Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.
At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.
Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.
Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.
Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.
The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…
Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.
Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.
I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?
Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:
He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.
Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.
Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.
Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.
And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.
Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.
Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Buffalo! Honesty is important, so we’re going to cut to the chase: Raw wasn’t very good this week. Since it wasn’t very good, we’re going to go over it briefly before we each list five of our favorite wrestling entrances of all time. If there’s anything the internet loves, it’s lists.
Kane continued to torment Seth Rollins with his “I might be evil but maybe not” facade. In retaliation, Rollins submitted an anonymous complaint to Human Resources. That led to a visit from HR representative Ashley …
… who got a visit from the cleavage police before the end of the evening.
Ashley spent the evening evaluating Kane, eventually deciding that Kane was sound of mind and that if anyone should be disciplined, it was Rollins. Rollins didn’t like that too much, so he did the sensible thing and gave Kane a Pedigree and attacked him with a chair.
After Corporate Kane was already in the back of an ambulance, he magically morphed into Demon Kane and strolled back into the ring to administer an ass whippin’.
The ass whippin’ was administered, and justice was briefly served. Cheers to you, Demon Kane.
And, well, the rest of it could be summed up with a sentence or two per match. Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had a pretty good main event match. John Cena and the Dudleyz took on New Day. I especially enjoyed New Day tormenting Cena when Xavier Woods answered Cena’s first US Open Challenge since winning the belt at Night of Champions. The Divas exchanged insults. The Big Show and Paul Heyman also exchanged insults prior to the former’s match with Brock Lesnar at Madison Square Garden this weekend. I wonder who will win that one! Anything else to cover, besides this sweet spear?
Will: Nope, you got it. There were definitely some good things about Raw this week. The Wyatt-Reigns match/brawl was good insofar as it focused solely on them. There were no shenanigans, no interference, none of that. The match ended in a draw via double count-out, and then they beat on each other outside the ring, culminating in that delicious spear up the stairs. It felt like the stakes were raised, which cannot be said of most of the other on-screen action.
The Duality of Kane continues to be fantastic. He seems to get a kick out of cheesing it up, and he’s doing it really well. The whole HR angle was equal parts silly and inspired; I imagine a great many people can relate to the drudgery of office life.
Beyond that, it was a rough week. There was a lot of rehashing old feuds and hyping up the Brock Lesnar-Big Show fight at Madison Square Garden. The Divas segment made me cringe quite a bit; Charlotte must have gotten the charisma from her mother’s side. There were two different 6-man tag matches made off-screen for no discernible reason. It was the sort of Raw that inspires us to talk about anything else.
Derek: Okay, let’s talk entrances. Maybe “Top 5” isn’t the best label for what we’re doing. It’s more “Five Entrances We Enjoy.” So please don’t assault me for not including Undertaker’s entrance. In no particular order …
This entrance is so ridiculous that it includes the Insane Clown Posse. I wouldn’t really say I “enjoy” it, but it makes me smile. And some bonus trivia: that guy in the mask who’s obsessed with Eric Cartman is Earthquake!
Yeah, Gangrel pretended to be a vampire, and that was pretty weird. But I still think this is one of the most underrated entrances of all time. They came out of the ground, surrounded by fire, looking completely insane, and that’s about it. It doesn’t sound like much, but I always liked their music, and thought the entrance went well with it.
I don’t much care for Triple H’s current entrance, but I do enjoy this one and his DX entrance. And just look at that outfit! With all that denim and leather, you better believe a fight is about to break out.
Jericho’s attitude is perfect for his entrance. He has so much charisma, and the beginning of his music lends itself to some excellent pops. It’s still a treat hearing the countdown, like we did at Night of Champions.
Punk has two entrance themes, and I enjoy them both. I always loved him checking his watch before clobberin’ time and walking up the ramp backwards. Man, seeing the way his hometown crowd treated him at Money in the Bank makes me miss him even more. Is it wrong that I sort of hope he gets his ass kicked in UFC so he’ll wrestle again? Oh well. At least we have the Network.
Will: Fine choices all. Punk’s Money in the Bank entrance is an absolute all-timer, and I was a huge Brood mark in my younger days. And the Oddities! I’d forgotten about those guys. It’s all good. Lemme dive into some that I enjoy.
New Age Outlaws
The Outlaws’ entrance is like a Marvin Gaye song or a white wedding dress. It never gets old. If only the same could be said for Road Dogg and Billy Gunn themselves.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Perhaps the most important thing in an entrance to me is immediate recognizability. It gets no better than the breaking glass that precedes the Rattlesnake coming down to stomp a mudhole in somebody.
This particular video is even better because we get about 45 seconds of Vince and Shane McMahon talking, which means that we also get Vince and Shane looking horrified as Stone Cold struts to the ring.
I like Wyatt’s entrance for what it is, but especially for what it isn’t. The music builds slowly; it isn’t the HARD RAWK of Roman Reigns or Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins. He enters in the darkness, but it doesn’t feel like he’s biting the Undertaker. And if you want to keep it kayfabe only, his deliberate approach to the ring only exacerbates his mind games.
Roddy Piper (jump to 1:37)
I’ll be honest; I didn’t know a thing about this entrance until after Piper died and I read about it in David Shoemaker’s obituary. Here’s what the Masked Man had to say about it:
The other wrestlers that night were ferried to the ring on rolling platforms, but Piper’s malfunctioned, and instead of waiting he came to the ring on his own two feet. It was the perfect final entrance for a man who had forced his way into every big moment he’d ever achieved. The subtle athleticism in his jog is powerful, and the pride in his gait — the look of a man finally basking in his glory — is touching.
Like the man himself, this is bound to be a semi-controversial choice, but I say this list cannot exist without Cena. He gets the crowd going like no one else working today, and this entrance in Miami after WrestleMania 28 is described on YouTube as “the biggest boo on Raw ever.” Good enough for me.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three/four days later) from Brooklyn/Brooklyn/Brooklyn! Boy oh boy, where to begin? The tables?
Oh … oh my.
I’m starting with Sting, because that reveal gave me a raging mark-on. There were rumors that Sting was in Brooklyn during the three day run of shows, but I assumed if he got involved at all it would be in the Undertaker-Brock match to set up the long sought-after Undertaker-Sting match at WrestleMania 32. The Brock-Taker segments came and went with no sign of him. Then, with mere moments remaining on Raw, it was revealed that Seth Rollins’ covered statue had been Sting all along. I’m glad to see him back for more against Trips and his ilk. I didn’t like how Sting handled losing at WrestleMania. He should be out for revenge.
Sting attacked Rollins and Triple H ran away almost immediately. Then Trips revealed after the show that Sting would face Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship next month at Night of Champions. There’s a swerve I didn’t see coming.
Does Sting have any chance of winning next month? How do you see this playing out?
Will: Monday was the first time in months that I watched Raw live. I don’t have cable and thus don’t have USA, and the weekly shows are among the rare few not broadcast live on the WWE Network. The events of SummerSlam apparently got my juices flowing enough to find a (completely legal) means of watching Monday, and my god was it worth it.
I knew something was going to happen with Rollins’ statue unveiling, but Sting was definitely not what I had in mind. Interference from John Cena was the smart choice, but he was escorted out of the Barclays Center by security and, perhaps for the first time in wrestling history, the dismissed did not return to raise hell. Sting stood in place of the statue for a good long chunk of segment, enough for him to sweat through some of his face paint before attacking Rollins.
As to what they’re going to do with this, I’m glad to say that I have no idea. Rollins has two titles for the moment, and one would think that he’s going to lose at least one of them before long. I came across one theory that had Sting winning the title from Rollins, Undertaker taking it from Sting, and then having the belt on the line for the Brock-Taker rubber match. I don’t love the idea of putting the strap on a 50-plus-year-old, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t watch every moment.
Derek: Let’s move on to some of the weird booking in the two biggest matches at SummerSlam. First, Cena lost the US title to Rollins after interference from Jon Stewart. Stewart haters the world over celebrated as they learned that Stewart hates sick children. Stewart explained his actions on Raw, saying he didn’t want Cena to tie Ric Flair’s record for most world championships. Cena said he understood, and proved it by … well, giving Stewart an Attitude Adjustment.
I suppose it would have made sense had Cena’s opponent not been Seth Rollins. Stewart got into his WWE run because of a feud with Rollins. Yet, Rollins was the biggest beneficiary of Stewart’s actions. On Monday night, Stewart admitted he “didn’t think it through.” Oh, okay then.
Then there’s the ending of the Brock-Taker match, which could charitably be referred to as “confusing” and “unsatisfying.” So let’s walk through what went down. Brock had Taker in a kimura lock, and Taker supposedly submitted, but the referee didn’t see it.
Then, for some reason, the timekeeper decided to ring the bell. Like pretty much any sport, the timekeeper isn’t supposed to do anything unless the referee tells him to. But we had a rebel timekeeper on Sunday, and he didn’t need no high and mighty referee telling him what to do. So the referee took some time to yell at the timekeeper, during which Undertaker took some time to hit Brock in the nuts again. Perhaps it’s time for Brock to buy a cup.
The referee restarted the match, and Undertaker capitalized on Lesnar’s swollen grapefruits and put Brock in Hell’s Gate. The match was stopped once Lesnar passed out, but not before he gave Taker a quick farewell.
It just seemed like the whole thing turned into a bit of a farce. Taker didn’t show up on Raw, so the feud is on hold for now. There will undoubtedly be a rubber match at some point, but no one can say when that will be. Until then, we’ll just have to get by with fond memories.
Will: The smarky Brooklyn crowd poo-pooed the screwy endings — and rightly so in my eyes. The fact that the matches didn’t end clean was fine, especially with Brock-Taker III penciled in for WrestleMania, but the execution was wanting. The same timekeeper who sat idly as Stewart gave Cena a chair to the ribs suddenly had eagle eyes on Taker’s meek tap-out? I know we’re in kayfabe here, but how about some kaysistency? It was just a bummer, especially after the slobberknocker main event.
I was slightly more on board with the Stewart angle, though his sudden dedication to preserving Ric Flair’s legacy was out of left field, as was ending such a big match with such a part-time player. We wondered last week how much of Stewart we’d be seeing in WWE, and this suggests that he could be around at least a little longer. (And kudos to him for taking an AA.)
Derek: There’s so much more to get to, and so little time. Let’s break the rest of the action down in quick hits.
The Dudley Boyz
Derek: Hey, they’re back! I had given up hope. Bubba Ray made an appearance back at the Royal Rumble, but that was seven months ago. Seeing Bubba and D-Von pulling tables out from under the ring gave me yet another raging mark-on. I don’t know that we’ll get the classic Dudleys due to their age and the PG era, but I’d much rather watch them feud with New Day than Los Matadores.
Will: They set their sights on New Day right away, and those squads could make some beautiful music together. The Dudleys return is not a ringing endorsement of the Prime Time Players, and I wonder how much of Titus and Darren we’re going to be seeing over the next couple months. The dreamer in me would like to see multiple feuds going in the tag division, but WWE has been steadfast in maximizing its teams per match ratio. In the meantime, sign me up for a good table spot every week.
Derek: It was no surprise that his team won. But he was actually pretty good! Sure, his move set pretty much consisted of a hip toss, an enziguri, and absorbing an ass whippin’, but getting your ass convincingly kicked is a skill in this line of work. He did it well.
I’ve also got to say that, as someone who used to watch Arrow, I was a little surprised that he didn’t look nearly as jacked as he looks on the show. What is CW doing to him?!
Will: The wonders of television! I LOVE IT MAGGLE. But seriously, well done by Amell. His initial springboard entrance into the ring was strong, his dive off the top rope to the outside was legit, and he ate up a good bit of time to set up the hot tag to Neville. Come back anytime, Steve.
That New Guy in The Wyatt Family
Derek: Who the hell was that guy?
Well, I’m glad I asked! His name is either Braun Strowman or Braun Stowman, depending on what website you read, and he’s only been in dark matches so far. He’s also a former strongman competitor and is from the great state of North Carolina. Do you think he’ll add anything interesting to the Wyatts’ feud with Ambrose and Reigns?
Will: Strowman/Stowman is well on his way to setting a record for most different name spellings. I’m in; the reunited Wyatts have been fun, but I want the family to grow into a larger, more bizarre stable that can better terrorize the WWE. Strowman didn’t show much in the ring beyond his bearhug/chokehold and some intense no-selling, but that might be all he needs to run through some jobbers and inspire an appropriate amount of fear.
And my god, is he one ugly son of a bitch.
Derek: This might be heresy but, when taking the entire show into account, I didn’t love it. The final two matches (Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship, Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor for the NXT Championship) were awesome, but I was mostly uninterested in the other matches. Balor retained and Owens pinned Cesaro the next night at SummerSlam, so we may have seen the last of Owens on NXT.
Similarly, Banks lost her belt, so she may be moving up to the big leagues as well. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, but we’ll cover that next.
Will: There was so much damn wrasslin’ over the course of 72 hours that I’m struggling to remember it all, and much of the NXT show falls into that category. The main events were terrific. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the leadup. This was my first real glimpse of Samoa Joe in action (against Baron Corbin). Apollo Crews’ debut was solid despite his awful name. The Vaudevillains were fun, though I absolutely cannot imagine them taking that gimmick to the main show.
Also, I will need a lengthy explanation before I can support someone who simply goes by the name “Blue Pants.”
Derek: It really doesn’t matter if you take the awesome women out of NXT, throw them on Raw and crow about the Divas Revolution every week when they get thrown in crappy storylines. Those three shows highlighted exactly why the NXT women are popular and the WWE Divas draw the ire of the crowd, like they did on Monday night.
Take the NXT match between Banks and Bayley. It was an incredible, one-on-one grudge match for the championship. And even though Banks lost, they were both elevated because it was a great match.
Compare that with the SummerSlam match. Nine Divas competed. None of them really had a chance to shine. The title wasn’t on the line. The most heated contest was the race for the dumbest team name. In a month’s time they couldn’t make any aspect of it interesting. It was like their only plan to sell the match was to have Stephanie McMahon say “Divas Revolution” so many times that people would believe it was true regardless of whether it was actually happening.
I feel really bad for the Divas. Especially the NXT call-ups who are there to wrestle, not be reality TV stars. But it doesn’t matter how good the talent is if the booking is bad. Sasha Banks had arguably the best match of the weekend on Saturday night. She had one of the most forgettable on Sunday night. I don’t think she forgot how to wrestle in 24 hours.
I guess the best way to sum it up: at NXT Takeover, two women got an 18-minute match with a title on the line. Meanwhile, at SummerSlam, nine Divas got a 15-minute match for no championships while Stephanie McMahon and the announcers repeatedly yelled “Divas Revolution!!!!” into a megaphone.
Will: Perhaps the worst part of the weekend was seeing the NXT and WWE matches juxtaposed against each other. Sasha and Bayley had one of the finest matches of the weekend, and not 48 hours later on Raw fans were doing the wave and generally defecating all over yet another bloated tag match.
I get that WWE is going for with the team approach, but the best wrestling storylines come in 1-on-1 feuds. We have seen some singles matches over the past few weeks, but none have truly contributed to the narrative nor moved it forward. We need a better sense of these women as individuals in order to embrace them as a collective. Sasha Banks is a real character, and what do you know, hers was the name being chanted Monday night when she wasn’t even in the ring.
There will come a time when the alliances fracture and new rivalries emerge, and I’m hopeful that that will coincide with more worthwhile stakes for all parties involved. It isn’t hard to get excited about, say, Charlotte turning on Paige. The so-called revolution is trumpeted night after night, but that doesn’t make it mean anything. Don’t tell us that these women want to dethrone the Bellas and change the game. Show us why. Better yet, let them show us. They were doing just fine in NXT.
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.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Long Island! Apologies for our Monday absence and being a day late on Wrasslin’. Memorial Day threw a wrench in the Monday plans and our resident Cavs fan was basking in the domination of the once-proud Atlanta Hawks yesterday.
We picked a good week to slack off, though. Both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals were clunkers. Yes, Raw was a bit of a clunker too. We should really start watching more hockey.
Anyway, about that Raw clunker. I guess it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just that nothing happened. Kevin Owens attacking Cena would be news, but that already happened last week. Dean Ambrose landing a championship match with Rollins would be news, but that happened last week. The guys from the Entourage movie would be news, but … oh, wait, no it wouldn’t. Celebrity guest stars are almost never news.
Will, did this one deliver?
Will: This show…not so much. I guess it was fine — there are bound to be some good moments in the course of a three-hour show — but I was thoroughly unmoved. It was destined to be something of a weird episode by virtue of the schedule around it: The Elimination Chamber pay-per-view was sprung upon us just a few short weeks ago.
WWE programming always doubles as a giant WWE commercial, but you’re not always aware of that as a viewer. Sometimes they’re able to mask that with good action, promos, and/or storytelling, but if those things aren’t clicking, you’re extra aware of the least authentic elements of a show.
Speaking of which, the boys from Entourage were there! All four of them, naturally, because I shudder to think of the embarrassment if only two of them showed up someplace. They got involved in the show, and most of it was truly awful, especially their introductory segment that saw them flirting with some ladies backstage before ducking into a locker room to talk shop with Zack Ryder.
Ryder later answered John Cena’s US Open challenge after being introduced by the Entourage gang. Kevin Connolly, a/k/a E, a/k/a the short one who isn’t Turtle, hails from Long Island, and that was reason enough to have him bring Ryder on. And actually, I thought Connolly was decent on the mic! Should he find himself looking for a new gig after the movie drops, he could do worse than wrestling manager. Aside from one moment where he let the microphone get too far from his mouth, he acquitted himself nicely.
Ryder gamely fell, because that’s how the Cena challenge goes. It’s still a reliably entertaining running feature — I found myself looking forward to it — but there is a minor bummer that comes with realizing that the feisty challenger will ultimately lose.
There was more intrigue, however: Kevin Owens returned, and he re-created last week’s Pop-up Powerbomb on Cena, complete with a stomp on the US title belt for good measure. WWE ran a nice Owens promo package earlier in the show, and he’s been given quite the runway to build up his momentum before facing Cena at the Elimination Chamber.
Beyond that, I have a tough time getting excited about this show. Dean Ambrose’s title shot was solidified via contract signing. It wasn’t any old contract signing, however. Ambrose was lured and taunted throughout the night, and eventually arrested after inadvertently hitting a cameraman, who was later shown to have been pushed into Ambrose by Seth Rollins. The Authority was set to finish the show without a Rollins opponent, only for Roman Reigns to show up to defend Ambrose’s honor, or something. Ambrose pulled up in a police van, he and Reigns cleared the house with the aid of a couple NYPD nightsticks, and the two closed the show standing triumphant in the ring.
The Reigns-Ambrose alliance is working for me right now, in large part because Ambrose is the star and Reigns is a complementary player. Roman has hung in there since his anointing gone wrong, and playing Ambrose’s sidekick just feels like a better role for him. It damn near forces the crowd to cheer, and it often feels like he’s thisclose to getting over until he loads up a Superman punch — that move continues to have a 1% approval rating.
I was pumped to see New Day vs. Kidd and Cesaro, only for it to turn into a 10-on-3 handicap match that quickly devolved into a donnybrook-cum-Elimination Chamber preview.
Let’s see, there was the Lana-Rusev reconciliation gone awry. It was a weird watch at first, with Rusev essentially begging Lana’s forgiveness, but it ultimately resulted in Rusev interfering in a Dolph Ziggler-Sheamus match. Sheamus capitalized on the distraction to beat Ziggler via Brogue Kick, after which Rusev beat the hell out of Ziggler and Accolade-d him right in Lana’s face. Also, Rusev is representing Bulgaria again.
It felt very much like a show conceived as a means to get people to watch Elimination Chamber, which means it felt like a large advertisement for the Network. WWE has shown us over the past month or so that they can put together some damn good programming. I just wish they’d let it speak for itself.
Derek: Agreed. Rather than give the constant advertisements, what say they give an actual reason to tune in? I didn’t think it would be possible for them to repeat storylines with only two weeks to build up a pay-per-view. I feel like I pay fairly close attention, but I couldn’t tell you who all is in the Intercontinental Championship match off the top of my head. That’s a problem. And the only thing added to the top two feuds was Kevin Owens stepping on the US Championship belt on Memorial Day (Hey kids, he’s a bad guy!) and Dean Ambrose celebrating his exoneration by committing several crimes.
Perhaps this is out of the question, but maybe a big name part-timer would have drawn up a bit more interest than the relentless advertising. An appearance from The Rock, Sting, Batista, The Undertaker, Stone Cold, Ronda Rousey … someone that would get people interested. Even an in-ring appearance from Triple H could do the trick. Since WWE loves putting tag matches in the main event so much, why not have a HHH/Rollins vs. Ambrose/Reigns match in the main event? Just leave the belt out of it. Ambrose likely doesn’t have a shot at winning, and if he does he’ll probably drop the belt two weeks later at Money in the Bank anyway. This way more casual folks might tune in to see Triple H in action, and Reigns can actually do something instead instead of being a glorified bodyguard. It’s also the kind of match that could get ol’ Roman some fans back. Especially if he (crosses fingers) turns on Ambrose at some point in the evening.
Since Raw was a bit of a snoozer this week, I’m gonna talk NXT for a bit. I’m trying to watch more NXT, and I managed to catch whatever that NXT pay-per-view was called. I had a blast. The NXT Women’s Division is so incredibly far ahead of the Divas division, and you CAN’T. TEACH. THAT.
No, really, watch it! Emma and Bayley had an actual history! And the longest match on the card? Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch! It was over 15 minutes! And it was awesome!
Like soccer and hockey, there’s really no reason why women’s wrestling can’t be entertaining. NXT continues to show us that. I hope the person who keeps putting one of the Bellas on guest commentary in Divas matches will start watching the NXT women.
Finn Balor pinned Tyler Breeze to become the number one contender for the NXT Championship, and Kevin Owens took Sami Zayn down in the main event before being confronted by the debuting Samoa Joe. I’ve never watched one of Samoa Joe’s matches, so I won’t pretend that I was super excited to see him. But I am excited for a Finn Balor-Kevin Owens feud with Samoa Joe possibly involved. They’re going to be delightful on the main roster.
Don’t worry, Kevin Owens. After CENAWINSLOL, you’ll be just fine.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Cincinnati! We were bumped by the NBA Playoffs again this week, but not to worry! Wrasslin’ Wednesday shall live on in Thursday form until Wednesdays are a bit more doable.
We’d also like to announce a new weekly feature we’ll be doing: The Monday Mash-up. Anything goes in that one. Come back on Monday and check ‘er out.
Well, that’s enough of that. Let’s talk wrasslin’.
The esteemed COO made his return after a few weeks of presumed vacation. Too bad he’s not working in a few post-Mania PPV’s like he did last year. Looks like he’s joined the Undertaker on a once-a-year schedule. Bummer.
The good people of J&J Security took it upon themselves to mouth off to the boss, who squatted down to their level to put them in a match with Ambrose. I enjoyed that.
And with that, everything was back to normal. Except for Stephanie. I guess she’s babysitting.
Will: It was good to see Triple H back, but I wonder if it’s telling that the best show in months happened in his absence. I enjoyed him at the top of the show, and “Daddy’s home” is a hell of an opening line. I suppose I’m a little bummed out that Kane’s role was again reduced as the story of his uneasy alignment with the Authority stubbornly inched along.
Will: I could listen to the new King Barrett say “Doulf ZIGG-LAH” on a loop for an hour. I’ll forever miss the peak of the Bad News era, but “obnoxious monarch” is a good role for Barrett. Sheamus did commentary during the Barrett-Ziggler match, with Barrett winning thanks to the Irishman’s interference. Sheamus looks stupid as all hell, as the crowds rightly chant, but he’s a good heel, and I’m enjoying his quest to rid WWE of everymen. His look sort of makes sense since his character is a total dick.
Derek: Almost anything Barrett says is incredible. If he ever has to retire, I hope he moves on to provide the audio version of every book ever written. Could I interest you in Romeo & Juliet narrated by King Barrett? Anne Frank’s diary? The Bible? Hell, I’d listen to Fifty Shades of Grey if he read it to me.
And yes, I did just Google “ridiculous lines from 50 shades of grey” and read them (NSFW) in Barrett’s voice until I was crying. Try it! He could practically print money.
The “Wyatt” Family
Will: Hey, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper are back together! I’m in on that; both have been better as individuals than I expected, but both seem to have plateaued since branching out on their own. As far as collateral damage, Fandango made for a fun squash.
Derek: Yeah, they might as well. WWE didn’t seem to have any compelling solo storylines for either of them. They can inject some more life into the tag team division until their characters have some sort of direction. I’m glad Harper has someone to accompany him to the liquor store now.
Will: It may not be great for WWE that the most consistently entertaining segment is John Cena’s open challenge. Neville was the challenger this week, and like his fellow NXT grad Sami Zayn last week, he had a hell of a match. Neville looked super duper strong, breaking out of an STF, kicking out of an AA, and landing a Red Arrow. Rusev interfered to rough up Cena, voiding a match that Neville conceivably could have won. My question is: When Rusev and Cena finish up their feud, will Neville set his sights on one of them?
Derek: Neville! The New Sensation! The Man That Gravity Forgot! He’s been in WWE for about a month and he’s already giving Apollo Creed a run for his money. Well done.
I’m surprised at how entertaining the Cena matches are, because the ending is pretty much never in doubt. Cena isn’t losing the belt, so he’s either winning or it’s ending in shenanigans like it did on Monday. Yet, somehow, they’re always entertaining. Part of it is due to his excellent opponents, but even the most avid Cena hater has to give him props for this run.
Will: Daniel Bryan’s segment was heartbreaking. Bryan has never meant as much to me as he does to many people, in large part because I wasn’t in on him from the jump. I witnessed some of his evolution, but not the entire struggle, and thus his story doesn’t resonate with me quite as strongly. Still, it’s impossible not to feel the connection that he has with the crowd. Though I don’t think it was, it felt like it could have been a retirement speech. When do you think we’ll see him again? Could he really be done wrestling?
Derek: It’s so difficult to predict. I’m trying to think of another beloved athlete who had such a mystery injury. Has there ever been another guy who has basically said “I’m injured, the doctors have no idea how to help me, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be better”? That’s insane.
The comparison I keep is hearing is Shawn Michaels. He took off with an injury after dropping the belt to Stone Cold at WrestleMania XIV, but came back years later after everyone thought he was done. Sadly, we may have seen the last of him. Too bad, since I really don’t want my last memory of him to be a headbutt battle on top of a ladder with Dolph Ziggler.
Damien Sandow and Curtis Axel
Will: Macho Mandow is immediately one of my favorites. He does a really solid job imitating Randy Savage, particularly when pumping up the crowd, and he’ll only get better in time. The New Mega Powers angle is goofy as all hell, but it feels like a sure thing. Also, was the Ascension being ironic in critiquing Sandow and Axel biting old gimmicks, considering that they’re just a lame Road Warriors knockoff?
Derek: The whole thing is pretty funny, and that’s fine with regard to Curtis Axel and The Ascension. Those guys can be comedy characters, and that’s cool. But I do wish they would find a place for Sandow. In his first promo, he made a point that he was Damien Sandow again. He had a shirt with “Miz” crossed out. He got new music. I thought they were going to use his new over-ness to propel him to a singles push with a new character. Now, he’s right back to mimicking people. He’s good at it, but I hope they do something with him eventually.
Will: I was glad to see Ambrose get some shine in his hometown. Cincinnati treated their boy right, which made me wonder if Dean is especially representative of southwest Ohio like Stone Cold Steve Austin is of Texas. The handicap match against J&J was silly, but as decent an excuse as any for Ambrose to land a couple double clotheslines.
Derek: I wonder how he felt about the match. Thankfully, he got the spotlight at the end, because it would’ve been kind of dumb to put him in a squash match in his hometown. I imagine he’d rather have an awesome match and lose than take on some jobbers.
Will: Was Roman Reigns supposed to spear Kane through the announce table, or just on top of it? Seemed like the former to me, but maybe not.
Derek: HOW DARE YOU IMPLY THAT ROMAN REIGNS MADE A MISTAKE. OOO-AHHHHH!!!!
Will: The Cesaro & Kidd vs. New Day feud has turned out to be pretty good! Big E and Cesaro work really well together, though it seems like Cesaro works really well with anyone. I understand a little more every week why he has long been a smark darling. Do you think he’ll ever have the juice to make a title run?
Derek: That one’s totally up to Vince. He’s just about the only one who isn’t sold on him. Stone Cold especially makes a habit out of singing his praises on his podcast. I think this feud will definitely help him. I think it’s just a matter of time before Harper and Rowan get inserted, too. Everyone could come out of this a winner.
Ryback v. Wyatt
Will: I don’t understand how Ryback was standing in Bray Wyatt’s way. I don’t understand what Bray Wyatt is striving for. I’m not sure Ryback and Wyatt work well together. This feels like several steps down from Bray and the Undertaker.
Derek: It doesn’t make any sense at all. The whole thing feels rushed and I keep forgetting it’s even happening. Definitely agree with you about the Undertaker. I’m not sure why they gave him that match if they were just going to turn him into an afterthought afterward.
Will: Raw ended as only it could before a pay-per-view, with all four main event players squaring off after the night’s final match. Reigns, Ambrose, and Randy Orton all hit their finishers on poor Seth Rollins, and Ambrose closed the show by Dirty Deeds-ing Reigns. I wish I were more interested in the Payback main event than I am.
Derek: I’m more excited now that the “bonus” Elimination Chamber pay-per-view is coming up two weeks after Payback. Now I get the feeling that anything can happen. I don’t think Ambrose will win because of the announce team constantly asking “CAN YOU IMAGINE THIS LUNATIC AS CHAMPION?!?!?!?!” But any of the other three have a shot. Sure, if Rollins loses, he’ll probably get it back at Elimination Chamber. But at least the outcome is up in the air, and the Kane-Rollins storyline may finally advance.
It’s about time, brother.