For the first time since March, Monday Night Raw made its triumphant return to Brooklyn's Barclays Center. It's a journey that, going by surprise guest The Rock's GPS, necessitates touching down on the corner of Jabroni Drive and Cheap-Pop Avenue and trekking across all four of NYC's other boroughs before finally arriving in BK to generate some heat and debut a vintage Mike Tyson varsity jacket.
Or, if you're the rest of us, it meant plopping down on a chaise lounge and plodding through three-plus hours of largely Herculean silliness. But in the interest of providing a service to you readers, we've broken the first episode of October down into five essential takeaways. And, as a bonus, thrown in a bunch of stuff that may have taught us nothing, but gave everyone something to Tweet about.
Here's what we gleaned from the October 6 edition of Monday Night Raw.
5. Mizdow Jones
Damien Mizdow's (née Sandow) been stealing the show, as it were, from The Miz for weeks, both during backstage segments – take that fruit basket, Damien! – and at ringside. This despite being tasked with the thankless role of ostensibly playing Teller to Miz's Penn. As Mr. Moneymaker squared off with Sheamus, Mizdow not only mimicked his supposed guru's moves, but also seemed to flinch with every blow Sheamus landed, as if Miz were a voodoo doll or his telepathic twin.
The crowd, who could be easy marks for much of the night (more on that later), quickly rallied behind everyone's favorite cloak-wearing stunt double, relegating the sanctioned match to workmanlike matter of fact (Sheamus, to his credit, is always a good sport in these situations). Now, this doesn't mean Mizdow's ready to turn on his master just yet and be forcibly installed as main-event talent. The reason Damien's gimmick works is because it's the right fit for the right guy at the right time. And The Miz, not to be overlooked, is (and historically has been) a perfect self-serious foil. Together, they're making for ideal midcard entertainment.
4. Kathie Lee and Hoda + Adam Rose = Oy Vey
Today fourth-hour co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are great in their full-time gig, but bringing a makeshift KLG and HK set inside the Raw ring and adapting their shtick to this environment was the wrong move, even if their appearance was for a great cause.
Despite Gifford's attempts to woo the crowd by reminding them that her mother's a Brooklyn native (a gesture unlikely to win over an audience who, one might presume, largely commuted from Manhattan or the 'burbs), the Barclays faithful rightly intuited that there'd be little-to-no wrestling value in what came next. That wine bottle should have been smashed over some poor jobber's head (too bad Heath Slater was busy prepping to accompany Mini-Gator), not playfully popped against Gifford's backside. And Rose all but left Hoda and her "crazy dance" out to dry, despite his typical itch for arrhythmic revelry. Even amid a particularly cartoonish show, this whole production was a real head-scratcher.
3. No Sleep Till…What Borough Was It Again?
Maybe this is just the exhausted lament of a diehard Mets fan, but as the Barclays ticketholders disrupted the Divas (who, per usual, were simply working their assess off) with "Derek Jeter" chants, it was difficult not to ask aloud, "Wait, what borough are we in?" Apparently not the one-time home of Ebbets Field and those legendary anti-Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Bronx cheers for geographically inappropriate #RE2PECT aside, the fans who filled those seats last night offered highs and lows to parallel The Rock (see next blurb). There was their support of Mizdow, an underdog rite of passage begun over a year prior with Dolph Ziggler. And subverting "This is awesome" chants by protesting Mini-Gator v. El Torito with "This is stupid" was simple genius (even if they quickly re-embraced the affirmative alternative while beholding The Rock). And when was the last time we heard a live "Holy shit" on loop without someone smashing their body through the Spanish announce table?
Still, it's too bad BK of all places got in line with Jack Swagger's "We the people" pledge of allegiance, a mantra that was not so long ago intended as a rallying cry for anti-diversity. All in all, Brooklyn participated with aplomb, even if a bit of baseball and nationalist bias left this viewer feeling ill-represented.
2. Hercules! Hercules!
Coming off the box-office failure of his most recent cinematic opus, it was time for The Great One to lick his wounds and return home. Or, more accurately, re-establish his connection with the WWE Universe and ensure they're in his corner when just-announced superhero vehicle Shazam! hits theaters.
And really, we should all feel a debt to Dwayne for inciting the kind of "What will he say next?" enthusiasm that's been missing amid condiment shenanigans and an endless volley of empty threats between The Authority and John Cena/Dean Ambrose. Granted, the results were predictably either hilariously observant (e.g. Rusev's shorts hiking up to his nipples) or locker room-level lazy (something about breath like "Chewbacca's hairy beanbag" and shoving Smirnoff bottles up Putins), but Rock raised the bar last night for everyone backstage – even if they didn't all answer the call, or if poor, overmatched Rusev looked like he'd rather have hopped a bus back to NXT.
1. Strain Events
Ambrose v. Kane, Cena v. Randy Orton, Ambrose and Cena vs. Kane and Orton, Ambrose and Cena v. Orton, Kane and Seth Rollins. The headlining bouts on both Raw and Smackdown of late have been suffering from creative whiplash, and a lack of real story for Kane and Orton has consequently been exposed.
Moreover, and especially with all the "Yes!" chants at Barclays, it's difficult not to daydream about how thrilling a pairing of Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose ("Dean and Daniel" even sounds like kismet) could have been in this mix, allowing Cena to focus on more appropriate singles competition. Without that as an option, and given the way Ziggler gets over in Brooklyn, an IC title bout between he and universally appreciated Cesaro may have even been an out-of-the-box option to stir things up.
But as it stands, it's hard to get out of one's seat for another combination of the aforementioned five performers. And it's most certainly a disappointment when Ambrose comes waltzing down the ramp and kills the buzz with a ketchup-and-mustard stunt rather than an audacious run-in. At least when the squirt bottles settled, we got a bit of physicality between Ambrose and Cena, in addition to the confirmation that those two will battle at Hell in a Cell to determine who gets a piece of Rollins. Hopefully, any red stuff spilled in the ring that night will be from incidental contact and not tomato paste.
Below the Belt:
- I'm a Heath Slater guy, but yeah, that that was hard to watch.
- Limiting Roman Reigns' "interview" to a satellite conversation rather than having him carry an in-ring promo without competing was the right plan. Unfortunately, Reigns was dispassionate and not especially charismatic, and even the cut back to Cole felt poorly produced. Let's just assume there was a lot going on backstage with Reigns' cousin The Rock in the house.
- Did Kane legitimately plug California produce?
- I have to say, these shows really miss Wade Barrett. He had a solid gimmick, something lacking for a lot of superstars.
- To that end, Bo Dallas has just that, so give him time.
- The Wyatts needed re-tooling, but they're missed on the main-event scene.
- So, is RVD finito for now?
- Paige is dynamite.
- Emma-mite Sandwich? Really?
- Move of the night: No huge spots, but let's say Ziggler and the Usos' triple-superkick on Stardust (nearly negated by the Usos' horrid pre-match promo).
- Line of the night: That belongs to The Rock, for the previously referenced "The Rock doesn't pull his shorts up to his nipples."
- Sign of the night: Whoever waved that piece of oak tag proclaiming "Lemon 3:16."
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: That Nightcrawler movie looks pretty good, I really don't think that lady actually works for Popeyes and hey, it's White Collar's final season!