A Tale of Two Pushes

Raw Regurgitated, 3/7
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The nature of modern audiences, along with Shane’s middle aged dad energy -- which is about a two on a scale of one to ten Harbaughs -- has made it seem, when coupled with his very 90s cadence and pitch, like forgetting his lines or at least not remembering them as quickly as he and we would like. But, at least to me, it seem less that he’s unaware of what to say as much as he is unsure of how to say it. This isn't Sing-a-long with The Rock, though, and after the third time Shane appears on TV, he’ll no longer be able to do the chain “wow, what a reaction” reaction. Creeping What birds have taken down more than a few promos, and Shane should probably spend some more time worrying about them then working on his starter class Muay Thai technique.

As Vince both literally and figuratively dug his heel into heart of this promo, the Fiancée brought up something you forget watching all the time: the McMahons get a real, profound joy out of pretending to tear each other down publicly. It's more than just blurring the line between kayfabe and reality, it’s blurring the lines between soap opera and Shakespeare. These people feel the business in their souls, and pull from the depths of their person the most hateful thing that they can say about each other within some very broad lines of basic decency for our entertainment. There's something to be said for that, I'm just not sure what.

There's not much to be said for the “We Promise Shane Can Work” portion of this segment, other than maybe stick to the knees. And, maybe, look into chopping off your hands so you're never even tempted to throw those god awful punches again.

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Even without knowing what's coming as a result, it's hard to argue with the logic of the booking of Neville and Owens during and after this match. What doesn't make any sense, though, is how they went about executing. Not getting the right camera angle on the finish and not having Neville actually attempt the Red Arrow beforehand made it feel like less of a fluke than an inevitability. Which isn't to say that Neville opting instead for a series of lesser known parts of his ever expanding Arsenal was a bad idea. Just that they probably could have come up with a better way to end a match that made both guys look so good beforehand.

They made up for the A- match with an A+++ capper, though. The story between Sami and KO signals a sea change for professional wrestling, as they have now carried their rivalry through the entire modern territorial system and have almost literally brought it to Broadway. Unlike, say, CM Punk’s Summer of Punk storyline -- where he posits leaving the company for bigger and better things while also threatening to take the belt with him -- which he did in both ROH and WWE, the rivalry between these two can create entirely new worlds and paradigms for their characters to inhabit while also sharing a history outside of WWE that has the potential to become canon within it. This isn't a WWE approved reboot of a feud or storyline, but the beginning of the ever expanding WWEU.

Speaking of ever expanding universes, the Total Divas segment before the Total Divas match seemed to give up all pretense of tying into what was happening in the ring, opting instead to remind viewers that E! is the only place left in the WWEU where you can watch Daniel Bryan without tears instantly.

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Dean Ambrose’s promo style may not be for everyone. In fact, outside of specific, punctuated moments of brilliance -- the “Hunter... Thanks!” level bits -- he is only marginally better than he is when he's doing the Wild and Crazy Guy schtick. But even that improvement, along with his look, ringworm and charisma, puts him lightyears ahead of Reigns as it relates to the main event. Some of this is that they’ve let Ambrose be himself to an extent that they don't appear to have let Roman, but given how little we know about the Creative process as it relates to either of them, it's just as plausible that Reigns is just as much an occasionally awkward, decent guy who isn't as cool as his friends off screen as he is on. Whatever it is, they either need to figure it out in the next four weeks, or already have and we’re all going to find out on Saturday.

Either way, I have very little concern regarding the HHH portion of the dance. Contrary to his reputation, H is more than happy to put over those he thinks are worthy of the main event at WrestleMania. Cena, Batista and Daniel Bryan all were put over by H, and it's hard to imagine him not making either Roman or Dean (or probably both) look like the stars of the company that he has a personal stake in making them for the next ten years.

While it’s clear and obvious why Hunter does and should have the power to make a match between Dean and Bray Wyatte, the WWE should probably put fake bylaws in place that prevent him from booking his upcoming opponent in a match against backwoods cult leaders. I'm not sure of what the exact wording would look like on something like that -- would it be a list, or a more blanket thing, and if so, would Waylon Mercy be included in the ban? -- but this a gross abuse of power and the WWE should stand idly by while the Authority engages in unfair booking practices.

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If you’re going to insist on having these cockamamie three or four-on-one matches, having them be between your favorite goon squad and someone you don’t like, in which the goober of the goon squad takes a pin but doesn’t lose the match is about the best possible way to do them. And for all the keen dislike I have for Dolph, he never looks better than when trying to escape defeat or a gaggle of hosses. This match had both, and he looked like closer to the guy who almost singlehandedly “defeated” the Authority than he has in a while. Not that he’ll ever get there again, but at least he looks like that was someone who have done that once.

The double Divas clusterkerfuffle is a testament to either the WWE’s commitment to expanding the division or allowing it to collapse entirely into Charlotte until Bayley arrives. There’s just no other explanation for how epicly she later’d Becky and Sasha after a pretty standard tag match against two people they’ve beaten every time they’ve so much as looked at them. I understand the logic: there’s not going to be any pop you’ll get louder than the one where Bayley Hugplexes Charlotte to Hug-blivion. But it remains to be seen if these three will be able to handle physically the stress of treading water for a month straight.

I honestly have given up on caring about #GoldenTruth in either direction, but at least this segment didn’t also make me want to gouge out my eyes with a fork. It only made me sad this time.

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*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** This was, unequivocally, the best match in New Day history. For the first time, they felt like watching the poor man’s version of The Shield. Which is remarkable considering one group has already produced two World’s Champions and is well on its way to a third, while New Day has precisely one person who even has a puncher’s chance of reaching that level. It helps that the one person is Big E, and he has a Mike-Tyson-in-Mike-Tyson’s-Punch-out puncher’s chance, but it’s still hard to make genuinely great chicken salad out of even pretty good chicken.

Which is where Y2AJ came in. AJ Styles continues to have the best and easiest transition of any major “outside” performer to the WWE house style since Ric Flair (which is impressive, even if it’s not the lengthiest of lists.) And regardless of what happened at the end of this match, he and Jericho managed to turn a disastrous start with The New Day from what looked like an inexorable march towards the end of Y2J’s relevance into the crowd actually, and deservedly, rooting for them against The New Day.

Even acknowledging his penchant for bringing the best out of rando taggos, this has been some of Jericho’s best work of his career from a character perspective. And while the “they were cheering for him instead of me” explanation is exceedingly lame in a vacuum, given Jericho’s behavior over the past month and a half -- he’s been Best in the World at What I Do Jericho in Y2J’s clothing -- it makes both storyline and character sense.

It also allows to The New Day to move on to bigger and better things without actually having to do so -- I mean, they have the League of Nations waiting for them on the otherside of this for crissakes -- or do so in a way that hurts the heat of either team. They didn’t win through an outrageous amount of shenanigans -- they are, under Freebird bylaw, required to have at least one shenanigan per match -- and everyone in the match was given time to shine.

And, even if none of this had happened in the last three weeks, Big E. reversing a Codebreaker into The Big Ending to end the whole thing would have almost made every single time Chris Jericho said “Rooty Tooty Booty” worth it. Almost.

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY BOOTY-O’S ON THE WAY OUT***

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It’s remarkable -- so remarkable, in fact, that I am literally remarking on it right now -- how much more fun to watch and fluid Kalisto can be when working with someone who knows, at the very least, where to stand for most of the stuff he does. And although it’s not likely where he hoped his career would be at this point in his call up to the main roster -- he’s already been dumped, buried and been routinely relegated to already-in-the-ring status -- putting together matches like this to build up champions like Kalisto more often than not lead to good things for the guys who end up counting arena lights.

After Kalisto’s match, The Ryback had what could charitably be described as 50% of a good promo, but one he spent way too much time researching on IMDB. Throwing shade at actual actors for not being giant athletes as an excuse to mention a “cool, hip and or happening” movie seems like a weird way to get under the skin of Kalisto, and when mixing that with his constant equivocations -- “I respect you a lot, masked baby person” -- it remains unclear as to whether the WWE is pushing Ryback as a big bully, or the dude who likes essing bees with his bros nearly as much as leg day and is torn between those two counterintuitive identities.

Whatever way they are going with it -- as long as it involves him repeatedly punching on dude’s faces AND they figure out a way to situate the camera while he’s doing it so they don’t totally give up on the goose on how much he’s pulling them -- let’s be thankful that The Ryback no longer looks like a Teletubbie dipped in The Ooze

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Although all the shit heaped upon the Wyatt family is entirely accurate and more than a little depressing, Bray himself continues to be one of the more unique and engaging personalities in the entire company. Sui generis, he is the avatar for the expanded WWEU as it relates to characters having an innerlife that exists entirely outside the context of professional wrestling. He functions now as a plug-and-play quasi-main event level heel, working with anyone who needs a bad guy to stand in the way of them and their current goal. Hopefully he becomes more than that, but being the WWEU’s main event gatekeeper is pretty much exactly where he should be until they are if/when they are willing to make him King Dick of Shit Mountain.

For Dean, it’s not any matter of if, only when, they put the big belt on him. At this point, although he hasn’t turned into the very model of a modern main eventer, he’s maximized his connection with his crowd and the crowd to make him a deserving face of the company. And main eventing, unlike any other part of the card, requires the kind of transcendence that Dean has achieved since the Royal Rumble.

And if you don’t believe me, just listen to the crowd when Dean grabbed the belt and held it at high as he could over his head. In two months, they’ve achieve more with him than in two year with Roman. As much as it pains me to say, if I were to put money on who would end up being the Marty Jannetty for the Bruise Brothers going forward, I’d be betting my tax return on Roman Reigns. And you can believe that.


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