Perhaps the folks in Baltimore were merely bummed after their Orioles endured a 15th loss in 18 games – how's that for cheap heat? – but they were a hard lot to please last night. Not that the show merited much enthusiasm. We are officially in the fabled post-SummerSlam swoon my friends, when good storylines and meaningful resolutions go on hiatus till things gear up for the road to WrestleMania.
Though on the bright side, Summer Rae fans had their fill, the Miz and Big Show benefitted from a prolonged second-hour segment and Sheamus revealed his genealogy accounts for the blood relations of a certain fast-food mascot. But before getting into Ryback's department-of-redundancy-department backstage promos or any other fodder, allow me to feed you my five key things (in addition to the usual Twitter-friendly sidebar observations) that I took away from the September 7 edition of Raw.
5. Welcome to Dud-Leyville
It's only been two weeks since the Dudleys reappeared on WWE television in earnest, yet their presence already feels far from extraordinary. Sure, Prime Time Players are owed a rematch for their belts, but let's be real: D-Von and Bubba are who fans wanted to see partnering alongside John Cena in that challengers vs. champions main event opposite Seth Rollins and the New Day, the latter of whom have been the Dudleys' immediate and natural rival (there was even a #SavetheTables hashtag customized for it!). Instead, the Boyz made short work of Los Matadores in a glorified Superstars match and made us all nostalgic by taunting New Day backstage with an assist from Edge, Christian and a kazoo. It all has the makings of a signing that came together surreptitiously and without a real plan for how to upset the tag ranks without defying conventional logic. All that being said…
4. It Was a Landmark Night for the New Day
I still hold fast to my concern that the born-again tag champs need to keep a few crowd-appeasing tricks up their sleeves, lest they force the WWE's hand in swerving them back to babyface territory. I also can't deny the trio's twin accomplishments last night: proving they can at least co-headline Raw, and decisively inspiring the crowd's most demonstrative (if polarized) response as their music hit. Next week stands to a be a lose-lose scenario for PTP, who will no doubt fall to their adversaries and unofficially cede the spotlight so D-Von and Bubba can supplant them and resume their in-ring antics against the New Day. And thanks equally to New Day's charisma and the Dudleys' prestige, their showdown at Night of Champions will be the division's most electric moment since WrestleMania.
3. Bye Bye, Ru-Ru
And Hot Summer. And 1980s glam-metal groupie Lana. And Dolph Ziggler's steamy, glistening showers. Enough, enough, enough. Even the WWE universe has finally had enough, no matter of how often the Ravishing Russian rolls around in her granny panties. In fairness to Summer Rae, she handled herself fine on the mic pleading for "Ru Ru" Rusev to forgive her alleged infidelities with Ziggler. Nor did she lose her cool when Baltimore gave her Iron Man magazine spread the silent treatment. And now at least we know that Dolph and the Bulgarian brute will get their rematch at Night of Champions. Except that also all but guarantees this lovers' quarrel will carry on that much longer, until we finally see Lana and Summer settle their differences in a one-on-one or mixed-gender scenario. Isn't this what Main Event is for?
2. Ryback to Square One
Best I can tell, Big Show and Miz have their own beef happening independent of the IC-title hunt. The prospect of which is genuinely less exciting prospect than screening making-of featurettes from Marine 4. Concurrently, Kevin Owens has continued asserting himself as the next contender for Ryback's belt, mostly by saying he's the next contender and eating apples in a really confrontational way. When it came down to it though, Ryback was a cog in last night's storyline with Seth Rollins and Sting, picking up an upset win after the Vigilante distracted Rollins by threatening to scandalize his Han Solo-in-Carbonite homage. Consequently, with 12 days till Night of Champions, the second-most significant singles strap was all but an afterthought. Getting it into KO's hands is probably a sagely move, but it doesn't take away from the lack of intrigue in how and when that comes to pass.
1. Who Exactly Is This Sting?
Is he the exuberant, howling rabble-rouser that won over WCW faithful in the '80s and early-to-mid '90s, or the mysterious man with a starkly painted face and baseball bat who eerily stalked nWo as the 20th century neared its end? The answer is probably that he's more akin to the in-between iteration we witnessed in TNA much of the aughts and early 2010s, no matter how WWE does their darndest to redact those years from his mystique. There has to be more to kick up dust between he and Seth Rollins than possession of a dime-store statue. There needs to be more. Not only was it a buzzkill for Baltimore that Sting failed to show up in the ring, but who among those watching at home knew whether to cackle or cringe every time he commandeered the TitanTron to antagonize Rollins like a cartoon villain? There's plenty inherently at stake in these two clashing: old guard vs. new rule, order vs. tyranny, respect vs. hubris, etc. But the last thing that should be standing in for all that drama is a flimsy physical totem.
Below the Belt:
- Me confused: Are Charlotte and Nikki fighting at NOC for the title, or next week? Or both?
- Do Fernando and Diego's actions mean El Torito has been future-endeavored?
- Not sure Michael Cole should still be overtly referencing the no-charisma rap against Cesaro.
- Dean Ambrose still has that tendency to toss opponents aside before the three count.
- Would Braun Strowman's sleeper really take effect in five seconds?
- I'm down for Randy Orton in the Wyatts vs. Ambrose/Roman Reigns mix if it splinters off into something prolonged with Orton and Bray.
- We can do better than Luke Harper as "the new face of desolation."
- Big Show did not seem happy about that guy in the front row.
- I know Stardust has been MIA on Raw, but this can't wait any longer. Behold, I hath uncovered Cody Rhodes' main inspiration for his alter ego's promos.
- Move of the Night: Can Big E always gyrate to the New Day rhythm while vising his opponent in a side headlock?
- Line of the Night: As aforementioned, Sheamus, as a rebuttal to Seth Rollins comparing his appearance to that of Ronald McDonald: "Don't you dare bring my family into this." Line. Of. The. Year.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: So is The Martian basically Cast Away in outer space? Well, if they're only $1.29. And how the hell did this happen?