Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
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.
Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Chicago! Times are dark here on the wrasslin’ corner of our website. As you may (or may not) have noticed, we didn’t run Wrasslin’ Wednesday last week. The unofficial reason for that was writer apathy. It was just so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to say anything interesting about it, and I doubted anyone would want to read our attempts at manufacturing interest.
Well, wrasslin’ hasn’t really gotten better. A recap of Raw last week or this week (excluding the NXT PPV) would read very similarly to the one we wrote two weeks ago. So, that’s a problem.
Will: I finished watching Raw moments ago. I wish I wanted to argue with you and explain why it hasn’t been that bad lately. There are plenty of performers I like and a couple angles I’m interested in, but precious few things feel like they matter. One exception would be the impending Brock Lesnar-Undertaker bout, but even that has been neutered thanks to all the rehashing that’s been done on-screen. Do we need multiple recap segments every episode of Raw? I’m growing weary of the coverage just like we have with FanDuel.
Derek: We’re approaching Hell in a Cell, which is the first PPV we wrote about on this site last year. We’ve exhausted a good deal of our random novelty wrestling notes, so we need something to happen. If we were reviewing a TV show that was just repeating itself, we could make fun of it for a few weeks, but after a while we would either stop writing about it or the show would get canceled. Raw isn’t getting canceled any time soon, so we may end up taking some occasional breaks between our pre- and post-PPV analysis on WFNY. I didn’t get into the game of wrestling commentary so I could stare blankly at my computer screen for two hours once a week. Step up your game, WWE. No wonder your ratings suck.
Will: What, you mean the whole Rusev-Lana engagement angle didn’t tickle your fancy? Kane and Triple H trying to have a phone call didn’t do it for you? How about Cesaro teaming up with Neville against King Barrett and Sheamus? No?!
Derek: Before recapping Raw, I should say that if you still haven’t watched the NXT PPV from last week, you need to get on that. Sasha Banks and Bayley were the main event, and I’d say they had a good chance to main event a WWE PPV if I wasn’t so sure WWE would run them into the ground with an alarming quickness.
Derek: Kane kicked off the show with a phone call from Triple H and Stephanie, who were running late. They decided to put their clearly insane Director of Operations in charge. What could possibly go wrong? (Laugh track.) Kane proceeded to book himself in a lumberjack match with Seth Rollins.
Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton followed with a telegraphed pissing match over who should be the follower and who should be the leader when the two face Luke Harper and Braun Strowman at Hell in a Cell. Dean called Randy “kiddo,” which was pretty funny. Randy responded to this by discussing it rationally. What happened to you, Randy?
Will: Dean’s hair is getting kind of long. That’s exciting.
Derek: New Day interrupted to take a few heelish shots at the folks of Chicago. If there was one thing worth mentioning from Raw last week, it was the fact that New Day ended the show standing over the Dudley Boyz, Dolph Ziggler, and John Cena. That’s a lot of star power for them to take down, especially when outnumbered.
Will: New Day is one of the few things that WWE has going for it right now, and the Federation — er, the Entertainment? — deserves some credit for that. New Day feel like actual people who actually respond to what’s happening around them. They go out of their way to make their promos worth watching. They were the only ones to make use of their time ringside during the Rollins-Kane lumberjack match. Some of this is because they’re heels, but would it be that hard for a face besides John Cena to show a little wit every once in a while?
Derek: After a few jokes at Chicago’s suspense, Kane appeared on the Titantron to put Orton and Ambrose in a match with Kofi and Big E. That match was set to begin … right now. Kofi ended the match by pushing Orton into Ambrose, then rolling Orton up in a small package.
Will: It’s the subtlety and nuance that I love most.
Derek: A match between Nikki Bella and Naomi followed, which featured a video package of the Bayley-Sasha match from NXT. WWE just wanted us to know good things could happen, but they won’t. Thanks, guys! Brie Bella jumped on the announce table to mock the crowd’s “We want Sasha!” chant, which ended with Sasha throwing her off said table. While this was going on, Nikki finished off Naomi with a Rack Attack.
Will: I kinda enjoyed the Brie-Sasha thing. The Chicago crowd was extra superduper smarky — were the “Husky Harris” chants at Bray really necessary, guys? — and acknowledging Sasha’s insane overness was a smart move on Brie’s part. The obvious path from here would be for Team BAD (my god, those team names won’t die) to break up when Naomi and/or Tamina get jealous. Perhaps they’ll do something more with it. A man can dream, can’t he?
Derek: John Cena faced Dolph Ziggler in the US Open Challenge, which Cena of course won. I’m told that on the season finale of Total Divas, Ziggler revealed that he still had feelings for his ex-girlfriend (and Cena’s current girlfriend) Nikki Bella. It’s probably scripted nonsense, but maybe not. Those looking to read between the lines have some ammunition here. Ziggler could be Cena’s next feud, and Cena went off the script by addressing a marriage proposal that took place in the crowd during his match.
Will: We love to rag on Cena, and rightly so. But is there anyone else in WWE who feels like a star? The whole CENAWINSLOL thing is tired, and perhaps that’s the source of his power, but I’m at least interested when he comes on the screen. He can control the room and direct the conversation. Lord knows he’s had enough practice.
Anywho, Cena-Ziggler was the match of the night. With Cena set to take a leave of absence, I hope the plan is to put the US Title on Ziggler — provided he turns heel first. His ring attire has taken a slight turn for the darker, and he raked Cena’s eyes to escape an AA. I think Dolph’s character has been stale for a lonnnng time, and this could be a way to shake things up a bit. (Big shout to Dolph’s Kent State wrestling hoodie.)
Derek: In tag team action, the Dudley Boyz squashed the Ascension, followed by King Barrett and Sheamus defeating Neville and Cesaro. Lots of talented guys in that group, minus the Ascension guys. Naturally, they are given nothing interesting to do.
Will: There have been rumblings that Cesaro is getting buried, and his inclusion in this match sure supports that idea. Hey, remember when the Ascension were running with Stardust? Glad that storyline got wrapped up so nicely.
Derek: Roman Reigns came out for a promo, in which he addressed the crowd’s “What?” chant and responded to their “Bo-ring” chant with “Chicago, this ain’t boring baby, this is real life!” I … don’t think it helped. Bray Wyatt and his cronies interrupted and threw Reigns a life preserver before Reigns’ match with Strowman, which ended with a Reigns victory via count out. Strowman pitched a fit and accidentally disconnected Cole and JBL, leaving only Byron Saxton with a live mic. He didn’t like that very much.
Ryback pinned Rusev after a Shellshock, and Summer Rae entered the ring to berate Rusev. Last week, Summer asked Rusev to marry her. This week, she acknowledged Rusev’s real-life engagement to Lana and slapped him. Let’s hope this storyline ends soon.
Will: Please, please, please let this story go the way of Lincoln Chafee’s presidential campaign.
Derek: In a strange pairing, Kevin Owens defeated Kalisto. Then Charlotte and Becky Lynch faced off against Brie Bella and Alicia Fox. Surprisingly, Brie pinned Charlotte after a missile dropkick. Paige was present on commentary to make mischief, which consisted of shoving Natalya outside the ring. That’s what counts as the plot advancing nowadays. Natalya wasn’t even in the match!
Will: Remember when the Divas division had promise? Feels like a lifetime ago.
Derek: Kane revealed his proposed main event to Triple H, which Trips called off on the spot. So, Kane promised to find a suitable replacement. See, when Trips said Kane couldn’t face Rollins, he was addressing Corporate Kane. He didn’t say anything about Demon Kane. And with that, a silly subplot that I enjoyed crossed the line into utter nonsense. The Kane split personality story has been a divisive subplot, so the natural course of action was to make it even more silly and ridiculous. This is the main event, by the way. Dear goodness.
Demon Kane approached the ring, as Cole explained the story to those of us who still hadn’t figured it out. Kane repeatedly threw Rollins out of the ring to be assaulted by the lumberjacks, followed by the lumberjacks fighting among themselves. After they all cleared out, Kane put Rollins away with a Tombstone. And thus, Raw ended, and we’re exactly where we were two weeks ago.
Will: I did a lot of sighing and a lot of questioning myself during this week’s episode. I don’t have much more to add because it feels dumb to waste energy thinking and writing about it. I just don’t know what there is to look forward to. We’re set to get an appearance from Brock or the Undertaker next week. Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair will be there, too. So much young blood, so many fresh ideas, so little time. Good thing the show is three hours long.
Ugh, it’s been so stupid lately. See you next week.
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 (two days later) from Oklahoma City! It was a “night of firsts” to combat a few days of racism, and some of them were fairly entertaining! But we should probably start with the racism.
As has been reported ad nauseam, Real American Hulk Hogan said a bunch of horrendously racist stuff on a sex tape he made with a buddy’s wife (the triple crown!) eight years ago. As a result, WWE almost gave him The Full Benoit, firing him and removing every mention of him from their website. I know the general rule in WWE is “never say never,” but we may have seen the last of Hogan on WWE programming.
Mostly, I’d say WWE did the right thing. I’m not sure they actually care about the stuff Hogan said, but I know they care about the appearance they care about the stuff Hogan said. Nowadays, nothing hurts PR more than racism/sexism/homophobia and the like. The judgment had to be swift and unmerciful. And I think we can all agree that Hogans comments were pretty messed up.
Will: He didn’t exactly have a sterling reputation in the wrestling world as is, but yowza, he said some very not okay stuff. WWE is a huge company with a pretty atrocious track record when it comes to non-white people, and that’s without considering any actual news events like what happened in Cincinnati this week. WWE decided not to muck about with any half measures and sent the Hulkster off the reservation, apparently for good.
It was jarring news, but I think WWE’s reaction was more surprising than Hogan’s words. He is far and away the most famous pro wrestler ever, and they severed ties with him in a second. It’s just bizarre. It’s like KFC disowning Colonel Sanders or Papa John’s Pizza without John. That said, I don’t know what else they could have done. As a wrestling company, I don’t think the McMahons are held in the same regard as, say, the Gateses, but they probably could have figured out a way to save face publicly while keeping Hogan in the fold.
But they didn’t. And frankly, they look better for it.
Derek: My one statement in Hogan’s defense is the conversation happened in private, and it sucks to lose your job over stuff like that. He shouldn’t have said it, and it sure sounded like he was serious, but if that standard were applied to everyone in the world then the entire world would be unemployed. I think most people have said things in private, either in jest or in some emotional state, that would be generally frowned upon. I also think said people wouldn’t be too pleased if someone produced a secret recording of those things and gave them to the media. I feel for him in that regard.
Or maybe I just don’t want Hulk Hogan to be an evil racist bastard. Pretty much this exact same thing happened to Donald Sterling last year and, if this site had existed then, my defense of Sterling would have been considerably shorter than a paragraph. I did consider it a bit of a bummer that Sterling was punished for a private conversation, but he has a long, storied history of being a scumbag. Hulk Hogan is no angel, but he’s a legend to all wrestling fans and a hero to most. Sterling made me think “that figures” and Hogan made me think “say it ain’t so.” So there’s the full disclosure on any Hogan sympathy.
Will: The privacy element definitely adds a weird wrinkle, but I suppose that’s how things are today. That tape would have been inadmissible evidence a court of law, but in the court of public opinion it doesn’t matter how it was acquired. So it goes.
Hey, let’s talk wrasslin’!
Derek: I wasn’t a huge fan of Raw this week, but that may be because of the higher standard I apply to shows leading up to SummerSlam. We’ve got three more Raws to go, and let’s hope the Lesnar-Taker levels rise significantly. Considering that’s the main event at SummerSlam, there sure was a strange absence of references to it. I don’t think they were even mentioned outside of flashbacks to last week. Usually WWE takes every conceivable chance to sell the Network with PPV matches. We didn’t even get a famed Paul Heyman promo.
Instead, the spotlight went to Seth Rollins and John Cena’s Nose.
The prophecies were confirmed, as Cena and Rollins are indeed headed for a match at SummerSlam. The two had a good match at Royal Rumble (granted, Lesnar was involved) so I suppose not all is lost. They have potential to put on a great match and they’ll no doubt have extra motivation for one of the biggest PPV’s of the year. I just don’t want Cena to win. I have no interest in seeing him back at the top of the card. I was just starting to warm up to you, John. Don’t disappoint me.
Will: Cena’s great. He’s one of the best in the business. He puts butts in seats and t-shirts on backs. But damnit John, let someone else have this spot. He doesn’t need a title feud to stay relevant, and Rollins doesn’t need him either. They could easily work this same angle with someone else. Why not Cesaro? Why not Ambrose? Rollins and Cena have had and will have great matches, but they don’t need to play that card right now. Cena gets a lot of crap for putting himself over, and this is a particularly egregious example, to the umpteenth degree if he wins.
Rollins and Cena put on a solid show Monday. That broken nose looked legit. They didn’t pull out all the stops, nor should they have at this point (though Rollins’ double suplex was super cool). Something I liked about their match that I didn’t expect to: JBL’s commentary. It wasn’t great, but he leaned on his experience as a past champion and actually made some decent points about the necessary mindset to be a main eventer. It wasn’t just lame jokes and forced lines. He talked like a person for a minute, and it was mildly compelling. Bravo, John Bradshaw.
Derek: We bemoaned the lack of Dean Ambrose at Battleground, and last week it looked like he would team up with Roman Reigns against Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper. Reigns was also absent on Monday night, and Ambrose was left to do battle with … The Big Show?
That was a bit of a head-scratcher, but I’m reserving judgment until next week. Maybe they just wanted to add another “first” and were struggling to fill time. At least I hope that’s what happened. No one’s going to win a Big Show-Ambrose feud.
Will: I hope hope hope that this was a one-off. If that’s the case, I like it. Show is actually an interesting measuring stick opponent. His matches are necessarily different because of his size, and sometimes that produces some fun. Ambrose mostly got the hell beaten out of him, which the commentary team equated to lunacy — that would be an example of bad JBL — and he came out of it looking alright. It felt, however, like they might try to keep it going for more than one match. Please dear god no.
Some random positives to take our minds off of a potential Ambrose-Show feud:
- Cesaro and Owens look like they’re going to tangle at SummerSlam. Yes, yes, all day yes. It was a shame to see the Owens-Orton match spoiled by Sheamus — who I kind of enjoyed on commentary, if only because he opened with “What’s the crack, fellas?” — but it was worth it to see Cesaro and Owens interact even for a minute.
- Neville had a match with Fandango. Night of firsts, indeed!
- SummerSlam is going to be four hours long?! I don’t think this is actually a positive.
- Titus O’Neil said the words “professional wrestling” on commentary, so he’s probably getting canned. Sports entertainment, Titus!
- New Day >>>
And, the ladies showed out once more.
Derek: The “Divas Revolution,” as WWE calls it, continued on Monday with two Divas matches yet again! Sasha Banks made Paige submit, and the team of Charlotte and Becky Lynch beat Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox when Lynch made Fox submit. While I’m enjoying the “Divas Revolution,” I’m growing a bit tired of it being constantly referenced. I’ve mentioned before that WWE could benefit from some show-don’t-tell aspects in their storytelling, and this is one of those times. It is in fact possible to simply have a “Divas Revolution” without pointing it out every other sentence.
And while we’re here, I feel it’s necessary to once again mention that Team BAD need to change their name. I just can’t take them seriously.
Will: They were both solid matches, and I’m still digging how the new talent is being used. Everyone is getting a shot in the spotlight, wins are being passed around, and most everyone is looking strong (except Tamina. They haven’t quite figured her out yet, nor have I). Sasha especially looks like budding star — if not a ready-made one — and she and Paige got a good chunk of time to work with.
I’m completely on board with you as far as bashing us over the head with “The Divas Revolution,” but I’m afraid that’s just the way it is. Subtlety is not a WWE strong suit. Whether it’s because they’re afraid to not make things absolutely obvious to their younger viewers or because they just aren’t able to, who knows. They’re giving the Divas a chance. How about giving us one too?
(“Team BAD” is sooooooooo bad. Oh my god it’s the worst. If Sasha weren’t such a talent that bunch would be DOA.)
Derek: Lana attacked Summer Rae with a fish.
Will: It’s good to be reminded every once in a while why wrestling is so easy to mock.
I will say, however, that it was a first.