Pro Wrestling

10 Wry Observations From Raw In The UK

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/enzo-amore--colin-cassady-vs.-the-dudley-boyz-%E2%80%93-no.-1-contenders-tag-team-tournament-semifinals-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=0 Source: pl.wwe.com

With WWE off on a tour through the Middle East and Europe, it was time for one of our favorite Raw pastimes: mocking the stage setup for the traditional London episode of Raw. Seriously, every time WWE airs a show from the UK, they break out the vintage automobile and red phone booth and plunk them onto the stage underneath the video screens. Are those two ancient props really what WWE thinks best represents England? At the very least, if they’d gone with a blue police box instead of the phone booth, they’d get points for being clever, and probably hit more of their target demographic. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re very lucky. Still, we are in England, so stiff upper lip and all that, because we’re set to dive into another in what has been a string of relatively solid episodes of Raw!

10. Shane Avoids Going Full Teddy

We’ve decided, at this point, that it’s going to be necessary to ignore the fact that nothing about Shane McMahon remaining in charge of Raw makes any real sense and requires us to forget the results of WWE’s biggest Pay Per View of the year, because it’s just simpler that way. Besides, the three weeks with Shane in control have shown just how refreshing it is to have an authority figure who only exists to make matches, be upbeat and genuine, and remain generally detached from personal involvement (at least for now). It turns out that it’s a lot easier to enjoy a wrestling show when you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder for the Authority to come out and screw over your favorite wrestlers. That said, Shane’s still got a lot to learn, because as we covered last week, when you’ve got an even number of Superstars arguing in the ring, you always go for the tag team match, playa! We’re going to guess he didn’t quite finish that degree from the Teddy Long School of Conflict Resolution we were talking about last week.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/the-ambrose-asylum-with-special-guest-shane-mcmahon-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=5 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/the-ambrose-asylum-with-special-guest-shane-mcmahon-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=5 Source: pl.wwe.com

9. Okay, That’s Enough Of That

While Roman Reigns looks more relaxed now that he ever has before, presumably because he’s being allowed to be the laid-back jerk the fans already assume that he is, he’s in real danger of falling into the trap of all WWE catchphrases. That is to say, whenever WWE thinks they’ve hit on something clever or catchy that they could put on a t-shirt, suddenly it’s getting repeated every single chance they get. For the first week, “I’m not a bad guy, I’m not a good guy, I’m The Guy” was cool and clever and revealed a little something about Roman Reigns. Two weeks later, it’s repetitive and irritating, and also way too long to fit on a shirt without looking silly (not that this will likely stop them). Reigns is headed in a good direction, but you can’t start robbing him of “cool” points that he only just started earning back, and making him repeat the only clever thing he’s ever said ad nauseam is doing just that. You can shorten it to just “I am The Guy”, and everyone will still understand the reference without taking five times as long to get there. Plus, we’d buy that shirt.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/luke-gallows--karl-anderson-attack-roman-reigns-photos;jsessionid=2165E7CAA04C6504FD9547AEFDC2DCBA?r30_r1_r1:page=3 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/luke-gallows–karl-anderson-attack-roman-reigns-photos;jsessionid=2165E7CAA04C6504FD9547AEFDC2DCBA?r30_r1_r1:page=3 Source: pl.wwe.com

8. The Following Swerve Is Brought To You By People A Mile Away

So, AJ Styles’ friends from another organization are here and they’ve got his back, even though ambushing the WWE Champion seems like a heel move and the crowd is already bonkers for face AJ Styles. Plus, the announcers are consistently mentioning about how AJ has been a champion everywhere he’s wrestled except WWE, and becoming WWE Champion will cement his legacy as one of the best in the world. And AJ doesn’t seem too happy that his buddies don’t have enough faith in his abilities to beat Roman Reigns without help. One way or the other, there’s a swerve coming, and we can’t help but wonder if maybe the former Bullet Club aren’t actually here to help out AJ Styles. Think about it, there are rumors that Vince McMahon has become a huge fan of Styles, especially after hearing that his merchandise has sold out five times since he debuted. Meanwhile, anyone with a pulse can tell that WWE has stopped pretending that Roman Reigns is actually going to be anything but a bad guy when he faces Styles, and frankly, it’s a good look for him. If Anderson and Gallows were to turn on Styles and align with Reigns, the heat would almost certainly be off the charts, creating a dominant heel stable that could carry main event feuds through the next year, facing off against faces like Styles, Sami Zayn, and soon-to-be returning good guys John Cena and (probably) Seth Rollins. Throw in the fact that Roman used the word “we” when referring to the Roman Empire, and we can’t be the only ones seeing the puzzle pieces coming together.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/luke-gallows--karl-anderson-attack-roman-reigns-photos;jsessionid=2165E7CAA04C6504FD9547AEFDC2DCBA?r30_r1_r1:page=16 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/luke-gallows–karl-anderson-attack-roman-reigns-photos;jsessionid=2165E7CAA04C6504FD9547AEFDC2DCBA?r30_r1_r1:page=16 Source: pl.wwe.com

7. So, Are We Supposed To Hate Puerto Rico Now?

We’ve waited to address the promotional videos from Primo and Epico, who have forsaken their roles as bullfighters to return to their roots as proud sons of Puerto Rico, because we wanted to see where it was going. And at this point, we have to say…we’re not sure? Are we supposed to like them because they live in an island paradise? Are we supposed to hate them because they think Puerto Rico is better than anywhere else in the world? Is this just a case of WWE now being sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Board of Tourism? We know, we’re overthinking it, but given the way the WWE tag team division has exploded in the past few weeks, it’s not the best time to be a tag team with a poorly defined character that could easily get lost in the shuffle. Hell, there are guys dressed up like the new Legion of Doom who couldn’t find a foothold (even before one of them got suspended for Wellness violations), what kind of chance do a couple of guys whose gimmick appears to be “we really love Puerto Rico” have?

http://www.wwe.com/videos/primo-epico-explore-the-rich-history-of-puerto-rico-raw-april-18-2016 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/videos/primo-epico-explore-the-rich-history-of-puerto-rico-raw-april-18-2016 Source: WWE.com

6. We Don’t Think The Miz Has Even Seen Taken

Really, Miz? You managed to mess up the most quotable line from Taken? There are literally kids in elementary school that know that line word-for-word, presumably because every animated children’s show on the planet has already done a family-friendly parody of it by now. It’s not often we get to say that The Miz was the least charismatic person in the ring, but between his wife absolutely killing it in her role as the other half of the Hollywood power couple, and Cesaro just looking and sounding so damned smooth in everything he does, The Miz almost didn’t need to be there. Seriously, Cesaro looks and sounds more like a movie star (Swiss accent and all, Vince!) than the guy who, like him or hate him, has legitimately starred in movies, some of which even made money! It may sound like we’re denigrating the Miz a little much, but honestly, if he’s the worst part of a talking segment, then that was a pretty darned good talking segment. We still feel bad that Zack Ryder got shuffled back to obscurity so quickly, but he’s in a better (or at least more hype) place right now, and frankly, if it comes down to Ryder or Cesaro, we’re going with The Professional every time.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/miz-tv-with-special-guest-cesaro-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=19 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/miz-tv-with-special-guest-cesaro-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=19 Source: pl.wwe.com

5. A Chain Full Of Weak Links

So, the League of Nations kicked Wade Barrett out of the group for being the weak link, and then proceeded to…continue to lose matches cleanly to people who are far better than them. They didn’t even rate an entry in the WWE Tag Team #1 Contender Tournament (sponsored by Booty-O’s), a field that managed to make room for the non-team of Goldust and Fandango (on the other hand, it’s not a WWE tag team tournament if it doesn’t include at least one team made up of people who have never tagged together before and never will again). At this point, much like many of the results of WrestleMania, their win over The New Day makes less and less sense, because it has earned them precisely nothing. When Rusev came out to his own theme music on Raw, we honestly felt a bit of relief, thinking “Thank goodness, they just decided to abandon the League of Nations quietly and move on”, which lasted for about thirty seconds before Sheamus and Del Rio came slinking out behind him. The rumor is that the League isn’t long for this world, and with a presumed match with the Wyatt Family out of the question until Bray Wyatt’s calf injury heals up, there really isn’t any good reason for them to stick together any longer.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/cesaro--the-new-day-vs.-the-miz--the-league-of-nations-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=12 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/cesaro–the-new-day-vs.-the-miz–the-league-of-nations-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=12 Source: pl.wwe.com

4. Even His Own Daughter Doesn’t Remember Jim Neidhart

If you weren’t a wrestling fan that is intimately aware of the many family bloodlines running through the industry, you could be forgiven for thinking that Bret Hart is actually Natalya’s father, rather than his tag team partner and brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. And we know her actual father is available, because he occasionally shows up on Total Divas. However, obviously the Hitman is a bigger deal than his old Hart Foundation teammate, despite the fact that at least Neidhart is able to do anything remotely physical in the ring and might be able to stop Ric Flair from doing what he always does in his daughter’s matches. On the bright side, whatever balance the presence of Hart brings to their Women’s Title match at Payback, at least it should force Charlotte to actually win a match on her own merits, just to show that she could if she had to. Come on, if Charlotte doesn’t show that she could beat any other woman if she put her mind to it, it wouldn’t be quite as meaningful when Sasha Banks finally dethrones her at SummerSlam!

http://hiddenremote.com/2016/04/08/7-matches-see-wwe-payback-2016/6/ Source: hiddenremote.com

http://hiddenremote.com/2016/04/08/7-matches-see-wwe-payback-2016/6/ Source: hiddenremote.com

3. The Old Guard Gives Back

The semi-finals of the WWE Tag Team #1 Contender Tournament (sponsored by Booty-0’s) that took place this week went off in perfect fashion. First, we had the Dudley Boyz putting over Enzo and Cass clean as a sheet, to which you might say “well, of course”, but in recent years, WWE usually would have a match like that end with shenanigans to keep the decorated veterans strong. And say what you will about the Vaudevillains (to us, they’re an incredibly clever gimmick that unfortunately might not have legs on the main roster) but having The Usos put them over in a similarly decisive fashion was the right way to at least give them an even shot of being something valuable to the tag division. We don’t hate The Usos, but it is sort of telling that they usually only get to be prominent when there are no other choices, and now that the young teams of NXT are here, it’s time for them, and the Dudleyz, to slip back into the role of veteran teams whose greatest value is putting others over to strengthen the division.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/enzo-amore--colin-cassady-vs.-the-dudley-boyz-%E2%80%93-no.-1-contenders-tag-team-tournament-semifinals-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=0 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/enzo-amore–colin-cassady-vs.-the-dudley-boyz-%E2%80%93-no.-1-contenders-tag-team-tournament-semifinals-match-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=0 Source: pl.wwe.com

2. Low But (Not Really) Meaningful Stakes

Listen, nobody truly believed that Apollo Crews, the mountain from Stone Mountain (WWE, if you steal that, I expect royalties), would lose to Heath Slater in what amounted to an enhancement match for Crews, the combination of that damned numbers game and a stipulation that Crews might have to join the Social Outcasts if he lost at least gave us the slim possibility that WWE might run a longer story. Of course, they didn’t, because Apollo Crews is going to be a huge star and the Social Outcasts are so unimportant that it’s possible many people didn’t notice they’re suddenly short a member, but it’s enough that WWE made an effort to give a match that would normally be of no importance a small hook to get people invested in the outcome. Sure, it was dumb and there was no chance of the stipulation actually coming into play (although now that it’s over, we can’t help but wonder what Apollo as a Social Outcast would be like), but its very existence is an indicator that WWE might actually be paying attention to more than just their main event storylines for the first time in a very long while. Also, it gives us another opportunity to post pictures of Apollo Crews doing things that should be impossible for someone his size.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/apollo-crews-vs.-heath-slater-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=16 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/apollo-crews-vs.-heath-slater-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=16 Source: pl.wwe.com

1. Anyone Can Win, For Real!

Possibly the most important thing to come out of recent episodes of Raw is the fact that WWE’s promotion of half a dozen Superstars to the main event level, without handcuffing them to midcard titles or putting them directly into the WWE World Heavyweight title picture, is a series of feuds and matches where anyone could actually win. This week, Chris Jericho beat Sami Zayn, and Dean Ambrose beat Kevin Owens, but next week, the opposite could easily happen. And more importantly, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens aren’t magically less popular despite losing, because the matches were treated as important contests between equals, and they just came up short this time. It sounds like 50/50 booking, and at a certain level it might be, but the difference is that it doesn’t feel like wrestlers trading meaningless wins because they have no direction, and losing via distractions or flash pins or handfuls of tights. The wins feel earned, because there were good, even matches beforehand and they ended with clean pinfalls in the middle of the ring. It also helps that WWE has deviated from the usual formula of repeatedly having two Superstars feud by having multiple matches against each other before having another match on PPV. Sami probably won’t face Owens one-on-one before Payback, and neither will Jericho and Ambrose. This builds drama because we’ve seen them win (and lose) unrelated matches leading up to their confrontation, but we haven’t seen them face each other, so we can’t resort to the usual “Well, this guy won the first match on Raw and this guy won the second match on Smackdown, so…” reasoning that has become so cliche, and in wrestling, that sort of unpredictability is what makes for a better show overall.

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/the-ambrose-asylum-with-special-guest-shane-mcmahon-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=14 Source: pl.wwe.com

http://pl.wwe.com/photos/2016/04/19/the-ambrose-asylum-with-special-guest-shane-mcmahon-photos?r30_r1_r1:page=14 Source: pl.wwe.com

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