A Hungry Beast and a Happy Demon: Wrasslin’ Thursday 7/9/15Posted: July 9, 2015
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Chicago! We had to partake on a Thursday again. Sue us.
We had a bonus show in Japan this week, but before we go there, let’s talk Monday night.
Will: The only matches I want to talk about from Raw are Cesaro vs. Cena and Lesnar vs. Cadillac. Don’t get me wrong, there were some other decent bits. The New Day-Lucha Dragons match was fun, though I think the real winner was Titus O’Neil’s commentary. We got some more Bray Wyatt mischief, this time in the form of an impostor who took a Superman punch from Roman Reigns. There’s something compelling about the Miz’s chickenshit antics in the Intercontinental Title triple-feud. Rusev put Dolph Ziggler on a stretcher, which I was completely fine with.
And, in the upset of the night, I didn’t hear one CM Punk chant in Chicago! Imagine that! (Or did I just miss one?)
It was a decent show all in all, but the two aforementioned clashes raised it up a good few notches by themselves. The Cesaro-Cena match wasn’t exactly an exercise in technical brilliance — I thought the two had some sloppy spots, at least by their standards — but they put on a great goddamn match. It grew larger and heavier the longer they went on, and it felt like the two were selling and reacting on exactly the same level. Each man would register a would-be knockout blow, only for the other to one-up it.
Cena ultimately won after hitting an AA off the second rope. It wasn’t CENAWINSLOL (although it’s always a little bit of that). It was a worthy finish to an outstanding match. For a moment I wondered if they might actually have Cesaro win it so that both Cena and Kevin Owens lost their belts, but that would have been shortsighted. Owens ran in after the match, but Cena was able to ward him off. Cena was the clear victor of the night, but all parties involved got something out of it.
They’ve got a good thing going here, even if it’s going to be tricky to keep things interesting for all three involved. I imagine the target endgame is a triple threat match for the US Title at SummerSlam. I would be absolutely giddy at that idea. I prefer one on one matches, but I don’t want to see any of these guys relegated just yet. Cesaro is the best wrestler, Owens is the most compelling character, and Cena is the biggest name. It’s an unusually exciting confluence of talent.
Derek: Yeah, not to go into broken record mode, since I think we say this every week, but Cena and Owens were one of the show’s highlights. I only wish more time was spent discussing Owens losing his belt in Japan. He went through great lengths to portray the NXT Championship as a cut above the US Championship, and now his belt is gone. Is he going to pretend all of that never happened and try to take Cena’s belt instead, or will he back off and focus his fury on Finn Balor? Neither man appeared on NXT live this week, which was just as disappointing as Brock not showing up last week after getting beat down by the Authority.
Will: That’s a great observation, and the only part of this week’s Owens-centric action that felt off. He paraded that belt up and down for weeks, and now it’s gone with nary a mention? Hm.
Derek: The wild card in all of this is Cesaro. His tag team partner is gone, and may never come back. He’ll get another opportunity to make it on his own, which will hopefully result in some more mic time. Everybody knows Cesaro can wrestle, so if he hopes to benefit from this situation, it needs to be by inserting himself into Owens and Cena’s entertaining banter. He’s in an interesting spot as the middle man between Owens’ loathsome heel behavior and Cena’s super face behavior. We all know he’ll make the matches better. Let’s see if he can make the feud better.
Will: Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar literally ripped the door off of a Cadillac and chucked it like a frisbee into the crowd. Seth Rollins goaded Lesnar to come challenge him and an ax-handle-wielding J&J in the ring. Lesnar approached, then fell back. Paul Heyman wheeled over some sort of emergency fire kit, and Lesnar pulled out two complete axes. After menacing those in the ring for a bit, Brock set his sights on the Caddy and fucking ruined it (and after J&J personalized it with camouflage racing stripes!). He broke a window. He smashed the rear windshield. He caved in the trunk. And then he ripped off a door and flung it off the stage.
It was great. Heyman described Lesnar as a god at the top of the show. I’m not sure what religion advocates violence against motor vehicles, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued.
Derek: I believe The First Church of Street Fighter advocates such violence.
I was actually a bit concerned while I watched this, because I was fairly certain someone was going to die when Brock launched that door into the audience. Look at this fan footage from that area. On TV, the camera cut away quickly and I was left with the notion that the momentum from the throw would propel it into someone’s face. Luckily for Brock, the door fell apart in midair and slowed down. Enough damage has been done by fireworks this week. A flying car door would have been too much.
Let’s touch on Japan for a bit. Most people who tuned in did so to see Kevin Owens and Finn Balor, and their match was pretty good. I think expectations were impossibly high, especially considering everyone involved must have been severely jet-lagged. The crowd was all-in on Balor, as he made a name for himself in Japan before joining WWE.
Speaking of the crowd, they were delightful. Sometimes they were legitimately enjoyable and sometimes they were ironically enjoyable, but they always managed to deliver. They were responsible for the greatest “this is awesome” chant of all time. They couldn’t say “Kofi” so they chanted “Ko-hee.” The “Suplex City” chant defied description.
Will: I loved the Japanese crowd. I have never watched any Japanese pro wrestling, nor do I totally understand how it took off in the country in the first place, but its audiences have evolved differently than American ones have. That was refreshing, as was the different look to the arena. I thoroughly enjoyed the polite-yet-frantic applause that followed big sequences and near falls. There was a pure enjoyment all night long. Bravo, Tokyo.
And, while we may beat this into the ground every week, Owens’ heel cred is only increasing. “I hate this stupid country and everybody in it,” he yelled, and he tossed the ceremonial flowers aside. He was kayfabe forced to go to Japan! So good.
Derek: As for Lesnar’s match, I didn’t really see the point. I thought they chose Kofi as his opponent because their contrasting styles would make for an awesome match. But no, Brock just squashed him. It was nice to see him again, but I don’t understand why they would put him in a match against someone half his size unless they were going for the most entertaining match possible. If he was going to squash someone, at least it could have been someone bigger, like Big E.
Paige, Tamina, and Nikki Bella had a triple threat match for the Diva’s Championship, which Nikki won clean. Say, if Owens and Balor got flowers and streamers in their match because it was a championship match, how come the Divas didn’t?
Will: Even in Japan they don’t give Divas a chance. Good grief.
The point about Lesnar’s match is a very fair one. The entire show was billed around him, and he was in and out in the blink of an eye. It wouldn’t have made kayfabe sense for Kofi to give him a competitive match, but it didn’t make a ton of TV sense to travel 14 hours for a five-minute squash. My guess is that they needed Lesnar for this show to attract the casual American audience. Balor’s inclusion drummed up plenty of support in Japan, but Brock made it a fail-safe venture.
It was a welcome change from the tedium of Raw. It had many of the best elements of an NXT show — great crowd, great matches, fresh talent — and the international setting provided extra big-show appeal. Michael Cole and Byron Saxton called a good show, in large part because they actually called matches. We made fun of poor Byron when he was minding the store after Cole got F5’d a while ago, but he works nicely as a color commentator. I got the sense that Vince and Co. weren’t in Cole’s ear as much as usual, and that freed him up to actually enjoy himself.
Derek: I got that sense as well. Nobody was trying to get me to download the WWE app. Nobody was trying to get me to watch Total Divas. The show was exclusively on the Network, so thankfully there were no pleas to sign up for it. It was like a house show that we could watch on TV, so they just called the matches. Not perfect by any means, but it was a throwback performance.
That’s right: vintage announcing.