Today, I turn 36. That means I've been watching wrestling roughly three decades. Which means I've watched a lot of wrestling. Even still, I was a bit bleary-eyed after the end of another Sunday-to-Monday six-hour swing, this time on the heels of Elimination Chamber. And it's pretty hard to fathom that Money in the Bank is but two weeks away. So it goes, and so went last night's broadcast, setting the stage for MITB's titular briefcase match, and a couple of high-profile re-dos. And a lengthy in-show integration for Sonic that left me both repelled and craving peanut butter fudge (don't judge).
Anyhoo, before I go spike my blood sugars, and without saying anything that could possibly cause Kevin Owens to misinterpret that he's anything but a hero to his seven-year-old son, here are the five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from the June 1, 2015 edition of Raw.
5. Rusev's So Cute When He's Vulnerable
The Bulgarian Brute's fall from indomitableness has been rather hasty, but I must say I am enjoying the humanity we've seen in Rusev ever since America and Dolph Ziggler fell in love with his virulently xenophobic lady friend. Hobbled on crutches (and was his hair in modified a top-knot?), Rusev delivered a sad man's Walter White soliloquy about how, "I'm the one crushed." He also got mad and huffed and puffed about getting Lana and his unbreakable spirit back at all costs, but the cat's already out of the bag (and bodes well for his future versatility): This Eastern European hardass is really just Mister Softee.
4. Ouch, Adam Rose
You know your character's on life support when super-supportive John Cena throws you under the bus. During his scathing promo with Kevin Owens, the U.S. Champ rebutted KO's claims that Cena is merely a product of marketing by observing that if the corporate machine could work miracles, everyone on hand would be sporting an Adam Rose tee. Yikes. If they ever update ESPN's Behind the Curtain, that might be looked to as the moment when Ray Leppan's British-rocker alter ego was officially buried. Although, you could argue any publicity on Raw from Cena is good publicity, and it only fuels Rose's turn as an underappreciated heel. Still, ouch.
3. It's a Shame About Bray
How have I not found the perfect opportunity till now to deploy that pun? Probably because it wasn't until last night that Bray Wyatt's near future felt most adrift. My assumption is that, a la Prime Time Players and so many other prematurely parted unions, the Wyatt Family will soon reunite (with Rowan and Harper, conspicuously absent last night, taking their longtime leader up on his offer to, "Come find me"). But as a solo performer, Bray's eeny-meeny approach to selecting his victims, not to mention how often he comes out on the losing end (as he did last night, as the third and final of Roman Reigns' opponents), has lessened his mystique and left him without purpose. That's too bad, because the latent ability and aura are still simmering. And as proven by Kevin Owens, there's always room for men of their size who can move with a quickness. But in terms of rescuing Bray's bankability, WWE had better act fast.
2. How Cena Got His Groove Back
The big question coming out Elimination Chamber (besides, "Does Kenny realize Sheamus rigged the pod?" And yes, he now does) was this: How does Superman Cena's rep rebound from the ultimate sacrifice of losing clean to Kevin Owens? The answer, apparently, was reappointing him in the role of another popular, heroic character of yore: Underdog. John's tête-à-tête with his upstart adversary was, dare I say, vintage Cena. While Owens laid bare his motivation (and in the process, nimbly turned our insight into his family life on its head by leveraging it as resentment for his son's Cena-worship), Cena went to work casting doubt on KO as an ungrateful heel unworthy of what he's earned. And ipso facto, positioning himself as a man who relishes proving to someone younger and brasher that the core values of never giving up are timeless and will carry him like another set of footprints in the sand. Or whatever it is they do. I love Cena. I love Owens. I love this feud.
1. We Need Brock
For real. And according to some reports, help is on the way soon. But not soon enough. The main-event scene has been hurting, with this thrown-together encore feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (co-starring Roman Reigns as third wheel) bookending shows clearly carried by Owens and Cena. Brock Lesnar is the only currently active, semi-regularly contracted veteran heavyweight on the roster with must-see appeal. It's like being a Mariners fan and watching games passively on the couch but suddenly scrambling for a good seat when Felix Hernandez is throwing (well, except for last night). And as Heyman's podcast with Stone Cold after the show can attest, Heyman equals ratings. But mostly, I want to see Brock beat people up. Unless you'd rather keep getting sent home with this every week.
Below the Belt:
- Let's not get ahead of ourselves about Brock vs. Austin just yet.
- Titus is on fiaaah!
- Here's a thought: Why not have Lana form her own heel Diva stable with women from NXT?
- Not sure what to say about the Sonic Shakes auditions. Guess I already plugged it. Shit.
- And Mega Powers: Get a room.
- What was the point of that Neville/Dallas rematch, exactly?
- Owens debuting and beating Cena = Big Show/Giant beating Hogan.
- I love when Michael Cole references his own calls.
- Poor Barrett.
- Meh, Ryback.
- Sheamus/Orton: a mini-feud within Money in the Bank participants, yada yada.
- Have I mentioned how awesome Nikki looks in the ring?
- Move of the Night: Sometimes it ain't the flashy ones: I loved that super-power slam from Titus O'Neil.
- Line of the Night: A curtain call for Rusev's "I'm the one crushed."
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Naomi and Tamina, Rowan and Harper.