WWE Raw: The Hell in a Cell Go-Home
October 20, 2015 7:27 AM - Season 24, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Austin! Taker! Lesnar! Malenko! Finlay! Michaels! Flair! SHIELD REUNION!

Well, kind of a Shield reunion. The writers decide to address the Rollins face turn rumors more or less head-on, and he plays his heel card perfectly, abandoning Ambrose and Reigns to take a pointless DQ loss to the Wyatts. Oh, and Erick Rowan returns, apparently to sub for Luke Harper, with no explanation.

On the undercard, Owens hits a sweet pop-up powerbomb on Mark Henry to prep for Ryback at Hell in a Cell; the New Day falls victim to LOLCENAWINS; Rusev and Ziggler and Cesaro and Neville and Barrett and Sheamus are marking time; and Charlotte and Nikki Bella are ready for their rematch despite Sasha Banks being the most over woman in the company.

So what's it look like for HiaC?

Rollins vs. THEDEMONKANE for the WWE World Heavyweight World Championship of the World: If THEDEMONKANE loses, Awesome Eddie Haskell Corporate Kane is fired as Director of Operations. The real question is whether Rollins can drag four stars out of a 48-year-old man on what's gotta be about his third retirement tour.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar in the Demonic Structure: The second HiaC match between these two (Lesnar retained the Smackdown-only WWE Championship at No Mercy 2002) and probably the last time we'll see them in a ring together. Lesnar has never been in a HiaC match against anyone else, while this will be Taker's lucky thirteenth. See above re dragging stars out of an old man.

Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella for the (*sigh*) Divas Championship: WWE doesn't have the stones to put this one in the Cell, and there are no other women's matches currently on the card, so maybe Sasha will run in and be awesome all over the place.

Kevin Owens vs. Ryback for the Intercontinental Championship: Nothing significant at stake here, because it's the Intercontinental Championship.

John Cena vs. Tony B. Determined for the United States Championship: The Open Challenge on a PPV? With rumors of Cena wanting to be The Face That Takes A Break Over The Holidays (and possibly filming a non-WWE TV show), this could be the start of a new US reign by someone else, but who? BUT WHO, MAGGLE?

Totally unrelated note: Randy Orton is not currently scheduled for a match. Neither is recent callup Tyler Breeze.

The New Day vs. the Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team Championship: The Boyz have earned their pops, but the Day is firing on all cylinders and widely hailed as the best thing on Raw week-to-week.

Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt in the Slightly Less Demonic But More Backwoods Culty Structure: This match will likely be the official start of Reigns' second main-event push (all rumors point to him winning at WM32), but the smarks can hope that Wyatt at least looks fearsome.
posted by Etrigan (44 comments total)
If you're a fan of the old "crimson mask", you should really go back and watch Brock and 'Taker in the No Mercy 2002 Hell in a Cell. 'Taker bleeds absolute buckets from his head, to the point where I was hoping that they would stop the match because I was legitimately concerned for his health.

I'm not expecting a whole lot of blood or anything else from their rematch.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2015

Man, Raw was a dud. I don't usually expect much from go-home shows, but even by those low standards, that was boring. A few good moments here and there, but it was like panning for gold.

Steve Austin's on hand to go, "Hey, everybody! Haven't done this in a while! Hope it gooses the ratings! Bye!" Shawn Michaels in on hand to do the same thing, with a side order of making Rollins look weak (and also pizza). Flair's on hand to do absolutely nothing, and Malenko and Finlay are there as well, though I only found out after the fact since I'd fast-forwarded past their appearance.

So Undertaker's a face and Lesnar's a heel now? Makes sense, since Undertaker's being an asshole and Lesnar's right. I hope for Taker's sake that he doesn't make it 3 for 3 on the Collapsing And Needing Medical Attention After Wrestling Lesnar front, but whatever that wound was on his head does not bode well. He's going into the match injured! Meanwhile, the crowd WHATted their way through the whole segment because ugh.

Sasha Banks took a forearm to the face push and was somehow laid out for minutes while at the same time the announcers were hyping how amazing her 30-minute Iron Man match was. It was almost like they were arguing with the booking. "Seriously, you guys, she's great! You should watch her in other stuff, it's better!"

Corporate Kane was suspended for one night. ACTIONS HAVE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES. Given that the announcers always specified "Corporate" Kane when discussing the suspension, I was expecting Demon Kane to show up, growling "Technicality!" while stalking toward Rollins. He didn't, and I was okay with that.

Byron Saxton had what may be the first instance of genuine reaction I'd ever heard out of him, an astonished "what was that?" in response to Ryback doing a move that's not one of his usual five. Somebody learned a cheat code for the Ryback video game character!

Dolph Ziggler swiping somebody's Cesaro Section sign and posing with Cesaro was delightful. The match itself was surprisingly unexceptional given who was involved (it was like Sheamus brought everybody down to his level through his presence alone), but it's always fun to hear Michael Cole doing everything he can to hype the living shit out of Cesaro in defiance of all known booking. Maybe they should pair Cesaro up with Sasha Banks and call them The Crowd Favorites, wearing jackets with UNDERAPPRECIATED BY MANAGEMENT printed on them.

Erick Rowan's back, and as with the return of Luke Harper, the announcers inexplicably acted like they weren't sure who the guy in the sheep mask was. The guy in the sheep mask with the long orange beard and the green jumpsuit. "Is... is that who I think it is?" Made all the better when Rowan tore off the mask and leapt into the ring, to which Cole reacted with an audible shrug: "Oh, it's Erick Rowan."

Nothing gets a crowd excited like Roman Reigns pulling up a chair because this promo's gonna take a fuckin' while and a dude's gotta take a load off. This invited another WHAT chant because as long as this segment's going to be not great, you might as well get involved and make sure it goes down the toilet. As per usual lately, Roman's promo would have actually been perfectly okay if the crowd hadn't decided they were Not Interested before he even started talking. His line about Bray surrounding himself with "mountains" because he's scared to be alone was actually pretty good. It was made great, however, by one guy in the crowd letting out a super-loud "HA-ha!" in response. Bray got Nelsoned!

Charlotte vs Brie happened and it somehow wasn't a total squash and why are the Bellas in every Divas segment and UURRGGHH they need to just let Triple H and the NXT writing staff take over all women's segments on Raw from now on. There's not going to be a Divas Revolution if the thing they're revolutionizing still has almost all the same people they had before in all the same roles, both in front of and behind the camera. As ecstatic as I felt during the big triple debut segment, there was that gnawing feeling, even while it was happening, that WWE was going to muck it all up because while they're bringing in a few new people, it's not like they're bringing in new writers. It's cool that the matches are longer! It's cool that there's more than one women's wrestling segment per show! It's cool that the factions are slowly starting to dissolve and we're starting to get a little more character individuality and even a couple of side storylines that aren't 100% Bella-related! But there are still so many problems. So, so many. Optimism: Baby steps. Change takes time. Pessimism: Given who they brought up, it shouldn't be taking this long.

If you would have told me before I watched Raw that Kevin Owens vs Mark Henry was not only the most entertaining thing on the show, but also something I'd actually like to see as a feud, I'd never have believed you. But then Henry started returning Owens's trash-talking tenfold, and it was like HOW DID I NOT KNOW I WANTED THIS. I wish they'd have Owens call what he's doing an IC Open Challenge, since his opponents have been exactly the same kind of random assortment that John faces, and because Owens being a Mock-Cena is so much fun and I hate to see them sideline it.

The Shield non-reunion wasn't as fun as the Shield non-reunion that Rollins tried to initiate at Payback, since none of the three wanted it to happen this time and there were no illusions that they'd change their minds during the match. The main was still one of the more entertaining things on the show, though. We already have evidence that Bray Wyatt can magically teleport into locked steel cages, so a part of me kind of wants the lights to go out right near the start of the HIAC match, and when they come back up, Bray's outside the cell and laughing while the other three Wyatts are on the inside, ready to murder Roman. Also, he should have a demon child with him, because whatever happened to the demon children? Dude, Bray, part of your whole rivalry with Roman revolved around his "Take Time To Be A Dad" commercial! What better way to be his sinister mirror image than by busting out the Exorcist-voiced anti-altar-boy?
posted by brianrobot at 10:05 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Last night's NXT was nothing to write home about, with Asuka deathmurdering some Australian, Alexa Bliss going over some other Australian clean (seriously, is Australia a hotbed of women's wrestling or did WWE just hire every last one of them?), Enzo & Big Cass beating Dash & Dawson and then getting beat the fuck down, the pointless blowoff to the pointless Corbin-Rhyno feud, and the debut of multiple TNA/NWA tag team champion James Storm outta nowhere.

At 38 years old, Storm is an odd signing for NXT -- almost as much a "Screw you, TNA, we do what we want and we take your people whenever" as a serious development prospect.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on October 22, 2015

OH SHIT RANDY GOT ATTACKED BY DUKE THE DUMPSTER DROESE or maybe he just had a lot of wear and tear on that shoulder and it finally gave out on him OH SHIT THE DUMPSTER'S JOINED THE WYATT FAMILY
posted by brianrobot at 1:47 PM on October 22, 2015

seriously, is Australia a hotbed of women's wrestling

They do appear to have a scene.

Last night's NXT was nothing to write home about

Hell, Uproxx didn't even write one of their Best & Worst columns for it. It wasn't an awful episode, but it definitely felt like a placeholder that you could skip without missing anything important.

WWE loves having its women play cra-a-a-zy, with A.J. Lee doing by far the best job of taking that wonky stereotype and turning it into a compelling character. But Akusa's not playing crazy, she's playing psychotic, and I love it so much. She has a genuine aura of danger about her (I compared her to Lesnar in an earlier comment, and Full Sail agreed with me), a fantastic entrance, menacing music, unnerving facial expressions, a CREEPY FUCKING MASK, and she kicked her opponent so hard she knocked herself off balance. She's basically the best. I'm really looking forward to her vs Emma down the line.

NXT seems to be missing a trick with Enzo/Cass vs Dawson/Wilder, which is that Dawson's great at cutting amusing promos. Why aren't he and Enzo having a war of words on the mic pre-match?

I make a point of avoiding NXT spoilers (Smackdown I'll happily read; how else will I know if it's worth bothering to catch?) so the appearance of James Storm was a genuine shock. I loved the way they did it, letting his unfamiliar music play while flames flickered on the screen for a seemingly endless amount of time to let you shiver with antici

pation, and then his name just appearing. Since he's keeping his name (and is 38 years old), I'm assuming he's going to be working there in a Samoa Joe capacity, the veteran who's not there to move up to the main roster but instead to pass on his outside-WWE experience to the trainees behind the scenes while sticking it to TNA/pumping up the indie vibe of the show. (And, of course, Storm was "on the indie circuit" post-WCW, because you can't say TNA on a PG-rated show.)

Watching Heel Alexa Bliss is like watching Chris Jericho evolve from the Lionheart into the Man Of A Thousand And Four Holds. She was perfectly fine as a happy-go-lucky human smiley face, but she's tremendous as a snarling, pissed-off, straight-up horrible human being. The bit where Royce whipped Bliss into the ropes and dropped down, with Bliss responding not by rebounding and leaping over her but by stopping short and mockingly standing on her back? GOLD.

Rhyno and Baron Corbin are both masters of the thirty-second match (I saw a Rhino match live at an ECW show that was literally entrance/gore/123/exit, his theme music pausing for the three count before starting right back up again, and it was hilarious), so I was sad they went long. Play to their strength! Their strength is "brevity!" I want them to get into a feud filled with incredibly brief matches, each shorter than the last, until finally Rhyno suddenly emerges from the darkness to gore Corbin while he's walking through his entrance spotlights.
posted by brianrobot at 1:38 AM on October 23, 2015

David "The Masked Man" Shoemaker turns in another of his excellent monthly Grantland columns, this one on the nostalgia trap that's keeping the current generation from really grabbing the brass ring.
posted by Etrigan at 11:55 AM on October 23, 2015

So here's something: Going back to Respect one of my thoughts that got completely forgotten in the midst of the main event was that the New World's Greatest Tag Team (I like to think the shirt looks like an oldschool nWo shirt but says nWGTt or something) had a match with Rhyno/Corbin which I would easily call my favorite match involving either Rhyno or Corbin. Like, I genuinely enjoyed it, which I'm not sure I can say about any other Rhyno or Corbin match in NXT (and I'd have to think a long way back to figure out the last time I enjoyed a Rhyno match that much anywhere). And given how little I thought of the Rhyno/Corbin match this week, means maybe nWGTt are not only great, but are already able to carry other teams to really good tag matches? I know, a bit apples and oranges, but I thought the semifinal match was better than the Dusty Classic final match, so I don't know.

Anyone want to toss out a "I think it will be"/"I wish it would be" pair of guesses for Cena's opponent? Even having read the rumors earlier in the week, I don't feel like I have a great guess. I'll say Think it will be Ambrose, Wish it would be Ryder. (I swear it's like they took everyone I thought it might be and stuck them into that six man no reason tag match. And I like a lot of those guys, but I don't see WWE double booking any of them in a PPV. Maybe I'll be wrong!)
posted by jermsplan at 12:45 PM on October 23, 2015

If they were planning this out farther, I would actually go with one of the faces from the pre-show match:
  • Cena is allegedly a big fan of Cesaro and might want to give him the rub on the way out.
  • Ziggler could turn heel on the pre-show and then cheat over Cena
  • Neville needs something, anything to do, and wrestling twice is a huge face move, especially for a smaller guy who can really sell the David vs. Goliath angle.
Even the heels would work -- any of them could easily just walk away from the match to be a dick and then take on Cena, and the announcers could sell their walking out as part of their master plan:
  • Rusev's U.S. title run was pretty good, and if they need a better Lana face turn away from him, "I don't need you to be a champion!" would work.
  • Sheamus is probably the least good option, but just imagine him having a U.S. Open Challenge Slash MitB Briefcase Challenge: every week, someone gets a shot at one or the other, and occasionally he loses, but then immediately offers up the other thing as an incentive to get a rematch.
  • Barrett... see Neville re needing something to do. Also, he could do the same sort of "Title or Crown" challenge choice.
Plus having a heel champ sets up Cena's return feud.

Ambrose could be a last-minute rebooking, or one of the Wyatt Family just to keep them in a storyline (but then, I've always been a big fan of Four Horsemen-style "We have all the belts" heeldom, so it would be nice to see Wyatt leading U.S. Champ Strowman, Tag Champs Harper and Rowan, some other Icon Champ that he bespells, and going after Roman Reigns post-WM32).

Dark Horse: Tyler Breeze. What better way to make a big "NXT is the next generation" impact than Breeze as U.S. Champ and Owens as Icon Champ simultaneously?

What I'd most love to see is someone totally out of left field. Zack Ryder would be great. Baron Corbin or a heeled-out Samoa Joe tearing through the midcard would be acceptable.
posted by Etrigan at 1:06 PM on October 23, 2015

Wait, you mean the challenger's not going to be Bo Dallas? But he accepted! Just because Ryback killed him after that doesn't mean he won't be there in top fighting form on Sunday to OH ALL RIGHT FINE. As far as who it might actually be, I've seen convincing arguments for everyone from Daniel Bryan to Finn Balor to Braun Strowman, and while I'd love it to be Cesaro because obviously I love me some Cesaro, I'm with jermsplan in thinking they're not going to double-book anybody. It's the perfect opportunity to elevate a new star, which means it'll probably end up being Chris Jericho. Or Ambrose, who already held the US title for like 500 days because he never bothered to defend it. But wait. What if it's Jon Stewart out for revenge you guys???

ERMAHGERD SMERKDERN: That was a surprisingly fun show, infinitely better than this past Raw. Rich Brennan kept making up move names; Kalisto's hurricanrana onto a kneeling opponent was dubbed the "spike rana," while Ambrose's rebound clothesline became "the lunatic lariat." Which was probably the first time anyone in WWE's ever called a clothesline a lariat. Somewhere, Tony Schiavone is shedding a single heartfelt tear.

The opening backstage segment managed to be a lot of fun in spite of the obviously canned crowd noise, because it featured Corporate Kane at his most Eddie Haskellian bantering with a depressed New Day, and there's no way that's not going to be fantastic.

Rollins and Cesaro had a really fun match, with tons of great Cesaro showboating. It fell victim to go-home-show obviousness (you knew who'd win every match based on how high they were on the Hell In A Cell card), but it was more about the trip than the destination (which naturally was a Pedigree).

Wait, what's this? Somebody actually thought to start giving the Divas actual personalities? Stealthily snuck into the early going of Smackdown was the best promo segment since the Revolution started. Jealousy has been happily crossed out of the Motivation slot on Paige's character sheet, replaced instead with the more interesting idea that, after being the center of the Divas division and a star on a reality show for so long, Paige has been corrupted by her own success and has gone full reality star, trying to insert herself into everyone else's storyline so that she's always in the spotlight. (To make sure we don't miss this, it's pretty much all Lawler talks about during her subsequent match, which isn't booked but which she talks her way into.) Becky Lynch got to (a) be angry that someone she thought was a friend would say such cruel things about her, and (b) not be presented as an addle-brained space cadet, so that was nice, and Charlotte showed real hurt at Paige ruining the big championship moment she'd worked so hard for. It was far more solid character work than any of them had been given in forever.

Of course, the Bellas showed up because how could they not, but Paige's off-mic reactions made it all worth it (when Brie mocked the PCB promo as being like an episode of Pretty Little Liars, Paige shrugged and said "I don't know what that is" to the crowd, and Brie's "Baby Beetlejuice" insult was met by Paige looking around the ring and then realizing, "Oh. Me.") Lynch and Charlotte staying at ringside to watch Paige fight Nikki with looks of total disdain for everyone involved was another nice touch. It was a good match, too, following the Divas Revolution pattern of singles matches = good to great, tag matches = sloppy to trainwreck.

LOOK EVERYONE IT'S TYLER! The pairing of Tyler Breeze and Summer Rae looks like it's going to be pretty amusing (she photobombed his selfie and later said off-mic, "Do you hear that? They think you're gorgeous!" in response to the surprising-from-a-Smackdown-crowd BREEZE IS GORGEOUS chant). Dolph Ziggler insulting Breeze by calling him a "lazy millennial" HAD to be a shot at Vince McMahon's appearance on Stone Cold's podcast, it HAD to. Also, Dolph called Summer Rae "bro" at one point, which is the most Dolph Ziggler thing to have ever happened.

BIG NEWS: BO DALLAS HAS ACCEPTED THE U.S. OPEN CHALLENGE FOR HELL IN A CELL. Then Ryback killed him, as I said above, so I guess he won't make the show. But still, we got to see Bo unleashing a heretofore untapped well of patriotism in honor of the U.S. title -- calling the fans Bomericans, singing BO SAY CAN YOU SEEEE -- and it was pretty great. He needs to make Jack Swagger a boliever.

Kofi Kingston played a game of hopscotch before hitting the Boom Drop because the New Day is just the best.

Bray Wyatt finally bought a new rocking chair!
posted by brianrobot at 12:34 AM on October 24, 2015

Oh, and I forgot to mention that The Cosmic Wasteland is apparently still a thing (yay!) and that they're very clearly setting up a Cesaro/Stardust feud. Which is kind of weird, because did the Neville/Stardust feud ever actually end? It seemed like it went on and on (and on and on) for ages and then just stopped with no resolution. As for why Stardust wants to feud with Cesaro, I can only guess that it's based entirely on his "Swiss Superman" nickname. (And with all the usual Legends returning recently, WWE would knock my ass out if they'd let a Stardust promo be interrupted by a cameo from The Hurricane.)
posted by brianrobot at 12:51 AM on October 24, 2015

So I'm super amused and just want to point out that I asked if anyone wanted to name two wrestlers (though obviously there was room for explanation) and Etrigan and brianrobot wrote something like 500 words about who those two wrestlers might be. awesome.

I want to toss out an idea I've been mulling over for a while and see what you all think. I'll apologize for repeating this ad nauseam in these fanfare threads, but I only get to watch the 90 minute version of RAW. That said, I'm starting to enjoy Smackdown! more than RAW. When I watch 2 hours of SD!, or 1 hour of Superstars or Main Event, I get to see more of the up and comers, or as Brian pointed out, I see more random character development. When I watch RAW, I feel like I'm watching a "This week in storyline news..." which doesn't always translate to the fresh talent and doesn't always translate to the backstage promo that is unintentionally hilarious, and doesn't always translate into...I don't know, the best wrestling? It's the shit you need to see to keep the story moving, whether it's the best 90 minutes of "Sports Entertainment" that week or not. I don't know, anyone else feeling like RAW is getting way bogged down by the writers or something?
posted by jermsplan at 11:13 PM on October 24, 2015

I'm not expecting a whole lot of blood

posted by brianrobot at 10:44 PM on October 25, 2015


Okay, Kimberussell's Boyfriend was not who I expected at all, so kudos to WWE for pulling un conejo out of their hat. And the clean win was a perfect booking -- the match storyline was "Cena couldn't possibly have prepared for this", so he loses no face, and KB gets to look good too. Rumors were flying over the last week or so about negotiations to have KB back for a WM run, but nothing about starting it now.

Reigns vs. Wyatt was quite good for what it could be. I no longer have any faith in Roman Reigns ever being anything but a good brawler who can be pulled up to four stars by someone else, but that's what works in an HiaC match. I kinda wish, paradoxically, that WWE did more HiaCs, just to tamp down the expectations somewhat, because when the high point of innovation is jamming two kendo sticks into the turnbuckles, people just need to stop trying (also, oh, man, did the camera work telegraph Wyatt slamming Reigns into the table from the apron).

New Day over Dudleyz more or less clean was a good end to a well-done match. The fake-DQ spot was particularly nice, if a little too long with the ref acting like maaaybe he's going to call it...

Charlotte's a good champion, but she needs a program against someone who can really work with her rather than the sufficiently-not-awful Nikki. One thing that shows us how far the Revolution has brought us already: of the five title matches tonight, this was the second-longest.

Rollins over Kane in the yawner of the night. No suspense, and Glen Jacobs is a gamer, but he's too old to have a good match dragged out of him anymore.

Are... are we getting the Intercontinental Championship match after the World Championship match? That's just weird. This one is pretty palate-cleaner, but the (totally unremarked upon) eye-rake finisher might sadly mean that we get more of Ryback.

Reports are already flowing in that Vince was pissed about the bleeding in the main event, but both were legit hardway. Looks like we're in for another Taker-Bray WM run.

Overall, solid second-tier PPV that ended some storylines and started some new ones.
posted by Etrigan at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2015

Reports are already flowing in that Vince was pissed about the bleeding in the main event

I've seen those rumors, and I just don't get them. Why would Vince be pissed about something he clearly orchestrated? The last time Brock's head exploded on the ring post, the cameras did everything they could to hide what had happened; this time they replayed it while the announcers analyzed what happened. Then he got to bleed buckets for a while before the doctor cleaned him up, and when the doctor tried to clean him again, Brock attacked him. There's no way that wasn't part of the show. And it's not like WWE's been stopping matches for blood lately; Dolph Ziggler did a full-on crimson mask at Payback and the match continued.

Raw devoted almost the entire show to a tournament! When's the last time that's happened? And it was a good tournament! This was easily one of the best Raws they've done in a while. While on the face of things the winners of all four qualifying matches were easy to predict (Reigns and Ziggler, Owens and Del Rio), and the winner of the fatal four-way was also easy (Reigns), all of the matches were long enough, complex enough, hard-fought enough and had enough razor-close near-falls that you'd actually forget the obvious choice and think they just might pull a surprise. They didn't, but the fact that they could mask it so well was impressive, and every match was a lot of fun to watch.

Reigns vs Kingston was easily the best solo showing for both guys in quite some time, Cesaro vs Owens had me bouncing off the walls (with Cesaro scooping up Owens for a suplex while Owens let out a DEATH SCREAM being the funniest moment in a night with several of them), Neville got a rare Raw opportunity to wrestle a match that wasn't set to the Standard Neville Template, and Ziggler & Big E's match was watched by Tyler Breeze from the VIP Area, with the selfie stick strategically placed so Tyler could watch that at the same time. The finale, while not quite as intense as the qualifiers, was appropriately chaotic and closed out the show on a high note.

The only two matches on the show outside of the tournament were the 6-man tag of Hell In A Cell Losers, which was as disposable as that concept makes it sound, and the 6-woman tag with Team PCB (wat) taking on Team Bella. As far as 6-woman matches go, this was easily one of the better ones, but the storyline wonkiness of Paige talking her way back into PCB in spite of Becky and Charlotte's skepticism was weird. Maybe she's got mesmeric Sylvester McCoy powers to talk her way into any situation that the show hasn't explored yet. At least Becky got a line in about Paige storming past her to congratulate Charlotte at HIAC, showing that PCB wasn't actually reunited at that point (it was the writers hastily covering their asses for that blunder, since on the actual show they were clearly and inexplicably a unit again, but at least they tried). But Paige's post-match attack on CB made them both look like idiots; they've clearly been onto Paige this whole time, but for some reason they let their guards down at the worst possible moment and paid for it. At least Charlotte gave Paige a look that said I WILL MURDER YOU instead of the usual Divas' response to betrayal (WHY DID THIS HAPPEN OH GOD). Even Byron Saxton tried to cover the storytelling lapses with his "deep down, they knew" speech, because of course they knew, everyone knew, everyone's known for weeks except the bookers, apparently. At least the totally-concrete-but-somehow-wishy-washy Paige turn is FINALLY DEFINITIVELY DONE, PAIGE TURNED, BOOK CLOSED, THE END, FINALLY. And it also means the next Divas title match will be Charlotte vs Paige. Whither the Bellas? (Prob'ly starting a 6-woman feud with Team B.A.D., I would think.)

And the Eater of Losses crucified Kane! I absolutely loved the Wyatt Family intruding on Undertaker's final bow before the audience and obliterating him, and the Kane-killing, complete with dragging his limp body off into the mist while singing he's got the whole world in his hands (haven't heard Wyatt bust that one out in a while), was wonderfully done. At HIAC it did register as a bit weird that Wyatt came out to kill Taker, only because it was like, "Beware! It is I, the man who lost his match earlier this evening!" But Bray getting that speech about how he hadn't been able to beat Roman and therefore needed to take Undertaker's power for himself in order to do so gave him an actual motivation, and after months of just being beardy guys in thrift store clothes who occasionally rambled about judgment, the Wyatt Family felt like the Wyatt Family again, the malevolent swamp cult that wants to END THE FUCKING WORLD.

anyone else feeling like RAW is getting way bogged down by the writers or something?

Most weeks I'd say yes, but this was an exception, a really energetic Raw where all the matches (bar the 6-man) were exciting, well-paced, meant something and weren't just filler to pad out three hours. No, the filler was saved for lengthy recaps and video game promotions, all easily skippable! One of the rare times an over-two-hour WWE program ended without me feeling tired. Which kinda sucks, actually, because I really need to get to bed.
posted by brianrobot at 1:57 AM on October 27, 2015

I am completely with brianrobot's recap of RAW. I didn't give HIAC my full attention, but it also didn't capture my full attention other than a few spots, which was disappointing to me. RAW, on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. I'd love for the end of HIAC to be a bit of an end to a lot of older stuff involving older talent or matches we've all seen a hundred times by now. Bring on the new guys! Or even the not new guys, but the guys who deserve more meaningful air time than they've been getting!

Anyone else catch the shot during the HIAC pre-show when Cesaro was about to embark on his around-the-ring uppercut tour, when he did his arm pumping salute towards the Stardust Section, and both members of The Ascension were doing it right back to him? I wonder if what the camera didn't catch was that they were doing it in a mocking way, but it happened so fast then when I saw it I wondered if they were 2 NXT guys giving a salute to another NXT guy, thinking they'd get away with it because why would the camera be anywhere near them? That's what I'd like to believe, but feel like it would have been a pretty big mistake if that's what did happen.

I also keep hearing people say that Vince hates blood now, but also can't understand how it can possibly be true or else every ref would be carrying a towel and that skin superglue that boxers use and he'd never have more than 10 seconds of blood again before a ref put a stop to it.

I completely loved the New Day's black arm bands. That's the kind of little touch that makes them the best.

Brock's head missed the mat by a country mile during that Tombstone Piledriver. I think it's time to retire that move.
posted by jermsplan at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2015

Why would Vince be pissed about something he clearly orchestrated?

Alvarez, Meltzer, and PWInsider agree that the blood was hardway and that Lesnar wasn't supposed to chuck that medic. It could absolutely be a work, but WWE seems to have given up on trying to work the smarks (other than simply not advertising surprises like Del Rio's return), so I tend to doubt it at this point.

I also keep hearing people say that Vince hates blood now

I would say that Vince doesn't hate blood, he hates anything that might make parents stop letting their kids watch (and buy John Cena shirts) (90%) and anything that invites lawsuits (10%).

Brock's head missed the mat by a country mile during that Tombstone Piledriver. I think it's time to retire that move.

Soon enough. Taker and Kane are the only ones allowed to do it anymore, and I don't remember the last time Kane did it.

I agree that Raw was superior to HiaC, but for another reason in addition to the quality of the matches and the tournament itself: the fact that the tournament was among last night's winners. Instead of just "the current champions", and even though it was just a way to get Reigns into it and pad it out with the pre-show faces, it (retroactively) made a second-tier PPV mean something in the ring, rather than just mean something to the plotlines.
posted by Etrigan at 1:17 PM on October 27, 2015

I wonder if what the camera didn't catch was that they were doing it in a mocking way

Pretty sure it was mocking, given that the Cosmic Wasteland are stalking/preparing to feud with Cesaro and carrying around STARDUST SECTION signs. I love that Stardust is adding Ascensiony accoutrements to his outfit (spiky shoulderpads!). Makes 'em look more like a unit.

every ref would be carrying a towel and that skin superglue that boxers use and he'd never have more than 10 seconds of blood again

At the point I started watching wrestling regularly again, around the time of the Punk pipebomb, they were definitely doing that. People would get busted open and the match would stop and they'd wipe it off and glue it up while the crowd booed. They largely stopped that a while back.

Alvarez, Meltzer, and PWInsider agree that the blood was hardway and that Lesnar wasn't supposed to chuck that medic.

It was clear they weren't blading (I definitely got the vibe they were doing the Mick Foley knuckle treatment instead, and of course Lesnar just let his head explode on the post because he enjoys doing that), but Lesnar not being supposed to chuck the medic is nuts. Then again, I've said before that one of my favorite things about wrestling is the weird interplay of real and fantasy and how the two can get intertwined, and that's a great example. They HAD to have staged the doc fling. They DIDN'T stage the doc fling. WHAT IS HAPPENING. I love it when I can't tell. It's like being a kid at a magic show when the magician's trick goes wrong but then it turns out the going wrong was part of the trick.

I don't remember the last time Kane did it.

Didn't Kane tombstone Rollins at HIAC? Eh, I don't blame you for not noticing. At least when Kane does it, it still looks good. Taker's is... yeah.

he hates anything that might make parents stop letting their kids watch

Unless it's Paige molesting Natalya!

On to NXT. Shazza decided to go as pre-Blake 'n' Murphy Alexa Bliss for Halloween. The Tom Phillips plastic smile continues to be unnerving; it's like the uncanny valley of smiles. Nia Jax already has a new look. She's a bit Rybacky/Big Showy to me at this stage, but it's NXT; people improve. Alexa Bliss (the real one) has a glance so withering the cameraman was probably curled up in a ball afterward. Tyler Breeze is now on ALL the shows. Samoa Joe sweated so hard it got on the camera lens.

Did I skip something? Oh wait right GABLE JORDAN CIAMPA GARGANO GOOD SWEET JESUS that thing was fucking electric. Gable & Jordan are so good that even Saxton and Graves agreed on it. The crowd (who were... very Full Saily) modified their Gable version of the Kurt Angle singalong to GABLE JORDAN GABLE JORDAN, and Jordan looked really, really happy about that! The only disappointment was that the crowd failed to chant SAVE THE GABLE when Gable was locked in an abdominal stretch, because goddammit, that would have been Ciampa's cue to clap Gable's side to the New Day rhythm and it would have been the best thing ever.
posted by brianrobot at 10:58 PM on October 28, 2015

Didn't Kane tombstone Rollins at HIAC?

Honestly? Only paying half attention during that match. Wouldn't surprise me if he had.

On to NXT.

Another Australian woman. I hope they all start teaming up as an anti-America heel faction at some point.

Jordan is actually getting a rub from Gable at this point. That is insane.

You forgot the good old-fashioned pre-match assault by Dash & Dawson (weren't they The Mechanics originally?) on The Realest Guys In The Room. I swear, D&D remind me more of Arn & Tully every week. If they get to the main roster and team up with Tyler Breeze, they would instantly be at Four Horsemen levels of heat.
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 AM on October 29, 2015

William Regal is a badass.
posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on October 30, 2015

Another Australian woman. I hope they all start teaming up as an anti-America heel faction

The Emmalution.

Dash & Dawson (weren't they The Mechanics originally?) ... If they get to the main roster and team up with Tyler Breeze

...who was once known as Mike Dalton. Mike and the Mechanics! I can't tell if that ruins the idea or not.

Happy Halloween from NXT, and Happy Halloween from Smackdown! Boo Dallas was, of course, the greatest thing, and the final beat with him succeeding in scaring Mark Henry was perfectly played.

Kevin Owens did everything possible to make it look like he wasn't really going to accept Reigns' challenge, which Brennan mucked up by making the Reigns/Owens hashtag announcement while he was still hemming and hawing, confirming too early that the impromptu match was actually going to happen. You'd think they'd fix something like that in post, but oh well. I liked that the announcers played up Owens fleeing up the ramp halfway through as suckering Reigns into a trap, because it was a nice spin to have "acting like a cowardly heel" be an actual strategic tactic... and then they did the finish where Owens fled the match for real, and it kinda nuked the whole idea. Oh well.

The Paige/Natalya match primarily existed to revert Team B.A.D. to full-on heels following the all-too-brief Face Sasha experiment. Natalya started with a promo about Paige, declaring "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Fool me five times, Team PCB. At this point, the Divas storyline is in a state of pure flux; it seems like the writers don't have a solid direction for it and are bouncing around a bunch of ideas to see what sticks. At least Team Bella were nowhere to be found for a change. Interestingly, Sasha Banks was clearly positioned as the leader of Team B.A.D. instead of Naomi.

Ziggler/Miz in a Halloween Street Fight was nowhere near the level of last year's Ambrose/Cesaro version, but it was still quite a bit of fun, and we got to see Miz (a) be overly impressed with himself when he figured out how to get the toy lightsaber to work, and (b) get superkicked while crowned with a jack o'lantern, so I can't complain about it. Ziggler's Nikki Sixx costume consisted entirely of two stripes of black face make-up; literally nothing about his outfit changed. Lawler was way, way, way too excited about that "costume." Is he friends with Nikki Sixx or something? Is he hanging with the Crue? Are they raising hell at the Seventh Veil together?

Tag Team Terror was energetic and entertaining, which weirdly made New Day's faux commentary kind of annoying, since it took some of the excitement out of the match. I was surprised they were including makeshift teams like Sheamus/Barrett in there, since actual established teams like The Prime Time Players and the awol Los Matadores weren't in it. The end of the match basically seemed to be the kickoff for Lucha Dragons challenging New Day for the titles, which I'll be happy to see. Of course, despite The Ascension's presence in the match, The Cosmic Wasteland was nowhere to be seen, and they had zero presence during Cesaro's appearances, so who knows what's going on with that? They keep flipping that storyline on and off like a light switch.

(My dream right now is for Cesaro to challenge Owens for the IC title while Stardust continues vaguely attempting to feud with him. Then at some point we get an eight-man tag where Cesaro and three others team up to face Owens and the Cosmic Wasteland. That way we'd get a promo with Stardust and the Ascension snarling threats at Cesaro from their weird void, with Kevin Owens strolling in and being confused by everything. "Where are we? Is this space?" "Cesaro, they call you The Swiss Superman, but your powers are no match for-" "We shouldn't even be able to breathe.")

Ambrose/Cesaro/Ryback vs The Wyatt Family was well done, and managed to capture the free-for-all chaotic vibe of the Shield/Wyatt contests with Bray Wyatt outside and only one Shield member present, so that was pretty neat. Hell, even Ryback was flying around and diving across announce tables. Cesaro was so all over the place that it made me realize in retrospect how great it would've been if he'd been Reigns & Ambrose's third man; I'd be down with him joining a Shield 2.0. He'd look good in the SWAT gear and could add Cop Sunglasses to the mix. The match ended as all matches must, with Cesaro being on fire and then getting laid out with one move (although in this case it was a distraction finish as well), but even so, it seems in recent weeks that the yo-yo that is Cesaro's push is on its way back up, so that makes me happy.
posted by brianrobot at 10:41 PM on November 1, 2015

Real sign of the Diva Revolution: getting 5 divas on Halloween SmackDown! with 0 sexy costumes? (Not sure if Renee counts against this)

Cosmic Wasteland appeared on MainEvent last week (I know, I know). I'm hoping that creative generally likes the idea and wants to keep it simmering, but doesn't feel like the setup is there for the three to go at it full time on one of the big shows.

New Day dressing up as unicorns was hilarious, New Day on commentary was terrible. I agree, an unneeded distraction from an otherwise entertaining match.

I am entirely unsold on Nia Jax. Not saying she doesn't deserve time in NXT to develop, but for some reason I expected more right out the door after the hype they built.
posted by jermsplan at 7:09 AM on November 2, 2015

Mike and the Mechanics!

I hate you so much.

"Where are we? Is this space?"

Okay, less so now.

I am entirely unsold on Nia Jax. Not saying she doesn't deserve time in NXT to develop, but for some reason I expected more right out the door after the hype they built.

Oh, gods, especially after the near-perfect Kana/Asuka buildup. If Jax had just shown up out of the blue and pounded someone into the mat, I think we'd all be a lot happier with her.
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 PM on November 2, 2015

oh man, Owens holding Ambrose in the corner for Rollins and pleading "What are you doing? Just do something! Why don't you just do something? What are you waiting for?" until Ambrose inevitably broke free and slapped Rollins was hilarious.
posted by jermsplan at 12:08 PM on November 3, 2015

I'm really loving Kevin Owens, Super Kayfabe-Following Smark.
posted by Etrigan at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2015


Does anyone else watch Abrose and think "man, that guy is electric with the crowd but has the absolute worst moveset in all of wrestling"?

I was never a big Uso fan, I didn't think they pushed themselves to innovate in the ring for the (it felt like a) long stretch where they just dominated the lackluster tagteam division. But I wasn't at all unhappy to see them back on RAW, I think the division could use some charismatic faces, because we seem to have a glut of heel teams and heel champs, which makes it tough to give non-champ heels airtime. Here's hoping they're forced to work their way up, facing all the heel teams over the course of a month or more, before getting their title shot.
posted by jermsplan at 7:07 PM on November 3, 2015

I hate you so much.

As well you should.

Raw was more scattershot than last week's and had a Del Rio/R-Truth rematch from Smackdown that was even more pointless than the original, but while it may not have had the dynamic everything-means-something feel of last week's show, it was still well put together and entertaining.

Owens was in two matches, which is always a plus, and got to be baffled by his New Day tag partners (and flustered by Rollins' heel work, as jermsplan noted), which is a plus plus.

Cesaro went completely bonkers against Miz, which naturally was a delight. Raw's resident Cesaro hype-boy Michael Cole proved that Nikki was right and wins and losses truly don't matter, because he actually said "Cesaro's been on a roll as of late." A roll of increasingly high-profile and highly entertaining losses? At least here he finally got a win (against Miz, which is only a step or two above defeating Heath Slater, but still) and the wild praise he got from all three announcers throughout the match cemented the fact that we're once again in Cesaro Push Mode. (That and the swing. You can always tell if Cesaro's getting pushed by whether or not he gets to do the swing for any length of time.) And the Stardust Section got prominently noticed, too, so it looks like this feud's about to finally kick off.

Bray Wyatt ate two dudes' souls and now has their kewl powerz. WAS TELEPORTATION NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU BRAY. The segment was mercilessly padded ("I have demonstrated my evil power to you all! But in case you missed it, let me do the lightning thing again! Man! Great, isn't it? But just wait a moment... Now check this out: more lightning!") but I still liked it, mainly because it was WWE saying screw it and going Full Chikara.

Lucha Dragons vs The King And The Cross (look, if WWE's not going to bother giving Sheamus & Barrett a team name, I'll do it for them) was there as a showcase to fully establish the Dragons as the challengers to the New Day's title following Tag Team Terror. Hell, they even did a Getting To Know The Lucha Dragons video package. Weirdly, the announcers largely avoided discussing the titles and were mostly in "these guys are such fun to watch!" mode even as the Dragons were miming the belts around their waists.

Pairing Rollins and the New Day paid dividends a while back on Smackdown and it was a highlight on Raw, too. Rollins being irritated with them as usual, only to find himself really getting into singing their Seth Rollins song before snapping himself out of it, was goddamn classic. I loved that the crowd straight up cheered when Xavier Woods made his return, and then flipped into full-on NEW DAY SUCKS mode when they actually came out for their match.

And the Divas Fatal Four Way earned what I believe was the only THIS IS AWESOME chant of the night. The fact that all four performers had vocal supporters in the audience gave things an interesting vibe. The match itself was one of the best Revolution matches thusfar, and since it was for the #1 contendership to the title, there were actual wrestling stakes instead of just soap operatic relationship ones. And, as this and a couple of other recent women's matches have shown, there's a secret to success for main roster Divas matches: Bar all team members from ringside. That gets rid of the distraction finish, which has been to the Divas Revolution what the quick roll-up was to the Divas pre-Revolution, and it also just makes the segments less cluttered. This match had four people in the ring at once and was easier to follow than many previous Revolution matches.

Real sign of the Diva Revolution: getting 5 divas on Halloween SmackDown! with 0 sexy costumes?

Very true! And it's taken a while, but they seem to be getting better at reigning in Lawler and Booker T's weird insistence that all women hate each other all the time.

Here's hoping they're forced to work their way up, facing all the heel teams over the course of a month or more, before getting their title shot.

That worked out great for the Prime Time PlayeOH HAI THERE DUDLEY BOYZ. Yeah, I'm still ticked off about that.
posted by brianrobot at 12:51 AM on November 4, 2015

NXT was pretty average this week; some good stuff surrounded by filler, including an NXT Championship match that surprisingly felt more like the latter than the former.

Asuka continued to be crazy awesome. Cameron was on the receiving end of (a) a lot of great Asuka brutality, and (b) one of Corey Graves' meanest lines: "better hope she upped her game." She didn't embarrass herself in there the way she often did in WWE, and her ultra high-pitched "ARE YOU KIDDING ME???" when Asuka started mocking her mannerisms was actually really funny, so that's something, anyway. But goddamn it, I want an Asuka vs Sasha Banks match that I know I can't have, and I want it immediately.

Tom Filler Phillips disappointed me by not trying to make himself look shorter than Carmella.

Jordan and Gable are challenging The Ascension? Man, they really are trying to prove that they can carry any team to a great match, aren't they? The bit where Jordan had to stop Gable from calling themselves The World's Greatest Tag Team ("We discussed this") was pretty great.

Dempsey vs Dawkins was notable only in that the referee looked like Seth Meyers. At what point do we just up and declare Angelo Dawkins a lost cause?

Bayley's partners in the six-person tag are The Hype Bros? Christ. Graves hit the nail on the head: "With friends like that, sometimes it's better not to have friends." My interest in seeing that match just dropped like a stone.

Eva Marie's opponent was literally never named. The crowd kept calling her Carly, so I guess that's her name, but if the ring announcer said anything it wasn't broadcast, and the NXT announce team studiously avoided mentioning her name, saying only that she was "from Jersey." It was genuinely bizarre the way they kept doing everything they could to not identify this person while calling the match, and the mystery of her identity proved far more interesting than the bout itself, with Eva Marie at one point hitting a move that got an irritated "What was that?" chant from the crowd.

You'd think Apollo Crews vs Finn Balor for the NXT Men's Championship (because that's what it should be fucking called) would have had a big fight feel, but it really didn't; the match never seemed to get out of first gear or feel like anything other than a pretty good TV main event. It certainly never felt like a big championship match. And just when things finally started picking up with that Pele kick, Baron Corbin ran out to throw the match away, and then Samoa Joe came out to clear the ring and somehow stun the crowd with THE MOST BLAZINGLY OBVIOUS TURN-ON-YOUR-PARTNER ATTACK IN HISTORY. Seriously, that crowd sounded really surprised. Some smart marks you turned out to be, Full Sail, jeez. We now appear to have set up a Fatal Four Way for the title with Balor vs Crews vs Corbin vs Joe, and that could be fun, especially since Joe's the only guy other than Jordan/Gable to bring something out of Corbin.

Next week is Dash & Dawson vs The Vaudevillains for the tag titles, and I will be shocked if the belt doesn't change hands. D&D have been heating up and have a ton of momentum, while the Villains have been largely off TV and even got knocked out of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Tournament at a house show. The tide definitely seems to be in D&D's favor.
posted by brianrobot at 12:06 AM on November 5, 2015

Eva Marie's opponent was literally never named.

Gionna Daddio, a.k.a. Marley. Maybe the commentary team was under orders not to say her name because she's already being retooled, because Marley?

the mystery of her identity proved far more interesting than the bout itself


I agree about the main event, but the possibility of a (double!) run-in honestly never even occurred to me. NXT has actually cured my lingering herecomestheschmozzitis.
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 AM on November 5, 2015

Here's my biggest WTF around Eva Marie: how many people had to OK those vignettes from Europe? The thinking was "Eva Marie has great heat right now, let's take her out of the ring, but not off TV. Don't let people forget about her, because we want her to come back with the exact same reaction she's been getting"?

I've been thinking, and as much as I am amused by Zeb's turn and the new MexAmerican Title, I kind of wish he'd gone for the North American Championship. Would still have been different from the IC, but maybe could have drummed up a feud with a Canadian or something. But I guess my dream is more of a permanent change and Zeb's change will be undone by the next champ.
posted by jermsplan at 10:18 AM on November 5, 2015

Here's my biggest WTF around Eva Marie: how many people had to OK those vignettes from Europe?

For all that we hear about how hands-off Vince is with NXT, I figure that's either him or someone near him pushing her on them. He's always had a thing for people who are famous (or notorious) outside the ring, and Total Divas has kept the Bellas on top forever.

I've been thinking, and as much as I am amused by Zeb's turn and the new MexAmerican Title, I kind of wish he'd gone for the North American Championship.

I wonder whether they just haven't decided whether he's going to be a heel or face, so they're letting the MexAmerica thing be either "Face Del Rio attracts Latinos" or "Heel Del Rio talks about how Mexico is taking over America", depending on how the fans start to react to him.
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2015


Oh dear, yes, please, retool that. Also, you know, if you wanna actually give her a last name while you're at it, that'd be cool, too.

I figure that's either him or someone near him pushing her on them.

If they really want to keep Eva Marie around so badly, I don't get why they don't play to her strengths and just make her a valet instead of a wrestler. It could even be a source of drama on Total Divas! "The other girls think they're better than me." "We are better than you!" "Hey, get out of here, I'm doing a confessional!"

I wonder whether they just haven't decided whether he's going to be a heel or face

I wouldn't be surprised. It would certainly explain why Del Rio always makes a show of acting leery and hesitant whenever he shakes hands with Colter; they're leaving that door open.
posted by brianrobot at 10:09 PM on November 5, 2015

Holy shit, Rollins just vacated the title. Tournament at Survivor Series.
posted by Etrigan at 11:04 AM on November 6, 2015

I was right:
Gionna Daddio did not work last night’s WWE NXT live event in Lakeland, Florida under her Marley ring name. The name was noticeably not used on this week’s episode of NXT, which was her television debut, and officially scrapped last night.
posted by Etrigan at 2:56 PM on November 6, 2015

Tournament at Survivor Series.

"How many goddamn tournaments do I have to win to get this fucking belt?" -Roman Reigns

I was right

According to Wikipedia, they've dropped "Marley" in favor of her real name. Their source is an NXT spoiler article that I didn't want to read, so I can't verify that. Interesting that her Twitter account is under her real name, though, complete with a "Who's Yo Daddio" catchphrase.

Smackdown was a big bowl of nothing. Ascension vs Usos and Barrett vs Ryback were both fast-forward fodder, so that's what I did. On the Divas end, they continued teasing Naomi and Tamina having problems with Sasha Banks' rising-star status, then had Natalya wrestle Tamina because whatever. The only thing that looks worse than a Tamina splash is a Tamina imminent-failure splash where she has to land all wrong in order to take a boot to the face from her opponent.

Booker T insists on calling people hybrids now. "Kevin Owens is the Hybrid!" I'm not sure Booker T actually knows what a hybrid is.

"The one thing that is not allowed in Mexamerica is hate." "BOOOOOOOOO." That reaction was the only interesting thing about this weirdass placeholder storyline. I did like that Colter and Del Rio kept their mics in the little basket on Colter's scooter, though, so hey, there's that. Lawler didn't know if Neville had faced anyone to date with the level of skill and experience that Del Rio has. So apparently John Cena doesn't count? Jack Swagger made the save and is apparently a face now. Swagger, whose xenophobia made him a heel, is now a face because of his xenophobia. All right then. Hopefully they'll keep the other Real American, Cesaro, as far away from this trainwrecky angle as possible.

When they announced The Wyatt Family vs The Prime Time Players and The Lucha Dragons in a traditional Survivor Series match (best to get all those out of the way before the actual PPV), I figured the only way to keep the Wyatts' new Brothers Of Destruction-granted momentum going was to pin all four guys without losing any of their own, and that's what happened. Unfortunately, it didn't exactly make for an interesting match -- Hot Tag Titus didn't get any hot tags, and the elimination match structure precluded the chaos the Wyatts do so well, leaving them looking basically like generic big man wrestlers -- which was a shame. Rowan acquired a new, slightly less tacky-looking outfit. Lawler kept going on about how "crazy" Wyatt is because he actually "believes" he took the Undertaker and Kane's powers. Uh, DID YOU NOT SEE THE LIGHTNING SHOW ON MONDAY JERRY.

Speaking of crazy, Ambrose's babbling nonsense promo was just that, which made Kevin Owens' interruption all the better. "What are you talking about?" And, of course, Ambrose was so out of it that he couldn't come up with a sensible rebuttal. If it weren't for TV-PG we'd probably be heading toward the reveal that Ambrose is a junkie. Owens snapping at Ambrose, "You're annoying Renee!" was probably the line of the night. The actual Owens/Ambrose match was pretty standard TV fare with a cheat-to-win-by-DQ ending; nothing remarkable there.

So, yeah. If you didn't watch Smackdown this week, you didn't miss much.
posted by brianrobot at 10:14 PM on November 8, 2015

In the midst of watching Raw and they just announced the 16 brackets for the Championship Tournament. (Thusfar all that's happened has been Triple H tempting Roman to the dark side for what felt like half an hour followed by Roman vs Big Show, which I fast-forwarded past for what also felt like half an hour.) Here's how I would love it to play out:
FIRST ROUND: Roman over Big Show. Cesaro over Sheamus. Stardust over Del Rio. Kalisto over Ryback. Owens over Titus. Neville over Barrett. Ziggler over Miz. Breeze over Ambrose.

SECOND ROUND: Cesaro over Roman (big upset! Anything can happen!). Stardust over Kalisto. Owens over Neville. Ziggler over Breeze.

THIRD ROUND: Cesaro over Stardust (because let's get that storyline in there). Owens over Ziggler.

FINAL ROUND: Owens over Cesaro and the prizefighter has two prizes to fight for.
Here's how I expect it to play out:
FIRST ROUND: Roman over Big Show. Sheamus over Cesaro. Del Rio over Stardust. Ryback over Kalisto. Owens over Titus. Neville over Barrett. Ziggler over Miz. Breeze over Ambrose.

SECOND ROUND: Roman over Sheamus. Del Rio over Ryback. Owens over Neville. Ziggler over Breeze.

THIRD ROUND: Roman over Del Rio. Owens over Ziggler.

FINAL ROUND: Roman over Owens.
posted by brianrobot at 10:33 PM on November 9, 2015

...and, to my pleasant surprise, some of what I expected to happen didn't.

Owens crapped all over the crowd, who predictably responded by cheering him to victory. Colter and Del Rio spent an entire segment essentially hyping this week's Smackdown (how often does that happen?). Ziggler beat Miz to the surprise of no one anywhere ever, even people who've never watched wrestling and have no idea who Ziggler or Miz are. Michael Cole just up and blurted out the much-protected identity of the villain in Spectre (it's who everyone thought it would be, but still!). And the Brothers of Destruction, inexplicably revived and repowered, emerged to take their revenge, completely obliterating the Wyatt Family and thereby obviating the need for a match at Survivor Series. So... uh...

Anyway. Paige, via the magic of initialism, cut the most vulgar promo the WWE's run in some time ("I'm gonna take out that B and at Survivor Series it's just gonna be me and that C"). Her match with Becky Lynch spilled outside the ring and then spilled right back into it. Both wrestlers went at it with ferocity and speed, and the result was one of the highlights of the show. The PTO on the announce table was a cool visual, although the announcers weirdly sold it like it was somehow more painful because it was on the table. What? How? Lynch didn't get any steam with her ring entrance. BOOOOO.

On the other side of the coin, I don't know what the hell was going on with Natalya vs Naomi. The whole point of the segment seemed to be to get the crowd wanting Sasha to be in the match, even though Sasha wasn't going to be in the match. It put Natalya in an odd position. She's the face, so we're meant to cheer her, but she wants Sasha in there so she can hit her, whereas the fans want Sasha in there because they like her. The whole thing was just weird and misjudged and the match, correspondingly, played like a flurry of miscommunications and mistakes. Even Natalya's normally on-point sharpshooter looked sloppy as shit.

Speaking of sharpshooters, holy shit, that brogue-kick-into-a-sharpshooter spot from the hellacious Sheamus vs Cesaro match was NUTS. I figured Sheamus was going to win this because that way it would be Roman vs Sheamus (face vs heel) in the next bracket, but not for the last time, the brackets ended up giving us a surprise face vs face match for next week. The match was even booked so you'd think Sheamus would win, with Sheamus dominating early and Cesaro getting his hope spot before Sheamus gets the piOH WAIT Cesaro kicked out and now he's on fire and he might actually do it andOH NO Sheamus has him now and there's distractions and outside interference and Cesaro's arm is injured so Sheamus can take him ouWAIT WHAT CESARO GOT THE PIN HOLY FUCKSHIT I totally did not see that coming and goddamn did I do some bouncing off the walls. So next week will be Cesaro vs Roman Reigns, and that will be a fresh, interesting contest.

Ambrose vs Breeze was another one where the winner seemed obvious -- of course it would be Breeze, because he's already got a storyline with Dolph Ziggler, who would be his opponent in the next round, and because a win over Ambrose would establish him as a new threat. Instead, Ambrose, who seemed more fired up than he's been in months, just launched himself all over the place until Breeze didn't get up anymore, and now he's got a face vs face match against Ziggler. The announcers realized that the way the brackets break down could mean that Ambrose might face Reigns in the finals, and the second they said it, it felt like they'd let spill a spoiler. It certainly would explain why Dean seemed so energized.

Despite Xavier's claim that "They don't like anybody here," the New Day joined Owens in trying and failing to turn the crowd against them. The NEW DAY ROCKS chants were thunderous throughout much of their match against the Usos and Neville, and WWE of course did their Ha Ha What Dicks We Are thing by depriving the UK audience of Neville's Red Arrow. New Day sending out unicorn magic to help heal Seth Rollins was goddamn glorious. I love the New Day/Rollins combo so much. Even better was Kofi saying "Harry Potter sucks," because that allowed Michael Cole to immediately say, "Go ahead, Byron, defend Harry Potter."

Smackdown gets Del Rio vs Stardust, Neville vs Barrett and Ryback vs Kalisto. Heel vs heel, face vs heel, face vs face. The bracketing's definitely been a little funkier than I'd expected. And if nothing else, they've got me genuinely curious as to how that last match is going to play out. I'd be stunned if Ryback lost; the curiosity is in finding out just what the hell a Ryback vs Kalisto match would even look like.
posted by brianrobot at 1:16 AM on November 10, 2015

Cole imploring Paige, "NOT ON THE TABLE!" was indeed the highlight of the night for me. I'd like to say I hope she goes on to do the PTO in lots of random places that clearly don't affect the move in anyway, but she may have already peaked with the announce table, so oh well.

Here's the thing about Breeze and Ziggler not meeting next round: don't setup the damn bracket so it looks like they could. Because what you did was not "build tension by making everyone expect a Breeze win", what you did was fuck up so everyone wonders WTF is happening. At best, Breeze now interferes to try and cost Ziggler the win, but Ziggler still overcomes and moves on. I don't know. What I do know is that an Ambrose who limps into the third round because he wins over Ziggler with the help of the guy he eliminated in the first round is a shit idea.
posted by jermsplan at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am holding out hope that something truly insane happens (YOUR NEW WORLD WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION OF THE WORLD: KAAA-LEEE-STOOO!), or at least something more surprising than Ambrose turning on Reigns in the final.
posted by Etrigan at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2015

at least something more surprising than Ambrose turning on Reigns in the final.

Yeah, that "hey, do you realize if they win all their brackets, Ambrose would face Reigns in the final?" comment on Raw made me really nervous that that's where they're going with it.

NXT was mostly about advancing storylines this week, which isn't to say it wasn't entertaining. It was a perfectly good, solid episode, just nothing blowaway.

The announcers wondering why, why Baron Corbin would interfere in the NXT title match, then realizing themselves, "Oh, right, because Crews eliminated him from the #1 contenders match, of course" was such a great pisstake on the main roster announce team's inability to discern the most basic storyline motivations until the wrestlers themselves finally clear the air by cutting promos.

The announce team in general, especially Corey Graves, had a good outing. Graves in particular was on fire during the mixed tag match, mainly by saying what I was thinking: "I wish these guys would spend a little less time staying hyped and a little more time staying home." "I think we can describe this team in one word: stupid." Graves is the best. The Hype Bros are tailor-made to be a perfect heel team for me, but alas, I'm supposed to like them. NOPE. Ryder did the "call me" thing to Alexa Bliss mid-match. Fuck off, Ryder. (At least they didn't force a kiss on her.) Bayley high-fiving Bliss while Bliss attempted to escape submissions was amusing, and of course her Bayley-to-belly on Blake or Murphy was great (they're to me what the Usos are to Michael Cole; I never can remember which is which). The finish was weird, with Bliss stealing Bayley's championship apparently as a distraction, but not really since all it did was distract Blake & Murphy. All right then.

Nia Jax went all Rybacky on Deonna, who is from Jersey, aka the place other than Australia that all new NXT women are from. I wouldn't mind them going full Ryback with her for a while and having her wrestle two women at once. The finish could be her Samoan dropping one woman onto the laid-out body of the other one, then double-pinning them. I do love the fact that Jax does the posing-for-a-picture smile when pinning her opponent. It's like the end of every match is another spread in her yearbook. (On her one-year anniversary in NXT, have her cut a promo where she shows off her homemade yearbook. Do it, NXT.)

Speaking of posing for pictures, Bayley finding Bliss posing for photos with the women's championship was pretty funny. Nia Jax showing up and stealing the belt back from Bliss, observing it admiringly herself, and then handing it back to Bayley truly cemented her tweener status. Even though "tweener status" seems like the kind of thing you can't really cement by its very nature, but whatever.

Dash & Dawson beating the Vaudevillains for the tag straps was both the obvious call and the right one. The match was an object lesson in the pick-apart-a-limb style of old school wrestling so beloved by D&D. It's a good thing their opponent wasn't Charlotte, though; she'd have gutted right through that shit and slapped on a figure four into a figure eight no matter what you did to her, even though she has another damn finisher she could use. The referee actually enforced a tag not being legal because the taggee wasn't holding the rope; that's the kind of attention to detail I love about NXT.

Rich Brennan threw an "arguably" in front of the usual description of The Ascension as the "greatest tag team in NXT history," probably because he realized how silly that makes the NXT tag division sound.

How to make Samoa Joe a heel: Don't have him feel he deserves an NXT championship match, have him feel he's entitled to one. Nicely done. Joe's motives and methods were actually logical and followed through on what had been depicted already, and after one segment he already proved his method correct, as Finn's now demanding he face Joe in a title match. You want the belt in wrestling, forget about #1 contenderships, just piss off the champion. Works every time.
posted by brianrobot at 9:12 PM on November 11, 2015

I keep track alliteratively: Blake is Blonde

Is anyone else really annoyed by how incapable Harper and Rowan are anymore? Harper seems like he has a ton of potential, Rowan was a perfectly serviceable #3 on the team. Then Stroman comes along, with the most size and least ability of the bunch, but now he's a monster so the other two have to look like crap just so that Stroman can eventually look better for taking out whoever took out Luke and Eric.
posted by jermsplan at 11:04 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was pretty Meh about this week's NXT (okay, aside from the Bayley-to-belly on Blakeormurphy), but seeing Dash & Dawson legitimately emotional about winning the tag belts... That got to me. It would have been so easy for them to be heelish and arrogant and "No one's ever gonna take these away from us!", but they let them have a genuine human moment, regardless of whether it fit their characters -- and because of that, it totally did fit their characters.
posted by Etrigan at 11:25 AM on November 12, 2015

Smackdown was pretty average this week, though it did have two good matches worth catching.

I've heard people online say that Vince is a lot less hands-on with the Smackdown announce team than he is with Raw's, but his fingerprint was felt this week with Booker T's half-hearted "Ya think?!" following the various bits of Wyatting that opened the show.

Neville vs Barrett was so well put together that they actually made me think Barrett might win the thing. The spot where Barrett draped Neville over the top rope and then just dropped him right on his head looked crazy. Lawler blurting out "Hammer don't hurt 'em!" when Barrett went for the bull hammer was probably the oddest pop culture reference he's busted out in some time.

They telegraphed things a bit with Ryback vs Kalisto by having Kalisto do an "I'm gonna shock the world!" promo pre-match. The match itself was easily the best one Ryback's had in some time; he actually looked like a monster instead of a video game character, and he even had a sound strategy, spending the entire match working over Kalisto's spine (which the announcers oddly didn't pick up on). Even Ryback's pre-match promo was decent; turns out the trick is to get rid of the interviewer entirely and just have Ryback glower directly into the camera while growling about breaking people. Kalisto, meanwhile, got to go full Rey Mysterio with the tenacious-survival-of-an-epic-beatdown into a big-giant-killer-maneuver finish.

I now want every Zeb Colter promo to begin with him doing a mock-UK "Hallo!" regardless of where they're performing. Del Rio seemed a lot less hesitant around Colter than usual; I guess the creative team's decided to commit fully to this Mexamerica thing. Del Rio trying to grab for the tights to hoist up Stardust for a suplex only to realize Stardust's attire gave him nothing to grab onto was an amusing little unplanned moment. Booker T's weird line of the night: "That wasn't good, but it was perfect."

It's so weird how WWE's been able to make the winners of the brackets surprisingly unpredictable while simultaneously having a potential final bracket, Reigns vs Ambrose, that feels like it's set in stone. Roman cut a promo with Renee about how every single time greatness is in his grasp it gets snatched away from him, but this time it'll be different! Lawler failed to chime in with "You know what the definition of insanity is?" Someone needs to tell Roman that if he really wants to be the next John Cena, the first thing he has to do is stop appearing on Smackdown.

During the Wyatts/Usos main event, all four guys got into it at once and while the announce team tried to sort out who was legal, Brennan realized that the Usos could pull twin magic if they wanted to because no one can tell them apart. Poor Usos. They even tried to go shirts vs skins to distinguish each other! Maybe if they didn't have identical personalities it would help?

No Divas match this week, but Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks tore it up on Main Event instead, allowing that show to actually earn its title.
posted by brianrobot at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2015

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