Eat. Sleep. Wrasslin’ Wednesday 12/17/14. Repeat.

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three days later) from Detroit/Cleveland! Thank goodness Royal Rumble season is upon us.

Not to disparage the fine performances of everyone at the Tables, Ladders, Chairs (and Stairs!) pay-per-view, but … well, actually, I’m going to go ahead and disparage them. It was mostly pretty boring.

I thought the night would exceed my expectations when Dolph Ziggler, a Cleveland native (when it’s convenient for him), opened the show by winning the Intercontinental Championship in a pretty sweet Ladder Match with Luke Harper. A surprising amount of blood was shed for WWE’s supposedly family-friendly programming. The match was really entertaining and the crowd was behind Ziggler.

Will: This match was fantastic. I’ve never thought much of Harper as a worker, but he and Ziggler executed some excellent spots and had a fine match. Part of me was hoping that Ziggler wouldn’t win, as I’m worried he’ll be relegated to the midcard as IC champ, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited when he snatched that belt.

I’ll be honest, I fell asleep in the middle of TLC(…and S). Harper-Ziggler had my curiosity, but the Usos-Miz/Mizdow and Big Show-Erick Rowan lost my attention. I almost fought through in the name of journalistic integrity, but I just couldn’t do it. My sincerest apologies. What’d I miss?

Derek: Aside from some Dean Ambrose insanity, most the rest of the evening was forgettable. As in, I’ve forgotten a lot of it already. I couldn’t really give you any details of the Stairs Match between Rowan and Big Show or the Chairs Match (seriously?) between Kane and Ryback. I would have forgotten the match between Jack Swagger and Rusev too if I hadn’t skipped it entirely, as Rusev often motivates me to do.

Fortunately, things picked up a bit on Raw. Chris Jericho acted as the guest General Manager, which is funny because I was pretty sure that stupid computer was still supposed to be the General Manager.

Y2J gave us a rematch of Seth Rollins and John Cena, but this time … IN A STEEL CAGE.  They then reveal the cage hanging over the ring, which the entire arena presumably already saw but let’s pretend they didn’t. We also got Jericho challenging Paul Heyman to a match, allowing fans to vote on what kind of match it would be. The choices: Extreme Rules, No Holds Barred, or Street Fight. Apparently there is some small difference between these match types. I hope I learn what it is someday.

Heyman comes to the ring for their match, which he does because he has the support of BARRACCKKK LESSSNAARRRRRR.

Barack Lesnar

Lesnar beats Jericho up and comes out later to wreck the main event, suplexing Cena a few times before strutting out of the cage. Maybe it seemed better than it was because the shows have been so weak since Survivor Series. Thankfully, we’re just six weeks from Royal Rumble, so hopefully the last three weeks won’t repeat themselves.

What did you think of TLC and Raw? Is Royal Rumble season a good reason for optimism?

Will: As much as I was out on TLC, I was in on Raw. It was amusing if not outright good, a course correction from the snooze of Sunday night. They set the bar high with Jericho and Heyman leading the top of the show. It was a delight to watch those two banter. They feel like fully-formed characters, and they’re microphone-savvy enough to improvise when appropriate.

I have come to enjoy Rollins’ arrogant bully character. He has the body language and underhanded tactics down pat. He’s not quite there on the mic — his voice lacks great power or charisma — but he hung in with these vocal heavyweights when he joined the card-setting promo. I enjoyed him complaining about the lack of security in WWE without the Authority around. It was straight out of 1984. They should either play up his fear of a dystopian world or accentuate his arrogance and make him a lacrosse player.

Our first skirmish was a tag match, with Big Show and Luke Harper against Ziggler and Rowan. It ended when Show landed a knockout punch — what a lame freaking finisher — on Rowan. Ziggler was the star of the action, though I am concerned with his spending the first 15 minutes of every match on his back. He’s a terrific seller and makes everything look great, but it will be tough for him to climb the ladder when he always looks overmatched until he launches a late comeback like a low-rent Cena. Also, his hair and music are atrocious.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Next was a Divas tag match: the Bellas versus Natalya and Alicia Fox. I liked this match! I don’t understand why the Bellas are still a tag team given their feuding history, but they pulled off some impressive moves. Natalya and Alicia got the win when the former put Brie in a Sharpshooter, a nod to her Hart family heritage. I’ve long thought of the ladies matches how I think of the WNBA; they may be great at what they do, but it pales in comparison to larger, stronger gents doing the same things. This match made me rethink that. Well done.

This was the first show during which I paid any attention to The New Day, a faction comprised of Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods. I gotta say, I really like these guys. They’re funny, I enjoy JBL complaining about them, and they sell their whole positivity schtick well. They’re sort of like a happy-go-lucky televangelist Nation of Domination. Not top-tier stuff by any means, but they are more than adequate time fillers. Big E and Woods beat Gold and Stardust with a sort of slam/DDT combo finisher.

Derek: I used to be all-in on The New Day, but that has quickly dissipated. Somewhere around the 500th time one of them (what do you mean them?!?!) yelled “New DAY!” at the crowd during a match, I lost my enthusiasm. I thought maybe they were headed down the Rocky Maivia/Bo Dallas road where their relentless positivity would become a heel tactic, but JBL can’t stand them, which means they must be good guys. I’ve come to find my enjoyment period for that kind of shtick from babyfaces is about three weeks. Let’s hope they heel it up soon.

Will: I may be agreeing with you by the end of the month. “New DAY” could go the way of “U-SO!” very soon.

Later, Kane squashed Adam Rose, and tombstoned the Bunny post-match, which inspired a bunch of animal abuse jokes from the commentators. JBL on the the Bunny Tombstone, verbatim: “That may have just euthanized a bunny — I love it!”

The Jericho-Heyman match never happened, as you say, because Lesnar showed up to wreck Y2J’s world. I’ve come around on how WWE is using Brock. The scarcity of his appearances makes each one feel more epic, and he is developing an indestructible reputation. He shows up, annihilates a rival or three, and vanishes without saying a word. We have lamented big shows and PPVs without the WWE title at stake, but Brock’s absence is making that title feel more important. The meantime action suffers, but there’s something to be said for making big matches count.

Derek: That’s true. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Just look at Ryback. Nobody cared about him when he was on the RybAxel tag team, he disappeared for a while, then he was important again! Works every time. Well, unless you’re Fandango.

If rumors are to be believed, Brock isn’t losing again until Wrestlemania. Everything I’ve heard points to him keeping up his run of being unstoppable until then, when he will be taken down by Roman Reigns (who I assume will win the Royal Rumble) in the main event. I hope that’s not the case. Roman Reigns just doesn’t do it for me. Honestly, I think it starts with his outfit. The cargo pants are a problem.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Luckily, at this time last year, the rumored Wrestlemania main event was Randy Orton vs. Batista. Everyone hated it so much that they ended up making it a Triple Threat Match with Daniel Bryan. Maybe that’ll happen again this year, though I suppose I don’t have a realistic alternative to Reigns vs. Lesnar. Oh well. Onward!

Will: Brock making it through to Wrestlemania makes sense. With how they’ve played it, there’s no point in WWE’s biggest belt changing hands at anything but its biggest show. Of course, any logic is cannon fodder in the wrestling world.

I can’t decide how I feel about Reigns. None of his trademarks — his look, his entrance through the crowd, his Superman punches — move the needle for me. I find him vaguely likable, not exactly a ringing endorsement. Maybe they’re playing the long game with the cargo pants and he’ll pull out a foreign object in a big spot?

Miz fought one of the Usos toward the end of the evening, for some reason. Haven’t Miz/Mizdow and the Usos had 50 matches by now? This whole match was bad leftovers. “Flying Uso!” is lame. Slammys used as weapons are lame. Whatever the Miz-Naomi subplot is is both lame and uncomfortable. This whole thing was lame. As much as I enjoy Mizdow, I need something new to make me care about him.

The Cena-Rollins cage match was…ok. Lots of attempted escapes and not so many moves, which might be for the best given how stale Cena’s moveset is. Brock came out to rip a hole in Cena’s space-time continuum, Rollins and Heyman formed an alliance, and Rollins got the win.

When I type it all out, maybe this week’s Raw wasn’t that great after all. No plots were significantly advanced aside from whatever the Rollins-Heyman handshake turns into. But screw it, I had fun. The lower-card action was entertaining if not outright good. I liked getting to know The New Day. I was impressed by the Divas match. Mizdow did Mizdow things. It was a perfectly decent night of programming.

Then again, maybe the bar is just lower these days. Here’s hoping it rises soon.

 



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