There's nothing like a night in the great city of New Orleans to buoy a wrestling fan's spirits. Unfortunately, like most of you, I was at home, many hundreds of miles from the nation's home of all things jazz and jocular. Fortunately, WWE's King of Swing and dozens of other superstars were on hand at the regrettably named Smoothie King Center (especially unforgiveable in the city of Hurricane slushies) to make sweet, scripted in-ring music.
So without any further needless editorial improvisation, here are the five things I took away (in addition to some sidebar observations) from the January 12 edition of Raw.
5. Poor Knicks
You'd think that with all Madison Square Garden means to the WWE, they'd take it a bit easier on Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher's ne'er do well NBA squad. But despite being in the Big Easy, Big Show and even Michael Cole piled onto the New York Knickerbockers' pitiful 5-35 record, the former invoking it for some kind of metaphor about Roman Reigns' impending losing streak (a much more lucid one, mind you, than Reigns' fairy-tale rebuttal). It's still unclear why, exactly, Show thought the New Orleans crowd would take umbrage with him belittling a team from across both country and conferences. He may have merely experienced a Hulk Hogan-esque "Silverdome/Superdome" moment of disorientation. Whatever his impetus, let me speak for all Knicks fans when I say: Hey, look, the Timberwolves suck too!
4. Macho Badness
Actually, Reigns and a few others nearly nailed their homage to WWE's first 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage. I'm just a sucker for puns. But I do have a question: Why, if Big Show is currently being portrayed as a monster villain, is he reverting back to good-time giant for the reel of wrestlers flashing their best impersonation of Mr. Poffo? If nothing else, it compromises the veracity of how hard Show's working in the ring and on the mic to make everyone forget he and John Cena were BFFs, like, two months ago. And if WWE really wanted to enshrine this as a signature moment for Savage's legacy, they might have offered a one-time-only opportunity to stream their Macho Man DVD in its entirety after Raw, rather than repackaging the first look that's already been queued on the Network for weeks. Guarantee ya some new subscribers would have ponied up for that. Well, at least they made sure to incorporate footage of this amid their HOF announcement.
3. Saving Private Bryan
Now there's a pun we can all get behind. So, I understand the need to make a splash during SmackDown's inaugural return to Thursdays. And really, there's no way to argue the thinking that teasing Daniel Bryan's return to in-ring action against Kane (whom he encouragingly throttled last night) will ensure dedicated viewers re-set their DVRs and fly-by-nights keep it in the back of their minds. But to continue with the evening's basketball motif, wouldn't it have been a slam dunk if everyone's favorite Aberdeen underdog first re-emerged to fight at an unknown point in the Royal Rumble match, thereby blowing the proverbial roof off Wells Fargo Center and creating an instant, unforgettable WWE Network moment? And couldn't I have made that point in fewer words? Sure, but who's counting? You are? Shit.
2. Rumble Jumble
Putting aside any feelings about holding Bryan back a couple more weeks (an opinion that is moot as of Thursday, or whenever SmackDown tapes), this year's Royal Rumble has become increasingly more unpredictable to handicap. Some of that has to do with how Reigns' momentum has stalled a bit due to, and in the wake of returning from, injury. And in general, it may take one more year until someone among the Bray Wyatts, Rusevs and Dean Ambroses of the WWE universe steps forward as the alpha male. But that leaves us in an ideal spot for an intriguing Rumble match with myriad conclusive scenarios. Notwithstanding popular pick Reigns or Bryan's immediate reinsertion into the headlining scene (and let's not forget about a certain Apex Predator laying in wait), the remaining roster is a veritable free-for-all of guys waiting for a chance to be anointed "The Man." Hopefully, whoever shines (even if as runner-up) will have a year that reflects that appointment.
1. Rollins Just Got Real
Speaking of guys rising to occasions, boy did Seth Rollins separate himself from the pack last night. He even managed to make a contract-signing final segment more compelling with his presence, which is no easy feat. Let's look past Rollins' lumberjack-match win against John Cena for one second (an outcome that perpetuated this silly storyline-firing nonsense involving Erick Rowan, Ryback and Dolph Ziggler). It was a fine bout with a foreseeable end. Less obvious was that Mr. Money in the Bank would own his share of the spotlight verbally sparring with Paul Heyman, cleanly and confidently putting down his adversaries while emphasizing his conspiratorial intellect (something Heyman graciously put over as well). He also delivered one mean-looking curb stomp to Brock Lesnar, which helped all us forget the face-plant he and Cena nearly botched seconds earlier. It's taken Rollins some time to fully find his way in this new role as "future of the WWE," from choreographing matches that invariably entail too many moving parts to refining and cutting the perfect antagonistic promo. But last night, Iowa's finest showed that, no matter who wins the Rumble, 2015 might run through him.
Below the Belt
- Also glad Rollins finally trimmed that beard.
- Bryan v. Authority may need to transcend the "I didn't have a silver spoon" narrative soon.
- Ditto for Lana's "stupid Americans" promos.
- Tyson Kidd and Cesaro teaming up with the Bellas may not be such a bad idea.
- Love Alicia Fox, but where did that scissor kick land?
- Not a very interesting night for the tag-team division.
- JBL hating on the Ascension continues to perplex.
- Booker T is right on about needing more fight from Xavier Woods.
- All I can say re: Ambrose is where's Shelby when you need him?
- Oh, hello, Justin Gabriel.
- Move of the Night: Kidd drop-kicking Kofi Kingston out of a Cesaro Swing.
- Line of the Night: Steph all the way, to DB: "Your unborn boxtroll children believe in you."
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Did that 5 Gum lady just have an orgasm? Just for the record, Scorpion King 4 (which you can apparently see in full here) features not only Lou Ferrigno and former WWE Diva Eve Torres, but also a bona fide Independent Spirit Award winner (M. Emmet Walsh), Golden Globe winner (Rutger Hauer) and the world's greatest kickboxer, Don "The Dragon" Wilson. None of which means you should see it.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Jack Swagger, Goldust and Stardust.