Whether it's 3MB (R.I.P.) hitting Bourbon Street to bring the rock or Dean Ambrose taking Seth Rollins' Heavyweight Championship belt on an Instagram tour of the French Quarter, WWE loves to make New Orleans a character in its own right when descending upon the Crescent City. In fact, they may as well have entered New Orleans as a final participant in Sunday's Money in the Bank ladder match, since it's already a fairly unwieldy affair.
But then, all that would have taken away from the surprise of Kofi Kingston not winning.
And speaking of Mr. Kingston, he must have double-checked his calendar to make sure it was 2015 when informed he and Jamie Noble would be competing in successive bouts to close out yesterday's go-home show. Especially when Kevin Owens, representing the company's future, kicked off the show by staring down John Cena, its symbolic soon-to-be past. But before I prattle on any longer and run the risk of a frustrated Joey Mercury undoing his earpiece, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the June 8, 2015 edition of Raw.
5. Dónde Está Cesaro?
Why am I using the one language Cesaro doesn't speak to inquire as to his whereabouts? I think the real question here is how the writers couldn't come up with some way to integrate the Swiss Superman into last night's affairs, despite the absence of his injured partner Tyson Kidd and his subsequent lack of storyline heading into Money in the Bank. (In regards to the latter, this be the price you pay when staging a marquee event every other week, but we'll get to that later.) No reason he couldn't have been inserted as the final ladder-match participant once news of Kidd's latest unfortunate setback broke (get well, T.J.), rather than Kane appointing himself its seventh combatant. Or maybe this was a chance for him to start fresh and cut a true-to-life promo on his continued run of missed opportunities. Whether he's dynamite on the mic or not, fans are behind the guy and would have rallied. And it certainly would have helped mitigate the interminability of some other segments, such as, oh, the endless gauntlet of guys puffing their chests about aforementioned ladder match. Cesaro, if nothing else, is a worker, so let the man work!
4. Lana Still Hates America
I feel it bears repeating. Just as it did when Zeb Colter somehow spun his antagonistic xenophobia into zealous support from the WWE Universe. I need more from Lana's story. It's not enough that she's hot, and so fans want to see her, and so she gains her independence from Rusev and so Dolph Ziggler swoops in to her rescue. I need some nuance. I need an interview/promo where Lana talks of having been brainwashed into anti-American sentiment or having been persuaded by the passion of U.S. audiences to reconsider her biases (Alberto Del Rio was given at least that much to work with). Otherwise, all I see is some alternate version of Rocky IV where Balboa ends up falling for Brigitte Nielsen's Ludmilla and Adrian can go fuck herself. Unexpectedly, it's Rusev who's been the big winner in this story, showing flashes of depth to his character and losing little of his physical menace. After all, even brushing up against poor Lana apparently broke her ankle in three places, which may as well be karma for how she crushed the Bulgarian's heart.
3. Fine, Feed Me More
I give. After his charming appearance on Miz TV (did I actually just put that in formal titular italics?), I'm willing to let it slide that his latest babyface iteration completely betrays any logic for anyone who watched WWE programming around the time (i.e. not that long ago) he portrayed your typical locker room bully. And I'll even look past the corny, evolved caveman gimmick and concede that Ryback's developed some real charisma. Maybe the Intercontinental title's flushed him with the confidence he lacked, or perhaps I was vulnerable and easily swayed amid a fairly lackluster night of action. But fine, I'll root for the Big Guy on Sunday. What's my other option? Big Show? (Well played, WWE, well played.)
2. Now That's How You Start 'Raw'
It's still unclear what on earth compelled the powers that be to kick off last week with more plodding Authority drama when all anyone wanted to see was the white-hot Kevin Owens go toe-to-toe with his overnight foe, John Cena. Seven days later, that course was duly corrected, and Raw likely ensured some pretty positive first-hour numbers by more or less making it the NXT hour. (Despite diminishing his own on-screen role, Triple H must be beaming.) There wasn't much contact between Cena and KO, but not much was required. The stakes are set, and these two are the reason anyone will be buying in come Sunday, so let it simmer. Plus, we got the rare treat of Cena on commentary (the guy is smooth), and a mostly botch-free match between Owens and former NXT champ Neville, even if it was a thankless self-sacrifice for the "new sensation." Now, if only there was a story with complimentary momentum to end the show. In the meanwhile, Joey Mercury pinning the world champ will have to do.
1. Bye, Biweekly, Bye
OK, WWE, you've had your fun: Elimination Chamber was a fairly successful experiment in broadcast autonomy, and for the most part, you've been able to generate enough rapid interest in rivalries like KO/Cena's mutual begrudging to sell us on yet another third night of must-see programming. But after Money in the Bank, let's all give each other a little space. MITB, characteristically one of the year's most anticipated PPVs, is looking pretty dull right about now, in large part due to the two weeks allowed to develop enough interior storylines to sustain interest in its ultimate outcome. Sheamus beefing with Orton? Meh. Reigns looking over his shoulder at Kane? Not enough. Ziggler presumably getting taken out whenever Rusev intervenes? Sure. Neville symbolically taking the torch from Kofi Kingston and sending flashbulbs a-popping with dynamite spots? Why not? But what does it all add up to? And why is Big Show suddenly claiming entitlement to Ryback's title again? And isn't this main-event run all happening a little fast for Ambrose, no matter how many times Rollins gets pinned on TV to level the playing field? It's all too fast! But hallelujah, Battleground takes place more than a month after MITB wraps, so here's to being hopeful that Roman, Bray, Cesaro, Wade Barrett and more find their next dance partner as of Monday and get to take this one slow. Beause right now, everyone's just stepping on toes.
Below the Belt:
- Man, I really hope this all leads to Owens vs. Zayn on the main roster.
- Really, John? Most anticipated rematch ever?
- Love that Noble. "Tarnation!"
- Will Rowan's fleeting but consequential face turn be looked at as one of this era's singular anomalies?
- Or will that honor go to Ziggler's new ponytail? Or his cornrow tail?
- It's saying something when the most memorable moment of that ladder-match promo was R-Truth's comic relief.
- Move of the Night: That crazy pump-handle neckbreaker over the knee from Owens just looks brutal.
- Sign of the Night: Or year? "Feed Me S'mores"
- Line of the Night: Love the Miz (speaking to Ryback): "Can I be blunt with you? You're ugly."
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: I'll rent anything J.B. Smoove is selling. Take that, Jeff Goldblum! And with the Monday night pizza-delivery ad wars fully underway during Raw, I'll have to pass on Pizza Hut's triple-chocolate brownie.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Bray Wyatt, Wade Barrett, Naomi, Damien Sandow, Cesaro.