Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.
At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.
Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.
Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.
Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.
The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…
Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.
Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.
I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?
Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:
He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.
Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.
Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.
Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.
And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.
Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.
Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Denver! Riding high (heh) after the Broncos’ Sunday night win over the Packers, the people of Denver were awfully happy this evening. Everyone was happy about everything! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd so excited to see Roman Reigns.
Though I admire Denver’s unexplainable (heh) happiness, I didn’t totally share their enthusiasm. Sure, the episode wasn’t a sleep aid like some of the episodes of Raw leading up to Hell in a Cell, but only some of the storylines advanced. Specifically, the Reigns-Rollins feud and the Divas Championship feud.
First, Triple H and Stephanie pit Reigns and Rollins against each other in a traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series match. Rollins recruited Kevin Owens and all three members of New Day. Only one of those four was recruited via sorcery.
Reigns recruited Dean Ambrose, Ryback, and the returning Usos. As far as I know, no sorcery was involved. But the Usos are indeed back, and it wasn’t lost on me that they were opposing New Day. Perhaps they’ll be the next group to challenge for the Tag Team Championship.
Anyway, the match ended with Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins in the ring together. Presumably uninterested in receiving a beating, Rollins pulled out a chair and took a loss by disqualification. So there wasn’t really a resolution and maybe I’m overselling the plot advancing, but it was at least an entertaining match. I can’t remember the last time a match got nearly 30 minutes on Raw.
Will: The time allotted to various matches and wrestlers was an encouraging development. I was pleasantly surprised when New Day’s music hit with a half hour left in the show. I wasn’t in love with the 5-on-5 match — I could have done without Ryback, anyway — but it was nice to see a match loaded with talent get some time to breathe. I imagine I’ll be changing my tune when someone (Reigns?) gets 45 minutes to cut an awful promo. Believe that.
The Lucha Dragons were another group that got an unusual amount of time and shine Monday. They were the subject of a brief video package — the sort that is more commonplace in NXT; Kevin Owens had a prerecorded promo as well — before their match against Sheamus and King Barrett. The Luchas put on a good show, elicited enthusiasm from the crowd, and beat the would-be ascendant tag team from the British Isles. The cynical side of me wonders if this was just a gambit aimed at winning over Hispanic-heavy Denver, but perhaps it signals a push for the Lucha Dragons. I’m intrigued, anyway.
And welcome back, Xavier Woods. Kofi and Big E held the fort admirably in his absence, but it is Woods who provides New Day’s delightfully goofy foundation.
Derek: Before the evening’s brodown, the Divas had a Fatal 4-Way match to see who would face Charlotte for the title at Survivor Series. Paige, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Brie Bella squared off, with Paige coming out on top as we predicted. I’ve enjoyed Paige as a heel, but I still feel like most of the Divas have nothing to do. Now that Paige has the title shot, how are the rest of them going to continue to matter? Are they going to continually be thrown in tag matches and tread water until someone else gets a title shot? Because that’s been going on for a long time, and it hasn’t been successful.
Here’s something to consider: a Women’s Tag Team Championship. If the belt is the only thing WWE can come up with for the women to fight over, then why not make some tag team belts? Paige and Charlotte can feud with each other, and all of the other Divas can fight over something else. I’d prefer that over every single Diva on the roster fighting for the Divas Championship to some degree.
Will: I don’t know, on all counts. We’re still hearing the phrase “Divas Revolution” entirely too much; I suppose I should stop worrying and love that bomb. I’m trying to map out potential angles for the rest of the women and having a tough time doing it. Becky Lynch has legitimate beef with Paige, but Paige is busy angling her way toward Charlotte. I suppose Becky could try to make Paige’s life hell in the meantime, but that feels redundant. Sasha Banks is primed for a push one of these days — I have to think she’ll get the next title shot once Paige and Charlotte run their course — but what to do with her now? I’ve been anti-Bella for the most part, but it would make some sense for Sasha to target Nikki and Brie as a means of making a name for herself in the big leagues. Where does that leave the rest of Team BAD? Who knows. A tag team title could go a long way.
(Also, Becky is going to have to explain her ring attire one of these days. The goggles are one thing. The copper-colored Tin Man pants are another.)
Derek: Hmmm, what else. Oh, the Wyatts have powers now! Bray Wyatt can make lightning strike and fire come out of the ring posts. He has decapitated Undertaker and Kane and absorbed their power. There can be only one!
This was the most disappointing storyline of the evening. It was unfortunately reminiscent of the buildup to WrestleMania, when Bray tried to carry the feud with Taker by himself. If they are indeed going to throw down at Survivor Series, I hope Kane and Taker actually show up. I have no interest in watching Bray come out to babble about nonsense every week and then they throw in a match on the final Raw before Survivor Series. Couldn’t they talk and play mind games with each other like Sting did to Triple H? Come on, WWE — please, please, please advance the plot in this feud.
Will: I sort of liked this; someone has to conjure flames out of those turnbuckles. But I agree that Bray needs someone to work off of. He’s as good on the mic as anyone these days, but I can only take so much one-man show. Whether it’s Undertaker and Kane returning or Bray targeting someone else just for kicks until they do, we need to see some Wyatts in the ring. That old show, don’t tell thing comes to mind.
One running subplot of the Wyatt Family fireworks show I enjoyed: Bray kept talking about how he had absorbed the souls of Kane and Taker. Commentator Byron Saxton said things to the effect of, “But did he really??” It was a wonderful bit of dissonance in a largely post-kayfabe era. Byron took no issue with the premise of one man stealing the souls of two others. He just wanted to know if he did it for real. Wrestling is the best.
Derek: As for the lower tier feuds, Jack Swagger returned to briefly confront Alberto Del Rio and his former manager, Zeb Colter. Seems like a placeholder feud for Del Rio, who will squash Swagger because he doesn’t have anything better to do until Cena comes back. Swagger’s a pro at this; he did the same for Rusev last year.
Will: Yes. Meh.
Derek: Finally, Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze continued their feud of narcissism over a girl who looks like she has coconut Malibu breath 90% of the time. Breeze is probably going down the Adam Rose path, meaning he won’t really do anything of note for a year until he feuds with a bunny and said bunny eventually turns into Frank from Donnie Darko.
Will Summer Rae be a serial killer at this time next year? Stay tuned!
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Buffalo! Honesty is important, so we’re going to cut to the chase: Raw wasn’t very good this week. Since it wasn’t very good, we’re going to go over it briefly before we each list five of our favorite wrestling entrances of all time. If there’s anything the internet loves, it’s lists.
Kane continued to torment Seth Rollins with his “I might be evil but maybe not” facade. In retaliation, Rollins submitted an anonymous complaint to Human Resources. That led to a visit from HR representative Ashley …
… who got a visit from the cleavage police before the end of the evening.
Ashley spent the evening evaluating Kane, eventually deciding that Kane was sound of mind and that if anyone should be disciplined, it was Rollins. Rollins didn’t like that too much, so he did the sensible thing and gave Kane a Pedigree and attacked him with a chair.
After Corporate Kane was already in the back of an ambulance, he magically morphed into Demon Kane and strolled back into the ring to administer an ass whippin’.
The ass whippin’ was administered, and justice was briefly served. Cheers to you, Demon Kane.
And, well, the rest of it could be summed up with a sentence or two per match. Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had a pretty good main event match. John Cena and the Dudleyz took on New Day. I especially enjoyed New Day tormenting Cena when Xavier Woods answered Cena’s first US Open Challenge since winning the belt at Night of Champions. The Divas exchanged insults. The Big Show and Paul Heyman also exchanged insults prior to the former’s match with Brock Lesnar at Madison Square Garden this weekend. I wonder who will win that one! Anything else to cover, besides this sweet spear?
Will: Nope, you got it. There were definitely some good things about Raw this week. The Wyatt-Reigns match/brawl was good insofar as it focused solely on them. There were no shenanigans, no interference, none of that. The match ended in a draw via double count-out, and then they beat on each other outside the ring, culminating in that delicious spear up the stairs. It felt like the stakes were raised, which cannot be said of most of the other on-screen action.
The Duality of Kane continues to be fantastic. He seems to get a kick out of cheesing it up, and he’s doing it really well. The whole HR angle was equal parts silly and inspired; I imagine a great many people can relate to the drudgery of office life.
Beyond that, it was a rough week. There was a lot of rehashing old feuds and hyping up the Brock Lesnar-Big Show fight at Madison Square Garden. The Divas segment made me cringe quite a bit; Charlotte must have gotten the charisma from her mother’s side. There were two different 6-man tag matches made off-screen for no discernible reason. It was the sort of Raw that inspires us to talk about anything else.
Derek: Okay, let’s talk entrances. Maybe “Top 5” isn’t the best label for what we’re doing. It’s more “Five Entrances We Enjoy.” So please don’t assault me for not including Undertaker’s entrance. In no particular order …
This entrance is so ridiculous that it includes the Insane Clown Posse. I wouldn’t really say I “enjoy” it, but it makes me smile. And some bonus trivia: that guy in the mask who’s obsessed with Eric Cartman is Earthquake!
Yeah, Gangrel pretended to be a vampire, and that was pretty weird. But I still think this is one of the most underrated entrances of all time. They came out of the ground, surrounded by fire, looking completely insane, and that’s about it. It doesn’t sound like much, but I always liked their music, and thought the entrance went well with it.
I don’t much care for Triple H’s current entrance, but I do enjoy this one and his DX entrance. And just look at that outfit! With all that denim and leather, you better believe a fight is about to break out.
Jericho’s attitude is perfect for his entrance. He has so much charisma, and the beginning of his music lends itself to some excellent pops. It’s still a treat hearing the countdown, like we did at Night of Champions.
Punk has two entrance themes, and I enjoy them both. I always loved him checking his watch before clobberin’ time and walking up the ramp backwards. Man, seeing the way his hometown crowd treated him at Money in the Bank makes me miss him even more. Is it wrong that I sort of hope he gets his ass kicked in UFC so he’ll wrestle again? Oh well. At least we have the Network.
Will: Fine choices all. Punk’s Money in the Bank entrance is an absolute all-timer, and I was a huge Brood mark in my younger days. And the Oddities! I’d forgotten about those guys. It’s all good. Lemme dive into some that I enjoy.
New Age Outlaws
The Outlaws’ entrance is like a Marvin Gaye song or a white wedding dress. It never gets old. If only the same could be said for Road Dogg and Billy Gunn themselves.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Perhaps the most important thing in an entrance to me is immediate recognizability. It gets no better than the breaking glass that precedes the Rattlesnake coming down to stomp a mudhole in somebody.
This particular video is even better because we get about 45 seconds of Vince and Shane McMahon talking, which means that we also get Vince and Shane looking horrified as Stone Cold struts to the ring.
I like Wyatt’s entrance for what it is, but especially for what it isn’t. The music builds slowly; it isn’t the HARD RAWK of Roman Reigns or Kevin Owens or Seth Rollins. He enters in the darkness, but it doesn’t feel like he’s biting the Undertaker. And if you want to keep it kayfabe only, his deliberate approach to the ring only exacerbates his mind games.
Roddy Piper (jump to 1:37)
I’ll be honest; I didn’t know a thing about this entrance until after Piper died and I read about it in David Shoemaker’s obituary. Here’s what the Masked Man had to say about it:
The other wrestlers that night were ferried to the ring on rolling platforms, but Piper’s malfunctioned, and instead of waiting he came to the ring on his own two feet. It was the perfect final entrance for a man who had forced his way into every big moment he’d ever achieved. The subtle athleticism in his jog is powerful, and the pride in his gait — the look of a man finally basking in his glory — is touching.
Like the man himself, this is bound to be a semi-controversial choice, but I say this list cannot exist without Cena. He gets the crowd going like no one else working today, and this entrance in Miami after WrestleMania 28 is described on YouTube as “the biggest boo on Raw ever.” Good enough for me.
Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2015/09/wwe-night-of-champions-preview/
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three/four days later) from St. Louis/Kansas City! So much to cover this week that we had to move to —
Mah … mah gawd! Mah gawd! That’s the Undertaker’s music!
Yes, the main event between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar ended in shenanigans, but not the kind we were expecting. Just as Brock was about to put Rollins down, the bell tolled, and Taker appeared to get revenge on Brock for ending his undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX.
Taker’s return was shocking, to say the least. Six months ago, rumors were flying around that he was in poor health and he had wrestled his final match. He did wrestle Bray Wyatt at ‘Mania, but he wasn’t involved in the buildup at all. He showed up in Santa Clara, had a 15-minute match, and bailed. Folks were speculating that he’d have his final match at WrestleMania 32 in his home state of Texas (perhaps against Brock or Sting), but I don’t think anyone predicted he’d make an appearance at SummerSlam, or Battleground, or Monday Night Raw. It certainly wasn’t on our radar.
To WWE’s credit, it’s a clever way to handle Lesnar. His story arc was starting to look suspiciously like it did at this point last year, when he was slated to face WWE Heavyweight Champion John Cena at SummerSlam. Brock gave Cena a legendary beating and wrestled sparingly until he dropped the belt at ‘Mania. It was easy to see the story repeating itself with Rollins in place of Cena. Now, Brock can be removed from the title picture, and Rollins, for better or worse, can take on a new challenger.
While I’m leaning toward “for worse” in regards to Rollins, Brock is moving full steam ahead. I think it’s safe to say we both got chills when Taker’s music hit. Is this acceptable behavior for guys in their late 20’s? Are our future children going to track this article down one day and use it as a reason to not listen to us?
Will: I already hate our prospective children if that’s the case. Fuck you, future bearer of my DNA — I’ll let professional wrestling give me chills until I’m the Undertaker’s age.
It was incredible. I didn’t watch Battleground live, and I avoided spoilers as best I could until my Monday night viewing, and I was fortunate enough to escape news of the Dead Man’s return. I wondered, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone, how Rollins-Lesnar could be done in a way that was both kayfabe realistic and reasonably interesting. Lesnar squashing Cena was brilliant because that sort of thing is so unusual for a main event, but it’s not a well you can go back to. Taker’s return was the deus ex machina.
Some may be more cynical: a Taker-Brock showdown at SummerSlam is the sort of thing that can paralyze WWE. Instead of building up worthwhile storylines with the everyday talent, they look to a part-timer and a virtual retiree to headline a PPV. Doing so at SummerSlam isn’t as egregious as Wrestlemania, but the effect is similar.
Still, I loved it. Part of that is because of Undertaker’s enduring legacy and legendary status, which is nearly unmatched. But the bigger part is that his intervention actually made sense. By the time the lights were out, everyone in the house knew what was up. There was an actual reason for Undertaker to seek vengeance against Brock, and there’s no better way to do so than pre-empting his victory in a title bout.
Derek: Let’s move on to something a little more cringeworthy: the notion that Rollins’ next challenger will be John Cena.
I guess it was only a matter of time. It’s been almost a full year since Cena was champion. Not only that, but two straight WrestleManias have passed without Cena in the main event. Logic dictates that Cena would put Kevin Owens over so he could blossom into a main eventer himself. Unfortunately, CENAWINSLOL dictates that CENA WINS (LOL), and immediately inserts himself back into the WWE WHC picture. The treatment they gave Cena Monday night just about ruined the Undertaker’s return for me. It was such a bummer in so many ways.
First, Cena already has a championship belt, but they’re putting him into the hunt for another. One simply isn’t enough for Cena. Why have Cena drop the US Championship before challenging Rollins? Screw that. He must have all the belts.
Second, if Monday night is any indication, Owens comes out of this a huge loser. Not only did he lose the NXT Championship to Finn Balor, but he lost two of his three matches with Cena and he might be entering into a feud with … gulp … Sheamus. I’d say they’re bringing his momentum to a screeching halt, but that sounds a little generous. More like they stopped his momentum, kidnapped it, beat it with a crowbar, abandoned it in a warehouse, and blew the warehouse up. This is the kind of momentum stoppage that needs a Lazarus Pit to be resurrected.
Let’s just hope Owens’ little spat with Sheamus was a one-and-done type of thing. I thought for sure Owens and Cena would have one more match at SummerSlam. Maybe a No DQ or Falls Count Anywhere match to keep it fresh, as I thought their Battleground match looked a little too familiar at times. Then Owens could move on as US Champion and Cena could move on to Cena things, which could possibly include challenging Rollins. Instead, Cena goes over (as if he needed it) and Owens gets buried (and he definitely didn’t need it.) Am I missing something? Does Owens and Cena going their separate ways have more potential than I’m giving it credit for?
Will: I want very much to be optimistic about this. I actually enjoyed Cena challenging Rollins insofar as it fit their respective characters — it’s nice when plots fit the players. But as you are, I’m mildly horrified by the notion of those two engaging in a prolonged feud. It’s tricky; Cena has been among the most dependably entertaining names in wrasslin’ over the past year. His US Open Challenge has been legitimately inventive and has provided a stage for plenty of youngsters (Neville, Zayn, Owens) to get a moment in the spotlight. And yet, Cena’s been putting guys over by putting himself over, which just feels weird. Getting another crack at a title he absolutely does not need would make it even weirder.
Owens is the one I’m more worried about, and 1000 percent of that is because of his potential connection to Sheamus. I’ve decided that I just plain don’t care about anything Sheamus does. I don’t even dislike him (well, that much); I just want him off the screen entirely. I don’t find him interesting in the ring, on the mic, or in general. He is a giant pale sign that it’s time to fast forward.
I hate to be a hater; sorry, fella. Owens has been superb since coming on the scene, and there are precious few people I wouldn’t want to see him in a program with. Sheamus happens to be one of them. Fingers crossed.
Derek: Roman Reigns continued his uncharacteristic losing streak at Battleground after a returning Luke Harper interfered, allowing Bray Wyatt to pick up the win. Ambrose joined back up with Reigns on Monday night, though its unclear what the plan is going forward. They could be having a tag team match, or they could simply be watching each other’s backs. Too bad they may not have their own singles matches, but there’s not a whole lot more for either of them to do at this point.
Will: I worry that both Reigns and Ambrose are losing their momentum. Ambrose’s is more plot-driven; he was left out of Battleground and has been generally overlooked over the past couple weeks. It wouldn’t take too much to spruce him up; give him another move or two, keep the clothesline usage to a minimum, pick a certain type of crazy to focus on, and tell the announce team to take it easy with “THE LUNATIC FRINGE” (one of those is pure pipe dream).
It’s Roman I’m more worried about. I thought for a little while that he had gotten back to square one with the fans after being at square minus-2 billion after winning the Royal Rumble, but it seems like plenty of folks still don’t like him, and he doesn’t quite know how to handle it. And actually, I think he’s doing alright, it’s just that people hate the goddamn Superman punch — I don’t blame them.
As for the Wyatt Family Reunion: hell yeah. Harper can do more in the ring than Bray can, and their getting back together works without requiring any explanation. With Erick Rowan out for a while with an injury, why not get the fam back together? Wyatt is best as a talker, and Harper as a brute. It just works.
These four combined bring plenty to the table, and even if things are a little clumsy in the run-up, good things oughta happen when they collide.
Derek: The Divas did indeed end up with a match at Battleground in the form of a triple threat match between Charlotte, Brie Bella, and Sasha Banks. It was a solid match, despite losing a couple of points because I had to listen to Naomi’s horrendous entrance music. I’ll keep saying it until a change is made: Naomi has the worst entrance music in WWE, and it isn’t close. And now she wants her little trio to be called “Team B.A.D.” (Beautiful and Dangerous)? Yeesh. Sasha Banks must have drawn the short stick.
Anyway, Charlotte made Brie Bella submit again on Monday, but Banks got vengeance later in the night when she made Paige submit. That’s right, two Divas matches in one night! And that doesn’t even include the unfortunate continuation of the Lana-Summer Rae catfight. SummerSlam could be the most Diva-heavy show in quite some time.
Will: “Team B.A.D.” is so bad. Oh my god. It’s awful. Aside from her glowing boots, Naomi’s packaging leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not sure she’s quite up to being the leader of a mini-faction, and I could certainly see Sasha stepping into that role. She is the Boss, after all.
This has all been great! The ladies are really showing out and making the most of their opportunities. Charlotte looks to be the real deal (I adore her entrance music), and all of the new blood came just as things were getting a bit stale. Again, I’m somewhat cautious in my hopes that WWE can keep this going long term, but in the meantime it’s all good.
One hair in the soup: the entire revolution storyline has been a bit contrived. What exactly have the Bellas been doing to everyone that’s so terrible? Yes, Nikki’s been the champion for a while, but the talk of the Bellas’ mighty reign of terror doesn’t quite jibe with what I’ve seen on screen. Yes, there have been some twin hijinks, but it’s made to sound as though Brie and Nikki have been locking the other women in a closet and tossing in smoke grenades.
Still, things are certainly trending up in Divaland.
Derek: Finally, let’s touch on the Intercontinental Championship picture. Ryback’s schedule title defense against Miz and Big Show was canceled due to his hospitalization with a staph infection. Looks like the IC belt could be cursed. Daniel Bryan had to vacate it, and now Ryback might as well. How do you think they’ll handle it? Do you think they’ll take it away, or bank on The Big Guy returning before SummerSlam? Should they just go ahead and give the belt to Cena?
Will: THEY CALL HIM BIG MATCH JOHN, MAGGLE!
It sucks for Ryback, especially after Bryan suffered a similar fate. I don’t love The Big Guy in the ring, but he really loves the business and I think he took pride in being Bryan’s successor.
As for who oughta take the belt over…am I crazy to want to give it to the Miz? His mic work is asshole artistry. He gins up real heat like few can. I hate the idea of seeing he and Show continue their song and dance for another month, but I have to think there’s another way.
What if Miz kept ripping on Ryback — and Bryan — for getting hurt, and someone like Neville stepped up to defend their honor? Maybe a Fatal Four Way at SummerSlam to decide the title. Show could hang around for the sake of storyline consistency (though I wouldn’t be upset if he found another , while two more promising challengers inject themselves into the fray. Is it too naive to hope for a Mizdow resurrection?
After seeing the Undertaker return, a resurrection feels just about right.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Atlanta! The plot advanced! The plot advanced! GOOD GOSHAMIGHTY, THE PLOT ADVANCED.
That’s right, I’m talking about the Divas! At long last, stuff happened. It wasn’t the Bellas featuring Alicia Fox going Mean Girls against a friendless Paige. Finally, Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter) got promoted. That was no surprise, because it should have happened months ago. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks were unexpected, though. Charlotte and Becky Lynch joined up with Paige, while Sasha Banks joined Naomi and Tamina. Three factions! And at least one of them is interesting. Maybe more!
This will presumably conclude with a big SummerSlam match, which will surely be a step up from last year’s Brie Bella-Stephanie McMahon showdown. It has the potential to be several steps up, but it also won’t surprise me if Vince decides it should be a five minute farce in between R-Truth-Barrett and Sandow-Axel.
I’m curious to see if the new Divas are here to stay. Kevin Owens was a mainstay on Raw even as he was NXT Champion, so Sasha Banks could be as well. Surely Charlotte won’t go back any time soon. Becky Lynch is the wild card. Like a highly touted MLB prospect, she may just force WWE to keep her around.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing of all is we’re leading with the Divas. Yes, Sports Monocle isn’t exactly the first website folks visit for wrasslin’ talk, but we are wrestling fans and we (well, at least I) think it’s the top story of the week. I can’t be alone in that belief. Maybe the Divas will get a chance after all?
Will: I could barely believe it even as it was happening. Stephanie hadn’t appeared except to be a cruel authority/Authority) figure in a while, yet there she was shepherding in a whole new era of women’s — pardon me, Divas — wrestling. It was a very cool moment for a bunch of reasons. The distinct looks of each stable-to-be were cool. All three Bellas being locked in submission holds was cool, as was Charlotte’s modified figure four. The newcomers getting legitimate pops was cool. Seeing the ex-NXT girls celebrate their newfound WWE-ness together was cool. It was all very cool, and very exciting, and a very welcome change from the norm.
The challenge, of course, will be figuring out how to actually use all of these people and give them stories that make their time worthwhile. Monday night was promising, but it’s relatively easy to make the beginning of a storyline exciting. The hard part is getting that seed to grow, and then harvesting at the right time. I don’t want to throw too much water on the fire — this may be the best we’ve seen of WWE women since Paige’s debut. I’m just curious to see what happens next.
Derek: Let’s move on to Sunday night’s main event between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar. Monday night gave us the obligatory contract signing that ended in violence. Rollins attached an axe handle under the table, and Brock did not appreciate that. One might consider that what Paul Heyman calls “breaking the 11th Commandment.”
J&J Security were strangely absent, leaving only Kane as Rollins’ bodyguard. You’re not going to believe this, but Rollins turned on him yet again! What a twist.
I’ve been watching old Attitude-era Raws when I go to sleep, and my #FreeKane beliefs have never been stronger. He went toe-to-toe with the Undertaker! At times, the Undertaker was scared of him! HE DESECRATED THE GRAVESTONES OF HIS OWN PARENTS!
Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t need to make a comeback, but the rest of it does. The Kane of 1998 would not be tolerating Seth’s behavior. And even if the Kane of today is willing to tolerate it to some degree, this stuff with Rollins lost its luster months ago. Let it go.
Will: One would hope that when Kane eventually returns from his latest vacation — maybe he’ll go to Hawaii again! — that he’ll set his sights on Rollins and finally right some of the many wrongs that the champ has brought against him. He’s long been the unsung workhorse of Rollins’ ascendance, and I’m thirsty for some revenge.
In the short term, however, I kinda like what they did with Kane and J&J. Seth and his cronies were able to give Brock one good beatdown, and nearly a second, but Brock has worn away Rollins’ defenses and left him a king with no castle. Their match is now (or seems to be) a proper 1-on-1 affair, which spells doom for the champion on paper. If we’re keeping kayfabe, it will be as one-sided as the Lesnar-Cena match that birthed Suplex City, but I have a hunch that things will be a little more interesting this time.
A couple other asides:
– I’m out on the whole 11th Commandment thing. It’s just corny.
– Rollins declared that he would burn Suplex City to the ground, but I think it’s been beaten into the ground enough already. I get why it’s happened, and it could be a lot worse. It’s just a bummer to see an awesome ad lib corrupted by the man, you know?
– Rollins is such an asshole. I love it.
Derek: What say we mix the rest of our Raw recap in with picks and thoughts for Battleground?!
King Barrett vs. R-Truth (Pre-Show)
Derek: I’m still not totally sure where this feud came from. Truth pretends to be a king sometimes, and Barrett doesn’t like it? I think I speak for everyone when I say Bad News Barrett should make a comeback.
Will: This has been a very odd running subplot, even if it’s just meant to be comedic filler. It’s so absurd that I can’t even take issue with it — it isn’t like Truth’s plunger-wielding kingdom is any more ridiculous than Barrett’s, itself born out of a not-that-important pseudo-PPV. Bad News is definitely Barrett’s strongest angle, and I hope he gets back to the pulpit at some point. In the meantime, at least the crowd seems to like Truth, and I think that’s enough for him to get the win. Also, there’s a strong chance that I don’t watch this match.
The Prime Time Players vs. The New Day (Tag Team Championship)
Derek: I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I could see either team winning, and I could see it being the best match of the night or the worst. I’ll say the Prime Time Players successfully defend with New Day taking back the gold at SummerSlam.
Will: I’m not sure either. The PTPers have done well with their push to the top, with Titus O’Neil especially looking like someone who could stand on his own. I enjoyed their match (with Mark Henry) against New Day Monday night, and their little leaning dance thing is kinda fun. I still don’t quite have a sense of who Titus or Darren Young are, but New Day has enough personality for that to not really matter.
Something from this match that applied to a few others as well: I’m really enjoying the ongoing trend of taunt- and move-stealing. New Day mimicked O’Neil’s barking thing, and I just can’t not love it, especially for a heel. It’s an age-old device, but Kevin Owens revitalized it when he started biting Cena’s schtick.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
Derek: I’m cautiously optimistic. This feud has gotten a bit less screen time than I thought it would get, but it’s fairly interesting. They don’t like each other and they’re going to settle their differences through the magic of violence. I can get behind that.
While we’re here, there are two things I can’t get behind. The first is no Dean Ambrose. He hasn’t managed to insert himself into any of the storylines and looks to be getting the night off. I still wish he had entered into a mutually beneficial partnership with Brock Lesnar.
The second is (facepalm) no Divas match. Come on, guys! I just talked about what a good job you were doing, and now there’s no Divas match on the card?! It’s entirely possible that Stephanie will announce a “surprise” Divas match on Sunday (or maybe on Smackdown) but as it stands now, the Divas won’t be making an appearance. As the mass bewildered of Twitter would say, SMH.
Will: I don’t get the Ambrose non-usage at all. Even if he isn’t going to be in a match, he should somehow be involved, right? He and Reigns are still friends as far as we know, yet during the Reigns-Wyatt brawl — which was meant to be an Ambrose-Wyatt match — Dean just chilled out while his boy went to work. I suppose one could argue that he wanted to let Reigns handle his own business, but that’s awfully reasoned logic for an alleged lunatic.
The lack of a women’s (I’m just gonna call it women’s now) match sucks too, and it makes me wonder how long the whole NXT takeover plan has been in the works.
As for the actual Reigns-Wyatt match, who knows? As with many matches on the card, I’m not sure which way they’ll take it. Will it be a clean finish? Will a third party be involved? Will we be seeing a rematch or re-imagining at SummerSlam? As much as I enjoy Bray’s promos and vignettes, he’s a tough guy to peg with how little ring work he’s been doing recently.
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
Derek: I keep forgetting Sheamus is Mr. Money in the Bank. I’m struggling to identify the most interesting thing he’s done in the last month. And he’s probably going to be champion before 2015 is over. I’ll enjoy watching that play out. Those won’t be fun Wrasslin’ Wednesdays.
I’m predicting an Orton victory because I remember he exists from time to time.
Will: I actively enjoy not caring about Sheamus. I don’t even dislike him. I just don’t care. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think about him. He’s a big pasty idiot with dumb hair and a worse goatee — is that what I’m supposed to think? I get that these guys have some history, and they’re not bad workers. They just don’t do much for me.
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (US Championship)
Derek: The weeks go on, and no one is tired of this feud. God bless these two.
Last week, we wondered how Cesaro would fit in to the picture, and WWE responded by tossing a recovered Rusev in as well. While Rusev appeared in this feud, Dolph Ziggler and Lana didn’t appear at all. Perhaps WWE realized everyone in that storyline is being run into the ground and they want to call a mulligan. That’s probably the wisest course of action.
As for the match, I think Cena wins again, but only because I think Owens is going over at SummerSlam. Cena hasn’t been on the winning side at SummerSlam since 2010, and that was a 7-on-7 match. The last time he won a singles match at SummerSlam was against Randy Orton in 2007. While CENAWINSLOL typically triumphs at WrestleMania (and most other times), he has mostly given the spotlight to others at SummerSlam. Since Owens is probably full-time WWE now, a SummerSlam win over Cena and US Championship run would do him some good.
Will: I would absolutely watch a three-hour show that was variations of matches with these four guys. Cesaro pulled out so many incredible moves that I lost count. Rusev survived the creative abortion that was the Ziggler feud, and looks like he could stay relevant post-Lana. Owens continues to excel acting as a sort of Joker to Cena’s Batman.
How about this: For all the lamenting we (and others) do about the pervasiveness of CENAWINSLOL, he is the guy who’s been at the center of all of this. All three of the other guys deserve credit for putting in good work in a big spot, but I think it says something that some of the best action of the summer has been the most Cena-centric. Maybe that’s just due to his longevity and thus our familiarity with him, but whatever the reason, here’s a tip of the cap to John Cena for making me care about all parties involved.
Ryback vs. Big Show vs. Miz (Intercontinental Championship)
Derek: Errrrrr. Ryback wins? Maybe he gets something more interesting to do before next month?
Will: This could be a fun little popcorn match. I’m looking forward to Miz’s inevitable begging not to get his ass kicked.
Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Derek: I still can’t believe this match is happening at Battleground. A couple of weeks ago I predicted this match would end in shenanigans, and I’m sticking by that. The two have a great match, but something weird happens and they meet again next month for their “real” match.
Will: You’ve seen enough to know a thing or two about how this sort of match tends to go. It’s a legitimately huge one, and probably bigger than Battleground deserves. It’s a bit like the Reigns-Wyatt match in that I feel like something screwy will happen, but I have no idea what. Something screwy almost has to happen in any Lesnar match because he’s such a monster. Rollins’ smarminess only increases the odds. I can’t wait.