For the 240th birthday of the United States, WWE put together a show that was predicated on two things. First, it was a celebration of America’s birthday. And second, it was a show written with the belief that very few people would be watching. After all, only on a low-rated holiday show could Zack Ryder not just wrestle in the main event of Raw, but actually win the match. That’s not to say that it was a bad show, in fact parts of it were quite entertaining, and they continued to build several matches for the Battleground PPV that could be worth seeing. So, if you happen to be one of the many, many Americans who likely skipped the show, we thought we’d let you know about some of the more important things that you missed.
10. We Just Can’t Have Nice Things
As The Miz pointed out, you simply can’t have a holiday episode in WWE without it degenerating into a food fight, which, given that we’re pretty sure we saw Heath Slater extolling the virtues of hot dogs and whipped cream, is probably better than actually eating it. It does beg the question as to why the genre-savvy Miz would choose to wear a white suit, and the answer, of course, is “comedy”. And this actually was a funny, lighthearted cold open, with none of the cringe-worthy attempts at humor usually seen in WWE. Among the highlights we found were Cesaro and Apollo Crews silently arm-wrestling during the entire fight (which ended in a draw), Sami Zayn yelling “Don’t eat the beans, they’ve been tainted” (kids, ask your grandparents why that’s funny), and Xavier Woods extolling the virtues of a beach toy as a shield. The whole thing was topped off by Kevin Owens hiding under a table for the entire fight, emerging without a scratch, and declaring (quite correctly), that “this would never happen on Canada Day”, followed by a cream pie OUTTANOWHERE which led to Owens pitching a fit. Of course, since he’s Kevin Owens, he also made sure to pause halfway through his tantrum to try some of the pie, because like we said earlier, that’s good comedy.
9. A Real American Hero
Well, it’s a good thing Titus O’Neil is apparently the best dad in the world, because if you can’t win the United States title from a foreign monster heel on the Fourth of July while dressed up as Uncle Sam (we would also accept Apollo Creed, or Balrog from the Street Fighter video games), then your career prospects in terms of wrestling are clearly not very bright. We’ll admit, we were halfway worried that the date of the show would lead to WWE doing a “patriotic” title change, but thankfully, they decided instead to blow off this painful feud in a way that makes Rusev an even better heel. He’s the US Champion, defending the title successfully on America’s favorite holiday! In his eyes, he’s the greatest thing to happen to America since that Miracle on Ice they keep referencing in order to make people believe they’re any good at hockey! Granted, this does leave Rusev twisting in the wind a bit in regards to Battleground in two weeks, but given that there’s still two weeks until that show, they’ve got plenty of time to find someone else for Rusev to crush.
8. The Enzo And Cass Show
If you needed another indication that WWE recognizes that Enzo and Cass are one of the best things they have going, look no further than this episode, which had the duo all over the show. They got a featured spot in the food fight, they destroyed the historically accurate Social Outcasts (in a non-PG WWE, we’d imagine that Enzo would have something to say about the Outcasts being “Minutemen”), Enzo showed off his ability to name every US President in order (which is the requirement for getting Bob Backlund’s autograph, if you were interested, and no, we’re not kidding), they shilled for Sonic and showed off Enzo’s classy lunchbox, which should be up for sale on WWEShop by now, and then they saved John Cena from The Club to set up their match at Battleground. That’s a pretty full night for anyone, and thankfully, they’re two guys who are entertaining enough to make it work. We’re not sure we’re thrilled with their association with Cena, because being Cena’s friend is historically a bad idea (just ask Zack Ryder, Cryme Tyme, and a litany of other babyfaces that Cena has never made a save for), but at least they’re raising their profile.
7. Dana Brooke: Moment Ruiner
We were willing to cut Dana Brooke some slack, because her character work is on point, and it’s not her fault that her team with Emma got sidelined by an unfortunate injury. However, after a hot segment in which Sasha Banks and Charlotte faced off over who was the true dominant female in WWE, complete with Sasha’s great response to Charlotte’s decree that she wasn’t even in the conversation, saying “I AM the conversation”, which is basically the tag line for every video package about this feud, things broke down in a bad way. During the post-interview brawl, Brooke blew basically every cue she had, as she was late for spots, sold them awkwardly, and turned the whole thing into a Three Stooges routine that not even WWE’s crack video editing team will be able to save in post-production. It will be forgotten by next week, of course, but it really shows that Brooke, for all that she has an incredible character, was brought up well before she was ready, and probably should have been returned to NXT once that became apparant. Unfortunately, we’ve got a brand split in two weeks, so she’s unlikely to be moved off the main roster.
6. Life Without Roman Reigns
Listen, we know there are people who have been fired up for a Shield Triple Threat ever since they broke up, and due to the brand split, this is likely the last chance to have it, but with Roman Reigns off on a drug-related suspension, we’ve been watching Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose just kill it out there, and the question needs to be asked: why did Roman Reigns even need to be a part of this? This week, we saw Dean get monstrous ovations, wrestle a good match with The Miz, be incredibly engaging in one and a half languages on commentary, and get another huge pop for laying out Rollins on the Spanish announce table. Meanwhile, Rollins had a pretty spectacular match with an oddly motivated Dolph Ziggler (reminding us once again why he is one of WWE’s biggest missed opportunities), and also got some pops for continuing to run down Roman Reigns for being a massive disappointment to the fans. So, why do we have this sick feeling that Ambrose’s reign isn’t long for the world, no matter how entertaining he is and how much the fans actually like him? And also, why the hell is Seth Rollins, possibly the most sympathetic person on the roster, and also showing off that he could be one of WWE’s best wrestlers, continuing to be a dirty heel? As always, the answer to both of these queries is “Roman Reigns”, but as the weeks go by with him not around, we can’t help but feel like the question is going to change to “Who almost definitely should not get a renewed push on his return at the expense of wrestlers that are doing a much better job and incidentally, didn’t get popped for a Wellness violation?”
5. Excuse Me?
Okay, we, like many people, unironically love Vickie Guerrero, who was at one point the biggest heel in wrestling and seemingly reveled in that part. Much like her former husband Eddie Guerrero, she turned out to be a masterful actor, with hidden depths of charisma that nobody could have expected, and she knew exactly how to play to a crowd. However, the voice still sends shivers down our spine, and if we thought there was even a chance that she might be the future COO (apparently General Managers are no longer a thing) of Smackdown, we’d probably have to stick something sharp through our eardrums in order to watch the show every week. That said, there’s almost no chance that will happen, so as a one-off segment where Vickie got to play all her classic hits, right up to being thrown out by security in a manner most undignified, then we’re fine with it. Also, we have to give Dolph Ziggler some points for his phone conversation with his mother, which contained the line “Yeah, I lost again, but I tried really hard”. That’s pretty much the saddest and most accurate summary of Dolph Ziggler’s WWE career we’ve ever heard.
4. They Forgot Arbor Day
Something that will always resonate with fans is the impression that wrestlers are having fun with what they’re doing. It’s why the New Day works, it’s why the show-opening food fight was hilarious, and it’s why AJ Styles and The Club cut a pretty entertaining promo where they listed off their schedule for the next year or so, with each day including a plan to beat up John Cena (in case you’re interested, fans on social media demanded that Karl Anderson prove that he has a hot Asian wife, and he totally does). It was the right combination of comedy and heelish behaviour that made the promo work, and in fact, the brashness and laid-back attitude is at least a part of why Bullet Club worked in Japan. Some had asked how a stable that was based around the idea of loud American “sports entertainers” disrespecting the wrestling culture of Japan would translate to North America. Well, we got a good indication of it on Raw. Plus, we’re kind of happy that the Battleground match is not going to be a straight one-on-one affair between Styles and Cena, because we’d be less upset if Cena got his win back in a six-man tag as opposed to just beating Styles in repeated rematches. That said, they could still end up on the same brand and this could just be a delaying action until the bigger SummerSlam PPV, so we’ll hold off on making a final judgment until then.
3. Exercising Our Constitutional Right To Hate The Golden Truth
At some point in the third hour, anyone still watching (which is almost certainly less than were watching at the start of the show, if the last four years of three-hour Raws is any indication) had to realize that absolutely nothing of value was going to happen for the rest of the evening. Most likely, it occured to most fans when they were “treated” to a match between Golden Truth, a team that we’d be shocked to discover anyone cared about, and The Vaudevillains, a team whose limited shelf life is apparently over, and whose most entertaining feature is their unique entrance, which didn’t air on TV. Frankly, the best part of the segment was sitting at ringside in the form of Breezango, and they didn’t even do anything! These three teams, along with the Shooting Stars of The Green Screen That Represents Puerto Rico, seem to be basically stuck waiting around for the brand split, when there’s a chance they might be allowed to become somewhat relevant instead of trapped behind The New Day, The Wyatts, Enzo and Cass, and The Club in the pecking order (and also The Usos, who have apparently vanished off the face of the earth, to the concern of pretty much nobody). It’s telling that they only appear on television when it’s clear a show is stretching for content, and for the younger teams especially, it seems like a shameful waste of some pretty good talents. Also, it says something that even with subtitles, Golden Truth’s theme still makes no sense.
2. All Fun And Games, Until Someone Decides The Wyatts Are Threats Now
Hey, we’re all about making the Wyatts into the powerful force they’ve been claiming to be ever since their debut, but we’re not sure putting them up against The New Day is the way to do it. The New Day’s entire schtick is that they don’t take anything seriously, they relentless mock their opponents, and as their promo initially showed, that’s their same plan for the Wyatts. Unfortunately, mocking the Wyatts in that way is detrimental, because let’s face it, they’re a bunch of guys in sheep masks and onesies, there’s a lot to make fun of there. That said, this attempt by Xavier Woods to try and make things serious was a valiant attempt, but even with the last couple weeks of him looking worried, it still seems to come out of nowhere, given that this is the guy who plays a trombone at ringside and mimicks Street Fighter moves inside it. If the Wyatts had actually done anything to New Day before now, Xavier’s worry might be justified, but at this point, they’re still WWE Tag Team Champions, and the Wyatts haven’t actually given them a reason for concern. Maybe whatever this visit to the Wyatt “compound” is supposed to be might change things dramatically, but until then, this feud feels very awkward.
1. United States Of A…Bunch Of Losers
We’re not against the idea of ending the show with a massive USA vs The World match, given the holiday, but we do have issues with the fact that while the “Multi-National Alliance” was made up of some of the companies top stars, some of whom have PPV matches in a couple of weeks, while the USA side, thanks to the fact that every competent American wrestler actually had something better to do on the show, featured an array of the jobbiest bunch of jobbers that ever jobbed. Also, apparently Kane is from America now, which we’d like to believe is some sort of sly commentary on the state of the nation (also, the wrestler playing Kane is mainly from Spain. Admittedly, he was born on an American military base there, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to rhyme). Then, WWE killed off the reactions of an already-tired crowd by introducing the international team with their national anthems instead of entrance music, even though they included popular wrestlers like Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and the Lucha Dragons. Ultimately, the match itself was not actually very good, and featured roughly six dozen forms of miscommunication from the World side in order to let the Americans pull out a completely unbelievable win. Okay, good on WWE for letting Zack Ryder pick up the victory (although it basically underlines how much they’ve jerked him around for no reason when he should have been a productive member of the roster for the last few years), and really, any team that pairs up Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn is foredoomed to failure. However, on any other day, the World team should have wiped the floor with the USA squad, and we’re pretty sure the fans in attendance and the few people left watching on TV at that point probably felt the same way.