Star Wars: Raw Regurgitated, 9/8

Last night being the “season premiere” made little sense to begin with, but the idea that the episode started and ended with two of their main event storylines having blowoffs in steel cage matches is just silly. Isn’t this something you could have done last week as the season “finale” — whatever the hell that would mean, it would mean exactly as much as season “premiere” — and then booked matches with Randy Orton/Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns/Seth Rollins? Or would that be too much like a real television show?
This Bray Wyatt-Jericho opener was pretty great, however. Although there are some legitimate concerns about booking Bray in this match (and ones regarding his booking in general) given his character, this ended up being a fine showcase for him. He wants to inflict damage, but having him not care about wins at all doesn’t make him the Joker, it makes him a villain that nobody cares about. Wins aren’t “important” within the context of a feud, “winning” a feud is for someone at the level on the card Bray is. Especially in a feud with someone like Jericho.
Along the same lines, this feud is one of the better recent examples of big-time feud as playoff series: we remember specific ones, and specific moments from them but we don’t always care who wins what game. Jordan lost the 63-point game when Larry Bird called him “God” but we remember it because it was spectacular and we remember him winning the series against the Cavs because it was spectacular AND he won. But we don’t usually mention him losing to the Pistons over and over again and we definitely don’t talk about when people asked if he would ever win a title. Triumphs matter, and reaching the next level matters. How you got there? Less so.

Though Miz-Dolph segment was definitely in poor taste, this didn’t feel as homophobic as some made it out to be. And while it’s really hard to articulate how a picture of a man covering another man’s ass with spray tan isn’t at least meant to be homoerotic, it felt more like “Miz is a total goober”. Also, the fact that the best part of this segment was that it was only mildly homophobic and not egregiously homophobic should tell you everything you need to know.
Andy was so right.

Paul Heyman may eventually run out of interesting things to say, but if they continue to give him the best lines — or more accurately, the ability to use his best lines — it will not be any time soon. He, like HHH, is able to break kayfabe in a way that challenges the assumptions of what it is without really breaking the fourth wall. He’s not telling you it’s fake as much as telling inside jokes and assuming you might get them. In the battle between real and fake that IS wrestling at its core, letting us behind the curtain doesn’t require to know how you do the magic tricks.
For all his massive, massive faults in promos, John Cena produces some Grade-A quality red meat for fans to chew on. When it’s well done — or, pardon the pun, “raw” — it’s still great if also gratingly familiar. He’s preaching to a very specific choir, but he gets them to sing loudly enough to fill stadiums. And that has to count for something.
Paul Heyman is going to get his ass whooped next week, because that’s how you sell the PPV. He’ll deserve it, and he’ll take it like a champion. Because he’s the “Best in the World!”

Seth Rollins rise up the card makes sense — especially with all the injuries — but it’s shocking to see someone, or in the case three people, all get legitimate pushes to important places on the card without also suffering a series of setbacks. Sheamus is a multi-time World’s Champion and while he lost due to mild interference, it was of the Arrested Development[ref]No touching![/ref] variety. This was as clean a win as anyone in not quite in their third year on the main roster should be getting against a potential future Hall of Famer.
The only thing that could have made the Rusev/Lana experience better would have been if they cut to people who had started standing when she began singing the Star-Spangled Banner.

***WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP ALL EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** While I’m secure in what I like and don’t like, and believe I have a solid idea of what’s going to be considered by the majority to be “good” whether or not I agree with them, it’s always interesting to see how my non-wrestling fans react to things and, especially specific performers and segments.
And the people I was watching last night’s Raw – mostly there to watch the poor poor Giants get creamed by the Lions — with LOVED Adrian Neville. The goal in wrestling in terms of getting over easily is to be palpably good AND unique. Of course, if you have to choose between the two “unique” is the way to go. But the people who become the biggest stars the quickest are people who are uniquely good, like being high-flying-even-among-high-fliers high flier.
Or being a 6’2” luchadore like Sami Zayn, or having a fully-formed character that you actually perform as instead of hinting towards like Tyler Breeze. The WWE is a  marketplace of ideas and characters, and having ones that are easily understood as  something to get bebind or rebel against are just as important as in-ring skill or storylines.
People will complain, jokingly or not, that no one reacted the way they were “supposed to”, but getting any crowd to pop over anything is really hard work. While it comes more naturally to some guys than others, just because a performer doesn’t pop them immediately it doesn’t mean they are a bad performer, and just as importantly, a crowd that doesn’t immediately pop for a performer they don’t know isn’t a bad crowd.
Everyone is – understandably excited – about the future of the business because of the NXT developmental, but we can’t keep getting upset every time they don’t get the reactions we think they should the very first time they appear on screen. If George Clooney survived being on The Facts of Life and Roseanne, Tyler Breeze can survive not getting the pop of the night on Raw. The cream rises, and as always, the quicker you realize this, the happier you will be. ***WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP ALL EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES ***

If we just act like the Bellas/Springr segment never happened, they might not do something like it again, right?
The Dust(y) Brothers HAVE TO end up as the good guys in this feud, or the Usos are the worst possible version of faces: people who fake injuries and attack people with medical prescriptions.
Speaking of the worst kind of faces: Adam Rose and this bunny need to form a heel tag team. Everything about Rose and his Rosebuds screams “heel” at this point, and he can definitely pull off the Aldous Snow “likable for an unlikable douchebag” character. They could also apply the Freebird rule to their team and have him team with different members of his entourage based on match-ups. Who doesn’t want to see hamburger

If this is the blowoff for this Orton feud, then they did a yeoman’s job of giving a payoff for a feud most people didn’t really get behind by using it to directly set up one between Rollins and Reigns. If this somehow isn’t those things, well, then, God Jed, I don’t even wanna know it.
Srsly tho, someone needs to sit down Roman Reigns and teach him at least two more moves. Six moves and a variety of punch-kicks is fine. Four moves, two of which are “fancy” kicks and punches, just is not going to cut it at the next level. Ask Steve Seagal.

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