re-watch parts of it later, but there were some legitimately entertaining segments. Let’s run through them in chronological order.
The New Day kicked off the show, and I’m now convinced they should kick off every show for the next month.
Now, I don’t want to give WWE too much credit, but could there have been, dare I say, subtlety in this promo? The New Day entered the ring in a shower of confetti, which called back to Roman Reigns’ much-mocked celebration at Survivor Series. Usually Michael Cole points out everything, no matter how obvious it is, but he didn’t mention it. I imagined New Day asking Vince if they could have a bunch of confetti when they entered, to which Vince replied “Yes! More confetti, damn it!” while New Day snickered.
Will: We saw a whole lot of the New Day this week. As they briefly did with Seth Rollins, they have softly aligned themselves with Sheamus and his new friends, who we’ll discuss more later. They thankfully are not explicitly Authority-approved. They’re doing their same old thing, but on a bigger stage. I was worried that they might be overexposed or that being closer to the main event picture would necessarily sap some of their juice, but that didn’t happen. Instead, they seem to have rejuvenated everyone they associate with; didn’t the roster seem to be having more fun than usual Monday?
It started at the top of the show, when they celebrated Sheamus’ championship win and mocked Roman Reigns’ short-lived title — damnit, there’s no other word here — reign.
Derek: Sheamus, with a new suit and a slicked back mohawk, came out to join the festivities. He got a Superman Punch (out of nowhere!!!!!!) for his trouble. That made Sheamus so gosh darn angry, that he didn’t want to wait until TLC to fight Roman — instead opting to channel his inner Kane and have the match … right now. Well, later that night anyway. But there was a catch: to win the championship, Roman would have to beat Sheamus in less than five minutes and 15 seconds, which was how long Roman’s championship reign at Survivor Series lasted.
Will: My first thought is that I could have done without that match. A common refrain is something to the tune of why give away your PPV main event on free TV, and I’m not a fan of beat-the-clock challenges. It didn’t spoil too much, however, and it wound up serving a worthwhile purpose. The time limit and Authority-placed stipulations were silly enough to indicate that some shenanigans would be coming, and oh how they would come.
Derek: Next, Dolph Ziggler defeated Tyler Breeze, followed by Rusev and a returning Lana appearing on Miz TV. At last, the idiotic Rusev-Ziggler feud is over! But they had to get one last parting shot in, as Lana said she “never went all the way” with Ziggler (cheers to the Pittsburgh crowd for the “Yes you did!” chant), while Rusev also retained his purity in his brief Summer Rae courtship. Thank goodness.
Will: None of that segment qualified as “good” in my book. Woof.
Derek: The Dudley Boyz are entering a feud with the Wyatts, which should be an interesting clash. The Dudleyz, realizing that they wouldn’t be able to beat all four Wyatts by themselves, decided to call in some help in the form of ECW legend Tommy Dreamer.
I was super excited for that, until I remembered this is the PG era and a predominantly hardcore wrestler won’t be able to do anything hardcore. This was on full display as he brought a garbage can full of weapons to the ring and proceeded to not use any of them. I’m not excited for this Tommy Dreamer run.
Will: Nor I. With all of the kvetching about WWE’s ability to develop and market fresh stars, I’m thrilled that they brought out a 44-year-old. I have to admit that I popped when he came out, just as the arena did. But…now what? He’ll presumably be involved in whatever Dudleyz vs. Wyatts match happens at TLC, the pay-per-view for which he’s best suited. But again, so what? Is there real beef between these two sides? Will their feud exist in three weeks? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to care about here besides, “Hey, Tommy Dreamer! Cool!”
Derek: Becky Lynch and Charlotte met backstage, and Becky convinced Charlotte to have a friendly match with her. Charlotte agreed, as long as Becky was cool with Papa Ric accompanying her to the ring. Becky said that was fine, which would prove to be her undoing. Charlotte faked an injury, which caused Becky to walk over to Ric with concern. Charlotte promptly shot up and rolled Becky into a small package for the win. I’m sure Daddy was proud of those sudden heel tactics. I approved of them, too.
It doesn’t make a ton of sense with the way her character has been portrayed so far, since she’s spent about as much time crying as she has wrestling. She hasn’t given any indication that she would be so ruthless. Now Charlotte is going heel, but not as heel as Paige, while Becky is maybe considering joining heel Paige to get back at heel Charlotte. It’s great! Reminds me of the Attitude Era. It’s about time we have some intrigue in these characters. It may have been a small part of Raw, but it was also my favorite.
Will: Totally agree. The whole “it doesn’t completely make sense” part puts a little kink in things, but it’s undeniably the most interesting thing that has happened to these three since they named themselves after a porno flick. In just one night, we have a clearer idea of what distinguishes each of these women from each other. Charlotte is the purebred champion learning that it ain’t easy to stay on top. Paige is the jaded veteran who is at peace with not having any friends in this business; she would do nicely on Survivor. Becky is all pure-hearted naivete. This could actually be something. In a related story, I don’t think we heard the term “Divas Revolution” once. (Or maybe I’ve trained my ear enough to ignore it.)
Derek: While Roman Reigns prepared for his match with Sheamus, the Authority decided to go around and make mischief with all of Roman’s buddies. If Roman didn’t win his match in under five minutes and 15 seconds, then Dean Ambrose would lose his shot at Kevin Owens’ Intercontinental Championship and the Usos would be cut out of the triple threat Tag Team Championship match at TLC. This led to the one acceptable outcome: Roman winning by disqualification in under five minutes and 15 seconds. That way, Sheamus retained the belt but Roman and Friends retained their title shots.
But the main story was how the match ended in disqualification. Sheamus’ buddies — King Barrett, Rusev, and Alberto Del Rio — pulled Sheamus out of the ring and announced the formation of a new stable called the League of Nations. Thank goodness. Maybe the stable will become the bad guys instead of everything being run by the Authority. One of my complaints last week was that Sheamus was just getting shoehorned into Seth Rollins’ role instead of being given his own. This is way, way better for everyone involved. Del Rio’s directionless MexAmerica storyline is on the back burner. Barrett is doing something other than challenging soccer players half his size. Rusev’s feud with Ziggler (I can’t overstate how bad it was) is finally in the rearview mirror. I’m all-in on the League of Nations.
Will: As am I. The name is a little hokey — if only Woodrow Wilson knew what his creation would become — but it works just fine. Sheamus and Barrett already had a relationship, and Rusev fits in easily enough. Del Rio’s inclusion is a bit stranger, but whatever. (Adios, MexAmerica?) The best part, as you said, is that they aren’t just lackeys for the Authority. If only for one week, they existed on their own. Each player seems to have a clear role. Sheamus is the leader. Rusev is the enforcer. Barrett can do a bit of everything, including provide comedic fodder. I’m not sure how Del Rio fits in, but whatever. I buy these guys.
Derek: The Authority decided to make an eight-man tag match, with the League of Nations facing off against Roman, Ambrose, and the Usos. Just before the match, the New Day came out and revealed that they were joining the League of Nations for the evening, so it became a good ol’ fashioned seven-on-four handicap match. The match ended with Sheamus giving Ambrose a Brogue Kick and pinning him in the middle of the ring. So the evening ended with a bunch of undeserving, cheating heels celebrating their victory in the middle of the ring.
A perfect ending for Pittsburgh.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Oklahoma City! It was a “night of firsts” to combat a few days of racism, and some of them were fairly entertaining! But we should probably start with the racism.
As has been reported ad nauseam, Real American Hulk Hogan said a bunch of horrendously racist stuff on a sex tape he made with a buddy’s wife (the triple crown!) eight years ago. As a result, WWE almost gave him The Full Benoit, firing him and removing every mention of him from their website. I know the general rule in WWE is “never say never,” but we may have seen the last of Hogan on WWE programming.
Mostly, I’d say WWE did the right thing. I’m not sure they actually care about the stuff Hogan said, but I know they care about the appearance they care about the stuff Hogan said. Nowadays, nothing hurts PR more than racism/sexism/homophobia and the like. The judgment had to be swift and unmerciful. And I think we can all agree that Hogans comments were pretty messed up.
Will: He didn’t exactly have a sterling reputation in the wrestling world as is, but yowza, he said some very not okay stuff. WWE is a huge company with a pretty atrocious track record when it comes to non-white people, and that’s without considering any actual news events like what happened in Cincinnati this week. WWE decided not to muck about with any half measures and sent the Hulkster off the reservation, apparently for good.
It was jarring news, but I think WWE’s reaction was more surprising than Hogan’s words. He is far and away the most famous pro wrestler ever, and they severed ties with him in a second. It’s just bizarre. It’s like KFC disowning Colonel Sanders or Papa John’s Pizza without John. That said, I don’t know what else they could have done. As a wrestling company, I don’t think the McMahons are held in the same regard as, say, the Gateses, but they probably could have figured out a way to save face publicly while keeping Hogan in the fold.
But they didn’t. And frankly, they look better for it.
Derek: My one statement in Hogan’s defense is the conversation happened in private, and it sucks to lose your job over stuff like that. He shouldn’t have said it, and it sure sounded like he was serious, but if that standard were applied to everyone in the world then the entire world would be unemployed. I think most people have said things in private, either in jest or in some emotional state, that would be generally frowned upon. I also think said people wouldn’t be too pleased if someone produced a secret recording of those things and gave them to the media. I feel for him in that regard.
Or maybe I just don’t want Hulk Hogan to be an evil racist bastard. Pretty much this exact same thing happened to Donald Sterling last year and, if this site had existed then, my defense of Sterling would have been considerably shorter than a paragraph. I did consider it a bit of a bummer that Sterling was punished for a private conversation, but he has a long, storied history of being a scumbag. Hulk Hogan is no angel, but he’s a legend to all wrestling fans and a hero to most. Sterling made me think “that figures” and Hogan made me think “say it ain’t so.” So there’s the full disclosure on any Hogan sympathy.
Will: The privacy element definitely adds a weird wrinkle, but I suppose that’s how things are today. That tape would have been inadmissible evidence a court of law, but in the court of public opinion it doesn’t matter how it was acquired. So it goes.
Hey, let’s talk wrasslin’!
Derek: I wasn’t a huge fan of Raw this week, but that may be because of the higher standard I apply to shows leading up to SummerSlam. We’ve got three more Raws to go, and let’s hope the Lesnar-Taker levels rise significantly. Considering that’s the main event at SummerSlam, there sure was a strange absence of references to it. I don’t think they were even mentioned outside of flashbacks to last week. Usually WWE takes every conceivable chance to sell the Network with PPV matches. We didn’t even get a famed Paul Heyman promo.
Instead, the spotlight went to Seth Rollins and John Cena’s Nose.
The prophecies were confirmed, as Cena and Rollins are indeed headed for a match at SummerSlam. The two had a good match at Royal Rumble (granted, Lesnar was involved) so I suppose not all is lost. They have potential to put on a great match and they’ll no doubt have extra motivation for one of the biggest PPV’s of the year. I just don’t want Cena to win. I have no interest in seeing him back at the top of the card. I was just starting to warm up to you, John. Don’t disappoint me.
Will: Cena’s great. He’s one of the best in the business. He puts butts in seats and t-shirts on backs. But damnit John, let someone else have this spot. He doesn’t need a title feud to stay relevant, and Rollins doesn’t need him either. They could easily work this same angle with someone else. Why not Cesaro? Why not Ambrose? Rollins and Cena have had and will have great matches, but they don’t need to play that card right now. Cena gets a lot of crap for putting himself over, and this is a particularly egregious example, to the umpteenth degree if he wins.
Rollins and Cena put on a solid show Monday. That broken nose looked legit. They didn’t pull out all the stops, nor should they have at this point (though Rollins’ double suplex was super cool). Something I liked about their match that I didn’t expect to: JBL’s commentary. It wasn’t great, but he leaned on his experience as a past champion and actually made some decent points about the necessary mindset to be a main eventer. It wasn’t just lame jokes and forced lines. He talked like a person for a minute, and it was mildly compelling. Bravo, John Bradshaw.
Derek: We bemoaned the lack of Dean Ambrose at Battleground, and last week it looked like he would team up with Roman Reigns against Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. Reigns was also absent on Monday night, and Ambrose was left to do battle with … The Big Show?
That was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I’m reserving judgment until next week. Maybe they just wanted to add another “first” and were struggling to fill time. At least I hope that’s what happened. No one’s going to win a Big Show-Ambrose feud.
Will: I hope hope hope that this was a one-off. If that’s the case, I like it. Show is actually an interesting measuring stick opponent. His matches are necessarily different because of his size, and sometimes that produces some fun. Ambrose mostly got the hell beaten out of him, which the commentary team equated to lunacy — that would be an example of bad JBL — and he came out of it looking alright. It felt, however, like they might try to keep it going for more than one match. Please dear god no.
Some random positives to take our minds off of a potential Ambrose-Show feud:
- Cesaro and Owens look like they’re going to tangle at SummerSlam. Yes, yes, all day yes. It was a shame to see the Owens-Orton match spoiled by Sheamus — who I kind of enjoyed on commentary, if only because he opened with “What’s the crack, fellas?” — but it was worth it to see Cesaro and Owens interact even for a minute.
- Neville had a match with Fandango. Night of firsts, indeed!
- SummerSlam is going to be four hours long?! I don’t think this is actually a positive.
- Titus O’Neil said the words “professional wrestling” on commentary, so he’s probably getting canned. Sports entertainment, Titus!
- New Day >>>
And, the ladies showed out once more.
Derek: The “Divas Revolution,” as WWE calls it, continued on Monday with two Divas matches yet again! Sasha Banks made Paige submit, and the team of Charlotte and Becky Lynch beat Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox when Lynch made Fox submit. While I’m enjoying the “Divas Revolution,” I’m growing a bit tired of it being constantly referenced. I’ve mentioned before that WWE could benefit from some show-don’t-tell aspects in their storytelling, and this is one of those times. It is in fact possible to simply have a “Divas Revolution” without pointing it out every other sentence.
And while we’re here, I feel it’s necessary to once again mention that Team BAD need to change their name. I just can’t take them seriously.
Will: They were both solid matches, and I’m still digging how the new talent is being used. Everyone is getting a shot in the spotlight, wins are being passed around, and most everyone is looking strong (except Tamina. They haven’t quite figured her out yet, nor have I). Sasha especially looks like budding star — if not a ready-made one — and she and Paige got a good chunk of time to work with.
I’m completely on board with you as far as bashing us over the head with “The Divas Revolution,” but I’m afraid that’s just the way it is. Subtlety is not a WWE strong suit. Whether it’s because they’re afraid to not make things absolutely obvious to their younger viewers or because they just aren’t able to, who knows. They’re giving the Divas a chance. How about giving us one too?
(“Team BAD” is sooooooooo bad. Oh my god it’s the worst. If Sasha weren’t such a talent that bunch would be DOA.)
Derek: Lana attacked Summer Rae with a fish.
Will: It’s good to be reminded every once in a while why wrestling is so easy to mock.
I will say, however, that it was a first.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Atlanta! The plot advanced! The plot advanced! GOOD GOSHAMIGHTY, THE PLOT ADVANCED.
That’s right, I’m talking about the Divas! At long last, stuff happened. It wasn’t the Bellas featuring Alicia Fox going Mean Girls against a friendless Paige. Finally, Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter) got promoted. That was no surprise, because it should have happened months ago. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks were unexpected, though. Charlotte and Becky Lynch joined up with Paige, while Sasha Banks joined Naomi and Tamina. Three factions! And at least one of them is interesting. Maybe more!
This will presumably conclude with a big SummerSlam match, which will surely be a step up from last year’s Brie Bella-Stephanie McMahon showdown. It has the potential to be several steps up, but it also won’t surprise me if Vince decides it should be a five minute farce in between R-Truth-Barrett and Sandow-Axel.
I’m curious to see if the new Divas are here to stay. Kevin Owens was a mainstay on Raw even as he was NXT Champion, so Sasha Banks could be as well. Surely Charlotte won’t go back any time soon. Becky Lynch is the wild card. Like a highly touted MLB prospect, she may just force WWE to keep her around.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing of all is we’re leading with the Divas. Yes, Sports Monocle isn’t exactly the first website folks visit for wrasslin’ talk, but we are wrestling fans and we (well, at least I) think it’s the top story of the week. I can’t be alone in that belief. Maybe the Divas will get a chance after all?
Will: I could barely believe it even as it was happening. Stephanie hadn’t appeared except to be a cruel authority/Authority) figure in a while, yet there she was shepherding in a whole new era of women’s — pardon me, Divas — wrestling. It was a very cool moment for a bunch of reasons. The distinct looks of each stable-to-be were cool. All three Bellas being locked in submission holds was cool, as was Charlotte’s modified figure four. The newcomers getting legitimate pops was cool. Seeing the ex-NXT girls celebrate their newfound WWE-ness together was cool. It was all very cool, and very exciting, and a very welcome change from the norm.
The challenge, of course, will be figuring out how to actually use all of these people and give them stories that make their time worthwhile. Monday night was promising, but it’s relatively easy to make the beginning of a storyline exciting. The hard part is getting that seed to grow, and then harvesting at the right time. I don’t want to throw too much water on the fire — this may be the best we’ve seen of WWE women since Paige’s debut. I’m just curious to see what happens next.
Derek: Let’s move on to Sunday night’s main event between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar. Monday night gave us the obligatory contract signing that ended in violence. Rollins attached an axe handle under the table, and Brock did not appreciate that. One might consider that what Paul Heyman calls “breaking the 11th Commandment.”
J&J Security were strangely absent, leaving only Kane as Rollins’ bodyguard. You’re not going to believe this, but Rollins turned on him yet again! What a twist.
I’ve been watching old Attitude-era Raws when I go to sleep, and my #FreeKane beliefs have never been stronger. He went toe-to-toe with the Undertaker! At times, the Undertaker was scared of him! HE DESECRATED THE GRAVESTONES OF HIS OWN PARENTS!
Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t need to make a comeback, but the rest of it does. The Kane of 1998 would not be tolerating Seth’s behavior. And even if the Kane of today is willing to tolerate it to some degree, this stuff with Rollins lost its luster months ago. Let it go.
Will: One would hope that when Kane eventually returns from his latest vacation — maybe he’ll go to Hawaii again! — that he’ll set his sights on Rollins and finally right some of the many wrongs that the champ has brought against him. He’s long been the unsung workhorse of Rollins’ ascendance, and I’m thirsty for some revenge.
In the short term, however, I kinda like what they did with Kane and J&J. Seth and his cronies were able to give Brock one good beatdown, and nearly a second, but Brock has worn away Rollins’ defenses and left him a king with no castle. Their match is now (or seems to be) a proper 1-on-1 affair, which spells doom for the champion on paper. If we’re keeping kayfabe, it will be as one-sided as the Lesnar-Cena match that birthed Suplex City, but I have a hunch that things will be a little more interesting this time.
A couple other asides:
– I’m out on the whole 11th Commandment thing. It’s just corny.
– Rollins declared that he would burn Suplex City to the ground, but I think it’s been beaten into the ground enough already. I get why it’s happened, and it could be a lot worse. It’s just a bummer to see an awesome ad lib corrupted by the man, you know?
– Rollins is such an asshole. I love it.
Derek: What say we mix the rest of our Raw recap in with picks and thoughts for Battleground?!
King Barrett vs. R-Truth (Pre-Show)
Derek: I’m still not totally sure where this feud came from. Truth pretends to be a king sometimes, and Barrett doesn’t like it? I think I speak for everyone when I say Bad News Barrett should make a comeback.
Will: This has been a very odd running subplot, even if it’s just meant to be comedic filler. It’s so absurd that I can’t even take issue with it — it isn’t like Truth’s plunger-wielding kingdom is any more ridiculous than Barrett’s, itself born out of a not-that-important pseudo-PPV. Bad News is definitely Barrett’s strongest angle, and I hope he gets back to the pulpit at some point. In the meantime, at least the crowd seems to like Truth, and I think that’s enough for him to get the win. Also, there’s a strong chance that I don’t watch this match.
The Prime Time Players vs. The New Day (Tag Team Championship)
Derek: I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I could see either team winning, and I could see it being the best match of the night or the worst. I’ll say the Prime Time Players successfully defend with New Day taking back the gold at SummerSlam.
Will: I’m not sure either. The PTPers have done well with their push to the top, with Titus O’Neil especially looking like someone who could stand on his own. I enjoyed their match (with Mark Henry) against New Day Monday night, and their little leaning dance thing is kinda fun. I still don’t quite have a sense of who Titus or Darren Young are, but New Day has enough personality for that to not really matter.
Something from this match that applied to a few others as well: I’m really enjoying the ongoing trend of taunt- and move-stealing. New Day mimicked O’Neil’s barking thing, and I just can’t not love it, especially for a heel. It’s an age-old device, but Kevin Owens revitalized it when he started biting Cena’s schtick.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
Derek: I’m cautiously optimistic. This feud has gotten a bit less screen time than I thought it would get, but it’s fairly interesting. They don’t like each other and they’re going to settle their differences through the magic of violence. I can get behind that.
While we’re here, there are two things I can’t get behind. The first is no Dean Ambrose. He hasn’t managed to insert himself into any of the storylines and looks to be getting the night off. I still wish he had entered into a mutually beneficial partnership with Brock Lesnar.
The second is (facepalm) no Divas match. Come on, guys! I just talked about what a good job you were doing, and now there’s no Divas match on the card?! It’s entirely possible that Stephanie will announce a “surprise” Divas match on Sunday (or maybe on Smackdown) but as it stands now, the Divas won’t be making an appearance. As the mass bewildered of Twitter would say, SMH.
Will: I don’t get the Ambrose non-usage at all. Even if he isn’t going to be in a match, he should somehow be involved, right? He and Reigns are still friends as far as we know, yet during the Reigns-Wyatt brawl — which was meant to be an Ambrose-Wyatt match — Dean just chilled out while his boy went to work. I suppose one could argue that he wanted to let Reigns handle his own business, but that’s awfully reasoned logic for an alleged lunatic.
The lack of a women’s (I’m just gonna call it women’s now) match sucks too, and it makes me wonder how long the whole NXT takeover plan has been in the works.
As for the actual Reigns-Wyatt match, who knows? As with many matches on the card, I’m not sure which way they’ll take it. Will it be a clean finish? Will a third party be involved? Will we be seeing a rematch or re-imagining at SummerSlam? As much as I enjoy Bray’s promos and vignettes, he’s a tough guy to peg with how little ring work he’s been doing recently.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Derek: I keep forgetting Sheamus is Mr. Money in the Bank. I’m struggling to identify the most interesting thing he’s done in the last month. And he’s probably going to be champion before 2015 is over. I’ll enjoy watching that play out. Those won’t be fun Wrasslin’ Wednesdays.
I’m predicting an Orton victory because I remember he exists from time to time.
Will: I actively enjoy not caring about Sheamus. I don’t even dislike him. I just don’t care. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think about him. He’s a big pasty idiot with dumb hair and a worse goatee — is that what I’m supposed to think? I get that these guys have some history, and they’re not bad workers. They just don’t do much for me.
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (US Championship)
Derek: The weeks go on, and no one is tired of this feud. God bless these two.
Last week, we wondered how Cesaro would fit in to the picture, and WWE responded by tossing a recovered Rusev in as well. While Rusev appeared in this feud, Dolph Ziggler and Lana didn’t appear at all. Perhaps WWE realized everyone in that storyline is being run into the ground and they want to call a mulligan. That’s probably the wisest course of action.
As for the match, I think Cena wins again, but only because I think Owens is going over at SummerSlam. Cena hasn’t been on the winning side at SummerSlam since 2010, and that was a 7-on-7 match. The last time he won a singles match at SummerSlam was against Randy Orton in 2007. While CENAWINSLOL typically triumphs at WrestleMania (and most other times), he has mostly given the spotlight to others at SummerSlam. Since Owens is probably full-time WWE now, a SummerSlam win over Cena and US Championship run would do him some good.
Will: I would absolutely watch a three-hour show that was variations of matches with these four guys. Cesaro pulled out so many incredible moves that I lost count. Rusev survived the creative abortion that was the Ziggler feud, and looks like he could stay relevant post-Lana. Owens continues to excel acting as a sort of Joker to Cena’s Batman.
How about this: For all the lamenting we (and others) do about the pervasiveness of CENAWINSLOL, he is the guy who’s been at the center of all of this. All three of the other guys deserve credit for putting in good work in a big spot, but I think it says something that some of the best action of the summer has been the most Cena-centric. Maybe that’s just due to his longevity and thus our familiarity with him, but whatever the reason, here’s a tip of the cap to John Cena for making me care about all parties involved.
Ryback vs. Big Show vs. Miz (Intercontinental Championship)
Derek: Errrrrr. Ryback wins? Maybe he gets something more interesting to do before next month?
Will: This could be a fun little popcorn match. I’m looking forward to Miz’s inevitable begging not to get his ass kicked.
Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Derek: I still can’t believe this match is happening at Battleground. A couple of weeks ago I predicted this match would end in shenanigans, and I’m sticking by that. The two have a great match, but something weird happens and they meet again next month for their “real” match.
Will: You’ve seen enough to know a thing or two about how this sort of match tends to go. It’s a legitimately huge one, and probably bigger than Battleground deserves. It’s a bit like the Reigns-Wyatt match in that I feel like something screwy will happen, but I have no idea what. Something screwy almost has to happen in any Lesnar match because he’s such a monster. Rollins’ smarminess only increases the odds. I can’t wait.
Before I start this week’s edition of Who Got NeXT, I’d like to send congratulations to the Lucha Dragons and
Adrian Neville for being called up to the main roster. The WWE Universe already knew who they were and chanted for them on Raw. That not only shows how much impact NXT is truly making on everyone already, but also how beneficial the network has been to the product.
What’s up NXT Universe! Welcome to yet another installment of Who Got NeXT, and what better way to start out the month of April than with some developmental wrestling?
Wednesday’s show kicked off with a bang, as Sami Zayn made his return to Full Sail University for the first time since losing to Kevin Owens at Takeover a month and a half ago. He cut a promo about how he formed a plan while he was away.
Zayn’s plan included two things: invoking his rematch clause to regain the NXT Championship and kicking Kevin Owens’ @$$.
But there’s another superstar gunning for the NXT Champion, and you might be surprised to find out that it is none other than Rhyno.
You read that correctly. The ECW original man-beast master of the gore wants a shot at Kevin Owens, and he cut a promo about it after squashing a no-namer.
Later in the show, he interrupted Devin Taylor’s interview with Zayn, and the two stared each other down. Rhyno said that the line for a shot at the NXT title starts behind him, something Zayn didn’t seem to care too much for. One has to think that Finn Bálor isn’t through with Owens yet. Heck, even Solomon Crowe said that his mission was to get the title in a commercial vignette. The main event picture is crowded to say the least.
Despite having a target on his back, Kevin Owens seems pretty confident that nobody is taking his title from him or his family. For the record, I’m inclined to believe him.
We then were treated to a match between Bayley and Emma, who has shown signs of a heel turn as of late. The once bubble-obsessed diva has been trying to tell Bayley that playing to the crowd will get her nowhere because it’s done nothing for her.
The match was decent, but the most intriguing part was how weird Emma acted. She still came out dancing as usual, but she was just going through the motions. Bayley beat her with a roll up in the end and Emma appeared like she was angry, but she didn’t do anything. They’re going the slow burn route with her, and I think it’s a good change in direction for her.
Speaking of a change in direction for the women’s division, Becky Lynch delivered a beautiful promo in an interview backstage about the NXT Women’s Championship. She talked about how everyone else has had a shot at the title one-on-one and she hasn’t had one yet. It appears her ties with Sasha Banks are firmly broken.
Lynch is right, she does deserve a championship match. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Next up was a tag team match between the Lucha Dragons and the NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy. Overall it was a decent match with some okay spots, but it was nothing spectacular. In my opinion, this was simply a farewell to the luchador tag team as they venture off to the main roster for good.
After the commercial break, former tag team partners Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan squared off against each other for the first time since splitting about a month ago. Jordan came out to new theme music (quite generic actually) sporting an impressive new physique on his way to the ring. He came out and basically dominated Dillinger off the bat, and finished him with an unorthodox-looking suplex for the three count.
Knowing these two wrestlers’ true in-ring ability, this match was solid; but it left a lot to be desired. This feud is just getting started, and it could be one of the more entertaining lower card storylines in the coming weeks.
Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami have been going at it ever since NXT Takeover:Rival, and the feud seemingly came to an end on Wednesday night. Say what you want about the characters, like or dislike them, but these two have an amazing chemistry in the ring together; and it only keeps getting better the more they work together.
The first fall came fairly quickly with Hideo Itami getting to a fast start against Prince Pretty. He got Breeze in to the turnbuckle, did his signature corner dropkick and set him up for the one-footed running kick.
The second fall came even quicker. With Breeze recovering in the corner, Itami let his guard down. As the referee checked on him, Itami looked the other way and got knocked out by a beauty shot out of nowhere that tied the match at one fall apiece.
From then on it was a masterful match that is too difficult to describe because of the amount of counters and false finishes. The finish even had me surprised, as Itami went to set up for his running kick finisher but was countered by Breeze into a running beauty shot that finished Itami for the 1-2-3.
Tyler Breeze is climbing back up the ladder to get to the main event slowly but surely, and Itami can’t be too far behind him.
What’s up NXT fans! This week’s episode saw the show’s main storyline further more and had a couple of new feuds develop as well.
Kevin Owens and number-one contender Finn Bálor are on a crash course that’s going to pit the two against each other for the NXT Championship likely at the next pay-per-view. The feud continued Wednesday when Owens was set as a guest commentator during Bálor’s main event match versus another returning superstar: The Brian Kendrick (for those who need a refresher- Kendrick was in a tag team early in his career with Paul London and he’s also worked under the name “Spanky”).
In what was a decent match back-and-forth, Finn picked up the victory after a Coup de Grace off the top rope. But the underlying story going on was a disagreement between Owens and NXT commentator and former superstar Alex Riley. It all started when Riley asked him about how he could treat Sami Zayn so harshly in the ring and went further from there. After being insulted, Owens left the table to go to the back. After the match was over, he came back out and stared at Riley. Bálor saw this and was trying to coax Owens to come into the ring, but he wouldn’t budge. Soon after, Owens grabbed Riley by his neck and launched him over the announce table. Riley’s announcing partners Tom Phillips and Corey Graves came to his aid and begged Owens to stop the assault, which he did (surprisingly).
Could this possibly be the RETURN of Alex Riley in the ring? I’ve been waiting for this for a long time and it could be in the works.
It seems Owens did this as to intimidate Bálor, but Finn did not look scared even after the attack. This rivalry is just beginning, and man is it going to get interesting. Why do I say this? Because Sami Zayn is returning next week to address the NXT Universe, and one has to think that he’s going to get involved in some manner.
NEW FEUDS DEVELOPING!
Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze: After what was basically a squash match versus Bull Dempsey (which didn’t please me at all..STOP KILLING THE LAST OF A DYING BREED), Itami backpedaled on the ramp in celebration of his victory. Out of nowhere, Tyler Breeze attacked him from behind with his well-fashioned selfie stick (it looks like this will be a new weapon, interesting creative direction in my opinion), leaving Itami injured on the ramp. “Prince Pretty” later said in an interview that Itami shouldn’t have gotten the best of him in the first place and he’d get his revenge.
I’m glad that they’ve paired these two together. After Breeze was eliminated from the NXT Title picture, he needed a true direction and he’s got a heck of an opponent in Itami, who’s also been searching for a storyline after a split with Finn Bálor.
Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger: These two have been partners forever in NXT, but they’ve never been a believable threat in the tag team division. They had a match with the Lucha Dragons where Dillinger seemingly stayed in the ring longer and exchanged words with Jordan, who wanted to be tagged in. After the banter, Dillinger was finally going to make a tag, but Jordan hopped off of the apron and left him. Kalisto hit Dillinger with a Solida del Sol and Sin Cara followed with a Swanton off of the top rope, thus losing the match.
Dillinger then aired his grievances with about a minute of a promo calling anyone from the NXT locker room out, then Baron Corbin happened. You know how that one ended. END OF DAYS PEOPLE, END OF DAYS.
Anyways, the fact that they’ve split these guys will now allow their characters to develop in a way that wasn’t possible if they stayed together, especially in a crowded tag team picture. Jason Jordan put on a TON of muscle since the last time he was on the show, and Dillinger has been praised by many on the main roster. I give this a thumbs up.
Solomon Crowe hacked the show again, but it was during the entrances of the tag team match. He said that he’s not going to stop what he’s doing until he’s NXT Champion.
More awesome ladies wrestling: Bayley and Becky Lynch had a great match together. That’s about all that can be said. Becky’s armbar submission thing (techinal terms, I know) at the end was NICE.
Speaking of women’s wrestling- Sasha Banks versus Charlotte rematch for the NXT Women’s Championship next week. You’re going to want to tune in for that one. It might main event actually.
Rhyno cut a promo (it sounded like it was from the 90s with his grunting, kind of funny but into character) about why he came back. He said that he saw how fresh and hungry the developmental talent was and he looked at himself in the mirror and saw the same hunger in himself.
With Rhyno and Brian Kendrick back, is anyone else going to return???
Tune in next week to find out!!
(I really don’t know….I promise. Also, DEATH TO SPOILERS!)