The Third Man: Raw Regurgitated, 6/2

Batista quits, Rusev is rewarded and Seth breaks our hearts. Raw regurgitated, on the internet, just for you!

The reason Batista only truly works with his back against the wall and only when that wall has been placed there with his full knowledge is that he’s one of the few people who fans just genuinely want to like or dislike. As he’s grown older, the things that made him “likable” — which is to say “allowed him to get a positive crowd reaction” — have diminished, but the need to have a feeling towards him still remains. Pretty much all you have to do as a booker or viewer is to calibrate the optimal level of crap to be heaped upon him, whether or not he’ll overcome that crap, and have him react accordingly.

It’s really hard to say what’s more hilarious: Batista’s refusal to match the rest of Evolution during matches or during talking segments. It’s probably ever so slightly his blinding palette choices during his matches, but his hilarious color suit collection game is on lock.

We’ll miss you quitting in a tantrum most of all, Dave:

ByeByeBye

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It’s hard, but not impossible, to argue that Bad News Barrett is still seen as a heel at this point, even by those in creative. Having him eat two finishers after being abandoned by his partner — who is rather unequivocally not on the side of the angels, and has in fact made a deal with the devil — is usually how slow burn face turns start. Being screwed over in a small way by someone who looks to be a future rival for you, while you two were working together, is what makes those sitting on the fence turn towards the light one way or another. When coupled with what he did the night before, fighting through an injury to get a clean title defense against a well-established veteran opponent is what the type of strong resume that allows you to be a multi-time world champ. Or, if done poorly, send you right down a chute just a few moves after you climbed up a ladder named Bad News.

Talking to a friend (hi, Mark!) while watching the “Lance Stephenson” segment, I realized what Damien Sandow had become: heel meat. Heel meat, made from the meat of heels like seal meat is made from meat of seals, is the wrestling equivalent of prepackaged food for the animals lucky enough to be interesting attractions at the zoo. Like Zach Ryder or Dolph Ziggler or any number of other talented performers who aren’t quite as popular as the zebras (Adam Rose) or Kodiak bears (Big Show), they exist solely to serve as sustenance. Sure, they have fans of their own — who doesn’t love a cute cow or seal — but they exist mostly to be sandwich filler in short pants.

As was discussed in our Payback review, Bo getting to look good in the ring is the most important part of making character work. It’s usually the most important part of making any character work, but the subversion of expectation created by having Bo Dallas being a surprisingly competent wrestler carries an entirely different emotional weight. It allows for the possibility — if not the strong likelihood — that Bo Dallas is John Cena minus the immense physical talent and the remarkable (and remarkably grating) self-awareness. Otherwise, he’s just a guy who thinks he’s better than he is, and the world has enough Dolph Zigglers.

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This segment was somewhere between annoying and unnecessary, unless the entire point was the position Cena for some sort of weird acceptance of his role as the Ric Flair of the WWE. While he’ll never work 60-minute draws up and down the Eastern seaboard, Cena has been The Man long enough that even when people hate them, they begrudgingly react to him. His is not to get you to cheer, but simply allow you to cheer for him if you want to. John Cena’s insistence on “letting the WWE Universe be heard” at least allows for the possibility that there’s some sort of positive use for Cena’s seemingly genre-bending level of self-awareness. The self-aware are the ones you have to worry about, allowing the entire thing to feel like a horror movie where the real evil behind everything was the one we thought was our friend the whole time.

Or, this is just as stale as everyone makes it out to be. And it’s all Kane fault.

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They have to cut Hornswoggle’s hair all the way. They can’t force him to live life as a person in public with a skullet. There are laws against that, right?

While it hasn’t been “lost” in the shuffle, the resurgence of the Divas division from the bottom up has been one of the most remarkable parts of the build since WrestleMania. After allowing AJ to defeat everyone, then have her lose on an INSTANT CRITICAL to an almost complete unknown (to most fans) allowed for the entire division to be reset. That the Total Divas essentially became a stable who moonlight as a performance troupe with their own “reality” sketch television show has also helped focus the direction of the division in way that the company could learn to use as they expand programming on the WWE Network. Allowing those viewers interested in doing so a glimpse into a separate world of stories with their favorite performers is exactly what make comic book movies and film adaptations of famous intellectual properties into great business. People like the comfort of “branding” with the freshness and unpredictability of a completely different world of adventures. It’s not that people are looking to see the personification of the things they like as much as they want to be able to consume the things they like in as many different ways from as many different perspectives as possible. It’s not the single recreation of that world they’ve loved, it’s the repeated recreation of the world they’ve loved that allows them to live inside of it for as long as possible.

Speaking of living inside of a world for as long as possible, the swiftness with which they ended this Swagger-Rose feud is enough to give you whiplash.

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Anyone complaining about the match between the Usos and Wyatt family being done as a non-title match is either being willfully ignorant to how title programs are built or are just looking for something to complain about. They have also likely never seen a regular sport in their entire lives and should be ashamed of that fact if they consider themselves fans of sports entertainment. No one complains that the Heat played the Pacers during the regular season and lost to them several times. In fact, it CREATES INTRIGUE FOR WHEN THE GAMES ACTUALLY MATTER. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE THINGS MATTER IN SPORTS, YOU REPEAT THEM OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL YOU CAN BUILD A  NARRATIVE AROUND THE RANDOM NUMBERS GENERATED THROUGH REPETITION. Also, this match was fantastic. So, if you are going to complain about things like this, maybe sit down, have some tea and watch literally any sports movie or any “season-in-review” recap you can get your hands on, because you are probably haven’t or are just the worst kind of idiot.

So, at this point, being a Dolph Ziggler fan has to feel almost identical to rooting for the Mets. Except without the possibility of ever winning a championship again. Oh, right. So, exactly like rooting for the Mets.

***

WHY ARE RYBAXEL WORKING WITH GOLDUST AGAIN? THEY JUST WORKED WITH HIM LAST NIGHT. I DON’T GET IT. SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW SCHEDULING IN  ATHLETIC LEAGUES WORK!

Oh, Rusev, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: один, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, восемь, девять, десять


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*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Genuine unpredictability is almost impossible to come across in the modern WWE. Fooling all of the people all of the time has always been difficult, but the internet, along with the sheer amount of footage and patterns that fans are able to cull inclinations from, has created as situation that makes moves like the one made by Seth Rollins either eminently predictable or poorly received on levels that threaten to undermine the whole enterprise.

The company is best served narratively when they can manage to naturally find the sweet spot that they hit on Raw, but also have to try desperately to make sure that they never allow things like this to become commonplace. In fact, most of wrestling is trying to find a perfect balance between “familiar” and “new”, because falling too far into one camp or the either prevents the company from building their audience or forces them to maintain an increasingly voracious appetite for stretching the limit of the resources available within a company.

Resources in the company aren’t just limited to performers, either. Storylines, gimmicks, match stipulations and tropes are all in limited supply, and must be doled out in such a way that prevents any one thing from being completely depleted as a way to generate heat, and thereby money. This swerve worked so well because it was such a risky move. And not just in terms of taking out something that had worked so well and trading for it for the potential of the unknown, which is essentially the definition of risk. It was so risky because it essentially made any subsequent  attempts to do this type of storyline significantly less valuable for the next several years. They’ve essentially went all in on this plan on every conceivable level. Which is to say that this feels so monumentally important because it is so monumentally important to the future of the company. The WWE has put their money where their mouth is, and they’ve done it in a way that no one saw coming. Eventually we’ll realize that these kooks might actually know what they are doing, though whether or not we admit it is a completely different story. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY CHILI CHEESE PRETZEL DOG MILKSHAKE ON THE WAY OUT ***