In the word of Euphegenia Doubtfire, helllooooo! And my sincerest apologies for such a lengthy silence, but hey, someone’s gotta take an offseason. But what a time to come back. The draft is tomorrow, Daniel Bryan returned tonight and we’re almost in the clear of Battleground and en route to Brock v. Orton at SummerSlam. (Man, WWE has to be bummed that CM Punk’s UFC debut got bumped from the following night to Sept. 10.) Anyhow, given the length of time all four of you have patiently waited for the resumption of these recaps, I won’t leave you wanting any long. Without further application of Shane McMahon’s personal bronzing cream, here are the five key insights (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the July 18, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. GM Advantage: SmackDown
Hey, something had to happen to make us feel like Raw’s long-suffering little sibling had an edge. And speaking of which, looks like new SmackDown GM Daniel Bryan took a razor to those natty locks of his, either befitting his new faux-executive role or as a concession to the legitimate concern of feeling fresh to audiences upon his re-immersion. Meanwhile, Stephanie did her best to muster enthusiasm for her choice, Mick Foley, a move that signaled a pair of motives: going back to the well with a harmlessly familiar pick that would set up anticipation for Bryan without falling totally flat, and cross-promoting whatever that show is on WWE Network (oh, there it is) that most dudes will be watching to ogle Foley’s daughter. Yes?
4. Make Alberto Del Rio Great Again
All I’m saying is, Del Rio’s ostensible lay-down to help build up Darren Young better have been filed as a “take one for the team” gesture worthy of reward. I have no idea what Young’s character is, whether he’s worth rooting for or being leery of, or if the thinking was, “Let’s just half-ass this like we did the New Day and hope it turns out for the best, and throw Bob Backlund in as a contingency?” I like Young a lot. I appreciate his talent and admire his outspokenness, and healing from myriad injuries has had to be rough. But I’m not quite driven to get behind this iteration just yet, let alone when it means a serviceable heel like Del Rio gets thrown under the bus.
3. Comedy Club
Is it merely I, or has the unified heel trio of A.J. Style, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows digressed into grade-school antagonism before they ever had a chance to impose any dominance? Maybe this indicates the three are gonna pulled apart for the draft, so they’re just having fun bringing their Bullet boys touch to Raw until Anderson and Gallows tear it up one show while A.J. gets serious about solo gold on the other. In any case, while I’ve appreciated how WWE’s bypassed sandwiching the Club into mid-card purgatory, I’d rather see them raise silent hell than get so easily inflamed by playground taunts.
2. Natalya Really Does Deserve It
Seriously. Crowds should be chanting as much in her direction every time she arrives and beats the crap out of Becky Lynch. I know this sentiment might seem a bit belated, as Nattie’s heel turn took place a ways back, but forgive me this one indulgence in acknowledging what I lacked a platform to comment on for much of the summer. Nat has really relished her chance to reclaim a villainous streak and, in doing so, prolong her place in the women’s spotlight for what’s been the better part of 2016. And hell, depending on how things shake out after the draft, she could well be a cornerstone of the division chosen show and, fathom the thought, champion. Now if only we could get around to that equally overdue push for Naomi…
1. Title Flight
So, best I can make of this, Stephanie McMahon rushed to award Seth Rollins the new champ after he and Dean Ambrose finished their bout in a virtual tie. The ref was till seeing stars and added little helpful input. There’s a draft tomorrow, and there’s no shortage of speculation about whether that means we’ll once again see separate champions for separate brands. And lastly, Roman Reigns is still figuring into all this when it comes to a head on Sunday, though I’d be shocked if he was MIA for tomorrow’s show. It was a finale that summoned more questions than it answered, which was pretty much the canniest way possible to guarantee that millions will tune into the live SmackDown premiere, which—let’s be honest—is vastly more important in the short term that signing off from an ultimately inconsequential Monday night with no loose ends.
Below the Belt:
- What was that about testicles?
- I love Daniel too, but enough with the “Thank you” chants.
- Very weird that KO and Zayn’s flurrying fists have become a patented part of their collaborative move set.
- They’re really circling the wagons with those two, Chris Jericho and Cesaro.
- Skillet and WWE 4eva.
- The beat takes a bit too long to kick in on Darren Young’s theme.
- Yeah, Enzo’s still not for me.
- Baron Corbin’s gonna look much more badass when he finally shaves his head.
- I wish Dana Brooke would stop flexing.
- I also wish she’d stop “Wooo!”-ing.
- She should, actually, be woo-woo-ing.
- Aaaaand the Ascension are officially for laughs.
- Please tell me someone made a gif of Rollins’ oddball series of half-punt kicks on Ambrose.
- Move of the Night: I’ll give Enzo this: That flying DDT off the top rope is pretty sweet.
- Line of the Night: Stephanie’s ad-libbed, “They have. Once. They did” rebuttal to Daniel Bryan saying they’ve never cheered for her. She’s a subtle assassin.
- Sign of the Night: Hey, “Free Brady” guy, why not worry about liberating your city’s venue from Dunkin’ Donuts sponsorship?
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: No offense, Toyota, but if my brother and I are racing in Monaco, we’re not doing it in matching Camrys. That Chili’s spot wasn’t an ad for Richard Linklater’s latest movie? Shave butter? This guy wore it better.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: The Vaudevillains, Apollo Crews, Social Outcasts, Dudley Boyz, Breezedango, the Usos, the Shining Stars… yeah, tough night for tag team