Howdy, pardners, and hope you enjoyed a fine evening of wrestling delivered live from the great sports-entertainment state of Texas. I know I did. Though even if I didn’t, I’d feign enthusiasm to ensure you don’t question why you keep reading these recaps. But who needs to muster take elation when it’s been confirmed that Jon Stewart will be making his second consecutive SummerSlam appearance? Or when Jinder Mahal is back to the business of getting folks over on Monday nights and Roman Reigns and Gallows and Anderson are antagonizing their rivals with dick-and-balls wordplay? I know: I best cool out before getting you all overheated for this Sunday’s PPV extravaganza. So to that end, I shall go make like Randy Orton, “lay and prey” and leave you with the five key insights (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the August 15th, 2016 edition of Raw.
5. Are We There, Vignette?
It was a silly little thing. It didn’t even amount to much. But that cold open, if you will, of Seth Rollins cackling to no one in particular and looking amid some palm trees for the elusive “Demon King” Finn Bálor, left me wanting more. Not so much in that moment, but on an ongoing basis. Let’s shake up how we start this show, eh? One can only stomach so many recurrences of Mick Foley’s entrance theme or be enthused by yet another pyro display. The Rollins bit may have ultimately flatlined, but at least it tapped into a refreshingly low-budge spirit.
4. Same New Day, Different Shit
That’s a bit unfair to the Wyatt Family, Gallows and Anderson, but let’s face it: WWE still hasn’t found the perfect foes for their tag-team champions. Maybe that’ll become an easier issue to contend with once they’re back to contending for those titles, which seems an inevitability come this time next week. But without prognosticating on what’s to come, I can’t help pointing out that Kofi, Xavier and Big E have spent most of 2016 trapped in gimmicky rivalries that have put tables, bogeymen and now testicular innuendo front and center over real in-ring chemistry. It’s not New Day’s fault. They’re too good at being good. Maybe, then, it’s time for them to go back to being bad?
3. Eh, See Slater?
I do. How can you not? He’s managed to weather every half-baked insurrection, roster overhaul and thankless squash act WWE’s thrown at him and us over the past several years. (As for his issues outside of the ring, I’ll defer to the courts and afford him the presumption of innocence.) And he’s good. Yes, at being a punching bag, though he also flashes heavyweight finesse when allotted more than 30 seconds of TV time to perform at his chosen profession. If Zack Ryder’s managed to claw his way back to mid-card legitimacy on SmackDown (albeit with a detour back to the minors), why not give Raw’s viewership – not to mention Slater’s 17 kids – the underdog story it fantasized about when the brand split was first announced? After all, as has been evident, there’s no shortage of jobbers to feed to the Beast.
2. Zayn Reaction
Mine, specifically, to his Cesaro-abetted win against Sheamus was, “Uh oh, this is a man without a plot.” They’ll come up with something for Sami, because that’s what writers and bookers do. Nor is anyone intimating they reinitiate a beef with Kevin Owens (let’s not let them resemble the wagon-circling circus that is the Prime Time Players). It’s just a tad hard to figure where the gutsy Canuck’s next storyline is gonna come from. The U.S. title’s being vied for by a pair of big guys, Miz is minding the IC gold on Tuesday nights, and there doesn’t seem to be a natural tag-team companion for the skanking ginger (not that things have come to that yet anyhow). Maybe he anchors and adds muscle to the cruiserweight ranks, a la what guys like Rusev and John Cena have done for title divisions perceived as secondary. Unless I’m overlooking how high WWE is on the guy, and no matter who comes out the Universal Champion on Sunday (see below), they might well be seeing red.
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1. I Don’t Get It
I don’t mean to be overwhelmingly negative this week, but I have to reiterate my disappointment over how WWE’s orchestrated Finn Bálor’s Jekyll and Hyde routine since he arrived in time for the draft. To review, he was introduced as part of the number-one contender’s roll call; steamrolled the competition as Finn Bálor, pint-sized dynamo; withdrew into the shadows, peering out only to teach Seth Rollins about Irish folklore and the mystique of ancient nomenclature; and then was asked to give away the cow of his demon-king entrance, in the presumed hopes that they can milk the frenzied reaction via last-minute Network subscriber before SummerSlam. Did I miss something here? And was I the only one who cringed out of concern that – live crowd reaction notwithstanding – the production of Bálor’s big moment paled to how epic it always seemed when enveloping the whole room, and seemingly beyond, at Full Sail? The real gamble in all this is missing around with Seth Rollins’ status as the number-one guy on Raw. All this time and effort spent neutralizing the Demon has effectively put his own comeback from injury in idle.
Below the Belt:
- There ya are: Cesaro’s sticking with the “the flagship of the WWE.”
- Cesaro and Sheamus in a best of seven was a stroke of genius.
- Jericho and KO’s revolving door of names for poor Tom Phillips = comedy gold.
- I miss the Miz on Raw. Just sayin’.
- Poor Dudleys.
- “Powerful, compelling, efficient, and dangerous” sounds more suited to a VW diesel than Nia Jax.
- I kind of have a crush on “Rachel Levy.”
- This is genius.
- Wouldn’t Randy Orton make a great Paul Heyman guy?
- Re: Titus/Darren, I wouldn’t blame Corpus Christi for simply booing this whole boondoggle of a storyline.
- Re: Shining Stars, stop with the shitty gimmicks. They can wrestle.
- So, Neville’s crane kick is here to stay?
- And Jinder Mahal came back for this?
- Nothing more timely than a Devil Wears Prada reference.
- Welcome back, Alicia Fox!
- I honestly don’t have much to say re: Rusev v. Reigns, other than it didn’t quite have the might to bookend a major go-home show.
- Although my money’s on Rusev Sunday.
- Re: Brock v. Orton, it may not have been so smart to book adversaries from opposing shows in one of the main events.
- Move of the Night: Kudos to “Rachel Levy” for a mighty bump over the top rope.
- Sign of the Night: I enjoyed the proximity of the “Raw is War” sign to a “3:16” sign. Texas fans sure are sentimental.
- Line of the Night: My only LOL was Rusev recanting his opinion that Foley was a great GM by confessing, “I lied, because you suck.”
- In Case You Fast-Forwarded Through Commercials: No. No. No. No. Yeah, I still don’t know what the hell Letgo does. I guess they win. And oh, if only.
- Noticeable In Their Absence: Braun Strowman (disregarding that greatest-squashes package), Curtis Axel, Sin Cara.