Ah, Tampa, haven for aging wrestlers (anyone seen the Nasty Boys?) and birthplace of Aaron Carter. But isn't there another celebrity born and raised in the Tampa area who invariably came to mind during last night's broadcast? A celebrity who, as of a few months ago, was an untouchable icon in sports entertainment, but as of this week, was on Good Morning America defending himself against perceptions of unvarnished racism and reconciling his severed ties with WWE?
I'm sure it'll come to me.
In the meantime, let's focus on the stuff that happened on Monday night, some of which is actually worth discussing. Of course, there was also the usual backstage nonsense that's better left to languish in its soapy silliness. But in the spirit of the Divas' Beat the Clock Challenge, I shall waste no more precious bandwidth and reveal the five key things (in addition to the usual Twitter-friendly sidebar observations) that I took away from the August 31 edition of Raw.
5. Someone Save Dolph
I know people love Lana, and even more people like watching her and Summer Rae roll around in their grandma panties. But putting aside the fact that this feud is a really lame betrayal of WWE's women's-empowerment campaign (ya can't have it both ways, Steph), there's no denying that the shenanigans surrounding Lana, Summer, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev have wasted months of everyone's time and talent. If only half the company's current storylines were given this much of a build. By the time Summer was giggling with delight over having manipulated Ziggler and Lana into some kind of lover's spat that involved peekaboo showers and tan-line teases – sexual harassment in the workplace is hilarious! – I was pleading to watch Big Show and Ryback stomp around for 20 minutes.
4. Two Brauns Don't Make a Right
Braun Strowman big. Braun Strowman tough. Braun Strowman throw large man round Vince McMahon's canvas like mighty oak. Sigh. After watching Bray Wyatt's black sheep mechanically assault Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, I'm inclined to side with Big Show when he dares fans to name his replacement. Show was and is an agile, athletic anomaly for his size and raised expectations for "giants" in pro wrestling. Yet it's hard not to fear that, with more mid-sized talents like Daniel Bryan and Tyson Kidd on injured reserve and the likes of Neville being marginalized as kids' attractions, Strowman is a sign that WWE's ready to dust off its vintage plodding-monster model. I realize it's only been a week, and for all I know Strowman could prove a durable, versatile replacement for the aging Show, Kane et al. But as of now, I see very little nuance there, especially for a guy joining a quasi-mystical cult stable. And I still keep waiting for him to grab a mic and say...
3. So Much For Team PCB
It's been but a couple weeks from the time "Submission Sorority" was re-christened Team PCB, and already the seeds of sisterly jealousy appear to be sown. All it took was a bit of meddling by the Bellas and hurt feelings over a Beat the Clock Challenge in which only one PCB representative would emerge to challenge Nikki at Night of Champions. Oh, well, you know how those ladies can't coexist for too long without petty envy. Perhaps my criticism is premature, and Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch will persevere in tact. And as I argued last week, Paige is probably better off going rogue. Not to mention this is wrestling, and harmony makes for far less entertaining television than dissent. Still, it's pretty clear what WWE can't resist making its competitive women overly emotional.
2. New Day + Dudley Boyz = Gold
There's some time to work out the kinks, e.g. that awkward "save the tables" bit (though "save the tables" as a standalone New Day mantra is kind of funny). But all told, watching New Day and the Dudley Boyz work together was an epiphany, and a bittersweet reminder of what it's like when two teams with a clear sense of gimmick and timing come together as perfect foils. I'd be happy to watch Xavier duck and run from D-Von and Bubba Ray from here through Survivor Series, so long as Big E saunters and slow dances his way around the ring, Kofi keeps clap-scotching and the Dudleys make them pay periodically with massive 3Ds. There's some real old-school excitement to this feud, and the onus is on PTP and other duos to keep up.
1. Rollins' Reckoning?
Not in the Wayward Pines sense, though that would certainly make an interesting stipulation for Sting vs. Seth Rollins at Night of Champions. But it's worth discussing whether this is the moment when Rollins is relieved of his Heavyweight Championship belt, at least for the time being. Would Sting really sign on just to lose every match he's in? Isn't there some kind of poetic injustice to denying WCW's iron man his final, elusive accomplishment? It's not foolish to fathom a scenario in which Rollins only hangs onto his U.S. strap, extending he and Cena's beef, while Sting accepts a challenge from some equally iconic adversary (Lesnar?). You can armchair-book this however you want, but penciling in Rollins for separate bouts against Cena and Sting was a pretty brilliant way to keep people paying attention throughout a thus-far pretty lackluster NOC card, and definitely creates some excitement for what becomes of the main-event picture in its wake. But enough with Seth's stupid statue already.
Below the Belt:
- Did I mention Xavier's hair?
- I don't know if we still need PTP on commentary.
- Becky should maybe ditch the goggles.
- What was Lilian wearing?
- No Filet-O-Fish chants?
- Alicia still feels like a third wheel here.
- IC luster be in trouble.
- Now that was a solidly executed Pop-Up Powerbomb.
- Move of the Night: How about that quality gut-wrench off the middle rope on a very large Kevin Owens by Cesaro?
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: You really should watch the Mr. Robot finale (unless you haven't seen the other nine); You can't sucker me with cute dogs in BabyBjorns, Amazon; and these kids may socially smoke, but their bigger problem is they're on acid.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Brock Lesnar, Sheamus, Randy Orton, Stardust, Wade Barrett, Neville, Triple H.