WWE Raw: The Survivor Series Go-Home
November 17, 2015 6:39 AM - Season 24, Episode 10 - Subscribe

We have our predictable semi-final World Heavyweight Championship brackets. We have the Brothers of Destruction predictably making the Wyatts look like punks. We have Charlotte and Paige predictably turning a contract signing into a fight.

Survivor Series is all set up now:

Roman Reigns vs. U.S. Champion Alberto Del Rio: The Roman Empire takes on MexAmerica in the first half of the semi-finals. All indications were that Reigns was going to take the title from Seth Rollins this Sunday anyway, so there's little reason for them to flip the script on us and send Del Rio to the finals. But WWE has a history of going batshit crazy when the World Champion gets hurt, so who knows?

Dean Ambrose vs. Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens: Ambrose is going to turn heel on Reigns, right? So this will be a pretty good match that won't end up meaning much, right? Well, at least Kevin Owens' Twitter game is still on point.

The Brothers of Destruction vs. The Wyatt Family (or at least, two members thereof): This feud is more or less the final test for whether Vince is ever going to let Bray Wyatt take a turn at the top of the card. If Wyatt can't make an impact against two guys with a combined age over 99, then he'll remain the Eater of the Midcard forever. With that in mind, look for this to end with some weird comic-book '80s-WWF-style weirdness and the feud to stretch to the Rumble.

Charlotte vs. Paige for the *sigh* Divas Championship: The first time two former NXT Women's Champions meet for the Butterfly Belt, this one has been a long time coming, but they shot it into the stratosphere by bringing Charlotte's late brother Reid into it. Some say it went too far, but the Flair family has been living a work for like the last 40 years, and it's impossible to believe that Charlotte and Ric didn't sign off on it.

And... that's it? Five matches, one of which will be a double-duty? No New Day? Neither of the secondary belts on the line?
posted by Etrigan (32 comments total)
I bailed and went to bed halfway through, but hell, the show opened with some really great wrestling. Owens and Neville, Ambrose and Ziggler? Owens is just so athletic for a guy who looks like Owens (although I still think he needs to work on his "stunned" pose; he looks like a Street Fighter animation), and Ambrose finally got to show off some actual wrestling. Both really entertaining matches. Even Breeze and Truth had some fun out there.

But anyway, yeah, the SS card is pretty light, and I expect we'll get some kind of thrown-together pre-show traditional elimination match with New Day and ... Cosmic Wasteland I guess? against Lucha Dragons and the Usos and whoever else. Ryback? Who cares.

About halfway through the opening segment I realized that, on the one hand, I get the over-the-top corny setup as a tribute to the Undertaker's 25-versary, but at the same time, man is it corny. I feel like it's sort of falling flat in the middle of the rest of the show right now.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:34 AM on November 17, 2015

About halfway through the opening segment I realized that, on the one hand, I get the over-the-top corny setup as a tribute to the Undertaker's 25-versary, but at the same time, man is it corny. I feel like it's sort of falling flat in the middle of the rest of the show right now.

I turned to my spouse in the middle of it and said "The guy on the left owns an insurance company in Knoxville," and couldn't hear the rest of the segment over the laughter.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ha, yeah, it's ... well, it's the Drunk Uncles of Destruction, I guess.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2015

Opening with the entire roster out to have a moment of silence for Paris was the kind of thing wrestling websites love to call "classy," but the part that was REALLY classy was that WWE was smart enough to mute the fucking crowd during said moment.

Wow, that one dude really didn't like the Brothers of Destruction. The insistent lone "BOO!" shout that came every five seconds like clockwork was more entertaining than anything Undertaker had to say. After the Head Dent Incident, Taker seems to be staying far away from hat-wearing. Everyone kept talking about the "army of darkness" like they were trying to do a promotional tie-in with Ash Vs. Evil Dead. The sheep-masked druids were the kind of thing they should have been doing with this feud, rather than all the "I've stolen your power! Haven't I?" stuff they've actually been doing. At this point the supernatural storyline seems to have boiled down to a more prosaic "When I say I took part of your souls, what I mean is I beat you and Kane up backstage and then bribed the pyro guy" situation.

Owens vs Neville was just spectacular and earned the first This Is Awesome of the night. The "pop-up powerbomb out of nowhere" seems like they're trying to plant seeds for a future feud with Randy Orton.

"What's up?" "Oh, please, Byron, don't." It was really weird how Saxton and JBL both completely flipped positions on Tyler the second Summer Rae put balm on his lips mid-match. If they apply the balm during a Smackdown match and Lawler suddenly starts raving about how great the New Day are while Booker just sits there phoning in his commentary, we'll know for sure that it has magical temporary mind-switching powers.

"I want more pyro! We're gonna have breakfast for dinner!" Ambrose just made a die-hard fan out of Leslie Knope. Ziggler still had his Nikki Sixx facepaint from Halloween on, and it looked faded. Dude never bathes, apparently, just wets his hair. The feeling-out portion of the match was stretched out so far that the announcers just started consulting a thesaurus: Slow. Methodical. Deliberate. Conservative. JBL kept losing his patience and demanding someone "open a can." After the break they finally did, and we got to see that this was still the fired-up Ambrose from last week. The second This Is Awesome chant of the night broke out and, for the second time, the predictable person won.

Thanks to Xavier Woods, we found out that Big E's grandpappy is "Pappy E." They made fun of, uh, J___ Uso getting surgery which, given how recently they'd sent unicorn magic to Seth Rollins to help him recover, was totally perfect. "Why on Earth would you ever wanna make these two mad?" Jesus God in Heaven, Michael Cole found the Usos intimidating. JBL, meanwhile, was content to simply lose his mind entirely. "What's the record number of unicorns in one place at one time? It's gotta be three." WHAT IS HAPPENING. The match was decent; the story was basically that New Day were so awesome that Ryback couldn't handle it.

"I'm gonna have to go through Cesaro, Kalisto, Del Rio and even my boy Dean Ambrose." Uh, hey everybody, I don't think Reigns understands how the tournament works. Cesaro's backstage bit with HHH seemed designed to make the crowd want to cheer Roman over him, since, despite immediately trying to shut H down when he started talking, he started to look like maybe just maybe he was considering his Be My New Seth offer. It... kinda worked, with the resulting dueling Roman/Cesaro chants sounding exactly like the high-pitched/low-pitched dueling Cena chants. Cesaro went cartwheeling off the top rope because apparently he's a closet Alexa Bliss fan. I loved that Roman was ASTONISHED YES ASTONISHED when he failed to get a pinfall victory with a tilt-a-whirl. The story of the match was a bit weird, with a lot of attention being paid to the damage Cesaro was doing to Roman's arm while Cesaro's ENTIRE ARM WAS TAPED UP DUE TO INJURY AND IT BARELY MATTERED. Ultimately, though, it was another really entertaining bout which got the third and final This Is Awesome of the night. Amazing how you can spark those chants by having well-worked matches that mean something. They genuinely made me nervous when Cesaro congratulated Reigns post-match and then staggered off while Reigns looked at the belt, because it looked like Cesaro just might come running back in to attack him from behind. Thankfully, he didn't do that, and since HHH immediately approached Del Rio with the same offer, it was clear that they weren't seeding some ill-advised heel turn. Cesaro's never been a good heel; he's far too much of a crowdpleaser.

The Ascension vs the Dudley Boyz happened.

JESUS CHRIST STOP CALLING KALISTO CINDERELLA. Kalisto's pre-match video promo was clearly filmed at the same time as his pre-Ryback promo for Smackdown, which rather hurt the illusion. The one quarterfinal match to not get a This Is Awesome chant, it was something I would have called a letdown except that Half-Hearted Del Rio was in it, so it actually met my lowered expectations. I did like him trying, nearly successfully, to unmask Kalisto (which made the match suddenly feel dangerous for a moment!) and the twisty way they got to the double stomp finish, at least. "That's why he calls his style Dynamic Velocity!" "He says that or you do?" I love that Saxton can't say a damn thing without Cole being all, "Ugh, really?"

And the main event was a contract signing for a Divas title match, which I'm pretty sure is the first time a contract signing for a Divas title match ever main evented Raw. And it turned out to be main eventing for a good reason, as it was THE MOST INTENSE PROMO WWE'S DONE IN MONTHS. It was easily the single best women's non-wrestling segment since the Divas Revolution, and Paige's closing line about Reid was one of the coldest fucking things I've ever heard. Obviously Charlotte and Ric signed off on that; in a weird way it was almost a tribute to Reid by letting him be involved in a main event angle. And it's hardly the first time WWE's gone to the bad-taste well with actual deaths, but this was done a zillion times better than, say, CM Punk mocking Paul Bearer's death. It made the drama far, far more potent and got the crowd to finally stop cheering Heel Paige (who got a much more positive ovation than Charlotte during entrances). They clearly needed to do something extreme to get people to hate her, and her promo here did it. Having Michael Cole around to do a little comic relief ("Uh, hey, the contracts...") worked nicely, too. That whole segment was just fucking fantastic and absolutely catapulted the emotional investment in that match, which at this point was hovering around "little to nonexistent," sky-high.

So, after a surprisingly hard-to-predict initial tournament round, we've settled into What We Expected, which is disappointing even if three of the four matches tonight that got us there were really well done. On the other hand, the Divas title suddenly went from afterthought to the hottest match on the card, so at least something on Raw this week was unpredictable.
posted by brianrobot at 3:21 PM on November 17, 2015

And... that's it? Five matches, one of which will be a double-duty? No New Day? Neither of the secondary belts on the line?

They haven't even announced what the kickoff show match will be. I suspect we'll get some frantic last-minute card filling on Smackdown (which, after all, has no tournament matches left to offer), and possibly one or two "impromptu" matches on the show itself.
posted by brianrobot at 4:03 PM on November 17, 2015

Yikes. So what's the "classy" point balance? +1 for the moment of silence, -eleventy for the Flair angle?
posted by uncleozzy at 12:07 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

"A source with ties to the situation placed the odds at '70/30' in favor of Ambrose walking out as champion." I don't believe anyone who's in a position to seriously push this is seriously pushing this, but it does give me a glimmer of hope that they might at least be talking about it.
posted by Etrigan at 12:10 PM on November 18, 2015

Uproxx's "sources" (whatever they may be, given that the site's basically a content farm that just happens to have good wrestling writing) claim that the use of Reid in the Divas Championship angle was actually Charlotte's idea. If it was, you'd think maybe she'd have run it by his and her parents before they did it on live TV, but who knows what's going on with that.

NXT was pretty mediocre and felt like a placeholder, which is a really weird thing to say about an episode that featured a built-up Women's title defense and a Jordan/Gable match. And yet.

Nia Jax finally got to have a non-jobber match against Carmella and WAIT WHAT'S THIS SOMEONE ELSE IS IN IZZY'S SPOT. Carmella, of course, looks like exactly the kind of person who Jax would destroy in two seconds, but since her character has ring experience, they got to do surprisingly nifty spots like the bear hug reversal into a choke. It was Jax's best match on NXT to date, but that just meant it was decent.

The Alexa Bliss promo was lifted from okay to great by Blake & Murphy's silent synchronized upstaging in the background. The let's-substitute-bliss-for-profanities thing ("blissed off," "bliss-slap") was a pretty painful affectation that'll hopefully get dropped in the near future. On the other hand, her scowling expressions were on point.

The ovation for The Ascension was insane. They are over like gangbusters at Full Sail and literally nowhere else. They were clearly enjoying it, too, playing off crowd reactions in the early going in a way they simply can't do elsewhere, because no one else is reacting to them. Full Sail didn't even divide themselves into Ascension and Jordan/Gable cheering sections; they just cheered for Gable and Ascension in the same breath. The match took forever to get going (because Ascension were dominating), but once Gable tagged in Jordan things picked up considerably. The result was probably the best Ascension match ever, and also the weakest Jordan/Gable match. Still, it was really fun to watch in its second half. Also, holy shit do Jordan and Gable need better music. That bland theme blended into the background so thoroughly that there were a few moments when I was surprised to realize it was still playing.

The Bayley/Bliss package was the rare WWE history video that made the storyline leading up to their match seem less interesting than it was on TV. Then Bayley cut a promo where she was interviewed by a men's fashion mannequin that looked a bit like Todd Phillips.

Cut to: "And her opponent, from Melbourne, Australia, Emma!" Wow, we just skipped poor Mary Kate's intro entirely. This was a pure jobber match with nothing of interest to mention except for the fact that Mary Kate had that name (leading to the inevitable Full House jokes on commentary) and was dressed like a bee for some reason. The commentary this episode was a lot flatter than usual, like the announcers couldn't work up any excitement for what we were seeing any more than I can.

Baron Corbin challenged Apollo Crews for a match at TakeOver: London because he wants to deprive the world of a fun Apollo Crews match.

"Dash and Dawson will be in action for the first time since winning the gold!" You mean last week, Corey? Their opponents were Hollis & Skyler, which means we're following a jobber match with a jobber match. Hoo boy. It wasn't terrible, but it went on way too long considering everyone knew how it was going to end before it started. The most memorable moment was Dawson snapping Hollis's leg back so far that he kneed himself in the face. The hot tag to Skyler could not have been colder.

The only thing better than Dana Brooke saying "NXT" is Dana Brooke saying "NXT TV." She really, really worked that odd robotic cadence of hers, like she decided that instead of improving on her mechanical promos by trying to be more lifelike, she'd improve them by dramatically going off in the other direction. Asuka saying "Yessss" like a grand 1940s movie dame was pretty great, but Emma showing up and doing the "Did she buy it?" routine while acting like she and Brooke weren't still on camera was a depressingly über-WWE moment for NXT. Still, it gave Brooke a chance to say "Hook. Line. And sink. Er," so at least something good came out of it.

Samoa Joe somehow managed to be intimidating while wearing a green polo shirt that was buttoned all the way up.

Bayley vs Bliss was WAIT WHAT'S THIS IZZY IS SOMEHOW MAGICALLY BACK IN HER SPOT. Obviously this wasn't going to be anywhere near the level of Bayley's matches with Sasha Banks, and indeed it wasn't. But it was a perfectly solid TV match, and after a dullish opening eventually picked up some steam. That center section of Full Sail that kept distracting from the match by jumping up and dancing around while singing "Heyyyy we want some Bayley" needs to be set on fire.

SURPRISE EVA MARIE APPEARANCE. Eva's inability to keep a straight face while trying to quiet down the X-Pac heat being dished out by the crowd was the closest she's come to looking like a real person; the fact that she kept restarting her one scripted line, less so. "In a one on one match verse me." They shouldn't script her in-ring promos at all; she should just come out, improv some of those "quiet down, you dorks" lines while getting booed out of the building, and then give up and walk away, followed by "a video message from Eva Marie" to get her actual promo out.
posted by brianrobot at 2:45 AM on November 19, 2015

Usually I call Tom Phillips "Todd Phillips" and then catch myself before the edit window runs out. Not this time.
posted by brianrobot at 3:00 AM on November 19, 2015

she should just come out, improv some of those "quiet down, you dorks" lines while getting booed out of the building, and then give up and walk away, followed by "a video message from Eva Marie" to get her actual promo out.

This is the best possible idea of all ideas.

My wife is a big Total Divas fan (and I don't disagree) and, even though she hates Eva Marie the TD character, she is always disappointed when she's so, so bad at the entire pro wrestling business. We watched a few NXT women's matches recently and she was just dumbfounded about how good women's wrestling can look (and how bad it can look when Eva Marie is involved).

I just don't get it, though. The WWE style isn't complicated. You don't need to do too many things well to put on at least a serviceable match. And Eva Marie just refuses. Run the ropes hard. Strike hard. Sell strikes. Keep your holds at least a little snug. If you can't do those things, you should at least give a great promo, or else why are you around? Is Eva Marie really a draw except to smarks who want to boo her? She doesn't look terrible in the training clips with Kendrick, so you know she can do some of these things, but it just doesn't translate to her actual matches. I don't get it.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:58 AM on November 19, 2015

The only way you can draw heel heat at Full Sail is to suck. If you're good in the ring, your entrance can feature you pulling a puppy's head off and dousing Izzy with the blood, and you'll still get cheered. But getting booed requires being bad in the ring, and ultrasuperbabyface Bayley has to be opposed by someone getting booed, so it's Eva Marie being bad at wrestling.
posted by Etrigan at 6:09 AM on November 19, 2015

That center section of Full Sail that kept distracting from the match by jumping up and dancing around while singing "Heyyyy we want some Bayley" needs to be set on fire.

Agreed, and it's a pity, because I loved that chant before the match.
posted by Etrigan at 10:37 AM on November 19, 2015

Well then! Until that ending, I was pretty meh on Survivor Series overall. And then that happened.

Best thing about the kickoff show: Byron Saxton doing his Undertaker impression, only to be met by a blank stare from Booker T. Then he tried to get a fist-bump from Booker. "No."

The surprise appearance from Goldust was a genuine surprise. I expected Cesaro in that spot, and since Jim Ross is tweeting that Cesaro may be out due to shoulder injury, maybe WWE had expected him to be in that spot as well. The Ascension, THE MOST DOMINANT TEAM IN NXT HISTORY, lost Viktor in one move. And the only person on the face team to be eliminated was former NXT champ Neville. Not a good match for NXT guys!

Lilian Garcia performed the National Anthem IN DEFIANCE OF ISIS while flags and fireworks filled the Titantron and officers armed with AK-47s patrolled outside. People in the crowd were ignorantly holding their flags backwards because that's the kind of patriotism I expect from the WWE Universe®©™.

Reigns vs Del Rio was better than I'd expected, and easily the best match Del Rio's had since his return. He went to work on Reigns' shoulder, with the announcers realizing that this meant Cesaro doing the same on Raw was actually relevant, but nobody warned Reigns because he just ignored the damage in best Cena style to do his repeated clotheslines in the corner and all that sort of thing. Lawler worried that Del Rio winning and christening the title "the Mexamerican Heavyweight Title" would "create an international incident." ARE YOU TRYING TO TEMPT FATE LAWLER YOUR SHOW IS A POSSIBLE TERRORIST TARGET. The winner of the match was well duh.

JoJo was clearly getting hairstyle tips from Booker T.

Ambrose vs Owens was probably the best match of the night. "Cole, tell him to stay down!" Ambrose won as everyone knew he would, ever since the announcers spoiled the finals during like the second or third match of the tourney.

Man, Sheamus and Barrett didn't even merit individual entrances during the Traditional Survivor Series Match. I was genuinely surprised that whereas Ryback, the Lucha Dragons and the Usos all got to come out separately, Mr. Money In The Bank didn't get to come out on his own. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this would pay dividends later. The New Day & Friends entrance was fun ("He's not bald by choice; he can't grow hair on his head. It's hilarious"), they did a great spot where the Usos and Luchas simultaneously launched out of the ring to take out everybody, leaving Ryback alone to say fuck it and do a surprise big splash onto everybody, and Barrett did a dance that will undoubtedly sear its way into my nightmares.

They didn't mention Reid at all in the history package of the Divas title match, and only made oblique mentions of "hard-hitting comments" at the contract signing, so clearly there was some serious backstage fallout over that incident. The match itself was an object lesson in how crowd reaction can kill stone dead an otherwise strong match. That audience did not want this, not one bit. What they wanted was Sasha, and also Paige to be a face again. Paige has done just about everything she could do to get her heel turn over, and while she sometimes can make it work at an individual show, it NEVER carries over to the next one. One of the few points where the audience stopped grumbling was where Charlotte and Paige started hitting each other back and forth, and the boos and yays were not where WWE wanted them. They really need to pull the plug on Heel Paige; she's great in the role but it's become very clear that the crowds just Do Not Want. And hey, Charlotte's already shown she can be a terrific heel in NXT. Maybe it's time to try that, too? Also, at one point Charlotte hit Natural Selection out of nowhere and the announcers DIDN'T EVEN CALL IT because WWE never bothered to establish it as part of her arsenal.

Ziggler vs Breeze was decent if perhaps overlong. Breeze winning with an Unprettier instead of a Beauty Shot was a surprise. It's a move that definitely fits his character, though.

The announcers were finally nice enough to shut the fuck up during the Wyatts' entrance. When the Undertaker came out to his ultra-elaborate 25th anniversary entrance, all I could think was, "Man, this would be so amazing if I was even the slightest bit into this match." Said match ended up being every bit as perfunctory as I expected. Crowd was HUGE into the Undertaker, but I could barely muster up any energy for the greatest hits package they put on. At least Taker's tombstone looked good; at this point he should only tombstone people with long hair.

Ambrose didn't bother to change his ragged, torn t-shirt, which was a nice touch heading into the finals match. Lawler talked about how this was HHH's nightmare because he didn't want it down to these two. Well maybe the Cerebral Assassin shouldn't have put them on opposite sides when he was setting up the brackets then. The match ended just when it was starting to pick up steam, and Roman won as everyone knew he would. I was thoroughly feeling meh'd out at that point; the crowd malaise during the women's match took the energy out of me and I hadn't gotten it back during the rest of the show. The HHH bit was exactly what I'd expected, with the exception being that I hadn't thought they'd do confetti, and they did SO MUCH CONFETTI. At points it looked like the signal was going out, there were so many colored blocks covering the image. The anticipated and not-wanted Ambrose heel turn thankfully didn't happen, but Sheamus did, and HOLY SHIT. I had completely forgotten he would even be a factor since he's been a nonentity on TV so long -- to the point that, as I said way up above somewhere, he didn't even get his own entrance in the Survivor Series match -- and for the first time in my life I popped huge for Sheamus. And then he WON. We spent ages (even after the show ended!) watching a trembling, traumatized Roman, and I suddenly realized who they were modeling his gimmick on. He's not the next John Cena. He's the next Tommy Dreamer.
posted by brianrobot at 9:39 PM on November 22, 2015

Dear WWE Network:

A huge selling point of your product is that I don't have to watch PPVs live. So when the splash screen on your app is "SHEAMUS CRASHES REIGNS' BIG MOMENT", that kinda sucks ass for those of us who just want to timeshift watching by a few hours.

posted by Etrigan at 6:32 AM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also -- JBL points out that the Undertaker won his first WWF World Title from "the Immortal One", neatly excising who they're actually talking about there.
posted by Etrigan at 6:48 AM on November 23, 2015

Xavier Woods has "near-future hair vs. hair match" written all over him. The only questions at this point is how soon, and with whom.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 6:00 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Woods vs. Ryback -- Woods' hair vs. Ryback's airbrush

Woods vs. Uso -- Woods' hair vs. Usos' "When we say OOH, y'all say SO!"

Woods vs. Ambrose -- Woods' hair vs. Ambrose's T-shirt

Woods vs. Ziggler -- Woods' hair vs. Ziggler's chance at ever getting back in the main event (oh, wait, he already lost that)
posted by Etrigan at 5:44 AM on November 24, 2015

Another week, another Kevin Owens murder on Twitter.
posted by Etrigan at 5:47 AM on November 24, 2015

Raw didn't leave me feeling anywhere near as weary as Survivor Series did, thanks in part to a hot crowd that, for the most part, was there to boo the heels and cheer the faces. WWE must've been wishing they'd had that audience on Sunday. That said, Raw was a transitional show, although I'm not sure they really know what to transition into. There was definitely a feeling of desperate scrambling there.

If you've ever watched a Raw that started with the Authority coming out, you could have scripted that entire opening segment yourself before watching and gotten it word perfect. Except maybe for Rusev's return or the end reveal that Roman's rematch at TLC will actually be a TLC match. Is there going to be more than one, or are they seriously wasting this year's TLC bout on Reigns vs Sheamus?

Dudleys vs Harper & Wyatt was thoroughly meh, but the Wyatts winning a match (with Luke Harper getting the pinfall!) was the right call. After 25 Years Of Etc, the Wyatts desperately needed a win, and the Dudleys were a major one. The post-match destruction of the Duds looked like a setup to a potential match at TLC (ideally an actual TLC one).

Nashville sang along to Becky Lynch's theme! Lynch vs Banks didn't get a lot of time (which was one of the things that made Mick Foley so unhappy that he's threatening to quit watching WWE the same way he's already quit NXT) but they packed it so full of good stuff that it ended up being the in-ring highlight of the night, including probably the best ever setup for Sasha's double-knees. It ended in yet another distraction finish, but the closer felt like it was promising more between these two. Plus, the ending allowed this bit of awesomeness to happen.

From the in-ring highlight to the promo highlight, the New Day Country Music Jamboree celebrating their one-year anniversary as a team ("We're turning one!") was just the best. It was just an avalanche of great lines and even better delivery. "I can't stand to hear another song about tractors! Stop it!" "You didn't have to translate! We speak Spanish!" Just when you thought it couldn't get better, Kofi SHATTERED THE FOURTH WALL. The unfulfilled tease of a triple threat against the Lucha Dragons and Usos felt like yet another lead-in to TLC.

The Stardust promo, with Stardust trying to get over his ended-before-it-began feud with Cesaro only for Titus to come casually strolling into his dimension ("I took a wrong turn"), was pretty delightful. Even though he went on to wrestle with Darren Young in the six-man against the Cosmic Wasteland (or "the team of The Ascension and Stardust," as Lilian would have it; come on, Lilian!), it really, really feels like they're priming Titus for a solo push. Young kept yelling BOOM when he hit people in a blatant bit of gimmick theft from King Barrett, and boy howdy did he get way too into doing that wiggly Goldust dance post-match.

That State of Mexamerica Address was Retcon Central. "These people looked up to you!" Jack Swagger said in earnest about Zeb Colter. I felt bad for JBL; Zeb permanently closed Mexamerica's borders while JBL's citizenship application was still pending. Also, Mexamerica has borders. Which means it's not just an ideal; Zeb and Del Rio have gotten actual land and nationalized it. WHERE IS THIS LAND.

Even in an arena faithfully cheering the faces and booing the heels, Paige still got cheers and Let's Go Paige chants. Charlotte, who was all smiles with Renee because the magic secret of wrestling is that all psychological issues can be resolved with a mat victory, slapped on her friend Becky's disarmer and the announcers didn't even call it. It was a better match than Survivor Series, or at least it felt better, because the crowd was way more into it, enough so to quash an early attempted JBL chant. PAIGE AND CHARLOTTE ACTUALLY REPRISED THE PTO-ON-THE-TABLE SPOT AND COLE SAID "NOT ON THE TABLE!" AGAIN. Whoops, camera caught Michael Cole reading straight from his script at the end there.

Heath Slater's One Man Band made a triumphant return to perform a cover of the New Day's segment from earlier in the same show.

Tyler Breeze had a big win at Survivor Series, which meant it was time for him to look like a chump eating a quick loss on TV. Owens did everything he could to make the match fun with his nonstop jawjacking, but it was just a waste of four talented guys. The announcers made a big deal about Ambrose beating Owens and Breeze in the tournament but never mentioned Ambrose beating Ziggler.

El Torito returned to TV! In, uh... in... WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS TEX MEX THING. A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch. I hope for jermsplan's sanity that this didn't make the Hulu edit.

The main event featured two NXT guys in the top spot and a suprise run-in by King Barrett of all people, and it still somehow felt like business as usual. That's some trick.
posted by brianrobot at 11:55 PM on November 24, 2015

(will attempt to watch RAW and report back on Torito segment's existence some day. Exciting non-wrestling news, my wife just had our first child, so my ability to do anything including stay awake watch wrestling has been a bit diminished. We didn't know gender ahead of time, and I pushed for a boy named Finn Balor O'Connor, but my wife -- who watches no wrestling and didn't know that was a wrestler -- rejected it saying it was a bit much. In the end we had a daughter so oh well)
posted by jermsplan at 5:48 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best wishes to you and your wife and little Becky Paige Charlotte O'Connor.
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 PM on November 28, 2015

NXT this week was an acceptable PPV-setup show. The Balor-Joe contract signing/beatdown was as good a contract signing/beatdown as we've had anywhere in recent memory, the overbooked Women's Championship match was a nice throwback (and still managed to make Eva Marie look bad), and the return of the Realest Guys In The Room was handled well. The low point was the Emma beatdown of Asuka, which ended up looking like Asuka just forgot that she was supposed to get beat down, necessitating a bad Dana Brooke semi-run-in re-distraction.

The thought process for Raw:
"Hey, do you want the New Day to open the show?"
"Why, yes, yes I would."
"And do you want them in the main event?"
"That would also be quite acceptable."
"And do you want Sasha Banks wrestling?"
"It's like you're reading my diary."
"And do you want a massive no-way-out stipulation that either gives Reigns the title or totally upends all of the current fairly boring plotlines?"
"What a great idea!"
"And do you want it all to suck anyway?'
"Of course-- wait a minute. What?"
"Very well, then. It will suck. Done and done."
posted by Etrigan at 9:59 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, good, Etrigan picked up my slack since I'm temporarily laptop-free and didn't want to write a dissertation/joke parade on my phone. Didn't get to see Raw this week but both the Uproxx recap and Etrigan made it sound awful, so I'm not going to grieve that loss.

That NXT main event was fascinating. For what I'm pretty sure is the first time, NXT straight-up cast itself as a face against a heel WWE, one that sends in yes-men (Cole, Robinson) to do its corporatized bidding in defiance of what the actual audience wants. Bayley was Daniel Bryan to Eva's Roman Reigns (or Batista), the fan favorite who blew up huge in defiance of management's expectations vs. management's hand-picked golden boy/girl who was being shoved down the unwilling audience's throats. The difference, of course, being which of those characters won. Not since ECW feuded with The Network did a company so savagely bite the hand that fed it. Was this Triple H's reaction to so many of his tremendous NXT successes getting called up only to be misused or otherwise not allowed to rise to their full potential? Was it a simpler statement that NXT listens to its fans, unlike its parent company? Was it both? Was it more?

And on top of all that, it set up an apparent Bayley/Jax match for TakeOver, with a hero who's used to contests of skill going up against a monster; a swordswoman used to swashbuckling with a rapier against similarly armed foes taking on a giant with a warhammer. I love that Bayley's post-Banks title defenses have all been so different from each other.

Lastly, I was genuinely bummed when Joe attacked Balor, because I loved the idea that he wasn't a WWE guy and didn't know how contract signings were supposed to go, so he just came out, signed it and left. Obviously they were pushing the "he can't look Finn in the eyes" plot (which is a good one; he's a heel because he couldn't get ahead as a face and is having trouble living with himself, which is a really solid and surprisingly nuanced character angle), but still. Cole's "actually I was going to introduce the challenger first" bit felt like a joke directed at sites like PWInsider that grouch and grumble every time the champ comes out for his title defense match before the challenger.
posted by brianrobot at 5:25 PM on December 1, 2015

That reminds me -- the ring announcer can stop calling her "It's Bayley" now. Doing it just for her intro? Fine. But it just gets obvious and dumb when he does it every single time.
posted by Etrigan at 5:41 PM on December 1, 2015

(going back 2 weeks, no Torito)

Sweet mercy, could the WWE misuse The New Day any worse on RAW this week? They were celebrating their 1 year anniversary, during which time they went from "intentionally terrible gimmick" to "my god, those guys are really playing the hell out of the gimmick they've been handed" to "most over thing in the WWE right now." So what do we do with them? Put them in such a boring, long opening segment with Sheamus that the crowd is generally bored and silent. Put them into a match that already had 8 people in it, and which they have no reason to be in? It's like the WWE producers are sitting in the back with a big red "NEW DAY" panic button and whenever they realize some segment is going to be garbage they hammer that button to try and save it.

I actually like the League of Nations. I like all the members individually (yes, even Sheamus, I think he can be good at what he's good at, if the WWE would just let him do that rather than ask too much of him). I like all of them together. My concern is that I don't know where they fit in. We don't need a big heel stable, that's the Authority. The LoN is too good to be some lackeys of The Authority. Clearly we're in a situation where it's somehow 7 heels vs 4 faces with Authority in the corner of the heels...seems a bit crowded and confusing, no? I wish the LoN would somehow turn on the Authority and become a collective of chaotic evil wrestlers, or shit, even lawful evil, leaving it to the Authority to create chaos.

general question about the crowd: Is Pittsburgh normally a dead silent crowd? Or was WWE muting them much of the night? RAW was so bad that throughout I was basically surprised that there weren't constantly obnoxious bored crowd chants. Just silence. Post-production HULU effect?
posted by jermsplan at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2015

Is Pittsburgh normally a dead silent crowd?

Pittsburgh hosted the 2014 Rumble, and the crowd lustily booed everything that wasn't Daniel Bryan. I don't recall them having a reputation otherwise, but given the almost inevitable overlap with Steelers fans, I can't imagine they're typically quiet. I would chalk it up to resigned boredom over outright hatred. I don't think they muted it for Hulu -- I didn't notice them being loud on the live USA feed either.
posted by Etrigan at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2015

I wish the LoN would somehow turn on the Authority and become a collective of chaotic evil wrestlers

This is basically every fantasy booking scenario that's run through my head for the last year and a half: the Boondock Saints plotline where the Authority wants the belt off Bryan/Cena/Reigns so much that they unleash an uncontrollable force (Lesnar/LON/Shield 2.0) and live to regret it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2015

They don't even have far to go. For Pete's sake, the LoN is already the WWE Champ, US Champ, King of the Ring, and Rusev. Rusev is easily good enough to carry any belt they need/want. Maybe figure out one more guy they can make tag with Rusev to go for The New Day's titles. Add Paige (or Natty! Canada is a Nation!) to give them a woman contender. I'm not even saying the LoN should hold all the belts at once, I'm just saying they're already a major force to be reckoned with all the way up and down the card, so they could interject themselves into anything and everything.

Sometimes I wonder if we on the internet worry too much, because we can fantasy book 6 months at a time, while the WWE can only put out shows one episode at a time and we all panic they just won't get it, when they may already have all this scripted and ready to go. On the other hand, as Etrigan points out, they missed similar chances with the Wyatts/Lesnar/Shield2.0 in recent history, so tough to give them the benefit of the doubt.
posted by jermsplan at 7:10 AM on December 3, 2015

NXT this week was another good old-school Superstars episode -- mostly squash matches, some decent actual-names-vs.-actual-names matches (oh, hi Blue Pants; oh, bye Adam Rose), and the return of Gionna Daddio, now free of her dumb Marley name and using the much more Jerseyriffic "Liv Morgan" (sigh). And the Mechanics' riff on the flight home ("And we're gonna take Big Cass's carry-on bag Enzo Amore and stuff him in the overhead...") had me howling.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2015

That TLC Go Home RAW was so bad it honestly doesn't even deserve its own post. God. So bad on so many levels. I think the worst is that I used to have a slight dislike for Roman's push and character, but not a dislike for the man. After that "main event" segment where he was basically an asshole bully (way to Be A Star (TM)), I actually dislike him in general, and will just start skipping his segments entirely. Which is a shame, because it'll mean skipping a lot of main events and title matches I imagine.

I know this is a blip on the WWE financials radar, and I don't mean to sound like "look at me, taking a stand", but my credit card got stolen and therefore cancelled a couple weeks ago, and it's the cc# I had on record for WWENetwork billing. So WWE has alerted me that my subscription is on hold till I provide new billing info. I think, for a while, I just won't. TLC isn't even worth $9.99 to me.
posted by jermsplan at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2015

Sadly, "asshole bully" and "face" have been synonymous in WWE for a long time. It's always been one of my least favorite things about the company.

Largely missed Raw again this week, but I didn't miss it. Unlike last week, I at least skimmed the Hulu version to watch the abbreviated-but-still-long Owens vs Ziggler (which had some great Owens jawjacking but was shockingly lifeless as a match) and New Day. Team B.A.D. becoming honorary unicorns -- the reason I was skimming Hulu's version in the first place -- didn't make the cut, because apparently Del Rio vs Swagger was just too important. It was all over YouTube, though, so at least there was that. It was easily the highlight of the show I didn't watch.

I did hear about two segments, one where it seemed like Vince & Co. were finally listening to their audience and one where they emphatically weren't. The MizTV segment apparently pitted a heelish Charlotte against a face-ish Paige, which I've been saying they needed to do for a while now since crowds were adamantly refusing to accept Heel Paige. The fact that Charlotte acts jerkish even at her most good-guy makes for an easy swap, as does the fact that Paige has largely been in the right about the bizarre state of the Divas Revolution.

On the other hand, Roman Reigns. The "tater tots" thing sounds like Sufferin' Succotash Vol. 2: Now With Asshole Bullying Added. I read about that and all I could think was, "Holy shit, all the work they put into rehabilitating the character post-Rumble Disaster, and they just obliterated it in an instant."

Onto a show I still watch in full, NXT. I don't know whose idea it was to dress Bliss, Blake & Murphy up like Freddy Krueger, but whoever it was just earned a GOLD STAR. Given the pre-match promo of Blake & Murphy needing to prove themselves to Bliss after big recent losses, I'm worried that their loss here was meant to build up a split from Bliss. WWE's been making a habit of breaking up factions too soon, and I'm hoping that habit doesn't filter its way down to NXT.

I've compared Asuka to Brock Lesnar before and now I'm gonna do it again: Even their matches against jobbers are massive fun to watch because they're just so great at being scary and destroying people. Asuka's opponent was from Jersey, of course. I await the inevitable Jobber Women From Jersey vs Jobber Women From Australia Survivor Series Style Elimination Match, which would end with Dana Brooke coming out and patting the winner on the head. Brooke and Emma looking really uneasy in response to Asuka's scariness continues to be one of the Great Things In Wrestling For 2015. Bonus points for Brooke actually referencing Tom Phillips' variable height during interviews.

I kind of love that when Nia Jax had that line about not needing Eva Marie to do her talking for her, which was clearly meant to solicit an "ooooh," it totally didn't because the crowd couldn't hear it through all their jeering. It seemed like Eva mustn't have heard it either, because she completely no-sold it. Which, admittedly, was an in-character thing for her to do, as she was more interested in posing and posturing than paying attention to anyone else.

Peyton Royce actually has a character now! What initially seemed like yet another jobber match was actually about Royce climbing up a rung, and it was pretty great. Can't say I'm sold on the flower thing, but after those Krueger outfits it felt like '80s Horror Night on NXT, with Royce appearing to have modeled her in-ring mannerisms on Amanda Donohoe's serpentine vampire from The Lair Of The White Worm, and I'm fully on board with that.

Finn? That drool thing? Gross. Stop it.
posted by brianrobot at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2015

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