Man, Shane-O Mac's intense physical training for WrestleMania sure is paying dividends. You saw him lay out that swarm of security guards ready to usher him out of the Allstate Arena at papa Vince's request, right? It was like a literal mauling, with Shane's fists of fury spastically pummeling his would-be assailants until they were reduced to ineffectual slabs of meat to be tossed over the top rope.
It was a patently ridiculous scene, but of course, that's all relative when it comes to the feuding McMahon clan. But there was more to behold last night beyond Shane's skinny jeans and blinding high-tops. An ill-conceived tag team met its end, an old NXT rivalry was finally renewed and Triple H was apparently rendered unconscious for several minutes by what's ostensibly a modified DDT. Hey, gotta promote that Network special somehow.
But before Ryback rampages in and lectures me on how I'm better off blogging this column on my own than collaborating as part of a team with Rolling Stone, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the March 7, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Farewell, Y2EhJ
I try not to gloat when one out of every 17 prognostications I offer on this site plays out the way I anticipated. But when it comes to Y2AJ as part of the build to A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho blowing off their personal beef at WrestleMania, I called that sucker – collect. Last week, I declared, "It seems like this tenuous partnership is all part of their larger singles storyline, and that tensions will re-arise during their title match against New Day next week." Putting my ego aside for just a moment – a brief, brief moment – this was the right move, even if Y2AJ was unnecessary in the first place. Jericho's saved enough face as a heel (T-shirt in mouth 4eva) where his inevitable loss at WrestleMania will do little to dent his appeal, and there's finally some legit heat to hype up what should be one of the card's best-contested bouts. Or maybe I'm just feeling the power of positivity, since his turn came after a genuinely great tag match against the New Day. Regardless, R.I.P. Y2EhJ.
4. A McMahon-Clan Conspiracy!
Doesn't it feel as if that's a distinct possibility here? Specifically, that Shane and Vince are in some kind of cahoots? It could be the kind of cahoots that ultimately pits father and son against daughter/sister and son-in-law/brother-in-law. Or the sort that unfolds as an elaborate McMahon trap to corner and put down Vince's "creation," the Undertaker, in some ceremonial gesture to unmoor himself from the past. Remind me, how does the Phenom otherwise fit into all this again? There's still no real story behind Shane and the Dead Man going face-to-face at 'Mania, and something about the McMahons' latest inter-generational feud feels a bit too pat. Too pat, I say!
3. There's Always the Hall of Fame Class of 2017
Not to speak ill of the dead, and all due respect to the living immortals being enshrined in WWE's Hall of Fame this WrestleMania weekend, but it's hard to get too excited about poignant presentations commemorating the Big Boss Man, the Godfather (much as Charles Wright himself is deserving) and – as rumored – Jacqueline. I grew up watching Freebirds fever via syndicated AWA rebroadcasts, but I'm not sure how thrilled I am at the notion of hearing Michael Hayes hold court for 20 minutes. Sting's the big draw, though the elephant in the room of his limited time in Vince McMahons' employ will be hard to quiet. Maybe I'm being too harsh about a couple harmless characters, a standout Attitude Era Diva and a pair of acts who built their legacies with Ted Turner, Verne Gagne et al, but I'm also just not that jazzed about this year's ceremony. Hey, come to think of it, why not induct Jazz?
2. Hooray for New Day and League of Nations
Firstly, it's perfectly logical to make them both look strong as they continue moving toward some kind of seismic clash. Also, it's simply nice to see WWE's top heel stables – who can duly help legitimize the tag division – look competitive in recent weeks, much as it's always fun to shit on Sheamus and Co. and easy to forget New Day are more than a microphone act. Never mind that the League had a three-on-one advantage against Dolph Ziggler or that New Day was defending their belts against a fledgling tag team with obvious interpersonal strife. Sometimes, you just need your bad guys to look like they're good at what they do.
1. 'Roadblock' Roadblock
That's my wish for this time next year, i.e. may this be the first and last installment of WWE Roadblock, a mystifying speed bump on the road to WrestleMania that's thrown the product completely off its rhythm leading up to its biggest event. I'll be among the many surprised if there's any kind of swerve on Saturday and Dean Ambrose conquers Triple H, even if it culminates in an Ambrose vs. Reigns main event at 'Mania that writes itself. Either way, the stopgap event no one asked for is a pretty shameless seduction to convert some more WWE Network subscribers between March 12 and April 3, and it's paradoxically come at the expense of 'Mania's mystique. Where's Liberace when you need him?
Below the Belt:
- Bit of a sloppy start to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn's main-roster rivalry, but at least KO's out of creative purgatory.
- A fan can dream, but would be great to see this Lana/Brie Bella thing eventually evolve into Lana vs. Nikki.
- The false starts to Charlotte, Becky and Sasha's triple-threat were ridiculous, but plenty of time till 'Mania to make it click.
- Don't disappoint me, Ryback.
- He is, in fact, right about Kalisto.
- Re: "CM Punk" chants – really, Chicago?
- Wouldn't mind seeing an old-school run-in without entrance music.
- Not one of Becky's finest backstage segments.
- Who you callin' Mr. Hammerstone?
- Move of the Night: That was some springboard 450 from Styles.
- Line of the Night: R-Truth, being honest with Goldust: "I didn't know about your exploding butt." Some friend.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: So, I guess they're saying I should go to college? Does this qualify as a The 'Burbs remake? And your move, Nathan's.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Dudley Boyz, Roman Reigns, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Big Show