Well, it wasn’t a great show, but there was plenty to talk about. Those could be words of consolation from a dissatisfied lover, or they could apply to last night’s intermittently stimulating three-plus hours of WWE entertainment. (You decide.)
Though to be certain, the haters came in droves to Minneapolis’ Target Center, raining, “This is boring” chants down on poor Sheamus and Dean Ambrose during their main-event cage match, probably their way of blowing off steam after sitting through several anticlimactic Slammy Awards segments. Or perhaps it was a direct result of being asked to endure yet another inconsequential clash between old foes Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger, which gave them entirely too much time to contemplate that the former’s stage name translates to Albert of the River. And sure, the show was a letdown from last week, when Vince McMahon swooped in and singlehandedly invigorated a wearying audience.
Still, it wasn’t all R-Truth hijinks and League of Nations nonsense. So without risking interruption from a steady stream of Sonic ads and Star Wars cross-promotion, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from December 21’s Slammy edition of Raw.
5. Let the Slammys Stand Alone
Isn’t this what the WWE Network is for? A cynic might deduce that the Slammys only air during Raw to generate more record-setting social-media interaction for the broadcast during the voting process. Or so Byron Saxton can finally wear his pink tuxedo vest. The latter makes perfect sense to me. Otherwise, it further convolutes an already crowded night of storytelling, makes the overall feel of the episode that much choppier and, embarrassingly, doles out more trophies to absentee winners than an Oscar ceremony swept by Woody Allen. As I’ll get to further down, seeing Seth Rollins and Nikki Bella return was nice, and it’s always fun watching Paul Heyman nearly pull a Big Trouble in Little China as he puffs with righteous indignation, but all told, the Slammys put a bit of a stranglehold on its parent program.
4. Although Even the Slammys Recognize New Day’s Singularity
When we named New Day our WWE Wrestler(s) of the Year, some scoffed or cried foul, shouting (i.e. reasonably opining), “Fie! Cop out! This is an award for an individual competitor!” To which we replied, “OK. Calm down with the exclamation points.” And after last night, merely directed them to the final Slammys nominees for Superstar of the Year, which was dominated exclusively by singles performers (eventual winner Rollins, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Bray Wyatt et al) – with one exception: The New Day. So all you Slammys purists, don’t be sour. Much of 2015 was booty, so when a trio comes along in perfect harmony, puzzling together to become one inseparable unicorn, embrace them as the singular entity they are. Especially if you voted for the Usos as Tag Team of the Year.
3. Bush-League of Nations
Remember the Shield? They were great. They’d come out there and powerbomb the biggest names in WWE, making it known that they’re a force to be reckoned with and poised for big things as a unit and on their own. Then we have the League of Nations, ironically the bastard child of a devastating injury to Shield architect Seth Rollins. No longer buoyed by Sheamus’ Heavyweight Championship gold, the foursome arbitrarily instills fear in the hearts of midcarders who were minding their own business. Last night, Jack Swagger, Ryback, Neville and the Usos (OK, they’re mid-to-high) were all “victims” of the League of Nations’ apparent siege on the scraps of what remains after the big boys play. And is there anything more awkward than watching Del Rio group-hug Sheamus, Rusev and Wade Barrett while thinking to himself, “Where’s Zeb Colter when you need him?” Not sure there’s a market for second-tier stables these days, but I suppose anything’s better – for them and us – than watching these guys cycle repetitiously from squasher to squashee on their own.
2. Nikki’s Great
The alpha Bella’s outfit was pretty sheer, yes, but her passion for being a badass wrestler and advocate is even more transparent. Sure, the Diva of the Year winner’s BFF-ing out with former rival Paige was excessively kayfabe-negligent, but it was also the most genuine moment of strong, inspiring femininity amid a year in which WWE desperately tried to force a narrative of gender balance. As I mentioned in the aforementioned “Wrestler(s) of the Year” column, all the NXT grads are on deck, and Paige herself had a breakout 12 months. Nor was Nikki merely champion for the largest chunk of 2015. She was also WWE’s most-improved in-ring talent, and followed in her real-life boyfriend John Cena’s footsteps by becoming a powerful role model and ambassador for the brand. Whether within or outside of wrestling, big things beckon Ms. Bella.
1. Kevin Owens Is the Best Sore Loser
CHRISTMAS CANCELLED EVERYBODY RETURN THE GIFTS YOU BOUGHT FOR PEOPLE UNLESS IT’S KO MERCHANDISE SCREW YOU ALL GOOD NIGHT SHUT UP!!!
— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) December 22, 2015
1A. Seth’s Gotta Put His Best Face On
It’s not as if a top heel hasn’t hit the shelf with injury and returned to rousing fan support in the past. Look no further than the company’s current EVP of Talent, Live Events and Creative (and then say that 10 times fast), Triple H. When Rollins took the stage straddling crutches to accept Superstar of the Year, it generated by far the biggest pop of the night, and Rollins could barely contain his satisfaction at having earned that respect. Moreover, his speech about “redesigning” Seth Rollins upon his return all but cleaned the slate for him to re-enter the fold in whatever mold he wants. And it’s doubtful Triple H or any other higher-up’s going to stand in his way, because anyone with two sets of eyes can testify how sorely WWE needs him on TV every week. It’s also just fun to see guys flip from villain to valor when there’s been a big enough build-up and wait. Whatever Seth and the brain trust choose for his future, it best still allow for this.
Below the Belt:
- No Slammy for Kane’s return last night as Surprise Return of Year?
- R-Truth really did deserve a statue.
- Oh, hey, J&J.
- 2016 shall be Damien Sandow’s year.
- Gotta love those ECW marks.
- Roman: Wear the belt, and walk down the ramp like a normal person.
- Can we just get this full Charlotte turn over with already?
- Um, didn’t Sting make his surprise return in 2014?
- Line of the Night: Gotta love the mastermind who shouted, “We the people” during Rollins’ acceptance speech.
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: You really should watch the Mr. Robot marathon. Wouldn’t a #Showhole be the opposite of this? And Effy Hamatian is my new favorite person.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Triple H, Stardust (love him), Lana.