Howdy folks, and welcome to my go-home recap before this Sunday's WrestleMania 32, arguably the least anticipated sequel since My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. (Although, given the latter's surprising performance at the box office, maybe 'Mania will likewise come away with satisfactory viewership numbers.)
Last night kicked off with the Undertaker getting his ass kicked by a middle-aged businessman, and concluded with a different middle-aged businessman getting assaulted by a heavily tattooed former All-Conference defensive tackle. Only in the WWE, eh?
But before another veteran interjects to ostensibly brag about being several years past their peak and, thus, deserving of a match at the Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment – did I mention it's this Sunday? – here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the March 28, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. So Much for the Owens-Zayn Saga
They just couldn't help themselves. And by "they," I'm referring to whoever determines when to hastily pull the trigger on a fomenting feud versus letting it simmer for weeks and months until its volatility boils over. Sami Zayn's been back and on the main roster for a month. In that time, he and Kevin Owens have not so much rekindled their longstanding rivalry as compressed all its momentum. Zayn's already ambushed KO on a couple of occasions, requested and been granted a shot at his adversary's Intercontinental title (albeit along with six other random hopefuls), and as of last night, pinned the champ cleanly in a televised match. It's as if the pair's storyline was a dancing flame that got summarily stomped out. Maybe "they" took a cue from this guy.
4. Enough with the Babe Ruth Routine
And by that, I don't mean drinking, carousing and lapsing into sub-athletic physical condition. What I'm referring to is this tired shtick of pointing yonder at the WrestleMania sign like George Herman Ruth Jr. mythically gesturing toward center field before smashing a round-tripper. Last night alone, everyone short of Adam Rose silently poked the air in its direction, and each time it became more meaningless. It's a contrived tradition (down to the requisite, accompanying stoicism) that, along with the fledgling Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, might be worth scaling back.
3. Oh, Hey There Emma
And welcome back. Your NXT heel persona's been badass, and you delivered a genuine pre-WrestleMania "moment" with your charismatic return (who watches Main Event anyway?) – even if it's hard to see you on Raw without cringing at the thought of this. You were essentially protected by coming through the curtain alongside your new B.A.D. and Blonde stablemates (whatever that's about), but it was Eva Marie who felt exposed when she strutted out solo and seemed tentative and overwhelmed. Emma always had the talent and passion, and last night confirmed that she's captured a bit of that elusive cool.
2. Ambrose Is Gonna Need a Bigger Bat
Not to compete with Brock Lesnar, but to out-wacko The Walking Dead's Negan, who also arrives on TV screens Sunday night brandishing a barbed-wire-wrapped Louisville Slugger. Was this mere coincidence, or tacit acknowledgment that Dean Ambrose's real competition for preeminent lunacy might be over at AMC? Either way, Ambrose's nameless hunk of maple versus Negan's tightly wound Lucille sounds more intriguing than Dean and Brock – who once again didn't even sniff physical contact – battling with kendo sticks for 20 minutes. The match may yet transcend expectations, but these two are gonna really need to come out swinging.
1. Yeah, It's Time to Get This Main Event Over With
I'm on record as looking forward to Triple H and Roman Reigns locking horns for the former's World Heavyweight Championship. Key words there are "locking horns." If I had to endure one more meandering promo from Triple H last night – let alone when one is a thinly veiled opportunity to put his opponent over – about what losers we all are and how we'll never accomplish our dreams, punctuated with an inevitable interruption from Reigns and subsequent flying fists…well, then I probably would have sat there and endured it, as is my wont and professional obligation. It is what it is. Hunter vs. Roman was the most logical way to go in light of limited roster maneuverability, but it hasn't translated as an electric weekly drama. Time to see them step between the ropes and do what they ultimately both do at a uniquely high level: kick ass.
Below the Belt:
- HHH has the gold, but his wife was gleaming bronze.
- Still have zero idea why 'Taker took on this fight.
- Nice abs though, Shane.
- Re: 'Taker deriding Shane for his wealth, isn't that a bit of pot and kettle at this point?
- Did they avoid the straight-on angle of Shane's elbow on the 50/50 chance that it was even more awkward than it wound up?
- ESPN, WWE, blah blah blah, we get it.
- That was New Day at their most face-ish yet.
- On that note, BK might be marks, but they know funny.
- What's with Vince's right eyebrow? A Rock homage perhaps?
- I see you, Impractical Jokers
- OK, this Golden Truth buildup's gotten a bit out of hand.
- A.J. Styles is getting more and more comfortable in his WWE persona. Much credit to Chris Jericho as his generous foil.
- Re: Snoop Dogg, you more or less heard it here first.
- What was with Stardust trying to rally the crowd?
- Why should there be any reason for Kevin Owens to lose Sunday?
- I wouldn't want to be Owens' armpits.
- Move of the Night: Charlotte's Natural Selection > Figure Eight.
- Line of the Night: I enjoyed Bubba's oh-so-Brooklyn, "Leave the little girl alone" taunt during Reigns' interview with Renee Young.
- Sign of the Night: Re: the individual with the "What a Joke" sign, it's a comedic construct in which a setup builds up to an unpredictable and witty punch line.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Arby's and gyros…is nothing sacred anymore? Hey, if you win McDonald's Monopoly, you don't have to eat McDonald's anymore. Just For Men: Are they real dudes or in that barbershop or just a bunch of "actor portrayals"?
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Wyatt Family. Meh.