The Linus Report: RIP Lana (This Week In WWE)

So, the big news in WWE this week wasn’t the big news in WWE, but rather outside WWE – literally in one case!

The biggest story, and the one that could have the widest-reaching implications for WWE as a whole, was the decision by a Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, Grand Jury to charge “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka with the third-degree murder of his mistress Nancy Argentino in 1983. What happened that night has long been the subject of supposition and gossip ever since, and covered at length in books by journalist Irv Muchnik. This week’s Wrestling Observer newsletter has a good summation of the facts as they are known, and it makes for surprising and disappointing reading.

While Snuka is seventy-two years old and long retired, the part played by Vince McMahon is what will concern WWE shareholders. Opinions of his role differ widely, from innocent advocate and loyal employer to REDACTED BY OUR LEGAL TEAM. If anything close to the real story emerges – and there’s doubt cast on that by the position of one of the original investigators on the prosecutors’ team – it will make for nervous reading by all at Titan Towers.

The police were also involved in WWE business this week when Alejandro Montalvo, a mentalist from Florida, turned up outside the Performance Centre in Orlando, demanding to see Lita. Lita wasn’t there, and neither should Montalvo have been, having been the subject of an unserved retraining order earlier in the week. Montalvo, who has previously been obsessed with AJ Lee to the extent that he smeared his own excrement on the walls of the Performance Centre (and filmed it to the soundtrack of the now Wolfpac music), was confronted by Sheriff’s deputies and eventually shot & wounded.

Further drama at the Performance Centre surrounded Zahra Scheiber, Seth Rollins’s girlfriend and NXT trainee, who I wrote last week had been outed as a violent, hateful racist. Turns out WWE agreed and she was “future endeavoured” early this week. Although quite what future endeavours a self-hating Nazi would get up to I shudder to think.

Besides all that, WWE did run some shows this week and those shows were filmed and put on TV. Raw opened with (The Man Called) Sting telling Seth Rollins that he did what did, not for Maria, but for HHH’s legacy. Or something. It wasn’t entirely clear, because John Cena muddied the waters, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So Sting claimed that he ruined Rollins’s statue presentation – and where is that statue, anyway? – because Rollins didn’t deserve it. That’s fine, because he doesn’t. But he went further: he said he could forgive HHH the stuff he’d done – including beating Sting in his only WWE match to date – because he was a legend. But Rollins wasn’t a legend so Sting wouldn’t let him get away with stuff. Well, apart from when he let him get away with threatening to kill Edge, cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase, and pretty much a whole year of Rollins doing bad things. The statue, it seems, was the straw that broke the (not particularly-bothered) camel’s back.

Later in the show, Cena claimed that Sting didn’t really feel that way about HHH, he was just saying he did to get inside Rollins’s head. I don’t know who to believe: the man in facepaint, the man who still wears jorts in 2015, or the writers who pitched this idea clearly knowing that HHH & Stephanie would love it. Cena was out there to inform Rollins that he was cashing in his re-match clause for the United States title and that, since The Authority had decided that every title would be defended at Night of Champions, Rollins would have to wrestle twice. Because he’s also wrestling Sting. For the WWE World Heavyweight title. Brass ring, fellas, brass ring.

Remember last week’s Raw, when we got several re-matches from Summerslam? Well, just in case that wasn’t enough for you, we got another one this week: Rusev versus Dolph Ziggler in the feud that is dragging everyone involved in it TO HELL. They had a match and it ended in a DQ when a thin woman interfered, but that was nothing compared to what happened backstage, when Ziggler & Lana were revealed to be the stupidest of stupid stupidfaces.

Ziggler had been interviewed by Backstage Renee, and while she was suspiciously running down the card for the rest of the show – hey, maybe this was just the first time and she’ll do it every week now? – he entered a room marked DOLPH ZIGGLER. I’ve since labelled all the rooms in my house with ALAN BOON because I liked how it looked. Over Renee’s shoulder, Summer Rae snuck into the same room and the director yelled “SCENE!”

Later, while Renee was interviewing The Ryback in front of a room marked THE RYBACK, a noise was heard and the camera panned to see Summer Rae running away and Ziggler chasing after her, wrapped only in a towel. When Renee caught up with Summer Rae, later in the show, she claimed that she’d seen Ziggler step out of the shower and liked what she’d seen. She said she expected him to have tan lines but he didn’t (even though he clearly did when we saw him earlier), and this all upset Lana so much she stormed off. Because her hated rival could never be lying, right?

On Smackdown, all concerned were interviewed on MizTV, and Summer Rae claimed that, actually, she & Ziggler had got it on, and had been getting it on for a while. As proof she showed a video of them kissing in the ring from FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO. Lana took this as proof of something and attacked Summer Rae and left Ziggler in the ring. This story – as shit as it is – must continue. It’s killing Lana, but it MUST CONTINUE.

Speaking of killing women, the Divas Revolution continued apace, with a Beat The Clock challenge, because if there’s anything that will get women over it’s short matches and an inconclusive finish. The members of Team Paige were lined up to fight Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, and Sasha Banks, and the one who won fastest would get a shot at Nikki Bella’s title at Night of Champions. Given that the upshot of this is that at one woman would have to lose her match, why they didn’t use Cameron, Emma, or any of the others they have just hanging around as the designated jobbers I don’t know.

So Becky Lynch beat Alicia Fox in three minutes, and then Charlotte beat Brie Bella in half that. Then Paige had a go, against the most-accomplished and most-over woman on the roster, Sasha Banks, and failed to beat Charlotte’s time. That Banks’s teammates interfered for what should have been a DQ is neither here nor there, and the result is that Charlotte would get a go on Nikki Bella at Night of Champions.

Except, in a display of terrible acting (followed by some poor wrestling against Tamina, who had a murderous look in her eyes, amiright?) on Smackdown, Charlotte informed Bella that she’d asked The Authority for a title shot before Bella breaks AJ Lee’s record. That’s her record for holding the title, not the one of the now Wolfpac theme (with added excrement).

Terrible women weren’t only confined to the main roster this week, as Eva Marie continued her quest for the NXT Women’s title on, erm, NXT. She fought Billy Kay, the Australian who didn’t steal an iPad cover or have an entirely spin-kick-based offense, and forgot to kick out on a nearfall. The referee, though, because there’s no way in hell a special project like Eva Marie can lose before she dethrones Bayley, claimed she had and the match ended with the worst Sliced Bread #2 ever committed to videotape. Luckily, Alexa Bliss – and her tiny, tiny shorts – was on hand to beat Blue Pants and restore some pride to the women’s division.

Back on Raw, The Big Show fought The Ryback for the WWE Intercontinental title. And lost. So The Ryback’s reign or error continues, although Kevin Owens declared on Smackdown that he wanted to get back at the people who called him fat by taking down the man who makes a catchphrase out of an eating disorder, so we may get a new, brilliant champion soon. As for The Big Show, he responded to the (barely-heard and possibly-invented) chants of “please retire!” by asking the chanters to find someone to retire him. The news that he’s been booked against Brock Lesnar on the televised Madison Square Garden house show can’t be entirely coincidental…

When The Big Show made his debut in WCW in 1995, Buh Buh Ray Dudley was about to make his debut for ECW. Twenty years later, and the Dudley Boyz are back, but you already knew that if you read last week’s Linus Report (or, erm, watched any WWE TV for the past two weeks…). Inexplicably still a thing in 2015, The Dudley Boyz were a thing on Raw and Smackdown again this week, downing The New Day on the former, and The Prime Time Players on the latter.

Once again, though, The New Day stole the show, with a campaign against the Dudleyz wanton breaking of tables – #savethetables – and some genuinely funny material about the value of tables to our lives that died in front of the idiot Florida crowds. They also added commentary to the Dudleyz versus PTP match on Smackdown – schooling Rich Brennan in the difference between a German and a back suplex – and danced backstage with a barefoot Renee Young. With a trombone. We do not deserve The New Day.

Raw served up another Summerslam re-match, with Kevin Owens versus Cesaro, but one you don’t mind watching a BAJILLION times. Owens won this one, too, injuring Cesaro’s ribs on the announcers’ desk, and Cesaro was still selling the injury – complete with bandages – on Smackdown. He lost to Sheamus – fucking Sheamus! – on that show, because wins and losses for Cesaro, like the Bellas, don’t matter.

Oh, talking of the Bellas, former-Smackdown general manager (and one-time head of talent relations) John Laurinatis got engaged to their mother this week. That makes him John Cena’s de facto father-in-law, and means that Road Warrior Animal is American Dragon’s uncle. Hey, maybe that’s how Sheamus is getting such a big push – maybe he’s engaged to the Bellas’ dad? IT’S LEGAL NOW.

Braun Strowman made his in-ring debut on Raw, against Dean Ambrose, and they kept him strong, with Roman Reigns having to interfere to save his buddy. Before the match, Bray Wyatt cut a talky, and called Strowman the “new face of destruction”. Strowman then unmasked and revealed those chubby little cheeks that probably earned him the nickname “moonface” at school. CHEEKY DESTRUCTION. After the match, the Wyatts led a beatdown on Ambrose & Reigns, that was remarkable for how clean their clothing looked. Looks like when Sister Abigail sent Strowman, she also sent clean laundry.

Ambrose & Reigns went against a three-man team again on Smackdown, and handily defeated the WWE World Tag-Team champions The New Day. Well, it was a DQ when Xavier Woods – sans trombone – interfered, but they had ZERO trouble with the supposed top team in WWE. I guess Ambrose & Reigns going against three-man teams (Los Matadores & el Torito next week?) is a thing to lead them into getting a third man in to help. I’m still pulling for Fandango.

If The New Day are having trouble beating non-teams and has-beens on the main roster, at least they’re not The Ascension. They popped back down to NXT – and got a THUNDEROUS reception from Full Sail – to take part in the Duthty Rhodeth Tag-Team Clathic (I’m sorry), and must have enjoyed the near-six minutes they lasted, before the team of Rhyno and Baron Corbin dumped them out of the contest. I have to admit that, having never been the biggest fan of The Ascension even in NXT, it was nice to see them back, but even nicer to see the Baron send them away again. Yeah, I’m being all oppositional – Corbin for champion, okay?

The Ascension also appeared on Smackdown, as hired goons for Stardust in his war against Neville. Given Stardust is pretty much Frank Gorshin’s Riddler from the old Batman TV show, I was disappointed to see them not have numbers on their chests, like the old timey henchmen. Neville also pulled double-duty on NXT and Smackdown, teaming with Solomon Crowe in the tag-team tournament, and losing to Jason Jordan & Chad Gable. That ain’t a bad thing, because Jordan & Gable are BRILLIANT, and the match was really good. Crowe looked the best he’s looked in a while, selling as the little, sympathetic babyface. Of course, they’ve turned him heel on the house shows, so what do I know? Teaming with Crowe did allow Neville to continue his “constantly bewildered by anything out of the ordinary” gimmick, and he plays it very well.

Not “constantly bewildered” but definitely “overwhelmed by being in the big time”, Apollo Crews looked impressive again on NXT, downing British ace Martin Stone, who used to be in NXT as Danny Burch, something Corey Graves, bless him, referenced. That Stone has been doing television jobs for both WWE and TNA lately, while Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll turn heads in Pro-Wrestling Guerilla, is a reminder that you really do have to strike while the iron is hot. Given Stone’s talent, though, I bet there’ll be a few more warm irons coming his way. He’s been working for Evolve, which seems to be becoming NXT’s feeder promotion (a feeder for a feeder), and that company’s Johnny Gargano (and former-ROH star Tomasso Ciampa) turned up on NXT this week, too.

This week’s Raw was a bit shit and, for once, Smackdown was the better show, and it was certainly the only show where Bo Dallas got a win (yeah, I checked Superstars and Main Event). He dominated R-Truth, who at least got Eden Stee-lezz nodding along to his once-again terrible rendition of “What’s Up?”

One final note of note was Hulk Hogan’s attempt to rehabilitate himself from being a racist piece of shit by going on talk shows and claiming that, actually, he was a product of his upbringing. He claimed that people in his neighbourhood used to greet each other with “nigger” all the time, though given he grew up in Florida in the 50s & 60s I can only imagine it was prefaced with “hey, let’s go lynch a…”. Disappointingly, there are rumours that British promotions are booking him – presumably because Americans won’t touch him with a ten-foot clown pole. Any that do deserve the scorn they will no doubt receive.

With Raw being the worst of this week’s shows – although with a slight rebound in ratings – and all the off-screen shenanigans overshadowing the on-screen product, it can’t have been a good week in Stamford (that’s Stamford, Connecticut, rather than Stamford, Lincolnshire, where it’s never a good week). They’ll pray for better luck next week, when hopefully no Hall of Famers will be racist or murdery, no mentalists will go own-shit crazy, and their flagship show won’t be filled with hagiographic nonsense. Hey, it’s what I pray for, too!

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