I did see SummerSlam. I didn’t recap it. Luis Paez-Pumar did. I did enjoy parts of it, like Brock Lesnar living up to people’s assumptions and raging out like a ‘roided freak. And the Miz retaining clean. Because I love the Miz. Other results left me nonplussed, particularly Finn Bálor besting Seth Rollins. But 24 hours later, we all know how that turned out. Lest you were worried, however, that all three-plus hours were monopolized by the requisite tournament to determine WWE’s new Universal Title, we also got some weirdness with Bob Backlund and Johnny fucking Knockout. Amen. So before I fly out to Puerto Rico armed with aromatic flowers and armloads of mosquito repellant, here are the five key insights (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the August 22, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Dudley Stage Right
Well, shit, now I feel old. The Dudleys retirement spiel was the kind of kayfabe-breaking that typically chafes – even two decades since the curtain dropped on wrestling’s reality – but it was earned. Bubba and D-Von have had a truly historic and innovative career. Sure, this final go-round with WWE was, by their own admission last night, not especially memorable beyond bringing things full circle (or at least 300 degrees). But was it any more infamous than, say, Ken Griffey Jr.’s 2009 sendoff with the Mariners, or David Lee Roth’s reunion with the Van Halen brothers? Assuming this was in fact the siblings-from-different-sires’ final bow, it was – as Miami Herald’s Scott Fishman observed – self-sacrifice in stereo that spoke to their contributions louder than smashing Primo or Epico through a table. More than the “new era,” this is an age of opportunity for those on each show’s roster who are overdue or whose time has come, and when have the Dudleys ever been ones to stand in the path of this business’s way forward? Though mark your calendars for WWE Live in NYC the day after Christmas just in case.
4. Just Give Enzo and Cass the Titles Already
The notion that Enzo was as deserving of a Universal Title shot as Rollins, Roman Reigns et al was absurd, but there’s no denying they’re what’s missing from the tag-title picture. Their shtick isn’t my cup of egg cream, but they’re obviously over with fans from Brooklyn to ‘Bama, and now that Enzo’s healthy, it’s time to find a way to work them into the mix for New Day’s belts. Gallows and Anderson have been made the fools, and their feud with New Day has been a hodgepodge of potty humor and empty threats that should have culminated in the straps changing hands at SummerSlam, allowing for Enzo and Cass to come to the fore. New Day doesn’t need to be chasing nor defending any hardware to do what they do. They’re an almost unprecedentedly credible novelty, capable of competing at a high level or simply moving the crowd, and often all at once. Much as I hate to admit it, time to see if Enzo and Cass can handle the weight of being world champs.
3. Rusev Mush
This is the second time since initially debuting as the unbeatable Bulgarian brute that Rusev’s been written to appear a bit, well, SAWFT. We may never get closure on whatever the hell that was between he and Roman Reigns at SummerSlam, unless that animosity winds its way back to a head with the Universal Title on the line or close to it. Forget the love-struck loser we watched grovel for Rusev’s love way back when – this beaten-and-bruised iteration of the U.S. champ, one who willingly forfeits a shot at the true brass ring to lick his wounds, is barely deserving of the Borscht belt.
2. Bayley Legal
That’s a silly sub-headline, I admit. What I mean to say is, the fan favorite is finally part of Raw’s roster, much to the delight of the inner child that apparently lives in most grown men, and a lot of actual children. A la Enzo and Cass, there’s no arguing what’s plainly apparent: people love Bayley. Her character works on different levels that belie its simplicity, and her talent and infectiousness should fair well on the big stage. It doesn’t mean I have to like it, no matter how many feel-good, Hands Across America vibes she transmits, fluorescent frills she fashions or inflatable Sky Dancers she’s flanked by. It’s a bit too on-the-nose nice for my tastes, though more power to her, and get back soon, Sasha Banks.
1. Just When I Was Running Out of Finn Puns….
There’s nothing actually funny about Finn Bálor’s injury. It sucks. But you can’t help but feel like WWE put itself in this predicament by accelerating the Demon King’s conquest without any apparent plan B. I’m a big Bálor fan, and I wish his assimilation into primetime had been handled with better care. And maybe it will be when he returns in several months. But Seth Rollins should have won, or at least lost via DQ (wouldn’t that have been interesting). No, not that DQ. This kind of DQ. Anyhow, we’ll see if the powers that be agree seize the opportunity to course correct, rather take a chance with the Universal Title’s prestige. For now, at lest wrestling writers can look forward to half a year without having to account for that pesky accent over the “a” in Bálor’s name.
Below the Belt:
- That was one long-ass opening segment.
- Not sure I got the point of Sami Zayn’s storyline injury.
- Anderson couldn’t do better than, “Brooklyn, you are stupid”?
- Nothing about Gallows and Anderson’s gimmick is coming together for me right now. (No, that was not a testicular pun.)
- Still not sure how I feel about the new ring posts.
- But Titus, what about the uppity hipsters from Bushwick?
- I’m over the Big Head cutouts.
- Ya know what? I think ewe deserves it.
- Dana Brooke is kind of a glorified jobber.
- Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns are the only men not named Seth Rollins I will tolerate winning this tournament.
- Move of the Night: That mean Clash of the Titus that O’Neil laid out Darren Young with almost salvaged their disastrous segment.
- Sign of the Night: Is there any doubt?
- Line of the Night: More like line of the millennium. Johnny Knockout, aka mini-Randy Orton, wins Raw by TKO after proclaiming his very simple reason for fighting Braun Strowman: “I like big, sweaty men.”
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Well, if it means I can digest cotton candy…. Here I thought Candyman was all I had to worry about. And in a word, yes.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Golden Truth, Cesaro, Sin Cara, Sasha Banks, Heath Slater (boo).