Just an FYI, I wrote a column last week entitled "How to save this mess, AKA...WWE's Indy Revolution". It didn't get quite the response I anticipated, but for good reason. So it is significantly more fleshed out with actual analysis and comparisons to the WWE's Homegrown stars. If you skimmed it over, or it didn't appeal to you, please give it another look and let me know what you think.
RAW's opening promo, oh how I loathe thee. Tonight on "The Authority Stacks The Deck Against Roman Reigns" The Authority...stacks the deck against Roman Reigns. Goody. Also, Stephanie continues her overacting spree, like Rick Flair is with his daughter, except not fun or funny at all, because she doesn't have 40 years of hard work and respect to draw from.
Doesn't that just summarize a lot of the problems with WWE right now? Taking shortcuts to get right to the end of the story, without working for the payoff first? Vince complains about Millennials and then acts like a stereotypical one.
Oh, and Vince announces that Dean with be facing Sheamus tonight, and then Sheamus drills Ambrose in the back, right in front of his best friend, the WHC. Who does nothing but glare at him. That's...pretty odd. If my best friend were jumped by my rival(LOL Roman's rival is Sheamus) I'd probably, you know, help or something. Not just stand there, then leave the ring in an orderly manner. You want to make Roman cool? He shoulda hopped out of the ring and speared Sheamus into the ring post immediately.
Dean vs Sheamus is a good match, back and forth. I love the new name "Lunatic Lariat" for Dean's rebound clothesline, but Sheamus having to slow down his own clothesline while Dean executed that was a bit annoying. Sheamus and Dean really went at each other, pretty stiff match, and it resulted in Sheamus being busted open after 3 head slams on the ring post. That had to be intentional, right? Otherwise you wouldn't do 3(I think they did the same thing with Brock at WM but I'd have to check). The match ends with a double DQ. Two weeks in a row might be too much for some people, but I think it's establishing Dean's character more; he doesn't care, he just wants to fight, and honestly, Dean's babyface character could use a little more spice. So a hard fought match+blood, that gets a thumbs up from me.
Afterward, Owens jumps Ambrose and lays him out similarly to what we've seen between the two so far. Dean exits the training room in a rage after a good, short promo. I think we may get a Hardcore match between these two at some point. We need more backstage promos with Dean and Owens, that's for sure. And I really hope they can stretch this out until an epic WrestleMania match, assuming one of these two isn't elevated to the Main Event, because that's what WM matches should be all about; epic resolutions to long, badass feuds. They deserve it.
Interlude: Vince and Stephanie are businesspeople!
Paul Heyman runs into the McMahons in the hallway, and he tries to negotiate a 1v1 matchup between his client, Brock Lesnar, and the winner of the Royal Rumble. Vince always looks agitated in Heyman's presence, and Steph says they should discuss it in the office instead of standing directly in front of a live camera. Good business sense!
I wonder if Paul is written this way because he just has fun playing this character, or if his interactions with Vince, limited as they may be, reflect real life. Paul built a fledgling company from nothing to being a legitimate competitor in the Monday Night Wars, and his Smackdown kicked RAW's ass for a long time. Does Vince resent that Paul's still got it? Or that maybe they're a little TOO alike. Or maybe it's all just character work, who knows.
Interlude 2: Stardust vs Titus
We all agree that the Stardust character has overstayed its welcome, right? That's the consensus now? Because it's sad when a worker that's as talented as Cody is stuck batting 8th(baseball analogies!) when he could be much higher in the order. It's his character holding him back now, and though it's fun and kinda poppy, it's gone nowhere, and you'd never buy him beating Roman, or Bray, or Dean...nevermind, anyone can beat Dean, Dean would just pull out that Acme monitor from under the ring and it would explode. But still, Stardust is a waste of everyone's time now.
I am glad to see Titus get another win; dude is huge and is a fun, bland character in short bursts. But this felt like another rerun from last week.
Jericho vs New Day, the entertainment capital of WWE
There were a few people that thought Jericho's return last week to make fun of New Day was a waste of time. I thought it was fun, and would lead to something bigger. Here, we get a mini-payoff. Less "Cool dad" Jericho, more Attitude Era Jericho going back and forth with Xavier on the mic. He called New Day dumbasses, and Xavier lost his mind(You can't say that, this is a PG show!), and set up a 2v2 match with The Usos and Jericho/Xavier in their respective corners.
The match itself was...a New Day/Usos match. There were hard hits by Big E, bumps by Kofi, The Usos hitting some crowd-pleasing stuff, and fun trombone nonsense on the outside. Jericho got ahold of her this time and snapped the arm off, and Xavier looked like someone killed his dog in front of him.
We need an intervention
Seriously, we need to gather some friends and family, find a safe place, maybe pass out some snacks around...and talk to Jericho about his wardrobe. I know he's always been a bit out there with his weird ponytails and glittery stuff, and he wears a Lite-Brite jacket, but this is too far. A jacket and a scarf? A week after wearing a vest with no shirt underneath? Come on, man! It's one thing to perform athletic activities in just your underwear and baby oil, but you were walking around backstage in that! Probably grabbed a bite to eat in that, had some makeup put on while wearing that, talked to Dave the camera guy wearing that. It's just weird, dude!
So, Social Outcasts are faces now? Or are they just as confused as the rest of us? I'd have thought winning their first match via 3 man distraction made them heels, but here they are, playing pseudo-faces against The Wyatt Family.
Also, someone needs to tell them that trying to be the white New Day is not cool. Did you see Slater gyrating when they came out? The way he played off Rose's little jabs? #gimmickinfringement!
The match itself lasted about 2 minutes; Strowman looked at them and said "You're jobbers, what do you think you're doing?" then Ryback ran down to defend charisma black holes everywhere and they clear out the Wyatts.
Also note, if Ryback joins, what do the 5 members have in common? 3 of them were in a faction before. #NewNexus! Minus the compelling members...and David Otunga.
Rey Mysterio Returns!
He's wearing green like a Ninja Turtle now, and goes by Kalisto, but we all know what we saw, right? He delivered a very solid promo before the match, took a bunch of nasty bumps(dude is like 4 feet tall, a stiff breeze looks like a nasty bump on him) but got the rollup to win the MexAmerica championship! This was another good match that was paced correctly(Del Rio slowing it down and delivering power shots, Kalisto trying to speed it up and taking a ton of abuse along the way). And that suicide dive where Del Rio shoved him, mid air, into the barricade? Goddamn, I hurt just thinking about it.
I have a question for WWE; why does Alberto Del Rio hate other Mexicans? I mean, he doesn't hate everyone, he's a member of the LoN. But his fiercest rivalries have been against other Mexican wrestlers. What gives? Also, as much as I like the badass, I-hate-everyone Del Rio, I think he works best as a face. There are a lot of people that want to root for him, and his heel character where he calls people "Dog" all the time just doesn't seem authentic. It's too soon to re-turn him, but the crowd wants to chant "Si!" at him, so let them.
All women hate each other, episode 1129752
I'm a little torn about this. On the one hand, the wrestling has been infinitely better since they refocused the division around the actual Horsewomen they called up and built a simple story of trust and betrayal with, as was pointed out on Reddit, more backstage, hallway-style promos and less Miz-TV promos. This feud is the 2nd best in WWE currently.
On the other hand, one can argue that the story boils down to "All women hate each other" which has been the basis for, basically, every other storyline since Mickie stalked Trish. Sure, on the other hand you can say the story is about Charlotte's corruption/fall, or Becky learning DTA(Don't Trust Austin...er, Anyone). It's open to interpretation to an extent. But the fact that it can be argued makes me a little sad. How hard is it to come up with a more nuanced framework than that?
Anyway, Charlotte comes down for a match with the remaining members of Team Bella, and The Lasskicker jumps the Champ and beats her down. Rick declares that Charlotte is now in no condition to wrestle and the match is cancelled. That's fine, I guess...gotta stall until Royal Rumble for the payoff, but still, there could have been another Diva's match or something tonight to compensate for this. Why not have Team BAD stroll down and give Naomi 5 minutes with Alicia instead?
The Main Event....*Sigh*
Roman vs, what, 15 heels? I'll give WWE a little credit first; Having Owens stand toe-to-toe with your Champion for the first 6-8 minutes was a nice boost for him, and though it was slow and grindy, it wasn't bad. Then, for some reason, Stardust and Breeze hit the ring and get immediately wrecked, by the guy who's just been fighting with Owens for 8 minutes. Way to make two good workers seem completely insignificant. Then the rest of the heels join in, and hold Roman while Sheamus delivers an awful looking Brogue Kick; not sure who's fault that was, but ewww.
Finally, Brock's music hits and, for the second time tonight(first being Becky's sneak attack) the crowd sounds like it gives a crap. Brock suplexes basically everyone. Twice. Then grabs Roman and gives him an F5 in the middle of the ring, and does that weird, cocky smile/laugh in Vince's direction.
I'm so utterly confused by this main storyline, yet again. Not because they posed questions with no answers(though, why did none of the faces help Roman as he gets his ass kicked by multiple heels for the 100th time is a good one) but because they took a really dumb route to get somewhere obvious. Brock is in the Rumble? No way! Let's devote 2 backstage segments and let him eat the whole heel roster to demonstrate that he's a threat!
There was a long rant here that I deleted. Instead, let's break this down by character:
Owens - Looks like a badass tonight after beating up Ambrose and holding his own against Roman.
Brock - Gets a huge pop for beating up your supposed #1 face. F5's Roman...why? Roman didn't even beat him for the title, they've had no interaction since April.
Roman - He overcomes the odds! Except when he doesn't! Looked completely dead after an 8 minute match with a guy his BFF, Dean, has beat multiple times. If their characters were "Dean is infinitely tough, Roman is infinitely strong" that would make sense. But Roman is Superman, he shouldn't look like Josh Koscheck after the GSP fight from just that.
The villain has to get the upper-hand in a story to make it compelling, and WWE's thought is that this is that step. Right? Except the villain in this case is The Authority, and they've had the upper hand for 3 years. And in the end, their schemes still didn't really work because Brock came down and trashed everyone! This is a garbled stew of nonsense, a cacophony of stupid questions, obvious answers and idiotic booking to stitch it all together like the mangled corpse that the main event scene has become.
WWE has all the pieces that they need in place. A great IC feud. A great Diva's feud. The Champ looks strong, The Wyatts look strong, Brock is back, Vince is back. And this is what they come up with. It's embarrassing. I can't even formulate a good closing argument here, it's just so bad, so stupid, so nonsensical. RAW's like this are the most frustrating thing to watch because they have all the potential in the world, and then botch it in such a horrific way it just melts my brain.
How to fix this mess, AKA Fantasy Booking!
This Rumble will revolve around The Wyatt Family, Brock, and Roman, with a dash of LoN I'm sure. So they have to be in-orbit of one another.
How do we move forward? Well, what are our current problems?
1. Your champ just got his ass kicked, so he needs some heat back.
2. Brock F5'd him for no reason, so now he needs a reason.
3. The Wyatts need a little more momentum.
4. And there's only 1 RAW left until the RR. So...
Brock and Heyman come out for a main event promo. Brock says that Roman cost him his championship at WrestleMania, since Brock was never pinned, and he hasn't been given a rematch. So he decided to take it out on Roman and everyone else last week.
Roman comes out and says that when men have problems, they solve them face to face. They don't run in after the fight and then act like they're badasses. They ARE the fight("I Am The Fight" t-shirt, send me royalties!). If Brock wants to wait till the Rumble, he'll have to take a number because 28 other guys want a piece of Roman too. But if he really wants to fight, they can throw down right now, face to face like men. Brock does his creepy laugh, says "Not today" and leaves the ring. As he's on the apron, he flies back in and he and Roman start unloading on one another.
That's when the lights go out, and when they come back on, Erik Rowan is outside the ring with Paul Heyman in a head vice, and the other 3 members of the Wyatts are in the ring. Hell breaks loose. Eventually Rowan comes in to help, but Roman and Brock hold their own. Bray lands a low blow on Brock and calls for the Wyatts to clear out. They head up the ramp, Brock is wabbling around while grabbing the family farming gear, and BOOM! Roman hits a spear on him. OOOOAHHHH! Grabs his title and walks back up through the crowd, the Wyatts on the ramp calling for Roman's head. And then Brock sits back up like the Undertaker; stunned, but not out.
Now your parts are in place, and you have a cool transition into the Royal Rumble match with everyone looking pretty badass. You're welcome, WWE; as usual, I'm fixing your messes for free.