On a night when WWE was going head-to-head with Monday Night Football and the MLB postseason, you figured they'd put together a can't-miss broadcast. Alas, that's less likely to happen when Steph and Triple H run into turbulence and leave their show in the hands of the "World's Greatest Director of Operations," Corporate Kane. (Hey, like Roman Reigns said, "This is real life," right?)
So instead, we got lumberjacks loitering, Divas dissing and Dolph Ziggler channeling Chase Utley and fighting dirty against John Cena. But in the end, was there really much of anything? Those pressing questions answered below, via the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the October 12, 2015 edition of Raw.
5. PayDay, Oy Vey
It was bad enough when the peanut-and-caramel confection assaulted us with horrifying TV spots, but now it's compromising the credibility of WWE superstars. And this will not stand! Actually, it most certainly will, 'cause someone's gotta pay the bills. But back in the kayfabe days, did heels ever undercut their persona with hokey integrated advertising? Possibly. But Paige's current heel turn, which is already tenuous, hinges on her status as the nonconformist women's wrestler. Ya know, the kind who eagerly cuts sponsored promos about winning PayDay's Most Unconventional Diva poll and jests that, "Victory never tasted so sweet" like a compliant shill. Isn't this sort of thing the reason Rosa Mendes is around?
4. Complex Factions
Time to call New Day what they are: a faction, not tag team. That was driven home during an opening segment in which Xavier Woods rightly boasted of the stable's surging popularity. But now that they've essentially been called up to main-event status as an inseparable unit rather than pair-plus-one, where does that leave the frequently bereft tag ranks? Judging by another ho-hum Dudleys squash match (poor Ascension) and the choice to have New Day help stir up conflict between Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose rather than interact with their Hell in a Cell foes, the answer's right there. Really, it's just a bunch of question marks. The Prime Time Players were summarily, and unfairly, buried the moment Bubba and D-Von arrived, and lord knows it took them three years to rise in the ranks. And who knows when Jey Uso will be cleared to fly? Though unintentionally or not, last night did offer a window into a possible solution…
3. Cesaro/Neville in '15
If Cesaro's not in the plans for a major singles title right now, that's fine, but it should be evident how flexibly he can work alongside partners (not to mention opponents) of any stature or skillset. And lord knows Neville's in need of something to sustain him beyond rinse-repeat rivalries with Stardust and Wade Barrett. I'm not saying one should assimilate to the other's gimmick, or that they even have to wear matching Speedos. But as demonstrated during their defeat versus Barrett and Sheamus, could there possibly be a more kinetic, dynamic combo week to week than the Swiss Superman (see, there's already somewhat of a comic-book through line) and the Man That Gravity Forgot? As the aforementioned Cody Rhodes' alter ego might observe, it's written in the stars.
2. You Can't Pin Me
There's Super Cena, and then there's, "Oh, for fuck's sake" Cena. We got the latter last night in his U.S. Open Challenge defense against Dolph Ziggler. What's always been appealing about the champ is that he's not Brock Lesnar. He's mortal. He'll grit out every comeback and surge on a second wind that other competitors can never summon, but at a certain point, he succumbs to human frailty. Like, for example, against Brock Lesnar. Yet, somehow, after suffering supersized versions of every signature Ziggler move, culminating with a feral headbutt to set up a convincing Zig-Zag, Cena survives. And moments later, he uncoils a hasty Fireman's Carry – er, AA – gets the 1-2-3 and retains. What? No patronizing "good match" handshake that Ziggler swipes aside, following through on the frustrations of his un-angelic eye rake? A finely choreographed (albeit anticlimactic) tussle among friends is fine and all, but it'll be better served with some kind of fallout and Ziggler's due vindication at Hell in a Cell.
1. Drop the Mic
No, seriously, and this goes for both Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt. No more yapping between now and October 25. That's an order. This lengthy feud has never really been about anything. There've been fleeting, direct threats against family members, abstract allusions to entitlement and destiny and lots of literal smoke and mirrors. But last night, the storytelling side of their tension truly ebbed. I'm a Reigns advocate, but there was little he could do to, ahem, shield himself from the chorus of derision as he stumbled and sweated his way through an absolutely brutal promo. Nor did he help his case by breaking the wall and ad-libbing interactions with the crowd. Just stick to the script, race to your line about how Wyatt wants to face "anyone but me," and get the hell out of dodge. And truth about Bray is, in this feud or any other, you can approximate his sermons while playing Mystery Science Theater with them on mute. Their collision on Raw a couple weeks back was bananas, and built up huge expectations for Hell in a Cell. So until they step into that cage, maybe it's best their orations go under lock and key.
Below the Belt:
- Is there much to say about Kane/Rollins?
- Sheamus is a man who needs a plan.
- Charlotte might be too intense for me.
- Do we care about Randy vs. Dean?
- Kudos to Brie Bella for taking a nasty bump.
- I love Sasha Banks too, but there's still room for Nikki.
- Hey there, Jack Swagger.
- Has any storyline ever imploded like everything surrounding Rusev?
- Move of the Night: Kevin Owens + Kalisto x Powerbomb = Ouch
- Sign of the Night: "Send my boyfriend to Suplex City." Sure, for the low, low price of $9.99.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: What can I say? I'm a sucker for the classics. And hey, we've all been there.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, the Miz!