They say you can only count on death and taxes. But I say: Nay, you can also count on one hand, two hands and vintage Texas Instruments SR-16 calculators. My point: Who cares? Why should logic be a prerequisite in a universe where the Royal Rumble’s conditional premise is perverted, Braun Strowman is no match for Bo Dallas and Chris Jericho’s Cruising-inspired ensembles fall inferior to the Miz’s futuristic tunics?
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy last night’s theatrics, but who can resist a bit of adding-machine humor amid such an immeasurably odd, transitional period for WWE. So before Bray Wyatt turns out the lights out on me and Sting descends from my ceiling fan to start bragging about being in the Hall of Fame, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the January 11, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. The Hall Is the New Slammys
At least judging by Sting’s non-appearance after JBL officially announced him as head of the WWE Hall of Fame’s 2016 class. Hey, Steve Borden’s a busy guy, and you gotta keep the mystique fresh. You can’t just have him popping up at every meet-and-greet and town hall that clamors for his presence. (And you’d be amazed at how popular this guy is on the small-town-politics-circuit.) Maybe the Stinger is still recovering from his match with Seth Rollins at Night of Champions, but coming off the woeful 2015 Slammys ceremony, when half the recipients had prior commitments – and given the pomp that went into JBL’s in-ring introduction – it would have been fun if Sting even checked in via satellite with some cryptic acknowledgment. Now if only WWE still had one legacy alum willing to appear at any venue, at any time, at the drop of a check…
4. Told Ya Kalisto Was a Star
I think authoring this column for the past year-plus entitles me to one, “I told you so.” Or in this case, my ninth or 10th. Although when I opined last week that Kalisto was ready to break out on his own, I never would have guessed he’d be U.S. Champ seven days later. But by the time the match was announced for Raw, it was virtually foregone they were setting us up for a “miracle” moment, the kind that gets commemorated in future best-of-Raw packages and – if Kalisto’s lucky – his own career-overview DVD. And regardless of his partner Sin Cara’s injury, Kalisto’s inevitable liftoff all started with that unforgettable descent off a ladder at TLC, which just goes to show why, for better or worse, these guys risk life and limb to leave us in awe.
3. Royal Rumble = Sausage Fest
Maybe that’s why so much hot-dogging was going on during that opening segment, eh? Anyway, those of us with entirely too much time on our hands would like to know: What better way to cap off a Divas Revolution than by fully integrating the Rumble and making it a 30-person free-for-all for Roman Reigns’ belt? You’re telling me there’s a single WWE Network subscriber out there who’d rather watch Konnor and Viktor vie for the title than Charlotte and Sasha Banks? The argument could be that this year’s event already atypical enough with Heavyweight Championship accolades up for grabs, but I say that at times like these, sports-entertainment higher-ups need to ask themselves: What would Billy Corgan do?
2. The Wyatts Just Hit Bottom
And then the floor collapsed and they plummeted another several depths to some new, unforeseen nadir of humiliation. It was dopey enough when the foursome showed up at ringside to more or less pledge allegiance to Vince McMahon’s “anyone but Roman” edict. But watching Heath Slater’s Social Outcasts (the hash tag is implied) run Bray and his disciples out of the ring – albeit with Ryback’s help – was an unenviable moment for WWE’s most bogus bogeymen. Not to mention, it was a bit of a missed opportunity to really get Slater’s job squad over, as opposed to leaving everyone confounded as to how they just beat Bray and Co. at their own game. I wouldn’t read too much into the Outcasts’ union with Ryback. As Michael Cole made plain, that’s meant to illustrate the unlikely alliances that lie ahead on January 24. And if this comes down to beef between Bray and the Big Guy, that’s fine, but he should probably orchestrate a definitive beatdown on his brother Bo first.
1. Can the Rumble Come Down to Brock and KO?
Please? The McMahons have already demonstrated that the PG-era rulebook’s out the window until this ship gets righted. What could be more ballsy than abbreviating Reigns’ stay in the Rumble match as a dramatic reversal of course from his polarizing past two appearances? I only float the notion because, holy shit was it electric when Brock Lesnar stormed the ring during Reigns’ one-versus-all (or whatever that formless mess was) main event and eventually got his arms locked around a resistant Kevin Owens. We know KO is ready, but we also know it’s not quite his moment to win it all. Nevertheless, letting him come in runner-up to the Beast would be an easy way to push Owens further up the ladder without mucking up any plans for Brock vs. Roman heading into WrestleMania. And judging by that virtual nanosecond that Owens and Lesnar collided last night, a climactic stare-down between the two big men would make for some serious Orlando magic.
Below the Belt:
- I, for one, will miss John Cena.
- Ambrose vs. Owens is the best IC feud in years.
- Probably good to give Big Show a week off to help organize his return as a face.
- Del Rio’s stomach freaks me out.
- What was up with Jericho’s “back of the bus brothas?” allusion to the Usos? Oh, thanks for clearing it up, Mark Henry.
- Guess no concussion-protocol necessary for Sheamus.
- Becky Lynch!!!
- I liked the little detail of Bubba Ray leering disapprovingly at New Day in that opening-segment lineup.
- Seems like League of Nations has officially gone the way of MexAmerica.
- Man, all these NXT arrivals have really thinned out the jobber herd.
- Damien Sandow! In his vintage intellectual-savior attire!
- Move of the Night: You expected it during Kalisto’s match, but not from Del Rio, who’s inverted suplex off the turnbuckle was nifty.
- Line of the Night: Steph, having Roman Reigns’ New Orleans contingent pegged: “They can’t even get their chant together.”
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Geico’s latest ads are conceptually amusing, but god that, “It’s what you do” catchphrase is annoying. Speaking of catchphrases, really, Jolly Rancher? “Keep on Sucking”? And who says there’s nothing funny about tax time?
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Sting, Big Show, Rusev, Neville, Kane