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:

vince flex

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?

becky lynch

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.

new day3

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.

dreamer

I was super excited for that, until I remembered this is the PG era and a predominantly hardcore wrestler won’t be able to do anything hardcore. This was on full display as he brought a garbage can full of weapons to the ring and proceeded to not use any of them. I’m not excited for this Tommy Dreamer run.

Will: Nor I. With all of the kvetching about WWE’s ability to develop and market fresh stars, I’m thrilled that they brought out a 44-year-old. I have to admit that I popped when he came out, just as the arena did. But…now what? He’ll presumably be involved in whatever Dudleyz vs. Wyatts match happens at TLC, the pay-per-view for which he’s best suited. But again, so what? Is there real beef between these two sides? Will their feud exist in three weeks? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to care about here besides, “Hey, Tommy Dreamer! Cool!”

Derek: Becky Lynch and Charlotte met backstage, and Becky convinced Charlotte to have a friendly match with her. Charlotte agreed, as long as Becky was cool with Papa Ric accompanying her to the ring. Becky said that was fine, which would prove to be her undoing. Charlotte faked an injury, which caused Becky to walk over to Ric with concern. Charlotte promptly shot up and rolled Becky into a small package for the win. I’m sure Daddy was proud of those sudden heel tactics. I approved of them, too.

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.


Better than March Madness: Wrasslin’ Thursday 11/12/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Manchester! First and foremost, we need to pour one out for Seth Rollins. Our beloved champion will miss between six and nine months after tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus at a house show in Dublin, Ireland last week.

via @TheCoachESPN

via @TheCoachESPN

The timing couldn’t have been much worse. We’ve been talking for weeks about WWE’s terrible ratings and lackluster product. Rollins was one of the few bright spots. He’s a five-tool player and a budding crossover superstar. He undoubtedly was going to be a big part of Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, and WrestleMania. Now it looks like the wise course of action would be to hold him out until SummerSlam next year.

No one can say what the long-term ramifications will be. Rollins is arguably the only full-time A+ wrestler on the roster, so some phone calls could be made to popular part timers. The Rock, Batista, or Chris Jericho could get called back into action. WWE could beg John Cena or Brock Lesnar to come back earlier from their time off. Triple H could get back in the ring. The CM Punk dream could continue. Someone’s going to have to step into or replace Rollins’ shoes before ‘Mania.

In the short-term, WWE is holding a 16-man tournament for the championship that will culminate at Survivor Series. JBL says it will “absolutely blow away March Madness,” and he’s not one to exaggerate. Here’s the bracket:

survivor series bracket

Obviously, Roman Reigns won his first round match. No one will be stopping him. He was originally going to face Rollins for the title at Survivor Series, so he’ll undoubtedly still be in a championship match. No intrigue there. There was almost intrigue when Triple H offered to automatically put Reigns in the title match, so long as Reigns joined him on the dark side. That probably would have been the most interesting way to use Reigns, so it didn’t happen. Reigns gave a super-face answer along the lines of “I’ve earned everything I have, and I’m going to earn the championship.” Too bad.

While the left side of the bracket is a “who will lose to Roman” contest (Cesaro beat Sheamus on Raw, while Del Rio defeated Stardust and Kalisto upset Ryback on Smackdown) the right side of the bracket is a bit more interesting. It looks pretty clear that Kevin Owens will meet Dean Ambrose in the semi-finals, but I have no idea who would win that one. Owens is the heel Intercontinental Champion and would be a natural opponent for Reigns. But Ambrose and Reigns are supposed best buds, and pitting them against each other could be fun. One of them could turn heel, or they could just have a nice friendly face-on-face match. I’d prefer a heel turn, though. Not since Rollins turned on The Shield have we seen a crushing, heat of the moment back-stab. Anyway, Owens, Ambrose, and Ziggler won on Raw, while Neville won on Smackdown.

Will: The tournament for the championship belt seemed like a cool idea — for a minute. Is there any possible ending other than Roman Reigns winning it all? Like, is Kalisto gonna go on a run? Cesaro? Neville? I think this speaks to a larger problem in the title picture, which is that everyone has taken it for granted that Reigns will be the next to win the belt, even before Rollins’ injury. An ex-Shield triple threat match had been penciled in for WrestleMania for months, and I’ve seen nothing (other than Rollins’ injury) to suggest that that won’t be the case. This isn’t a slight against Roman — he’s gotten better and is generally over. I’m just hoping for something a little less predictable.

Derek: The other big story was the return of the Brothers of Destruction. Continuing the theme of being predictable, The Undertaker and Kane have come together to take on the Wyatt Family. The match at Survivor Series is official, though we don’t know who exactly will be in it. As it stands now, it will be a regular tag team match instead of a traditional Survivor Series match. So instead of the intrigue being around which two wrestlers would join Undertaker and Kane, it will be around which two Wyatt Family members will participate. That’s … decidedly less interesting.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Will: I got myself super excited for a moment during Bray Wyatt’s closing segment for reasons that wound up being completely stupid. It was late in the evening and I might have enjoyed a beverage or two. They can’t let Bray get beaten up so much, I thought. There must be something else in the offing here.

So I convinced myself — against all logic, I grant you — that when Kane and Undertaker came out, they would somehow be aligned with Bray. I hoped that they would make Bray a sort of apprentice, so that he could carry on the torch of weirdly supernatural heel. It wouldn’t have made much sense, but it would have been something. It would have been shocking. It would have been different. Instead, the reunited Brothers of Destruction beat the hell out of the whole Wyatt Family. The end.

I suppose I’m just frustrated. What’s the point of all of Bray’s promos if he doesn’t back them up with any sort of action? I get that his greatest power comes from convincing his underlings to do his bidding, but doesn’t he have to kick some ass one of these days? Or if the point of his getting his ass whooped was to show that he has no real power, then again, what’s the point of having him on screen so much? He’s like if Freddy Krueger was armed with pillows.

Are we headed for another Wyatt loss at a pay-per-view? It’s awesome to see Taker and Kane raise hell. They’re legends and icons and all that. But surely there’s a way to treat them with respect without making Bray seem like such a weenie.

Derek: Perhaps we’ll have some surprises yet. Survivor Series is a week from Sunday, and there are somehow only three matches currently on the card. There’s the aforementioned TBD vs. TBD for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Kane and Undertaker vs TBD and TBD, and Charlotte vs. Paige. Yet, for some reason, it looks like the semi-final matches are going to be on Smackdown. I’d like to know why they’ll have two huge matches on Smackdown instead of having them early on Survivor Series when there are pretty much no matches on the card. Are they really putting the (probable) Owens vs. Ambrose match on the SyFy Channel? I’d like to know who had that idea.

Seeing as this all took place in Manchester, Wayne Rooney made an appearance to “slap” King Bad News Wade Barrett. Were you impressed at all with the 5-foot-9, 183 pound forward going after the 6-foot-7, 246 pound Barrett?

Will: Have English soccer fans soured on Wayne Rooney? After that weak-ass slap he gave Barrett, I hope so. I know the man uses his feet for a living, but bloody hell mate, put your knickers into it. Stephen Amell’s cameo looks better by the day.

Is there a plan for Alberto Del Rio? Is there any way that the MexAmerica gimmick will be worth a damn in two weeks? Or, like, right now? The Masked Man — welcome back, by the way — brought up a pertinent question on this week’s Cheap Heat: Do Zeb Colter and Alberto Del Rio even know what MexAmerica is about? Yes, it’s about uniting two great nations, but what the hell does that mean? How does that manifest in WWE? It was a thrill to see Colter and Del Rio at first for the odd couple dynamic, but now I don’t know what they’re going to do.

Derek: Yeah, none of this seems well thought out. No matches on the card, no potential feuds for the non-vacant championships, and two guys starting a new country for no reason. So, this should be an interesting week. Either Raw is going to be particularly action-packed, or our Survivor Series preview is going to be the shortest and vaguest we’ve ever done.

Now that we’re just two weeks from Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful for our ACL’s.


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

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

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

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

power of positivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

diva slam

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

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

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

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

wyatt powers

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

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

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

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

Will: Yes. Meh.

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

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


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)

sasha bayley

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.

new day

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.

sasha

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

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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/

 


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

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

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

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

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

brock taker

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

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

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

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett

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

barrett stardust

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

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

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ambrose chair

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

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

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

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

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

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

baron bad beaver

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

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

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

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

cena wins

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

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

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

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

undertaker raw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

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

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

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

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

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

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

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

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

Still, things are certainly trending up in Divaland.

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

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.