Pro Wrestling

The Lamest Of Ducks: 10 Thoughts From A Mostly Meaningless Raw

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/dean-ambrose-vs-seth-rollins-wwe-championship-match-photos#fid-40036843 Source: WWE.com

In case you were completely unaware, WWE’s brand extension resumes on the first episode of Smackdown Live (yes, that’s the official name, despite Raw having been live for years at this point). And with the matches for Battleground already set up, and any further developments rendered unimportant due to the fact that the entire dynamic of the company will shift in less than a day, Raw itself was an exercise in filling three hours of programming with watchable, but ultimately meaningless content. Well, aside from the first ten minutes of the show, which introduced the GMs of Raw and Smackdown. Overall, nearly half of Raw was dedicated to two matches: a 12-man tag, and Dean Ambrose facing Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship, a match whose outcome really doesn’t matter, since they’ll do the whole thing over again in less than a week at Battleground. Still, even on show with absolutely no lasting consequences, some interesting stuff happened, right?

Right?

10. The End Of The Authority

Okay, we know it’s hard, because we love him too, but ignore Daniel Bryan for a second here. Obviously, we’re happy to see Mick Foley back and looking in far better shape than he has, since he was probably the best authority figure WWE’s ever had, or at least the most enjoyable. The real good news is that WWE didn’t go the obvious route and put The Authority back in power by naming Triple H as GM (hopefully, with a GM installed, Stephanie will make far less appearances and go back to her real job now), returning the show to the doom and gloom that we’ve experienced from a long string of evil people in power dating back to…actually, when wasn’t Raw under the heel of a bad guy? Theoretically, Roman Reigns will get the credit for ending The Authority’s reign at WrestleMania, but it does feel like we never really got that proper blowoff to their reign of terror. Also, we probably could have lived without Mick doing a little speech about how Stephanie’s dedication to slapping people is actually a sign of passion. We can deal with all those minor issues, however, because for the first time in a long time, the good guys are in charge!

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/raw-smackdown-live-general-managers-revealed-photos#fid-40036591 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/raw-smackdown-live-general-managers-revealed-photos#fid-40036591 Source: WWE.com

9. Fifth Time’s The Charm?

Okay, we’re more than a little cautious about the announcement that Raw will be the exclusive home of the new Cruiserweight division, for a number of very good reasons. First of all, we’ve lived through every single attempt WWE has made to create a division of this sort, and it has always ended badly, because somebody in charge (named Vince McMahon) can’t wrap their head around the idea that smaller guys can beat really big guys through superior skill. Furthermore, after the work over the past few years to elevate smaller wrestlers into higher positions on the card (for example, the new Smackdown GM), apparently WWE is once again going to cordon them off into their own division, which automatically restricts their potential for elevation. We’re also a little worried that WWE will use a bunch of Cruiserweight Classic wrestlers to fill out that part of the roster, mostly because we thought those guys were supposed to fill out the NXT roster after it gets pillaged during the draft. Oh, and then later in the show, Baron Corbin effortlessly crushed Sin Cara and Kalisto, two of the main roster’s most visible cruiserweights, on his own, just to drive home the point we made earlier about the likely fate of most of that division. So, yeah, that’s why we have some concerns.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sin-cara-vs-baron-corbin-photos#fid-40036734 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sin-cara-vs-baron-corbin-photos#fid-40036734 Source: WWE.com

8. Oh Yeah, There’s A Blood Feud Ending On Sunday

Listen, we’ll watch any combination of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, and Chris Jericho that you want to give us (even though Evil Dad Jericho seemed to be a half-step behind last night for some reason), but we’re honestly baffled about the massive undersell WWE is doing on what is supposedly the final Sami Zayn-Kevin Owens match ever (until they inevitably end up on the same brand in the future) this Sunday at Battleground. Several weeks ago, they agreed that this whole thing has to end, and since then, they’ve just kind of gone about their business. Sure, they’ve done their usual hockey fights, but there hasn’t really been that confrontation to make us feel like “this thing has to end before they kill each other”, which is what WWE is purporting this final match to be. If anything, what should be the culmination of several years (or fifteen, depending on whether we’re counting their pre-WWE work) of a deeply personal feud is being given less attention than Darren Young facing The Miz in a match that was only made last week. There’s been so little screen time dedicated to it, we’re not sure that even WWE’s crack production team will have enough material to make an incredible video package for Sunday, and that’s saying something.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sami-zayn-cesaro-vs-kevin-owens-chris-jericho-photos#fid-40036647 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sami-zayn-cesaro-vs-kevin-owens-chris-jericho-photos#fid-40036647 Source: WWE.com

7. Winning By Accident, The Darren Young Story

So, Darren Young is allegedly great again, as evidenced by his winning a battle royal due to the massive stupidity of others. Hey, maybe it really is a metaphor for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. Anyway, Young gets his first one-on-one match since his repackage, but unfortunately, it’s against Alberto Del Rio, who is once again dead behind the eyes and simply collecting a paycheck, for which we really can’t blame him at this point. Do you ever wonder if Del Rio occasionally remembers all the love and respect he was getting after he got fired from WWE and went to work for Lucha Underground, and cries a little inside? Anyway, Young wins again, through no real action of his own, after Miz distracts the referee while Del Rio has Young pinned, leading to a surprise rollup victory. We’re assuming Backlund giving Young his Crossface Chickenwing finisher was only symbolic, at this point, because it has not yet been used to actually win a match. Boy, we can’t tell you how many massive stars have been made out of characters that string together some fluke victories. We literally can’t, because it never happens.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/darren-young-vs-alberto-del-rio-photos#fid-40036606 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/darren-young-vs-alberto-del-rio-photos#fid-40036606 Source: WWE.com

6. John Cena Ages Before Our Eyes

Something that we often forget while celebrating John Cena’s decade-plus time in WWE is that it means he’s been around for a whole lot of years, and in that time, like any human, he has aged. It’s like at some point, we blinked and John Cena, angry young rapper, is now nearly forty, and that messes us up a little inside. It’s the old Grandpa Simpson “I used to be ‘with it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was” problem (please tell us there are people who still get that reference). The good news is, Cena’s clearly rolling with it, as he’s morphed into this character who sees the next generation of wrestlers coming up behind him, and while he embraces progress, he’s realized that he’s slightly out of the loop on some things. His befuddlement at Enzo Amore’s speech patterns is endearing, and frankly, this Eastwood-esque, old gunfighter who can still bring it when called upon version of Cena is the most we’ve liked him in years. However, we’re pretty sure that after Xavier Woods explained Enzo’s gimmick by listing Pokemon (we have no doubt Woods can name all 150), he then likely had to explain Pokemon to Cena as well, and we would love to have heard that conversation.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/john-cena-enzo-amore-big-cass-spark-a-war-of-words-photos#fid-40036676 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/john-cena-enzo-amore-big-cass-spark-a-war-of-words-photos#fid-40036676 Source: WWE.com

5. Last Week Never Happened

Speaking of The New Day (our segues aren’t quite as good as Big E’s), it’s somewhat unfortunate to see that their visit to the Wyatt Compound last week doesn’t seem to have left any lasting scars, as they’re right back to cracking jokes. Even Xavier, as mentioned, was more interested in listing his Pokemon Go accomplishments (we like you, Xavier, but we’re Team Mystic for life) than addressing the horrors they faced in the swamps of Louisiana. On the other hand, he is subtly growing what the more conspiracy-minded might call the “alternate universe goatee”, so maybe there’s more going on than we know. Honestly, given how poorly the Compound segment came across, we’re fine with everyone moving on and only referencing it in vague terms, and going back to a normal feud with tag team matches instead of poorly-thought-out found footage re-creations. Of course, for some reason, The Wyatt Family is literally the only stable not eligible to be drafted as a unit, which could be awkward if they end up on separate brands before even getting their match at Battleground.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/john-cena-enzo-amore-big-cass-spark-a-war-of-words-photos#fid-40036685 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/john-cena-enzo-amore-big-cass-spark-a-war-of-words-photos#fid-40036685 Source: WWE.com

4. Cram The Rest Of This In Somewhere

In some ways, Raw went to opposite extremes, between stretching a couple key segments to kill time, then hastily fitting in a bunch of segments in the short amount of time remaining. To be fair, almost nothing that happened on Raw is going to matter after the brand split literally 24 hours later. However, you would think, for a lame duck show that basically dedicated the entire second hour to a single 12-man tag match, the rest of the show wouldn’t feel so ridiculously compressed. But here we are, with Baron Corbin crushing Sin Cara in a minute, the US Title feud reduced to a brief tag match where the champion and challenger barely got involved (also, someone should remind the writers that the League of Nations broke up weeks ago), and both feuds from the Women’s division crammed into a single segment. But hey, there’s totally a deep enough roster of females for both brands, right? On the bright side, at least there are two Women’s matches at Battleground, but we’d probably put down money that Becky Lynch vs Natalya ends up on the pre-show.

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sasha-banks-becky-lynch-vs-charlotte-dana-brooke-photos#fid-40036769 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/sasha-banks-becky-lynch-vs-charlotte-dana-brooke-photos#fid-40036769 Source: WWE.com

3. When The Ascension Improvs

You probably did even notice this happening, because who pays attention to what The Ascension does, but during a brief backstage segment, they appeared to be attempting to sell Raw GM Mick Foley on some sort of amusement park. Granted, Foley is a known roller coaster junkie, but the words coming out of Konor and Viktor sounded more like real human beings than the face-painted gothic warriors they purport to be. Of course, you can see more of The Ascension being actual people on WWE’s YouTube shows like UpUpDownDown, because apparently they are actual people, but this was on Raw itself. Honestly, we have to believe, given the sheer absurdity of the whole situation, that nobody bothered to give The Ascension any lines for the segment, and they decided to just talk about whatever, because nobody cares what they do at this point anyway. And if that’s true, then we are totally getting behind a new push for The Ascension, in which they literally act like giant dorks but continue to dress like rejects from a Mad Max parody. Maybe they’re LARPing or something, we’re just spitballing, here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ascension_(professional_wrestling) Source: Wikipedia.org

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ascension_(professional_wrestling) Source: Wikipedia.org

2. By The Way, You’re Going Thirty Minutes

Was it just us, or did it seem like nobody told Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins that they were going to have to fill the last half-hour of Raw until they were literally walking through the curtain? Maybe that’s why they seemed to spend the first half of the match having a competition over who could stall outside the ring the longest. Rollins (who, by the way, cut another excellent promo in an empty arena about how much intelligence, drive, and passion he has, so, you know, WWE thinks you should boo him) and Ambrose have faced each other a lot in the past two years, and this was by far the worst match of the bunch, by a wide margin. We get that it was ostensibly a WWE Championship match, but was it really necessary to stretch it for that long? Frankly, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Triple Threat match at Battleground, which will have the benefit of a third participant, still ends up being a shorter match. And then, of course, we get to the big finish…

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/dean-ambrose-vs-seth-rollins-wwe-championship-match-photos#fid-40036843 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/dean-ambrose-vs-seth-rollins-wwe-championship-match-photos#fid-40036843 Source: WWE.com

1. But Wait, There’s More!

If you’re like us, once the chyron came up to signal the end of Raw, you turned off the TV (or in our case, started watching your DVR’d episode of UnReal – don’t you judge us, that show is great) with the belief that Stephanie McMahon had just unilaterally declared Seth Rollins the WWE Champion, despite the finish clearly being a double pin that would obviously result in a draw. It’s like the WWE rule book doesn’t exist or something! So, it’s very likely that you were confused and maybe a little angry at the clearly terrible end of Raw. Well, there’s good news that you might just be finding out now, because apparently, they kept the cameras rolling on the WWE Network, where the referee finally rendered the correct decision, which was a draw, and Dean Ambrose remains the WWE Champion. Why yes, that is a near-textbook Dusty Finish, thanks for noticing. Of course, this ridiculously infuriating end, which we’re willing to bet a lot of people did not see, is almost certainly the reason why we’re going to end up with two World titles after the Draft, and will also likely be why Stephanie chooses Seth Rollins first overall, rather than the actual WWE Champion. Oh, and also there’s still that match at Battleground this Sunday where they could theoretically settle things without creating a second title but probably won’t, and also Roman Reigns will be there. Remember him?

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/dean-ambrose-vs-seth-rollins-wwe-championship-match-photos#fid-40036868 Source: WWE.com

http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/july-18-2016/gallery/dean-ambrose-vs-seth-rollins-wwe-championship-match-photos#fid-40036868 Source: WWE.com

X