So, who’s excited for Fastlane? Show of hands? Anyone? Well, you’re gonna watch anyway, suckers, especially after last night’s onslaught of subliminal messaging to get the WWE Network for all your earthly needs.
And for once, a PPV isn’t inexplicably counter-programmed against a major, mainstream pop-culture event – unless you’re a really big James Burrows fan. For better or worse, last night set the stage for Sunday’s WrestleMania warm-up, and in Kane’s case, he actually emerged from underneath it (could that characterized as “vintage Kane”?), further justifying why the younger talent still invite him to parties. Apart from those shenanigans, there were the rather significant developments of Dean Ambrose losing his Intercontinental Championship, Paul Heyman getting help from a couple old friends and Heath Slater scoring a clean solo win during the show’s third hour. Yeah, it was a weird one.
But before get so worked up I start manically flailing my arms like Charlotte on the receiving end of sitting chest kicks, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the February 15, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. The Bitter End
And the Slammy for least awe-inspiring conclusion to an episode of WWE Raw goes to whoever deemed it best to sign off with silly Kane theatrics and a tepid confrontation pitting he, Big Show and Ryback against the Wyatts. It made for a seamless transition into Stone Cold’s podcast interview with Show, and left you optimistic that perhaps SmackDown will continue on its roll of airing more than ancillary fodder and serve up some intrigue heading into Fastlane. But, really, how do you make sense of capping off a go-home show with that nonsense? And if the Wyatts look like a midcard act and yak like a midcard act, maybe it’s time to stop positioning them like main-event monsters.
4. Two Cheers for the Big Guy
Let’s not go crazy and apportion three supportive hurrahs just yet, but if one thing’s come from this half-assed conflict between the Wyatts and Ryback and Co., it’s seeing the Big Guy’s gains as a performer. He’ll never be captain charisma, nor is he phenomenally versatile, but he’s looked fleet and crisp in the ring of late, with or without his new pared-down attire (R.I.P. singlet). We know he’s always had the look Mr. McMahon favors, but over the past several weeks, he’s backed it up by appearing far less stiff during matches. And that’s certainly more than one can say for, say Braun Strowman. Then again, it probably speaks to the scant buzz surrounding Fastlane that it’s six days away and I’m devoting an entire paragraph to Ryback.
3. All Hail Summer Raige!
I’m still not sure what to make of Summer Rae’s inconsequential win over Paige, or what the heck WWE’s plans are for the multi-time former champ, who’s somewhat at sea. Michael Cole muttered something unconvincing about Summer putting herself in the mix for a shot at Charlotte’s title, but I have a better idea: Pair these two opposites – Paige and Summer, that is – and together they become the world’s most unstoppable women’s tag team, Summer Raige! And while we’re discussing Ms. Rae, how is it that she’s never debuted a finisher dubbed the Summer Slam? And why are we talking about this? See below…
2. Two Hours Or We Riot
OK, enough. The three-hour experiment was noble, and I’m sure the extra ad revenue helps cover the cost of doing business, but in the words of late, great Owen Hart, enough is enough. All due respect to the talent, but the aforementioned Summer/Paige dud, Big E’s botched ending against Mark Henry and Heath Slater’s squashing of Zack Ryder would have made a fine episode of Main Event. So how did they get lost on their way to a separate taping and make it to Anaheim for Raw? WWE, I beg of you (and not just because it means I’d be off the clock at a more reasonable hour on Monday nights): Cut your losses, suck it up, scale back to a can’t miss couple hours, and all of America and the world will thank you. Or if you prefer, offer some kind of bonus Raw content on your Network before or after the USA broadcast, sort of like televised dark matches. Who wouldn’t watch televised dark matches? The better question is: Who the hell is watching a third hour with second-rate entertainment?
1. Taking Dean’s Belt Was Pretty Genius
The “Fatal 5-Way” itself that kicked off Raw was kinda bunk (oooh, better pray for Ambrose up against the likes of Tyler Breeze and Stardust), but the finish was dynamite. Taking the strap off Dean heading into Fastlane instantly makes you wonder whether the “lunatic fringe” has a real shot to vie for Triple H’s title now that he doesn’t have consolation gold to fall back on. And it’s hard to argue with putting said gold back on Kevin Owens. Nor is it hard to imagine Dolph Ziggler finally being thrown a bone with a win over KO on Sunday. Owens is Teflon right now, and a la Ambrose, dropping the IC weight could mean he’s officially ready to move up a class. Though let’s be honest: Tossing Stardust into that rodeo was WWE’s way of ensuring that Cody doesn’t once again headline my roundup of those “Noticeable In Their Absence.”
Below the Belt:
- I could be into a Heyman/Dudleys reunion.
- Strong work from the Dudleys all in all.
- Did Bubba always have that awful tattoo? And will he beat me up for asking?
- Not sure Roman Reigns was given a chance to make us care.
- They’re really killing Kalisto’s mojo.
- R.I.P. Sheamus’ dingleberry beard.
- This is quite the…Wade-ing game with Mr. Barrett.
- Charlotte and Brie did all they could do…
- “Goat-faced vegan babies.” Heh heh.
- When’s it gonna be Naomi’s time?
- OK then, re: the Legacy of Excellence award.
- Holy headache from all the chatter during Miz and A.J. Styles’ excellent match.
- I am, naturally, thrilled whenever the Miz puts in solid work.
- We love you, Mark Henry, but it may be time to hang ’em up.
- Move of the Night: I’ll go with the Luchas and Neville’s triple moonsault on League of Nations at ringside.
- Sign of the Night: Yeah, “Suck it Canada”!
- Line of the Night: I didn’t know where R-Truth was going with, “We’re not in your house,” but I liked where Goldust took it by replying, “Of course not. It’s not 1997.” Swish.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: I mean, c’mon Pizza Hut. I love that Wendy’s’ version of “local” sourcing is that all their beef is sourced in North America. And I don’t get the Janelle Monae thing.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Titus O’Neil (sigh)