Previewing WrestleMania 32

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Roman Reigns’ Ridiculous Royal Rumble Challenge: Wrasslin’ Thursday 1/7/16

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from San Antonio! Monday marked the first Raw of 2016, and it was nice enough to give us this:

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Yes, that man is 70 years old. Nothing weird about any of this. Bless you, wrestling.

So as you can see, Mr. McMahon did a bit of special refereeing this week, as he took it upon himself to call the match between Roman Reigns and Sheamus for the WWE World Heavyweight Chaympiachiaaa. Regular viewers will recall Reigns beating up the boss in recent weeks, so Vince (to my delight) has taken a more active role in relieving Reigns of his title. He made sure to pull out some special referee staples, such as fast counts for Sheamus and slow counts for Roman. Roman finally realized his best course of action was to attack Vince, seeing as he can’t lose the championship via disqualification. Anyway, after Vince (and another referee) went down, Referee Number Three came in and Roman won the match via pinfall.

Will: The second ref was the apparently notoriously crooked Scott Armstrong. (I’d forgotten about him; well done by the announcers to explain who he was.) He went so far as to hold Reigns in place for a Sheamus attack. He caught a Superman punch for his efforts, which led to a third, fair ref coming in and counting an impartial 1-2-3. It was all a bit convoluted, but it was entertaining enough.

I think Vince has to fire that third ref and blame Roman for it and make him feel awful for taking food out of that man’s family’s mouth. Mr. McMahon wouldn’t let that sort of insolence go unpunished. I expect the whole thing to never be mentioned again.

Derek: As you can imagine, Vince wasn’t very happy about the match result. So he decided that Roman is going to defend his title at Royal Rumble, but he’s going to defend it in the Royal Rumble match —

Will: Michael Cole explained that that stipulation had been in place for the Rumble once before (1992, when the WWF World Heavyweight Championship was vacant; Ric Flair won the match). He then referred to Vince’s decree as “an unprecedented decision.” It was wonderful.

Derek: — So instead of the winner of the match earning a shot at the title at WrestleMania, the winner will earn the championship and presumably the right to defend it at WrestleMania.

That is, of course, assuming Roman doesn’t win. And he might. There’s some ROMANWINSLOL potential here, in which Roman enters the Rumble second and somehow fights off 28 other people to retain his title. That’s entirely possible, and I almost think that’s going to happen. But let’s pretend, for a moment, that WWE won’t screw this up.

This could be one of the greatest Rumbles of all time, which would be very much welcome after the last two years. With the title on the line, every decent wrestler should want to enter. Will Brock enter? Triple H? Daniel Bryan? Undertaker? A returning part-timer, like Rock or Batista? And for every one of these awesome or popular wrestlers that enters, that’s one less “no chance” candidate we have to watch. There’s nothing worse than the clock ticking down at the Rumble and seeing it’s one of the Usos or the Ascension or Los Matadores. The more guys in who actually have a shot, the better.

And that’s one of the things that has killed previous Rumbles. There were three or four guys who might actually win it, two or three fun cameos from old-timers, a few acrobatic moves from the high-flyers, and a bunch of filler. I know it’s not realistic to have 30 potential WWE Champions, but what about, say, eight? Let’s say Roman, Brock, Trips, Taker, Rock, Batista, Bryan, and Cena enter. I’m sure that’s far too optimistic, but that would be a hell of a Rumble. Any of those guys could headline ‘Mania, and they could start a feud with one of the others during the Rumble. I’m giddy just thinking about it, until I realize hoping WWE does something incredible with an incredible opportunity leads down the path of extreme disappointment. I’m sure of the guys I listed only Roman and Cena will enter, and Cena will win.

BUT WAIT! Just moments after I wrote this, it looks like John Cena is injured and out of WrestleMania. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Did Vince break a mirror or something? Is this The Curse of CM Punk? We’re now down Cena, Rollins, Bryan, Cesaro, and Randy Orton. Is there anything we can do to reinforce the ACL’s of Brock, Ambrose, Kevin Owens, and everybody in the New Day? Something tells me a Sheamus vs. Braun Strowman main event wouldn’t sell out AT&T Stadium.

Will: My favorite new conspiracy theory is that Daniel Bryan has actually been cleared to participate in the Rumble. He tweeted “Can @WWE clear me already?!!!”, which led Redditor r/obcdexter to write, “He’s already cleared. They are trying to trick us into thinking he won’t show up at the Rumble. Right? Right??” I’m in love with that idea, not just because it would be awesome to see Bryan in the Rumble but because there’s nothing better than a wrestling promotion working an entire audience.

Including Roman, there are 17 declared Royal Rumble entrants. That leaves 13 unclaimed spots. Here’s who we know will be in:

Big Show
Curtis Axel
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan)
Ryback
Dolph Ziggler
Chris Jericho
The Miz
The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Big E, Xavier Woods)
Goldest
Neville
R-Truth

We’ll talk more about the Rumble later, but there are some things we can bank on. The Wyatt Family is going to make some noise, because there’s no way the Wyatts would get a huge build-up just to unceremoniously lose. (Crap, they might be the first four out.) We know Kofi will have a close call, possibly with New Day cooperation (hanging on to Xavier’s trombone, perhaps?) Kalisto and Neville will do some cool flippy shit. R-Truth will do something funny.

I hope Roman doesn’t win, but that’s what I’d wager on.

Derek: In other news, Charlotte and Becky Lynch had another “friendly” match, and they are friendly no more. Becky won, which led to Charlotte administering a post-match beating. It looks like WWE is going full steam ahead with a Charlotte-Becky feud, as Paige was nowhere to be found. Maybe she can enter the Rumble?

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We have a new, powerful stable, as Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, and Adam Rose have joined forces to create The Social Outcasts. Damien Sandow is conspicuously absent. This is probably doomed to fail (unless the Insane Clown Posse gets involved) but it’s nice that they have something to do now. I’m fine with whatever puts Bo Dallas on TV more. And I’m pretty sure nobody ever thought the New Day would become as popular as they are now. Maybe they’re on to something.

Will: I enjoyed them! Bo is hilarious. I like Heath Slater but I can’t explain why. It’s fun to think of Axel as Ryback’s drunk cousin. Adam Rose is legitimately weird. With all the injuries and everything else, why not throw a few jobbers together and see what happens? I especially enjoy that Slater’s nickname is the One Man Band, his music speaks of a Three Man Band, and now he’s part of a four-man stable.

One last note about Chris Jericho, who returned to 1) cut a promo on the New Day, 2) lead the arena in a chant of “rooty tooty booty,” which was as delightfully strange as it sounds, and 3) celebrate the 16th birthday of the Y2J gimmick. Most interesting to me was how much he addressed WWE’s falling TV ratings, and juxtaposed himself as the savior. It was a very Reality Era move — whereas the Reigns-Vince clash is very Attitude Era.

I embrace the nostalgia of a good ol’ Mr. McMahon storyline, but I suppose it’s worrisome that WWE is responding to sagging interest by leaning on old structures. That’s been the big picture problem for a while now, right? Cena getting injured — he’s 38, mind you — tilts the spotlight further that direction. I think that’s why the company is so hell-bent on turning Roman into a super-duper-star. WWE as a whole has a ton of talent, but it needs tentpoles to prop up the rest of the show.

That makes me fear that LOLROMANWINS will be the order of the day come January 24. Still, with 29 other guys involved and the big belt on the line, WWE has a bunch of ingredients to work with. Let’s see if they can’t make a good soup out of them.


Behold the League of Nations: Wrasslin’ Thursday 12/3/15

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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.

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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.

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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.

charlotte becky

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.


Wrasslin’ Wednesday 11/18/15

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


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.

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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.

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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!

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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!


The Last Straw: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 10/14/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Chicago! Times are dark here on the wrasslin’ corner of our website. As you may (or may not) have noticed, we didn’t run Wrasslin’ Wednesday last week. The unofficial reason for that was writer apathy. It was just so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to say anything interesting about it, and I doubted anyone would want to read our attempts at manufacturing interest.

Well, wrasslin’ hasn’t really gotten better. A recap of Raw last week or this week (excluding the NXT PPV) would read very similarly to the one we wrote two weeks ago. So, that’s a problem.

Will: I finished watching Raw moments ago. I wish I wanted to argue with you and explain why it hasn’t been that bad lately. There are plenty of performers I like and a couple angles I’m interested in, but precious few things feel like they matter. One exception would be the impending Brock Lesnar-Undertaker bout, but even that has been neutered thanks to all the rehashing that’s been done on-screen. Do we need multiple recap segments every episode of Raw? I’m growing weary of the coverage just like we have with FanDuel.

Derek: We’re approaching Hell in a Cell, which is the first PPV we wrote about on this site last year. We’ve exhausted a good deal of our random novelty wrestling notes, so we need something to happen. If we were reviewing a TV show that was just repeating itself, we could make fun of it for a few weeks, but after a while we would either stop writing about it or the show would get canceled. Raw isn’t getting canceled any time soon, so we may end up taking some occasional breaks between our pre- and post-PPV analysis on WFNY. I didn’t get into the game of wrestling commentary so I could stare blankly at my computer screen for two hours once a week. Step up your game, WWE. No wonder your ratings suck.

Will: What, you mean the whole Rusev-Lana engagement angle didn’t tickle your fancy? Kane and Triple H trying to have a phone call didn’t do it for you? How about Cesaro teaming up with Neville against King Barrett and Sheamus? No?!

Derek: Before recapping Raw, I should say that if you still haven’t watched the NXT PPV from last week, you need to get on that. Sasha Banks and Bayley were the main event, and I’d say they had a good chance to main event a WWE PPV if I wasn’t so sure WWE would run them into the ground with an alarming quickness.

Will: (nodding)

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Derek: Kane kicked off the show with a phone call from Triple H and Stephanie, who were running late. They decided to put their clearly insane Director of Operations in charge. What could possibly go wrong? (Laugh track.) Kane proceeded to book himself in a lumberjack match with Seth Rollins.

Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton followed with a telegraphed pissing match over who should be the follower and who should be the leader when the two face Luke Harper and Braun Strowman at Hell in a Cell. Dean called Randy “kiddo,” which was pretty funny. Randy responded to this by discussing it rationally. What happened to you, Randy?

Will: Dean’s hair is getting kind of long. That’s exciting.

Derek: New Day interrupted to take a few heelish shots at the folks of Chicago. If there was one thing worth mentioning from Raw last week, it was the fact that New Day ended the show standing over the Dudley Boyz, Dolph Ziggler, and John Cena. That’s a lot of star power for them to take down, especially when outnumbered.

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Will: New Day is one of the few things that WWE has going for it right now, and the Federation — er, the Entertainment? — deserves some credit for that. New Day feel like actual people who actually respond to what’s happening around them. They go out of their way to make their promos worth watching. They were the only ones to make use of their time ringside during the Rollins-Kane lumberjack match. Some of this is because they’re heels, but would it be that hard for a face besides John Cena to show a little wit every once in a while?

Derek: After a few jokes at Chicago’s suspense, Kane appeared on the Titantron to put Orton and Ambrose in a match with Kofi and Big E. That match was set to begin … right now. Kofi ended the match by pushing Orton into Ambrose, then rolling Orton up in a small package.

Will: It’s the subtlety and nuance that I love most.

Derek: A match between Nikki Bella and Naomi followed, which featured a video package of the Bayley-Sasha match from NXT. WWE just wanted us to know good things could happen, but they won’t. Thanks, guys! Brie Bella jumped on the announce table to mock the crowd’s “We want Sasha!” chant, which ended with Sasha throwing her off said table. While this was going on, Nikki finished off Naomi with a Rack Attack.

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Will: I kinda enjoyed the Brie-Sasha thing. The Chicago crowd was extra superduper smarky — were the “Husky Harris” chants at Bray really necessary, guys? — and acknowledging Sasha’s insane overness was a smart move on Brie’s part. The obvious path from here would be for Team BAD (my god, those team names won’t die) to break up when Naomi and/or Tamina get jealous. Perhaps they’ll do something more with it. A man can dream, can’t he?

Derek: John Cena faced Dolph Ziggler in the US Open Challenge, which Cena of course won. I’m told that on the season finale of Total Divas, Ziggler revealed that he still had feelings for his ex-girlfriend (and Cena’s current girlfriend) Nikki Bella. It’s probably scripted nonsense, but maybe not. Those looking to read between the lines have some ammunition here. Ziggler could be Cena’s next feud, and Cena went off the script by addressing a marriage proposal that took place in the crowd during his match.

Will: We love to rag on Cena, and rightly so. But is there anyone else in WWE who feels like a star? The whole CENAWINSLOL thing is tired, and perhaps that’s the source of his power, but I’m at least interested when he comes on the screen. He can control the room and direct the conversation. Lord knows he’s had enough practice.

Anywho, Cena-Ziggler was the match of the night. With Cena set to take a leave of absence, I hope the plan is to put the US Title on Ziggler — provided he turns heel first. His ring attire has taken a slight turn for the darker, and he raked Cena’s eyes to escape an AA. I think Dolph’s character has been stale for a lonnnng time, and this could be a way to shake things up a bit. (Big shout to Dolph’s Kent State wrestling hoodie.)

Derek: In tag team action, the Dudley Boyz squashed the Ascension, followed by King Barrett and Sheamus defeating Neville and Cesaro. Lots of talented guys in that group, minus the Ascension guys. Naturally, they are given nothing interesting to do.

Will: There have been rumblings that Cesaro is getting buried, and his inclusion in this match sure supports that idea. Hey, remember when the Ascension were running with Stardust? Glad that storyline got wrapped up so nicely.

Derek: Roman Reigns came out for a promo, in which he addressed the crowd’s “What?” chant and responded to their “Bo-ring” chant with “Chicago, this ain’t boring baby, this is real life!” I … don’t think it helped. Bray Wyatt and his cronies interrupted and threw Reigns a life preserver before Reigns’ match with Strowman, which ended with a Reigns victory via count out. Strowman pitched a fit and accidentally disconnected Cole and JBL, leaving only Byron Saxton with a live mic. He didn’t like that very much.

braun

Ryback pinned Rusev after a Shellshock, and Summer Rae entered the ring to berate Rusev. Last week, Summer asked Rusev to marry her. This week, she acknowledged Rusev’s real-life engagement to Lana and slapped him. Let’s hope this storyline ends soon.

Will: Please, please, please let this story go the way of Lincoln Chafee’s presidential campaign.

Derek: In a strange pairing, Kevin Owens defeated Kalisto. Then Charlotte and Becky Lynch faced off against Brie Bella and Alicia Fox. Surprisingly, Brie pinned Charlotte after a missile dropkick. Paige was present on commentary to make mischief, which consisted of shoving Natalya outside the ring. That’s what counts as the plot advancing nowadays. Natalya wasn’t even in the match!

Will: Remember when the Divas division had promise? Feels like a lifetime ago.

Derek: Kane revealed his proposed main event to Triple H, which Trips called off on the spot. So, Kane promised to find a suitable replacement. See, when Trips said Kane couldn’t face Rollins, he was addressing Corporate Kane. He didn’t say anything about Demon Kane. And with that, a silly subplot that I enjoyed crossed the line into utter nonsense. The Kane split personality story has been a divisive subplot, so the natural course of action was to make it even more silly and ridiculous. This is the main event, by the way. Dear goodness.

Demon Kane approached the ring, as Cole explained the story to those of us who still hadn’t figured it out. Kane repeatedly threw Rollins out of the ring to be assaulted by the lumberjacks, followed by the lumberjacks fighting among themselves. After they all cleared out, Kane put Rollins away with a Tombstone. And thus, Raw ended, and we’re exactly where we were two weeks ago.

Will: I did a lot of sighing and a lot of questioning myself during this week’s episode. I don’t have much more to add because it feels dumb to waste energy thinking and writing about it. I just don’t know what there is to look forward to. We’re set to get an appearance from Brock or the Undertaker next week. Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair will be there, too. So much young blood, so many fresh ideas, so little time. Good thing the show is three hours long.

Ugh, it’s been so stupid lately. See you next week.


Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/16/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/09/wwe-night-of-champions-preview/

 


Sting’s Statue-tory Assault: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/9/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Baltimore! The main eventers ruled again this week, with the Rollins storyline going forward and most of the rest getting minimal treatment. Unfortunately, no one could beat out Rollins’ statue for screen time.

sting statue

Rollins kicked off the show with a promo, and there was Sting, on the Titantron, mocking Rollins with the stolen statue. Rollins responded by complaining to “heel” Authority member Triple H, who helped his handpicked champion prepare for Night of Champions by putting him in two matches on Raw. The first, against Ryback, was a loss, as he couldn’t focus when Sting appeared on the Titantron yet again.

Rollins’ second match of the evening featured a team-up with two members of New Day against John Cena and the Prime Time Players. This led to one of Raw’s top segments. See for yourself:

“We don’t care about yo kazoo, son!” Well said.

Anyway, Rollins was on the losing side in that match as well, and Sting decided to put a cap on the evening by finally destroying Seth’s beloved statue.

sting statue2

Sting’s gimmick at the moment is basically “I’m Sting.” When he first returned, he didn’t say anything for months and used fear as his main weapon. He never showed up unless the lights were out, and even used Fake Stings once. Now he seems like a wacky Saturday morning cartoon villain. It’s cool because he’s Sting, but his personality has been perplexing the last two weeks. First he spends an evening in the hospital getting his lips surgically removed from Triple H’s ass, and now he’s employing comic mischief. But hey, he’s Sting! And at least he’s actually showing up to sell his feud. That’s more than we can say for Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker.

Will: Sting’s motives seem to be changing by the day. He’s long had dueling symbols in the scorpion and the crow, so why not vacillate between personalities, too? It doesn’t necessarily make sense — this is wrestling, after all — but this latest version of Sting is working for me. Anything that gives Rollins more room to throw a tantrum is just fine in my eyes. Rollins is at his best when he’s acting like a 12-year-old, and the statue saga is just absurd enough to be perfect. I hope he gets a replacement, only for Sting to reveal his flock of trained (and very full-bellied) pigeons.

Derek: Now, let’s move on to what might be the worst feud of 2015. Dolph Ziggler (with Lana) vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae). My goodness. It just keeps getting worse. And WWE seems to think it’s so cool! WWE’s resident king of exaggeration, Michael Cole, called it a “sensational story (that) grabbed the entire planet!” That … is not true.

So here’s the deal, since we haven’t really mentioned this for our own sanity. Ziggler and Lana have been flaunting themselves as a super in-love power couple, including some Instagram selfie kisses at Disney World. But last week Summer Rae sneaked into Ziggler’s dressing room while he showered, then ran out screaming a short time later. According to Summer Rae, she went into the dressing room to make peace, but Ziggler seduced her with his nakedness. She apologized to Rusev for this Monday night, and he accepted.

rusev summer rae

WWE, Inc.

Ziggler simply says she walked in, saw him naked, and he kicked her out. Lana didn’t like it. Now she engages in occasional cat fights with Summer Rae, but won’t be for a while because of a broken wrist.

That’s it! Isn’t it stupid? And that doesn’t even do it justice. Throw in the acting, the commentary, and Lana’s unbelievable fall from relevance, and we have my current Worst Feud of 2015. It’s going to take some doing to top it in the next few months.

Anything I’m missing? Was there a worse feud I’m forgetting?

Will: One small factor that will limit my ability to discuss this entire angle: it was the only part of Raw that I completely skipped this week. I find it uncomfortable to watch. It feels like a throwback to the Attitude Era, back when Debra trotted around in skimpy business suits as the crowd (and Jerry “the King” Lawler) yelped for her to disrobe. The current storyline with Lana and Summer Rae doesn’t stoop to that level, but it’s felt like weeks of cat fights with no real progress or point.

I just don’t get it! Which of the four parties involved is benefiting from this? Where do they go from here? What purpose is this serving? There have been rumblings that WWE earmarked Lana as its next big star, but Rusev seems to be doing more with his chunk of the spotlight than anyone else here.

I suppose this will culminate in Rusev and Ziggler’s match at Night of Champions (don’t mind that neither is a champion, I suppose). I suppose both ladies will get involved. I suppose Dolph will win, and he and Lana will share a big fat smooch in the ring. I suppose the crowd will enjoy it. I don’t suppose I’ll be among them.

Derek: The final topic of the week is the Divas Championship. I complained last week about the match not happening until Night of Champions, since that would mean Nikki would break AJ Lee’s record as the longest reigning Divas Champion. Yet the “heel” Authority has done us all a favor and moved the match up to next Monday. So now Charlotte, the winner of last week’s “Beat the Clock” challenge, has the hopes and dreams of every wrestling fan on her shoulders as she tries to prevent the unthinkable. Of all people, Nikki Bella can’t break AJ’s record … can she?

Will: I wouldn’t think so, but I also wouldn’t put it past the McMahon clan to use this opportunity to stick it to AJ, the real-life wife of CM Punk, especially with how we’ve seen Sting kowtow to Triple H. The Bellas have apparently returned to full heel status, and breaking AJ’s record could conceivably give Nikki more heat than her toothless promos and in-ring calisthenics do. As things stand now it’s easy to see Charlotte breaking the streak and beginning her new life as champion, but that very projection makes the notion of Nikki winning that much more alluring.

I’m just happy that the focus has been narrowed a bit in regard to the ladies. We still have the teamwide tension, but expressed through individual battles. We don’t need to see 3-on-3 matches to understand that Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch don’t care for the Bellas; Charlotte v. Nikki alone accomplishes that. The downside to this is that Team BAD is getting squeezed out, but time is still being made for Sasha Banks, and rightly so. Like any sport, wrestling is star-driven, and not all of the nine women central to the Divas Revolution are stars (insincere apologies to Tamina).

WWE has finally figured out which have what it takes — I’m excited to see Sasha take center stage after the Nikki-Charlotte match — and what do you know, things are getting a little better. Stars are necessary. Stars are compelling. Stars make average matches good and good matches great. Stars are the ones we remember. Stars are the ones we discuss.

And stars are the ones we make statues for.


Rollins in the Deep: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/2/2015

Wrasslin Wednesday HeaderDerek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Tampa! After three days that were varying degrees of good last week, we were due for a bit of a clunker. Sting kicked off the show, which is tough to screw up, but, well, Sting got a little too … friendly with Triple H.

WWE, Inc.

Will: As excited as I was to see Sting last week, I do not understand his angle whatsoever unless kissing Triple H’s ass was explicitly included as a clause in his contract. Going in on Rollins for being a weak champion I get; it’s a slightly recooked version of John Cena’s beef with Seth. What makes zero sense to me is Sting putting over Trips by saying that Seth has nothing on him as a champion. Last we saw Sting, he was terrorizing Triple H, right? Now he’s just a fan? I know they shook hands and all, but good grief.

Derek: I didn’t care for that at all. Last week, I applauded Sting for finally getting revenge on Triple H for his antics at WrestleMania, and instead he acts like he’s got a shrine to Triple H in his closet.

Allow me to digress for a moment. My favorite video game franchise, Metal Gear Solid, has a new chapter as of yesterday. I haven’t had much time to play yet, but there was one particularly relevant feature. The main character, Big Boss, has a Mother Base that is filled with his soldiers and other various followers. I like them because if I kick one of their asses, they thank me for it while onlookers salute.

thanks boss

And I couldn’t help but think of Sting. Triple H won, but he didn’t win clean, and now Sting acts like just getting in the ring with Trips was the thrill of a lifetime. So, yeah, not the best start for The Icon, The Franchise, The Vigilante. I wish he would have just stuck to “I’ve never been WWE Champion and I want to change that before I retire.”

sting woo

After Sting made his advances at Triple H, it was revealed that there would be a “Beat the Clock” challenge to see which member of PCB would challenge Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship at Night of Champions. Charlotte ended up with the prize after dropping Brie Bella in 100 seconds.

Nikki also unveiled the “Bellatron,” which counts down until she passes AJ Lee as the longest reigning Divas Champion.

Bellatron

Which means, unless something screwy happens, Nikki will break the record. Night of Champions is in three weeks, so Nikki would have to drop the belt on one of the next two Raws. I suppose it’s not unheard of. Paige won her first Divas Championship the night after WrestleMania XXX. Of course, that’s not a typical Raw.

I really don’t get why Nikki is getting so many accolades. What can she do better than Sasha Banks or anyone in PCB? I’m really starting to lend a little more credence to the rumors that John Cena is involved.

Will: Can we launch a Divas counterrevolution? Can there be a Great Divas Schism? The “Beat the Clock” challenge almost had me interested, but that faded in a hurry. Wasn’t putting a massive timer showing how short the women’s matches are the last thing they needed to do? I could see it eventually yielding fruit in the form of a PCB dissolution, but WWE has been content to let that baby burn nice and slow.

My hope is that someone, be it Charlotte or Sasha or whoever, puts an end to the streak. I plain and simple do not get the appeal of Nikki, nor the Bellas at large. I suppose Nikki is a decent heel, but she hasn’t even been a heel consistently! With all of this considered, the Cena rumblings make sense. Bleh.

Also: how about letting the new talent have separate entrances sometimes? Do we need all of Paige, Charlotte, and Becky coming out together three different times in one night? How about letting them develop and define their own entrances and personalities? I’m going to err on the side of skepticism and cynicism until given reason to act otherwise.

Derek: Perhaps we’re worrying about the Divas too much. We’ve got bigger problems.

strowman

Will: BRAUN STROWMAN IS THE APOCALYPSE, or so he said Monday. He has all the charisma of overripe grapefruit, but I like how strong Strowman has been booked in his early action. He doesn’t pull off the weird-and-beard look as well as Bray Wyatt or Luke Harper, and his face is way too small for his head, but that makes him oddly endearing — he is the black sheep, after all. It’s always fun to watch a new guy rampage for a while, and Strowman’s introduction allows Bray to step back into more of a puppetmaster role, for which he is particularly well suited.

Derek: Strowman is indeed a large man, and he has behaved and wrestled as large men often do. They’re portraying him as being completely unstoppable, as Dean Ambrose’s chair shot to the back gave him little more than a slight tickle. This is nothing new, though. Let’s not forget that the Undertaker once lost to The Great Khali. I just hope it doesn’t go on for too long. Rusev was unwatchable for about six months while he squashed a new mid-carder at every pay-per-view. I don’t want to watch Strowman do what he did on Monday every show until Payback 2016. Especially now that the New Day have shed some light on the plight of tables in Dudleyville.

Will: God bless the New Day. The Dudley Boyz targeted the tag champs in their return last week, and New Day showed this Monday that they were up to the challenge. They didn’t just cut a promo on the Dudleys — they cut a promo on table abuse altogether. They’ve positioned themselves as table saviors! They wasted no time in going after the very thing that the Dudleys stand for, which is the very best thing that a wrestling foil can do. They are so goddamn good. Big shout to Xavier Woods’ new hair.

xavier hair

Derek: They really are incredible. It took me a moment to remember what they were doing before New Day. I think Big E (Langston) was trying to act like Russell Wilson, Xavier Woods was funking things up with R-Truth and the Funkadactyls, and Kofi was ambiguously Jamaican. Thank goodness they finally turned heel. And we, unforgivably, did not give them credit for their incredible trombone celebration last week.

trombone

Will: Shame, shame, endless shame on us for not highlighting Woods’ trombone playing more. What a talent. What a hero.

Derek: Finally, let’s cover the “main event” of the evening: a segment featuring Seth Rollins, Stephanie McMahon, and John Cena. Rollins still wants his statue and won’t stop talking about it. Stephanie took Sting’s side regarding Triple H (another bad sign for Sting). Cena, pointing out that every championship should be on the line at Night of Champions, asked for a shot at the U.S. Championship before Rollins’ match with Sting for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Stephanie granted the request amid demonstrative protests from Rollins. Do you think Rollins will drop either (or both) of his belts at Night of Champions?

Will: My first instinct is that he’ll absolutely drop one of them. Having two titles on one guy seems to limit those titles’ very significance, and WWE has a tough enough (heh) time filling out their weekly shows without consolidating the championships. For better or worse, Cena made his U.S. title reign mean something and his segment became a staple of Raw for weeks. Rollins has been consistently terrific for a while now, and I’m sure he could continue to carry the show while holding both belts, but I worry that that would come at the expense of other angles and characters.

Assuming Rollins does lose one, I’m truly not sure which it would be. Triple H has apparently made Sting his house boy, and thus I would be shocked to see the most famous WCW holdout get his hands on WWE’s greatest prize at age 56. It isn’t hard to see Cena winning the U.S. title back, but his new t-shirt makes me think that his eyes are on the big belt more than his old one. (I’ve put way too more thought than I should have into Cena’s new t-shirt.)

Part of me would just like to see Rollins keep both and gloat on for another month, and even get his statue. Seth could have it all. But is he in too deep?


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.