Brock Lesnar might “shit out opponents,” but can he churn out week after week of real-time wrestling recaps? Well, fortunately for us all, we’ll find out when I take on Brock Lesnar – eh, never mind. More pressingly, the slow wheels of Lesnar and Randy Orton’s carefully contrived heat continued to turn last night, as Michael Cole and co. did their best to warm up anticipation for SummerSlam. We know that new blood (Enzo and Cass) will battle vaunted veterans (Chris Jericho and relative old-timer Kevin Owens); demons with made-up names (Finn Bálor) are expected to step up against superstars who perform under slightly less theatrical made-up names (Seth Rollins); and that Charlotte and Sasha Banks need to work on their slap-stick timing. But without further risk of an actor sneaking up beside me in a Scooby-Doo furry costume, here are the five key insights (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the August 8, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Team Dream
I can’t honestly say it’s a great idea – or at all in either persona’s plans – for Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens to pair up in earnest. But if Golden Truth and Breezedango merited christening, and in the tradition of Y2J’s own laundry list of wittily dubbed duos, he and KO deserve their own coupled nickname. I’d offer Jerichowens, but that sounds more like an optical retail outlet than something befitting the squared circle. Jeri-KO’s been floated, but that’s a purely visual play on words. Maybe the perfect compromise is Y2KO. That would be apt, since when it comes to all-around polish, their current adversaries, Enzo and Cass, aren’t in the same fighting class.
4. Two Brauns Make a Right
It’s taken a few weeks, but I’ve stopped seeing Braun Strowman as a Wyatt Family member abruptly recast and – through repetition – appreciated how the brand split has afforded him a clean slate. Ryback was probably the last high-profile big man re-introduced as a squasher of jobbers’ dreams, but Braun is bigger. And he’s got crazy nostrils that flare to disproportionate diameters during close-ups. It’s reasonable to envision a get-me-over giant a la the Big Show being fed to Strowman for his first significant Raw feud, though the path from there would be harder to figure. Color me impressed that I’m curious at all.
3. Neville Playing Field
Yeah, it sorta makes sense. Point is Neville gets the silver medal to Strowman’s gold in the subtle-makeover competition. The beard, the sweet Daniel LaRusso crane-style and the occasional corkscrew twist to his patented air assault. All of it adds up to a promising reboot for the elfin Englishman, whose initial main-roster run stalled in a sort of neutral middle-card ground. Some superficial grit and a bit of color between the clean lines of his unequaled aerial offensives could finally help ensure there’s no ceiling too lofted for the man whom gravity forgot.
2. Gallows’ Poles
So, this is the big, bad Bullet Club alums’ shtick now: alternating between glorified Corrosion of Conformity gear and Dr. Rosenpenis duds and ticking off testicle puns. Perhaps with Brock Lesnar on the scene, Braun Strowman breaking bones and New Day no longer carrying the load for laugh-a-minute heel factions far and wide, there’s too much heel menace and not enough fearsomely funny bad guys. And it’s not as if Gallows and Anderson didn’t get goofy in New Japan (see: Anderson-hearts-Maria). Still, the sense lingers that these two can wreak havoc in earnest and not merely dick around with ball puns. Let’s leave that kind of load bearing to the professionals.
1. Yuck of the Irish
I‘m pretty sure that Finn Bálor vignette was actually inspired by the Jameson distillery-tour intro video. And positive that Finn’s first big storyline on the main roster feels rushed and rough around the edges. We’ve all seen the Demon King. Seth Rollins has seen the Demon King. So I’m not quote sure about this mystique-in-wait that Bálor’s referring to. Not to mention it’s been pretty well spoiled by his athletically impressive but fireworks-free soft emergence on Raw. But then, bringing guys up from NXT bears the burden of making its men and women seem fresh, even when we’ve watched the machine of their development at work. And in fairness, the Architect didn’t execute his finest promo work on this particular evening, and all told, there really isn’t much reason to get hyped to see who gets crowned Universal Champion at SummerSlam other than the sheer thrill of watching this generation’s best put on a show. Fortunately, that potential is anything but a myth.
Below the Belt:
- Enzo opening segments make me miss The Authority.
- Do they pronounce it re-thor-ical in Canada? (Genuine question.)
- I’m guessing Jorel Nelson’s parents were Superman fans?
- I’m OK with Braun Strowman’s clean slate. Smart use of brand split.
- 20 bucks says Titus v. Darren comes full circle back to a Prime Time partnership (with a Bob Backlund-as-Zeb Coulter zealous flourish).
- Sheamus v. Cesaro = non-starter.
- Heyman’s “best surfer on the beach” analogy = brilliant.
- The Dudley Boyz may or may not regret their decision.
- Looked to me like Bubba’s bout to beef with his partner.
- Roman v. Rusev won’t work if Reigns has to carry the comedy.
- Forget the cake histrionics; anyone got a gif of whatever Lana was doing in the corner while Rusev pounded Roman?
- I miss Emma.
- I guess I’m excited for the Beast v. the Viper?
- I’m definitely excited for the Bad Boy tour.
- Overall, Raw has a nice little product going right now.
- Move of the Night: I don’t mean to cop out, but lol (and ew) to Lana kissing Rusev’s bicep. (Also, nice air on the spear, Roman.)
- Sign of the Night: “Ray 702-413-5005” is certainly more of a mouthful than “Austin 3:16,” but it’ll do.
- Line of the Night: Y2J was spot-on: “Only an idiot” would think Cass’s Bert and Ernie barb was funny. (Cass’s, “You were like catnip to a kitten” confirmation certainly was not. Though in Enzo’s defense, going through with the, “You’re gonna die” of that G N’ R couplet, would have been a bit intense.)
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: Funny, Sam Beam would have struck me as a vegetarian. Sorry Mila, no thanks. And your move, Kind bars.
- Noticeable In Their Absence (And Back By No Demand): Stephanie McMahon, Sami Zayn, Curtis Axel