The Linus Report: Penury Rollins (This Week In WWE)

The big event of This Week In WWE was obviously the WWE Network broadcast of the Madison Square Garden house show, a curious beast in that it was built around a (not-so) cleverly disguised squash match and little else.

That Brock Lesnar would destroy The Big Show at MSG was never in question, and was the deciding factor for many to actually watch the show, and no-one cared whether or not The Big Show was built to be a convincing opponent beforehand or not. No-one cared if it even was The Big Show in there – they could have sent out Gillberg and the end result would have been the same.

Which made the time given – and a mini-push for Cesaro sacrificed – even more redundant than it would be even if it were trying to get The Big Show – The Big Show! – over in 2015. On Raw they had him destroy Mark Henry (and, I know, it’s only Mark Henry) and then they actually bothered to put together a “history of the feud” video, which was probably just an excuse to show the ring exploding when they fought that one time.

Later on Raw, Paul Heyman came out to do a promo, which The Big Show interrupted, and you can only have so many of these Heyman promos before they lose their lustre. Wasting one on this was silly. And then we got the actual match. The Big Show got some offense in early, hitting three chokeslams and killing that move dead, before Lesnar threw him around a bunch. Job done and it didn’t need any of this pointless build up. But I guess you gotta fill TV time.

The thing is, The Big Show can be a daunting and ticket-selling monster. It just doesn’t work if he’s on TV twice a week, every week. He needs to go away and only come back for a couple of weeks, twice a year at most. Otherwise he’s just a big lump taking up a spot someone more versatile can fill. And Lesnar? There’s a reason Lesnar means something, it’s that we don’t see him every week. Well, that and he mostly always wins and doesn’t usually get involved in stupid bullshit.

The same could be said of Sasha Banks. Not that we don’t see her every week – although Team BAD (ugh, I hate even typing that) do go missing from Raw and Smackdown more than they should – but that she mostly always wins (since Summerslam, she’s only lost once – by DQ) and doesn’t usually get involved in stupid bullshit. The latter is as important as the former, and being on the fringes of the #DivasRevolution has worked miracles for Banks, keeping her fresh and popular in a way that Charlotte and Becky Lynch haven’t enjoyed.

Team Bad didn’t appear on Raw but beat Team Bella in the opening match on Smackdown, with Banks getting the submission victory over Nikki Bella. They were again absent from the MSG special – they were on a house show in Maine – but the climax of this week’s NXT was all about the Sasha Banks versus Bayley 30-minute Iron (wo)Man Match at next week’s NXT Takeover: Respect show. That video package – as with all of the video packages that the students at Full Sail produce – was streets ahead of the main roster stuff, and if you weren’t already excited for the main event of NXT’s next big show – hard to believe – you certainly were after that.

As for the rest of the “Divas”, well… Remember a couple of weeks ago when Team PCB (double ugh) appeared on MizTV and were awful? Well, they did it again, only this time it was just Charlotte and Becky Lynch. Remember when The Miz was the best thing about that earlier appearance? Well, Charlotte and Becky Lynch threw his mic’ away so he couldn’t talk this time. Instead, they were interrupted by Team Bella (don’t mind that one) and then by Paige, and it all broke down – after a commercial break, natch – into a six-diva tag-team match, with Team Bella versus Team PCB. Wait, I hear you ask, didn’t Team PCB break up last week, when Paige turned on her teammates? Indeed they did, but they were teaming here.

And then Paige turned on her teammates again, and Natalya got involved, and the whole thing is just silly. Oh, and on the MSG Special, Charlotte and Becky Lynch teamed with Paige again, and then they turned on her, and I don’t know why I even bother typing anything other than JUST LOOK AT THEIR BOOBS AND BUMS because it’s clear that’s all the women are on the main shows, #DivasRevolution or not.

It’s not as if they don’t have their own show for that, too, although I can’t imagine anyone being able to masturbate to these horrible human beings as they are displayed on Total Divas. This week’s show – the season finale – was another episode full of stupid people making bad decisions, and if it’s all scripted – as my good buddy Stereo Mike claims – that’s even worse. To summarise: Paige lied to her fiancée, Natalya lied to her husband, Daniel Bryan got nervous about men & women talking to each other, and Dolph Ziggler apparently damaged his entire career by trying to get Nikki Bella to leave her boyfriend, the most powerful wrestler in WWE, John Cena. That Ziggler isn’t doing jobs for Heath Slater on Superstars and Nikki Bella isn’t being called a “cum-guzzling gutter slut” on live TV should tell you how legit that particular storyline was.

Instead of burying Dolph Ziggler, Cena instead started the week doing a US Title Open Challenge – against Xavier Woods on Raw – and ended it beating Seth Rollins, AGAIN, at the MSG special. The Open Challenge was – match-wise – probably the least of his challenges, although Woods did look good in places. Woods’s strength, though, is in what The New Day bring to any show we’re lucky enough to see them on, and that’s entertainment. Indeed, Cena actually told them at one point that there was a time to entertain and a time to wrestle, which says volumes about (ironically not his) wrestling in the 21st century.

From Woods playing himself in to Cena’s theme tune on the trombone, to cheering up a despondent Seth Rollins on Smackdown by getting him to clap “I’m The Man” to the “New Day Rocks” rhythm, they once again provided the highlights of the week’s shows, and I sincerely hope they can keep it going without having Stephanie McMahon cut their balls off or anything (spoiler: I am writing this after seeing Stephanie McMahon cut their balls off on Raw).

At the MSG special they upset all the odds-makers by keeping hold of their titles against the duller-than-ditchwater 2015 Dudley Boyz, and still managed to end the show with Xavier Woods going through a table. That people love to see them – and love to see them get hurt – is a testament to their skills. Huzzah for The New Day!

Seth Rollins could do with that kind of love, from anyone right now, because he’s sure as hell not getting it from WWE creative. The weakest world champion in living memory – I can’t speak for how Pedro Morales (a has been!) was booked – suffered another week of losing matches, being made to look stupid and weak, and just generally being ineffectual. That the ratings are in the toilet at the same time Rollins is on top may just be coincidence, but it’s a pretty big one if so.

His week began with some comedy involving Corporate Kane and an evaluation of the big man by “Ashley from HR” following an “anonymous” complaint. The upshot of this – after a funny skit involving the severed head of the Seth Rollins statue from the other week – was that Rollins looked even more stupid. He then snapped on Kane, who had passed his assessment with flying colours, and smashed his leg, and if this storyline has any kind of internal logic that would have seen “Ashley” have him suspended at the very least. As it was, Rollins continued to rant while Kane was driven away in an ambulance, until the ambulance stopped and (employing the same special effects that Dean Ambrose’s ambulance used in his feud with Bray Wyatt last year) THE DEMON KANE appeared and killed Rollins.

THE DEMON KANE appeared again on Smackdown, after some more comedy that did nothing for Rollins’s effectiveness as a heel champion, and Rollins was left lying again at the end of that show. Then, at the MSG special, Rollins had the cage match with Cena won but decided not to jump to the floor – and thus regaining the US title he lost at Night Of Champions – because Kane was on his (slow) way to the ring, and instead jumped back into the cage, where he was pinned and then beaten up by Kane anyway. Stupid, stupid Rollins. No buys.

All of this may end up with THE DEMON KANE becoming WWE World Heavyweight champion at Hell In A Cell at the end of month, but down in NXT they’ve already got a demon as champion. Well, sometimes. Finn Balor, when he’s not being a demon, is some kind of leather-jacketed greaser, the kind of boy your dad told your sister to stay away from. Assuming your sister grew up in 1958, anyway.

On this week’s show, Balor teamed with Samoa Joe against Enzo Amore & Big Cass, in a Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic quarter-final match-up, and won out over the ever-popular New York/New Jersey metrostars. They meet Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder in the semi-finals at Takeover, and that team were given some air-time to flesh themselves out on this week’s show, jawing with Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, which really marks the difference between the developmental and main roster shows in HUGE, BOLD LETTERS.

Jordan & Gable were shown advancing to the semi-finals by beating the Hype Bros on a house show, and they’ll face Baron Corbin & Rhyno, and it’s all terribly exciting.

One team who didn’t make it to the latter stages were Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa, but they returned on this week’s show in two singles matches. Gargano lost to Apollo Crews in an okay match that just went too fast for anything to sink in, and then Ciampa pretty much did the same against Tyler Breeze in the main event. The difference between the two – Ciampa an out-and-out “indy” guy, and Breeze the product of extensive WWE training – was clear, and it manifested in Breeze allowing time between moves for the crowd to appreciate what he’d done, rather than machine-gunning them with move after move after move. Plus, his match also had a spot where he rode Ciampa like a pony.

One final piece of “look how different it is down here!” business on NXT saw William Regal make an Asuka versus Dana Brooke match for Takeover, after showing Brooke & Emma a vide of Asuka training. This led to scared Dana and snide Emma, and made Asuka seem like even more of a big deal than she did last week. When she seemed like a pretty big deal. They used to do this all the time on the main shows but now they just throw people out there, with no build-up, and wonder why the audience don’t immediately take to them. It’s so frustrating to see so many things being done simultaneously right and wrong.

One person who did manage to make a pretty big impression on his debut, despite zero build-up, was Kevin Owens, and even that has been touch-and-go since. For a moment on Raw, it seemed as if they’d made another misstep, throwing Owens versus Rusev out as a random match-up, despite the money that lies buried in seeing these two actually go at it for the first time. Luckily for us – and the eventual ratings their battle should bring – it was all a shitty angle to involve The Ryback, leading to the Owens versus The Ryback WWE Intercontinental title re-match on Smackdown, which Owens by losing by cocky count-out. Somewhere in there on Raw, Ziggler got involved, too, just in case you’d thought they’d abandoned that particular angle (possibly for reasons of common sense).

Oh, and as an aside (because we’ve got to cover Owens’s match on the MSG special), Lana (kayfabe) tweeted this week that she was learning to do accents so don’t be surprised when she returns if all traces of the Russian girl we fell in love with have been destroyed in Vince McMahon’s continuing JUST LOOK AT THEIR BOOBS AND BUMS crusade.

Back to Owens, and he faced Chris Jericho on the MSG special, and Jericho seems to have made it his business to have good matches with good talent on these shows, like he did in Japan where he faced Neville on the Beast In The East special (and Balor on the accompanying house show). Given only eight minutes – one less than Team PCB versus Team Bella, fact fans – they could only do so much but still had pretty much the best match on the show, and Jericho got to salute Lance Storm, who he made his debut against twenty-five years ago to that day (actually a day out, but KAYFABE!), and also Don Callis, Dr Luther, and his dad. Which was lovely. Lance Storm got a pretty big pop, too!

Not on the MSG special (because they were in Maine, with Sasha Banks) were Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and the Wyatt Family. They continued their feud all over Raw and Smackdown this week, and Reigns & Wyatt headlined Raw with a barnburner of an encounter which started off cool and then heated up once the actual match had been thrown out and they brawled into the crowd. At one point Bray Wyatt picked up a HUMAN MAN and threw him at Reigns, and they did all kinds of stuff into barriers and through tables.

Ambrose appeared in a backstage segment with Reigns and Orton, and then twiddled his thumbs on Raw (because why would you give one of your most over talents a match when ratings are low?) and didn’t appear at all on Smackdown, although Luke Harper & Braun Strowman did destroy the Prime Time Players, who were last seen promising the Dudley Boyz they were coming after them. Plans change, I guess.

On Smackdown, Wyatt and Reigns faced off again, although only for Reigns to utter just four words to his beardy pal – “Hell. In. A. Cell.” So that’s happening. Orton, who I guess is still involved in all this, even if he doesn’t work Tuesdays, beat Bo Dallas on Raw and got a huge pop again. Does he need a storyline because he’s getting huge pops or is it because he’s not in a stupid storyline that he’s getting them? Schroedinger’s Booking.

Other than some redundant shite with Neville, Stardust, and a returning Wade Barrett, that was The Week In WWE. It’s an odd beast of late, the WWE, seemingly responding to low ratings by not changing what it presents on its TV shows but by giving us more of it, all at the same time, and in smaller chunks. I guess the idea is to beat the viewer into submission – “alright, I’ll become invested in The Ryback’s self-improvement story, just stop showing me Neville’s confused face!” – but it’s having the opposite effect on most of the audience. Me? I enjoy working out why a show is bad as much watching a good show, so I’ll be back next week even if a scary percentage of the viewers won’t…

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