Throwing up a Roadblock: Wrasslin Thursday 3/3/2016

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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:

undertaker vince

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.

double pin

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.

Bray Wyatt and the Deathly Hallows: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 11/4/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Denver! Riding high (heh) after the Broncos’ Sunday night win over the Packers, the people of Denver were awfully happy this evening. Everyone was happy about everything! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd so excited to see Roman Reigns.

Though I admire Denver’s unexplainable (heh) happiness, I didn’t totally share their enthusiasm. Sure, the episode wasn’t a sleep aid like some of the episodes of Raw leading up to Hell in a Cell, but only some of the storylines advanced. Specifically, the Reigns-Rollins feud and the Divas Championship feud.

First, Triple H and Stephanie pit Reigns and Rollins against each other in a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series match. Rollins recruited Kevin Owens and all three members of New Day. Only one of those four was recruited via sorcery.

power of positivity

Reigns recruited Dean Ambrose, Ryback, and the returning Usos. As far as I know, no sorcery was involved. But the Usos are indeed back, and it wasn’t lost on me that they were opposing New Day. Perhaps they’ll be the next group to challenge for the Tag Team Championship.

Anyway, the match ended with Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins in the ring together. Presumably uninterested in receiving a beating, Rollins pulled out a chair and took a loss by disqualification. So there wasn’t really a resolution and maybe I’m overselling the plot advancing, but it was at least an entertaining match. I can’t remember the last time a match got nearly 30 minutes on Raw.

Will: The time allotted to various matches and wrestlers was an encouraging development. I was pleasantly surprised when New Day’s music hit with a half hour left in the show. I wasn’t in love with the 5-on-5 match — I could have done without Ryback, anyway — but it was nice to see a match loaded with talent get some time to breathe. I imagine I’ll be changing my tune when someone (Reigns?) gets 45 minutes to cut an awful promo. Believe that.

The Lucha Dragons were another group that got an unusual amount of time and shine Monday. They were the subject of a brief video package — the sort that is more commonplace in NXT; Kevin Owens had a prerecorded promo as well — before their match against Sheamus and King Barrett. The Luchas put on a good show, elicited enthusiasm from the crowd, and beat the would-be ascendant tag team from the British Isles. The cynical side of me wonders if this was just a gambit aimed at winning over Hispanic-heavy Denver, but perhaps it signals a push for the Lucha Dragons. I’m intrigued, anyway.

And welcome back, Xavier Woods. Kofi and Big E held the fort admirably in his absence, but it is Woods who provides New Day’s delightfully goofy foundation.

Derek: Before the evening’s brodown, the Divas had a Fatal 4-Way match to see who would face Charlotte for the title at Survivor Series. Paige, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Brie Bella squared off, with Paige coming out on top as we predicted. I’ve enjoyed Paige as a heel, but I still feel like most of the Divas have nothing to do. Now that Paige has the title shot, how are the rest of them going to continue to matter? Are they going to continually be thrown in tag matches and tread water until someone else gets a title shot? Because that’s been going on for a long time, and it hasn’t been successful.

diva slam

Here’s something to consider: a Women’s Tag Team Championship. If the belt is the only thing WWE can come up with for the women to fight over, then why not make some tag team belts? Paige and Charlotte can feud with each other, and all of the other Divas can fight over something else. I’d prefer that over every single Diva on the roster fighting for the Divas Championship to some degree.

Will: I don’t know, on all counts. We’re still hearing the phrase “Divas Revolution” entirely too much; I suppose I should stop worrying and love that bomb. I’m trying to map out potential angles for the rest of the women and having a tough time doing it. Becky Lynch has legitimate beef with Paige, but Paige is busy angling her way toward Charlotte. I suppose Becky could try to make Paige’s life hell in the meantime, but that feels redundant. Sasha Banks is primed for a push one of these days — I have to think she’ll get the next title shot once Paige and Charlotte run their course — but what to do with her now? I’ve been anti-Bella for the most part, but it would make some sense for Sasha to target Nikki and Brie as a means of making a name for herself in the big leagues. Where does that leave the rest of Team BAD? Who knows. A tag team title could go a long way.

(Also, Becky is going to have to explain her ring attire one of these days. The goggles are one thing. The copper-colored Tin Man pants are another.)

Derek: Hmmm, what else. Oh, the Wyatts have powers now! Bray Wyatt can make lightning strike and fire come out of the ring posts. He has decapitated Undertaker and Kane and absorbed their power. There can be only one!

wyatt powers

This was the most disappointing storyline of the evening. It was unfortunately reminiscent of the buildup to WrestleMania, when Bray tried to carry the feud with Taker by himself. If they are indeed going to throw down at Survivor Series, I hope Kane and Taker actually show up. I have no interest in watching Bray come out to babble about nonsense every week and then they throw in a match on the final Raw before Survivor Series. Couldn’t they talk and play mind games with each other like Sting did to Triple H? Come on, WWE — please, please, please advance the plot in this feud.

Will: I sort of liked this; someone has to conjure flames out of those turnbuckles. But I agree that Bray needs someone to work off of. He’s as good on the mic as anyone these days, but I can only take so much one-man show. Whether it’s Undertaker and Kane returning or Bray targeting someone else just for kicks until they do, we need to see some Wyatts in the ring. That old show, don’t tell thing comes to mind.

One running subplot of the Wyatt Family fireworks show I enjoyed: Bray kept talking about how he had absorbed the souls of Kane and Taker. Commentator Byron Saxton said things to the effect of, “But did he really??” It was a wonderful bit of dissonance in a largely post-kayfabe era. Byron took no issue with the premise of one man stealing the souls of two others. He just wanted to know if he did it for real. Wrestling is the best.

Derek: As for the lower tier feuds, Jack Swagger returned to briefly confront Alberto Del Rio and his former manager, Zeb Colter. Seems like a placeholder feud for Del Rio, who will squash Swagger because he doesn’t have anything better to do until Cena comes back. Swagger’s a pro at this; he did the same for Rusev last year.

Will: Yes. Meh.

Derek: Finally, Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze continued their feud of narcissism over a girl who looks like she has coconut Malibu breath 90% of the time. Breeze is probably going down the Adam Rose path, meaning he won’t really do anything of note for a year until he feuds with a bunny and said bunny eventually turns into Frank from Donnie Darko.

Will Summer Rae be a serial killer at this time next year? Stay tuned!

Raw sucked, so we’re talking about our favorite entrances: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/30/2015

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Buffalo! Honesty is important, so we’re going to cut to the chase: Raw wasn’t very good this week. Since it wasn’t very good, we’re going to go over it briefly before we each list five of our favorite wrestling entrances of all time. If there’s anything the internet loves, it’s lists.

Kane continued to torment Seth Rollins with his “I might be evil but maybe not” facade. In retaliation, Rollins submitted an anonymous complaint to Human Resources. That led to a visit from HR representative Ashley …

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… who got a visit from the cleavage police before the end of the evening.

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Ashley spent the evening evaluating Kane, eventually deciding that Kane was sound of mind and that if anyone should be disciplined, it was Rollins. Rollins didn’t like that too much, so he did the sensible thing and gave Kane a Pedigree and attacked him with a chair.

kane rollins

After Corporate Kane was already in the back of an ambulance, he magically morphed into Demon Kane and strolled back into the ring to administer an ass whippin’.

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The ass whippin’ was administered, and justice was briefly served. Cheers to you, Demon Kane.

And, well, the rest of it could be summed up with a sentence or two per match. Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had a pretty good main event match. John Cena and the Dudleyz took on New Day. I especially enjoyed New Day tormenting Cena when Xavier Woods answered Cena’s first US Open Challenge since winning the belt at Night of Champions. The Divas exchanged insults. The Big Show and Paul Heyman also exchanged insults prior to the former’s match with Brock Lesnar at Madison Square Garden this weekend. I wonder who will win that one! Anything else to cover, besides this sweet spear?

reigns spear
Nope, you got it. There were definitely some good things about Raw this week. The Wyatt-Reigns match/brawl was good insofar as it focused solely on them. There were no shenanigans, no interference, none of that. The match ended in a draw via double count-out, and then they beat on each other outside the ring, culminating in that delicious spear up the stairs. It felt like the stakes were raised, which cannot be said of most of the other on-screen action.

The Duality of Kane continues to be fantastic. He seems to get a kick out of cheesing it up, and he’s doing it really well. The whole HR angle was equal parts silly and inspired; I imagine a great many people can relate to the drudgery of office life.

Beyond that, it was a rough week. There was a lot of rehashing old feuds and hyping up the Brock Lesnar-Big Show fight at Madison Square Garden. The Divas segment made me cringe quite a bit; Charlotte must have gotten the charisma from her mother’s side. There were two different 6-man tag matches made off-screen for no discernible reason. It was the sort of Raw that inspires us to talk about anything else.

Derek: Okay, let’s talk entrances. Maybe “Top 5” isn’t the best label for what we’re doing. It’s more “Five Entrances We Enjoy.” So please don’t assault me for not including Undertaker’s entrance. In no particular order …

The Oddities

This entrance is so ridiculous that it includes the Insane Clown Posse. I wouldn’t really say I “enjoy” it, but it makes me smile. And some bonus trivia: that guy in the mask who’s obsessed with Eric Cartman is Earthquake!

The Brood

Yeah, Gangrel pretended to be a vampire, and that was pretty weird. But I still think this is one of the most underrated entrances of all time. They came out of the ground, surrounded by fire, looking completely insane, and that’s about it. It doesn’t sound like much, but I always liked their music, and thought the entrance went well with it.

Triple H

I don’t much care for Triple H’s current entrance, but I do enjoy this one and his DX entrance. And just look at that outfit! With all that denim and leather, you better believe a fight is about to break out.

Chris Jericho

Jericho’s attitude is perfect for his entrance. He has so much charisma, and the beginning of his music lends itself to some excellent pops. It’s still a treat hearing the countdown, like we did at Night of Champions.

CM Punk

Punk has two entrance themes, and I enjoy them both. I always loved him checking his watch before clobberin’ time and walking up the ramp backwards. Man, seeing the way his hometown crowd treated him at Money in the Bank makes me miss him even more. Is it wrong that I sort of hope he gets his ass kicked in UFC so he’ll wrestle again? Oh well. At least we have the Network.

Will: Fine choices all. Punk’s Money in the Bank entrance is an absolute all-timer, and I was a huge Brood mark in my younger days. And the Oddities! I’d forgotten about those guys. It’s all good. Lemme dive into some that I enjoy.

New Age Outlaws

The Outlaws’ entrance is like a Marvin Gaye song or a white wedding dress. It never gets old. If only the same could be said for Road Dogg and Billy Gunn themselves.

Stone Cold Steve Austin

Perhaps the most important thing in an entrance to me is immediate recognizability. It gets no better than the breaking glass that precedes the Rattlesnake coming down to stomp a mudhole in somebody.

This particular video is even better because we get about 45 seconds of Vince and Shane McMahon talking, which means that we also get Vince and Shane looking horrified as Stone Cold struts to the ring.

Big Show

Just kidding.

Bray Wyatt

I like Wyatt’s entrance for what it is, but especially for what it isn’t. The music builds slowly; it isn’t the HARD RAWK of Roman Reigns or Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins. He enters in the darkness, but it doesn’t feel like he’s biting the Undertaker. And if you want to keep it kayfabe only, his deliberate approach to the ring only exacerbates his mind games.

Roddy Piper (jump to 1:37)

I’ll be honest; I didn’t know a thing about this entrance until after Piper died and I read about it in David Shoemaker’s obituary. Here’s what the Masked Man had to say about it:

The other wrestlers that night were ferried to the ring on rolling platforms, but Piper’s malfunctioned, and instead of waiting he came to the ring on his own two feet. It was the perfect final entrance for a man who had forced his way into every big moment he’d ever achieved. The subtle athleticism in his jog is powerful, and the pride in his gait — the look of a man finally basking in his glory — is touching.

John Cena

Like the man himself, this is bound to be a semi-controversial choice, but I say this list cannot exist without Cena. He gets the crowd going like no one else working today, and this entrance in Miami after WrestleMania 28 is described on YouTube as “the biggest boo on Raw ever.” Good enough for me.

Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/16/15

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Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at


End of the Road to SummerSlam: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 8/19/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Minneapolis! SummerSlam is this weekend and, in the words of Triple H, Monday kicked off the road to SummerSlam! Better late than never, I suppose.

The Authority also touted this SummerSlam as the “GREATEST SUMMERSLAM EVER!!!” as tradition dictates. I wonder if there are people out there who hear this kind of stuff and are really affected. I just want one friend to sign up for the WWE Network because he heard Triple H and Stephanie McMahon say this would be the greatest SummerSlam of all time.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

So let’s start with Raw. For the first time in weeks, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker were in the ring together. ‘Taker even positioned himself as a heel with another low blow on Lesnar. I was a bit surprised by that. I’m in the camp that thinks this match exists to get ‘Taker a win in response to Lesnar breaking The Streak last year. A common rule of thumb is the guy who looks best on the Raw before a PPV is destined to go down, so I expected Lesnar to hand out the beatings on Monday. But hey, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN WWE.

brock taker

Will: I guess once you reach a certain age or serve a certain number of years you can just kick dudes in the balls. It’s a weird look for someone who is otherwise perhaps the most feared and respected wrassler in the biz, but given Undertaker’s age it’s at least kayfabe reasonable.

It was weird and enjoyable seeing Brock and ‘Taker so cleanly aligned as face and heel in Minneapolis. Lesnar got a proper hero’s welcome, with signs aplenty and even a LESNAR #69 Vikings jersey in the crowd. I can’t imagine Brock winning, at least not cleanly. Undertaker going out at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas has been penciled in since they first built Jerryworld, and one would think that he’d need a win to stay headline-capable. At the same time, I could see Brock winning such that these events play out all over again.

Derek: John Cena returned for the first time since Rollins rearranged his face. He even dressed in Miami Hurricanes attire for some reason!

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Cena gave some typical Cena insults as he promised to put Rollins down and join Ric Flair in the club of 16-time world champions. What he didn’t mention, though, was the fact that Jon Stewart would be hosting SummerSlam in his first post-Daily Show gig. Wrestling devotees will probably recall that time Jon Stewart kicked Seth Rollins in the balls. Could he come back for another round of ball-kicking? Stewart’s last appearance was before WrestleMania, and perhaps “Kick the WWE Champion in the balls” is on his bucket list.

We kicked around the possibility of Stewart joining WWE on a semi-regular basis back in March. Now that he’s gone from The Daily Show, could we be seeing more of him?

Will: It seems like Stewart is a real, true wrestling fan. He and Rollins had a solid little feud there, culminating with Stewart’s appearance on Raw, and he wouldn’t sign up for four hours of work unless he enjoyed it at least a little bit. Will we see more of him, though? I doubt it. Not to besmirch the good name of WWE, but it feels a little beneath Stewart to be a regular gig, no? He’s done the freaking White House Correspondents dinner and interviewed most of the relevant parties in American politics. One would think he has slightly loftier ambitions.

If not, though, I’m all for it. Wrestling is on a nice PR run lately (despite, you know, all the deaths) between Stewart’s hosting SummerSlam, ESPN covering SummerSlam, and David Shoemaker’s being interviewed on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. Stewart’s a pro. Bring it on.

Derek: Let’s run through the rest of the FOUR HOUR SummerSlam card and make some expert picks! Starting with …

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

Derek: Ziggler came back! How nice. I thought there would be a mixed tag element to this since Summer Rae and Lana have been catfighting on an almost weekly basis. But we’ve never seen Lana in the ring, so maybe she’s just not ready.

I’m picking Rusev in this one. He got smacked around by Cena for months and then got injured, so he needs to get some mojo back.

Will: I get very, very uncomfortable any time there’s a Lana-Summer Rae segment. It’s really weird to see juxtaposed against our next match and the generally respectable work being done in the women’s division. Luckily, they’re only the managers in this one. I’ve never fancied myself much of a Dolph fan, but I was pumped to see him come back this week, and Rusev sold a hell of a tornado DDT. I don’t care who wins; I just want more of that. 

Team Bella vs. Team BAD (ugh) vs. PCB

Derek: WWE has somehow made me less excited for this match than I was a month ago. The esteemed team members met each other in a bunch of different variations in the last month, so it almost feels like this match has already happened. Add in the horrible names and brutal guest commentary from these teams and it almost seems like they’re all heels. PCB are still the fan favorites, but they haven’t done themselves any favors in my eyes.

I think the Bellas will come out on top. I only say that because I’m hoping Nikki loses the belt before she break’s AJ Lee’s record for longest reign as Divas Champion. This could be their last hurrah before Nikki drops the belt to … well, just about anyone. Paige? Charlotte? Sasha Banks? Take your pick.

Will: The buildup to this match has been worse than it has any right to be. Moments have been very good — I was glad to see Becky Lynch get a singles win, in part because I fucking love her entrance — but the overall story has been ham-fisted. The woeful team names have been more indicative of that than anything. 

I see the Bellas losing this one, with that setting the stage for whatever Nikki’s next title defense turns out to be. Look for Charlotte or Sasha to end it.

Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett

Derek: Barrett and Stardust are referring themselves as both “The Lords of Darkness” and “The Cosmic Kings.” Okay, then!

barrett stardust

Surely Amell’s side will come out on top here. The team with a celebrity guest star is usually a safe bet.

Will: …I kinda liked Barrett with Stardust! Get him away from that king schtick and let’s see what happens. More than anything, I’m curious to see how Amell handles himself in the ring. Go Arrow go.

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

Derek: Much has been made of Kevin Owens’ weight over the last few weeks. There was even a “Fat, Owens, Fat” sign held up next to Owens as he entered Monday night. Did he gain weight? I hadn’t noticed. He was never exactly a skinny guy.

This is a tough one to call. Both of these guys are in line for a rumored push, and Owens has a rematch with Finn Balor for the NXT Championship the night before SummerSlam. It’s impossible to say if that will affect the outcome of the match. I would probably mention it if I were running things, but it sure didn’t seem to be a big deal when he was feuding with Cena and lost the belt in Japan.

I’m going with Cesaro. I think Vince is finally going to embrace the Cesaro Section. Though I won’t be surprised if Owens wins or it ends in shenanigans.

Will: This one could easily wind up being the match of the night. I don’t know or care who’s gonna win. Cesaro has been absolutely brilliant lately, and I trust Owens to play up to the level of competition. Even as both have pulled off some neat moves over the past couple weeks, I feel like we’re in for a rare treat or two.

(Now that you mention it, Owens’ paunch has looked a little paunchier lately.)

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

Derek: This could be fun. It’s just two people short of the excellent Shield vs. Wyatt Family feud. Ambrose has been the highlight of this program, as he often is. He’s one of the few guys on the roster who is legitimately funny. I hope he gets back in the title picture in the next year.

ambrose chair

This is another tough one to call, because most of these guys have gotten the short end of the stick lately. Wyatt lost to Undertaker at WrestleMania, got injured, and had a very forgettable feud with Ryback. Reigns got pinned by Rollins at ‘Mania, lost the Money in the Bank match and went on a bit of a losing streak. Ambrose and Harper weren’t even on the card at Battleground.

I’m going with Reigns and Ambrose. Wyatt beat Reigns at Battleground, so I think Reigns returns the favor.

Will: Agreed. That said, I really, actively watching Reigns work. He doesn’t look natural. Nothing looks smooth. He pulls off some nice moves, but he doesn’t look like he was born in the ring the way some guys do. I still don’t like him on the mic, I still don’t like his moves, and I understand why some folks still don’t like him. Ambrose has been carrying plenty.

I wonder if this match will propel the winning side up the ladder a bit. We’ve seen all parties involved, except perhaps Harper, play on the main event level. I’d like to see a Wyatt Family victory and re-ascension, with Bray picking up more followers along the way.

(Now is about the time that I realize this PPV is going to be entirely too long. I think all of the matches will be entertaining and everything, but my god.)

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

Derek: How about Sheamus yelling “Respect the ‘hawk!” when the crowd told him he looked stupid? That was excellent. Sheamus might be interesting in a few weeks.

I’m picking Sheamus, also because Orton won at Battleground. They have to make Sheamus look good at some point.

Will: I’m worried about how much I’ve enjoyed Sheamus lately. He played the mohawk bit perfectly, especially when he tended to it after landing a big shot or two. I wonder if he can work this sort of magic for the beard braids too. Go get ’em, fella. 

The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores for the Tag Team Championship

Derek: This is pretty much Prime Time Players vs. New Day with some high-flyers involved. But you gotta have guys like Los Matadores on speed dial when you’re planning a four hour show.

I think the only reason New Day lost their tag team belts is so they could have a big SummerSlam moment. They’ll get them back Sunday.

Will: I thought the tag match on Raw was oddly short, and I think that’s a commentary on the relative randomness of this match. New Day and the PTPers have done some nice work together, yet the other two teams have been thrown into the fray. Were we ever given an explanation for that? I’m thinking too hard again.

Ryback (c) vs. The Miz vs. The Big Show for the Intercontinental Championship

Derek: When was the last time Miz won a match? When he beat Mizdow? It seems like every episode he ends up unconscious, either at the hands of good guy Ryback or once bad then good now maybe bad again Big Show.

baron bad beaver

I’m thinking Ryback steals the show here. Then maybe they can get him in a decent feud. That hasn’t happened since he was being recruited by Team Cena and Team Authority before Survivor Series last year.

Will: I like Ryback to retain, and Miz to engage in some beautiful chickenshit work. As for Ryback’s next feud, I’d love to see Xavier Woods get in there, if only to get New Day some more shine and to see Woods talk circles around an increasingly confused Ryback.

John Cena (US) vs. Seth Rollins (WWEWHC) for both the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship

Derek: If I were running the show, Rollins would hold on to the belt a bit longer. He’d get the U.S. Championship and get the statue he wants and continue to draw nuclear heat. Maybe he’d even hold on to the belt until WrestleMania, when the inevitable Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Ambrose match could happen. But I’m not running the show, so …

cena wins

Will: My favorite throwaway note from this week’s Raw: Cena holding up his Never Give Up towel to the camera and saying, with great conviction: “Always.” Always never give up, kids. Always. Never. Give. Up.

I should know better, but I can’t see Cena winning this. He doesn’t need it! At all! Not even a little bit! He barely needs a storyline to be relevant; he is a storyline unto himself. Rollins has only gotten better, especially as an actor (and as a reactor; watch his face during the Cena promo), and he’s earned the chance to keep the strap.

Or, and I shudder to say this, could we see a Sheamus cash in? RESPECT THE ‘HAWK.

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker

Derek: The match probably won’t be the best of the evening, but it still might be the most exciting. No one has a read on who’s going to win. Undertaker’s heel tactics add an unexpected dynamic. Something tells me the winner won’t win clean.

As I said before, I’m going with ‘Taker. I think he’s getting his return win for WrestleMania XXX.

Will: I hope ‘Taker is healthy. I hope no one gets hurt. I hope the entrances are cool. I hope the crowd is up for it. I hope it’s well booked. I hope ‘Taker can walk the ropes. I hope Brock can give out some good suplexes. I just hope it’s a good match.

I hope Undertaker Wins, and I hope they run it back at ‘Mania 32.

Dead Man Risen: Wrasslin’ Thursday 7/23/2015

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (three/four days later) from St. Louis/Kansas City! So much to cover this week that we had to move to —

Mah … mah gawd! Mah gawd! That’s the Undertaker’s music!

Yes, the main event between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar ended in shenanigans, but not the kind we were expecting. Just as Brock was about to put Rollins down, the bell tolled, and Taker appeared to get revenge on Brock for ending his undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX.

Taker’s return was shocking, to say the least. Six months ago, rumors were flying around that he was in poor health and he had wrestled his final match. He did wrestle Bray Wyatt at ‘Mania, but he wasn’t involved in the buildup at all. He showed up in Santa Clara, had a 15-minute match, and bailed. Folks were speculating that he’d have his final match at WrestleMania 32 in his home state of Texas (perhaps against Brock or Sting), but I don’t think anyone predicted he’d make an appearance at SummerSlam, or Battleground, or Monday Night Raw. It certainly wasn’t on our radar.

undertaker raw

To WWE’s credit, it’s a clever way to handle Lesnar. His story arc was starting to look suspiciously like it did at this point last year, when he was slated to face WWE Heavyweight Champion John Cena at SummerSlam. Brock gave Cena a legendary beating and wrestled sparingly until he dropped the belt at ‘Mania. It was easy to see the story repeating itself with Rollins in place of Cena. Now, Brock can be removed from the title picture, and Rollins, for better or worse, can take on a new challenger.

While I’m leaning toward “for worse” in regards to Rollins, Brock is moving full steam ahead. I think it’s safe to say we both got chills when Taker’s music hit. Is this acceptable behavior for guys in their late 20’s? Are our future children going to track this article down one day and use it as a reason to not listen to us?

Will: I already hate our prospective children if that’s the case. Fuck you, future bearer of my DNA — I’ll let professional wrestling give me chills until I’m the Undertaker’s age. 

It was incredible. I didn’t watch Battleground live, and I avoided spoilers as best I could until my Monday night viewing, and I was fortunate enough to escape news of the Dead Man’s return. I wondered, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, how Rollins-Lesnar could be done in a way that was both kayfabe realistic and reasonably interesting. Lesnar squashing Cena was brilliant because that sort of thing is so unusual for a main event, but it’s not a well you can go back to. Taker’s return was the deus ex machina.

Some may be more cynical: a Taker-Brock showdown at SummerSlam is the sort of thing that can paralyze WWE. Instead of building up worthwhile storylines with the everyday talent, they look to a part-timer and a virtual retiree to headline a PPV. Doing so at SummerSlam isn’t as egregious as Wrestlemania, but the effect is similar.

Still, I loved it. Part of that is because of Undertaker’s enduring legacy and legendary status, which is nearly unmatched. But the bigger part is that his intervention actually made sense. By the time the lights were out, everyone in the house knew what was up. There was an actual reason for Undertaker to seek vengeance against Brock, and there’s no better way to do so than pre-empting his victory in a title bout.

Derek: Let’s move on to something a little more cringeworthy: the notion that Rollins’ next challenger will be John Cena.

I guess it was only a matter of time. It’s been almost a full year since Cena was champion. Not only that, but two straight WrestleManias have passed without Cena in the main event. Logic dictates that Cena would put Kevin Owens over so he could blossom into a main eventer himself. Unfortunately, CENAWINSLOL dictates that CENA WINS (LOL), and immediately inserts himself back into the WWE WHC picture. The treatment they gave Cena Monday night just about ruined the Undertaker’s return for me. It was such a bummer in so many ways.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

First, Cena already has a championship belt, but they’re putting him into the hunt for another. One simply isn’t enough for Cena. Why have Cena drop the US Championship before challenging Rollins? Screw that. He must have all the belts.

Second, if Monday night is any indication, Owens comes out of this a huge loser. Not only did he lose the NXT Championship to Finn Balor, but he lost two of his three matches with Cena and he might be entering into a feud with … gulp … Sheamus. I’d say they’re bringing his momentum to a screeching halt, but that sounds a little generous. More like they stopped his momentum, kidnapped it, beat it with a crowbar, abandoned it in a warehouse, and blew the warehouse up. This is the kind of momentum stoppage that needs a Lazarus Pit to be resurrected.

Let’s just hope Owens’ little spat with Sheamus was a one-and-done type of thing. I thought for sure Owens and Cena would have one more match at SummerSlam. Maybe a No DQ or Falls Count Anywhere match to keep it fresh, as I thought their Battleground match looked a little too familiar at times. Then Owens could move on as US Champion and Cena could move on to Cena things, which could possibly include challenging Rollins. Instead, Cena goes over (as if he needed it) and Owens gets buried (and he definitely didn’t need it.) Am I missing something? Does Owens and Cena going their separate ways have more potential than I’m giving it credit for?

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Will: I want very much to be optimistic about this. I actually enjoyed Cena challenging Rollins insofar as it fit their respective characters — it’s nice when plots fit the players. But as you are, I’m mildly horrified by the notion of those two engaging in a prolonged feud. It’s tricky; Cena has been among the most dependably entertaining names in wrasslin’ over the past year. His US Open Challenge has been legitimately inventive and has provided a stage for plenty of youngsters (Neville, Zayn, Owens) to get a moment in the spotlight. And yet, Cena’s been putting guys over by putting himself over, which just feels weird. Getting another crack at a title he absolutely does not need would make it even weirder.

Owens is the one I’m more worried about, and 1000 percent of that is because of his potential connection to Sheamus. I’ve decided that I just plain don’t care about anything Sheamus does. I don’t even dislike him (well, that much); I just want him off the screen entirely. I don’t find him interesting in the ring, on the mic, or in general. He is a giant pale sign that it’s time to fast forward.

I hate to be a hater; sorry, fella. Owens has been superb since coming on the scene, and there are precious few people I wouldn’t want to see him in a program with. Sheamus happens to be one of them. Fingers crossed.

Derek: Roman Reigns continued his uncharacteristic losing streak at Battleground after a returning Luke Harper interfered, allowing Bray Wyatt to pick up the win. Ambrose joined back up with Reigns on Monday night, though its unclear what the plan is going forward. They could be having a tag team match, or they could simply be watching each other’s backs. Too bad they may not have their own singles matches, but there’s not a whole lot more for either of them to do at this point.

Will: I worry that both Reigns and Ambrose are losing their momentum. Ambrose’s is more plot-driven; he was left out of Battleground and has been generally overlooked over the past couple weeks. It wouldn’t take too much to spruce him up; give him another move or two, keep the clothesline usage to a minimum, pick a certain type of crazy to focus on, and tell the announce team to take it easy with “THE LUNATIC FRINGE” (one of those is pure pipe dream).

It’s Roman I’m more worried about. I thought for a little while that he had gotten back to square one with the fans after being at square minus-2 billion after winning the Royal Rumble, but it seems like plenty of folks still don’t like him, and he doesn’t quite know how to handle it. And actually, I think he’s doing alright, it’s just that people hate the goddamn Superman punch — I don’t blame them.

As for the Wyatt Family Reunion: hell yeah. Harper can do more in the ring than Bray can, and their getting back together works without requiring any explanation. With Erick Rowan out for a while with an injury, why not get the fam back together? Wyatt is best as a talker, and Harper as a brute. It just works.

These four combined bring plenty to the table, and even if things are a little clumsy in the run-up, good things oughta happen when they collide.

Derek: The Divas did indeed end up with a match at Battleground in the form of a triple threat match between Charlotte, Brie Bella, and Sasha Banks. It was a solid match, despite losing a couple of points because I had to listen to Naomi’s horrendous entrance music. I’ll keep saying it until a change is made: Naomi has the worst entrance music in WWE, and it isn’t close. And now she wants her little trio to be called “Team B.A.D.” (Beautiful and Dangerous)? Yeesh. Sasha Banks must have drawn the short stick.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Anyway, Charlotte made Brie Bella submit again on Monday, but Banks got vengeance later in the night when she made Paige submit. That’s right, two Divas matches in one night! And that doesn’t even include the unfortunate continuation of the Lana-Summer Rae catfight. SummerSlam could be the most Diva-heavy show in quite some time.

Will: Team B.A.D.” is so bad. Oh my god. It’s awful. Aside from her glowing boots, Naomi’s packaging leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not sure she’s quite up to being the leader of a mini-faction, and I could certainly see Sasha stepping into that role. She is the Boss, after all.

This has all been great! The ladies are really showing out and making the most of their opportunities. Charlotte looks to be the real deal (I adore her entrance music), and all of the new blood came just as things were getting a bit stale. Again, I’m somewhat cautious in my hopes that WWE can keep this going long term, but in the meantime it’s all good.

One hair in the soup: the entire revolution storyline has been a bit contrived. What exactly have the Bellas been doing to everyone that’s so terrible? Yes, Nikki’s been the champion for a while, but the talk of the Bellas’ mighty reign of terror doesn’t quite jibe with what I’ve seen on screen. Yes, there have been some twin hijinks, but it’s made to sound as though Brie and Nikki have been locking the other women in a closet and tossing in smoke grenades.

Still, things are certainly trending up in Divaland.

Derek: Finally, let’s touch on the Intercontinental Championship picture. Ryback’s schedule title defense against Miz and Big Show was canceled due to his hospitalization with a staph infection. Looks like the IC belt could be cursed. Daniel Bryan had to vacate it, and now Ryback might as well. How do you think they’ll handle it? Do you think they’ll take it away, or bank on The Big Guy returning before SummerSlam? Should they just go ahead and give the belt to Cena?


It sucks for Ryback, especially after Bryan suffered a similar fate. I don’t love The Big Guy in the ring, but he really loves the business and I think he took pride in being Bryan’s successor.

As for who oughta take the belt over…am I crazy to want to give it to the Miz? His mic work is asshole artistry. He gins up real heat like few can. I hate the idea of seeing he and Show continue their song and dance for another month, but I have to think there’s another way.

What if Miz kept ripping on Ryback — and Bryan — for getting hurt, and someone like Neville stepped up to defend their honor? Maybe a Fatal Four Way at SummerSlam to decide the title. Show could hang around for the sake of storyline consistency (though I wouldn’t be upset if he found another , while two more promising challengers inject themselves into the fray. Is it too naive to hope for a Mizdow resurrection?

After seeing the Undertaker return, a resurrection feels just about right.

Independent Women: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 7/15/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

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.”

brock kane

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.

roman sneak attack

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.

triple suplex

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.

A Crap Show in the Nation’s Capital: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 7/1/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Washington, D.C.! I thought we had a decent shot at an entertaining show since it was in D.C., but that wasn’t the case. When the week’s exposition can be summed up in a sentence or two, it’s generally not good news for the poor bastards who write about it. This will probably be a short one.

you get nothing

Derek: So, uh, let’s see. I guess the biggest news of the week was what didn’t happen, seeing as Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman were nowhere to be found. Last week, the Authority made Lesnar look like just a man as they triple-teamed him into unconsciousness. I, for one, was excited to see how Lesnar’s camp would respond to this insult. But nah. He’s gotta do a show in Japan on Sunday and he needs five days to get over the jet lag. Gotta get mentally ready for that house show match against Kofi Kingston. Brock Lesnar’s character would absolutely make that a priority over getting revenge on Rollins, who took his belt at WrestleMania and got the better of him again last week.

Will: Lesnar’s not being there sucked, but I suppose it’d be asking a lot for a guy who was gone for months to show up two weeks in a row. This was a weird test case of the Reality Era; we saw him get storyline hurt (if not proper injured) last week, but we also knew he was booked in Japan. Suspension of disbelief has always been part of the game, but for some reason this sticks out to me as particularly quirky.

His absence aside, I’m in on what they’re doing with Brock. He’s as unstoppable a force as there is in wrestling today, and it’s near-impossible to come up with a scenario in which he’d lose one-on-one — even in kayfabe. Thus it makes sense for Rollins and Co. to team up on him, even if it was unsatisfying to see him get the Sgt. Pepper’s Authority Hearts Club Band back together. Whenever this pays off (perhaps I’m being too lenient in assuming it will), I think it will be fantastic.

Derek: Speaking of Rollins, he was responsible for one of the show’s two entertaining segments, when he handed out gifts to his cronies in his continuing effort to win them back before his match with Lesnar. A car was given out. Some Apple Watches were given out. And, best of all, Kane got a trip to Hawaii. That ‘s fun to envision. Maybe his girlfriend will break up with him right before he leaves and he’ll end up performing his puppet Dracula musical.

kane hawaii

Will: Kane is great when he suddenly becomes a campy comedic foil. It’s really bizarre that it works between his introduction as a demon and his reinvention as a corporate lackey, yet it does. Kudos to him, and to the whole sequence; the ukeleles were a nice touch, and I enjoyed the idea of J&J getting a single car to share.

My enjoyment was tarnished a little bit by the brazen product placement of it all — Seth was legit reciting the Cadillac’s specs — but I suppose there’s little sense in complaining about it when I’ve already bought the proverbial ticket to watch wrestling.

Derek: Alicia Fox is a Bella now, for some reason. Paige pinned Fox, and apparently the only Diva storyline is the debate on whether Paige has friends. Dark times in the Divas division since AJ left. Meanwhile, there are tons of interesting women in NXT, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they considered moving to the Divas division as a demotion at this point.

Will: Okay good, I didn’t miss anything here? I was baffled by Alicia’s sudden Bella alignment. It seems that they’re pushing the idea that you’re either with the Bellas or you’re with Paige. If only they did it well. Paige ended up getting a solid victory, and the commentary team even gave her some props, but it just wasn’t very compelling. I worry about the ladies of wrasslin’.

Derek: The highlight of the show was, once again, the segment that involved John Cena and Kevin Owens. Owens pretended to accept Cena’s US Open Challenge, but backed out at the last minute in favor of Cesaro. Naturally, they had the match of the evening, which ended with interference from Owens. Cesaro had John Cena locked in a Sharpshooter, but Owens broke it up because he didn’t want anyone else taking Cena’s championship. So that story didn’t even advance, and it was the best one of the evening. It was one of those nights.

Will: I think I would be more likely to watch a one-hour show centered around Owens and Cena than a three-hour show centered around everyone else. They’re just so damn good. Cena seems to be growing more and more empowered by his Open Challenge gimmick; his conversation with the crowd starts the minute he walks onto the stage, and doesn’t stop until he’s out of view. Owens deserves credit for playing up to the level of his competition.

I was alright with the match itself. I liked the setup of Owens coming out only to go “…nah” to further establish his heel cred, and it was a great spot for Cesaro to get some shine. Cesaro and Cena’s match was predictably fantastic, if marred by Owens’ interference. The question now, and the one that will ultimately determine whether or not Cesaro’s inclusion matters, is what they (i.e. WWE) do with him. Will they keep him relevant enough to feud with Owens or Cena once those two finish their program? Will they try to squeeze him in and make this thing a triangle of terror?

Based on the events of Monday’s show, I’m not confident in anything.

Derek: Here’s a segment that WWE publicized throughout the evening:

dolph and lana go public!

And they totally did! How wonderful. Good for them.

Will: Ugh.

Derek: Rusev and his new gal, Summer Rae, decided to interrupt. They said a bunch of stuff, or something. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was trying to figure out a potential WWE couple that would look like they’d have harsher combined alcohol breath than Rusev and Summer Rae. Maybe Luke Harper and Rosa Mendes? God, what a boring episode.

Anyway, it ended with Lana learning what the five fingers said to the face …


… which was followed by a good ol’ fashioned cat fight.

cat fight

And thus ended The Ballad of Lana and Summer Rae.

Will: This legitimately hurt to watch. I don’t know if any of the talent involved could have done anything to save it, or if this whole segment was doomed from the start. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Derek: The main event was a tag match pitting Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against Rollins and Kane. The bad guys won, then spent a few minutes beating up Ambrose and Rollins. After the Authority had their fun, Bray Wyatt decided to join in on the Reigns whippin’. And that brought a merciful end to the proceedings.

I feel like I should say more about the main event, but I just want to put this one behind me. I had to watch it in three separate sittings. This show could have been 45 minutes long.

Will: The match itself didn’t do much for me, though I was encouraged by the development of the Wyatt-Reigns storyline. Wyatt’s promo early in the show alluded to some daddy issues in his past, which I don’t recall hearing about before. Bray spoke of being overlooked and of having another favored over him as a boy. Meanwhile, Reigns has been WWE’s favored son for a while — er, sort of; everyone hated him for a minute there — so there’s a clearer basis for which at least provides reason for Bray to loathe Roman so.

But my god, if the best thing you can pull from a three-hour show is that one feud was sort of legitimized and there was one good match? Yikes.

Authority Song: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 6/24/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Indianapolis! Good to be back on Wednesdays. All those Thursdays felt dirty. And I know a thing or two about feeling dirty, because I pre-ordered the PC version of Arkham Knight.

Will: It’s good to be back. My apologies for the tardies and absences. NBA season has finally come to a close, and I’m ready to dive back into wrasslin’. Things got hot and heavy there for a minute, with Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank back to back, but now we can fall back into the usual one PPV per month routine.

Derek: Yes, things are finally slowing down in the ol’ squared circle, which has been good and bad. It’s nice to not be over-saturated, but we’re in the no man’s land that typically exists three weeks before a lower-tier PPV. But there was one unquestionable victory on Monday night, and that was the return of this man:

heyman return

WWE, Inc.

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that I missed Paul Heyman more than Brock Lesnar. It’s nice to have Brock back, but it really felt like something was missing when Heyman stopped showing up. Welcome back, Paul.

Will: Heyman on the mic should get old, but it never does. His returning from a relatively long hiatus obviously made his work Monday night all the better, but I increasingly feel like he could just talk for 30 minutes straight and I would still be entertained. He’s just so damn good. He owns the room, which is no small feat when those rooms house some 20,000 people. He’s aggressive and lyrical and always wraps up his monologues with tidy little bows. He knows when to downshift and when to stomp on the gas, and I’m never left feeling like I saw anything other than a spectacular performance. Welcome back indeed.

(Also, making a new Suplex City t-shirt for every locale Brock visits is borderline genius. Also borderline genius: You can buy an “Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat” dog leash.)

Derek: The running story of the evening was Seth Rollins mending the bridges he scorched with all of his Authority brethren. Each member of the Authority (correctly) pointed out that Rollins was only making nice because of Lesnar’s return. Despite Kane, J&J, Triple H, and Steph all calling him on his BS, they still returned to his side at the end of the evening. The show ended with Rollins, Kane, and Joey Mercury (Jamie Noble broke three ribs moments earlier) assaulting Lesnar in the middle of the ring.

The reunification of The Authority has me less excited for Battleground. Last week, I wondered why we were getting the Lesnar-Rollins match at Battleground instead of SummerSlam. Now that the band is back together, a false finish at Battleground has moved from possibility to probability. I can see it now: Lesnar gives Rollins an F5, one … two … and Kane breaks up the pin! That’s a disqualification! Rollins retains! Then Rollins returns to his childish ways and we get the real match at SummerSlam. Now that that’s settled, we just need to find out who will replace Noble.

My question is what happens to Dean Ambrose? I thought for sure he would run out and help Brock at the end. Getting a chance to attack Rollins is good enough, but the opportunity to be on Brock’s good side? That’s a chance most wouldn’t pass up. I was disappointed he didn’t make an appearance.

Will: Ambrose’s lack of involvement is a concern, but I’m actually on board with the Authority-related events of this week. It isn’t satisfying to see them all back together in the short term, but I’m optimistic that it will make whatever the eventual payoff is that much better. They also needed a way to make Brock look vulnerable, and a combination of the numbers game and working his knee seems to be the chosen path. I would have liked to see something with more resolution, but I’m not mad at WWE for playing the long game.

If Ambrose doesn’t find a way back into the picture, however, my outlook is a bit less sunny.

Derek: Outside the main event, Bray Wyatt continues to taunt Roman Reigns for his “I’m a Little Teapot” commercial. I’m slightly more in on this feud than I was a week ago. Despite its cringeworthy beginning, the feud hasn’t lost me yet because Bray isn’t completely reverting back to the “I hate you because you’re popular” trope he has used for the past year. He just seems pissed off that Roman took his MITB spot. A classic reason for people to wrassle.

Bray’s little anti-Roman shrine was pretty creepy, too. For someone who has fancied himself “The New Face of Fear,” he hasn’t been doing very many scary things. Hopefully he’s starting to make up some ground in that area.

anyone but you

Will: I was all in on this week’s edition of Bray does weird shit. The eerie lighting and targeting of a foe’s daughter brought to mind the old feud between the Undertaker and Vince McMahon, when a then-young-and-naive Stephanie McMahon was caught in the middle. Bray has definitely trended more creepy than scary lately, but it’s worked for me — red capital letters smeared on the wall are a sure thing when it comes to creepiness.

As you say, the nature of their squabble makes sense, or at least enough sense for me to buy it. Based on looks alone, Bray and Roman are natural foils. My concern is that neither has blown me away in the ring, and I don’t imagine them working together all that well. I’m skeptical that we’ll get a payoff commensurate with the build-up. Here’s hoping.

Derek: Looks like John Cena and Kevin Owens are continuing their feud with another match at Battleground. This time, the US Championship is on the line. It’s too bad the NXT Championship isn’t also on the line, because the thought of John Cena as NXT Champion is absolutely delightful.

I’m not sure I can describe this feud in a way that I haven’t already. There’s really no way to do it justice without just directly quoting both of them, and there’s been enough of that. These two should just feud forever, until John Cena becomes NXT Champion and the galaxy implodes.

Will: Their feud is incredible. It’s good for the same reason that good fried chicken is good: They’ve taken a simple premise, and they’ve executed the hell out of it. There’s no convoluted reason for them to fight, no forced pawn caught in the middle. It’s a rivalry that could work in any time or place, from ancient China to the Wild West. 

John Cena — face of the company John Cena — respects Kevin Owens as a wrestler. He said so himself. He entertains the idea that agreeing to a match with Owens may mean going into a fight that he cannot win. Owens made his big league debut less than two months ago, and here he is, earning kudos from the biggest name in the biz. 

But Owens isn’t a man of integrity. He isn’t a man of morals or values. He is not a decent man, and to a man like Cena, a man defined by loyalty and respect (as well as hustle), that qualifies as a personal affront. Pure and simple, they don’t like each other because they perceive themselves to be more different than they are alike. Owens doesn’t care what people think of him; Cena does. Owens will stoop to any low in the pursuit of victory; Cena won’t. Even as they are both experts in their field, they cannot stand each other because of how they got there.

It’s sort of a Joker-Batman thing. Owens isn’t that wild, but he is similarly nihilistic. Beyond his son and dominating the squared circle, there appears to be nothing that he truly cares about or considers important, and that’s dangerous. These two are so damn good. More, please.

Derek: It was a rough week for the tag team division. Tyson Kidd is having the same neck surgery Stone Cold and Edge had, so he’s supposedly gone for 14 months. Erick Rowan also has an arm injury that could keep him out for a while. So Luke Harper and Cesaro, the owners of separate failed singles pushes who were looking to rebound through the tag team division, have lost their partners. Maybe they’ll put them together?!

cesaro owens

Either way, the tag team division is in danger of turning back into garbage. And I know a thing or two about garbage, because I pre-ordered the PC version of Arkham Knight.

Will: You poor S.O.B.

The tag division is in a weird place. Some six months ago, we bemoaned the full-on crapfest that was the Ascension’s debut (although they’re growing on me a little bit, like a slow moving fungus) and were growing tired of the never-ending run of Usos vs. Miz/dow matches. Then Cesaro and Kidd picked up steam and New Day re-invented themselves as legitimately great heels. Add Rowan & Harper and the Prime Time Players to the mix, and it suddenly looked like four-man wrasslin’ was in a great place.

Alas, just like in the NBA or NFL, injuries have submarined much of that momentum. The PTPers have the belt and are reasonably over, even if they’re not 100 percent compelling. New Day is still there, but the thinning roster runs the risk of relying on them too much. What other tag teams are left that you care about? Have we reached the point where we yearn for the Usos or completely talk ourselves into the Ascension just out of necessity? If it looks this bad from where we’re sitting, I can’t imagine how Triple H feels trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

(An aside that I’ve gotta mention: I love how Kofi is billed from “Ghana, West Africa.” I want to be disappointed in WWE for not trusting their fans to know what and where Ghana is, but in this case they’re probably right.)

Derek: The Kane Konundrum continued, as he can’t decide if he’s The Ultimate Jobber or the Big Red Machine. The Kane/Rollins thing has lingered, and lingered, and lingered, and still not gone anywhere. I had hoped he would team up with Ambrose or something, but he always reverts back to the status quo. Please do something with Kane. I don’t like delays. And I know a thing or two about annoying delays, because I pre-ordered the PC version of Arkham Knight in Korea.

Will: It will all be okay, friend. Arkham Knight will get sorted out — if it’s as bad as people say, maybe you’re better off without it for now! — and one day Kane will finally turn on Seth Rollins. We’ll think it long overdue, and the fact that we’ve pined for it so long will make it all the better. In an ideal world, he’ll come out in the old Big Red Machine attire to destroy Rollins mid-match, cue some fireworks, and ride off into the Big Red sunset. 

Suplex City Limits: Wrasslin’ Thursday 6/18/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: I’m coming to you live (three/four days later) from Columbus/Cleveland! The NBA Finals have come to an end, which means this should be our final Wrasslin’ Thursday and our final Will-less week for a while. But you’re stuck with me this week, and it’s going to be fun for the whole family.

orton family

In lieu of the witty banter you’ve all come to know and love, I’ll run through all of the Money in the Bank matches before covering Raw highlights on my way to Suplex City. That should be fun, because I’ve been wrong and/or surprised a whole bunch lately.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Last week, I tried to give a justification or two for each wrestler in the match becoming Mr. Money in the Bank. I thought of one for everyone except Sheamus. Naturally, Sheamus won. After it happened, I thought WWE was just going to go the surprise route and have Sheamus cash in later that evening. I envisioned the evening ending with Vince raising Sheamus’ hand in the air before directly addressing the camera and telling all of us stupid smarks at home to shove our message boards up our collective ass. It seemed more and more likely as Rollins and Ambrose beat the hell out of each other in a 35 minute ladder match.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. So I really don’t see the endgame here. I don’t think he would add anything to the upcoming Rollins-Lesnar feud, and he looks to be entering a program with Randy Orton. If I had to guess, I’d say the briefcase won’t come into play for at least another five or six months. Maybe they’re setting Sheamus up for a title run around Survivor Series. I couldn’t think of a good reason for him to have it last week, and I still can’t think of one. Maybe they’ll surprise me again.

Nikki Bella vs. Paige

Sadly, Nikki Bella retained her title after more interference from her twin sister. Brie switched places with Nikki yet again, but Paige actually pinned Brie. Naturally, Brie was quick to point out that she was not Nikki, as she pulled the tissue out of her top that she had used to mimic her sister’s … enhancements.

brie stuffing

Rather than ruling a disqualification, the referee restarted the match, and Nikki downed Paige with a Rack Attack.

Nikki Bella is the longest reigning current champion in WWE. That’s incredible.

Big Show vs. Ryback

Not much to see here. Miz interfered and Ryback beat everyone up. I almost forgot this match happened.

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

These two set the bar high after their Elimination Chamber match, and the rematch didn’t disappoint. It’s taking everything I have to resist the urge to put seven or eight GIF’s from the match. I can’t decide on my favorite part. Owens as a high-flyer?

owens jump

Cena doing whatever this is?


Owens’ powerbomb outside the ring?

owens cena powerbomb

The whole thing was spectacular. It was only about 75% as awesome as the announce team claimed, but it was still awesome. I remember thinking I wanted this feud to go on for a while longer. Then something horrible dawned on me: I’m a John Cena fan.

Ever since Survivor Series, he’s been one of the best parts of wrestling. He was part of a Match of the Year candidate at Royal Rumble. He was the only person to make Rusev interesting. His U.S. Open Challenges have been some of the best parts of Raw. He’s had two incredible matches with Kevin Owens. Somehow, I now look forward to Cena’s promos and matches.

It was unthinkable a year ago. Daniel Bryan had just forfeit the WWE World Heavyweight Championship due to injury, so a ladder match for the vacant championship was held. Cena faced off against Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, Cesaro, Kane, and Alberto Del Rio. Cena won, and I died a little bit inside. He may not have been the last one I expected to win, but he was the last one I wanted to win. Michael Cole spewed some Coleisms about Cena being the greatest wrestler of all time as I seethed and shut my TV off. I didn’t think I would ever look forward to seeing him. Now, he’s almost must-see.

I don’t want to sound like Cena doesn’t get enough credit. Michael Cole will always make sure Cena gets plenty. But while Owens is (rightfully) getting a ton of attention, Cena has been underappreciated. It can’t be a coincidence that some of the best wrestling moments of the last year involved Cena. Could Cena be … underrated?


No. That’s ridiculous. But I’ll give the man his due. He’s on fire right now.

The New Day vs. The Prime Time Players

Last week, I called a New Day loss “unlikely.” I’m an idiot.

This was a weird match. The New Day have had some great matches, and they’ve gotten a pretty big push recently. If they were going to lose, I thought they’d at least be given enough time to make a show of it. But it was almost the shortest match of the evening at just under six minutes. Only Ryback-Big Show and the pre-show match were shorter.

But those matches were supposed to be short. No one cared about Barrett vs. R-Truth and Ryback vs. Big Show didn’t have a real finish. How often does a popular champion get taken down in a sub-six minute match by a challenger that pretty much came out of nowhere? I know WWE wants to push The Prime Time Players because of who they are in real life, but I didn’t think they’d give them the belts in such an anti-climactic fashion.

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Another great match between these two, which once again ended with Rollins on top. Hey, I got one right!

ladder match finish

In their yearlong history, Rollins has pretty much always come out on top. Money in the Bank was no different. I hope Ambrose gets his revenge someday. But it wouldn’t be this time because …

brock return

… Brock came back on Monday night. Triple H and Steph reinstated him, presumably to continue testing Rollins’ belief that he doesn’t need anyone else to be successful. Rollins is likely rethinking that belief, as he tucked tail and ran shortly after Brock approached him.

rollins brock

Rollins will likely work to regain the trust of The Authority over the next few weeks. That should be fun to watch. I’m a little surprised that they’re already schedule for a match at Battleground, though. I assumed they wouldn’t face off until SummerSlam. That makes the SummerSlam picture a bit more murky. Would they face each other two months in row? Would they move on and face someone else? Rumors are floating around that Rollins will face Triple H at SummerSlam. I wonder who would be the heel in that feud.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Lost in the surprise of Sheamus becoming Mr. Money in the Bank was the event that led to Roman Reigns losing. Reigns had the match won but, surprise surprise, the lights cut out and Bray Wyatt knocked the ladder over. Sources confirm that I was not watching a rerun.

I went on a rant about how I would use Bray Wyatt last month, which I won’t recount here. I’ll just say that it didn’t involve him RANDOMLY INTERFERING IN SOMEONE’S MATCH AGAIN. This was so bitterly disappointing. I would rather have just seen Reigns as Mr. Money in the Bank. Once again, Wyatt assaulted someone for being a false prophet or something. Now Reigns gets to play the role that Ryback, Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, and John Cena have already played. Only half of those feuds worked out, and neither of them were recent.

I suppose it could work out. Bray did have additional cause for the attack, since it was Roman who kept him out of the MITB match. And they do have a history from their old Shield v. Wyatt Family matches. I just have my doubts. Though Wyatt making fun of Roman’s “I’m a little teapot” commercial was a nice start.


Finally, Kevin Owens powerbombed noted rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who had just finished performing.

machine gun kelly

I skipped his performance, as I always skip musical performances on WWE programming, but he couldn’t have been that bad.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. The Road to SummerSlam is already upon us, Brock is back, and Kevin Owens looks like he’s going to be a star. These are exciting times, considering we’re headed toward the lightly-regarded Battleground PPV.

Perhaps that’s the biggest surprise of all.