Who's ready for Payback?! That's right, WWE Universe: The next signature Sunday night event takes place a mere 19 days from this writing, meaning there's scant time for the boys in back to extend existing feuds and expedite new stories with haste.
How positive a step did last night's broadcast take in that direction? Depends how much you like R-Truth and Rosa Mendes. Or Damien Sandow ditching his gimmick in favor of some fifth-grade humor. Or the notion of Bray Wyatt picking a fight with the "Big Guy". Alas, before I allude to any further qualitative judgment, let's get to the five key things I took away (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) from the April 27 edition of Raw.
5. Respect Kane's Authority
He won't be winning any titles any time soon, and thank goodness he wasn't insinuated in the Payback main-event picture, but Kane's been holding it down as the primary voice of the Authority these past few weeks. Glenn Jacobs has learned a thing or two about a thing or two over the past 20 years from some of the best talkers, commentators and producers in the business, and he's relishing this dual role as Seth Rollins' reality check and de facto GM. It's fair to say the whole "Justin Bieber" meme that emerged last night would have been a second-rate Comedy Central Roast rib if initiated by a lesser performer. No one's mistaking Kane for the Rock, but I'll take him over John Laurinaitis.
4. Feed Me Less
I'm already a Bray Wyatt nonbeliever (or Bo-liever?), but a potential rivalry with Ryback really gives me little faith. Maybe what's best for Bray is an adversary who's similarly enigmatic (and, in that instance, one who can be present for a longer stretch than Undertaker). It's also possible WWE did screw the pooch by disbanding Wyatt's extended family without much of a dust-up (both Harper and Rowan are, after all, characters in need of incentive). The most intriguing scenario would be someone from Wyatt's past coming back to stalk him, not much different from how Kane reenergized Taker's career. Maybe, as it turns out, Sister Abigail walks the earth and is, in fact, of indescribable gender or being? Or, at the very least, not Ryback.
3. What Now, Sandow?
I personally didn't love Damien Sandow coming out in plain clothes and burying his "intellectual savior" gimmick, but I was also eager for the former Money in the Bank winner to reclaim his identity and bask in a well-deserved moment of recognition (it's been a long way from Aaron Stevens). Now I want to see Sandow take it to the next level. An awkward, arrhythmic segment with Curtis Axel highlighted by Sandow's unfortunate choice to ape the Axe Man via borderline-offensive pantomime didn't necessarily set an encouraging tone for what's to come. So where does the chameleon formerly known as Mr. McMahondow go from here? Last I checked, a certain ex-partner of his currently lost in the stars could benefit from being brought back down to earth.
2. So, I Guess the Bellas Are Faces Now?
This is the dilemma in sending Paige off to film a movie for some undetermined stretch of time just as AJ Lee kisses wrestling goodbye. Natalya's off abetting Kidd and Cesaro, and there really aren't many viable faces to carry the Divas ranks now that Naomi's gone all boss-like on the WWE Universe (and man, she really is hateable). So, we have the old switcheroo, and suddenly twin-magicians Brie and Nikki are sympathetic victims of Naomi's championship obsessions. It's just another odd twist in a very strange year for the sisters, who've been asked to join forces against Stephanie McMahon, then execute a long-in-the-making turn on one another, only to unceremoniously abandon the sibling riff and be BFF bullies and, finally, tone down the bitchiness and re-up on underdog Brie Mode enthusiasm. Sounds exhausting, and it's been exhausting to watch.
1. Is a Triple-Threat Really "The Last Thing" You Want, Seth?
Really, are you sure? So whatever the WWE Universe decides, they absolutely, definitely shouldn't put you in a triple-threat match for your title at Payback against Roman Reigns at Randy Orton? That would cause you angst and unrest? Well then, ha! Guess what? Into the triple-threat you go! Wait, that's the result that WWE was angling for all along? Was this all some kind of reverse psychology? But my gut told me Roman vs. Rollins was the better play as a viewer, even if there's no real time to build the appropriate conflict between those two in time for May 17, making a three-way tango much easier to book. Bastards. Where's Billy Corgan when you need him?
Below the Belt:
- Really not that excited about the revamped King of the Ring tourney, particularly without a PPV attached, but I'd love to see them go for it and give it to Neville. Failing that, throw Barrett a bone.
- Though just to spitball, why not make the IC belt its reward?
- Theory: Cena loses at Payback, retreats out of shame, comes back with new attitude.
- Look at Fandango, being all aerialist.
- Dudes really love Lana.
- Cody's mustache, meet Dallas' Bo-tee.
- Ziggler costing Ambrose his match against Sheamus made no sense.
- My wife, re: Rose and Rosa: "They had a magic-tent moment."
- Move of the Night: No shocker here: Neville, with the springboard moonsault off the top rope onto the floor.
- Line of the Night: "The family tree's got no branches on it!" Nice one, JBL.
- Sign of the Night: Whoever declared "I just made poops!" is my hero. Hit me up on Twitter.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Whatever, Taco Bell, Tosh got 'em first. Have you no shame, Kevin Durant? And what the fuck is a mophie?
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Daniel Bryan, Trips and Steph, Lucha Dragons, Big Show, Rowan