Beast Mode

Raw Regurgitated, 1/11
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It’s fun to watch people to be good at their jobs, and it’s even better when they seem to be enjoying themselves. And, if nothing else, there’s a certain joie de vivre that Stephanie always bring to the table when playing the villain that is infectious for the viewers at home. She really seems to lean into both crowd work and her lines in a way that you can see so clearly comes from watching her father perform over the years. And it really pops when she’s doing things like practicing the McMahon strut with him -- or talking with him later in the show about which version of the walk she thought he was going throw down -- in way that would warm your heart if they weren’t playing such horribly out-of-touch and vicious monster. As they always say, the family who exploits their employees together, stays together.

This may be nitpicky, but why on earth is Roman Reigns asking what would happen *if* he wins instead of *when* he wins? If the goal is to have him presented as a supremely confident warrior looking to right all of the wrongs that McMahons have perpetrated over the years to people like his family, that dude should be sure he’s going to be able to say “I told you so” to the guys putting obstacles in his way and telling him he can’t do it, not hoping for the best with a wing and prayer.

While it may seem minor, finally giving an in-canon reason for Dean Ambrose to not be able to help out Roman Reigns at the end of the night is precisely the kind of thing that gets overlooked -- or written with a presupposition that the crowd will know what’s happening by deductive reasoning, presumably -- and can be the difference between a good and bad or good and great storyline. That they have also, in doing so, helped to keep Sheamus involved in a feud with “The Family” (no, not that family, or that one, the other other one) while also seemingly shifting him out of the main event picture.

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This was, perhaps, my favorite Dean Ambrose match since the Shield broke up. Both he and Sheamus seemed to want to put on a show for the fans -- and by put on a show for the fans, I mean punched each other as hard as they seemed to be able to without intentionally giving the other brain damage -- in a way that felt both urgent and routine (in a good way, inasmuch as it gave the match gravitas despite being the CJ on a Raw two weeks before the PPV.)

It was the after match stuff, however, that made this my MATCH OF THE WEEK. Okay, that’s not an actual thing, but it was definitely the best either of these performers have looked in a while and gave us the first half of a pretty sweet two part Kevin Owens Show episode. In a company filled with bigger guys in much better shape than he, KO has truly turned into the biggest badass in the WWE Universe outside of The Beat. Also, shout out to him for saying “They’re talking about me,” to Fandango after the McMahons spent a minute and half saying his name in every sentence of a short story about how great he is. You keep being a hero, KO.

Speaking of “Heroes”, Stardust’s wonderful tribute to David Bowie was a perfect example of why although they may not currently be able to tell the stories they should be telling with him, for a certain segment of nerdy wrestling fans, Stardust is a cult favorite.

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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 ***

Considering the Rooty Tooty Bootiness of the initial Chris Jericho-New Day -- -- who, it should be noted got an ENORMOUS shoutout by the McMahons in the opening segment, with Vince even knowing their individual names -- this segment was perhaps the best case scenario for their follow-up. Instead of trying to eat their lunch, Chris Jericho actually let The New Day get into a rhythm, giving them enough time to get their own stuff in and react accordingly to his.

IF -- and this is a BIG IF -- they can keep the feud on this upward trajectory following its disastrous launch, you may have a dark horse for “most fun feud” -- not BEST, mind you, just the one with the highest straight entertainment value -- going into WrestleMania. In theory, if all goes to what it appears the plan is, between the Usos -- who, despite their faults as technicians, are world class entertainers -- and The New Day, who are unequivocally the Best Thing Going, it’s pretty much a guaranteed to be a fun match perfect for getting everyone that needs to get over in precisely the way they need to get over.

And when you add in a genuine legend who is still able to go at a “First Ballot Hall of Famer in his post-prime prime”, things may never EVER be the same again.

Which isn’t to say it’s going to be smooth sailing from here on out -- especially if, as it appears he did the first night, Jericho forgets that he’s not the one who is supposed to be getting over in this feud -- but that just the interactions between Xavier Woods and Chris Jericho alone may be worth the price of admission.

*** YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY CHEDDAR CHILI CHEESE DOG MILKSHAKE FROM SONIC ON YOUR WAY OUT ***

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Although it may just end up being a swerve, the idea of the McMahons and Brock/Paul not being on the same page adds a little dash of intrigue into what seems like a pretty great recipe for success at this year’s Royal Rumble. As we’ll get to later, Brock -- or, perhaps more importantly, Paul Heyman -- not being willing to play by the McMahon’s rules puts both the result (presuming that they play it as being just as worried about Brock becoming champion as they are about Roman staying champion) and what they can do with whatever happens during the match itself.

And, of course, much like the interactions between Xavier and Jericho are worth the price of admission, getting to watch Paul and the McMahons interact after missing the first hour of the show while traveling absolutely justifies the 7.99 a month I spend Hulu (YOU’LL NEVER GET ME, AD-FREE HULU!)

Along these same lines, being able to watch Ric Flair induct Sting into the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame class is totally worth the 9.99 a month for the WWE Network. While most speeches at these things are somewhere between lame and tedious, they’ll probably just enough crying and wooing to make it a classic.

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I love the idea of the Social Outcasts, and I enjoy Curtis Axel on the mic more than almost anything else in my life. But, man, having them run up against Wyatts is almost as bad as having Ryback come down to try to help them despite it being -- at least based on The Damn Numbers Game -- a fair fight. Unless he becomes their weird leader, like the Rock, but with less charisma and more colorful outfits.

While it obviously breaks my heart that Mi Corazon, ALBERTO DEL RIO, lost the title, this seemed inevitable and highly warranted. Kalisto has a chance to be a real star in the company, hitting on all of the necessary buttons for both performers his size and what the company needs right now. HAVING SAID THAT, man -- as I said before his match with Juan Cena (who he managed to call Juanita at one point last night) -- if Del Rio continues to cut promos like he did before this match, he might end up losing the WWE Title to Kalisto down the road.

I may have been in the minority last week, as it appears that most people thoroughly enjoyed the match/post-match between between Becky and Ric, but I felt this week was a much better representation of what they should be doing with the feud going forward. Ric needs to turn his daughter into the Nature Girl, but in a way that allows her to learn from him and adapt it to herself, not just follow what her father tells her too. Tonight allowed her to do that, with him providing cover instead of letting her get caught up in the spray of bullets.

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This main event was a great idea in premise, and just a turd sandwich of an idea in practice. It’s hard to articulate what exactly went wrong, but ultimately, it just felt like they thought of the name and then never got past the second plan of staging. While both he and Roman did a great job with what they had (which wasn’t much beyond a catchphrase that is at a cringeworthy-level of on the nose), this should have never begun with Kevin Owens. Unless you’re making him some kind of surrogate member of the League of Nations, who all worked or are currently on the shelf -- Rusev hurt himself a few nights ago, because UGH -- given that’s a money match that the crowd has very much indicated it has wanted to see.

What people do want to see, however, is Brock Lesnar. And, man, did he deliver. There’s a lot of fun things about wrestling -- and we got to see a decent amount of them tonight in what was, all things considered an enjoyable episode in a specific “structurally unstructured” way that many episodes over the past month or two have not been -- but there’s really nothing more fun that watching Brock pick up half the roster once and toss them around the ring like kids at a pool party.

Outside of, maybe, some kind of mega hoss fight between him and Roman, shades of what they did last year, but, you know, more punch and a bigger crowd. Whereever the Road to WrestleMania may lead us, as long as it involves one of those two at the end of it, we should be doing pretty good for ourselves.


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