The Linus Report: Stung (This Week In WWE)

When the week in WWE ends with Kane – wearing a mask, silently demonic – standing over the world champion, leading into a possible title match for the Big Red Machine, you could be forgiven for thinking it was 1997. Or 2001. Or 2005. But not 2015, surely??? Well, wake up, this isn’t a dream…

The week started on Raw, with the nasty, despicable heel owners of WWE dancing in the ring with The New Day. This was, apparently, the season premiere of Raw, which is quite a thing for a show which doesn’t have season. The Authority were out there to announce a bunch of stuff, which could probably have better been done by a graphic. But then can a graphic dance like a Dad at a wedding..?

First, though, they announced that Sting would wrestle on Raw for the first time ever. Given he spent the last thirty years contracted to other promotions, it’s not like they’ve been keeping him out back or anything. And who did they choose for this momentous occasion? Yes, the only man on the roster Sting fought on Nitro – The Big Show – because I guess we’ve been very, very naughty or something. At least, for fans of RSPW (ask your dad), it gave us one last Dting versus The Gaint match…

That match, the main event over the Divas title match which could have seen Nikki Bella break AJ Lee’s record for the longest title reign in this particular incarnation of the distaff title’s history (spoiler, she did), went about a minute, before WWE World Heavyweight champion Seth Rollins interfered for the DQ. Welcome to Raw, Sting. John Cena made the save – I was as surprised as you – and it turned into a tag-team match, which saw Sting make Rollins tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock for that “ooooh!” moment.

On Smackdown, Rollins would come out to do the boring twenty-minute promo that The Authority robbed him of on Raw, and end up in another tag-team main event – this time teaming with Sheamus against Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Rollins lost again, when the most terrifying man in WWE history (as in, we’re all terrified he’ll win the title on a cash-in) Sheamus was pinned by Ambrose. Nothing like keeping your champion strong, and the past few weeks have been nothing like keeping your champion strong.

At the Night Of Champions pay-per-view, however, Rollins did come up with a win. To be fair, he first had to lose to Cena – who is now WWE United States Heavyweight champion again, so expect a five-star match with heath Slater on next week’s Raw – and then so badly abuse a fifty-six-year old man that Panorama are bound to do an undercover investigation on it. Yeah, Rollins kept the WWE World Heavyweight title, by braining Sting with a Buckle Bomb, and then slept through Sheamus trying to cash in the Money In The Bank briefcase, which was interrupted by the appearance of Kane. I suppose we’ll find out tonight why Kane did what he did but all I’ve got to say is, “dude, he gave you a sweet watch!”

Cast your mind back to the start of this piece (and then fast forward through the bit about Kane), and we’re right where we came in, with HHH & Stephanie dancing with The New Day. As being programmed in a feud with the moribund Dudley Boyz has shown, nothing can halt the momentum of these titans of FUN! and so it was with The Authority’s appalling dancing.

After dealing with that, their WWE World Tag-Team titles defence against The Prime Time Players was nothing more than a formality, with Titus O’Neil eating the pin after coming dangerously close to damaging the trombone. If WWE Creative are smart – and, yeah, I know – that trombone will remain intact until at least Wrestlemania, when it will be carefully inserted into an orifice. It’s the star of the show, after all.

WWE Creative do seem to be giving The New Day a freer reign that most, and their promos – although wasted on the mouthbreathers that have attended live shows the past few weeks have been awesome. They have a chemistry which cannot be manufactured, and that was evident when they appeared on Chris Jericho’s podcast last month, and also on Table For 3 on the WWE Network this week. Ostensibly a show about three men talking and eating, it’s must-see TV for anyone with even a passing interest in The New Day or anyone who enjoys funny stories about Taco Bell.

I watched it because, as you know, I watch all the shows now, and that includes Main Event and Superstars, which includes Xavier Woods on commentary, and is the only place to see Bo Dallas matches. Hey, I like Bo Dallas! Dallas did double duty this week, beating Jack Swagger and Zack Ryder. Ryder also beat Adam Rose, and Swagger lost to Rusev, and it really is a whole other universe on those C shows, one where these guys matter and don’t we all want to matter???

The New Day’s week ended in mixed fashion, with a title match against the Dudley Boyz at Night Of Champions. The champs came away with their titles after Woods forced a DQ, only to find himself put through one of those tables he’s been so valiantly trying to save of late. Well, kinda – The New Day were planning to do some wood-smashing of their own and the tables were quite literally turned. Before all that, though, we got another masterclass of taunting and tromboning and, I’m telling you, we’re living in a golden age for both.

If you believe in the hashtag #DivasRevolution you might also think it’s a golden age for women’s wrestling in WWE. It’s not – don’t be ridiculous – but that didn’t stop them wheeling out Ric Flair on Raw to back his daughter’s campaign to end the terrible reign of the tyrant Nikki Bella. Nikki’s WWE Divas’ title reign lasted for 301 days and she defended the title a massive ten times on TV in that period – a worthy champion, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Flair being there pretty much guaranteed Charlotte wouldn’t win on Raw, and so it was, with the Bellas pulling Twin Magic (more like Mother & Daughter Sorcery, amIright?) to keep the title, forcing that dastardly heel Stephanie McMahon to regretfully concede that Nikki had broken the record but that she must defend the title at Night Of Champions, again against Charlotte. That defence would be under new rules, meaning that a DQ or a count-out would signal a title change, and in the end neither happened and Charlotte made Nikki tap to become the new WWE Divas’ champion. This, they seemed to indicate from the pre-match hype, put her in the same company as Alundra Blayze, Trish Stratus, and the Fabulous Moolah, who actually held the title for over three-thousand days because, well, she was booking it.

Before we got to the PPV, however, we got the BellaBration, on Smackdown, the biggest piece of WrestleCrap we’ve seen in quite some time. When you can’t even get a cake-throwing right, you know you’re dealing with some poor tools.

Away from the main storyline, Paige and Sasha Banks had a couple of fine matches, and it’s amazing how much better the “Divas Revolution” is when it only includes the ones doing the, erm, revolting. That’s nothing against Nikki Bella, who works hard, but you need a new broom to sweep truly clean. It’s at this point I’d like to steal a joke from some guy off Twitter about Nikki being like Trigger’s broom but decorum prevents me.

In other divas news, Paige is an idiot. She spent the entirety of this week’s Total Divas trying to avoid being proposed to by her boyfriend, only to accept his proposal at the end of the episode. On a show where everything is probably set up, their relationship comes across as particularly false, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out his roommate – seriously, a rock star and his professional wrestler TV star girlfriend have a roommate – is keeping more in the closet than the knowledge of where he hides his engagement ring. The star of this whole to-do was Emma, who came across as natural and mischievous and funny. I weep for her.

Also on Total Divas, Jimmy Uso did stand-up comedy (sadly “Knock knock. Who’s there? Wrench. Wrench who? You got to wrench it before you eat it” didn’t make his final set) and Daniel Bryan kinda didn’t get cleared to wrestle again. It’s an odd situation, because you know Bryan will wrestle until he dies, possibly in the ring, but the WWE so obviously don’t want him to. Wrestle or die, that is.

Bryan’s fellow Tough Enough judge, The Miz, hosted another MizTV segment on Raw and somehow finagled The Wyatt Family into appearing. Seriously, in the kayfabe world of WWE, how did The Miz book these sinister hillbillies to appear on his chat show? And why? Why would he do that???

Anyway, The Miz had The Wyatt Family on, and they threatened him from the off (see: why???), and then Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose came down and threw The Miz out of the ring. He needs a better job. Reigns did a hell of a promo, informing Wyatt that they had a partner for Night Of Champions, although quite who they maligned was going to counter the cheeky-faced destruction of Braun Strowman, I don’t know.

Well, I do, because it’s Monday and the show was last night, and it was Chris Jericho. It really was! I mean, at least it made storyline sense, in that Wyatt and Jericho had history, but the announcers clearly said that it was someone from Ambrose’s & Reigns’s past, which saw people reaching for names like Seth Rollins, Erick Rowan, and Sika the Wild Samoan. I imagined it might be someone from CZW, where Ambrose spent his formative years. Maybe Wifebeater – or Bram, as he’s now known. It almost turned out being some random schlub in a riot vest, who joined Ambrose & Reigns in the ring and prompted Wyatt to say, “is that your partner?”, which probably got him in trouble for not ignoring these crazies like they’re supposed to.

So, yeah, it was Jericho, and he ended up getting over-enthusiastic and becoming the latest victim of #CheekyDestruction. After the match, Jericho & Ambrose teased dissention, and I don’t know what’s going on in this feud anymore. It’s like they’re making it up as they go along, only nowhere near that good.

The thing is, Ambrose is so watchable that even the hokiest of storylines are fun, and I tested that to the limit by watching 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown this week, which is a very, very, very bad film that Ambrose is really, really good in. I mean, he plays Dean Ambrose, only Dean Ambrose with a gun, which I think we’ll agree is the Dean Ambrose that the PG era has robbed us of.

Also watchable in a dreadful feud is Kevin Owens, who followed up a week in which he ate an apple and tripped The Ryback with a week in which he almost made The Ryback cry by ragging on his favourite, creepy book and by taking his WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight title away from him. The Ryback is incomprehensibly over with the live fans but tried his best to turn them by doing an Elvis impersonation that would shame Jon Cuntshaw. He also claimed to be the “master of the feed me more” which, given it’s a chant and an arm-pumping, doesn’t sound all that hard.

Neither man wrestled on Raw, but Owens did lace up his boots on Smackdown for a match with Dolph Ziggler, a re-match from last week’s Main Event which only those of us who watch all the shows got to see. It was pretty good. So was this one, even though The Ryback and his fat head ruined it by interfering for the DQ. All he did was talk trash about your shitty self-help book, The Ryback!

This all led to their Night Of Champions encounter, opening the show and setting the tone for the evening with a chorus of boos for the cartoon babyface and a cacophony of cheers for the man deemed too fat to get over by some. Owens won – by cheating, of course – and now carries the most cursed title in professional wrestling history. Well, besides the title of first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth Von Erich child.

The way they’ve been unable to get The Ryback – essentially the clean-living, slightly-goofy babyface of days gone by – over is made all the more frustrating by that same template being huge, big, massive on NXT in Bayley. She made her triumphant return to Full Sail, beat Sarah “Crazy Mary” Dobson in a really fun match, and engaged in an in-ring celebration with superfan Izzy that made even my shrivelled-up heart bleed.

She was about to address the NXT fans but only got as far as “Holy moley, guys!” before Sasha Banks appeared and announced she was invoking her re-match clause, which ended up being announced for the next NXT Takeover special – Respect, on October 7th – as a thirty-minute Iron Man match (although the Full Sail fans chanted “Iron Wo-Man”) which should be quite the contest. Furthermore, it was announced as the main event of that show, the first time ever a major WWE show will be headlined by women.

Also on NXT, the Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic tournament continued, with Baron Corbin & Samoa Joe advancing over Tomasso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano, and clips shown of the Hype Bros and The Vaudevillains also marching on. Oh, by the way, only bought myself a Hype Bros t-shirt, didn’t I? I don’t get hyped…

Bull Dempsey & Tyler Breeze, dumped out of the tournament by Gargano & Ciampa last week, came together in a messy opener, which also involved party pooper Adam Rose. Rose is in that twilight zone of bouncing between the main roster and NXT and is really floundering, unlike Dempsey & Breeze who really have a handle on their gimmicks.

Former NXT standouts Neville & The Lucha Dragons continued their main roster adventures in a very comic-book theme, taking on the Cosmic Wasteland team of Stardust & The Ascension on both Raw, where they had an odd non-match, and on the pre-show for Night Of Champions, where they suffered the ignominy of having a commercial break inserted in their match. That break, to advertise the WWE Network on a show exclusively available on the WWE Network, interrupted a decent-enough contest but these guys are treading water at best. What makes comic books readable is different things happening every issue, something that seems to have escaped the notice of WWE creative.

That may be because the whole writing team is engaged in penning every scintillating episode of the Lana-Dolph Ziggler-Rusev-Summer Rae love quadrangle, which reaches new heights of utter shititude every time they pedal a new chapter. On this week’s shows, we saw Ziggler superkick Rusev for no reason, then give Rusev’s girlfriend a gift, and still come out as the babyface for the PPV. Ziggler wore new tights, with a picture of Lana’s face over his cock, and I don’t know what was more embarrassing – that or Rusev jobbing to a shoe.

Somewhere in all the good, the bad, and the downright odd, in a random advert thrown out in the middle of Night Of Champions, was an announcement that Brock Lesnar will face The Undertaker at Hell In A Cell next month, the rubber match for their feud which has seemingly been rushed forward from Wrestlemania because of declining ratings. It seemed weird that they would announce it without fanfare but nothing WWE does surprises me anymore, and that’s a sad thing.

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