Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.
At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.
Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.
Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.
Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.
The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…
Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.
Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.
I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?
Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:
He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.
Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.
Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.
Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.
And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.
Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.
Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.
Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Oklahoma City! It was a “night of firsts” to combat a few days of racism, and some of them were fairly entertaining! But we should probably start with the racism.
As has been reported ad nauseam, Real American Hulk Hogan said a bunch of horrendously racist stuff on a sex tape he made with a buddy’s wife (the triple crown!) eight years ago. As a result, WWE almost gave him The Full Benoit, firing him and removing every mention of him from their website. I know the general rule in WWE is “never say never,” but we may have seen the last of Hogan on WWE programming.
Mostly, I’d say WWE did the right thing. I’m not sure they actually care about the stuff Hogan said, but I know they care about the appearance they care about the stuff Hogan said. Nowadays, nothing hurts PR more than racism/sexism/homophobia and the like. The judgment had to be swift and unmerciful. And I think we can all agree that Hogans comments were pretty messed up.
Will: He didn’t exactly have a sterling reputation in the wrestling world as is, but yowza, he said some very not okay stuff. WWE is a huge company with a pretty atrocious track record when it comes to non-white people, and that’s without considering any actual news events like what happened in Cincinnati this week. WWE decided not to muck about with any half measures and sent the Hulkster off the reservation, apparently for good.
It was jarring news, but I think WWE’s reaction was more surprising than Hogan’s words. He is far and away the most famous pro wrestler ever, and they severed ties with him in a second. It’s just bizarre. It’s like KFC disowning Colonel Sanders or Papa John’s Pizza without John. That said, I don’t know what else they could have done. As a wrestling company, I don’t think the McMahons are held in the same regard as, say, the Gateses, but they probably could have figured out a way to save face publicly while keeping Hogan in the fold.
But they didn’t. And frankly, they look better for it.
Derek: My one statement in Hogan’s defense is the conversation happened in private, and it sucks to lose your job over stuff like that. He shouldn’t have said it, and it sure sounded like he was serious, but if that standard were applied to everyone in the world then the entire world would be unemployed. I think most people have said things in private, either in jest or in some emotional state, that would be generally frowned upon. I also think said people wouldn’t be too pleased if someone produced a secret recording of those things and gave them to the media. I feel for him in that regard.
Or maybe I just don’t want Hulk Hogan to be an evil racist bastard. Pretty much this exact same thing happened to Donald Sterling last year and, if this site had existed then, my defense of Sterling would have been considerably shorter than a paragraph. I did consider it a bit of a bummer that Sterling was punished for a private conversation, but he has a long, storied history of being a scumbag. Hulk Hogan is no angel, but he’s a legend to all wrestling fans and a hero to most. Sterling made me think “that figures” and Hogan made me think “say it ain’t so.” So there’s the full disclosure on any Hogan sympathy.
Will: The privacy element definitely adds a weird wrinkle, but I suppose that’s how things are today. That tape would have been inadmissible evidence a court of law, but in the court of public opinion it doesn’t matter how it was acquired. So it goes.
Hey, let’s talk wrasslin’!
Derek: I wasn’t a huge fan of Raw this week, but that may be because of the higher standard I apply to shows leading up to SummerSlam. We’ve got three more Raws to go, and let’s hope the Lesnar-Taker levels rise significantly. Considering that’s the main event at SummerSlam, there sure was a strange absence of references to it. I don’t think they were even mentioned outside of flashbacks to last week. Usually WWE takes every conceivable chance to sell the Network with PPV matches. We didn’t even get a famed Paul Heyman promo.
Instead, the spotlight went to Seth Rollins and John Cena’s Nose.
The prophecies were confirmed, as Cena and Rollins are indeed headed for a match at SummerSlam. The two had a good match at Royal Rumble (granted, Lesnar was involved) so I suppose not all is lost. They have potential to put on a great match and they’ll no doubt have extra motivation for one of the biggest PPV’s of the year. I just don’t want Cena to win. I have no interest in seeing him back at the top of the card. I was just starting to warm up to you, John. Don’t disappoint me.
Will: Cena’s great. He’s one of the best in the business. He puts butts in seats and t-shirts on backs. But damnit John, let someone else have this spot. He doesn’t need a title feud to stay relevant, and Rollins doesn’t need him either. They could easily work this same angle with someone else. Why not Cesaro? Why not Ambrose? Rollins and Cena have had and will have great matches, but they don’t need to play that card right now. Cena gets a lot of crap for putting himself over, and this is a particularly egregious example, to the umpteenth degree if he wins.
Rollins and Cena put on a solid show Monday. That broken nose looked legit. They didn’t pull out all the stops, nor should they have at this point (though Rollins’ double suplex was super cool). Something I liked about their match that I didn’t expect to: JBL’s commentary. It wasn’t great, but he leaned on his experience as a past champion and actually made some decent points about the necessary mindset to be a main eventer. It wasn’t just lame jokes and forced lines. He talked like a person for a minute, and it was mildly compelling. Bravo, John Bradshaw.
Derek: We bemoaned the lack of Dean Ambrose at Battleground, and last week it looked like he would team up with Roman Reigns against Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. Reigns was also absent on Monday night, and Ambrose was left to do battle with … The Big Show?
That was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I’m reserving judgment until next week. Maybe they just wanted to add another “first” and were struggling to fill time. At least I hope that’s what happened. No one’s going to win a Big Show-Ambrose feud.
Will: I hope hope hope that this was a one-off. If that’s the case, I like it. Show is actually an interesting measuring stick opponent. His matches are necessarily different because of his size, and sometimes that produces some fun. Ambrose mostly got the hell beaten out of him, which the commentary team equated to lunacy — that would be an example of bad JBL — and he came out of it looking alright. It felt, however, like they might try to keep it going for more than one match. Please dear god no.
Some random positives to take our minds off of a potential Ambrose-Show feud:
- Cesaro and Owens look like they’re going to tangle at SummerSlam. Yes, yes, all day yes. It was a shame to see the Owens-Orton match spoiled by Sheamus — who I kind of enjoyed on commentary, if only because he opened with “What’s the crack, fellas?” — but it was worth it to see Cesaro and Owens interact even for a minute.
- Neville had a match with Fandango. Night of firsts, indeed!
- SummerSlam is going to be four hours long?! I don’t think this is actually a positive.
- Titus O’Neil said the words “professional wrestling” on commentary, so he’s probably getting canned. Sports entertainment, Titus!
- New Day >>>
And, the ladies showed out once more.
Derek: The “Divas Revolution,” as WWE calls it, continued on Monday with two Divas matches yet again! Sasha Banks made Paige submit, and the team of Charlotte and Becky Lynch beat Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox when Lynch made Fox submit. While I’m enjoying the “Divas Revolution,” I’m growing a bit tired of it being constantly referenced. I’ve mentioned before that WWE could benefit from some show-don’t-tell aspects in their storytelling, and this is one of those times. It is in fact possible to simply have a “Divas Revolution” without pointing it out every other sentence.
And while we’re here, I feel it’s necessary to once again mention that Team BAD need to change their name. I just can’t take them seriously.
Will: They were both solid matches, and I’m still digging how the new talent is being used. Everyone is getting a shot in the spotlight, wins are being passed around, and most everyone is looking strong (except Tamina. They haven’t quite figured her out yet, nor have I). Sasha especially looks like budding star — if not a ready-made one — and she and Paige got a good chunk of time to work with.
I’m completely on board with you as far as bashing us over the head with “The Divas Revolution,” but I’m afraid that’s just the way it is. Subtlety is not a WWE strong suit. Whether it’s because they’re afraid to not make things absolutely obvious to their younger viewers or because they just aren’t able to, who knows. They’re giving the Divas a chance. How about giving us one too?
(“Team BAD” is sooooooooo bad. Oh my god it’s the worst. If Sasha weren’t such a talent that bunch would be DOA.)
Derek: Lana attacked Summer Rae with a fish.
Will: It’s good to be reminded every once in a while why wrestling is so easy to mock.
I will say, however, that it was a first.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Will: THEY CALL HIM BIG MATCH JOHN, MAGGLE!
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.
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.
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.
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:
And they totally did! How wonderful. Good for them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Cena doing whatever this is?
Owens’ powerbomb outside the ring?
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!
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 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 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.
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.
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.