This week I'm turning my opening over to Jesse Sherwood. He has a lot more to say than I do, and does it much more eloquently than I ever could. Please, give him the love and support that I always do.
As a kid, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing true wrestling at its finest: the territory days of Memphis. There, I watched all sorts of greats battle it out with the King, Jerry Lawler. And this past Monday, one of those greats passed away in "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel. He, just like Ric Flair and Buddy Rogers, was a blonde, cocky heel that oozed a natural charisma about him that fans hated. His work in the southern territories always was above the board of anything else on the card, to the point that he had been set to take the NWA World Heavyweight Title off of Ric Flair before he started having personal demons affect his relationship with Jim Crockett. It was thanks to that falling out that we Memphis fans were treated to one of the best storylines in the history of the territory. Jimmy Hart had recently been sent packing from CWA, and in his place, "Superstar" Bill Dundee had made it his mission to remove Lawler from the promotion. To do so, he brought in Buddy Landel. Thanks to some cheating, they succeeded in making Lawler lose a "Loser leaves town" match. With the King gone, they ruled the roost and started attacking Lawler's longtime rival and friend "Dirty" Dutch Mantell. After about three months of this, Jerry Jarrett lifted the stipulation and brought Lawler back. He and Mantell would then have an epic series of matches with Dundee and Landel, which culminated with arguably one of the most brutal matches I ever watched, a 26 Fall, 1:15:00 Texas Death Match, which was the last time that the Mid-South Colosseum sold out. His success would continue in Memphis, including winning the USWA Heavyweight Championship. He would end up in WWE, and was supposed to be paired with "The Ringmaster" Steve Austin, but a serious injury would sideline him shortly after his debut and he would not get much of a chance upon his return. But no matter what, Landel will always be remembered for being a fantastic example of what a heel should be in this business.
In Ring Segment > B+
Yes, I'm disgusted by Brock, but I'm going to be totally honest in my opinions about Brock on Raw last night, the good, as well as the bad. Now, I am truly a Paul Heyman Girl, and actually spent the money for the t-shirt, but Brock can go! Okay, before I go back to being pissy about Brock, I will say that I LOVE the front of that suplex city shirt. I would never buy one, because I'm not going to support a man I truly loath, and think is too dangerous to be working the ring with mere mortals.
Keeping Brock off mic here was a smart move. Brock isn't the type who could have gotten on mic and given an impassioned apology, nor could he have given a smirky, Eddie-esque BS apology. So it was smart to have him 'apologize' off mic, but it was the announce team who made it that much better. The fear of Brock coming close to them after the last time he was close, the shocked and freaked look on JBL's face after Brock shook his hand and apologized. The way Byron fled was good too, but it was the interaction between Brock and Cole that made this segment so much more than it was. We all thought that Brock was going all jackass again when he grabbed Cole in that headlock, but then he treated Cole like a little boy, as so many do, because he's not a big guy, and that was fantastic work from both of them. I was quite impressed with both the creative behind it, and how they worked it together. Shockingly, Brock is getting huge props from me for that bit of this segment.
Ambrose vs Kane > A-
It doesn't matter who Ambrose is in the ring with, he shines. Kane is a workhorse, and works really well with most people, but sometimes drops the ball. With Ambrose, it's like Kane is working with someone he knows as well as anyone, as if they've been working the ring together for years, and know what to expect from the other at every move. The work was creative and a joy to watch, which continues to prove that Ambrose really is the future, and the now, of the WWE.
I love how the Rollins storyline wove into this match, creating more questions than answers, and setting up for vignettes and segments to come throughout the night. I've been saying that I dearly miss storylines that play out through an entire episodes, and under Trip and Steph's tutelage, they did just that with Rollins. It was a great start to a really well paced storyline.
Winner – Kane (11:30)
Backstage Segment > A-
And here's the start of the conversations between Rollins and all members of The Authority. It was great to do this right after commercial, and before Kane had time to talk to anyone else. Looking back at these segments, the one thing Rollins didn't do until forced was apologe. Rollins continued with his egotistical ways, and claims that he's not afraid to face Brock Lesnar on his own. He's really selling that he's young, has been fed everything by The Authority on a silver platter, and thinks he deserves it all without working at it, even though we know his career heading up to this point was very different from that. Rollins being the young punk working against a seasoned Kane is almost the perfect dichotomy of age, size, experience, and eras. I wasn't always thrilled with Kane working with The Authority, but the way he works with Rollins is fantastic.
Video > A
I love that O'Neil won Celebrity Father of the Year. He's so endearing outside the ring, and his sons really seem to adore him. It's hard for a wrestler to be there for their kids, especially working in the WWE, but that O'Neil makes a point of doing all he can with his boys really shows where his priorities are.
Prime Time Players vs The Ascension > D-&B+
The video was lovely, but I have to say that the hug Young gave him in the ring after the video about brought tears to my eyes. These two are so sweet together, and while I was annoyed that Slater was again out in the cold when Young returned from injury, O'Neil and Young have proven that it was the right thing to bring the Prime Time Players back together. PTPs as WWE Tag Team Champs are a refreshing breath of fresh air, and quite unexpected, but they're showing that they deserve it, something I didn't think early in their pairing.
And then there's The Ascension. Yikes! Why are these two still working in the WWE, and not back in developmental? They're a total mess, and not in a good way. I understand that the Tag Division isn't very big right now, with the Usos out, Kidd injured, it appears Rowan is injured, and there's only so many times the PTPs can face New Day, but there's also the Lucha Dragons! I know Lucha Dragons are faces, but they could put on an impressive, and congenial match. Same with Axelmania and Sandow, and Los Matadores. But why not take someone like Bo, or Slater, and match them up with someone else – possibly from NXT – or each other, and build another team. It's not as though they're doing much. And then there's Henry. He was in a match, but he'd be a great partner for someone younger. Honestly, I'd rather see almost anyone in the ring but The Ascension.
I have to say that O'Neil floating over Konnor in a corner was beautiful, and quite unexpected from a guy of that size. O'Neil also hit a spinebuster that left me in awe. It was the first impressive spinebuster of the night, but not the last.
Young hit a really solid belly-to-belly on Viktor, and then that gut check finisher to end it all. I find the name of the move quite interesting after that Gut Check competition TNA had for a bit, but that's the WWE for you. Beyond all that, these two men worked the ring hard, and hit some really solid moves, proving that they deserve to be Tag Team Champs.
Winners – PTPs (4:05)
Sheamus vs Reigns > B
I don't know if I'm the only one, but I really don't get Sheamus as Mr. MITB. Of the wrestlers in that match, other than Kofi, Sheamus was at the bottom of the list of people who should have won. Don't get me wrong, I like Sheamus, I just don't think of him as more than an upper mid-card wrestler for much of his career. He just doesn't seem to have what it takes to carry the WWE WHC. He's been Champ before, and it just didn't work. He's more seasoned now, but sometimes it just isn't in the cards. Not everyone is a top Superstar, but there's nothing wrong with that, someone has to be in the mid-card, and at least he's in the WWE, few can say that.
I've wavered back and forth on Reigns since he started, but he's really making great strides, and picking up fans in the process. It seems like each week, since he's not getting pushed to the moon above others who are more ready than him, he's getting a lot more support from the fans. This match was nothing more than to set up for the (lame) growing feud between Reigns and Wyatt, something that few are at all happy about. I'm a broken record about Wyatt needing to evolve in some way, something Reigns seems to be doing effortlessly, so I'm not going to bitch about that today. I am going to complain that they're going with this feud at all, because no matter what happens, neither of them are going to come out of it looking good. It's a pitfall for both of them, no matter who comes out on top.
Unlike other people, I have no issue with them using pics of Reigns' daughter, as she'd already been used in that commercial she did with her father, and it's not like they're actually using her on air. The empty rocking chair was a lovely touch, and showed just how they're not using her in all this. Sheamus, on the other hand, is being used as if he's worthless, even though Mr. MITB should be elevated, and usually is. Or, usually was. It seems as though Sandow as Mr. MITB changed the direction of who wins and what can happen with them. Personally, I thought Sandow was a great pick to win the MITB that year, but the WWE dropped the ball. Now, I'm worried that the WWE gave the case to someone who will drop the ball all on his own.
Reigns leaves the ring and heads up the ramp. (17:04)
Backstage Segment > B
I loved the creativity used here. Any Superstar looking backstage for someone can either go great, or fail miserably. This wasn't the best, but it sure wasn't the worst by any stretch. The way Reigns found Wyatt's singing, but not Wyatt, and the work that went into staging the room Reigns found was really nice. The glow of the candles, the tea party set up, the words on the wall in what looked like blood, and how they were surrounded by the pics of Reigns with all his eyes and mouths removed. Really nice attention to detail, but to have it all set up in a basic room, not hidden away in a boiler room, or something, seemed a bit off to me. I know it would have taken Reigns longer to find, but it would have added that much more Wyatt-ness of it all.
Backstage Segment > B
And the continuation of the storyline. I loved how Mercury tossed the coffee cup over his shoulder when Rollins wanted to grab a cuppa with them. Again, no apology, and much ire from J&J. Added anger to the storyline helped continue it for Rollins, and make him that much more frustrated.
Video > B+
As much as Cena annoys me on mic in the ring, I wish I'd known he was going to be on Today, because he's great when he's out doing mainstream media. Normally I'm not up early enough to catch Today, but when I am, I enjoy the show. It was great to see the normally mainstream members of Today going all WWE promo.
Neville vs Kofi > B
Sometimes the refs make no sense! I know it's all scripted, but throwing out PTPs right after they rush out to stand up for Neville, but taking a couple minutes before throwing out the rest of New Day made no sense. I know they're setting up for more to come, and this will help Neville grow and continue his push. I'm liking the direction of things, even if New Day is annoying – which just means they're doing their joys.
Winner – Neville (4:28)
Barrett vs Ryder > C-
Ryder? As usual, he is only pulled off the shelf to job to someone. What's even sadder is that they had to pull Ryder off the shelf to job to Barrett, the man who's been jobbing to almost everyone else since winning KoTR. I will say that the ending sequence of moves between these two was quite solid, and looked more impressing than either normally do. But it still doesn't help either of them moving forward.
Winner – Barrett (3:21)
Announce Segment/Video > A-
Owens is so great on mic, so great in the ring, and so needed in the WWE. It's like everything he touches turn to gold. I'm sure it was his look that kept him off the radar of the WWE for such a long time, but I'm glad he's there now, and shaking things up. Even one on one with Cole on the WWE Network, Owens is just great.
In Ring Segment > A
Pop and heat for both, and no matter what they do, the two of them together makes for a great segment. Personally, I'd like more banter between them, than monologues, even though monologues are easier to write word for word. I think the two of them talking just gives that much more to the fans.
Cena, love him or hate him, he gets the fans riled up, whether on mic, in the ring, or discussing in the IWC. Then there's Owens, he garners the same reactions, but for very different reasons. Both are polarizing figures, and because of that, together they make things that much more interesting and exciting to watch. They have more time to build for Battleground, and I'm expecting a lot more build from these two, and not Cena's usually boring build. Owens pushes Cena like few have in a very long time, and hopefully Owens' push will continue to push Cena to evolve in some way. Cena won't be heel, but he needs to change in some way to make people care to see him for the next decade. I do have to say that Owens needs to win at Battleground, or all this will have been for naught.
Backstage Segment > A-
Trip made me smirk when mocking Cena's 'sign language' in the ring previously. It was a solid transition, and one of those little things that Trip and Steph do that help carry the show along. This week they did a lot more than carry the show along, and it showed.
I loved the work between these three. In so many ways Rollins is playing the character Trip was during the McMahon/Helmsley Era. Everything gold handed to him, and all matches end in screwiness because there's so many around to help him keep his strap. I really enjoy watching the parallels between the two, and how differently Rollins plays it from how Trip did back in the day.
I found it interesting that Rollins dropped all pretenses in front of Mommy and Daddy, but never fully admitted that he was afraid of Brock. I loved it when Rollins asked if they really thought J&J and Kane would apologize to him, that's ego at its absolute best, and made me snort with laughter.
Trip has given some of the best speeches to Rollins, last week and this, and showing his maturity in what he's said to the younger wrestler. His 20 minute speeches are still something that piss me off, but moments like this show why Trip is the man, and Steph is the woman, taking over the WWE. They seem to have everything they need to bring the WWE into the future.
Bellas vs Naomi & Tamina > B+&F-
I've been complaining that only the Divas singles matches have been good, but this one impressed me for how solid it was as a tag match. Now, Tamina still isn't up to snuff, even compared to the Bellas – who I keep saying are so much better than I ever thought they'd be – but she hung on as much as she could. Naomi absolutely carried her team, and looked amazing doing it.
There were some beautiful moves in this match. Even some of the drop kicks were a thing of beauty, and then there's the rear view, rack attack, and the Alabama slam. The problem is that so much of that greatness is overshadowed by that bleeping ref! The WWE already fired one ref for botching things over and over in the ring, especially in Divas match, but it looks as though we have another ref stepping into that role, and screwing up Divas matches himself. It's one thing to be a bit out of place, but Tamina tripped over him as if he was on his knees behind her, just waiting for her to trip. I know that's not true, but it sure looked that way as a fan. I'm baffled at how these refs seem unable to call a Divas match without screwing up in such a way. Further, to me, it looks as though the best refs are not used for Divas matches, further showing that the WWE really doesn't care. Former ref Marc Harris botched numerous Divas matches before he was let go. That shows me just how little the WWE cares about the Divas matches, and that just pisses me off to no end. Sometimes I'm shocked that these Divas continue with the company after how little respect they're given. Yes, it's huge to get to the WWE, but how far does that go when the lack of respect runs so deep?
Winners – Bellas (3:46)
Henry vs Ryback > B
Big Show on announce was kind of enjoyable, more than I expected him to be. His mic work has been so rough over the past couple years, but he was really solid on announce. Big Show talked down Ryback in a huge way, but still gave him props where due – especially Ryback's spinebuster on Henry.
Ryback looked really good in the ring with Henry, and made Henry look viable and more believable in the ring than he has in a long time. I actually enjoyed their work together, short as it was. It's the way Big Show was verbally abusing Henry after the match that makes me wonder where they might be going from here. It has to be something, or they wouldn't have done it on this episode of Raw. Maybe I have more faith in this episode of Raw, but I do.
One last thing I cannot miss mentioning is Ryback flying. That's something I wasn't expecting, and I'm glad Ryback's first time doing it on Raw was on someone large, like Henry, who could handle things if Ryback had an issue up there.
Winner – Ryback (4:20)
Backstage Segment > B
JoJo is so tiny! I thought she did a solid job as the backstage announcer. She's no Renee, but Renee is one of a kind. JoJo might not fill Renee's shoes, but she did quite well on her own, and I could see her continuing in this role as Renee works her way up the ranks, as she so obviously is.
Ryback, while still winded, handled himself fairly well here. He's becoming more and more endearing as he goes along. The story of his parents warms my heart, and reminds me of the special times that the WWE takes real stories and makes them into a work. That his parents came together, after 15 years, to be there and support him in his greatest dreams, and love, is just beautiful.
I'd just been mentioning to Stacy that there haven't been many backstage fights recently. During the AE backstage fighting was a staple of the WWE, and they seem to have forgotten how good it can be when they moved into the PG Era. Even a lot of the best vignettes were executed backstage, and not in the ring, something I've really been missing, though I know it takes a lot away from the live experience. Honestly, I'm missing some of the gritty insanity that the WWE used to be. It wasn't always good, not everything worked, but much of it was crazy, and that was almost always interesting.
Ziggler vs Rose > C-&B-
I honestly didn't know how to break everything up to give each section of this the grade deserved, because there really was three segments in one.
The first grade above is Rose and Rosa on mic, and sucking face. I'm glad they're getting TV exposure, but they made my skin crawl in all they did there.
The other grade is for the ring work between Ziggler and Rose. I love that Ziggler started with a drop kick before Rose had even stopped making kissy faces at Rosa, showing that even with Lana at ringside, Ziggler is focused on his work more than his lady – even if the fans are more interested in Lana.
I didn't like Rose using Ziggler's moves, as I know Rose is so much better than that in the ring, and should be booked that way. Speaking of being booked that way, why had Ziggler been slapped down, yet again, and facing Rose? It's the continued travesty of Ziggler's career, even though the majority of the fans want to see him in the main event scene. I understand that Ziggler has done things to hurt his own career, but he's also worked hard and more than proven that he has everything it takes to be a top Superstar, and WWE WHC. But he's still stuck working the mid-card on the lowest of levels.
Now, I will say that Ziggler's drop kick to Rose off the top didn't look great, but that's the first time in a long time that Ziggler wasn't fantastic in the ring. Everyone has an off night.
Winner – Ziggler (3:02)
In Ring & Backstage Segment > B+
Now, this was all for the men, but I have to admit, it was pretty hot. Since running with Ziggler, Lana might still be in her suits, but her eyebrows are less harsh, and the lipstick less vamp, and she's acting more coy. While not all that hair in her bun is her's, the way Ziggler unpinned it, and let her hair fall down her back was HOT! Lana is a beautiful woman, and I think looks prettier with the pink lipstick and softer look, but I absolutely understand men loving her femme fatale look, and Lana knows how to sell it!
Rusev backstage brought a whole other side to the story. I found it interesting that Summer Rae tried to come to his aid, and showed him that another sexy blonde is interested in him. While I don't think Summer Rae is any Lana, she could be a blonde crutch for him to get back on his feet.
Backstage Segment > B
Noble thinks he's Yoda? That's really cute! Steph saying his ears were like Yoda's was okay, but I'd think they would mention that Noble is short like Yoda, but that's just me. They really drove the knife in that neither Noble or Mercury were ever Champ when they were active Superstars, but that's Trip and Steph for you, and not at all unexpected. Then, saying to Kane that being WWE WHC can drive a man crazy. Just thinking of some of the crazy things Kane did over the years makes me smile at how great he was in that role.
I didn't get anything from any of the three about how they might be swaying about Rollins. They all still seemed pretty pissed, and that worked well going into the final segment of the night.
In Ring Segment > F
Rollins said everything we expected him to say, and Kane and J&J took things as we expected them to. Personally, I didn't think we would be getting any sort of answer from Kane or J&J during this episode, until Brock's music hit. Honestly, the best part of this segment, for me, was Heyman leaning on announce with that evil smirk on his face.
I'm never impressed when someone puts their hands on a non-wrestler, but when it's someone like Brock, I usually freak out and go on a rant. I went on this rant the last time he went on a rampage, and no one was hurt that time. This time someone got hurt, and I'm pissed. I've been a fan of Jamie since his WCW days when he ran under a hood. He's always been silly and goofy, but a lot of fun. Even recently when he's hit some moves, he's done much less than Mercury. Brock had no trouble swatting Mercury aside, slamming him into a barricade, then basically powerbombed Noble against another barricade. While I thought Brock actually looked less vicious than usual, he was obviously still too rough and Noble was injured.
There was no question that Noble being injured was a shoot, as they did everything they could to keep the cameras off the stretcher and everything that was going down with Noble, but it still could be seen at certain shots.
I'm not at all impressed.
Further, after it was obvious that Noble was injured, Brock continued to toss Rollins around the ring in release German suplexes as if it was a doll. Rollins isn't a very big guy, and Brock was tossing him around with little care to what would happen. Yes, Rollins, Kane, and Mercury got the upper hand on Brock, and took him down, the whole thing looked really gross, and like Brock was out of control, and not taking care of the health of those working with him, yet again. I'm not trying to start a flame war, and I do understand that some people like Brock, but it seems as though they're just cheering him on because he's going against Rollins, and it could be almost anyone in that role. Yes, I truly believe that it could have been anyone viable going after Rollins, and they would have received the same reaction, because it's more against Rollins than for Brock.
Yes, I have issues with Brock, and he proved my point in this segment when he injured Noble and continued to work the ring recklessly.
The pacing of this show was something to be remembered. With Trip and Steph at the helm, Raw went so much more smoothly than we've seen in a while. McMahon and Dunn were not at Raw as they were at Tough Enough, and the entire show had a better flow and feel to it. Trip and Steph continue to prove that they are the future of the WWE, as McMahon keeps proving that he really is out of touch with what the fans want these days.
Queen of WNW
KB & Jesse