WWE Raw: Season Premiere / Night of Champions Go-Home
September 15, 2015 6:24 AM - Season 24, Episode 1 - Subscribe

This year's "season premiere" features the Authority trying to get a New Day bump, Kevin Owens giving Ryback shit over reading The Secret, a Dusty Finish for a fairly good Divas title match, and the first ever Sting match on Raw. Against the Big Show. Who he wrestled roughly a million times on Nitro. No wonder it turned into a tag match with John Cena and Seth Rollins.

But it was all just window dressing for the annual Night of Champions, where every belt gets defended:

World Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Sting -- The Architect faces The Franchise in a match that no one was really clamoring for but has been built up pretty well... as long as we ignore the nonsensical Authority semi-face turn that led to it. Sting comes into the match hot, having just made Rollins tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock. Rumor has it that this might not be the main event in favor of:

United States Championship: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena -- The Architect faces The Face That Runs The Place in... wait, seriously? Seth Rollins, the heel, is pulling double duty? Okay, I genuinely do not get what they're going for here. Face turn for Rollins with basically no other main-event heels on the roster right now? I mean, honestly, unless anyone out there genuinely thinks that Mohawk Sheamus is a compelling World Title Bad Guy or that Bray Wyatt will actually get the push the smarks want, what's the endgame here?


Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. The Dudley Boys -- Team 3D has breathed life into the tag division, but can the Boys still go? Look for a fun match with lots of crowd work and plenty of nefarious trombonely interference.

Divas (sigh) Championship: Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte -- DQ loses the title, which we can only hope means that the Revolution will take center stage after WWE wiped AJ Lee's record out of the books. However, rumors are flying that Cena has been throwing his weight around backstage for several months now to keep the belt on Nikki, so who knows? If they let Charlotte take her time and tell a story, and let Nikki play the power wrestler role that she's weirdly grown into, this could be a pretty good match. Or it'll go four minutes and a schmozz.

Intercontinental Championship: Ryback vs. Kevin Owens -- Owens basically is already the old-school Intercontinental Champion already: one of the best workers on the card that someone at Titan Tower has determined doesn't have It, so he's stuck where he is until someone above him gets hurt (*cough*Sheamus*cough*). Ryback, however, has been surprisingly resurgent in his role as Sensitive Big Guy. Can Owens carry him to a good match?

That's it for titles at Night of Champions, but we still have:

The Wyatt Family 2.0 vs. The Shield 2.0 Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose and Tony B. Announced -- Braun Strowman makes his PPV debut with the Wyatts as Reigns and Ambrose tease monster comebacks of Savio Vega and the Great Khali as their mystery partner. WWE probably head-faked us by briefly posting a pic of NXT's Baron Corbin as the third man; Randy Orton is noticeably absent from the card so far; and some are even calling for Erick Rowan to make his return from injury against his former partners. But my money's on Donald Trump, because why shouldn't he ruin everything?

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev -- Ugh, don't care. Oh, fine: Summer Rae will be involved in the finish to this treadmill match wasting two of the (formerly) best characters in the company.

Neville and the Lucha Dragons vs. Cosmic Wasteland -- It's on the pre-show, but maybe if we chant "LU! CHA! LU! CHA!" loud enough, this will spur WWE to pull the trigger on the long-rumored Six Man Championship. Okay, it won't. But this 5/6ths NXT alumni match will probably be pretty damn good.
posted by Etrigan (41 comments total)
WWE.com has a poll up for the question "Who do you think Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns' third man is?" Since the poll doesn't contain a "none of the above" option, presumably it'll be one of the people listed, though "An NXT Superstar" gives them a bit of leeway:
  • Erick Rowan: Ugh. No.
  • Daniel Bryan: He keeps making noise about being ready, his return would blow the roof off the place, and he's got a history with the Wyatts. So he sounds like the perfect choice, until you remember the whole point of the third man is to even the odds against the giant monster Braun Strowman. "We've brought a David to kill your Goliath! Fresh from injury, here's five feet ten inches of fury!"
  • The Rock: Well, he is Roman's cousin.
  • Chris Jericho: Falters under the same logic as Bryan.
  • The Undertaker: Now there's an interesting one. He's got the size and SUPERNATURAL POWER to go against Strowman, and like Bryan he's got a past with Bray Wyatt. On the other hand, Shield vs Wyatt matches tend to be chaotic, all-over-the-place melees, and Undertaker's whole thing is being methodical and deliberate.
  • Ryback: Rollins is already wrestling two matches on the same show. They're not going to double-book Ryback, too.
  • Heath Slater: bwamp bwamp i see what you did there wwe.com
  • An NXT Superstar: Oh, Christ, it's not going to be Baron Corbin, is it? HE'S NOT READY YET. Dude still needs some time in the oven with Chef Samoa Joe.
Roman had that promo (I've already forgotten if it was on the show or a web exclusive) where he kept talking about the third man needing to be The Man, so now I kind of want to see Seth Rollins reunite with The Shield and wrestle three matches in one night. Makes zero sense in the context of current storylines, but that never stopped WWE before. Meanwhile, you know what, screw the poll, I want the third man to be Cesaro, and I'm hoping to god it's not a returning Kane.

In other news, Nikki Bella retained her title and broke AJ's record because godfuckingdammit. Now Charlotte gets to face her again at Night Of Champions and their story suddenly has no gas behind it. You're the worst sometimes, WWE, just the worst.

Cesaro vs Rusev briefly provided us a glimpse of the glorious alternate universe where this was still the U.S. Title scene, and was just a ton of fun until Ziggler showed up and brought his horrible storyline with him. I know his Twitter handle is still @HEELZiggler, but he really shouldn't be acting like one in an angle where we're supposed to cheer him. When Bradshaw sighed "Dolph Ziggler is a terrible person" and Cole, unable to dispute it, just stammered a bit and quickly changed the subject, that said it all, really.

Big E stalking his prey to "The Pink Panther Theme" on Xavier's trombone was just the greatest thing. New Day are the absolute best. I haven't seen their Table For 3 episode on the WWE Network yet, but man, I am looking forward to it.
posted by brianrobot at 10:26 PM on September 15, 2015

I know his Twitter handle is still @HEELZiggler, but he really shouldn't be acting like one in an angle where we're supposed to cheer him.

It's been a couple of years since (I think) Brandon Stroud said it, but the defining kayfabe aspect of the Reality Era is that the face/heel roles have been reversed, in that the faces are all basically dicks and the heels are all basically right.
posted by Etrigan at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2015

Ugh, forgot to add: But it's our own fault that things are like that.

Exhibit A: The New Day. When they debuted, they were purely positive happy-go-lucky babyfaces. And they got booed out of the arena. We made them into babyheels. That's not even a thing. So they turned heel -- straight-up cheaters. And we started cheering. They're cheaterfaces, which isn't a thing either, except that it totally is.

Exhibits B and C: John Cena and the Undertaker, who are respectively a misogynistic backstage-power-playing narcissist and a lazy low-blowing narcissist. They constantly interfere in main events despite not earning it, and we cheer them for it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:26 AM on September 16, 2015

Two title matches on the Go Home before Night of Champions seems unnecessary. I guess someone realized the PTP really needed their rematch before The New Day/Dudley program started, but what would have been the harm of letting that linger, giving the PTP reason to gripe and stay in the title picture post Night of Champions? And I can think of a hundred ways the Divas division could be done better right now, but so can everyone except the WWE writers apparently, so whatever. I would kind of love for Charlotte to protest this nonsense by refusing to win the title at Night of Champions (assuming she's supposed to go over), and asking to go back to NXT to fight for the NXT Women's Championship.
posted by jermsplan at 8:03 AM on September 16, 2015

the defining kayfabe aspect of the Reality Era is that the face/heel roles have been reversed, in that the faces are all basically dicks and the heels are all basically right.

Speaking of which, this went up at Grantland today: No Faces, No Heels: WWE 'Night Of Champions' preview

Meanwhile, Maffew of Botchamania posted a rant about this past Raw that managed to find a much more positive way to look at Nikki Bella's win than I was able to manage. I can't say I agree with it, really, but it's an interesting alternate perspective:
I thought this was grand because even if they lose on Sunday Nikki will have beaten the record so they dicked Charlotte out of not just the title but the accolade of stopping the record (for the pride of women Divas or whatever the Revolution is about) so NOW there’s a reason for them to feud and there’s an emotional investment for the crowd to get behind other than ”cheer them they have ovaries.” I’d say this was the nearest thing the Divas division had to Rollins turning on The Shield.

Before, everyone hated the Bellas. Now they REALLY hate them.

And even better, this is exactly what Paige said would happen if the Divas didn’t unite against The Bellas. They didn’t unite and they’re still champ! How’s that for continuity?
Speaking of women, the Bayley segment that closed out NXT was just glorious. You get a never-can-happen-in-regular-WWE scene with Bayley running her victory lap through the entire arena and hugging everybody. And then, shades of the Four Horsewomen Kliq Moment, you get the only-in-wrestling scene with Sasha Banks tearing down and threatening her enemy Bayley while not quite being able to mask her real-life joy at main-eventing the next TakeOver with her friend Bayley. That weird interplay between fictional onstage and real-life backstage and fictionalized backstage and real-life onstage is one of the absolute great things about wrestling; there's no other form of media I can think of that manages that mixture to such great effect. In a TV show or movie, if cracks in the performance show the real person underneath, it often pulls you out of the story: "Oh, right, I'm watching an actor." In wrestling, as it was here with Sasha Banks, it's humanizing and actually enhances the story they're telling. Just the strangest thing.

Meanwhile, now that Izzy's been introduced to the ring, the next logical step is obviously to bring in Kenny Omega so he can challenge her to a match.

They're cheaterfaces, which isn't a thing either, except that it totally is.

Oh, absolutely. Eddie Guerrero perfected the art of the cheaterface.

If anyone reading this isn't keeping up with Big E's Twitter feed, you're going to want to rectify that situation post-haste. In addition to wonderful backstage videos of New Day horsing around with Team B.A.D. and snark attacks on other wrestlers, you get links to things like his ongoing iPetition to Save The Tables, which now has over 2500 signatures. Here's his reaction to Nikki Bella's title retention. Also, I did watch New Day's Table For 3 episode and it was deeeeeelightful.
posted by brianrobot at 9:01 PM on September 17, 2015

Night Of Champions was an underwhelming card going in and it was an underwhelming card in practice. It's become a common thing where I feel exhilarated after NXT specials and exhausted after WWE specials, and this was no exception.

The Cosmic Wasteland vs The Costumed Crimefighters: One of the more entertaining matches of the night. Not much to say about it plotwise; Stardust wins with deviousness while sort-of-sacrificing a teammate to do so and thus keeps his months-long feud with Neville going. The continual additions of new elements like Amell and the tag teams are helping to keep it from feeling as stale as it otherwise would at this point.

Owens vs Ryback: Strategy-based match, evil heel cheap win, right person gets the belt. Nothing remarkable, but it was fine.

Ziggler vs Rusev: Renee Young made a Single White Female joke about Summer Rae during the kickoff show, and that proved to be foreshadowing as Summer killed Rusev with her shoe. Meh match with an ending that ensures The Soap Opera will continue even though no one cares. Ziggler busted out new ring gear just so Lana would have to buy an entirely new wardrobe before returning. What a dick. I expected this to be the worst thing on the show and it was.

New Day vs Dudley Boyz: Another "it was fine." Xavier's trombone continues paying dividends; it's the best joke gimmick to somehow not wear out its welcome since Sandow's stunt doubling. He also flashed back to his old '90s-addict persona: "Jesus! Jesus Jones, that was good!" New Day keeping their belts via DQ was eh, though at least they kept them; we're clearly setting up for a no DQ match / tables match / TLC match down the line. The way the Prime Time Players (and, indeed, the entire tag division) were just pushed aside to make way for the Dudleys was kinda bullshit.

Charlotte vs Nikki: It was fine. It "told a story," but that story was pretty repetitive and nowhere near as dramatic as what Charlotte's capable of. At least the right person won (finally). The teary-eyed celebration with Ric Flair was a replay of Charlotte's NXT title win, but it still came across as completely genuine and emotional. Charlotte's "limousine ridin', jet flyin', uh, you finish it!" was totally endearing. More than once, Paige hesitated before locking pinkies with her teammates. OMINOUS

The Neo-Shield vs The Wyatt Family: THE MYSTERY PARTNER IS Jericho? All right then. Countering massive power and brute force with, um, not that, was maybe not the best idea, but it was Ambrose's idea and he's cr-r-r-razy, so there you go. Ordinarily you can count on Shield vs Wyatt to be sprawling brawling chaos, but this just played like a bog-standard six-man match and was boring as hell. At least Jericho going all gloryhound and tagging himself in fit his established character, and since it got him killed, the Wyatts finally got the big win they've needed and Ambrose & Reigns didn't have to take a loss (which seems inexplicably important to WWE, even though the Wyatts legitimately pinning either of them would give their feud a hell of a lot more juice). To this day I don't get why refs don't do the raise-the-arm-three-times thing anymore. It's so much better (and easier for viewers to register) than the ref just kind of watching a guy slump out and then wiggling him a little bit before saying "Fuck it, ring the bell!" If Jericho's coming back for a TV run, the end of that match at least established it'll be a heel run, which is good because Heel Jericho is Best Jericho. It also opens up Reigns & Ambrose to find yet another third man to face the Wyatt Family, so maybe this time they'll make a smarter choice. Also, GOOD LORD WWE WORK ON YOUR SECURITY. At least Bray Wyatt had a great reaction: "That's your third man?"

Rollins vs Cena: Easily the best match on the show! Wrong man won! Sort of! Once again LOL CENA WINS feels massively frustrating, even though taking the U.S. Title off of Rollins and putting it back on Cena means WWE might be able to rebuild that awesome U.S. title scene they imploded when they put the belt on Rollins. At the very least, it should mean the return of the U.S. Open Challenge, which I'd love to see because (a) the matches are consistently great, and (b) maybe this time they can end it the right way, with someone getting elevated by a clean championship victory over John. Yeah, well, a boy can dream.

Rollins vs Sting: I'm going to assume the Sting stinger was genuine since the prolonged checkout period really derailed the pacing of the match. At least Rollins didn't lose to a fiftysomething who's 0-1 in the company and whose idea of vigilantism is to respect the Authority after eating one loss to them. But what's this? Kane's back! And now Rollins is set to feud with Kane! That's exciting, right? We're clearly supposed to think that's exciting for some reason!

Cesaro vs: Wait, Cesaro wasn't on the show at all. This is bullshit.

posted by brianrobot at 9:07 PM on September 20, 2015

I agree with you on the broad strokes. However:

Owens over Ryback was a very good match, but a lousy opening match. Owens played it like a smark would -- can't beat Ryback on power or explosiveness, so pick apart a single piece. I'm excited to see an Owens Icon run (my dream is that he runs an Open Challenge in parallel with Cena, but constantly cheats and gets himself disqualified (after great matches)).

Ziggler over Rusev was shit, despite the guys really trying to make a match out of it. The end killed it dead -- high heel + Zig Zag does not a pinfall make for a good monster heel.

Dudley Boyz over New Day was good enough, but I've always hated when the faces give the fans what they want even though it doesn't mean anything to the match.

Charlotte over Nikki was proof positive that Charlotte is not her father as regards pulling a three-star match out of a broomstick. Charlotte/EvilPaige, though... that I'm interested in.

Wyatts over Shield 2.J was a perfectly good six-man schmozz, and frankly, I liked that Jericho was the third man. Sure, I'm a longtime Jericho mark, but also, Reigns, Ambrose, and Jericho are the last three guys that Bray feuded with (not counting the Undertaker). It makes actual sense plotwise that Jericho gets involved. I'm sure we'll hear more in the coming weeks about how now-Heel Jericho insisted on getting involved, but I think a Jericho/Ambrose feud will have some high points.

Cena over Rollins... I'm just tired of TFTRTP, sorry. I feel like I shouldn't be, given his willingness to update his moveset and (sorta) put other guys over, but he's been at or near the top of the company for longer than anyone in the WWF/WWE era. Longer than Hogan, longer than Austin, longer than the Rock. Cena absolutely belongs on the Mount Rushmore of wrestling with those guys, but I'm tired of seeing him in the ring.

Rollins over Sting was good enough for what it was (and yeah, there was definitely a legit injury there). But it was still a totally face move for him to emerge victorious, regardless of how he won, after back-to-back matches (and let's not forget that the heel took an out-of-the-ring finisher from the face before this match).

And then we have the teased cash-in (Has an explicitly teased "surprise" cash-in ever actually happened? I was away from wrestling for most of the MITB era.), and it was clear that Sheamus wasn't going to get it as the ref kinda hesitated and slooowly turned toward the bellkeeper with the briefcase, pausing carefully to ensure that he had a hold on the briefcase...

Seriously? Rollins-Kane? They might as well change his nickname to The Devil's Favorite Time-Filling Feud.
posted by Etrigan at 8:01 AM on September 21, 2015

Oh, I will say one negative thing about the Wyatt-Shield match -- I could not contain my laughter when Reigns' reaction to Strowman no-selling the Superman Punch was to re-cock his fist and do it again.
posted by Etrigan at 12:09 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

He's the Bionic Roman!

Well, Raw happened, and it was rematch city. That crowd was garbage. It sounded like it was composed entirely of children. The Paige turn (bwamp-bwamp) would have been fantastic with a different audience, but when they're cheering for her 100% while she's running down the Revolution after loudly cheering for Brie during her match with Charlotte, it just... I don't know. Were all the kids in the crowd going to see lots of indie shows and feeling primed to cheer the heels? Taken on its own merits and ignoring the fans, Paige's promo was pretty great. It was a rerun of AJ Lee's pipebomb, but it still worked. Hell, in some ways it worked better, since the other women actually took offense instead of putting Ls to their foreheads and screaming "You're just jealous!" And hey, now that they've firmly established that Paige hates everything and everyone in the division, maybe they'll finally let her be The Anti-Diva.

And Natalya's back! The 3x3 Team structure of the Divas Revolution is crumbling, leaving what will hopefully be a renewed and rejuvenated division in its wake. ALLOW ME MY OPTIMISM

With apologies to Etrigan, the Ortonized Shield vs Wyatts free-for-all was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for at the PPV and didn't get. Now I'm excited to see these guys go at it again. Sadly, Heel Jericho was nowhere to be found. I hope they're actually going to follow up on that and not just have it be a weird dropped thread. And Bray needs to lose that horned hoodie immediately.

Rusev went on offense while Xavier played his theme music on the trombone. New Day is just the best. "I AM NOT A BABY!" Rusev's been gradually turning into Oglethorpe the Plutonian from Aqua Teen Hunger Force over the last couple of shows, from his ranting about Dolph trying to steal his hot Summer "with his skinny little abs! And his gift bags!" to responding to Rich Brennan's "Excuse me, Rusev-" with "NO! You are NOT excused!"

Cena over Rollins... I'm just tired of TFTRTP, sorry.

Now that he's beat the World champ two nights in a row for the U.S. title, does that mean the United States Championship is now the most important title in the company? And then, to add insult to injury, poor Seth got dragged to hell! JBL: "What a bizarre show." When we see him next, will Seth have had a soul-altering experience and repented of his evil ways?

Cesaro's depushed AGAIN. I'll be over here in the corner sulking and cursing Vince McMahon.
posted by brianrobot at 12:20 AM on September 22, 2015

Has an explicitly teased "surprise" cash-in ever actually happened?

Cena set a specific time and place for his cash-in well in advance once.

I was away from wrestling for most of the MITB era.

Yeah, I was gone entirely from Heidenreich to Pipebomb.
posted by brianrobot at 12:33 AM on September 22, 2015

Has an explicitly teased "surprise" cash-in ever actually happened?

Cena set a specific time and place for his cash-in well in advance once.

I mean one of the classic "surprise" cash-ins, like what Rollins did at WM or Edge did with the very first briefcase, where the briefcase holder just appears at the end of a hard-fought match and "steals" the belt. Like, how Sheamus made it obvious over the last few weeks and throughout the NoC card that he was going to cash in, so of course, it didn't happen -- but at WM, there was essentially no mention of the briefcase or Rollins' opportunity.

So has anyone done like Sheamus (and the announcers) did, where there were explicit in-world hints, and then BAM here's the briefcase, new champ?
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on September 22, 2015

Paige's promo, courtesy of Cageside Seats:
Charlotte, she's so nice. This is all so nice. And you know what, you won the championship yesterday and this whole celebration is for Charlotte. But there's just the thing about who really made this possible. And that's me. No, shut up, Becky, shut up. This is patronizing. "Oh, I love you, daddy" and "oh my gosh, I wouldn't be here without you." You sound like you just been inducted into the bloody Hall of Fame is what you sound like. Yes, I won the championship too. You won it, so what? I won it on my first day. I won it twice and you know what? Here's a little secret, champ to champ: title reigns end. Nikki (Bella) is going to get her rematch and she's going to bring her little hippie sister and her little third wheel and they're going to take that back and the Divas division is going to go back right where it was. There is no revolution, Charlotte. You are just a placeholder. No, no, no, Becky back off. You're never going to be a Divas champion. You know why? You're the least relevant of all of us. Let's go to Team B.A.D. They're all flash, no substance. Then you got Lana and Summer too busy trying to figure out who they want to climb onto next rather than the Divas division. And then you've got Nattie. Nattie: where are you? Do you even work here anymore? I can't see you, Mrs. Hart. And then you've got the Bellas. We all know the real reason they got to where they are. You all know the real reason. No, I'm not done. Stop trying to act like you are somebody because you wouldn't be here (Charlotte) if it wasn't for your old man.
Fucking outstanding.
posted by Etrigan at 6:07 AM on September 22, 2015

Paige's promo was phenomenal, but I agree, it was really weird how long it took the audience to stop cheering for her during it. Is Nattie actually back, or are you just assuming she is based on her name getting dropped? Maybe they cut her from the hulu version...

I was really upset by the ending of the Big Show/Cesaro match. Cesaro pulls out an absolutely incredible suplex of Show over the ropes, and the next thing that happens is Cesaro makes a big show (heh) of how much it hurt his back, meanwhile Big Show stands up and punches him once and the match is over. That suplex over the ropes moment deserved better. There was like a multi-week buildup and a PPV payoff to see if Cena could FU the Big Show back in the day...maybe this wasn't quite on that level as a display of strength, but it is yet another example of how little the WWE realizes Cesaro is doing amazing shit every time he's on tv.
posted by jermsplan at 12:04 PM on September 22, 2015

Natalya had a backstage confrontation with Paige, then fought Naomi (which Paige was shown watching) and lost due to distractions from Tamina and Sasha Banks.
posted by brianrobot at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2015

I mean one of the classic "surprise" cash-ins

Yeah, my eyes somehow skipped right over the word "surprise" there. Damn these eyes. To answer your question: I have no idea :(

The Quotable NXT Announce Team

Brennan: The undefeated Eva Marie! Let that sink in.

Graves: You're not gonna get a countout from a cardio machine like Bull Dempsey.

Brennan: If it weren't for Bullfit, would Bull have been able to do that at this point in the match?
Graves: Probably, Rich, he's an adult.

Asuka's creepy smile as she left the arena was more unnerving than anything Bray Wyatt's done in months. Emma & Dana's reactions to it were perfect.

Triple H's Reality Era strikes again as the botched Eva Marie pinfall actually gets worked into storyline, while the mess that was the women's tag in Brooklyn becomes Emma and Brooke "running Charlotte and Becky Lynch out of NXT"! I love that they don't try to sweep stuff like that under the rug. It's like, "You saw it, we know you saw it, let's just admit it and move on."

Eva had one taunt for Carmella. "HOW YOU DOIN'?" Over and over, exact same cadence. "HOW YOU DOIN'?" The plan is to at some point reveal that Eva Marie's actually a Terminator, right? Sent from the future to destroy the NXT Women's Division before it becomes too powerful?

"Ain't that right, champ?" *slaps belt* Samoa Joe apparently learned subtlety from Paige.

I'm starting to think Nia Jax doesn't actually exist, and is in reality just a series of promo videos being generated by a malevolent supercomputer.
posted by brianrobot at 11:13 PM on September 23, 2015

It can't be in Eva Marie's Total Divas contract that she has to be allowed to wrestle on tv, right? Like, they could just stop letting her wrestle on tv for a few months while she does dark matches or trains, and still appears on Total Divas? Also, I don't watch Total Divas, but how is that show not 40 minutes of all the other divas trying really hard not to tell her how terrible she is, and like 20 minutes of Nattie holding her head in her hands and saying "I'm going to kill myself"?

"My jaw's so hard I could blow a bubble with a Now and Later." I love that tag team.
posted by jermsplan at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2015

Asuka's creepy smile as she left the arena was more unnerving than anything Bray Wyatt's done in months. Emma & Dana's reactions to it were perfect.

If you haven't seen Three Faces of Foley, you should check it out (no idea whether it's on the Network), because it's very applicable to this. When Foley revealed that he was going to face Triple H in a street fight match as Cactus Jack, Trips reacted exactly right, and that made the character and the feud into something magical, where it could have just been some fat guy taking his shirt off to reveal another shirt.

And for as little as I think of Dana (I like Emma, though), she sold that look just as perfectly.

I swear, fifteen years later, hearing "His name... is CACTUS JACK!" still gives me literal goose bumps.

Like, they could just stop letting her wrestle on tv for a few months while she does dark matches or trains, and still appears on Total Divas?

The scary part is that they did that. She was out for a couple of months at the end of last year recovering from a ruptured implant (I wish I were only being a misogynist there, but they admitted it on TD), and then spent several months training with The Brian Kendrick, and this is the result.
posted by Etrigan at 11:35 AM on September 24, 2015

Ha: the woman who played the HR rep on Raw last night is the actual WWE Director of HR.
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on September 29, 2015

That's awesome Etrigan.

Was I the only one pretty disappointed by the return of the US Title Open Challenge? Considering the running trend had been that Cena made guys look great and managed to put on matches where you almost got excited the other guy was going to win (even though you knew they wouldn't, it seemed like a slam dunk that New Day (through being awesome anyway, plus the numbers game) would come within a hair's breadth of crowning Xavier the champ, only to lose, probably through self inflicted accident. Instead, Cena basically just beat them? And acted all "I'm super serious, quit clowning, wrestling is srs bzznss" despite the fact that the trombone is the third or fourth most over character on WWE TV right now?
posted by jermsplan at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2015

Ha: the woman who played the HR rep on Raw last night is the actual WWE Director of HR.

PWInsider claims otherwise. (Warning: PWInsider; make sure your ad blockers are on)

Was I the only one pretty disappointed by the return of the US Title Open Challenge?

I'm pretty thrilled to see it back, actually. Partly because the matches are always solid, but mainly because this time they might end it the way they were supposed to the first time. I watched back an early Open Challenge match and Cena's whole promo leading up to it was "I'm going to defend this title to the best of my ability and one day someone will come along who'll be good enough to take it from me and on that day I'll proudly hand it over." That concept was the entire build of the US Open Challenge storyline and instead they veered off course right in the home stretch. I've seen some people complaining that Cena winning back the title is the WWE hitting the reset button, and while I agree that it's a reset, I feel like it's a good reset because it's a chance to do a quantum leap and put right what once went wrong.

Plus, the choice to go with Xavier Woods -- the New Day member who's had the least amount of in-ring time on the main roster -- and give him a long match where he gets to hit a surprising amount of offense is exactly why I like the Open Challenge. It took a guy who hasn't had a ton of in-ring time on Raw and let him shine, and I felt like he came out of the match stronger than when he went in. Until now, he was really just a comedy performer, perpetually on the outside of the ring doing bits while the other members of The New Day compete in matches. And as much as I adore those bits, the audience got to see that Xavier can be good in the ring and not just on the mic or the trombone.

"I'm super serious, quit clowning, wrestling is srs bzznss"

Cena's the most potent heel in the WWE today. The fact that the announce team, half the audience and most if not all of the creative staff fail to realize this only makes him all the more potent. And the fact that New Day responded to SuperSeriousCena by straight-up laughing in his face just made them even more deserving of love.
posted by brianrobot at 1:13 AM on October 1, 2015

Live From MSG

The first two matches were very much same old same old. The only new thing in the first match was the ultra-brief suggestion that Orton and Ziggler wanted to wrestle under Whose Line Is It Anyway Rules, with Ziggler providing Orton's arms. And the only new thing in Neville/Stardust was the suggestion that Stardust believes Neville's "power" comes from his cape, like Undertaker and the urn. Apparently Stardust never saw cape-free Neville in NXT.

The only thing better than Paul Heyman cutting a promo is Paul Heyman cutting a promo while Renee Young reacts to it.

"Still not quite sure where Paige's heart lies, where her allegiance lies." WHAT IS THIS. Paige had as clean a heel turn as anybody, but they are (or, in this case, were) still playing it as ambivalence. The only reason I can think of for them to take this approach is that the crowd refused to turn on Paige and kept cheering for her even while she ran down and antagonized her friends. That said, the end of the 6-woman tag was just fantastic. I was kind of checked out of most of the match as it seemed, like the first two matches, that it was just going to be another instance of More Of The Same, and until the finish, it basically was. Nothing bad, but nothing we haven't seen in recent weeks either. And when Paige, after spending the whole match acting jerkish on the apron, tagged herself in while Charlotte was applying the figure four, it was obvious she was just going to get beat up and pinned and then she'd blame her teammates for the loss and blah blah blah. Instead, she got beat up and made it to tag either of her teammates, only for both of them to drop off the apron, arms folded, because they're just done with this shit. And after Paige gets pinned, she grabs the mic and cuts a great self-pitying promo where she Could. Not. Believe. that her teammates would abandon her like that, and in doing so she FINALLY succeeded in turning the crowd against her.

LANCE STORM IS SITTING NEXT TO JON STEWART AND CYRUS THE VIRUS. I want to hear that conversation SO BAD. Jericho's "25th anniversary in the business" promo was wonderful.

Jericho vs Owens had the immediate advantage over the rest of the card of being a fresh match-up. "Chinlock City, baby!" As disappointed as I am that they're not following up at all on Jericho's seeming heel turn, the only disappointing thing about the actual match was that it wasn't longer. It was nice to see WWE go with "leave them wanting more" instead of their more typical "too much of a good thing."

The New Day's pre-match promo was, of course, solid gold. '90s-obsessive Xavier Woods ran down the Dudleys for making dated '90s references, because of course he did. And then Big E called Xavier "an introverted man." SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. Most wrestlers struggle to come up with one or two memorable catchphrases; New Day introduces like five new ones in every promo. Pity the poor announce team, who have to simultaneously put over how annoying and how entertaining New Day are. The match itself was just another clone, right down to Xavier going through the table.

"Hey, look who's here, Byron!" Did you guys not see him RIGHT NEXT TO LANCE STORM COME ON.

Lesnar vs Big Show was another one that felt fresh, not because they've never faced each other before, but because (a) it had been so long since they'd last faced each other, and (b) while Lesnar was a monster back then, he wasn't The Beast. I didn't think I was going to enjoy this going in, because Big Show, but instead got the best-booked match of the night. Big Show doing everything possible to avoid Suplex City and then going for his finishers early was actually smart tactics, and Lesnar powering through (or, in the case of the knockout punch, dodging) those finishers and just murdering him with a crazy-looking F-5 for a quick ending was perfect. The post-match, with Lesnar returning to re-murder Big Show, who moaned in agony as the announcer mockingly said, "Let's hear it for The Big Show!", seemed like a set-up to a future "will Big Show retire" angle. The crowd refused to oblige with the requisite PLEASE RETIRE chant, though, and was content to just boo. Come on, MSG. You had one job.

Given that WWE built to Lesnar vs Big Show on TV, you'd think they'd have also built the fact that Seth Rollins was using his rematch clause for the US title to challenge Cena in a steel cage, but they didn't. That Rollins knee from the top always looks to me like Rollins missing an ax-handle only for his opponent to fall down anyway; then the announcers go "knee to the face" and I go "oh." Rich Brennan kept calling move names. He'll never make it in this business. I look forward to a future Rollins vs Owens match because it'll just be them trash-talking each other the whole time. "Somehow Cena got the shoulder up" should be its own t-shirt. Rollins escaped the STF by managing to straighten his leg, which was pretty unique.

...and Rollins would have won if it wasn't for DEMON KANE DEMON KANE OH MY GOD IT'S DEMON KANE NO ONE CARES ABOUT DEMON KANE. So the World Champ loses to the US Champ for like the third time in a week, but at least this time it was made very very clear that he would have won if not for supernatural interference. So I guess that's a positive? Kind of? I'm trying to be optimistic here.

And we close with Demon Kane destroying Rollins because zzzzzz. First Daniel Bryan, now Seth Rollins. Why does WWE think anybody wants to see these World Champions feuding with the Demon Kane? It didn't work the first time around, but since that storyline got aborted by Bryan's injury, it seems like they've decided to try it again with the twist that Kane's the face (specifically the WWE version of the face, also known as the asshole). I can do nothing but shake my head, and also ramble about it on the internet.

Speaking of which, I... did not realize I was going to write so much stuff about this show.
posted by brianrobot at 1:09 AM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Watching the MSG show in fits and starts, but I just have to say that I love Kane's normal-guy Eddie Haskell voice so much.
posted by Etrigan at 8:19 AM on October 4, 2015

I was all set to clap and be positive about this week's Raw. It had The New Day in the main event! The New Day laying everyone out! Paige and Natalya having what may have been the first match on Raw to actually feel like an NXT women's match! Cole actually saying "anti-diva"! Sasha Banks tearing it up in her home town while the Bellas worked as heels against Team B.A.D. for a change! Team B.A.D. working as faces for a change! Wrestlers having matches against wrestlers they're not already locked in feuds with for a damn change! Something that happened on Smackdown being relevant! Something that happened on the Raw pre-show being relevant! Kevin Owens saying "that was 3!" after a 1-count and shouting "A twelve-year-old has no business being at ringside!" at Kalisto! Corporate Kane revealing he has a mug with "World's Greatest Director Of Operations" on it! Hell, even the Rusev/Summer Rae marriage proposal was funny, and benefited greatly from (a) not being interrupted by Dolph or anyone else, and (b) letting its performers actually play to the crowd response instead of just bulldozing through with their lines!

But two words spoiled the whole thing. Two goddamn words.

Cena Section. Cena Section? CENA SECTION? Godfuckinalsdigh;asldkhasn;lkvd

Cesaro's stranded on Superstars and Cena gets to steal his FUCKING GIMMICK? What? Why? Not cool. NOT COOL.
posted by brianrobot at 1:31 AM on October 6, 2015

I love Kane's normal-guy Eddie Haskell voice so much.

I so want Rollins to ultimately defeat Kane by bringing in a priest to exorcise the Demon, leaving Golly Gosh Kane to wrestle fun mid-card comedy matches. And this needs to happen before Finn Balor gets called up, because Demon vs Demon may sound catchy but PLEASE NO.
posted by brianrobot at 1:41 AM on October 6, 2015

I watched NXT Respect in bits and pieces, and had so many thoughts I wanted to say, but now that I've watched the main event all I want to say is that Sasha Banks is the god damn heel of the decade, possibly longer, and that main event was ridiculous.

(ok, one more tiny thing, the crowd actually annoyed the shit out of me through a lot of the main event)
posted by jermsplan at 8:35 AM on October 9, 2015

Sasha Banks is the god damn heel of the decade

That shot of Izzy crying will be on the cover of Banks' autobiography some day.

And when Bayley started just kicking the shit out of Banks at the end of the match? Chills just thinking about it now.
posted by Etrigan at 8:49 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

jermsplan, I was feeling you about the crowd. I appreciated this suggestion. There's a line between a crowd enhancing a show and making itself too much the center of the attention, and more often than not it feels like Full Sail crosses it.

I'm at work and can't give the subject of NXT Respect its proper due, but it was pretty amazing, front-to-back.
posted by misskaz at 8:50 AM on October 9, 2015

Between Sasha stomping on hands and arms while doing a near Lion Tamer, and Bayley kicking Sasha in the head at the end there, everyone in the WWE should be taking submission pointers from the two of them.

Misskaz, glad I wasn't the only one, I was afraid I was being a party pooper. 30 minutes is a long time for the crowd to say into something, but I wish they wouldn't have stayed into it by making themselves it.
posted by jermsplan at 9:08 AM on October 9, 2015

NXT TakeOver: Respect: A super-busy week prevented me from posting ninety paragraphs about this show, and in the interim Brandon Stroud said most of what I would have said anyway. The Bayley/Banks storyline may have been my favorite angle of the last few years; it's certainly the one I've felt the most emotion about, not just on the fictional side but on the real side as well, while marveling at the astounding way those sides were blended and intermingled. Hell, Stephanie McMahon was in tears afterward.

And on top of that, we got a debut for Asuka that made her look like the NXT Women's Division equivalent of Brock Lesnar, if Lesnar wore Adam Ant face paint and punctuated his assaults with jokey impersonations of his oppenents. I am SO on board. Dana Brooke slapped her and as a result received what may have been the first instance of a YOU FUCKED UP chant directed at a character who'd made a bad decision rather than a performer who'd botched a move.

Also, hey, Full Sail, Izzy's in the crowd. Watch your language.

Smackdown: Brie Bella made my day by tying up an opponent in the ropes with a submission hold and then yelling at the ref that she had 'til five. King Barrett is apparently in character transition mode; not only did he actually win his match against Neville, but he ditched the robes in favor of a t-shirt with KING OF BAD NEWS emblazoned across it. And Kevin Owens sat in on commentary where he insulted Lawler, then immediately added, "With all due respect. That means you can't get mad at me, because I said that."
posted by brianrobot at 12:58 AM on October 12, 2015

posted by brianrobot at 1:20 AM on October 12, 2015

Raw: "There's a poster in my office that says, 'If you play with fire... you get burned. It's a fire safety poster, but it applies here as well." I'm still hoping we can ditch Demon Kane and go whole hog with Comedy Kane. They could pair him up with the similarly rictus-grinned false-innocent Bo Dallas and give us Team Hell Bo.

I was wondering if Sasha Banks playing crowdpleasing face on Raw last week was just a bit of hometown hero booking or if they were actually listening to the WE WANT SASHA chants. This week definitely made it look like the latter. The Naomi vs Nikki match was straight-up fascinating, since WWE deliberately sabotaged it. The video package of the Respect main event (has NXT ever gotten a full-on dedicated video package shown on Raw like that?) coupled with Sasha on the apron outside was designed to turn the crowd against the wrestlers in the ring, and it worked. It worked too well, actually, as the desired WE WANT SASHA chants gave way to YOU CAN'T WRESTLE, because Chicago. The announcers playing up the resentment Tamina and Naomi must be feeling for their rising-nay-shooting-star teammate, coupled with Brie getting on the mic and mock-chanting for Sasha just solidified it -- she's entering Major Push Territory. I'm sure people will be grumbling about the best heel in the business turning face, but she already reached Apex Heel at Respect. She showed a ton of face charisma last week, and I'm looking forward to seeing her try something different. And if she gets over as a face like gangbusters, it'll make her inevitable heel turn back into the Boss all the more awesome, because she will play that shit to the hilt.


I was genuinely disappointed when Ziggler's music hit for the Open Challenge and some other challenger didn't come out dragging his limp body. That would have been a hell of a running gag. On the upside, the match that followed was easily the best thing Dolph has done in forever. He brought back the whipfire series of elbow drops! He brought back the sleeper! Are they teasing a heel turn? He usually only busts out those moves when he's playing the villain. Hell, he even stole a page from Kevin Owens and did an eye rake into a superkick.

So I guess The Cosmic Wasteland is history? That's a shame. No mention of Stardust or Neville or The Lucha Dragons during The Ascension's match, and Stardust didn't even stand near them in the lumberjack match. A promising angle dropped unceremoniously. MehOLY SHIT CESARO'S BACK ON RAW and he had his "Are you fucking kidding me I have to prove myself again?" face on. That first tag in from Neville, where he was all "FUCK YEAH I AM COMING INTO THIS MATCH NOW GODDAMMIT," was just fantastic. Even better was his expression every time Sheamus hit him with a European uppercut, a look that just said "Seriously, you call that an uppercut?" Also, he just up and threw Neville at people.

The only act of heroism greater than Roman Reigns persevering against the onslaught of Braun Strohman was Roman Reigns persevering in the face of a hostile Chicago crowd during his promo. Also, as I'd noticed on Smackdown, Bray's hat is back. Sometimes it's the little things that make me happy.

WWE working Rusev & Lana's real-life engagement into the Rusev/Summer Rae story is an... interesting approach. It certainly seems like it means Lana will be returning to her role as Rusev's heel manager, and since I hated that WWE split them up and turned her face in the first place, I can't complain. If Summer Rae starts hanging out with Dolph Ziggler and dressing up in torn denim vests, though, I give up.

Tonight's Kevin Owens move stolen from John Cena was the Loud Match Call.

She said yes!
posted by brianrobot at 12:28 AM on October 13, 2015

I was really disappointed in the show last night. Everything felt awkward and sloppy. New Day, comedy Kane, and the decent Cena-Ziggler match were the few highlights. (Also Owens being mean to Michael Cole with always make me laugh.)
posted by misskaz at 7:12 AM on October 13, 2015

They could pair him up with the similarly rictus-grinned false-innocent Bo Dallas and give us Team Hell Bo.

I think we all know that that would be the greatest thing ever, but they would be Team Heck Bo, which would be even greater.

(This idea got me thinking -- has there ever been a good comedy monster heel?)

In re Sasha: the scary thing is that she is twenty-three years old. She's two years younger than Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton when they each won their first world title.
posted by Etrigan at 8:21 AM on October 13, 2015

Team Heck Bo, which would be even greater.

aw dammit

has there ever been a good comedy monster heel?

Actually, Kane in the early days of Team Hell No. You could probably make an argument for Rusev, too, although he's more of an occasional comedy monster.
posted by brianrobot at 12:15 AM on October 14, 2015

Ugh, that crowd was rough on RAW. At least when Cena gets "CENA SUCKS" he gets half the crowd yelling "LETS GO CENA". Roman, Nikki and Naomi, they just have to hear a crowd be completely disinterested in them. Is there a word for that? Feels like a corollary to X-Pac Heat. It's like...Smark Heat or something. I guess if you're working heel you want the crowd against you, but you can't really be looking for "boooooooring" or "you can't wrestle" chants. That's pretty rough.
posted by jermsplan at 2:16 PM on October 14, 2015

I'm willing to call it "Chicago Heat". Philly is the mirror universe, but Chicago fans will straight-up tell you "You suck in the ring and I am therefore not buying your merchandise nor the merchandise of the poor bastard who's trying to drag a two-star match out of your gassed botching corpse."
posted by Etrigan at 5:37 PM on October 14, 2015

I'm willing to call it "Chicago Heat"

but are you Gable
posted by brianrobot at 9:23 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Speaking of the most awesome NXT tag team, why the hell weren't Jordan and Gable in the #1 contender battle royal? Tomasso and Ciampa were in it and they're not even signed.
posted by Etrigan at 6:03 AM on October 15, 2015

After almost five years in development, Tyler Breeze has allegedly been called up to the main roster. I think he's the last FCW alumnus to make it there.
posted by Etrigan at 12:18 PM on October 16, 2015

Etrigan: !!!! I love Tyler! I hope he finds a way to make his character work on the main roster. So funny that all the things I'd been reading were doom and gloom about him being destined to stay an upper midcard NXTer forever.
posted by misskaz at 4:10 PM on October 16, 2015

I hope he finds a way to make his character work on the main roster.

I think the only thing keeping him from that is if the crowd gets too into him as a (so to speak) face. It's a classic well-executed-but-bog-standard Gorgeous George-Nature Boy-Adrian Adonis character, which pretty much always works.
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 PM on October 16, 2015

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