Wrasslin’ Wednesday 11/12/14

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Liverpool! We’re in the UK, so Adam Rose and Paige are making an appearance. That much is certain. What we don’t know: just whose side is Ryback on?!

Yes, Ryback, the (big) guy who spent months buried as a member of the Rybaxel tag team with Curtis Axel. That Ryback is suddenly an unstoppable beast who is going to sway the Team Cena vs. Team Authority match at Survivor Series. Wrestling!

Ryback begins the evening on the side of Team Authority, as he wants to be on the side that signs his paychecks. The man is from Vegas, so I’ll buy that motive.

But then Ryback starts listening to the heels saying heel things, and he doesn’t seem to like the prospect of taking orders. In the words of Michael Cole, it was shades of things to come.

Naturally, in his main event match with John Cena, Ryback goes “lonesome badass with a heart of gold,” turning on The Authority but not quite joining up with Cena. So that brings us to the most important question in sports entertainment: just whose side is Ryback on?! What target will he seek out and destroy?! What does your crystal ball say, Will? And, more importantly, how disappointing was Vince’s absence?

Will: I almost watched last week’s Raw instead just to get my Vince fix. Alas.

(A brief aside: I thoroughly enjoy the “Last week on Raw…” recaps they run at the top of the show. I don’t know how long they’ve been doing this, but it’s brilliant. Raw is the best soap opera on TV, and I love being caught up on the storylines before seeing the current week’s action. Adding dramatic camera filters and effects adds to the recaps, as does the hokey narration. My favorite part was the narrator saying that this week’s Raw “emanates from the United Kingdom,” marking the first time in history that the word emanate has been used in wrestling.

Another brief aside: The Liverpool crowd was excellent. They booed Cena loudly and immediately. They cheered Dolph Ziggler, launched into a “YES!” chant at the mention of Daniel Bryan, and gave proper heat to the Authority. They bellowed chants of “Where’s our network?” so vigorously that WWE had to censor them. It was just like the passionate NFL crowds in London, but the exact opposite. Well done, England.

One last aside: Kudos to Stephanie for comparing the Authority to the English Royal Family. I hope she really does use “God Save the Queen” as her entrance music like she suggested.)

Now, for the Big Guy and his allegiances: Steph and the Authority kissed Ryback’s ass at the top of the show, but he was hesitant to accept the praise. Triple H promised him the world, offering “more, more, more.” Cena jabbed right back, calling them all sellouts and pumping up the crowd. It was an inspired bit of microphone work. And then, as you say, Ryback sided with his employer and laid Cena out with a spinebuster.

We did get a brief Vince appearance of sorts. Trips and Steph watched his monologue from last week, then debated his intentions. This is sure to be a complete coincidence, and Vince certainly does not have a card up his sleeve. WWE would never telegraph a major storyline.

There’s a delightful scene with Ziggler and Cena lamenting their lot in life. Triple H describes Team Cena as something akin to the Little Giants, a mishmash of B players and also-rans, and that sounds about right. At its peak, Team Cena included Ziggler and Jack Swagger, but Swagger was ‘injured’ by a Seth Rollins curb stomp in the night’s first match. Thus, Cena and Ziggler are alone to battle the Authority’s crew of Rollins, Mark Henry, Kane, and Rusev, after Stephanie sweet-talked the big Russian and Lana. Things didn’t look any better after Henry annihilated Ziggler.

But wait — Big Show comes out to defend Ziggler! You’ll recall that Henry and Show’s friendship turned into a feud, and Show joined Team Cena to get another shot at his former mate. As Show tells Cena and Ziggler, “No one hates the Authority more than I do.”

And then — Sheamus joins up as well! The Irishman and Rusev have their own feud, and thus Sheamus was compelled to get into the fun. Business is picking up!

There’s more! Ryback hears the Authority gang talking about him as they voice concerns that he’s not a team player. He shows up and gruffly and hilariously asks, “You talking about me behind my back?” This all set the stage for a Ryback-Cena match to end the evening, with all of the Authority watching ringside.

Ryback and Cena go back and forth, with the Big Guy dominating the action. Kane, however, can’t help himself and interferes. The bell rings for the DQ, and the match degenerates into a donnybrook with the Authority stomping away on Cena as well as Sheamus and Big Show. Ryback then raises some hell all over the Authority, likely indicating his resignation.

Backstage, Luke Harper, formerly of the Wyatt Family, attacks Ziggler and tells Trips and Steph that he’s a team player. The show fades to black before he is officially welcomed into the fold.

It was a lot of action for one night, but to get back to the original question, Ryback’s loyalty remains unclear. There is no chance in hell (© V.K. McMahon) that Ryback won’t be involved in the Survivor Series main event, it’s just a matter of which side he’s on.

As it stands, Rollins, Kane, Rusev, and Henry are definitely on Team Authority, with Harper a soft yes. Cena, Ziggler, Show, and Sheamus oppose them, with the final spot up for grabs. If I were a gambling man, and I wanted to sink to the absolute depths of humanity, I would wager substantial sums of money on Ryback joining Team Cena. The Big Guy is over with fans, and he would get a huge pop as a face.

There are a ton of moving parts here, and I’m excited to see how everything is tied together. How say you?

Derek: I’m pro-Ryback. I really am. I laugh every time I see him. I giggle Mad Dog Hoek jokes to myself every time he talks. Really, fast forward to the 9:28 mark of this Ren & Stimpy episode and tell me that’s not Ryback.

I’m excited for the match, too. I’m even more excited for the aftermath. There’s one thing that’s really dampening my excitement for it, though, and that’s the indefensible use of Dean Ambrose.

I believe it was the first Wrasslin’ Wednesday column we did when I listed all of the guys who were out because of injury or because they’re CM Punk. The point was that they were running out of big stars and interest would fade as they kept trying to find new ways to pit Cena and Orton against each other.

Then Dean Ambrose happened. He was probably the top reason to tune in for weeks. People were labeling him as the next Stone Cold. His promos were great and his matches were fun. I know I wasn’t the only one who was ecstatic to see him return at Night of Champions.

I already complained about how Hell in a Cell ended, so I won’t rehash that here, but it seems like my worst fears about Ambrose are being realized. They’ve completely removed him from his feud with The Authority. It might have been okay if that feud had some sort of resolution, but it didn’t. He didn’t care about anything but taking down Rollins and the Authority for five months. Then Bray Wyatt interferes in a match and he forgets all about it? He could join up with Cena to potentially take down the Authority which, again, was all he cared about as recently as two weeks ago. He hasn’t shown any interest in joining. Cena hasn’t shown any interest in asking, even though he was forced to rely on Jack Swagger. It never crossed Cena’s mind that Ambrose might want in on this?

The worst part is their reason for not including him, which is his throwaway match with Bray Wyatt. They haven’t done a single thing to make me care about it. I almost forgot it was even happening.

So, in a time when they could really, really use a big-time superstar, they took their best guy and stopped his momentum dead in its tracks. I think the only way it could be salvaged is to put Wyatt on Team Authority and Ambrose on Team Cena. The undercard would suck a little more, but not by much.

They can’t do it, though, because as you mentioned, Luke Harper attacked Ziggler and said (he can talk!?) that he’s a team player. WWE has gone through great lengths to separate Harper from the Wyatt Family with those weird vignettes, so they probably can’t immediately team them back up after trying so hard to separate them.

Unrelated: here’s an old “before they were famous” match between Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper.

Could they not have just had Harper and Erick Rowan rebel against Wyatt? Or have Harper rebel and have Rowan torn on whose side to join? It would be something new and interesting for Wyatt to do, and it would free up Ambrose to join the match in which he really belongs.

TL;DR: I loved Ambrose, they’re ruining him, and I’m bitter.

Pretty good overall episode of Raw, though. The UK crowds are always delightful. You can tell they don’t get to go to shows all that often. John Cena said “sellout Sexual Chocolate” and “wankers.” Adam Rose beat up his bunny.

And most importantly: what’s up with those Xavier Woods/Kofi Kingston “A New Day” vignettes? Are we going to get a faction of black preachers? Because that … that would be something.

Will: Honestly, I fast-forwarded through every Xavier Woods/Kofi Kingston segment. I saw some sort of gospel choir and my interest was not piqued. I look forward to ignoring it until it becomes something not worth ignoring.

I agree that Ambrose being relegated to sidebar status is frustrating and confusing. He was — is? — the talk of the town, and now he’s being pushed into a feud lacking immediacy. I’m interested to see where it goes, as I enjoy Bray Wyatt’s schtick and two crazy guys feuding could be a fun angle, but it’s a shame that Ambrose’s previous storyline couldn’t have been tied up more cleanly.

Ryback’s push is exciting, if only to test the limits of his on-mic abilities. He’s an enormous human being and conveys the right sort of brutality. He’s like Goldberg on steroids, on steroids. I don’t know that he can ever be a leading man, but he is well-received, and Survivor Series will be more fun with him involved.

But this day, as all days, only left me wanting more Vince. More Vince. MORE VINCE. MOAR VINCE!



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