*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Performers are only ever “forced down our throats” when we don’t like them, when we try to figure out why other people may like someone or can’t accept that our opinions aren’t fact. And it’s obviously fine to not like someone, or less fine but still within your rights (as an sentient being interacting with something) to think the things you like are the “best” things. But recognizing that they aren’t is an important step towards not being a total moron. The shift from Raw to the Roman Reigns show was as sudden as it was predictable, and this episode is was clear meant to establish him after the Chosen One after clearly stating his objectives (be the WWE World Heavyweight Championship), introducing at least one major obstacle (HHH) and some of the smaller roadblocks on the way (Seth Rollins and Kane).
This opening promo, cut by Reigns, felt like it tried to be about that instead of just a continuation of what got him there: responding to other people’s energy with his own presence. Your correspondent isn’t one to tell the most successful wrestling company in the world how to do its job. Especially with a person that has the requisite attributes — and is willing to put in the work — to be the next great star in a promotion which has made its money creating them. But this felt like it could have been better. Part of that was, of course, the older fans hatred of John Cena. The crowd continues to be unable to chant anything other than Cena Sucks/Let’s Go Cena until they are explicitly given something else to do during matches. The only two to genuinely break on through to the other side of Cena’s dominance have had their legacies forever shaped by what the crowd says about them in unison, loudly: Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” chant has become the most important pop culture artifact to come from wrestling ever outside of the -Mania suffix and Gorgeous George, and will likely far outlive the Bryan’s career. And CM Punk’s have their own ubiquity to them, becoming a catch-all for fan disillusionment the same way that “Yes!!!” marked a new stage in fan engagement.
We don’t know what to do when Roman Reigns come on television, and because of that, we default to “Cena Sucks” chants. We need to have something to say about him, and we need to be able to say it loudly. And more importantly, together. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC CHILI CHEESE PRETZEL DOG MILKSHAKE ON THE WAY OUT***
I hope Fit Finlay got a bonus for taking this:
Watching with non-wrestling fans is always an exercise in gauging the tolerability of any given segment or match. While matches have been fairly consistent decent-to-amazing for much of the past year, the show put on by the Usos and Bray Wyatt’s Dueling Banjo Band helps to get through any number of bad promos or terribly acted backstage segments (see: La, Lay) because it is pure wrestling at its best: a simple story told through complex execution. The Usos are brash and exciting, the Wyatts are big and menacing. That’s easy to understand, and when they tell that story the way they do, it helps show why we watch this stuff.
The WWE being the WWE, they followed up a fantastic match which told a simple story on a strong, very slightly ambiguous finish with a terrible match-like-thing — between Alicia Fox and Nikki Bella — that tried to explain a really complex situation — the Brie Bella-Stephanie McMahon feud — with a secondary character in that feud working against, at best, a tertiary character on the other side. While I’m sure having Shore Leave deal with Augustus St. Cloud for Billy Quizboy would be fun, anyone who isn’t seriously familiar with the material is going to want to watch that unless they are just obsessed with the very idea of the what they are watching.
Rusev has been everything they could have possible ever hoped for, at least so far. He’s manage to become underrated in the ring, at least for those who haven’t seen That Match with Dolph Ziggler on the Cesaro-Zayn I episode of NXT. Now that the character has become more well-rounded — turning more into a monster looking for direction than a machine programmed to destroy — it has begun to pick up steam, and Lana seems to have a good handle on how to work with what the character allows her to do. Rusev will never be the face of the WWE, but he has a chance to have Hoss career to be genuinely proud of.
There’s a lot to be said about the Randy Orton-Dean Ambrose match. Seriously, just watch Straight Shoot with MR. Brandon Stroud and Aubrey Sitterson. They talk about it, a lot:
This match between Dolph Ziggler and Alberto del Rio showcased a lot of what makes both of them great, but the camera work in their match — and several others — was a bummer. Missing the final spot in the match, especially with access to the camera angle they showed on the replay, doesn’t help anyone get over. And for someone who needs it as badly as del Rio, having his big moment in the match overshadowed by Fandango dancing (very well, to be fair) because of a production mistake is something TNA does. Unless the WWE doesn’t see del Rio as a major priority (which they probably don’t,) which makes them just not totally giving a shit mostly funny.
Though, if any segment could show how much easier it is to cover something controlled, even on live television, the wonderful backstage bit between the Dust(y) Brothers. Well-shot, professionally-framed and somewhere between awesomely awesome and awesomely bad, these two have turned this tag team into something that may have some real legs.
As Alan Sepinwall would say: If Damien Sandhart had just worn the wig and the jacket, dayenu. If he had simply mimicked perfectly the gestures while shouting Bret Hart’s catchphrases and cribbing his move in his matches against Sheamus, dayenu. But using a Canadian accent to make fun of Bret Hart in Montreal, before finishing off with a dig on his terrible promos? The Lord has truly #blessed us.
Much like Batista, there are just some performers who work best now as heels. There’s always been a predilection against the glitz and glamour of Hollywood: Gorgeous George, Bobby Heenan, Hollywood Hogan and Hollywood Rock — whose entrance was lifted wholesale and given to the Miz, because Everything is a Remix — have all been seen as the enemy because of their ties to the cool kids table that is the impression that Los Angeles has of itself. And the Miz, whose previous run as a top heel included a win in a main event
triple-threat title match at a WrestleMania and a main event tag team match against the Rock and Cena for Rock’s return to the WWE in Madison Square Garden, may benefit from this trope more than anyone other than Dustin Rhodes ever has.
Does this mean that funk is no longer going to be on a roll?
Here’s an idea, Kofi: after you beat Cesaro, maybe get the hell out of the ring or at the very least don’t turn your back to him. Don’t play into that trope, don’t be that guy.
Your correspondent’s favorite single version of a character has long been Randy Orton’s sociopathic “the voice in my head is the soundtrack to American Psycho” run in charge of Legacy, but the equally detached and potentially more disturbed Bo Dallas may give him a run for his money. Just make sure he doesn’t show Randy any business cards.
Clearly the best part of Rollins run right now is the overriding feeling he emanates that he belongs. That his position on the card is neither an accident or a short-term situation. It’s the confidence that made the difference during Daniel Bryan’s run, and probably every run in history: if you feel like you’ve earned the part because you can play the part, you’ll play the part well and, more importantly, believably. Seth Rollins feels like he belongs because he belongs. The logic may be circular, but the reasoning is sound.
In case you were wondering who the star of the show was: