Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday had a new home last week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.
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 Orlando! Raw visited my old stomping ground to give us the penultimate wrasslin’ show before Sunday night’s inaugural Fastlane … event? Pay-per-view? Are they still pay-per-views now that the WWE Network exists?
Monday’s focus continued to be on Fastlane’s main event between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. The two toyed with each other throughout the evening, as Daniel Bryan started up some “Yes!” chants during Roman’s match with Kane, while Roman walked around the front row signing autographs and posing for selfies during Bryan’s match with Big Show.
Bryan’s match was in the main event spot, and it came to an end after Reigns interfered and gave Show a knuckle sammich for kicks. Bryan and Reigns spent the final eight minutes of the show in a good ol’ fashioned donnybrook, which was eventually separated by the legendarily competent WWE officials. I enjoyed when they seemed to be done and gave each other a congratulatory hand slap, followed by the immediate continuation of said donnybrook. I thought for sure we’d have our clear-cut heel at that moment when one of them would assault the other from behind. It was cool that they had the same thought at the same time.
What were your thoughts on Bryan-Reigns?
Will: I recorded Raw, and my DVR cut off the very end, so I actually didn’t see the resolution of the skirmish. I heard it turned into a brawl in which neither party sold the others’ punches, which could be seen as shoddy work, or as to-hell-with-work-I-really-wanna-beat-this-guy’s-ass.
I’m not sure who I’m pulling for in this feud, but it’s been nice to see Bryan incorporate some sarcastic dickishness into his character. He is slowing moving away from teacher’s pet territory, and not a moment too soon. Reigns have been at least semi-salvaged, and their characters work given what we know about them: Bryan’s confidence comes from a place of legitimacy as the superior wrestler, and Reigns’ comes from his pedigree and the fact that he’s a hundred pounds bigger. I’m warming up to this one.
Derek: It probably would have been my favorite part of the evening if it weren’t for—
Will: I was pleasantly surprised by Ric Flair! I was terrified that he would be in over his head, but I thought the exchange between he and Triple H was well done. It provided a nice history lesson (I didn’t know that Flair was Sting’s first opponent), and there were shades of Adrian & Rocky with Flair telling Trips to be careful with Sting.
My only hangup: So Triple H had this hypothetical desire to run Sting out of WWE, if he ever joined, some 15 years ago. And Sting has just known this all along? Like, has he just been simmering over Hunter’s distant, theoretical hate since the ball dropped on Y2K? And now he chooses to get his vengeance?
Also, do you think Sting will actually show at Fastlane? How are they going to extend this to Mania?
Derek: The WCW stuff needs to be mentioned, no doubt. Of all the great WCW wrestlers, Sting is the only one who resisted the call of WWE. I get that this needs to be pointed out. I just hope that it comes to an end soon. Don’t get me wrong, I used to be heavily invested in WCW vs. WWE. I also used to be heavily invested in Shaquille O’Neal vs. Hakeem Olajuwon. They were both a long time ago. I don’t need to be reminded of the times I said things like “Shaq was in Kazaam!” and meant it as a point in favor of Shaq. The average John Cena fan wasn’t even alive during WCW’s heyday. Let’s just keep it simple. Sting is a good guy, and pretty much always has been. Triple H is a bad guy, and pretty much always has been. I’d rather that be the major angle.
I do think Sting will show up at Fastlane. I don’t know if they’ll have a classic mic-on-mic confrontation in the ring, since that’s not really Sting’s style. Honestly, I have no idea what they’re going to do. Triple H likes to talk, and Sting likes to intimidate. I’m interested to see where they go with it. Flair pointed out that Sting was already in Triple H’s head, which was a new addition to the feud.
I wonder if Sting will just silently torment Trips over the next month as Trips slowly goes insane. Couldn’t you see a half-angry/half-terrified Triple H storming around the ring and shouting “Come out here! Come out and face me!” while the lights are flickering on and off or something? At the very least, WWE’s worst-kept secret will be revealed this weekend as the HHH-Sting match at Wrestlemania is finally announced.
How do you see it?
Will: I doubt that an actual Triple H-Sting match will happen at Fastlane, but they’re going to collide somehow. The idea of a rattled Trips barking at Sting to face him like a man while the Vigilante toys with him from afar sounds reasonable, as is Sting interfering in an Authority-centered match.
Also, if I were a WWE writer, I would absolutely pitch a promo in which Triple H calls Sting the “Vag-ilante.” Being a grown-up rules.
Let’s get to Cena-Rusev, particularly Cena beating down Rusev on the ramp: pretty heelish behavior, no? John’s show-opening promos are as fresh as recycled cardboard—hey, did you know that he is unlikely to give up?—but I do like how Rusev has brought out a darker side of Cena. I think I’m legitimately interested to see their match, which is more of an endorsement than I ever expected to give.
Derek: Very heelish behavior indeed. Cena has gotten some strong pushes to heel territory by Brock Lesnar and Rusev. I’m dubious that Cena will ever turn heel, but they have a prime opportunity after Wrestlemania. I still think Cena is going to lose on Sunday before getting his vengeance at Wrestlemania. Maybe he goes a little too far at ‘Mania, then uses that momentum toward taking down whoever emerges as champion? It would be a good time to do it, as there won’t be another premier PPV(?) until Money in the Bank in June. They could at least test it out and see how it goes, kind of like when Daniel Bryan briefly joined the Wyatt Family last year.
I’m less excited for this match, in that I think it’s going to end the same way all of Rusev’s matches end: a win via submission. I’m much more excited for their ‘Mania match than I thought I would be, though.
Will: On to some Monocle favorites who are stuck in midcard hell: Dean Ambrose and Bad News Barrett. Ambrose squared off with Luke Harper in a match was a bit slow, but well-executed and which had a narrative arc. It also felt like Dean is refining his moveset a bit. His punches looked more boxing-style than I’ve seen before, and I don’t remember him doing a spinning elbow off the second rope. Harper reversing Ambrose’s off-the-ropes clothesline into a big slam was tasty, and one of the few times that Dean’s trademark strike failed. I’m really impressed with Harper overall; I’d trust him in the ring with most anyone.
Later in the evening, I loved Ambrose’s gambit to get Bad News Barrett to sign a contract for an Intercontinental Title match; why wouldn’t everyone who wants a title shot do that? I lol’d at BNB yelling “This is illegal!” while forced to sign the contract while zip-tied. I’m not sure how contract law works in the UK, but Barrett raised a valid point.
Derek: That was a lot of fun. “That’s not my signature!” was also a valid point. I only wish BNB had stayed tied up longer. How fun would it have been if the next match took place with Barrett zip-tied to the turnbuckle, shamefully brooding before finally caving and signing the contract on his own accord? That would be a Match of the Year candidate, even if the Ascension were involved.
Let’s jump into some quick hits!
On Miz and Mizdow:
Will: They are still terrific, and Miz is a dynamite heel. I’m still not optimistic that those guys can survive independently, but they’ve given us a lot. I will thank them for their services whenever they part ways.
Derek: Miz gets a lot of crap, but I think he’s excellent. He’s not a main event guy or anything, but he’s always highly entertaining. That’s all I really ask.
On Kane and Big Show:
Will: They bickered backstage like an old married couple, which made me think that they should just get married, in kayfabe or real life. Has there ever been a—for lack of a better term—gay turn in WWE?
Derek: Sort of! More on that in a minute.
On Bray Wyatt’s cryptic promos:
Will: I am all in on Bray’s promos. The sudden cuts in and out, the weird foggy stage, the way he talks about matters of deep cosmic importance while also talking about nothing at all. He has incorporated plenty of “you”s throughout, seemingly addressing the Undertaker. How do you feel about that? I think I like it.
Derek: That seems to be the case. He asked, “What shakes the heart of a man that can never truly die?” before claiming that he could. This all was said in-between sessions of what appeared to be hammering a nail in a coffin. He ended with “Find me! Or I’ll find you!” which I thought was excellent. Yes, all of those are telltale signs of an Undertaker challenge. Pretty good ones, too. Bray is very enjoyable when he makes sense.
On the Dust Bros:
Will: I thought the Dusts/New Day match was fiercely lame (holy crap the announcers were brutal), but the Cody/Dusty backstage bit was incredible. It was heartfelt and did a nice job of blending the kayfabe Rhodes family with the real. I’m really curious to see where they go with him. Will he double down on the weirdo Stardust? Will he come back to his roots as Cody? Or will he go off in an even more bizarre third direction?
Derek: Tip of the cap to Cody on his “You’re dead to me!” remarks to Dusty. That hurt. I hope they use him more after the Stardust gimmick wears off. Unrelated, but did you know he’s married to the ring announcer that isn’t Lilian Garcia? He totally is!
Will: Paige rules. She’s good in the ring, good on the mic, and prowls the canvas with real aggression during matches. It’s a bummer that the Bellas have become little more than Mean Girls adjace, but Paige is making lemonade with her side of it. Borrowing clothes from a Rosebud was a nice touch.
Derek: She’s been my favorite Diva since she debuted the day after Wrestlemania last year. I was worried she would become terrible after joining Total Divas. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened.
On the Prime Time Players:
Will: The Ascension lose—hey, alright!—leading to reunion of the Prime Time Players, Darren Young and Titus O’Neil. Is there anything here? Could the PTP be good? They look like impressive wrestlers, and WWE needs new tag teams, so I suppose I’m in on it.
Derek: First of all, what happened to Darren Young?! Last time I saw him, he looked like this:
On Monday, he looked like this:
Whoa! When did Darren decide to go Man on Fire on us? And why is he suddenly back on TV now? Oh, right. The PR nightmare that somehow wasn’t.
If you didn’t click the link under Big Show and Kane, Darren Young is real-life gay. He is the first (and so far only, to my knowledge) openly gay wrestler. There have been others, but they didn’t come out of the closet until after they retired. Young did it in the middle of his career.
What does his sexuality have to do with him suddenly being back on TV? Well, last week, WWE went on a tour that included a three-day stop in the United Arab Emirates. Homosexuality is illegal there, and so Young was instructed to stay home. He wasn’t happy.
Then, magically, he makes his return to television on Monday night to reunite with his old tag team partner. Looks like WWE is looking to kill two birds with one stone, trying to keep Young happy (and quiet) while also injecting some life into the stagnant tag team division. Honestly, I’m surprised this story isn’t a bigger deal. It seems like the sort of thing that would make the internet and cable news explode: He was specifically asked not to come to work strictly because he was gay.
I suppose reasonable folks could debate if the company was looking out for his safety by not asking him to come along or they were monstrous for even doing business in a country that wouldn’t allow Young to perform just because he’s gay. However, one thing is for sure: if this were the NFL instead of WWE, and it were Michael Sam instead of Darren Young, you wouldn’t be hearing about anything else in the sports world right now. Vince dodged a bullet.