Howdy folks, and welcome to my weekly recap of Monday night NXT – I mean WWE – action on the USA Network.
It was another busy evening, with even more post-‘Mania debuts, first-time matchups and a whole lot of temporary GM Shane-O Mac (Undertaker who?) And the good news for Wyatt Family fans is that they’re here, they’re back to instilling fear, get used to it. And, apparently, cheer for it. Heck, not like there’s any boos left in the building after folks get through with Roman Reigns.
In any event, and lest I appear SAWFT (ugh) for delaying this any further, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the April 11, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Move Is in the Hart
That makes no sense. I realize this. But the idea is to open a forum for discussing a disconcerting trope in men and women’s matches alike, exemplified in Charlotte’s title defense against Natalya. Near the crescendo of their terrific bout, each woman victimized the other with their opponent’s signature move (Natalya ultimately won via DQ after papa Flair interfered – ho-hum). And while no lesser luminary than Stone Cold has opined that, “The best way to beat a man is with his own finisher,” even the Rattlesnake would probably agree that it’s become all too rote a device of late, eroding its specialness. The problem is, you start seeing various competitors easily use their adversary’s maneuver against them each week, and it plays out less like a thrillingly well-scouted bit of strategy than their coup de grâce seeming so easy to apply a jobber could do it. Your move, Adam Rose.
4. Maryse’s Pieces
I know: also nonsensical. Maryse was clearly having a fit about Mars’ M&M’s (and we can retire any further riffing on the old Van Halen “no brown M&M’s” gag), not the Hershey-branded Reese’s alternative. Though let me use this confectionary disconnect as a platform to make one thing very clear: I’m not so sure the Miz needed a boost from his on- and off-screen wife. If WWE had no idea what to do with its highly decorated but divisive workhorse, that’s fair. But pairing the charmingly grating Awesome One with his equally emotive but far more shrill and uncharismatic spouse makes for sensory overload. Miz is still a crisp performer (though he could really start putting more oomph back into that inverted backbreaker) who provokes audience reaction. In my view, either push him on his merits or don’t, but the implications of recruiting his wife as valet/manager do more harm to his reputation than a walk-in closet full of rejected Fashion Week wardrobe.
3. Wade in America
Is he though? Based on his Twitter feed since getting booted from League of Booty (er, Nations), it seems like the overthrown King could be watching soccer and CNN from virtually anywhere. With all the gossip that’s swirled surrounding his supposed departure, it’d be nice to have some affirmation of his immediate future (aside from Bullet Club innuendo). Wade Barrett is another wrestler fans to love to get behind when he’s got the right gimmick, and who generally seems like a well-rounded and affable fellow, yet he’s forever seems doomed to wander the abyss of creative displacement. At 35, Barrett has plenty of quality years left, provided he can remain healthy, and it’s never too late to remind fans how much they looked forward to hearing a bit of Bad News. Unless he’s leaving WWE, since the company likely owns his standout gimmick. Then he’s screwed.
2. Bray of Light
Stop me if I’ve used that pun before. But has it ever been more appropriate than after watching Bray Wyatt play up to the crowd and have them on their feet as he did in last night’s main event? Hell, the guy even got a hot tag! And I have to say it was a pretty exhilarating about-face (that pun not intended). Ditto for Roman Reigns continuing to explicitly play the part of stoic heavy. I have no stock in this Wyatts vs. League of Nations beef, and highly doubt we’re witnessing Bray and his flock – or Reigns – execute an authentic swap of audience favoritism. But I am intrigued, which, in Bray’s case, is more than I can say for his bogeyman shtick since the earliest days of his debut.
1. Bullet in a China Shop
Oh, if only Chyna were still a contracted WWE performer, that play on words could have been so much richer. Alas, let’s discuss the appearance of Doc (I mean Luke) Gallows and Karl Anderson, the final arrivals in this past winter’s heavily tipped wave of imported faces from rival promotions. Specifically, that these signings are demonstrable evidence of (or at least reaction to) WWE’s depleted roster depth. Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Gallows and Anderson are all great additions to the fold. (And you could even cite Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode among recent poaches or would-be acquisitions from various insurgents.) Yet, it’s startling to recall that just a couple years prior it seemed unthinkable that WWE would turn to TNA, New Japan and Ring of Honor for an injection of fresh talent. The latter two had virtually no major television presence (and, hence, most of their stars were still anonymous to the lay fan), and WWE seemed pretty confident that its farm system was foolproof. But then some of those call-ups flopped, NJPW and ROH in particular grew their cable viewership exponentially and roughly half of the McMahons’ veteran thoroughbreds suffered major or career-ending injuries. So, welcome to WWE 2K16, a melting pot of homegrown rookies, free agent A-listers and a small core of dependable mainstays. All of which is to say, a fun and competitive environment, albeit one that only got there via enough corporate humility to hone in on what’s (drumroll) truly best for business.
Below the Belt:
- I will go to my grave failing to comprehend Shane McMahon’s current arc.
- I had a tough time watching Ric Flair eat shit from Dr. Phil.
- Though Phil and I concur on one thing: Flair’s worn out his welcome.
- Was Cesaro wearing a Bluetooth earpiece?
- 100 percent agree with JBL re: KO deserving his rematch.
- And 100 percent agree with KO that Zayn didn’t deserve his title shot.
- I somehow missed that Primo/Epico vignette last week, so am just now getting to mourn Los Matadores. It is a deep grief.
- My wife: “Cass looks like a hot dog.”
- That was some stiff work from Luke and Karl on the Usos.
- Only Dr. Shelby, not Phil, could help Goldust and R-Truth.
- Apollo Crews is entirely too smiley.
- Jericho beats Styles, Styles gets a title shot, Ambrose beats the man who beat the number-one contender…everyone wins!
- Move of the Night: Man, Cesaro’s flying, spinning uppercut is impressive.
- Sign of the Night: To whoever would “Rather Be At Nitro,” you paid a lot of money to share that sentiment at Raw.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: I don’t know if Pepsi is mocking or mimicking beer snobbery, but I also know I’m a Jolt guy. Speaking of apery, I’ll just pretend I’m watching Freddie Prinze Jr. and Dana Carvey’s new competitive impressions show.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: All McMahons not named Shane, Wade Barrett, Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, every women’s competitor not named Charlotte or Natalya.