Pro Wrestling

10 Ups And Downs On A Roller Coaster Raw Source:

For another week, WWE remains in flux as we await the debut of the live Smackdown, the Draft, and the new Brand Extension. But hey, there’s a PPV in two weeks, and matches need to be made, especially after last week was a throwaway episode due to the Fourth of July holiday. We can only imagine the chaos that ensues in preparation for Raw these days, given that they need to both build storylines for a PPV, while recognizing that most of what’s going on right now is likely moot, due to the brand extension potentially changing the entire playing field next week. As a result, Raw was a combination of highs, lows, and some truly odd choices, all leading to an appearance by Vince McMahon, making a decision that probably surprised absolutely nobody, and yet somehow managing to twist things up ever further in the process.

10. Greatness Is Relative

The show opened this week with an actual match, though by “actual match”, we mean a battle royal to determine the #1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship, which seemed to contain 8 tag teams, a few random midcarders, and the only guy to get a televised entrance, Apollo Crews (who JBL misidentified as Titus O’Neil, for reasons we’ll not speculate about). So, of course, Darren Young, who has spent the last several months not actually wrestling and getting insane pep talks from Bob Backlund, picked up the victory when Crews and Baron Corbin tumbled out of the ring at the same time, leaving Young alone. We’re not sure how this makes Darren Young look like a legitimate contender to The Miz, in fact, we’re pretty sure it doesn’t, but we fully expect Young to now win the Intercontinental Title at Battleground, simply to justify the insane amount of time and effort that went into the whole “Make Darren Young Great Again” push. Although, frankly, watching 66-year old Bob Backlund carry Young around like a baby post-match makes us wonder if maybe ol’Bob shouldn’t be the one getting the title shot. Source:

9. Failing Upwards

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, in the very next segment, Zack Ryder earned himself a United States title shot against Rusev after he lost cleanly to Sheamus only seconds earlier! Boy, we sure can’t wait to see the outcome of a match between the dominant monster heel Rusev and a guy who can’t even beat Sheamus, said pretty much nobody. Listen, we love Zack Ryder, and even if it’s years too late to fully capitalize on his popularity, we would completely support him getting a push now that WWE has determined that he “knows his place” or whatever justification they wanted to use for squashing him like a bug when he first got over. With that said, since his surprising Intercontinental title win at WrestleMania, they’ve seriously jerked the string on Ryder so much that he must be getting motion sickness. One day he’s Intercontinental Champion, the next day, he’s the idiot who lost the title to The Miz via distraction. Last week, he won the main event of the July 4th Raw and beat Sheamus on Smackdown, this week, Sheamus squashed him like a bug, but at least he got a re-mix of his entrance music! Much like Young, we wouldn’t be shocked to see Ryder actually win the US Title at Battleground, because in WWE logic, losing a bunch leading up to a PPV match means that everyone will be surprised when he wins (which is correct, but not for the reasons they think). Source:

8. Even The Logo Of Rollins’ Show Is “RR”!

Next up, we have the exclusive interview segment between Seth Rollins and archived footage of Roman Reigns, which is so obvious and cheesy that it’s actually perfect, mostly due to Rollins’ absolutely straight-faced delivery of lines such as “Do you intend to continue being a horrible person and a terrible role model?” and “You really are a monster” which show that he’s just doing some of the absolute best work of his WWE career right now. Presumably, the segment is intended to portray Reigns in a positive light, being berated by a bad guy without actually getting to respond, but we only came away with it for admiration for Rollins, who made legitimate points and was incredibly entertaining. Meanwhile, for a guy who’s currently serving a drug-related suspension, Roman Reigns sure is on TV a lot. We have to continue to question the motivations behind continuing to push a guy who broke a rule that, for 90% of the active roster, would lead to an absolute evaporation of their TV time, while he’s supposed to be serving a suspension, and not only that, but trying to make him look sympathetic! Unless there’s a massive swerve coming that would go against everything we’ve seen of WWE’s treatment of Roman Reigns for the last two years, none of this should be sitting well with the rest of the roster, who didn’t break the rules, but unlike Roman Reigns, won’t be getting a World title match on PPV two weeks from now.*seth%20rollins Source:

7. Hey, Remember The Champion?

Meanwhile, we have the proverbial third wheel as the ostensible WWE Champion, and it’s become clear that it doesn’t matter how much work Dean Ambrose does as champion, what kind of matches he puts on, or even if he’s the first fully crowd-supported WWE Champion since Daniel Bryan. All that is irrelevant, because WWE obviously decided before they handed him the Money in the Bank briefcase that he was never going to be more than a transitional champion, used to set up a Shield Triple Threat “dream match”, and whether it’s at Battleground or SummerSlam, Ambrose’s title reign had an expiration date even before he won it. This is symbolic of WWE’s attitude in recent years, which is that they do not change their plans. Daniel Bryan became more popular than any wrestler in the past decade, and if not for a full fan revolt, the likes of which had never been seen before in WWE, we still would have gotten Randy Orton vs Batista as the main event of WrestleMania. Roman Reigns got booed out of almost every arena he’s been in for two years, saw live event revenues and ratings plummet while he was WWE Champion, and violated the Wellness Policy, and still gets to be WWE’s chosen main event star of the futer. And if Dean Ambrose gets over as champion, that’s great, but there were no plans to run with him as the face of the company, so they almost certainly won’t. And that has to be disheartening for both the wrestlers and the fans. Source:

6. Kevin Owens Watches Wrestling

Last week, Kevin Owens sat on commentary during a Sami Zayn match, and obviously, got involved in the finish. So, this week, as always happens in these sorts of feuds, Sami Zayn came to ringside to do commentary on Kevin Owens’ match. However, Kevin Owens once again showed that he’s the only wrestler on the roster who understands how wrestling works, and refused to go out for his match if Zayn was there, because clearly, Zayn was out there to mess with him. We’ve probably said this a lot, but Kevin Owens might be the best heel in professional wrestling, and it’s because he understands the one rule about being a bad guy: Never give the fans what they want. If they’re anticipating you doing a big, flashy move during a match, don’t. If the “smart” fans in the crowd start chanting your name, call them out for trying to be cool. And if they’re salivating for Sami Zayn to get well-deserved revenge, well, take steps to prevent that. Now, unfortunately for Owens, he and Sami are magnetically drawn towards each other no matter what, so the inevitable fight breaks out anyway, but it’s that extra anticipation that gets built up by the prospect that the fans might not get to see it happen that has pushed the feud to the next level. Source:

5. The Curious Case Of Cesaro

Meanwhile, we have Kevin Owens’ opponent, Cesaro, who once again seems to find himself in this position where he’s one of the most popular and best wrestlers on the roster, but WWE doesn’t have any specific plans for him for whatever reason, so he ends up losing a lot of high-profile matches instead. Despite probably deserving a rematch, his feud with The Miz got scrapped when Miz went off to film The Marine 5. Plus, he couldould have added a lot of star power to the jobber-filled battle royal that opened the show, and no offense to Darren Young or Zack Ryder, probably would have been a better choice for either the US or Intercontinental title matches at Battleground. At one point, Cesaro stole JBL’s cowboy hat and ran around the ring to deliver some uppercuts, and we considered the fact that perhaps if he left the hat on long enough, Vince McMahon might forget that Cesaro is European, and actually push him to the level he clearly deserves. Come on, WWE, the guy literally sews his own tearaway suits, and you can’t find something better for him to do than act as enhancement talent? Source:

4. The Blair Wyatt Project

All right, so maybe you’ve heard of, or even watched, the “Final Deletion” video created by former WWE Superstasr Matt and Jeff Hardy for their feud in small North American promotion TNA, and how it was the best thing in pro wrestling last week (mostly because it was that incredibly cheesy level of insanity that somehow ends up working, and we recommend you track it down). Allegedly, the New Day visiting the Wyatt Family compound was WWE’s response to that, and to be fair, at least half of wrestling is ripping off stuff that somebody else has already done, or that you had done years ago. However, even ignoring the fact that it may have been an attempt to match the craziness of both Hardy Boyz working in concert (which is impossible), the whole visit to the compound was bad, without reaching that sweet spot of “so bad that it’s actually sort of good” that it was clearly shooting for. Even when they’re trying to make something resemble a “found footage” video, WWE couldn’t resist having a camera cut every two seconds, because apparently that’s the only way their production team knows how to shoot anything these days. Plus, there was the ridiculous “damaged film” filter over every second of the footage, which crossed the line from “a nice touch” to “horribly distracting”. Oh, and then there’s the fact that nothing actually happened. The New Day arrived, fought the Wyatts for a while, and the whole thing ended in a creepy standoff where, we assume (since the Wyatts clearly only bothered to “surround” The New Day on three sides), everyone walked away. Even the whole “Xavier is worried” stuff didn’t really amount to anything important, which begs the question, if they were dead-set on doing this, shouldn’t it have either been the impetus, or the climax, to the feud, instead of a transitional part in the middle? Source:

3. John Cena Is A Slightly Less Bad Friend

We probably should have anticipated John Cena making an appearance, after rumors persisted all day that he’d be stuck in Los Angeles doing rehearsals for the ESPYs, which WWE actually addressed on TV. Plus, once AJ Styles pointed out the same thing everyone’s been saying for a while now, which is that Cena never makes the save for any of his supposed friends, the writing was on the wall for a surprise Cena appearance. Probably the biggest compliment we could give AJ Styles and The Club right now is that they’ve been so good at being arrogant jerks that John Cena making the save actually got the biggest positive reaction we’ve seen him get on TV in years. If there was any bigger indicator that Styles is an actual big star and great professional wrestler, that would be it. Because even though he’s one of the five best wrestlers on the planet, he’s acting like so much of a dick that you absolutely cannot cheer for him. As we pointed out with Kevin Owens, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing as a heel, and it doesn’t hurt that he can also have spectacular matches. Source:

2. Dear God, Why Would You Do This Twice?

So, it’s no shock that we really like Sasha Banks, because she’s fantastic. However, there are clearly limits to her powers, and it would seem that trying to drag Dana Brooke through a ten-plus minute match would be them. Dana Brooke has a great look and a fantastic character that she has clearly worked hard to improve. But she also came into NXT with absolutely no wrestling experience, she’s only been training to be a wrestler for just over a year, and she’s been rushed to the main roster on the strength of her character alone, then thrust into spots well above her ability, such as the featured Women’s match on Raw. There’s no doubt she tried, but it’s clear she doesn’t have the experience necessary quite yet, and when she’s going up against the elevated level of talent that the WWE Women’s division now contains, it’s incredibly glaring. When the match ended, we couldn’t have been the only ones to breath a heavy sigh of relief that it was finally over. But then, Charlotte announced that Sasha was going to face Dana again on Smackdown! Seriously, someone couldn’t have called an audible mid-match and let Charlotte know that they weren’t going to go ahead with a rematch? Watching that match once was painful enough. Source:

1. Going Nowhere Slowly

We hope you enjoyed Raw not opening with a long and boring promo, because they decided to end the show with one instead! And after a ridiculous amount of time-wasting, Vince McMahon announced the thing that everyone already knew, which is that Stephanie will run Raw, and Shane will run Smackdown, as “Commissioners” of each brand. Listen, we’re not thrilled about Stephanie getting sole power over Raw again, because it was nice to have Raw not run by a crazy evil dictator for the first time in forever, but it makes sense to put the guy who fans like and want to see on the show that needs better ratings. However, then things got somewhat dumber, as Vince announced that each Commissioner would need to appoint a General Manager to run their show. Again, it makes sense, because Shane’s not going to be on Smackdown every week and Stephanie should probably spend more time doing her actual corporate job than playing a TV character, but did we really need to stretch this out another week, as well as add another layer to the increasingly insane corporate structure that is WWE’s on-screen hierarchy? The only potential good news is, if the Smackdown GM is who we’ve heard it might be (we won’t spoil it for you), at least it’s a positive direction for the blue brand. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.