Throwing up a Roadblock: Wrasslin Thursday 3/3/2016

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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:

undertaker vince

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.

double pin

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.


Rollins in the Deep: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 9/2/2015

Wrasslin Wednesday HeaderDerek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Tampa! After three days that were varying degrees of good last week, we were due for a bit of a clunker. Sting kicked off the show, which is tough to screw up, but, well, Sting got a little too … friendly with Triple H.

WWE, Inc.

Will: As excited as I was to see Sting last week, I do not understand his angle whatsoever unless kissing Triple H’s ass was explicitly included as a clause in his contract. Going in on Rollins for being a weak champion I get; it’s a slightly recooked version of John Cena’s beef with Seth. What makes zero sense to me is Sting putting over Trips by saying that Seth has nothing on him as a champion. Last we saw Sting, he was terrorizing Triple H, right? Now he’s just a fan? I know they shook hands and all, but good grief.

Derek: I didn’t care for that at all. Last week, I applauded Sting for finally getting revenge on Triple H for his antics at WrestleMania, and instead he acts like he’s got a shrine to Triple H in his closet.

Allow me to digress for a moment. My favorite video game franchise, Metal Gear Solid, has a new chapter as of yesterday. I haven’t had much time to play yet, but there was one particularly relevant feature. The main character, Big Boss, has a Mother Base that is filled with his soldiers and other various followers. I like them because if I kick one of their asses, they thank me for it while onlookers salute.

thanks boss

And I couldn’t help but think of Sting. Triple H won, but he didn’t win clean, and now Sting acts like just getting in the ring with Trips was the thrill of a lifetime. So, yeah, not the best start for The Icon, The Franchise, The Vigilante. I wish he would have just stuck to “I’ve never been WWE Champion and I want to change that before I retire.”

sting woo

After Sting made his advances at Triple H, it was revealed that there would be a “Beat the Clock” challenge to see which member of PCB would challenge Nikki Bella for the Divas Championship at Night of Champions. Charlotte ended up with the prize after dropping Brie Bella in 100 seconds.

Nikki also unveiled the “Bellatron,” which counts down until she passes AJ Lee as the longest reigning Divas Champion.

Bellatron

Which means, unless something screwy happens, Nikki will break the record. Night of Champions is in three weeks, so Nikki would have to drop the belt on one of the next two Raws. I suppose it’s not unheard of. Paige won her first Divas Championship the night after WrestleMania XXX. Of course, that’s not a typical Raw.

I really don’t get why Nikki is getting so many accolades. What can she do better than Sasha Banks or anyone in PCB? I’m really starting to lend a little more credence to the rumors that John Cena is involved.

Will: Can we launch a Divas counterrevolution? Can there be a Great Divas Schism? The “Beat the Clock” challenge almost had me interested, but that faded in a hurry. Wasn’t putting a massive timer showing how short the women’s matches are the last thing they needed to do? I could see it eventually yielding fruit in the form of a PCB dissolution, but WWE has been content to let that baby burn nice and slow.

My hope is that someone, be it Charlotte or Sasha or whoever, puts an end to the streak. I plain and simple do not get the appeal of Nikki, nor the Bellas at large. I suppose Nikki is a decent heel, but she hasn’t even been a heel consistently! With all of this considered, the Cena rumblings make sense. Bleh.

Also: how about letting the new talent have separate entrances sometimes? Do we need all of Paige, Charlotte, and Becky coming out together three different times in one night? How about letting them develop and define their own entrances and personalities? I’m going to err on the side of skepticism and cynicism until given reason to act otherwise.

Derek: Perhaps we’re worrying about the Divas too much. We’ve got bigger problems.

strowman

Will: BRAUN STROWMAN IS THE APOCALYPSE, or so he said Monday. He has all the charisma of overripe grapefruit, but I like how strong Strowman has been booked in his early action. He doesn’t pull off the weird-and-beard look as well as Bray Wyatt or Luke Harper, and his face is way too small for his head, but that makes him oddly endearing — he is the black sheep, after all. It’s always fun to watch a new guy rampage for a while, and Strowman’s introduction allows Bray to step back into more of a puppetmaster role, for which he is particularly well suited.

Derek: Strowman is indeed a large man, and he has behaved and wrestled as large men often do. They’re portraying him as being completely unstoppable, as Dean Ambrose’s chair shot to the back gave him little more than a slight tickle. This is nothing new, though. Let’s not forget that the Undertaker once lost to The Great Khali. I just hope it doesn’t go on for too long. Rusev was unwatchable for about six months while he squashed a new mid-carder at every pay-per-view. I don’t want to watch Strowman do what he did on Monday every show until Payback 2016. Especially now that the New Day have shed some light on the plight of tables in Dudleyville.

Will: God bless the New Day. The Dudley Boyz targeted the tag champs in their return last week, and New Day showed this Monday that they were up to the challenge. They didn’t just cut a promo on the Dudleys — they cut a promo on table abuse altogether. They’ve positioned themselves as table saviors! They wasted no time in going after the very thing that the Dudleys stand for, which is the very best thing that a wrestling foil can do. They are so goddamn good. Big shout to Xavier Woods’ new hair.

xavier hair

Derek: They really are incredible. It took me a moment to remember what they were doing before New Day. I think Big E (Langston) was trying to act like Russell Wilson, Xavier Woods was funking things up with R-Truth and the Funkadactyls, and Kofi was ambiguously Jamaican. Thank goodness they finally turned heel. And we, unforgivably, did not give them credit for their incredible trombone celebration last week.

trombone

Will: Shame, shame, endless shame on us for not highlighting Woods’ trombone playing more. What a talent. What a hero.

Derek: Finally, let’s cover the “main event” of the evening: a segment featuring Seth Rollins, Stephanie McMahon, and John Cena. Rollins still wants his statue and won’t stop talking about it. Stephanie took Sting’s side regarding Triple H (another bad sign for Sting). Cena, pointing out that every championship should be on the line at Night of Champions, asked for a shot at the U.S. Championship before Rollins’ match with Sting for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Stephanie granted the request amid demonstrative protests from Rollins. Do you think Rollins will drop either (or both) of his belts at Night of Champions?

Will: My first instinct is that he’ll absolutely drop one of them. Having two titles on one guy seems to limit those titles’ very significance, and WWE has a tough enough (heh) time filling out their weekly shows without consolidating the championships. For better or worse, Cena made his U.S. title reign mean something and his segment became a staple of Raw for weeks. Rollins has been consistently terrific for a while now, and I’m sure he could continue to carry the show while holding both belts, but I worry that that would come at the expense of other angles and characters.

Assuming Rollins does lose one, I’m truly not sure which it would be. Triple H has apparently made Sting his house boy, and thus I would be shocked to see the most famous WCW holdout get his hands on WWE’s greatest prize at age 56. It isn’t hard to see Cena winning the U.S. title back, but his new t-shirt makes me think that his eyes are on the big belt more than his old one. (I’ve put way too more thought than I should have into Cena’s new t-shirt.)

Part of me would just like to see Rollins keep both and gloat on for another month, and even get his statue. Seth could have it all. But is he in too deep?


A Weekend in Brooklyn: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 8/26/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two/three/four days later) from Brooklyn/Brooklyn/Brooklyn! Boy oh boy, where to begin? The tables?

dudley

The ladders?

balorThe chairs?

stewart cena

Oh … oh my.

sting reveal

I’m starting with Sting, because that reveal gave me a raging mark-on. There were rumors that Sting was in Brooklyn during the three day run of shows, but I assumed if he got involved at all it would be in the Undertaker-Brock match to set up the long sought-after Undertaker-Sting match at WrestleMania 32. The Brock-Taker segments came and went with no sign of him. Then, with mere moments remaining on Raw, it was revealed that Seth Rollins’ covered statue had been Sting all along. I’m glad to see him back for more against Trips and his ilk. I didn’t like how Sting handled losing at WrestleMania. He should be out for revenge.

Sting attacked Rollins and Triple H ran away almost immediately. Then Trips revealed after the show that Sting would face Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship next month at Night of Champions. There’s a swerve I didn’t see coming.

Does Sting have any chance of winning next month? How do you see this playing out?

Will: Monday was the first time in months that I watched Raw live. I don’t have cable and thus don’t have USA, and the weekly shows are among the rare few not broadcast live on the WWE Network. The events of SummerSlam apparently got my juices flowing enough to find a (completely legal) means of watching Monday, and my god was it worth it.

I knew something was going to happen with Rollins’ statue unveiling, but Sting was definitely not what I had in mind. Interference from John Cena was the smart choice, but he was escorted out of the Barclays Center by security and, perhaps for the first time in wrestling history, the dismissed did not return to raise hell. Sting stood in place of the statue for a good long chunk of segment, enough for him to sweat through some of his face paint before attacking Rollins.

As to what they’re going to do with this, I’m glad to say that I have no idea. Rollins has two titles for the moment, and one would think that he’s going to lose at least one of them before long. I came across one theory that had Sting winning the title from Rollins, Undertaker taking it from Sting, and then having the belt on the line for the Brock-Taker rubber match. I don’t love the idea of putting the strap on a 50-plus-year-old, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t watch every moment.

Derek: Let’s move on to some of the weird booking in the two biggest matches at SummerSlam. First, Cena lost the US title to Rollins after interference from Jon Stewart. Stewart haters the world over celebrated as they learned that Stewart hates sick children. Stewart explained his actions on Raw, saying he didn’t want Cena to tie Ric Flair’s record for most world championships. Cena said he understood, and proved it by … well, giving Stewart an Attitude Adjustment.

cena stewart aa

I suppose it would have made sense had Cena’s opponent not been Seth Rollins. Stewart got into his WWE run because of a feud with Rollins. Yet, Rollins was the biggest beneficiary of Stewart’s actions. On Monday night, Stewart admitted he “didn’t think it through.” Oh, okay then.

Then there’s the ending of the Brock-Taker match, which could charitably be referred to as “confusing” and “unsatisfying.” So let’s walk through what went down. Brock had Taker in a kimura lock, and Taker supposedly submitted, but the referee didn’t see it.

taker submission

Then, for some reason, the timekeeper decided to ring the bell. Like pretty much any sport, the timekeeper isn’t supposed to do anything unless the referee tells him to. But we had a rebel timekeeper on Sunday, and he didn’t need no high and mighty referee telling him what to do. So the referee took some time to yell at the timekeeper, during which Undertaker took some time to hit Brock in the nuts again. Perhaps it’s time for Brock to buy a cup.

undertaker low blow

The referee restarted the match, and Undertaker capitalized on Lesnar’s swollen grapefruits and put Brock in Hell’s Gate. The match was stopped once Lesnar passed out, but not before he gave Taker a quick farewell.

hells gate

It just seemed like the whole thing turned into a bit of a farce. Taker didn’t show up on Raw, so the feud is on hold for now. There will undoubtedly be a rubber match at some point, but no one can say when that will be. Until then, we’ll just have to get by with fond memories.

hahahahaha
Will: 
The smarky Brooklyn crowd poo-pooed the screwy endings — and rightly so in my eyes. The fact that the matches didn’t end clean was fine, especially with Brock-Taker III penciled in for WrestleMania, but the execution was wanting. The same timekeeper who sat idly as Stewart gave Cena a chair to the ribs suddenly had eagle eyes on Taker’s meek tap-out? I know we’re in kayfabe here, but how about some kaysistency? It was just a bummer, especially after the slobberknocker main event.

I was slightly more on board with the Stewart angle, though his sudden dedication to preserving Ric Flair’s legacy was out of left field, as was ending such a big match with such a part-time player. We wondered last week how much of Stewart we’d be seeing in WWE, and this suggests that he could be around at least a little longer. (And kudos to him for taking an AA.)

Derek: There’s so much more to get to, and so little time. Let’s break the rest of the action down in quick hits.

The Dudley Boyz

Derek: Hey, they’re back! I had given up hope. Bubba Ray made an appearance back at the Royal Rumble, but that was seven months ago. Seeing Bubba and D-Von pulling tables out from under the ring gave me yet another raging mark-on. I don’t know that we’ll get the classic Dudleys due to their age and the PG era, but I’d much rather watch them feud with New Day than Los Matadores.

Will: They set their sights on New Day right away, and those squads could make some beautiful music together. The Dudleys return is not a ringing endorsement of the Prime Time Players, and I wonder how much of Titus and Darren we’re going to be seeing over the next couple months. The dreamer in me would like to see multiple feuds going in the tag division, but WWE has been steadfast in maximizing its teams per match ratio. In the meantime, sign me up for a good table spot every week.

Stephen Amell

Derek: It was no surprise that his team won. But he was actually pretty good! Sure, his move set pretty much consisted of a hip toss, an enziguri, and absorbing an ass whippin’, but getting your ass convincingly kicked is a skill in this line of work. He did it well.

amell match

I’ve also got to say that, as someone who used to watch Arrow, I was a little surprised that he didn’t look nearly as jacked as he looks on the show. What is CW doing to him?!

Will: The wonders of television! I LOVE IT MAGGLE. But seriously, well done by Amell. His initial springboard entrance into the ring was strong, his dive off the top rope to the outside was legit, and he ate up a good bit of time to set up the hot tag to Neville. Come back anytime, Steve. 

That New Guy in The Wyatt Family

Derek: Who the hell was that guy?

stroman

Well, I’m glad I asked! His name is either Braun Strowman or Braun Stowman, depending on what website you read, and he’s only been in dark matches so far. He’s also a former strongman competitor and is from the great state of North Carolina. Do you think he’ll add anything interesting to the Wyatts’ feud with Ambrose and Reigns?

Will: Strowman/Stowman is well on his way to setting a record for most different name spellings. I’m in; the reunited Wyatts have been fun, but I want the family to grow into a larger, more bizarre stable that can better terrorize the WWE. Strowman didn’t show much in the ring beyond his bearhug/chokehold and some intense no-selling, but that might be all he needs to run through some jobbers and inspire an appropriate amount of fear.

And my god, is he one ugly son of a bitch.

NXT

Derek: This might be heresy but, when taking the entire show into account, I didn’t love it. The final two matches (Bayley vs. Sasha Banks for the Women’s Championship, Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor for the NXT Championship) were awesome, but I was mostly uninterested in the other matches. Balor retained and Owens pinned Cesaro the next night at SummerSlam, so we may have seen the last of Owens on NXT.

Similarly, Banks lost her belt, so she may be moving up to the big leagues as well. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing, but we’ll cover that next.

Will: There was so much damn wrasslin’ over the course of 72 hours that I’m struggling to remember it all, and much of the NXT show falls into that category. The main events were terrific. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the leadup. This was my first real glimpse of Samoa Joe in action (against Baron Corbin). Apollo Crews’ debut was solid despite his awful name. The Vaudevillains were fun, though I absolutely cannot imagine them taking that gimmick to the main show.

Also, I will need a lengthy explanation before I can support someone who simply goes by the name “Blue Pants.”

Divas

Derek: It really doesn’t matter if you take the awesome women out of NXT, throw them on Raw and crow about the Divas Revolution every week when they get thrown in crappy storylines. Those three shows highlighted exactly why the NXT women are popular and the WWE Divas draw the ire of the crowd, like they did on Monday night.

Take the NXT match between Banks and Bayley. It was an incredible, one-on-one grudge match for the championship. And even though Banks lost, they were both elevated because it was a great match.

bayley banks

Compare that with the SummerSlam match. Nine Divas competed. None of them really had a chance to shine. The title wasn’t on the line. The most heated contest was the race for the dumbest team name. In a month’s time they couldn’t make any aspect of it interesting. It was like their only plan to sell the match was to have Stephanie McMahon say “Divas Revolution” so many times that people would believe it was true regardless of whether it was actually happening.

I feel really bad for the Divas. Especially the NXT call-ups who are there to wrestle, not be reality TV stars. But it doesn’t matter how good the talent is if the booking is bad. Sasha Banks had arguably the best match of the weekend on Saturday night. She had one of the most forgettable on Sunday night. I don’t think she forgot how to wrestle in 24 hours.

I guess the best way to sum it up: at NXT Takeover, two women got an 18-minute match with a title on the line. Meanwhile, at SummerSlam, nine Divas got a 15-minute match for no championships while Stephanie McMahon and the announcers repeatedly yelled “Divas Revolution!!!!” into a megaphone.

Will: Perhaps the worst part of the weekend was seeing the NXT and WWE matches juxtaposed against each other. Sasha and Bayley had one of the finest matches of the weekend, and not 48 hours later on Raw fans were doing the wave and generally defecating all over yet another bloated tag match. 

I get that WWE is going for with the team approach, but the best wrestling storylines come in 1-on-1 feuds. We have seen some singles matches over the past few weeks, but none have truly contributed to the narrative nor moved it forward. We need a better sense of these women as individuals in order to embrace them as a collective. Sasha Banks is a real character, and what do you know, hers was the name being chanted Monday night when she wasn’t even in the ring.

There will come a time when the alliances fracture and new rivalries emerge, and I’m hopeful that that will coincide with more worthwhile stakes for all parties involved. It isn’t hard to get excited about, say, Charlotte turning on Paige. The so-called revolution is trumpeted night after night, but that doesn’t make it mean anything. Don’t tell us that these women want to dethrone the Bellas and change the game. Show us why. Better yet, let them show us. They were doing just fine in NXT.


End of the Road to SummerSlam: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 8/19/15

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Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Minneapolis! SummerSlam is this weekend and, in the words of Triple H, Monday kicked off the road to SummerSlam! Better late than never, I suppose.

The Authority also touted this SummerSlam as the “GREATEST SUMMERSLAM EVER!!!” as tradition dictates. I wonder if there are people out there who hear this kind of stuff and are really affected. I just want one friend to sign up for the WWE Network because he heard Triple H and Stephanie McMahon say this would be the greatest SummerSlam of all time.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

So let’s start with Raw. For the first time in weeks, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker were in the ring together. ‘Taker even positioned himself as a heel with another low blow on Lesnar. I was a bit surprised by that. I’m in the camp that thinks this match exists to get ‘Taker a win in response to Lesnar breaking The Streak last year. A common rule of thumb is the guy who looks best on the Raw before a PPV is destined to go down, so I expected Lesnar to hand out the beatings on Monday. But hey, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN WWE.

brock taker

Will: I guess once you reach a certain age or serve a certain number of years you can just kick dudes in the balls. It’s a weird look for someone who is otherwise perhaps the most feared and respected wrassler in the biz, but given Undertaker’s age it’s at least kayfabe reasonable.

It was weird and enjoyable seeing Brock and ‘Taker so cleanly aligned as face and heel in Minneapolis. Lesnar got a proper hero’s welcome, with signs aplenty and even a LESNAR #69 Vikings jersey in the crowd. I can’t imagine Brock winning, at least not cleanly. Undertaker going out at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas has been penciled in since they first built Jerryworld, and one would think that he’d need a win to stay headline-capable. At the same time, I could see Brock winning such that these events play out all over again.

Derek: John Cena returned for the first time since Rollins rearranged his face. He even dressed in Miami Hurricanes attire for some reason!

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Cena gave some typical Cena insults as he promised to put Rollins down and join Ric Flair in the club of 16-time world champions. What he didn’t mention, though, was the fact that Jon Stewart would be hosting SummerSlam in his first post-Daily Show gig. Wrestling devotees will probably recall that time Jon Stewart kicked Seth Rollins in the balls. Could he come back for another round of ball-kicking? Stewart’s last appearance was before WrestleMania, and perhaps “Kick the WWE Champion in the balls” is on his bucket list.

We kicked around the possibility of Stewart joining WWE on a semi-regular basis back in March. Now that he’s gone from The Daily Show, could we be seeing more of him?

Will: It seems like Stewart is a real, true wrestling fan. He and Rollins had a solid little feud there, culminating with Stewart’s appearance on Raw, and he wouldn’t sign up for four hours of work unless he enjoyed it at least a little bit. Will we see more of him, though? I doubt it. Not to besmirch the good name of WWE, but it feels a little beneath Stewart to be a regular gig, no? He’s done the freaking White House Correspondents dinner and interviewed most of the relevant parties in American politics. One would think he has slightly loftier ambitions.

If not, though, I’m all for it. Wrestling is on a nice PR run lately (despite, you know, all the deaths) between Stewart’s hosting SummerSlam, ESPN covering SummerSlam, and David Shoemaker’s being interviewed on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. Stewart’s a pro. Bring it on.

Derek: Let’s run through the rest of the FOUR HOUR SummerSlam card and make some expert picks! Starting with …

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

Derek: Ziggler came back! How nice. I thought there would be a mixed tag element to this since Summer Rae and Lana have been catfighting on an almost weekly basis. But we’ve never seen Lana in the ring, so maybe she’s just not ready.

I’m picking Rusev in this one. He got smacked around by Cena for months and then got injured, so he needs to get some mojo back.

Will: I get very, very uncomfortable any time there’s a Lana-Summer Rae segment. It’s really weird to see juxtaposed against our next match and the generally respectable work being done in the women’s division. Luckily, they’re only the managers in this one. I’ve never fancied myself much of a Dolph fan, but I was pumped to see him come back this week, and Rusev sold a hell of a tornado DDT. I don’t care who wins; I just want more of that. 

Team Bella vs. Team BAD (ugh) vs. PCB

Derek: WWE has somehow made me less excited for this match than I was a month ago. The esteemed team members met each other in a bunch of different variations in the last month, so it almost feels like this match has already happened. Add in the horrible names and brutal guest commentary from these teams and it almost seems like they’re all heels. PCB are still the fan favorites, but they haven’t done themselves any favors in my eyes.

I think the Bellas will come out on top. I only say that because I’m hoping Nikki loses the belt before she break’s AJ Lee’s record for longest reign as Divas Champion. This could be their last hurrah before Nikki drops the belt to … well, just about anyone. Paige? Charlotte? Sasha Banks? Take your pick.

Will: The buildup to this match has been worse than it has any right to be. Moments have been very good — I was glad to see Becky Lynch get a singles win, in part because I fucking love her entrance — but the overall story has been ham-fisted. The woeful team names have been more indicative of that than anything. 

I see the Bellas losing this one, with that setting the stage for whatever Nikki’s next title defense turns out to be. Look for Charlotte or Sasha to end it.

Stephen Amell and Neville vs. Stardust and King Barrett

Derek: Barrett and Stardust are referring themselves as both “The Lords of Darkness” and “The Cosmic Kings.” Okay, then!

barrett stardust

Surely Amell’s side will come out on top here. The team with a celebrity guest star is usually a safe bet.

Will: …I kinda liked Barrett with Stardust! Get him away from that king schtick and let’s see what happens. More than anything, I’m curious to see how Amell handles himself in the ring. Go Arrow go.

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

Derek: Much has been made of Kevin Owens’ weight over the last few weeks. There was even a “Fat, Owens, Fat” sign held up next to Owens as he entered Monday night. Did he gain weight? I hadn’t noticed. He was never exactly a skinny guy.

This is a tough one to call. Both of these guys are in line for a rumored push, and Owens has a rematch with Finn Balor for the NXT Championship the night before SummerSlam. It’s impossible to say if that will affect the outcome of the match. I would probably mention it if I were running things, but it sure didn’t seem to be a big deal when he was feuding with Cena and lost the belt in Japan.

I’m going with Cesaro. I think Vince is finally going to embrace the Cesaro Section. Though I won’t be surprised if Owens wins or it ends in shenanigans.

Will: This one could easily wind up being the match of the night. I don’t know or care who’s gonna win. Cesaro has been absolutely brilliant lately, and I trust Owens to play up to the level of competition. Even as both have pulled off some neat moves over the past couple weeks, I feel like we’re in for a rare treat or two.

(Now that you mention it, Owens’ paunch has looked a little paunchier lately.)

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

Derek: This could be fun. It’s just two people short of the excellent Shield vs. Wyatt Family feud. Ambrose has been the highlight of this program, as he often is. He’s one of the few guys on the roster who is legitimately funny. I hope he gets back in the title picture in the next year.

ambrose chair

This is another tough one to call, because most of these guys have gotten the short end of the stick lately. Wyatt lost to Undertaker at WrestleMania, got injured, and had a very forgettable feud with Ryback. Reigns got pinned by Rollins at ‘Mania, lost the Money in the Bank match and went on a bit of a losing streak. Ambrose and Harper weren’t even on the card at Battleground.

I’m going with Reigns and Ambrose. Wyatt beat Reigns at Battleground, so I think Reigns returns the favor.

Will: Agreed. That said, I really, actively watching Reigns work. He doesn’t look natural. Nothing looks smooth. He pulls off some nice moves, but he doesn’t look like he was born in the ring the way some guys do. I still don’t like him on the mic, I still don’t like his moves, and I understand why some folks still don’t like him. Ambrose has been carrying plenty.

I wonder if this match will propel the winning side up the ladder a bit. We’ve seen all parties involved, except perhaps Harper, play on the main event level. I’d like to see a Wyatt Family victory and re-ascension, with Bray picking up more followers along the way.

(Now is about the time that I realize this PPV is going to be entirely too long. I think all of the matches will be entertaining and everything, but my god.)

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

Derek: How about Sheamus yelling “Respect the ‘hawk!” when the crowd told him he looked stupid? That was excellent. Sheamus might be interesting in a few weeks.

I’m picking Sheamus, also because Orton won at Battleground. They have to make Sheamus look good at some point.

Will: I’m worried about how much I’ve enjoyed Sheamus lately. He played the mohawk bit perfectly, especially when he tended to it after landing a big shot or two. I wonder if he can work this sort of magic for the beard braids too. Go get ’em, fella. 

The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores for the Tag Team Championship

Derek: This is pretty much Prime Time Players vs. New Day with some high-flyers involved. But you gotta have guys like Los Matadores on speed dial when you’re planning a four hour show.

I think the only reason New Day lost their tag team belts is so they could have a big SummerSlam moment. They’ll get them back Sunday.

Will: I thought the tag match on Raw was oddly short, and I think that’s a commentary on the relative randomness of this match. New Day and the PTPers have done some nice work together, yet the other two teams have been thrown into the fray. Were we ever given an explanation for that? I’m thinking too hard again.

Ryback (c) vs. The Miz vs. The Big Show for the Intercontinental Championship

Derek: When was the last time Miz won a match? When he beat Mizdow? It seems like every episode he ends up unconscious, either at the hands of good guy Ryback or once bad then good now maybe bad again Big Show.

baron bad beaver

I’m thinking Ryback steals the show here. Then maybe they can get him in a decent feud. That hasn’t happened since he was being recruited by Team Cena and Team Authority before Survivor Series last year.

Will: I like Ryback to retain, and Miz to engage in some beautiful chickenshit work. As for Ryback’s next feud, I’d love to see Xavier Woods get in there, if only to get New Day some more shine and to see Woods talk circles around an increasingly confused Ryback.

John Cena (US) vs. Seth Rollins (WWEWHC) for both the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship

Derek: If I were running the show, Rollins would hold on to the belt a bit longer. He’d get the U.S. Championship and get the statue he wants and continue to draw nuclear heat. Maybe he’d even hold on to the belt until WrestleMania, when the inevitable Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Ambrose match could happen. But I’m not running the show, so …

cena wins

Will: My favorite throwaway note from this week’s Raw: Cena holding up his Never Give Up towel to the camera and saying, with great conviction: “Always.” Always never give up, kids. Always. Never. Give. Up.

I should know better, but I can’t see Cena winning this. He doesn’t need it! At all! Not even a little bit! He barely needs a storyline to be relevant; he is a storyline unto himself. Rollins has only gotten better, especially as an actor (and as a reactor; watch his face during the Cena promo), and he’s earned the chance to keep the strap.

Or, and I shudder to say this, could we see a Sheamus cash in? RESPECT THE ‘HAWK.

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker

Derek: The match probably won’t be the best of the evening, but it still might be the most exciting. No one has a read on who’s going to win. Undertaker’s heel tactics add an unexpected dynamic. Something tells me the winner won’t win clean.

As I said before, I’m going with ‘Taker. I think he’s getting his return win for WrestleMania XXX.

Will: I hope ‘Taker is healthy. I hope no one gets hurt. I hope the entrances are cool. I hope the crowd is up for it. I hope it’s well booked. I hope ‘Taker can walk the ropes. I hope Brock can give out some good suplexes. I just hope it’s a good match.

I hope Undertaker Wins, and I hope they run it back at ‘Mania 32.