Real Life is for March

Raw Regurgitated, 2/29
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Smackdown kind of mattering again – at least enough that people who refused to work Tuesdays to show up every once in a while – is probably not good for the long term health of the WWE if they don’t formulate some kind of brand split going forward. Even for someone who loves THE GAME-UH AS MUCH-UH AS ANYONE-UH, it’s hard for me to watch him cut promos every three-to-four days. A person has only so much patience for dad-tacular pop culture homages masquerading as wrestling promos.

HAVING SAID THAT, although he hasn’t quite reached a place where I’m guaranteed to think every promo is the bees’ knees, hearing Dean Ambrose’s music is starting to feel like a narrative force is coming through. That feeling that not only is he going to bring the show to a place we want it to be emotionally, but we’re going to help him get it there. Until it feels like we’re pushing Roman from a place they – meaning the powers that be, in and out of kayfabe -- don’t want him to go, to a place we want him to be, he’s never going to get the reaction Dean does.

With the Wyatts unable to beat The Ryback and Bepop/Rocksteady, plummeting ever further into “seriously, did they find out he gave Titus the idea?” territory, the League of Nations have become the number one goon squad. What this means for the WWE, and quite frankly America, remains unclear. But one shutters to think what havoc might be wrought if the Authority decided to break Alberto del Rio of his cursed finisher, to live where the eagles soar and it doesn’t take fifteen minutes to set up a move that no one wants to see anyways.

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

After randomly deciding to watch the InVasion PPV – if you happen to find the time, don’t – I was more than a little disappointed that the women’s match featured on the card was a bra-and-panties match. Which isn’t to say that I don’t love attractive women, or when they are in their undergarments. But it’s not how – yes, even then, when their target audience was male teenage hormones – any self-respecting wrestling company should articulate the value of their employees.

Now, of course, context is important, and if this were a live strip show, or pornographic film set, then, sure, having a “wrestling” match with a fundamental goal of the loser being stripped down and put display to demonstrate that she is less valiant and deserving of this level of degradation would only be mildly inappropriate. But for a live wrestling show? It’s kind of horrifying in retrospect, especially with two performers like Trish Stratus and Lita involved.

Unlike, say, Howard Finkel vs. Harvey Whippelman – or even their opponents in the match at InVasion, Torrie Wilson and Stacey Keibler – Lita and Trish represented, if not the highest quality of women’s wrestling from a technical perspective, the idea that women’s wrestling could be just as entertaining and valuable as its male counterpart. Forcing them to work a match with the primary goal of objectifying them just feels wrong in a way, that makes Stacy and Torrie’s position feel comparatively sad.

Which is why it’s so nice to reach the level we have now, with Becky and Sasha putting together a match that – even though both performers seemed to be working through a case of the yips – not only earned the double pin Dusty Finish, but the respect of the crowd watching. Along with Charlotte, the three Horsewomen on the main roster have performed better than any other prospects since getting called up.

Some of this is talent, to be sure.. But it also helps having one of the most powerful women in media standing behind you. If luck is when hard work meets opportunity, Stephanie’s support of the “Diva’s revolution” is the first time women’s wrestling has had the support of someone who gave them opportunities to make the best of their hard work. And that’s what makes me so nervous about the direction that Steph and Shane’s storyline appears to be going.

If the goal is to have Steph as the protagonist eventually, then sure, ask the question of whether she’s being pushed aside because she’s younger, or because she’s a woman. And, given that she specifically mentioned her daughters, it’s entirely possible that’s the angle they are attacking this from. But if she’s just going to go full-tilt heel, should she really be articulating the point that she’s oppressed, just to have her end up getting her comeuppance for deigning to not be treated differently based on her gender?

Is it good to have the thing that she’d be most associated with if she is no longer in charge of Raw -- Smackdown and NXT, with a special emphasis on women’s wrestling, most likely -- be considered heel-adjace in a company were heel-adjace usually means “boring or stuff we don’t like but they for down our throats?”

Probably not.

So, here’s hoping that they either pull way back on making this about equality between genders or they figure out that Steph is the hero that the WWE Universe, even if it’s not the one they need right now.

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC CHILI CHEESE PRETZEL DOG MILKSHAKE ON THE WAY OUT ***

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With the Wyatts, it’s less of a concern that they’ve been unable to beat anyone of importance on their way to WrestleMania. It’s that anyone they could have beaten to make themselves not look like the poor man’s League of Nations is either occupied or hurt. Anyone, from Cesaro to Seth -- okay, probably not Seth, but *maybe* Randy Orton -- could have worked with them. Instead, they were pushed towards a rhombus-peg-in-a-square-hole program against Brock, only to have that taken away from them in favor of someone who might end up main eventing WrestleMania anyways. It’s rare to see someone on the level of Bray, whom the company on every level has put a great deal of faith in, fall so spectacularly simply because they’ve gotten lost in the injury-induced game of main event chairs leading up the biggest show of the year. This isn’t the end of Bray, of course, but it might be the end of his chances to be the Rock to Roman -- or Dean’s -- Stone Cold, at least for the time being.

The Miz-Dolph rivalry is one where no matter who wins, we all lose. Now, I have been a Dolph hater for a long time, but I’ve been in love with the Miz as a performer for a lot longer. And having both argue over who is more pathetic at this point in their careers -- which begs the question: are we judging who is lower on the card (The Miz) or who has dropped off the most in the ring (Dolph)? -- has to be somewhere between 8 million and a trillion times worse than the WrestleMania match that Edge and Booker T had over that Japanese shampoo commercial.

Though, at this point, it feels like the League of Nations would kill for a storyline as rich and voluminous as a shampoo commercial-centered beef. Now that Kalisto being US champion has made the Lucha Dragons less significant than when they were also-rans in the tag division and with them being increasingly subcontracted by the Authority for their dirty work, why they aren’t moving towards the tag team titles -- outside of being mentioned every promo by the New Day -- is something that needs to be solved sooner rather than later. If you insist on keeping them off the field when the games matter the most, they still need playoff time if you ever want them to be anything more than Varsity Club International.

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What’s weirdest about the shift of the Ryback from bright blue baby faced monster to big boy pants wearing bruiser is how much more like Goldberg he’s made himself. It’s almost as though he realized that Goldberg was super duper over pretty much any time he was on camera, so being compared to him -- especially when you’re significantly better at your job -- is probably not the worst thing. And, as far as the #SocialOutcasts go, let’s hear it for Radical Mongoose being a thing that stuck.

The match between Y2AJ and New Day wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as what happened between them (+Mark Henry) on Smackdown!, but every time AJ Styles shows up on television, he seems to get better and more popular. He’s adapted to the WWE style quicker than almost any other performer I’ve seen, spending less time trying to develop new moves than paring down the ones he has already to his best handful and using those until he settles into a more experimental groove. Jericho, on the other hand, continues to use essentially the same moveset he’s had since he was a cruiserweight in WCW, which looks every bit its age at this point. But, it could be worse for Jericho: he could be Scotty Riggs.

However, if this is a short-term excuse to get a little more run out of the surprisingly successful Jericho-AJ pairing, with something happening at Roadblock -- the new name for the rando WWE Live Special happening in March (nee March to WrestleMania) -- then Y2AJ passes the smell test. Hell, even if they take the tag titles off of The New Day with them, there are worse things they can do. But, I swear, if this is an excuse to draw out their feud -- which has already been settled pretty definitively -- I was be angrier than the last time Jericho interrupted a New Day Promo.

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Vince’s idea of what’s scary and what isn’t has never totally worked with reality -- Exhibit A: The ridiculous Undertaker Symbol to which people used to be tied on the regular -- and Taker is maybe the worst main event promo ever. But “if I kill your son, it’s your fault” is a nice way to add some tension and fright to pretty much any party.

It’s also unclear why exactly Taker would accept this, outside of loyalty to the old man. If that’s the reason, and they don’t spend time exploring the implications of that choice, then wrestling is as dumb as Kyle thinks it is.. Taker doesn’t need to join with Vince as brothers-in-arms, but him murdering someone just because he’s told doesn’t really work for the Undertaker, and especially not at WrestleMania. There’s no Big Show-ing this, where an “Iron Clad” contract is turned to rust out of storyline necessity, so what -- if any, because “I fight whomever I’m told at WrestleMania” is a totally valid reason -- Taker’s motivations even could be should be addressed before we’re six weeks in on the program and not only have Shane and Taker never been in the same room together, but aren’t sure why they are fighting in the first place.

Adding that Shane will be disavowed as a McMahon is perhaps the dumbest possible cherry to put on this sundae. Ignoring the legal implications -- it would be difficult for Vince to legally compel Shane to sell the shares he already owns, which it seems implied would happen -- having Vince threaten to, from a narrative perspective, return almost directly to the status quo makes it seem like this whole charade may just be a waste of a perfectly good guest star. If they’d taken the time to mention this stipulation/concept earlier it could have raised the stakes immediately and made the match feel extremely important as it relates to the homeostasis of the universe. Instead, it’s being added on top of the Hell in the Cell fight for the control of Raw, which makes it feel less “essential to the storytelling of the match” and more “adding the third floor to a triple decker cage match.”

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Whoever it was in Creative who came up with the idea of throwing tables at people instead of putting through them deserves some kind of medal. There’s no pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than watching someone hurl a seven-foot table at his opponent’s face. Even when the thrower is D-Von Dudley and the face-catcher is one of the Usos.

For those y’all who watched Big Show on Smackdown, the way his match with Kevin Owens ended either felt like an annoying retread or a very clever strategy for telling the same story twice (with a twist, of course.) Now split one-one -- with a really really good promo between the two to boot -- and with almost no chance of Owens dropping the title to a goober like Show, we at the very least have hope that KO will be IC champ at WM, even if it looks as though it might be hurtling towards a clusterkerfuffle.

Why? What did Naomi do? And whatever it was that she did, is there anything she can do to not have it happen anymore? HOW MANY TIMES CAN ONE PERSON HAVE TO WORK WITH BRIE BELLA BEFORE WE SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

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I hate to spend so much time asking why, but during a three hour show, with everything scripted and/pre-planned, why does Alberto del Rio end up getting the match with Dean Ambrose. Much like HHH, Albert del Rio es mi corazon, but even I can’t sit through his 13-minute build up to that double foot stomp for the main event of Raw. Give him the Kick That Won the World Title, give him the Cross Armbreaker. Heck, give him the Mic Check, like so much Mr. Kennedy. But I swear, if I see ADR spend five minutes setting up a move which isn’t worth a minute of our time, I’m going to turn go muy loco. Ay dios mio!

It’s been written, by me and others, that this version Dean Ambrose crazy has finally reached the sweet spot between “generic WWE face” and “the type of performer fans actually root for” where he can still get crowd reactions without sanitizing his act. Although he can’t curse like he used to, he has pretty obviously found the character that he’s going to have for the rest of his career. As the guy everyone is afraid to face because they know they can’t keep him down, he’s got a built in story that works for him every time he steps in the ring, and an easy way to sell himself to those who haven’t already bought into the goods he’s peddling. Now we can just get some brightly colored shorts and maybe an sweatband, we’ll have a license to print money!

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the crowd didn’t just go crazy for Dean Ambrose, they did something so much more important: they booed HHH for being mean to him. For as much unfair trash that Roman gets thrown his way by snarky people on the internet, the fact that the crowd just isn’t getting behind him the way you’d want for a top guy is absolutely true. The jury is still deliberating as to whether or not he is even capable of producing the kind of all-encompassing reaction that his top-of-the-card predecessors enjoyed, but he definitely isn’t getting one now. And it’s not as though when he’s able to get there he blows the roof off the place.

But Dean Ambrose? Everyone cheered him for saying “Thanks." Can you believe that shit?


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