The Daily Low Blow with Jon Stewart: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 3/4/15Posted: March 3, 2015
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Newark! Last week, I begged WWE to show me why Roman Reigns should main event Wrestlemania instead of constantly telling me how great he is. They responded by … having Seth Rollins beat him with a surprise roll-up pin so fearsome that the referee could have counted to five if he wanted to
Although, in fairness to Roman, he did unleash a spear on Rollins that looked like it BAH GAWD BROKE HIM IN HALF.
We also got the Michael Cole version: “Roman Reigns I think split Rollins in half! And I’m not exaggerating!” Far be it from me to accuse you of that, Michael.
So where should we take this party from here? Additional thoughts on Reigns? The prop known as the Intercontinental Championship Belt? Paul Heyman heeling off? The return of A.J. Lee? Jon Stewart kicking Rollins in the balls? The Miz’s “Niagara” commercial? What stood out most?
Will: I feel obligated to start with Reigns, but I don’t want to do something just because I feel obligated to do so. This is America, dammit. And few personalities have A) stepped into a WWE ring and B) become important, respected voices in American politics, so let’s dive into Stewart’s appearance.
He didn’t seem to get a huge pop when he came out—I’m curious how many Raw attendants are also voters—but he said his piece and handled the room like he’d been in WWE for years. He ginned up the Prudential Center crowd by invoking old horses like Austin and Foley, and by leaning on his Jersey heritage. In one joke, he showed more wit than the entire WWE creative team. It was a strong appearance, and family McMahon is fortunate that Stewart was willing to play his part.
He was simply superb. Years of hosting The Daily Show, hosting the Oscars, acting, and doing stand-up mean that he knows what to do with a mic in his hand, which is more than can be said of most humans, least of all the WWE roster. Stewart looked a little weird out there by virtue of the size differential between wrestlers and actors, but his voice was more important. He could have mailed the whole thing in, but he didn’t; he hand-delivered and confirmed the shipment to boot.
He cut a legit promo against Rollins, pointing out that the self-proclaimed future of WWE hasn’t earned a damn thing, least of all respect. He teased the inevitable, if distant, Rollins-Authority split, and pointed out the biggest kayfabe flaw in the Wrestlemania card: If Rollins is the future, the franchise, the biggest star in the biz, then why isn’t he headlining?
Rollins played along nicely, and his threats against Stewart were stopped only for the interference of one Randall Orton. Orton’s music hit, Rollins was distracted, and Stewart cemented his cameo as a great one by kicking Seth straight in the pills. It worked better, and felt better, than I ever expected a Daily Show-Raw crossover to. Kudos.
What do you think: any chance Jonny Stew sticks around WWE for the long haul? They could certainly use the help.
Derek: There’s definitely a chance. Stewart likes wrestling, so why wouldn’t he spend the twilight of his career as a highly paid part-timer doing something he enjoys? The question is how they would plan on using him versus how he would want to be used. I imagine Stewart would (understandably) balk at Vince barking in his ear constantly and telling him exactly what to say, so things would have to change for Stewart to join as a studio guy or commentator.
The much more fun (and much less likely) scenario involves Stewart as a manager or mouthpiece or onscreen GM. The promo he cut was already better than a good deal of the guys on the roster, and it was his first one! Though I suppose you could make the argument that he’s been cutting promos on FOX News for years.
WWE has had plenty of celebrity guests over the last year–Betty White, Aaron Paul, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Jackman, Kevin Hart, Flo Rida, Grumpy Cat, Larry the Cable Guy–and Stewart was the only one I hoped would come back. Sadly, he and Vince are like oil and water. I have my doubts that they could maintain a good working relationship.
Will: I’m not ready to touch on Reigns yet. Let us go from one multimedia star, Stewart, to another: Damien Mizdow. When last we saw Miz and Mizdow, the former was interrupting the latter’s commercial shoot in wonderfully obnoxious fashion.
Monday, Mizdow was backstage, preparing to show the spot to stray wrasslers not seeing Raw action. Miz showed up and demanded to see the ad, and overwhelmed Mizdow’s insistence to the contrary. The tape ran and the world saw that the ad was for “Niagara,” a Viagra knockoff, with Miz unwittingly playing a gentleman having erectile issues and Mizdow as the stud with no such issues.
Everyone present laughed at Miz, and his embarrassment was almost visceral enough to be sad. Miz snapped at Mizdow as one would expect him do, and he went so far as to slap his former stunt double straight in the mug. Mizdow did not take kindly to this, and made an incredible angry face as the two went nose-to-nose. I’m not sure if Miz/dow are going to make the Wrestlemania cut, but I am still enamored of this duo.
We have to be nearing the end of the Miz-Mizdow rope, right? How much longer can they stretch it out before these two come to blows in the ring?
Derek: No doubt. That was the first time Mizdow really looked like he was going to hit Miz. That look he gave Miz was incredible. Wrestlemania is obscenely long, so surely they’ll find a place for them. Everybody loves Mizdow.
Unrelated, but this was also the first show in a while that didn’t touch on the Dust Bros. Could that be relegated to the pre-show? Let’s run through a potential ‘Mania card with a bit of my own speculation and wishful thinking thrown in.
1. Bad News Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper vs. R-Truth (Six Man Ladder Match)
2. Rusev vs. Cena (I Quit Match)
3. Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella vs. Paige vs. A.J. Lee (Fatal 4-Way)
4. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
5. Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
6. HHH vs Sting
7. Brock vs Roman
This hypothetical card omits a likely pre-show match and a likely eighth match on the main card. This hypothetical card also omits Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Sheamus, the Dust Bros, Miz, and Mizdow. So who gets the last spot on the main card? Does Rollins face Orton, or does Orton do something else so Rollins can save his energy for a cash-in? Where does Sheamus fit in? Would they really cut him from the show after all of the vignettes? And would they really relegate Goldust from the main card in what might be his final match? Will WWE concede that the tag team division is so boring that they’re not even worthy of a pre-show match? I’ll be interested to see who gets snubbed.
Ready to talk about Reigns yet?
Will: Nope, it’s still not Reigns time. Let’s give Divas a chance, shall we? Paige and Nikki Bella squared off in a title bout, which Paige was poised to win via her PTO submission (a really neat move, by the way). Nikki’s sister Brie intervened and Nikki maintained the belt in the DQ loss.
The Bellas—who have disappointingly devolved into little more than Mean Girls extras—were primed to humiliate Paige again, but A.J. Lee’s music hit, and she and Paige cleared the Bellas out of the ring. Paige looked upon A.J. with a bemused curiosity, and A.J. later deemed the pair friends by virtue of their shared enemies.
It was a legitimate bit of story for the Divas, and I was nearly brought to tears by how happy I was for them. The ladies of WWE have been relegated to the gutter for ages, it seems, and it was jarring to see them treated with some respect. Paige and A.J. are both witty, compelling characters, and it turns out that goes a long way in making someone work on-screen.
Your gut feeling: Is this a sign of more good things to come, or was AJ’s return the real draw here?
Derek: I do think it’s a sign of more good things to come. After the Divas backlash last week and the continued love the NXT women are getting, they may actually try to make the matches something other than a Total Divas commercial. Paige and A.J. could feud for the next year and it would be better than what they’ve given us.
(By the way, speaking of backlash, did you know there was once a tag team match that featured Vince and Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels and God? It’s true!)
Since we’re discussing the womenfolk, we should probably point out that Alundra Blayze became the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. She is best known for bolting WWF for WCW as Women’s Champion, then dropping her belt in the trash in an Oscar-worthy performance on WCW Monday Nitro.
WWE usually inducts one woman each year, which means that somehow Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth are not going into the Hall of Fame together. I hope there’s a good reason for that.
Now will you talk about Roman?
Will: Nah, not yet, Roman; we’ll get to you and your dreamy blue eyes later. Let’s hit on the finest non-Jon Stewart promo of the night, brought to us by Paul Heyman.
It’s self-evident how good Heyman is. His voice, his delivery, and his diction are all top-class. He speaks like Pedro Martinez pitched: he changes speeds, he changes locations, he mixes up his deliveries, and then he breaks out the high heat at the best possible moment.
His microphones cut out multiple times on Raw, and he played it beautifully: “Obviously our sound guy is from New Jersey.” He managed to tie every production gaffe into his promo, using the mistakes as a springboard to crow about Reigns’ hopelessness against Brock Lesnar. He incorporated more than a few “Believe that”s into his speech, using Reigns’ catch phrase better than Roman ever could.
He’s brilliant, and I can’t imagine where WWE would be without him. Is there any wrestling scenario in which you wouldn’t trust Paul Heyman?
Derek: Maybe the creation of match stipulations? Google ECW’s “Born to be Wired” PPV if you have a strong stomach. Reading about the Barbed Wire Match between Terry Funk and Sabu was quite enough for me.
Other than that, he’s money. I loved watching him complain about the broken microphones, then mocked poor Lilian Garcia after she gave him hers. I might just watch him when Lesnar and Reigns square off.
Will: A couple quick hitters:
Curtis Axel is somehow the most over guy on the roster. I died when he interrupted John Cena and proclaimed that he had been in the Royal Rumble for 35 days. He’s completely, totally, unabashedly biting Hulk Hogan’s gimmick, and somehow it’s working. Then he got a match with Cena, and Cena destroyed him while wearing a weary, grumpy expression that would suit him well if he ever turns heel.
Cena will only get a match with Rusev if the big Bulgarian agrees to it. He hasn’t done so yet, but it isn’t difficult to imagine. Cena tried to put himself into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but Stephanie appeared to put the kibosh on that. She used a 30-year-old picture of herself with Andre as a means to exercise total, ahem, authority over the match, and took the air out of Cena’s sails by saying that this shit is bigger than him: “You’re not special. You’re not unique. It’s not where would WWE be without John Cena, it’s where would John Cena be without WWE?”
The Intercontinental Belt changed hands three times since I started writing this sentence. Bad News Barrett is the rightful champion, but Dean Ambrose, R-Truth, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, and Daniel Bryan have all staked a claim to the belt at some time during the past week or so. Every one of those guys laid hands on the belt Sunday, and they will duke it out in a ladder match for the IC belt at Mania. It’s like a casserole assembled out of leftovers, but such casseroles can be good sometimes.
I skipped the Uso & Naomi-Kidd & Natalya match. I give it 10 mehs out of 10.
So, um, what do you make of all this stuff? Which storylines are worth paying attention to?
Derek: Axel has been incredible. I can’t wait to see him in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Him doing his Hulk Hogan antics as John Cena looked on was one of the highlights of the night for me.
As I pointed out earlier in my fake Wrestlemania card, I do think the Cena-Rusev match is a certainty. I just hope they make it an I Quit Match. I don’t know if WWE would have the guts to do that since they won’t want to make either of them quit for future booking purposes, but with all the talk of Cena “submitting” that seems like the most entertaining way to go.
Passing the IC Belt around is a little silly, but I’m not going to complain about a huge ladder match. R-Truth is a bit of a head-scratcher, as pessimists will tell you his inclusion is WWE’s version of the Rooney Rule at work. But hey, I’m rooting for you Truth. Unless Ric Flair or the Hardys plan on suiting up, you’re the best WWE wrestler North Carolina has to offer. Shock the world!
Uh … anything else?
Will: Alright, we’ve avoided it as long as possible, but we have to hit on Roman Reigns.
I don’t know that I appreciated how big a deal it is to headline Wrestlemania until this week’s Raw. That importance is largely due to WWE’s own legend-telling, but that’s how the industry goes: if something is said to be significant, then it is.
I’m not terribly well-schooled in WWE history, but here’s a brief list of wrestlers who never main evented ‘Mania: Ric Flair, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Eddie Guerrero, and CM Punk. The first two on that list are all-time icons, Steamboat appeared in some all-time great matches, and Guerrero and Punk were among the roster’s best during their time in WWE. And none of them ever headlined Wrestlemania. And now Roman Reigns is going to.
I had generally been disappointed in all of the Reigns hate, thinking that people were boo-hooing because they weren’t getting what they wanted. But it isn’t about what people want; it’s about what wrestling deserves. The main event at Wrestlemania is as sacred as wrestling ground gets, and throwing Reigns in there, despite his incremental improvements, doesn’t sit right with wrestling fans, and nor should it.
He had some fine moments during Raw, including his spear of Rollins, his rollup-into-sitdown-powerbomb, and the suicide dive onto the Authority, but for me it was largely ruined by the subtext: it’s all a gambit by WWE to make Roman look strong. He’s still lame on the mic—to that end, why did smartass, squinty, jokey Reigns return? Didn’t they alter course to make him a stoic badass like a week ago?
It’s just a bummer, man. Is he winning you over at all? Can they make his main event feel someone legitimate by the end of the month?
Derek: I don’t think so. Whenever he takes a step forward, he takes two or three steps back. That midair spear was great, but the way he lost does not sell me on him beating Brock. I also picked up on his sudden switch in character on the mic. He sounded a lot more like the Roman Reigns who cut this promo:
Then there’s the commentary. Yet again, the announcers went out of their way to tell us how great Roman was. Even the heel announcer was talking about how worried Brock Lesnar should be. My goodness. The only thing about this match that excites me is the possibility or Rollins cashing in. Unless Lesnar drops out, of course.
I’ll just say this: if my fake Wrestlemania card comes to fruition, the Brock-Roman match would be the one I’m least interested in. I suppose that could change over the next four weeks, but I doubt it. You listed all of those guys who never main evented Wrestlemania, which is even more egregious when you point out that The Miz and Lawrence Taylor both did. While Lesnar-Reigns isn’t exactly Bam Bam Bigelow-Lawrence Taylor … I’m not thrilled.
Can’t we just get Lesnar to face Shawn Michaels and God?