Like Kevin Connolly, I grew up not far from Nassau Coliseum and fantasized about performing in front of a WWE (née WWF) audience. As opposed to the man more popularly known as "E," I was not in attendance last night, let alone conspiring backstage with Long Island's finest, Zack Ryder, or coming down the ramp and beckoning my new pal to answer John Cena's U.S. Open Challenge. And unlike Connolly's Entourage co-star Kevin Dillon, I was not in Platoon.
What does any of this have to do with six men competing at Elimination Chamber for the Intercontinental title on Sunday, or Dean Ambrose's first-ever World Heavyweight Championship singles match at the same event? In the words of Dark Helmet, absolutely nothing. But rather than linger on that, or ponder whether it was inappropriate for Booker T to characterize Seth Rollins as an "Indian giver," let's soldier on post-haste to the five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from the Memorial Day 2015 edition of Raw.
5. If You Can't Get Michael Sam…
May as well try your best to bait Justin Bieber. That's the only reason to keep reviving this punch line about Seth Rollins behaving like WWE's own answer to the prima donna pop import, right? Let alone ask Ambrose to antagonize his adversary with Selena Gomez barbs and Rollins himself to utter the Biebs' name several times in an opening segment about two grown men settling their beef over wrestling's most prestigious title in all but six days? Who knows? Maybe, coming off Bieber's Comedy Central Roast mea culpa, he'd be open to walking in the Entourage gang's shoes and soaking up the mass appeal of a Raw audience? He'd certainly make an apt pairing for a single night with one superstar in particular (do you Bolieb?). Alas, despite what appear to be WWE's sincerest efforts in forcing the issue (shades of last year, when they went all-in on a Sam appearance), the odds of everyone's favorite platinum-selling brat answering their tacit offer are probably more of a long shot than Ambrose walking out of Texas with gold.
4. There's Been Worse Than 'Entourage'
Remember Kathie Lee and Hoda? Adrian Grenier, Dillon, Connolly and Jerry Ferrara (yes, he's skinny now) assimilated innocuously enough into a backstage segment with the Authority, aforementioned ringside banter with Cena and even some in-match involvement as Cena successfully defended his U.S. title against hometown boy Zack Ryder. They also demonstrated an admirable flair for color coordination and really do have the whole unified-strut thing down pat. Only fail of the affair? Shamelessly advising viewers to hashtag "#EntourageMovie" on social media if they were enjoying the collision between Cena and Ryder. Fine, but if I go see Entourage, I'm live-tweeting "#WooWooWoo" in approval.
3. Watch Out For Reigns
I'd hoped it might come to pass by Payback, but every opportunity remains for conflict to surface at Elimination Chamber between BFFs Ambrose and Roman Reigns. There's a reason the Samoan Superman isn't in contention for the IC title on Sunday, and it's because, whether fans like it or not, he's firmly entrenched in the Heavyweight class. And an intermediary feud between he and longtime brother the Lunatic Fringe prior to Reigns re-pursuing the belt in earnest would serve as payoff for Ambrose's recent push, clear a path for Brock Lesnar to return and menace Rollins through SummerSlam and set up a thrilling betrayal to culminate Chamber (not to mention send pangs of regret through the psyches of those who dared not sign up in time for the Network). The point? Don't be surprised if an otherwise idle Reigns, who's been an impossibly eager cheerleader for his buddy the past couple weeks, insinuates himself in consequential fashion at Elimination Chamber.
2. Must. Buy. New. Kevin. Owens. T-Shirt.
The only thing less subtle than all that Entourage integration was the effort to seize on Kevin Owens' hype and sell a shitload of merchandise. Nary a KO shirt in the crowd wasn't caught on-camera and Cena all but seared the "Fight Owens Fight" mantra into our minds before the man himself sneak-attacked his Elimination Chamber foe while flashing his – you guessed it – hot-off-the-presses "Fight Owens Fight" tee. Ya gotta give it to Triple H and Co. This mini-platform to test Owens' potential has paid off in all sorts of short-term dividends: a tantalizing first impression for Owens, broken Internets, a buzz-worthy match for Sunday that could sell the event to subscribers on its own and, clearly, a ton of overnight moolah made embossing cotton with ink. No matter how or when they choose to give us more KO, the guy is, in the most practical sense, money, so you can bank on it happening sooner rather than later.
1. Rusev and Lana – So Wrong and Right
Plenty went smoothly during Rusev and Lana's little melodrama last night. Rusev was great as the groveling big man, Lana steadied herself and kept a grip on that tenuous Russian accent and the ravishing one's empowered kiss-off of her partner/captor was a classic bit of a crowd-pleasing silliness. Rusev even reinforced their mutual hatred for America, a detail that was conveniently, but conspicuously, omitted over the past few weeks of her face turn. And not to nitpick, but when she disavowed herself of Rusev's ideology, she really only referred to his dated attitudes about women, not his pointless crusade against the U.S.A. So as she ran face-first into Dolph Ziggler's mouth and the crowd went bananas, I couldn't reconcile a couple of issues: 1) She decided to demonstrate her newly articulated independence by immediately hanging on the arm of another superstar? And, 2) Ziggler's not turned off by getting with Rusev's virulently xenophobic sloppy seconds? I'm also not convinced Lana and her bereaved Bulgarian aren't still consorting together, or that reteaming them isn't what's best for business. On the upside, look how much we're talking about Rusev!
Below the Belt:
- They could have at least sprung for a staged vignette of Ambrose busting out of jail endowed with police van and uniform.
- Boy, that cop literally had to read Ambrose his rights.
- WWE still needs showmen like Stardust.
- Love Neville, but he's gotta remember to keep those shoulders pinned for a full three.
- Too bad I couldn't squeeze in a Ryder Strong pun. Or couldn't I?
- Naomi really deserves to win.
- Not sure who to blame, but that Tamina vs. Paige match was…yikes.
- Totally caught you patting one of the Luchas in solidarity, Konnor.
- I gotta say: New Day have made up for lost heel time in short order.
- Move of the Night: Two letters: KO.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: The Colonel is creepy; and didn't see that "women talking about gas" ad coming.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Mandaxel.