To quote the signature opening of Bill Maher's monologue, I know why you're excited. It's because this recap marks one year since we started offering our weekly take on pro wrestling's premiere episodic series. Unless I'm mistaken, and you simply can't curb your enthusiasm for the glorified MSG house show that's airing live on the WWE Network this coming Saturday. In which case, all I can say is: weirdo.
Nevertheless, last night's broadcast was much less concerned with lighting the fiery path to Hell in a Cell than imploring audiences to subscribe to WWE's streaming service to catch the apex of a supposed epic rivalry between Brock Lesnar and Big Show. That, and continuing to put Seth Rollins in the no-win situation of selling mortal fear in the face of demon Kane's duplicitous antics. Good thing we at least got some New Day hijinks to kick things off, not to mention an unexpected candidate for match of the year to bid farewell.
So, without any further uprising from a resurgent King Barrett, here's a barrage of the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the September 28 edition of Raw.
5. JBL Needs a Fact-Checker
For all the dirt-sheet talk over the years about how Vince is in the commentators' ears feeding lines and screaming obscenities, you'd think someone would have piped in to JBL's earpiece after his conspicuous pop-culture gaffe. During Neville and Stardust's match, while discussing the latter's split personas, JBL offered, "Ya wanna look at Prince's, whatever, name he went as before he was Prince? No, you called him Prince." Putting curious grammatical usage aside, and to answer his question: Sure. Prince's actual first name is Prince (inspired by his bandleader father's stage name). Unless JBL is a subversive genius and his monarchial patter was meant to foreshadow the eminent return of King Barrett, who disrupted the bout and Bull Hammered both competitors into oblivion. If so, all hail!
4. Rough Night for Seth
Nothing about Rollins' performance last night seemed particularly smooth, from his bumbling, repetitive promos to a bit of difficulty locking up Kane's arms for a Pedigree. Then again, think about what was asked of the champ: "Hey Seth: Even though you and your character are both theoretically children of the Attitude Era who've seen Kane demystified, not to mention that you're the storied brains behind the Shield, go out there and appear susceptible to Kane's mind games and petrified of being dragged to hell." That's a tough sell, right there, and it's enough to make you wonder if this whole angle would work better with something subtler than the Jekyll and Hyde routine. Eager-to-please Corporate Kane is far more insidious and entertaining than the literal manifestation of his dark side, and a more sensible challenge for the supposed intellectual architect. Otherwise, Rollins is burdened with pulling off his own balancing act, half of which is, unenviably, playing dumb.
3. Stop Saying 'Divas Revolution'
Just let it happen already. Can you imagine if from the first sign of Rock and Stone Cold's charisma, the powers that be got together and decided they'd have their male talent go out there every week and reiterate that they're ushering in a new "Attitude Era" like there was an incentivized quota? For that matter, how many revolutions go around self-consciously identifying themselves by a one-slogan-fits-all catchphrase? Or maybe it's a precise representation of where we are in a post-#Occupy culture. WWE's female competitors have finally gotten their overdue share of airtime and some continuity in storytelling, but at the expense of being martyrs for a so-called revolution rather than making a real name for themselves as individuals. It's all very calculated and cynical, and has been from the moment Stephanie McMahon played ringmaster and introduced the prefab trio of women's factions. So let's just drop the rhetoric and let them fight. That's what they've done to get here, and they can handle it from here on out.
2. Five More Days, and It's All Over
The tyranny of Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar, that is. Many a fan will look back and rue the weeks when Raw and SmackDown were overrun by the veteran giant en route to his ballyhooed confrontation with the Beast in what amounts to a supersized Saturday Night's Main Event for the WWE Network era. Though last night, Paul Heyman finally emerged to help enhance the tacit feud, and the live crowd buzzed with optimism that Lesnar himself might appear, at which point each of Show's Cesaro squashes and plodding clashes with Mark Henry would be forgiven. Alas, Show merely came out in his sweats, stole Heyman's thunder and left us all to ponder whether this might have worked better as John Cena's fight. Besides, is anyone really tuning in on October 3 for something other than watching the New Day try and gyrate past hometown heroes the Dudley Boyz? Anything else is just booty.
1. Bray and Roman Might Be Broken
And apart from the somewhat odd, unceremonious sign-off, there's very little to fix about that main event. There was much to chant, "This is awesome" about even before Wyatt and Reigns got counted out and started laying waste to barricades and announce tables. (Kidding: No one should ever chant that.) It was hard to buy that this would really be their blow-off battle, and the booking of it seemed a bit abrupt, but in the end, a great match is all that matters, and these two finally made good on months of antagonism. With their respective buddies kept from ringside, we got a crisp, hard-hitting, perfectly paced and nuanced 15 minutes, culminating in the kind of chaos that begged for vintage Jim Ross hyperbole. In its place, the fans filled in with a spontaneous and spectacular "Yes!" chant that articulated our collective catharsis. More importantly, the match was a potential watershed for both participants, who each needed this kind of showing to re-cement their stature and command respect. I still have no idea why the show went off the air with both men unconscious atop a pile of monitors and wires, or if that was the plan, but either way: Mission accomplished.
Below the Belt:
- Nice showing from Xavier Woods against Cena.
- Seems folks only want to see the Dudleys headbutt guys' balls.
- Not sure what that MizTV segment as a whole did to advance anything.
- I like this new aggressive Brie though.
- "Ashley from HR" definitely let a British accent slip.
- I can't say enough, or too little, about the overeager Buffalonians inciting Bray and Roman as they spilled into the crowd.
- Cena could not be more right about Raw as a whole right now: There's a time for comedy, and a time to get serious.
- Move of the Night: Take your pick: Bray barreling Roman through the barricade or Roman's flying spear through the announce table.
- Line of the Night: #HustleLoyaltyBooty
- Sign of the Night: "Straight Outta Brockport"
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Creepy. And ewww.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Cesaro, Sheamus…and hey, where did our dear Fandan-go?