Re-Asserting Authority: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 1/7/2015

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Corpus Christi! Will, Raw could not keep me awake this week. What did you think of it?

Will: As much as I was in on last week’s Raw, I was out on this one. The matches were boring, the promos were bland, and I yawned through more than half of it. Jerry “The King” Lawler was absent due to real-life illness, and Booker T filled in as color commentator, his voice brought to you by Virginia Slims. That set the tone, and confirmed that I was in fact, out on this episode.

Derek: The announcers suck. I wish they didn’t speak English.

Will: I was out, that is, until the closing segment, the final act of John Cena Appreciation Night, presented by the Authority. You’ll remember that Cena’s giving in to Seth Rollins’ threats last week led to the Authority’s return. This week Triple H, Stephanie and the gang flexed their muscles and put on the heeliest show possible.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Half of the night’s slate was composed of Authority-fixed matches. Dolph Ziggler and Bad News Barrett opened the action in a match for the former’s Intercontinental Title. Ziggler maintained his belt on a neat roll-up reversal. Barrett was livid with this and gave Ziggler a good solid post-match beatdown.

But wait, there’s more. Kane appeared to declare that the match was in fact best-of-three-falls, and ordered the ref to start it back up. The bell rang dutifully, Barrett got the next two falls, and boom, we have a new Intercontinental Champion.

As the biggest Bad News Barrett fan beyond British borders, were you happy to see him win, regardless of the circumstances?

Derek: Absolutely. This is where Barrett belongs. There isn’t really a good rival for him at the moment. All of the guys he could feud with are already locked into other feuds and he can’t awkwardly insert himself into any of them. Making him Intercontinental Champion keeps him relevant until he has a good challenger. He’s also just really good at being champion. His smug demeanor is perfect for toting a belt. He’s far too entertaining to get the treatment of someone like, say, Jack Swagger, who gets thrown into on again-off again pointless mid-card matches.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

The question is: who should Barrett feud with? I’ve previously said I’d like to see him feud with Rusev, but that won’t happen any time soon since he isn’t American. My second choice is … revealed several paragraphs from now.

Aside from BNB, Ziggler is now free for more main event stuff, if they choose to use him that way. I mean, they probably won’t, but they could! It sure seemed like he was headed that way after Survivor Series. It puzzles me that not more has come from that.

Will: I’m glad to see BNB get a little shine, and I’m with you re: Ziggler hopefully moving up the card. I’m also with you re: not being confident that either party will be used adequately.

Our next match saw the return of the Ascension, the Road Warriors-derived tandem that seems to be ticketed for big things in the tag team division. They did a brief pre-match promo in which they claimed superiority over tag teams of yesteryear, including the Road Warriors themselves.

They squashed some literally anonymous local foes, and that was that. I have still yet to find a reason to get behind them at all, and that may not be all their fault. Their promo suggested they are meant to be heels yet JBL, ostensibly the heel-friendly commentator, didn’t put them over at all (as some of the good people of r/squaredcircle pointed out). It didn’t make sense. Are we supposed to view them as dominant or a farce?

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Do you have any take on this? Could the Ascension be something if packaged and sold correctly? Or should we just move on?

Derek: I was in on Rusev longer than I was in on the Ascension, and that’s saying something. With the exception of their finishing move, they’ve sucked. They haven’t even managed to tread water like Adam Rose. Everything has been negative. Even their music sucks. And check out this promo:

Victor: Throughout the history of WWE, there have been many so-called “dominant tag teams.” Just like Axe and Smash of Demolition.

Connor: WE’LL DESTROY DEMOLITION!

Victor: Or, there’s the Road Warriors.

Connor: WE’LL THROW THEM RIGHT OFF THE ROAD! And yo Vic … what’s the old saying?

Victor: OHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT A RUSH.

Connor: More like OHHHHHHHHHH WHAT A JOKE.

Victor: We are … the Ascension.

Connor: Welcome … to the wasteland.

My goodness. This is why Bo Dallas isn’t on TV anymore? There isn’t any room for him, but we can give a promo and a match to these guys?

Then, after saying they could beat the Road Warriors, they beat whoever the hell those two guys were? Folks, if you thought Will was simply embracing his inner dumb white girl when he said the Ascension’s opponents were literally anonymous, he was not. They were literally literally anonymous. I have no idea who they were, and the announcers didn’t even tell us their names. Wow, that’s really impressive guys! I totally believe that you’re unstoppable now! Couldn’t you at least beat Los Matadores or Slater Gator?

The only fun outcome is if they really do end up being a farce. They always brag about being unstoppable but they beat some new anonymous tag team every week. Then they fight Los Matadores and lose in less than a minute. That could be fun. But if your ceiling as a tag team is being a punchline, that’s not a good thing.

Will: Next on the slate was Nikki Bella vs. Natalya in the first Total Divas ad Divas match of the night. Nikki was accompanied by her sister Brie, and Natalya by Paige, who I can best describe as a pale, vaguely emo girl who I’m kinda in on. Paige and Brie battled outside the ring, Natalya won the (non-title) match on a roll-up pin, and Paige gave Nikki a super-kick.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

It wasn’t a bad match, but it also wasn’t a compelling one. Every bit of Divas action lately has been thinly-veiled promotion for their E! show, which manages to reduce my likelihood of watching it below zero.

Anything here? Anything at all? Bueller?

Derek: I’m just glad Paige is back. She’s my favorite Diva, just narrowly edging A.J. Lee. And, unfortunately, A.J. may not be coming back.

I had hoped Paige was above Total Divas. I’ll admit it: I watched an episode of Total Divas once. It was (shocker!) pretty dumb. Granted, I’ve never been a reality show guy, but I can’t imagine people would be able to enjoy this show on a consistent basis. I recall two story lines from the show. One featured Naomi and whichever Uso she’s married to. Her dad came to visit, and he liked to stay up late. Mr. Uso didn’t like that. They fought.

The other story featured Nikki Bella and John Cena, who put on a relationship clinic. The whole thing seemed to be made so women would go “Ugh, men” and men would say “Women, right?” Nikki was moving in with Cena, and she felt the need to point out every single thing she didn’t like about his house. She started listing all of the things she was going to change as Cena looked like he was dead inside.

Later, Nikki cooked him a nice dinner. He thanked her by being completely cold and unfeeling, deciding that saying thank you was a worse option than asking her why they couldn’t just go out to eat and complaining about how she was making a mess. Nikki couldn’t even.

It made me happy that AJ and Paige weren’t apart of that. They were too cool for school. While the other Divas were locked in dumb stereotypical cat fights, Paige and AJ actually wanted to throw hands. They were the only interesting Divas. If AJ leaves WWE to join her husband, and Paige has crossed over to the dark side, then the Divas matches could be moving into my Rusev “always skip” territory. I have no interest in watching matches that settle their manufactured reality show drama from the night before. And yes, I do realize the stupidity of writing the previous sentence in a weekly feature on professional wrestling. I stand by it.

Will: I respect your professionalism in reporting on Total Divas. Doing the lord’s work, my friend. Also, that show somehow has a 7/10 rating on IMDb. I’m guessing each WWE superstar is contractually obligated to vote it up a dozen times a day.

The next Authority-fixed match was Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan, the former Wyatt family brethren. The surprise here was that Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, Seth Rollins’ J&J Security team, were the guest referees. They tilted the action as expected, and Harper won on a quick three-count.

I didn’t mind this match, and I thought some of the guest ref schtick was enjoyable. At one point Rowan covered Harper, both refs went down to the mat as if to count, only they had a mock disagreement over which one of them should count, and Harper escaped. Nothing revolutionary, but I thought it was well done.

Did you realize that these guys were still feuding, by the way? I feel like we need a comprehensive site that documents every rivalry in the business.

Derek: I didn’t. I’m not even sure they did. Harper was feuding with Ziggler and Rowan was feuding with Big Show, but those seem to have come to a swift conclusion. They’ll probably have on and off feuds for a bit, like Rollins and Ambrose did. I can’t say I’m that into it. Have they said a word to each other? Just one of many yawnworthy moments of the night.

Will: The bout of the night was Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt in an ambulance match. To win, one man had to incapacitate the other until he could literally put him in the back of an ambulance and shut the doors.

They put on a solid match. A good bit of time was spent moving the action from the ring to the ambulance and back again, but that’s the cost of doing business for a specialty match like this.

There were a few spots that I especially enjoyed. The most eye-catching was Ambrose landing an elbow off the top of the ambulance through a table, a nod to his big elbow drop at the TLC pay-per-view. There was some inspired use of a stretcher, and Bray hit his Sister Abigail finisher both against the ambulance and on the concrete floor. Bray limped out the victor.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

I like both of these guys, and this was a solid match, but their feud has grown a bit stale. They’re enjoyable, but not especially compelling. I feel like they haven’t shown us anything new.

Are you buying these two alleged lunatics?

Derek: They’ve actually had some decent matches, but every time they throw down I’m reminded of Hell in a Cell. I just want this feud to be over. Not just because I’m still bitter about how they’ve used Ambrose, but because Ambrose is my aforementioned choice to enter into a feud with Bad News Barrett.

Call it a gut feeling. I don’t really know what kind of matches they would have, but I think they would cut phenomenal promos on one another. Remember the Dean Ambrose from our very first Wrasslin’ Wednesday? I want that Dean Ambrose back. He’s so much more fun than this Dean Ambrose.

Will: There was one more match with the Authority’s fingerprints on it: Ryback vs. Seth Rollins. That was the setup, at least, until Kane came out to reveal that he would join the action, and that Ryback in fact had a handicap match against both Kane and Rollins.

The show had lost me by this point, but Ryback looked strong. He pulled off some solid moves and helped make it semi-interesting. Rollins and Kane won as the Authority added one more notch to its belt.

We like The Big Guy. Was he enough to make this interesting?

Derek: I hate being so negative this week, especially after we were glowing last week, but no, not really. Like you said, I was pretty much checked out at this point. I almost forgot it happened, honestly. Let’s jump to the good stuff.

Will: As I said at the top, Raw’s closing segment made the episode palatable for me. Stephanie and Triple H invited Cena out to celebrate his night of appreciation. Trips mock-lauded Cena for a while, during which time Cena tried to look as sad as possible. It was enjoyable, mostly due to how great Triple H is on the mic, including how he says “John.” It’s wonderful, and I want to make it my ringtone.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Things got more interesting when Triple H invited some other folks out to join the celebration: Ziggler, Ryback, and Rowan, i.e. the guys who got stuck in lopsided matches Monday night. It was time for consequences, the COO explained. He and Stephanie kicked around potential punishments before having a long walk toward the Titantron to talk it over more.

When they reached the top of the ramp, they revealed their chosen discipline: Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, and Erick Rowan are all fired for siding with Cena at Survivor Series. Roll end credits.

Bah gawd, what a finish! Those guys are certainly not really fired, and it will be interesting to see if they maintain an on-screen presence. I’m mostly interested because the Authority seems to be taking Cena down a potentially dark road. He still gets to work, but the blood of his colleagues’ careers is on his hands. At some point, he’ll have to snap out of his pouting and do something about it. I’m hoping that that something will be entertaining.

Derek: Well said. Now that they’ve all been, in the words of Stephanie, FIIIIIRRRRREEEEDD, I wonder how they’ll manage to work themselves back in before the Royal Rumble in a few weeks.

Speaking of the Royal Rumble, we’ve yet to mention the change to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match. To reward him for his role in bringing the Authority back, Trips and Steph added Rollins to Lesnar and Cena’s match. Rollins proceeded to jump around like Chun Li after a victory.

you win

A triple threat match with Cena, Lesnar, and Rollins is infinitely more interesting than giving us our third Cena v. Lesnar championship match since SummerSlam. Rollins and Lesnar have been reluctant allies lately but that, by the Laws of Wrestling, will come to an end now that the belt is on the line. That was the most interesting thing I took away from Raw. What happens when Rollins and Lesnar clash? Even better: what happens if the Authority and Paul Heyman clash?

Will: That’s a wonderful question, and it may point to the most compelling potential storyline. Heyman and the Authority are marvelous, and it would make sense to put them at odds with one another. The idea of Brock fighting an Authority-constructed uphill battle could be juicy stuff, especially with Trips and Heyman narrating the action. It would require one party turning face, but that can be done easily enough.

I was surprised by Rollins’ giddy reaction. Brock has shown up sparingly over the past few months, and when he has appeared it has been to pulverize his opponents. I understand that the primary motivation of wrestlers is to win the big belt, but I expected Rollins to be more afraid than excited by the prospect of facing off with the Beast Incarnate.

His Money in the Bank briefcase is the Chekhov’s gun of this subplot, and I would be the opposite of shocked if he cashes in immediately after either Brock or Cena wins the three-man clash. I hope that isn’t the case for that exact reason.

So concluded a positively dreary Monday of wrestling. On the bright side, we’re only three weeks away from the Royal Rumble. This Raw was bland, but I’m still interested to see where they take things from here.

Based on this week’s show, there’s nowhere to go but up.



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