Fall of Roman: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 1/28/15

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three days later) from Philadelphia/Somewhere in Connecticut! Gentlemen, I … I don’t know.

Let’s go over the top three storylines from Sunday and Monday:

  1. Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Seth Rollins had an incredible match for the WWEWHC. I thought Rollins was especially impressive.
  2. Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble and there was, to put it mildly, some backlash.
  3. Raw, which was scheduled to take place in Hartford, Connecticut, was canceled because of the weather. WWE aired a replay of the two previously mentioned matches from Royal Rumble, and a few interviews that were interesting at times.

You could probably talk me into devoting the entirety of my weekly wrestling analysis to this:

And that might be the most original way to cover wrasslin’ this week. Those aforementioned storylines have already been beaten to death from every angle. This was a Monday when WWE really, really needed Raw. They were taking so much heat for how the Royal Rumble played out that I had to think Vince would have something up his sleeve for Monday. Like a player or team that suffers an embarrassing loss, WWE needed to get back out there as soon as possible to remove the bad taste from Sunday night. Instead, they get to let it marinate for a while longer, as the WWE Network cancellations keep rolling in.

So, how shall we handle this? Shall we attempt to originally rehash the events of Sunday and/or Monday? Shall we guess what would have to happen on Smackdown to get the fans back? Shall we try to pump ourselves up for the Lesnar vs. Reigns match even though it’s clear Reigns would win such a match and it will be met with a chorus of boos? What say you?

Will: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Ahem. Let’s focus on Sunday. As you said, WWE ran some content in place of Raw, but we’re not here to discuss emergency second-level promos. We’re here to talk wrasslin’, and thus wrasslin’ we shall talk.

In fact, let’s cobble together 30 discussion-worthy topics from the Royal Rumble PPV. We might be scraping the dregs of the barrel by the end, but that feels appropriate given WWE’s recent creative decisions.

1. Who was the real winner of the night, regardless of the match results?

Derek: Definitely Rollins. LOOK AT THIS:

rollins phoenix splash

Will: Between that and the table spot, Rollins owned the night. He was superb. In the interests of variety, however, I’m going with Brock Lesnar. Aside from a lengthy spell spent unconscious outside the ring, he dominated both of his foes in the title match, and he did it convincingly. For all of WWE’s missteps, they have done a brilliant job with Brock over the past few months.

2. Did WWE do the right thing in not having Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank title shot?

Derek: Eh. I’m not sure. The match was so good and they seemed so exhausted afterward that it wouldn’t have made sense to cash in then. I can only think that they want him to cash in after the main event at Wrestlemania. Everyone knows Reigns is going to win. Rollins could drown out the boos, as weird as that is to say.

Will: I suppose so, but I’m not sure what the best way to use the MITB briefcase is. I agree that it would have dampened the title match, because nothing was going to top that thing.

3. What’s your take on the tone/execution of the Triple Threat match?

Derek: I was down with it. I thought Lesnar was down for a little too long after the elbow through the Spanish announce table, but other than that I thought it was great.

Will: It blew me away. I loved it. Rollins immediately bailing out of the ring after the opening bell rang was a perfect heel-y move, and the spots throughout were just tremendous: Rollins’ elbow through the table, Cena’s double AA on J&J Security, Brock wreaking carnage like a rhinoceros on speed. The match was well-paced, well-executed, served the characters, and would have worked even if you knew none of the backstory. A real tour de force.

4. Are we really going to get Lesnar v. Reigns at Wrestlemania?

Derek: I don’t think so. Something is going to happen. It was at this time last year that Randy Orton vs. Batista was the main event at Wrestlemania. That was so universally disliked that they eventually added Daniel Bryan. If I’m not mistaken, Lesnar’s WWE contract ends the day after Wrestlemania. He’s not winning. Sooner or later, they’ll figure out no one cares about a Lesnar v. Reigns match that is pretty much already decided. Hell, they may not have cared about it even if the ending was in doubt.

Will: It seems like an awful idea destined to drive away fans so I definitely think it’s going to happen. My logic is this: the fans are not going to tell Vince McMahon how to run his business. Vince McMahon will tell the fans how they should enjoy his business. I’m banking on Vince’s stubbornness winning the day.

5. At what point did The Rock realize Reigns was a lost cause?

Derek: Around this point:

rock roman

“You’re booing me? I’m The Rock!”

Will: It was so sad and uncomfortable. Reigns is a big, strong dude, but he looked like a child begging for validation next to The Rock. His bloodied lip made him look silly instead of tough. I feel terribly for the guy. He didn’t do anything wrong, he’s just getting pushed more than the fans are willing to accept.

6. We know he’s Vince’s boy, but why do people hate Reigns so much?

Derek: Aside from Vince pushing him relentlessly, he has a couple of huge problems. First:

Second, his moves aren’t that good. He compares unfavorably to early Goldberg. Goldberg was booked to have short matches that ended in a Spear and a Jackhammer. Reigns isn’t as raw as Goldberg was, but his move set is still mostly uninteresting. He does the Spear and the Superman Punch and a bunch of other forgettable stuff. He worked as the silent badass in the Shield, because he had Rollins and Ambrose to mask his deficiencies. That becomes more apparent each week, as Rollins and Ambrose soar as solo wrestlers and people are less interested in Reigns every week. So, except for having bad moves and poor mic skills, he’s great!

One theme I’ve heard is fans are mad because Reigns hasn’t “paid his dues.” I think that’s stupid. If he’s great at what he does, I don’t care that he hasn’t been around as long as Dolph Ziggler or Daniel Bryan. I’d love it if Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose (or both) were in the main event at Wrestlemania, and they debuted at the same time as Reigns. They deserve it because they’re incredible performers and they would put on an amazing match. I can’t remember ever seeing a Roman Reigns match that I enjoyed because of his contributions. I can’t imagine he’ll magically be capable of putting on a match worthy of the main event of Wrestlemania in two months.

Will: I agree with you, especially about how being in the Shield accentuated his strengths and hid his weaknesses. His moves are limited, I don’t get a strong sense of his gimmick or personality, and he can’t cut a promo to save his life. All valid, true points.

I think a larger issue, however, is the sense of entitlement that exists among fans not just in wrestling, but in sports in general. When something doesn’t go how people want or expect, they act as though something they were owed was withheld. I have been guilty of this myself, most recently and notably regarding LeBron and the Cavs. Their struggles felt like a personal insult because I (felt that I) was promised scintillating success.

I would argue that this phenomenon is worse in wrestling. Due to its scripted nature, wrestling can and has adjusted storylines on the fly, as with the Orton-Batista-Bryan match. My concern is that it feels like some folks want all of their fantasy booking to be realized, and nothing else. They are only satisfied if the outcome is expected, which is the antithesis of what makes wrestling fun.

I may exaggerating the fans’ entitlement here. The issue with Reigns is that he is universally agreed—by everyone but Vince, it seems—to not be ready for the big stage yet, and that’s a fair critique. Whether you measure by time served or performance level, he just isn’t there. His character is not yet mature, his in-ring approach not yet fleshed out; he is a fine oak chair that hasn’t been sanded to a fine finish.

Reigns isn’t working in WWE right now for the same reason that you don’t introduce an action star in a movie’s third act: the audience needs to know him in a meaningful way, or at least feel like they do. There’s time to salvage him, but it won’t happen in a month. WWE needs to develop him patiently, a dangerous game when business is struggling.

7. Defend Daniel Bryan’s Royal Rumble appearance.

Derek: I can’t. I’m fine with him being eliminated. He can’t win every single match just because he’s popular. I just didn’t like how he was unceremoniously dumped out of the ring so early in a way that didn’t advance his story at all. He should have been in at the end, and could have at least been eliminated in a more heelish way so he could get a decent feud going. I’m not sure why he was even in the Royal Rumble if that’s what they had planned for him.

Will: I completely agree. He was in, and then he was out, and I can’t remember a single interesting thing that happened while he was in the ring. It didn’t make any sense. He could have been dumped right away if it was in the name of a storyline, but he was just dumped with no apparent reasoning. It was just weird to see such an important player as such an apparent afterthought.

8. What surprise entrant were you most excited for?

Derek: Definitely Bubba Ray Dudley. That was pretty cool. I hope he sticks around. I enjoyed DDP’s round of Diamond Cutters and the exceptionally creepy entrance of the Boogeyman, but Bubba Ray was the best.

Will: Diamond Dallas Page did it for me. I watched WCW long before I discovered the then-WWF, and DDP was one of my first guys. I always enjoyed the Diamond Cutter, and it was just so damn cool to see him out there again (and in decent shape!). If only WWE got the rights to his old “Self High Five” entrance music that ripped off “Smells Like Teen Spirit” so well.

9. What surprise entrant were you most surprised not to see?

Derek: Last week, I said I’d be shocked if Randy Orton and Sheamus didn’t appear, and neither did. It was even more shocking when I logged into the WWE Network to watch the show and saw this:

rumble

Orton has one of the most prominent places in the picture! I was all “thanks for the spoiler, WWE” and he never showed. Strange that the biggest surprise of the evening was Orton not showing up in some capacity.

Will: Orton is the only one who felt like an egregious omission. I wasn’t exceptionally excited by the prospect of his return as he has never quite captured my imagination, but he is far and away the biggest name of the modern era to be absent from the Rumble. Given WWE’s need for a shot in the arm to distract from the open wound of fans rejecting Reigns, bringing back the Viper would seem like a smart gambit to gin up the crowd.

I’m sensing a theme here.

10. Do you feel any better about the Ascension than you did a week ago?

Derek: No. They didn’t lose any ground because they didn’t say anything, but they certainly didn’t move in a positive direction. It’s going to take a lot.

Will: Eh, maybe a little bit. At least they beat an actual opponent. I’m still not in on their Fall of Man finisher. I’m willing to give them a pass for this one.

11. What was the most forgettable match of the night?

Derek: The Usos vs. Miz and Mizdow. I can’t remember anything that happened.

Will: Have they fought literally every week for the past three months? It feels like they’ve fought literally every week for the past six months. I’ve actually come to enjoy those matches, not only for the wondrous spectacle that is Mizdow, but also because that familiarity has led to some cool spots.

That said, I can’t remember a thing about it either. Same goes for the Divas tag match and the pre-show matchup of the New Day vs. Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, and Adam Rose. So much for an undercard.

12. Was the Philly crowd a good one?

Derek: Mostly. I was a little irritated by the “Daniel Bryan” chants, but other than that I thought they were spot on. Bryan is a fellow Seahawks fan, and I appreciate him for that, but I’m a little turned off by the fans who get pissed because he doesn’t win every match. I loved how they chanted for Rusev when he was out of the ring and the announcers acted like they didn’t realize. I wish the WWE Network added a feature that allowed me to mute the commentary. The crowd does a better job.

Will: They were loud, knowledgeable, and passionate, which is really all you can ask for. Their editorializing the action was a touch obnoxious, like I imagine watching Gravity with Neil deGrasse Tyson would be. I often say that you shouldn’t apologize for how you feel, so I can’t get too mad at them for being so grumpy with the Rumble’s outcome.

13. What new angle do you want to see fleshed out?

Derek: Uhhhh. Slim pickings, eh? It’s not really a new angle, but I’m going with Randy Orton’s potential face turn. When he left before Survivor Series, he turned on the Authority. I’d be interested to see what will become of him when he returns.

Will: I’m interested to see what happens with Rusev, believe it or not. He’s still undefeated by pin or submission, and that’s at least something. His character is as fresh Blockbuster Video, but there’s something to be said for staying within one’s limits.

So yeah, slim pickings.

14. Thoughts on this theory that Roman Reigns is Seth Rollins’ character?

Derek: Spot on. I wonder if a double turn is imminent. Lesnar and Rollins are so much more over than Reigns is right now. It’s definitely in play. I wonder if they would consider having Paul Heyman ditch Lesnar for Roman Reigns. It would probably make more sense if he joined Rollins, but Rollins doesn’t need nearly as much help on the mic as Reigns does.

Will: It would hurt less if it weren’t so true. Egads things are bad for Roman right now.

15. Fandango made an appearance. Discuss.

Derek: Maaaaaybe it’s about time for him to switch his gimmick up.

Will: Keep gettin’ them checks, ‘Dango.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

16. What did you think of the New Age Outlaws?

Derek: They were fine. They did lots of New Age Outlaws things. It was a shame that I had to watch them lose to the Ascension, but they were entertaining.

Will: Keep gettin’ them checks, Outlaws.

17. Should people be canceling their WWE Network subscriptions?

Derek: I’m not going to, just because I enjoy all of the older stuff on the Network. I like to put on an old PPV before I go to sleep, or watch some of the newer documentaries. For $9.99 a month, that’s not bad. Honestly, a price hike would make me more likely to cancel than a bad PPV.

Will: I mean, if you’re really that upset about it, sure. But if you’re the sort of person who would get that upset about the events of a pay-per-view, and who has already subscribed to the Network, then I call shenanigans on the notion that you would cut it out of your life just out of spite. The Network is worth it in value terms based on the PPV access alone.

It feels a bit Occupy Wall Street-y to me in that I don’t think the madness of the masses will actually affect anything.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

18. Is Seth Rollins the top wrestler in WWE?

Derek: Yeah, I think so. Most people will say Daniel Bryan, but Rollins is so much more entertaining. He’s great in the ring and he’s a great character. He’s the MVP of wrestling right now. Would there be a more devastating injury for WWE right now than Rollins?

Will: I’m tempted to go with Brock here just because I’ve enjoyed him so damn much, but he’s still a part-timer. Rollins is definitely the guy. As you say, Daniel Bryan has many of the same qualities as a worker, but his feel-good gimmick isn’t especially compelling and, at risk of forfeiting my pro wrestling fan card, I’m a little sick of the Yes! chant. Rollins is the total package, and I can’t imagine what WWE would have to do if he went down.

19. Ryback thanked the fans for booing Roman Reigns. What do you make of that?

Derek: Interesting, seeing as Ryback has the same perceived issues that Reigns has. I think maybe Ryback was a little jelly.

Will: Def jelly. The Big Guy’s hungry! Feed him more, WWE! Feed him!

20. How much better would the Triple Threat match have been if Jim Ross called it?

Derek: If it was a 4 star match with the current commentary, it would have been 4.5 or 5 stars with JR calling the action. Do you think people would pay for a service that had JR call matches after the fact? Why couldn’t we have JR call Rollins’ elbow on the announce table? It’s not fair.

Will: Infinitely better, and I think I’m being completely reasonable in saying so. Michael Cole is an adequate play-by-play guy, but JR has that rare ability to make a match important just by being there. Imagine Mankind’s dive at Hell in a Cell without Ross on the call. Imagine Stone Cold stomping a mudhole in somebody without JR’s narration.

He’s up there with guys like Al Michaels and Keith Jackson as far as I’m concerned. Dead serious.

21. Should Curtis Axel be declared the winner since he was never technically eliminated?

Derek: He should get a match with Reigns for the number one contender spot. I wonder who would win.

Will: Oh my god how funny would it be if WWE resumed the Rumble with just Axel and Reigns? I now hope that’s exactly what happens.

22. It was announced Monday that John Cena will face Rusev at the inaugural Fast Lane PPV in February. Excited?

Derek: I guess. It’s about time. They’ve been building up to this for more months than I care to count. I’m pretty sure Rusev will win and Cena will win the rematch at ‘Mania, but it will be the most interesting Rusev match to date.

Will: It could be fun. Why not? More important, was Fast Lane really the best name they could come up with? Did they have to pay royalties to the broke-ass cop drama of the same name?

23. In a kayfabe interview, Byron Saxton asked Roman Reigns his thoughts on the notion that higher-ups had handpicked him to succeed. Thoughts?

Derek: That was stupid. I can’t believe that took place on a WWE show. Why would you ask a shoot question in a work interview? How is he supposed to answer? I continue to be perplexed by WWE “media” folks.

Will: Cringe-worthy stuff. It didn’t even seem like Reigns was in character; it felt like he was answering how he would on SportsCenter or 60 Minutes. Those sorts of interviews should discuss feuds and opponents, not crowds and PR. Again, I feel awful for the guy.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

24. Who should have been the last five guys in the Royal Rumble?

Derek: Reigns, Bryan, Ambrose/Ziggler, Rusev, and Big Show. It would be better if Bryan got eliminated by Rusev and Big Show. Ambrose and Ziggler would have been deserving. I couldn’t believe Ziggler got eliminated so quickly. I would have been fine with substituting Seth Rollins with any of those guys.

Will: Reigns, Bryan, Ambrose, Wyatt, and Rusev would have been my selections. Dolph probably belongs in there too, but you can’t put all babyfaces in the ring. I know this: Kane and Show should not have both been in the last four under any circumstances.

25. Who should have won the Royal Rumble?

Derek: I would have been fine with Ambrose, Rollins, Ziggler, or Bryan. They would have been better main event draws than Reigns.

Will: Something, anything other than what happened.

26. Is SmackDown worth watching this week?

Derek: I’m going to be tuning in. I never watch SmackDown anymore, but I’d like to see how they bounce back from Sunday’s backlash. I might finally start diving into NXT this week, too.

Will: I also never watch SmackDown, but since this is the first post-Rumble show, it is suddenly very important. The show recently switched back to Thursday nights, which is more likely to catch eyes. I’d like to watch. I should watch. Now I just need to figure out what channel the SyFy network is.

27. Are smark fans justified in their outrage this week?

Derek: I guess it depends. If they’re just mad because Daniel Bryan didn’t win, that’s stupid. I’m fine with outrage over Reigns winning, though. I wonder if people will actually follow through with their Network cancellations.

Will: Their outrage is as justified as any internet outrage is. Take that as you will.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

28. Are you excited for the impending Stardust vs. Goldust feud?!

Derek: Sure! It’s been teased for about a year now. I believe Goldust eliminated then-Cody Rhodes from the Royal Rumble last year, but nothing came of it. I’d rather watch that than the Miz vs. the Usos again.

Will: Yeah, why not! WWE has largely gone away from the weird gimmicks of the past, and it’s nice to have a couple guys who can still make it work. As wonderful as Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan are, I miss weird dudes who go by one name. I don’t think Kane or Undertaker would ever get their gimmicks off the ground these days. All aboard the weird latex express.

29. Are Miz and Mizdow finally going to start fighting each other?

Derek: It looks that way. I’m hoping they have a Wrestlemania match. That would be fun. I want to see if Mizdow still occasionally copies Miz while he’s fighting him.

Will: I really hope so. I’ve been waiting for them to turn against each other for weeks, and I actually credit WWE for letting it simmer. I think their first match, whenever it comes, should absolutely feature Mizdow mirroring Miz’s every move. MOAR MIZDOW.

30. If the Dust brothers and Miz/Mizdow turn on one another, is WWE essentially giving up on the Tag Team division?

Derek: I mean … who else is there? The Ascension, the Usos, and … the New Day? I’m assuming they’re keeping the New Age Outlaws around for a bit longer, because that division is a mess. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan could get back together. They surprisingly teamed up for a bit during the Rumble. Perhaps the Dudleys will reunite? Surely some new tag teams will be introduced soon.

Will: It feels like just yesterday we were talking about how much effort WWE was putting into the tag team division, but when you lay it out like that, the list of legitimate tag teams could shorten up in a hurry. They’ve been playing around with Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, but they both feel destined for singles careers.

I guess we’re throwing our lot in with the Ascension, eh? Maybe things are even worse than we feared.



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