Cheerio. Or hello, as your mates in the States might say. Welcome to this week's Raw recap, as experienced via London's O2 Arena from the faraway confines of a Bob's Discount Furniture sectional sofa somewhere in New York State.
It was quite an evening of revelry and gallantry – OK, now I'm just speaking in Middle English. Let's stick to the language we all know best: predetermined contests of wills and strength. And there were quite a few good ones on display last night, despite some requisite bathroom-break filler. So, without further attempt at adapting the atmosphere of an overseas show to my Americanized sensibilities, here are five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from the April 13 edition of Raw.
5. Naomi, Myself and I
Amid a stellar few hours for the Divas, Naomi surprised and shined with her heel turn and subsequent vicious assault on Paige, who trumped her in a battle royal for a shot at Nikki Bella's belt. Naomi violently thrashed the hometown heroine back and forth into the barricade with an abandon reminiscent of Cesaro's memorable Miz takedown from a couple years back. More importantly, she delivered an on-point backstage promo later on that made it quite clear this former Funkadactyl is better suited as a no-bullshit fighter than thankless cheerleader. Now all she needs is a finisher (i.e. not the Rear View) that befits her new and welcome change of spirit.
4. Airin' Neville
Some folks are wondering: What's the point of promoting the artist once known as Adrian in NXT to prime-time status if he's just going to lose in consecutive weeks? But he didn't go down to just anyone, nor has he been pinned without a chance to display the full range of his capabilities.
Hard-fought losses to WWE Champion Seth Rollins and multi-time Intercontinental Champ Dolph Ziggler (easy on the "way-to-go-kid" pats though, Dolph) are hardly a vote of ill confidence. And there is a legitimate aura around his entrance, one that defers concerns about his microphone game, even if "man that gravity forgot" is silly excess. Sometimes, a Brogue Kick to the face can be more positive push than ritual humiliation, and thus far, it only bodes well for this high-flying rookie that he's both excelled alongside (and been grounded by) heavyweights.
3. Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!
One could be cynical and wonder aloud whether the Lucha Dragons were groomed and devised down in NXT so they could slip in and pick up the cross-cultural youth-merchandising slack when Rey Mysterio finally packed up and left. But I'm a 35-year-old man who was more Mysterio admirer than fan, and I'm about ready to throw down on some Lucha Dragons tees and apparel. Like their fellow Full Sail alumnus Neville, the combo of Sin Cara and Kalisto possesses the right kind of speaks-for-itself showmanship at a time when WWE could benefit from less calculated risk with questionably charismatic big men. Plus, they have a can't-miss, crowd-participative celebration that could give the Yes! Movement's flying fingers a run for their phenomenal-ness. Timing is everything, and this is exactly what the tag division needed right at this moment, and can only help champs Cesaro and Kidd polish their heel position. Although I'm still on the fence about Kaliston's extra mask flare.
2. One "Moment" Too Many
I get that the show's in England, and so you're gonna give anyone who hails from within a reasonable distance of the U.K., or who simply has a cult following there, a bit of extra screen time to bask. And outside of being incredulous that he didn't arrive with some "bad news" for opponent John Cena, I have no qualms with Wade Barrett in particular getting primo screen time and a chance to unseat the U.S. Champ. Nor do I take issue with Norwich native Paige soaking up the love and getting a post-match, in-ring interview slot, especially when she was willing to take it on the chin (and just about everywhere else) from a spotlight-seeking Naomi.
I'll take this one step further and propose that Fandango communing with the crowd and doing the "Cha Cha La La" was downright adorable. I will, however, draw the line at suggesting there was anything necessary about Adam Rose, who's not a Brit but plays one on TV, showing off his new licorice tights in a ho-hum loss to Dean Ambrose. And in general, when you're coming off a Raw as disappointing as the previous week's, perhaps it's best to limit these U.K.-exclusive "moments" and focus on Extreme Rules, which as of now seems neither very extreme nor like it will, in fact, rule.
1. Cage Against the Machine
Ya see, 'cause Randy Orton represents the steel-cage stipulation at his Extreme Rules main event against Seth Rollins, while Rollins embodies the RKO-banning menace of the Authority, i.e. Machine.
It's really no less logical than Orton rebutting Rollins' condition (and why they're each contributing a stipulation in the first place, I have no idea) by putting a cage in place under the pretense that it will keep J&J, Kane and Big Show at bay. Because, lord knows, no one's ever managed to create outside interference during a cage match before. It warrants repeating that, for two supposedly intellectual superiors, Orton and Rollins keep being asked to act out scenarios that seem pretty dumb. Now, I'll eat crow (or, like my fellow Herzog, maybe even a shoe) if these two warriors wind up having it out inside those metal confines without any shenanigans from parties not directly involved. I may even be happy with some result that involves Kane Tombstone-ing Rollins to hell (unless that leads to their own feud heading into the ensuing PPV). But purely as it pertains to Orton's reputation for being a singular strategist, I scratch my head and wonder, "By his thinking, wouldn't it be more effective to just ban the Authority from ringside?" Although I guess a fair fight wouldn't be very "extreme."
Below the Belt:
- Does Rusev know what he hath wrought by asking for a chain match?
- That Nikki has a future as a commentator.
- No Bull Hammer is safe from the six moves of doom!
- So, we can assume WrestleMania XXXIII will be in London?
- Ambrose and Reigns could really use some Shield mojo right now.
- Speaking of, with their matching ring attire, Luke Harper and Ambrose sure do look like a "Before and After" photo.
- Natalya was eliminated awfully early from that battle royal.
- RIP, Ziggler's scalp braid.
- Love that Miz/Mizdow feud.
- Per my wife, re: JBL: "He's wearing a Dick Tracy suit."
- OK, Bray.
- Rosa Mendes had a rough night, huh?
- Huh-huh, Kane said testicles.
- Move of the Night: Sweet RKO, Randy, but even sweeter 450 off the barricade by Neville.
- Line of the Night: Darren Young: "Besides, rainbow is my favorite color." Love that guy.
- Sign of the Night: "PORK"
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Hello, System of a Down; Fuck Jared; and jeez, I get it, I won't text and drive.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Trips and Steph, the Usos