A belated konnichiwa to you all a few days removed from WWE barnstorming Tokyo for its Beast in the East special. Jet lag and all, the intrepid performers who made their way around the world this past week were back at it last night in Chicago, notably John Cena, who closed out East but had enough left in the tank for an epic Monday main-event rematch against Cesaro.
Overall, we saw a lot of forward momentum heading toward Battleground on July 19, and it's pretty clear what we're excited about (Cena vs. Kevin Owens, Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins) and what's got us wondering whether we'd be better off watching True Detective (Ryback vs. the Miz vs. Big Show, Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt). Assuming, of course, that millions of people share the same sentiment, because that's always how wrestling works.
So before that "blonde-headed witch of a Lana that calls herself woman" (Rusev's really on a roll lately) loses patience and brandishes her stilettos as weapons, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual Twitter-friendly sidebar observations) that I took away from the July 6 edition of Raw.
5. Roman's No Scooby-Doo
After running up the ramp to attack Bray Wyatt, whose entrance interrupted his match against Sheamus, Reigns soon discovered it was an impostor. But as he stood there with what appeared to be a handful of someone else's hairpiece in hand, realizing he'd been tricked yet again, Roman – or, more accurately, WWE's lighting and camera crews – never quite made plain who was abetting Bray. Nor did Wyatt, appearing on the TitanTron, even offer so much as a, "I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling babyfaces!" Although apparently he did get away with it, whatever it was. Mind games? Tomfoolery? High malarkey? Who knows? It was a badly produced and poorly sold segment that did very little to differentiate their story from every Wyatt feud preceding it, his shtick having devolved to literal smoke and mirrors. I'm starting to feel like "Anyone but you" might be a sentiment best directed toward its author.
4. Finally, Rusev Crush
Just when it seemed as if nothing could spare us from this interminable, antagonistic volley between Rusev and Dolph Ziggler, the Bulgarian brute smacked Ziggler in the kisser with his walking boot and proceeded to pummel him with those ornamental crutches and a barrage of kicks and punches. Summer Rae's addition to the story has been fine, I get how the crowd feels about Lana, and I've very much enjoyed vulnerable Rusev. But it was high time this feud got physical beyond mini-dresses and cat fights. Whether it's enough to arouse my interest in Ziggler and Rusev's inevitable collision (be it in some mixed-tag scenario or otherwise) is debatable, but for the moment, I'm just glad to have that big Eastern European lug doing what he does best: Crush!
3. Here's What I Make of the Divas Division
So, the Bellas are either heels or faces, depending on what city they're in. And Naomi is definitely a heel but has to tone it down on occasions where they need her to be a team player. And really, Paige is the future of the division, and she'll anchor the next wave of women coming from NXT. And, odds are, at least one woman (if not a small stable of them) will get called up soon to help Paige even the odds against the haphazardly assembled Team Bella. What I'd like to see? Cameron join ranks with Naomi and Tamina, thus dividing the women's ranks into multiple rival factions that blur the lines between good and evil. Where this puts Natalya, I have no idea. It must be particularly challenging for a female performer in WWE to know where to go or what her options are when she's not being properly utilized. All I know is, and at the risk of being a typical armchair know-nothing know-it-all, no one (viewers included) is being done a service by the division as currently booked.
2. New Rule: No Ads During Main-Event Title Matches
Plan and simple. If two guys are headlining Raw, as Cena and Cesaro did last night, and a strap of any kind is on the line, there's no commercial interruptions allowed. Front-load the broadcast with paid advertisements if you have to, but there's no reason the audience at home shouldn't benefit from watching a bout like Cena and Cesaro's U.S. title clash play out from start to finish. Especially if it's to be presumed we all sing its praises on Twitter as an instant classic. So, was it an instant classic? I don't know. What I saw was pretty great, but I also missed about four minutes. Guess I better get that WWE App. I'll make sure I get around to it after renewing my Network subscription, catching up with Tough Enough on DVR and pre-ordering 2K16.
1. "Suplex City" > "CM Punk"
It took a year and a half and required an appearance from the Beast, but the aptly dubbed conqueror managed to usurp and preempt Chicago's requisite "CM Punk" chants by inspiring the Allstate Arena faithful to shout "Suplex City" from start to finish of Paul Heyman's opening promo. Or maybe it helped not putting Triple H and Stephanie McMahon out in front of them to all but bait an en masse invocation of the exiled former WWE champ. Whatever the case, and even if "Suplex City" is already overused, the reception for Brock in Punk's hometown reinforces just how huge a coup it was to re-sign Lesnar. You could argue that the presence of Heyman, whom any good Chicagoan should adore for his steadfast advocacy of Punk, helped buoy his client to the heights of favoritism we witnessed last night. But fact is, when Lesnar is on screen, nothing else matters. Especially when he's doing this.
Below the Belt:
- Very sweet of Cesaro to wear the Kidd armband.
- Something tells me Cesaro tweaked that neck a bit after being tossed over the barricade.
- You can see how much Cena is enjoying he and Kevin Owens' rivalry.
- Speaking of which, low-key night for KO.
- Props to the dudes in "Brie Mode" shirts.
- Nice to see Kofi and Big E fine-tune the timing of their finisher.
- Love Titus, but not so much on commentary.
- What a blah second hour.
- It's not about Brock being face or heel. It's about lack of respect vs. disrespect. Well done, Heyman.
- Bálor's next.
- Move of the Night: Where do you start with Cesaro? Also, props to Big Show on the elbow drop.
- Sign of the Night: I see you, "#lonelyvirgil".
- Line of the Night: Byron Saxton, Bangles fan: "The eternal flame of Roman is burning bright."
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: I don't get it. Likewise, I don't get it. And where do I get Death Maggot? (Or, for that matter, a link to a clip of that anti-smoking PSA with two girls headbanging to the so-named fictional metal band.)
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Neville, Stephanie McMahon, Luke Harper.