The week in WWE kicked off in the best way possible, with a twenty-minute promo on Raw by that guy whose twenty-minute promos are pretty much a channel changer. Yeah, the worst WWE champion of all-time, Seth Rollins, opened the show with another blah blah blah.
The crowd chanted “boring!”, which is never good, and Sting momentarily became everyone’s favourite wrestler by interrupting the talky to reveal he still had Rollins’s statue, which he has apparently been carting around the continental United States with him. Hell of a carry-on.
The Rollins-Sting story played out throughout the night, and even spilled a little into Smackdown, although the champion was distracted by an odd champion versus champion lumberjack match against The Ryback. At least it stopped him talking.
But before that, The Authority told Rollins he had to tune up for Night Of Champions by wrestling twice on Raw, and he did that against The Ryback – which, since you already know they had a re-match on Smackdown, didn’t exactly have a conclusive outcome in favour of the champion – and as part of a fun six-man main event, teaming with The New Day against John Cena and The Prime Time Players.
Rollins – the world champion, remember – lost to The Ryback on Raw because he got distracted by a video of an old man with a stolen statue and was part of the losing team in that six-man. Hell of a way to start the week for your WORLD CHAMPION. He did get a measure of revenge on Smackdown, pinning The Ryback in that lumberjack match, but only after Kevin Owens had interfered on his behalf. I mean, Ric Flair won plenty of matches with the help of The Four Horsemen, but you never felt he needed that help, it was just a shortcut. Here, Rollins is dead wood.
Worse, as he made his entrance for the main event on Raw, he was joined on the ramp by an interloper, some little fella in a thick coat and dreads, and just walked alongside him, trying not to acknowledge his presence. My mind was thrown back to all those times I saw fools have their heads smacked by wrestlers, and even referees, and a little part of professional wrestling died.
One final bit of Rollins business for the week was an interaction with Sheamus, who teased cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase. Again. Not boring at all, that. Oh, and then Sheamus lost his series with Randy Orton. Keep ‘em strong!
After cementing the Divas Revolution with a series of short matches that got nobody over on last week’s Raw, Paige had a re-match with Sasha Banks on this week’s show. She failed to beat Sasha last week, remember, when the time ran down, and lost here, to the DEADLY ROLL-UP after Naomi distracted the referee. They went again on Smackdown, and I don’t know what the hell happened in that match, because it was confusing and I think it was a no-contest, although your guess is as good as mine.
As you know, and because I now watch all the shows, I’ve started watching Total Divas, and it’s made things even worse when it comes to the “divas”, because now I get to see them out of character (or at least as out of character as a partially-scripted reality show can portray them) and also everything on that show is three months old. On this week’s show, Naomi took her family on a terrible holiday, Nikki Bella was depressed, and Eva Marie’s husband had no concept of a meal ticket. But at least Backstage Renee was around, in a bikini, and I make zero apologies for coming across as a creepy old man in that regard.
Back on Raw, Nikki Bella – obviously over her depression – once again counted down, via giant clock gimmick, to the moment she passes that no-good turncoat CM Punk’s wife’s record as longest-reigning Divas champion. Her celebration was interrupted by Charlotte, who told her that The Authority had granted her title match on next week’s show – before the countdown elapses – and then attacked the champion. Weird, weird booking.
Given that the countdown bears little resemblance to reality – I think it runs out after Raw goes off the air, I’m guessing Charlotte will win the title next week but only after the clock has run out, because that’s how they do things. It’s not a title match anyone is particularly looking forward to, unlike the main event announced for the next NXT Takeover – Bayley versus Sasha Banks, in a thirty-minute iron (wo)man match! Given these two had what is probably the Match of the Year on American soil so far, it oughta be a barn-burner.
The NXT women were in water-treading territory this week, with wins for Carmella and Dana Brooke over the two new Australians, Billy Kay and Peyton Royce. The matches were simple, yet showed improvement, and isn’t that what development is about? They were also pretty much better than 80% of Divas matches on the main roster and that’s why the Divas Revolution isn’t working.
Over on Raw, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns continued their slightly-odd tag-team odyssey against teams which have three members by taking on The Ascension, who are now under the thrall of Stardust. They were at it again on Smackdown, against all three members of The New Day, this time inducting a way-too-hyped Jimmy Uso into their team.
This all prods at the question of who will be their mystery partner at Night Of Champions, and we can rule out Uso, who got a devastating cuddle from cheeky destructor Braun Strowman at the end of that really fun match with The New Day. We can also rule out Randy Orton, who offered his services on Raw, and then got beaten down by the Wyatt Family, apparently writing him out of the show for a while so he can have a holiday.
The introduction of Strowman seems to have invigorated Wyatt, who cut a hell of a talky on Smackdown, even if the new fella’s face just makes you want to smile.
It looks like The Ryback will be fighting Kevin Owens at Night Of Champions, which is at least a new match-up. In this writer’s humble (and expert) opinion, Owens has been the MVP of the main roster since he debuted, and if anyone can drag something out of the awful Intercontinental champion it will be him. Their feud kicked off because someone called Owens fat. No, not The Ryback. Yeah, me either. As noted, Owens cost The Ryback his match against Rollins on Smackdown, although The Ryback didn’t get to return the favour because Owens only wrestled on Main Event this week and nothing storyline happens on that show. Well, except for Adam Rose’s new party pooper gimmick, but it’s a tree falls in a forest situation, ain’t it?
One storyline I very much wish was on Main Event – although, since I now watch all the shows I’d have to see it there, too – is the Rusev-Lana-Dolph Ziggler-Summer Rae love square, which took an odd turn this week because Lana broke her arm training for a match no-one wants to see. In her stead, Ziggler appeared on Raw and told Rusev, who had just forgiven Summer Rae even though she “betrayded” him, that he and Lana had made up and he was nursing her through her injury. He said Lana had asked him to give Rusev a message and then kicked him in the face. I don’t even know what’s going on here anymore. Such is the import of this angle, which I hope will now be allowed to expire peacefully in its sleep, that it didn’t appear at all on Smackdown, making that show a pleasant watch.
One show I didn’t watch this week was the Stone Cold Podcast, which aired after Raw on the WWE Network. That’s because I haven’t had much interest in Austin’s guests – Edge & Christian – since Edge was a mute vampire hunter and Christian was his pal on the indies. They also appeared on Raw, in a backstage skit in which they not only made the WWE World Heavyweight champion look like a dick (who hasn’t?), but also joined up with their fellow nineties throwbacks The Dudley Boyz to ruin a segment with The New Day in it. Yeah, they managed it, although Big E did eat a kazoo.
The Dudley Boyz have somehow finagled a title shot at Night Of Champions, taking on the winners of a Prime Time Players/New Day re-match on next week’s Raw. What with this, and Sting getting a shot at the world title, you can only come to the (wrong is more than one way) conclusion that spending ten years in TNA is title-worthy instead of soul-destroying.
The Dudleyz did have a match on Raw, beating Los Matadores, who blamed el Torito for their loss. They beat up the little fella and got put through tables for their troubles. Is el Torito now going to be a Dudley? I’m suddenly invested.
They didn’t appear on Smackdown – again, pleasant watching – but Cesaro and The Miz did, in a re-match of a tussle from Raw which went to a double count-out. Cesaro won the re-match (whisper it, but The Miz was really good in that one), mainly because he hadn’t been punched in the face by The Big Show, who is just an angry presence on shows these days. He’s still trying to find someone to retire him, and got chased (slowly) to the back by the babyface lumberjacks during Smackdown’s main event. Hopefully Lesnar will oblige at the Madison Square Garden house show.
John Cena had a quiet week – well, other than no-selling Nikki Bella asking him if she had a fat face and telling her to get therapy on Total Divas – but did manage to pick up the pinfall in the main event on Raw, when he & The Prime Time Players beat Seth Rollins and two-thirds of The New Day. It was a super fun match, and Xavier Woods brought his trombone, and Cena danced badly afterwards.
That should have been the end of the show, but they still had time for more of Sting’s goofy comedy, as he put Rollins’s statue into a bin lorry and got the gleeful driver to crush it. Rollins was distraught, because he’s an idiot, and maybe he’s the champion we all deserve?
Talking of champions, his NXT counterpart had a better week, teaming with Samoa Joe to beat The Lucha Dragons in a Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic tournament match shown on NXT but filmed before last week’s Smackdown. The main roster crowd reacted well to Balor, who was rocking a new tough guy look, and the Dragons – like Neville & The Ascension last week – were dispatched back to the big(?) leagues.
They showed highlights of two other matches on NXT, too, filmed at house shows on a single camera, because this is a tournament too big for TV. I like that, and it makes the larger WWE Universe (ugh) feel a part of the whole thing.
The tournament also saw the NXT debut of Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa, and they picked up a win against Tyler Breeze and Bull Dempsey, in a fun match which I hope isn’t the end of the losing team. Dempsey hasn’t really changed a thing since his Bull-Fit relaunch but the crowd are with him now and that makes all the difference.
And that was it, pretty much, for a quiet week in WWE – which must have seemed a Godsend after the last two weeks of off-camera nightmares. NXT is resetting, with the tag-team tournament and reducing the loss of it’s top three women the primary focus, and the main roster stumbles towards Night Of Champions with a weak champion and tumbling ratings. It feels like something big should happen but unless Ambrose & Reigns – who, despite the piped-in chants on Smackdown, is now just another guy – can pull off a shocker for the mystery partner, I don’t know where it’s coming from. Business as usual, then.