Odds, Ends, Obstacles and Cool Dads

Raw Regurgitated, 12/28
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There’re a few issues I – and presumably most right-minded people – have with Roman’s long-ass entrance through the crowd (even if I can’t think of a reasonable alternative), but this opening in particular made me want to push him down an escalator. The fact that the confrontation between Roman and Stephanie, which is clearly where the money is, required her to walk all the way around the ring to get almost-sort-of in his face is just as lame as waiting for Alberto Del Rio to find a Sherpa before jumping off the top rope and landing near someone’s head. And no one can tell me different. Use the ramp, brah. Like a person.

Outside of that, Steph and Roman just kind of work. It’s not anywhere near where Stone Cold and her father were – who had a very clear chemistry early on, even when Vince was full on playing the role of the Wizard as the man behind the curtain – but the leeway given to THE BIG DOGTM is certainly Austin-esque in its volume. And since Roman can say whatever he wants to the McMahons, it’s open season for the McMahons to go back to being the worst parts of themselves instead of using ‘Best for Business’ as a euphemism for Creative fatigue.

Speaking of which, the McMahons (presumably the TV characters, and hopefully not the actual people) are – as I said last week – the finest example we have in this country of privilege run amok. But they have to not lean too far in on “we seriously just run down our employees until they are protein husks”, as in addition to being a bad look, it’s probably not something you want to force customer to think about *too* much. The NFL gets to still sell concussion snuff films almost exclusively because they don’t. And, make no mistake, watching the trail of the dead coming out of the Attitude Era isn’t that far off from JACKED UP! Vol. 6. (THIS PARAGRAPH WAS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE WWE NETWORK. SIGN UP TODAY AND YOU’LL GET YOUR FIRST MONTH & THE ROYAL RUMBLE FOR FREE!)

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There are a lot of things that could be done to overhaul the Slammys, which have use as mini-titles for performer and ratings ploys if the right collection of Legends stop by, but at the top of the list should be some sort of consolidation and re-categorization of pretty much every award outside of Match, Superstar, Tag Team and Diva (give or take a name change) of the year. Breakout Star of the Year is a weird thing to be arguing over, in as much as it feels like it’s an argument that should be hashed out on the cover of Teen Beat (if that’s still a thing.)

It’s important to remember when watching RAW that the kind of stories that professional wrestling tells – superhero-grade archetypes fighting archetypes over broad concepts in their underwear – and the context in which they do so – theater-in-the-round wearing a sports costume -- make it difficult for some people to understand that it’s the amount of time someone spends on television and with whom that matters. Wins seem like they should matter, as do losses, but they only do when actively part of the narrative construct. Sami Zayn is better off for having lost to John Cena in Montreal than if he had beaten him the for the title that night. Just ask Alberto Del Rio. Time is literally money on wrestling television, and getting shine in the post-opener match with a former IC titleholder, while being tangentially attached to a feud with two of the bigger stars of the future is time well spent. Which is a long-winded way of saying that if you think Neville is being underused, mistreated or buried, You Are Such A Mark.

With your correspondent being one of the few, the proud, the people who don’t totally get Dean Ambrose but understand that other people SUPER do, his time at the commentary table was a prime example of why he unsettles me. The WWE lean heavy into “lunatic” as in “manic”, when he’s at his best calmly explaining why he’s unafraid of drug dealers, and Dean himself doesn’t seem to know if he wants to be a crazy tough guy or a tough crazy guy. Which is why he was, at least to these ears, mildly insufferable on commentary. It probably doesn’t make you want to change the channel, but his insistence on getting his “I finish fights” spots definitely made me want to see him get PuPb’d through a table again.

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Stardust-Titus gives me a lot of sads. I want them both to be happy/successful, but it just feels like they would both be best served with a little less time spent having Titus beat up Stardust in the ring and a lot more time having them focus on the weird chemistry they have in the Star Room. And more glitter, probably.

The Road to WrestleMania seems to begin officially at the Royal Rumble, Creatively after the first performer announces they are entering the Rumble and spiritually the first time BARAK LEZNAR comes back to suplex fools in the new year on Monday Night Raw.

I once thought Charlotte could be the next Randy Orton. But in match after match like this, she feels less like Randy and more like Mark Jindrak. There’s a ton of physical talent, a great look, but a near complete disconnect from the character she’s playing and her move-to-move in-ring work. She seems as though she’s being directed to do the things she’s doing, presumably by her father, and that makes what she did to Becky after being hoisted by her own pitard so much less effective than it should have been (especially how up for the match the crowd had seemed through most of it.) That and her spear. Which, just, ugh.

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This Wyatt Family BeatDown, the  first of three straight segments in which factions are heavily featured and/or introduced, was also far and away the best. Braun Strowman going eye-to-eye with one of the industry’s most successful giants felt like a genuine moment once the realization that they were essentially the same size hit the crowd. That, the double destruction of The Big Show/Guy and a promo that actually made sense appears to be setting the stage for a MASSIVE Bray Wyatt and His Dueling Banjo Band push in 2016.

There’s been a lot written about how boring the Usos are/have been, and it’s matches like this where you really start to understand where people are coming from. Now essentially third on the babyface tag team depth chart (with the New Day appearing to start for both squads), they no longer have the titles or the interest of the crowd to pull out a match even I – who loves Rusev, Del Rio and the League of Nations more than members of my own family – can be bother to care about in the sandwich hour.

However, this Heath Slate jawn -- essentially the love child of the Oddities and the J.O.B Squad – is, outside of its TERRIBLE name (couldn’t even be bothered to pop a hasher on #SocialOutcasts, Heath?), could be interesting.

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As I write this in my New Day sweatshirt while my two New Day t-shirts are in the wash (always gotta represent the New), this is easily the least positive review I’ve ever given on Raw Regurgitated: That shit was fucking awful. Just the worst. Cool Dad Jericho has done this exact “I’M HERE TO SAVE YOU” same promo AT LEAST three times, with this iteration cut against literally the only people in the company who *don’t* deserve it. And if the goal of this promo was to have Jericho come off as a guy past his prime looking to latch on to the hot new thing, then the dude nailed it to the wall. But if not, considering he just came back like two months ago for a one-shot it feels like the only thing he is trying to save are ticket sales for the next Fozzy tour.

That, however, will not dampen my spirits, as the New Day have an entirely new Titantron get-up to match their glorious rainbow palette and, more importantly, yet another new shirt. These constant updates are from the John Cena School of Merchandise Marketing, and are a good sign for everyone involved. Especially after they exhaust the market for those dick hats.

And the match between the New Day and those damn dirty Lucha Boys had a decent amount going for it. That’s not to say it’s great, or even particularly good, but there’s enough action in it to also make me forget that Old Man Jericho making Fetty Wap jokes. Almost.

*** YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES ***

The title match between Roman and Sheamus, with Vince as the special guest referee was -- as is often the case when working with children, animals or the elderly -- kind of a clusterkerfuffle. Vince was never a great worker, but he’s now reached barely passable levels, which when coupled with just how hard Roman needs to hit dudes to be effective as a character, gave this the feeling of watching one of those nostalgia trip car crashes where the crowd chants “You Still Got It!” because they are too sad to boo.

And while the ending of the match -- just in general, but the announcement of the SHOCKING (okay, mildly surprising and definitely welcome) stipulation -- made up for any shortcomings, what happened in the interim is definitely going to stir up some (both legitimate and ill-) criticism. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the problem with Stephanie as Queen Heel bumping up against so many male performers has less to do with the fact that she’s a woman than that she’s a McMahon. People want to seem them get mollywopped, and they don’t really care if she’s a mother of two.

So, when she gets bumped into the ring because of something her father did -- or, to be specific, something her father had done to him -- the reaction felt weird and bloodthirsty in a way that was probably not the intention of, at the very least, Roman Reigns. He was never going to hit her, or even feign hitting her, but the level to which the crowd wanted to see her get hit made the entire thing seem much more perilous for Stephanie than it actually was.

HAVING SAID THAT, while her and Vince may, in theory, be the type of people it would feel like against whom Roman would be (superman) punching down, in practice, this is obviously false. The sheer over-the-top atittude of the entire operation makes them feel almost perfectly calibrated for what this feud will become, even if it’s not there yet. Until they are able to have HHH come back -- who, along with Cena, has begun to become highly conspicuous in his absences -- the best we’re going to be when it comes to heels showing a little ass is probably going to be Vince’s sideboob in one of those grotesque sleveless ref shirts.

For now, however, we have them finally figuring out what to do with Roman. While we like to call him SuperCena, John's entire character is based around him beating the odds, and is so Captain America that Marvel could sue for copyright infringement. As a juggernaut, the joy in seeing Roman overcome can be found in obstacles he can jump over, drive by dropkick, superman punch or spear his way through.

In him, we have a bonafide Superman -- a man whose *choices* are what define him, not his attributes -- character, where the presupposition isn’t how, but when he’ll make it to the next level and what things they’ll thrown in his path to whatever his goal may be, like main eventing WrestleMania 32 as the WWE Champion.

And, in this case, it looks like he’ll have to go through 29 other dudes to get there, while we wonder which one of them might have the kryptonite.

***YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE*** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY HOT FUDGE CHICKEN WINGS FROM SONIC ON THE WAY OUT***


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