Living Up to the Hype: How the WWE has put insurmountable pressure on the Women’s Championship at Hell in a Cell

Hey guys. Did you know I’m a man? I know, I know, shocking.

Yes, I did start this post paraphrasing my friend and colleague, Gabby, who is very gracious to let me scratch my journalism itch on her wrestling blog. I started it the same way she started her post entitled Mick Foley’s RAW promo & benevolent sexism because it seems my friend has stirred up a little drama amongst some chatrooms (these still exist??) and I wanted to come to her aid and defend her h….. HAHAHAHAHAHA!! I can’t even finish writing that satiric sentence. I started this post the same way she started her’s because I’m a man and she’s a woman and we both share the same opinion about the Sasha/Charlotte/Mick promo Monday night.

per·cep·tion (pərˈsepSH(ə)n) noun:
A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
As Gabby stated in her post, Mick Foley the man is a proponent of women’s wrestling. However, Foley’s promo Monday night came off as condescending toward Sasha and Charlotte. Do I think Foley meant it as condescending? I don’t. This is where perception comes to play. An over-emoting Foley (I could go on about this, but that’s another post for another time) interrupting, coddling and yelling at the two Superstars gave the perception that Hell in a Cell is no place for women.
We’ve been given the perception the past few weeks that the only place for Roman Reigns and Rusev, as well as Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, to settle their feuds is inside the cell. But when is comes to Sasha and Charlotte’s feud (which has been built up way better than the Universal and United States Championships by the way), it’s been “Are you SURE you want to settle this inside the cell? It can get brutal.” Intentional or not, the WWE has been giving these three matches (you know, the TRIPLE TRIPLE TRIPLE main event) a double standard. It could have been an easy fix.
Instead of Foley playing over-protective dad to Sasha and Charlotte, he could have built up their feud to where these women’s hatred, yet respect for one another can only be settled in a way that no women have ever settled their feuds before… Hell in a Cell!! Instead of Foley talking about how the cell made him a “shell of a man,” he could have talked about how the 1998 King of the Ring defined his career and made him the superstar he is today, and it will do the same thing to the women. Or, if he wanted to talk about the dangers of Hell in a Cell, then bring all nine competitors out for a TRIPLE CONTRACT SIGNING (see what I did there??) and give his speech to all of them.
Foley’s speech was heartfelt, but Sasha and Charlotte were not the only two superstars who needed to hear it. That is where the sexism lies, and if Gabby and I perceived it as sexism, then I guarantee there are many more in the WWE Universe who perceived it the same way. They just aren’t in wrestling chatrooms. (Seriously, are you accessing these through AOL 3.0 or 4.0? Using dial-up to pull up these articles to trash them must take FOREVER. That must be why you aren’t actually reading them.)
All of that brings me to my point in which this post is titled: Sasha and Charlotte now face insurmountable pressure at Hell in a Cell to perform. If their match doesn’t end with bodies bloodied or carried out on a stretcher (a work or not), will it be seen as a great match in the eyes of the WWE Universe? Whenever we talk about great matches in the Women’s Revolution era, we always start with Sasha vs. Bayley at NXT Takeover: New York. We all agreed it was match (not women’s match) of the decade. Then when we think it couldn’t get better, we get Sasha vs. Bayley in a 30 minute Ironwoman match. Instantly, we had a new match (not women’s match) of the decade. Both these matches were hyped by using their talent, not “Are you SURE you want to use cool moves that most women don’t use and actually wrestle for a championship? Are you SURE you want to settle this in an Iron(wo)man match?” Now, it’s all about “making history, danger, and shells of former selves.” This match should be hyped… hell it should be THE SOLE MAIN EVENT and last match of the pay-per-view, but it should not be attached to the stigma of “you’re women, so if you don’t do something absolutely crazy and maybe draw blood, then it’s not going to be as historic as we billed it to be.”
If you’ve made it this far down, here is where I link Foley’s promo to the unrealistic expectations of this match.
With all due respect, Sasha, you have no idea what’s in store for you! Because once that cell descends, once that monstrosity descends upon you, it is not just steel. It’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a living, breathing entity but it’s got no soul, no heart and no conscious. And it will haunt for days. It will keep you awake at night. Trust me, trust me. Just when you think you’re over it for good, it will sneak up behind you. It will stop you dead in your tracks. It will make you cry like a child. It’s an intimidating fact that when you’re in that cell, you face not one opponent but two. You face your opponent and that demonic construction itself.
– Mick Foley
We all know Foley’s history with Hell in a Cell matches. He’s jumped off them, been choked slammed through them, broke bones, lost teeth, lost ears, and probably lost years of his life because of them. We the WWE Universe love him for it. We adore him for it. We respect him for it. Someone who puts his body on the line for our entertainment and enjoyment deserves all of this and more. But since he hammered all of this stuff on Sasha and Charlotte during their contract signing, what do we expect of the women? We’ve seen cell matches where no one fell off the cell or went through it and we called them subpar. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon match at Wrestlemania XXXI was really not that good, but we call it one of the best because Shane-O-Mac dove off the cell for our enjoyment.
If Sasha isn’t thrown through the cell or Charlotte doesn’t flip herself off the top of the cell on to the announce table, will the match be any good? Can the women have a technical wrestling match inside the cell and it be good enough, or does Sasha have to rub Charlotte’s face against the cell and open her up a la 80s and 90s Ric Flair? According to the hype, the pressure seems to be all on to perform to Foley-esc expectations. We have excepted that Foley-esc expectations are unfair to Roman, Rusev, Seth and Kevin. Let’s also ignore the hype and realize it’s also unfair for Sasha and Charlotte.
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Mick Foley’s RAW promo & benevolent sexism

Hey, guys. Did you know I’m a woman? I know, I know, shocking. Well, as a woman, I have a plethora of life experiences that have shaped the person I am today. I have been groped by a stranger in public. I have been patronized and looked down on because of my gender. Why am I saying this? Well, because sexism is a reality in my life that I am aware of with every breath I take. And that reality has spurred me to write about what I saw on RAW tonight.

I’ll cut to the chase: when Mick Foley began to passionately beg Sasha and Charlotte to reconsider their historic Hell in a Cell match on Monday Night RAW, I was horrified.

Mick Foley has long been a supporter of the women’s divisions on both shows. He has voiced support for the women of WWE for years. He is an ally for women in the company in so many countless ways. Outside of the ring, he’s even more of an ally, supporting organizations such as RAINN tirelessly.

AGAIN, LET ME BE CLEAR: I LOVE MICK FOLEY. So that’s why I was so saddened by what transpired on the final RAW leading into Hell in a Cell.

DISCLAIMER: I am aware that Mick Foley the man is probably thrilled with the women going into Hell in a Cell. I am aware he does not write his promos. But here’s the truth of it all: his championing of women’s wrestling has been woven into the character he plays on TV. And so far, his character on TV has been disappointing for fans of women’s wrestling.

Yes, we got a RAW Women’s Championship match as the main event of RAW that had the crowd on its feet. But merely one week later the only women’s segments on the flagship show are an arm wrestling match and a contract signing. A contract signing which was hijacked by Mr. Foley’s character.

Benevolent Sexism

Now, Foley’s delivery was fantastic. He has a real passion for the business and it shows whenever he has a mic in hand. But his words, on the other hand, were the textbook definition of benevolent sexism.

You see, sexism isn’t just slaps on the sass or catcalls. It’s not just calling someone a nasty woman. It’s the subtle things too.

Benevolent sexism may seem harmless, noble, or even “romantic,” but its effects can be devastating. Benevolent sexism, like hostile sexism, is an ideology that supports gender inequality, and in some ways benevolent sexism can be even more insidious.

-UnderstandingPrejudice.org

Things like saying women should be cherished and protected, as if we all fit neatly into traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It’s the paradox of toxic masculinity that tells boys they need to protect women but also be dominant sexually.

So how does this all factor into Foley’s promo? Well first, let’s examine how the other two Hell in a Cell matches (in a triple main event, which could get its own blog) were built on the very same RAW.

Roman Reigns vs. Rusev & Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

The build to this feud has its own problems (Fighting for your wife’s honor? Really?) but the buildup tot he Hell in a Cell match has been focused on each competitor being willing to put their opponent through intense physical punishment.

Not once is it ever brought into question whether or not the men know what’s in store for them. Admittedly, Reigns does know what it’s like to be inside Hell in a Cell…in a match with no bloodshed. But regardless, his ability to put his body on the line is never brought into question. Instead, the focus is on the men themselves.

Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins’ rivalry is a bit more complex. Not only is the Universal Championship involved, but also ingrained in their plot is the Triple H angle and the rising personal animosity between Rollins and Owens.

The buildup to their Hell in a Cell match has been an exchange of threats. Rollins passionately promised to render Owens unable to move by their match’s end. That anger and animosity is the centerpiece of their feud. Well, that and Chris Jericho.

So, in short, the men hyped their matches by promising to take their opponents to hell and back. The usual.

And now, the women…

Sasha Banks and Charlotte are under an enormous amount of pressure. They are in a first of its kind match (for WWE), and if their match is subpar, there will be fans saying that women should never be allowed to be in these matches.

Never mind the plethora of disappointing men’s Hell in a Cell matches over the years.

The last impression on RAW before a PPV is important. It sets the tone for their impending match. So WWE, in their boundless wisdom, decided to have Mick Foley tearfully beg them to reconsider their match.

…..what?

This wasn’t the same Foley who warned Ambrose and Rollins that they weren’t ready for life after Hell in a Cell.

Foley then was determined, almost daring Ambrose and Rollins to live up to his legacy. There is a difference between warning and coddling, after all. And Ambrose and Rollins both emerged from the segment unfazed.

On paper, his promo with Sasha and Charlotte seems similar. But contextualized, it’s a completely different animal.

For starters, his interruptions were yelled right in their faces, which is just unsettling. Additionally, they took away from what little screentime the women had at all. Remember, in this episode the only women’s segments weren’t even matches. So to inject Mick Foley so completely into the contract signing was just another nail in the coffin.

But most importantly: his words were patronizing.

Foley begged the women to not go into their Hell in a Cell match unless they were ready to sign away years of their life. He emotionally recounted meeting Charlotte as a little girl and Sasha’s love of Eddie Guerrero. He didn’t even want to give the women their contract.

Oh, and earlier in the preshow Jerry Lawler suggested that the girls should be scared. YUP.

What’s so bad about that?

  1. It’s patronizing. You think that, in storyline, Sasha and Charlotte are not absolutely aware of what they’re getting into? You think that these two women needed to be told in the final segment before their HISTORIC match that they weren’t ready? How many times has this happened to women in male-dominated professions? Answer: all too much. It’s not the same as when he warns the men because undercutting women with ambition is a systemic and societal problem.
  2. It enforces gender stereotypes. The women NEED to be protected. They NEED to be warned. They’re getting too ambitious and need to be reined back in by a man of authority.
  3. It made the women’s segment about a man. Guys, Charlotte and Sasha are going to tear each other apart but MICK FOLEY DOESN’T HAVE A HIP SOCKET.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t interrupted them multiple times. Maybe then it wouldn’t have felt like mansplaining. But the truth of the matter is that Mick wouldn’t have been scripted to be so concerned for Roman or Seth. Foreboding, yes, but not concerned.

Sasha and Charlotte are in a difficult spot as it is. They’re in a ridiculous triple main event when they should be the main event: period. They have to craft a gimmick match for skeptical marks. And now, their match has to overcome incredible pressure not just from fans, but from an overly protective authority figure.

I have no doubt they will put on an incredible match. I have faith in them. And that is what their GM should have said. He should be building them up (as the real Foley would do) instead of insinuating their ignorance.

But hey, why am I even upset? We ARE in a women’s revolution, aren’t we?

Aren’t we?

 

Bilbs’ Top 10 Lists for Tonight’s RAW

I thought I would write these lists while watching the October 24th edition of Monday Night RAW so you can read it with all of the intensity that I have while watching this episode. Here we go:

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons the Brock Lesnar Segment was needed on RAW

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Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons an Over-Emoting Mick Foley Helped the Sasha/Charlotte Hell in a Cell Match

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Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons Why a “Triple Main Event” Makes Total Sense

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Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons to Love Tonight’s RAW

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So in conclusion, this episode of RAW SUCKED.

However, let’s end this on a positive note…

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons to watch Hell in a Cell this Sunday

1. Sasha/Charlotte
2. Charlotte/Sasha
3. Sasha/Charlotte
4. Charlotte/Sasha
5. Sasha/Charlotte
6. Charlotte/Sasha
7. Sasha/Charlotte
8. Charlotte/Sasha
9. Sasha/Charlotte
10. Charlotte/Sasha

I’m out.

Extreme Rules 2016 Recap/Analysis

For the first time in years, Extreme Rules actually lived up to its name. There was violence, brawling, insanity, and a long-awaited return that will change the main event scene of WWE for good.

Anderson & Gallows vs. The Usos (Tornado Tag Team Match)

The Usos and the Club wasted no time in going after each other right away, brawling both in and out of the ring. Gallows and Anderson hit a brutal Boot of Doom from the apron out of the ring. Gallows began taking some punishment, but Anderson intervened with a cruel knee to the head.

The Usos fought back, looking to hit their finishing splash, but Anderson prevented it. Gallows dodged a corkscrew move from the ropes, but went right into a Samoan Drop. The four men reached a stalemate. Anderson was the first to his feet, but he ran right into a kick from Jey Uso, who ran him into the barricade only to run into a clothesline from Gallows, who proceeded to throw him over the barricade.

Gallows, on his own, grabbed the bell itself, but ran into a Superkick. He dodged a splash, and Jimmy splashed onto the bell. The two finished him off soon after.

THANK GOD.

Kalisto vs. Rusev (United States Championship match)

Lana presented Rusev, which was certainly missed.

Kalisto immediately went to work attacking Rusev’s legs, utilizing his speed. He went for a corkscrew from the ropes, but Rusev swatted him with ease. He continued to dish out punishment on the Luchador, locking Kalisto into a less than comfortable bear hug, targeting his lower back.

Kalisto managed to reverse it into a sleeper hold of his own, but Rusev managed to slam him onto the ground. Kalisto bought himself recovery time with a DDT, dodging Rusev and hitting a corkscrew and hurricarana for a near-fall. He flew through the ropes and hit another hurricarana on Rusev out of the ring, sending him into the steel steps, but Rusev stayed alive.

Kalisto hit a moonsault from the top rope out of the ring, ascending to the top rope, but Rusev threw him off and onto the ring apron. Kalisto barely moved, and Doctors tried tending to him, but Rusev was relentless, locking in the Accolade for the win.

Rusev is on a hot streak, back to his old, dominating ways with a new undercurrent of entertainment that makes him easily watchable and extremely enjoyable. Best of luck to the new champ. Kill it.

Or, better yet, CRUSH IT.

The New Day vs. The Vaudevillains (WWE Tag Team Championship match)

The New Day cut a brilliant promo on the Vaudevillains, hilariously comparing the to garden hoes.

Xavier Woods and Aiden English started things off, with Woods hitting a hurricarana before interference from Gotch, who then tagged in, sent him out of the ring. Gotch took him back into the ring, and English took over, working Woods into the mat before locking in a chokehold. Gotch took over from there, and Woods hit a kick to buy himself time to crawl to Big E, who tagged in.

Big E hit belly to bellies on both English and Gotch before hitting a splash on English in the center of the ring. But English fought back, and Gotch and English teamed up, nearly pinning Woods. Big E returned with a fury, throwing English out of the ring. Kofi took English out, and Woods pinned Gotch to retain.

Always good to see Woods in the ring. The match was well-paced, and the right team won. Vaudevillains will get their shot, but these titles are not theirs to win just yet.

The Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn (Intercontinental Championship match)

Sami Zayn barely waited for the bell before taking Owens out with a Helluva Kick, and Cesaro took the Miz out with an uppercut, leaving the two babyfaces in the ring together. Sami went on the attack, hitting an arm drag and hurricarana. Zayn sent Cesaro out of the ring, and the Miz charged back into action.

Zayn threw them both out of the ring, flying to take the two out. Zayn dragged Miz back into the ring, but was driven into the turnbuckle. The two went to the ropes, but Owens flew back into action, targeting Zayn right away. He drove Zayn into Cesaro, slapping him silly.

Zayn looked to power back with a superplex, but Cesaro turned it into a massive superplex, tossing all three Superstars over his shoulder in an incredible display. Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb and Miz kicked him out of the way looking to take advantage.

Cesaro hit an exploder suplex on Zayn and the Miz and proceeded to take the three others on a ride on the uppercut train. He looked to take Miz swinging, but Owens came back into action, nearly hitting his finisher on Zayn. Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Cesaro, but he kicked out.A furious Miz slapped Cesaro, but Cesaro hit an uppercut corkscrew, taking Miz swinging before locking in the Sharpshooter. Miz tapped, but the official didn’t see. Owens tried interfering, but Cesaro hit him with a Neutralizer. Zayn broke the pin.

Zayn and Cesaro traded near-falls. Zayn went for the Helluva Kick, and Cesaro hit an uppercut. Zayn ran into a Superkick, and Owens hit the Pop-up Powerbomb, and Miz interfered. Miz looked to pin Cesaro, who kicked out.

Zayn hit the Helluva Kick, but Owens broke it. Infuriated, the two brawled out of the ring, and Miz took advantage, covering Cesaro to retain.

Hello, match of the year candidate! This match was electric from start to finish, stocked full of thrilling near-falls and perfectly executed spots by all four men. I cannot wait to see the heights they will take each other to next.

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho (Asylum Match)

Jericho called for the door to be opened, but Ambrose caught him immediately, throwing him to the ground soundly. Jericho went climbing, but Ambrose caught him, taking him down yet again, throwing him into the cage’s side twice.

The two climbed up, and Ambrose reached the mop first, hitting Y2J soundly with the mop with a smirk on his face. He mopped Jericho down with glee, but Jericho fought back with a missile dropkick, using the mop himself. He went for the barbed wire 2×4, but Ambrose hit a suplex from the second rope to delay him.

Ambrose and Jericho both ascended the cage, with Ambrose getting nunchucks while Jericho grabbed the 2×4. Turns out Ambrose can actually use them, and he took advantage. Jericho looked to escape the cage, and Ambrose followed him up. Jericho grabbed the kendo stick, knocking Ambrose back into the ring and sitting proudly atop the cage.

Jericho hit Ambrose with a  diving kendo stick, and used the nunchucks before hitting a suplex. Jericho grabbed the giant strap, whipping Ambrose, but the Lunatic Fringe fought back, grabbing the strap himself and returning the favor. Jericho launched Ambrose into the cage, looking to escape, but Ambrose caught him, and the two exchanged punches before Ambrose knocked Jericho into the ropes.

Ambrose retrieved the fire extinguisher, and Jericho grabbed the straitjacket. Jericho used the jacket to blind Ambrose and hit a dropkick, flinging Ambrose into the cage and hitting a second dropkick. Jericho nearly got Ambrose locked into the jacket, but Ambrose fought out, hitting a flurry of strikes and driving Jericho into the turnbuckle.

Ambrose hit a STUNNING Flying Elbow from the top of the cage and retrieved thumbtacks, spilling them on the ground. Jericho went for a lionsault, but Ambrose countered it. Jericho locked in the Walls, but Ambrose refused to tap, dragging himself to the kendo stick, which he used to break out of the hold. Jericho blinded Ambrose witht he fire extinguisher, hitting the Codebreaker, but Ambrose kicked out.

Jericho used the barbed wire 2×4, striking Ambrose, but Ambrose threw him into the thumbtacks and hit Dirty Deeds for the pinfall.

This match was way too long, but the shocking ending saved it. Kudos to Jericho for sacrificing his freaking body. Ambrose looked absolutely deadly as he left, which was great to see.

Charlotte vs. Natalya (Submission match for the WWE Women’s Championship)

Natalya went right for Charlotte’s legs, locking down the champ’s legs before Charlotte reversed into a headlock, applying pressure to Nattie’s jaw. Natalya hit a dropkick to Charlotte’s face, working Charlotte’s back, but Charlotte managed to leap over the ropes, noly to run into a clothesline.

Natalya pursued, but Charlotte, infuriated, hit her with a series of brutal strikes. Natalya sent her into the steel post, returning to the ring, but Charlotte retaliated with a boot to the face. Natalya locked Charlotte into an armbar, but Charlotte broke it by reversing into a powerbomb.

Charlotte locked in a submission move on Natalya’s legs, and Natalya reached the ropes for the break. Charlotte continued the assault, driving Nattie into the ropes with a suplex. Charlotte hit a moonsault into a half crab, and Nattie escaped, launching Charlotte with a German suplex, locking in the Sharpshooter.

Charlotte reached the ropes, but Natalya dragged her back into the middle of the ring. Dana Brooke emerged, dressed as Ric Flair, and distracted Natalya, allowing Charlotte to lock in the Figure 8 for the victory. With Ric Flair and Dana, she celebrated in the ring.

Great match, very intelligently put together, but what a screwy ending. Once again, Creative let its ladies down.

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (Extreme Rules match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

Styles was amped up from the start, utilizing his high energy against Reigns’ raw power. He drove Reigns into the turnbuckle, but Reigns shoved right back, slamming Styles into the turnbuckle with a series of punches. The two went after each other, and Reigns hit Styles with a knee to the chest.

Styles retreated from the ring, going for a steel chair, but Reigns caught him, grabbing the chair for himself and returning to the ring. Back outside the ring, Reigns looked to hit Styles with the chair, but Styles drove him into the announce table with a series of strikes. Styles cleared the table and drove Reigns over the barricade, driving Reigns through the crowd. Reigns threw Styles into the stands, but AJ fought back with a chair to the gut.

Reaching the kickoff panel set, Styles was thrown by Reigns onto the unforgiving glass table. Styles hit a desperate kick from the table, and then hit the Phenomenal Forearm. The two continued to brawl back to the timekeeping area, and Styles drove Reigns into the barricade, unpadded. He then peeled away the floor padding, looking for the Clash, but Reigns fought out of it, driving Styles into the steel steps.

Reigns looked to powerbomb Styles, but Styles fought out with furious punches. Styles looked for the Clash on the table, but Reigns sent him over the barricade again. Reigns hit Styles again with a back body drop onto the other announce table. Reigns returned Styles to the ring, but Styles did not surrender. Reigns went for the Superman Punch, but Styles reversed it, seemingly harming Reigns’ knees before driving him into the turnbuckle again.

Styles hit a running knee, but Reigns caught him, throwing him against the ring and barricade before throwing him into the table. Reigns went for the spear, but Styles dodged, returning Reigns to the ring. Styles ascended tot he top rope, but Reigns caught him with the Superman Punch, knocking Styles out of the ring. Reigns hit the spear, throwing Styles back into the ring, but Anderson and Gallows emerged, hitting the Boot of Doom. Reigns kicked out.

The Usos joined the fray, Superkicking Styles and hitting the splash, but Styles kicked out. Reigns took out Anderson and Gallows, going for the spear. Styles caught him, hitting the Styles Clash, and Reigns kicked out. Styles looked to hit it again on the chair, but Reigns threw him off. Reigns ran into a Pelee Kick, and hit the Clash on the chair, going for the cover, but an Uso pulled him off long enough to allow Reigns to kick out.

Styles went crazy on everyone, decimating the Usos and Reigns with the steel chair, and went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but fell to the spear.

Reigns held his title high, BUT THEN SETH ROLLINS RETURNED OUT OF NOWHERE, downing Reigns with a Pedigree and holding the title he never lost high to end the night.

First off…SETH FREAKING ROLLINS IS FREAKING BACK!

The crowd came absolutely unglued for the returning Superstar, giving him a hero’s welcome. Well deserved too.

Now, as for the match itself…

What a freaking disappointment. Once again, Roman Reigns took out Anderson and Gallows on his own, and then magically recovered from multiple steel chair shots to spear AJ Styles out of the air. What a joke. AJ deserved better. We as viewers deserved better.

Styles is one of the best wrestlers in the entire world. Not just in WWE, but in the world. He deserves better booking. Hell, Reigns deserves better. It feels like Creative is sabotaging him at this point.

All in all, Seth Rollins is back, AJ Styles should rule the world, and the IC boys deserve a trophy. Good night.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 16, 2016

In the final RAW before Extreme Rules, it was the challengers who stood tall, picking up significant victories ahead of the PPV.

Setting the record straight

RAW kicked off with AJ Styles himself, who wasted no time in saying that he got to where he is because of himself, and not anyone else,e specially Anderson and Gallows. He was interrupted by Roman Reigns, who acknowledged all of Styles’ victories but claimed that none of them mattered compared to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Styles mocked Reigns’ new slogan, and Reigns promised to put Styles through hell at Extreme Rules.

Soon enough, the mutual trash talk was interrupted by Anderson and Gallows, who had to hold Styles back from attacking Reigns and the Usos.

The crowd chanted for Rollins throughout, and Reigns brushed it off.

It was great seeing the crowd so amped up for Rollins, whose imminent return is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

Reigns’ arrogance is really fitting him like a glove, and the more he soaks up the boos the better. His character is just begging for a heel turn, and it needs to come soon. Styles, meanwhile, is better than ever on the mic. His nagging injuries are definitely worrisome. I hope he isn’t worked to hard before and at Extreme Rules. He has made himself too valuable to be on the shelf.

Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn

The Miz and Kevin Owens came to ringside to watch their two opponents for Extreme Rules go at it in a rematch from one of the best matches in NXT history.

Early on, Cesaro and Zayn both felt each other out, avoiding getting any real offense in, but Owens and the Miz began to brawl at ringside, taking their conflict into the ring and causing a disqualification when they attacked Zayn and Cesaro both.

Shane McMahon emerged, setting up Miz and Owens against Zayn and Cesaro. But then Stephanie emerged, switching up the teams and setting up Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens against Cesaro and The Miz, threatening to remove Owens from Extreme Rules if he walked out on Zayn.

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. The Miz & Cesaro

Owens and Cesaro started things off, and Owens just barely avoided going swinging before he forcefully tagged Sami Zayn in, who was taken right down with an arm drag and an uppercut before Miz tagged himself in to suplex Zayn.

Owens tagged himself in, hitting a drop on the Miz and badmouthing Zayn for his struggles before tagging Zayn back in defiantly. Zayn looked to be gaining momentum before a distraction by Maryse allowed Miz to knock him out of the ring.

Cesaro took things from there, inflicting punishment on a suffering Zayn before the Miz tagged back in only to be nearly rolled up by Zayn, who began to mount a comeback, finally allowing Owens to tag himself in and hit a dropkick on the Miz followed by a cannonball. Cesaro tagged in to even the odds, taking Owens for a ride on the uppercut train.

Cesaro then hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Miz, who took a Helluva Kick from Zayn, who got the victory. Owens took Zayn out in response, standing tall to close out the segment.

Have I ever said how much I love it when rivals are forced to team up? Yes, I have, back when Y2AJ were still frenemies. The constant one-upsmanship on both sides kept what might have been an overexposed rivalry fresh and kept eyes glued on the match. Owens and Zayn in particular shone bright, their harder than necessary tags and bickering throughout providing a wealth of entertainment.

Backstage, Chris Jericho ranted to Renee Young about Dean Ambrose’s destruction of his jacket.

The Shining Stars vs. Local Competitors

The Shining Stars

Epico started off strong, doing a number on the two local competitors before tagging in Primo, who hit a dropkick out of the ring. The two hit their double move, the Shining Star, and walked away with a victory.

Celebrating in the ring, the two invited everyone watching to come to Puerto Rico.

Ooof. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Asylum arrives

An angry Dean Ambrose immediately called Jericho out, and his rival answered the call, mic in hand. Jericho said he wasn’t interested in talking, instead demanding an apology that instant.

Ambrose scoffed at that, instead challenging Chris Jericho to a match at Extreme Rules. Jericho accepted, and Ambrose asked if he was sure at his age. Jericho declared that there was no one in the company crazier than him, touting his championship record to the Lunatic Fringe.

Jericho offered the gift of Jericho, and in response Dean offered a gift of his own, lowering a steel cage littered with a barbed-wire wrapped two-by-four, a straitjacket and even a potted plant around the ring, announcing that their match would be the first ever Asylum Match. No escape, just surrender.

This match is sure to be explosive if WWE gives it the time it deserves. Ambrose and Jericho both thrive under these circumstances, but if Ambrose puts on anything but a dominating performance, this entire angle is a waste.

Ambrose should win with no doubts in anyone’s minds. Anything less is just plain wrong.

Dana Brooke vs. Becky Lynch

Becky started off strong, taking Emma for a ride of arm drags and mocking her. Dana retreated out of the ring, but Lynch went after her. That proved to be a mistake, as Brooke drove her into the barricade before returning to the ring, driving her into the mat cruelly.

Brooke attempted a cover, but Lynch kicked out, attempting a suplex but hitting a clothesline instead, gaining momentum and driving Brooke into the turnbuckle, hitting an exploder suplex and attempting a cover.

Lynch went to the ropes, but Brooke caught her, rolling her up for a victory.

Emma’s injury is heartbreaking, and a definite blow to the women’s division. Dana Brooke is now on her own. That being said, she performed very well against Lynch, playing up her strength and finally getting her own entrance.

Another segment with Darren Young and Bob Backlund aired.

Backstage, Stephanie and Shane set up a match of one of the Dudley Boyz against Big Cass.

The Golden Truth vs. Breezango

R-Truth started things off against Tyler Breeze, and he and Goldust wasted no time in going ham on Tyler Breeze before Fandango tagged in.

Goldust caught both Fandango and Breeze with powerslams, but a well-timed duck by Tyler Breeze caused R-Truth to knock out Goldust by mistake, letting Tyler Breeze pick up the win.

 

Backstage, R-Truth attempted to apologize to Goldust, saying they still had to work out the kinks, and that the WWE Universe, he, and Goldust all wanted the Golden Truth. Tyler Breeze and Fandango gloated at them, calling them the Golden Girls, and the two resolved to get their chakras aligned.

That’s right, folks. We endured half a year of this damn angle to see them lose in their debut match.

On the bright side, Tyler Breeze has a bit of a winning streak going. So there’s that.

The New Day

In the ring, the New Day mocked the bygone era the Vaudevillains supposedly represented before uncovering a makeshift time machine made from an empty refrigerator box. They stepped inside, and Kofi emerged to his old Jamaican theme. They went back into the machine, and finally emerged wearing mustaches in black and white.

The three declared that the bygone era sucked, but no matter the era, they would still be champs. They were then ambushed by English and Gotch themselves, assaulting Woods and sending him right into his time machine.

This was a very creative segment. Kofi’s Jamaican throwback was awesome. It was a good way to further the rivalry without overexposing both teams. Well done.

Anderson & Gallows (with AJ Styles) vs. The Usos (with Roman Reigns)

Anderson and Gallows started off strong, but the Usos began to regain momentum until Luke Gallows came into the fold, weakening Jey Uso before Anderson tagged in to continue the punishment. Jimmy Uso finally tagged in, catching Gallows with a kick to the gut and hitting a huge crossbody for a near-fall.

Jimmy sent Gallows out of the ring, and continued the beatdown out of the ring before a distraction by Styles allowed Gallows to hit a right hand. Reigns didn’t take too kindly to that, to say the least.

Anderson regained momentum before tagging Gallows back in, unloading on Jimmy Uso, who tried desperately to get back to Jey, who tagged in hot, taking Gallows and Anderson out at ringside. He nearly pinned Anderson, but Anderson kicked out, fighting back with a fury. He landed a rocket kick, but ran into a Superkick, with Gallows saving the match.

The Usos hit Gallows and Anderson both with Superkicks, hitting a splash for the win.

Chaos broke out in the ring, and Styles looked to finally use the steel chair aganst Reigns, who caught him with a right hook, taking the chair and hitting Styles with it. He took out both Gallows and Anderson, but Styles responded with a chair shot himself, FINALLY landing the Styles Clash on the chair.

Speaking of overexposure…

We’ve seen this match far too much in the past few weeks. Why not pit the Usos or the Club against other tag teams, give us something fresh so that the WWE’s most intriguing feud does not become tired?

Additionally, it’s an absolute travesty to book Anderson and Gallows as anything less than a dominant force. having Reigns and the Usos take them out with so much ease takes away any shred of credibility they have. WWE likes to play up their dominance in Japan, but they feed them to Reigns weekly. That’s ridiculous.

I was surprised to see Styles in action, especially considering his physical state, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t extremely satisfying seeing him hit the Styles Clash on Reigns. He won’t win on Sunday, but we’ll always have this, I suppose.

Big Cass vs. D-Von Dudley

Big Cass cut a fantastic trashing promo on the Dudleys, likening D-Von to Urkle and Bubba Ray to Fred Flintstone. The Dudleys didn’t give Big Cass time to call them SAWFT, revealing D-Von to be Cass’s opponent for the night.

D-Von rolled out of the ring, with Bubba Ray distracting Cass by pulling out a table. D-Von took advantage, but Big Cass soon caught them both with a boot and then East River Crossing, picking up a massive and impressive victory.

Big Cass, smug, finished his sentence, calling them SAWFT to close out the segment.

It’s great seeing Cass get such a strong push. Once Enzo returns, they will both undoubtably be in title contention in no time at all.

Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio went on the offensive immediately, targeting Kalisto’s mask as Sin Cara watched on from backstage. Kalisto struggled to regain momentum as Del Rio hit him with a series of strikes, but Kalisto finally turned the tide with a hurricarana.

He attempted another outside the ring, but Del Rio caught him, sending him head-first into the barricade. This gave Del Rio the advantage.

Backstage, Rusev attacked Sin Cara as he observed the match, with Kalisto forced to watch by Del Rio. A distracted Kalisto crashed shoulder-first into the turnbuckle. Del Rio showboated a bit, and Kalisto took advantage, hitting a hurricarana from the top rope.

Rusev emerged with Sin Cara’s prone body, sending him right into the post, and allowing Del Rio to hit the backstabber on a distracted and distressed Kalisto. After the match, Rusev locked in a brutal accolade in the middle of the ring, having to be forced away by referees. He grabbed the title, and held it over Kalisto before leaving.

This was a good showing for Rusev, who is finally starting to look like the unbeatable force he used to be.

Women’s Championship Contract Signing

Shane and Stephanie took to the ring to preside over the contract signing. Ric Flair emerged first, interrupting Stephanie to introduce his daughter himself, telling the crowd to stand for his daughter,who milked her entrance for all that it was worth.

Shane introduced Natalya, who asked Charlotte what she had become, criticizing Charlotte’s new attitude. Charlotte called herself a goddess, saying that she could do anything and still be cheered.

Ric began to WOO, but Charlotte cut him off, continuing to trash Natalya and calling the signing a waste of her time. Shane cut her off, handing her the contract, but before she signed, she took offense to an added stipulation declaring that if Ric Flair even tried to approach the ring, Charlotte would forfeit her title.

Shane brought security down to the ring to escort him out if need be, and Charlotte signed the contract. Ric Flair went crazy, calling Stephanie the worst businesswoman of all time and threatening to beat up Shane. So, naturally, Stephanie slapped him.

Charlotte charged at Stephanie, but Natalya, heels and all, caught Charlotte in the Sharpshooter, forcing her to tap and sending a clear message, holding the title high to close the segment.

Having a women’s segment closing out RAW is truly incredible, but there was a bit too much happening here. I won’t let that take away from the excellent mic work done by both Natalya and Charlotte, however.

Also, Natalya applied the Sharpshooter in high heels. Mad respect.

RAW Recap/Analysis – May 9, 2016

RAW emanated from Omaha, Nebraska, the next chapter of a so-called new era, and boy did WWE not let us forget it. I hope nobody tried to make a drinking game out of it, because those two words were shoved down our throats so much I almost asked for the Ruthless Aggression era back.

The Highlight Reel with Mitch (and Cass)

Chris Jericho, pouty face and all, opened up Monday Night RAW with the Highlight Reel. Hey, at least it’s not an Authority promo. He revealed his guest for the night to be none other than Mitch, the potted plant he brutally murdered last week on RAW, comparing the broken plant to Dean Ambrose himself.

He acknowledged the internet firestorm over Mitch, calling Mitch more interesting and charismatic than Ambrose and, quite bluntly, a loser and a slob. He called himself a legend before being interrupted by none other than Big Cass himself.

Cass mocked Jericho’s so-called gift of Jericho to the audience, completely unafraid, and announced as a warning that he had ARRIVED. He challenged Jericho to a fight, and Jericho refused, sauntering out of the ring. Cass called him SAWFT, and Jericho charged him, but Cass took him out with a single boot to the face.

Creative clearly has a lot of faith in Cass, and it was amazing seeing him talking smack with Chris Jericho himself. He didn’t stumble or disappoint as he sized up the veteran with ease, doing his injured partner and everyone working hard in NXT proud.

Jericho’s cascade of insults about Ambrose had a bit more bite than they did in the buildup to Payback, which I like. The added ferocity is just what their feud needed.

Backstage, an infuriated Jericho approached Stephanie, who told Jericho that he would be competing in the main event of RAW against Cass, and told Jericho to never try to drive a wedge between her and Shane.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin instantly drove Ziggler into the turnbuckle, mocking him viciously before Ziggler fired back with a series of elbows. Things left the ring quickly, with Ziggler driving Corbin over the barricade with a dropkick. Ziggler’s momentum continued through the commercial break until he missed a Fame-asser, allowing Corbin to make a fierce comeback.

Corbin made a mockery of Ziggler in the ring, driving him into the mat. Ziggler managed to hit the Fame-asser on Corbin, but he managed to kick out, much to Ziggler’s shock. Ziggler charged, but Corbin caught him with a Deep Six, which Ziggler kicked out of.

Ziggler nearly rolled him up, but Corbin caught him with the End of Days to pick up the victory.

50/50 booking strikes again, but hey, Corbin looked good. If booked right, he very well could be the monster heel WWE’s been looking for.

Backstage, Shane McMahon talked with Ric Flair and Charlotte, who sleezily attempted cozying up to Shane, asking him to allow Ric Flair to be at ringside for Extreme Rules, but Shane bannedFlair from ringside for RAW as well.

Elsewhere, Jojo interviewed Styles, Anderson and Gallows. Styles proclaimed that this week, he would not hesitate to take out Roman Reigns tonight and that for RAW, the club was back together again.

Fandango vs. R-Truth

R-Truth rook early control of the match, dancing cheerfully as he beat down on Fandango, who tossed him from the ring to regain momentum.Truth’s partner, meanwhile, just admired his reflection in his phone.

Fandango took Truth down with a dropkick, but was distracted by a dancing Goldust enough for R-Truth to surprise Fandango for the pinfall.

I would analyze this, but frankly, this storyline is so ridiculous that I can’t even comprehend it enough to try.

Meanwhile, Stephanie McMahon and Shane were swarmed by the Intercontinental contenders , and Sami Zayn asked for a shot to earn the chance to be put into a match for the IC Title alongside Cesaro, Kevin Owens and current champion Miz.

Charlotte vs. Paige

With Natalya on commentary, the Nature Girl herself took on former Divas and NXT Women’s Champion Paige without her father by her side.

Charlotte looked to be taking an early lead, but Paige took advantage of a moment of arrogance, hitting her with a kick on the apron. But back in the ring, Charlotte drove Paige into the turnbuckle and hit her with a vicious boot to the face.

Once again, Charlotte showboated, allowing Paige to hit her with a series of knees and a rollup. She caught Charlotte with a kick to the face for a nearfall, but Charlotte kicked out, striking back with a brutal chop. She went for a moonsault, but Paige interfered, hitting a superplex for another nearfall.

The two attempted more rollups, and Paige nearly got the PTO locked in, but Charlotte made it to the ropes, which she attempted using for a dirty pin. Nattie prevented it, and Paige hit a fallaway slam for a near-fall.

Ric Flair emerged, allowing Charlotte to hit a backbreaker, but Shane McMahon interrupted his party with a group of refs to escort Ric Flair backstage. Paige took advantage, rolling Charlotte up for the win as Nattie watched smugly.

First off, Paige looked absolutely fantastic here, reverting back to the fun brawling style she used more back in her NXT days. She was clearly making the most of her opportunity and having a blast as she mocked Charlotte. I hope WWE finds a way to use her that doesn’t involve any Total Divas nonsense. She deserves better.

Charlotte looked comfortable in her heel persona, oozing attitude even without her father at ringside. Her athleticism shone through and, despite the chaotic finish, she looked good even in defeat.

Sami Zayn vs. The Miz

Sami Zayn wasted no time in going for a quick win, rolling up Miz before they even locked up. Miz, unsettled, got Zayn into a side headlock, but Zayn quickly fired back with a series of arm drags, rolling him up yet again.

Miz retreated from the ring, and Sami hit him with a moonsault off the barricade, stunning the Intercontinental Champ before sending him into the not once, but twice. Zayn continued his momentum int he ring as Owens and Cesaro watched on backstage until he was thrown out of the ring, hitting the steel steps hard.

Zayn managed to avoid being counted out, but Miz capitalized, driving Zayn into the turnbuckle and hitting forearms from the ropes. Miz looked to hit the Skull-Crushing Finale, but Zayn avoided it, hitting a driver for a near-fall.

The Miz locked in the Figure Four on a suffering Zayn, who just barely managed to reach the ropes for the break. A furious Miz stomped Zayn into the ropes, trying to use the ropes as leverage for a pinfall, and Zayn hit an exploder into the turnbuckle before landing the Helluva Kick, earning himself a spot in the now Fatal Four-Way for the Intercontinental Championship.

This was a foregone conclusion, but it was still a great moment to see. Sami Zayn is tremendously over, and his performance only cemented it.

Backstage, a smug Emma called Becky Lynch inferior before DANA BROOKE ambushed her.

Well, this is interesting.

I know a lot of people are up in arms about Brooke, a notorious overacter who still needs some polishing in the ring, getting called up before Bayley, but I can’t bring myself to mind too much. Brooke and Emma were a blast together, ruthlessly taking women out left and right back on NXT. Brooke will fit right in.

That being said, it is worrisome that WWE is adding another woman to the roster when they still can’t find any time for Sasha Banks.

Elsewhere, Zack Ryder approached Shane McMahon about getting a chance to shine, but was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who mocked Ryder’s internet popularity. In response, Shane set up a match between the two to determine the who would be the fourth entrant in the Fatal Four Way.

And somewhere else, Roman Reigns, with the Usos at his side, declared that in their upcoming elimination match against The Club (?!?!) he would be the one to eliminate AJ Styles.

Sin Cara vs. Rusev

With Kalisto at ringside, Sin Cara took on a re-energized Rusev, who kept his eyes on the US Champ the entire time as he methodically beat down the luchador.

Rusev went for a pinfall with a fall-away slam,, but Sin Cara fought back with a tornado DDT, briefly stunning the Bulgarian Brute. Sin Cara went for a move off the ropes, just barely hitting a moonsault before attacking the retreating brute out of the ring with a dive through the ropes.

Rusev fought back, however, hitting Sin Cara with a boot to the chest and showboating. Kalisto managed to provide a distraction as the ref was preoccupied with Lana, kicking Rusev on the apron and allowing Sin Cara to roll him up for the win.

I don’t understand this.

If you’re trying to build up Rusev as a dominant Goliath to Kalisto’s David, how does it make sense to have him lose to Kalisto’s more inferior (sorry Sin Cara) partner?

Roman Reigns & The Usos vs. The (Bullet) Club

The tension was palpable as the two factions took each other on. Anderson started things off, as Reigns and the Usos worked him with expert team style. Styles joined the action soon after, taking time to look right at Roman Reigns as the Club boys took Jimmy Uso to a world of hurt.

Jey Uso soon tagged in, staging a bit of a comeback against Anderson before Anderson eliminated him holding his tights.

Styles and Reigns both tagged in, but Luke Gallows tagged himself in instead, only to be treated to a classic Reigns-style beatdown., knocking Anderson and Styles off the apron. Jimmy Uso hit Gallows with a crossbody, nearly getting him eliminated before driving him into the corner.

Anderson entered the fray, but was rolled up and eliminated, evening the odds. But soon enough, Styles had Jimmy eliminated with a  Phenomenal Forearm.

Against Gallows, Reigns looked to mount a comeback, eliminating Gallows with a Superman Punch, and an energized Styles burst into the ring, taking Reigns down with a flurry of punches, strikes and a pelee kick. Throwing Reigns out of the ring, Styles flung himself out of the ring onto Reigns and prepped the announce table to get some sweet revenge.

But Reigns flung Styles into the apron and over the table, recovering out of nowhere, and looked to once again put Styles through the table, but Anderson and gallows broke it up, soon being joined by the Usos for a good, old-fashioned brawl. Reigns took Gallows and Anderson both out in the ring with a spear before being caught unaware by Styles, who almost hit him with the Styles Clash.

The two faced off, with Reigns defiantly offering Styles the steel chair in the ring. Styles merely returned it to Roman, who almost used it on Styles, who slid out of the ring, declaring he had no need for that chair.

Just as I’ve been saying, this feud is positively enthralling for so many reasons. Surprisingly, the Usos and Gallows and Anderson are still adding depth to the feud more than anyone ever believed they would.

The final sequence with the chair gave me chills. Neither man using the chair because of pride. The absolute desire to forgo all pretenses and just brawl. The arena was abuzz, and no matter what side you’re on, you cannot deny that these two are making each other stars.

Zack Ryder vs. Kevin Owens

Owens wasted little time in cruelly beating Ryder down, badmouthing him throughout and looking to powerbomb him onto the apron, but Ryder reversed it into a back body drop, furthering his momentum with a missile dropkick until Owens struck back from behind.

Ryder flew into a jacknife cover, but Owens kicked out, missing a canonball into the turnbuckle and barely evading the Broski Boot. Ryder wouldn’t let him recover, driving him into the barricade before tossing him back into the ring and hitting the El-bro fromt he top rope for a near-fall.

Ryder went for his finisher, but Owens caught him with a Superkick followed by the Pop-up Powerbomb for a decisive victory, officially sending him to Extreme Rules.

Well, I mean…did anyone expect anything different?

Backstage, Big Cass told Renee Young that he was dedicating his match against Jericho to Enzo Amore.

The New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz

The New Day emerged to cut a promo on the Vaudevillains, pointing out that the era the Vaudevillains represented an era not kind to people like them….smartphone users. They worked the crowd up wonderfully, actually getting them to bow down to the Booty-O’s before their opponents for the night emerged: The Dudley Boyz.

Bubba Ray started things off strong against Kofi Kingston, mocking the New Day throughout before Big E hit a splash in the middle of the ring. But when Kofi tagged back in, D-Von began to turn the tide back int he Dudleys’ favor.

But Kofi managed to hit a dropkick, allowing him to tag Big E in for a double-team move into the turnbuckle. Bubba Ray tried to interfere, but Big E took him out with a belly-to-belly, and the New Day began the Unicorn Stampede on D-Von. Kingston hit a dropkick, and the dancing and girating began before the Vaudevillains emerged, attacking Woods at ringside and letting D-Von pin Kingston.

The Vaudevillains continued their assault in the ring, hitting the Whirling Dervish on Kingston at the center of the ring and standing tall to end the segment.

The New Day proves, week after week, that they are still one of the most organically entertaining acts on the entire roster. Their pre-match promos get the audience psyched to see them in action, and their in-ring antics keep everyone watching and waiting for the next wild thing.

The vaudevillains are fitting into their heel roles perfectly, providing a surprisingly fresh antagonist for the New Day to fight. They are so very annoying that audiences are practically salivating at the thought of seeing them getting their asses kicked. And I love it.

Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho didn’t even make it to the ring, being ambushed in the dark and on the ramp by Dean Ambrose, who wore his glowing jacket all the way into the ring, cheerfully ripping it apart for everyone to see. Jericho ran into the ring, and Ambrose wasted no time in laying down punishment.

Jericho retreated from the ring, and Big Cass blocked his way, staring him downw ordlessly until Jericho made the mistake of slapping him. Cass snapped, throwing him into the ring for a waiting Dean Ambrose, who hit Dirty Deeds. Cass threw in the jacket as well, and Ambrose proceeded to cut it to pieces, kicking it onto Jericho’s prone body and walking away.

Backstage, Shane thanked Stephanie for co-existing so well with him, and walked away as Stephanie looked on with an unreadable expression.

First off, I’m sad Cass didn’t actually get to wrestle in the main event. But he’ll get his chance soon enough, so I am not too concerned.

Second, that was one of the coolest looking ambushes I have ever seen.

Dean Ambrose can make any angle he’s involved in a  thousand times more intriguing with a simple flash of aggression or wild-eyed look, and both were on full display as he avenged Mitch the Plant in spectacular fashion. Big Cass’ assist was a nice tie-in as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing these two trash talkers team up for a spell.

Overall, RAW was a good time. The matches seemed to be spaced out better, keeping some of the more intriguing angles until the end of the show for a change to try and retain viewers. We got an NXT debut, and the title pictures look interesting as ever.

Cheers. Here’s to a new era.

RAW Recap/Analysis – April 18, 2016

WWE continued a trend of fun episodes of RAW during its broadcast from London, England. Fresh matchups and a huge surprise early on fueled a night full of unexpected twists and entertaining wrestling.

(A very full) Ambrose Asylum

Dean Ambrose opened the night with an episode of his brand new show: The Ambrose Asylum, being greeted with a big pop from an appreciative London crowd. He cracked a few jokes and then introduced his first guest: Shane McMahon.

London gave Shane a warm welcome and Ambrose agreed, showing the clip of Shane’s absolutely insane spot from WrestleMania (you know the one). He asked Shane what his agenda with WWE was, and Shane name-dropped stars such as AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and Sasha Banks, and said he was there to give the WWE Universe what it deserved.

He was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who called Shane mad with power and accusing him of having a vendetta against him. Owens badmouthed Sami Zayn, and soon enough the man himself came out to confront him. Sami brought up their history and said that Owens would have never ended up in WWE without him.

To complete the party, Chris Jericho came out, mic in hand, and called Zayn an emotional idiot. He criticized McMahon, and the four in the ring began to bicker, with Dean telling everyone to be careful around his plant.

Shane then took the opportunity to book two matches for Payback, pitting Jericho against Ambrose and Owens against Zayn. He stepped out of the ring, taking the plant with him, and chaos broke out. Zayn and Ambrose threw Owens and Jericho out of the ring.

This was a bit of a hot mess, but enjoyable nonetheless. Frankly, anything that is not Authority-related is good for me.

Chris Jericho vs. Sami Zayn

Zayn started the match off hot, catching a grumpy Chris Jericho off guard with some swift, high-flying offense. Jericho, with some well-timed ring utilization, staged a comeback, wearing Zayn down on the ring and with a dropkick to the chest.

Jericho badmouthed Zayn as he locked him in a chokehold, but Zayn powered back with a series of clotheslines and a flying crossbody. He countered a lionsault and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb, but Jericho survived it, reversing into the Walls of Jericho. Zayn broke it, but it had done a lot of damage.

Zayn launched a frustrated Jericho out of the ring, flying through the ropes to attack Jericho with a flying DDT. But Jericho caught Zayn in the eyes, allowing him to hit a Codebreaker for the pinfall.

This was an excellent match, with Jericho utilizing classic heel tactics not involving a distraction to secure a win over Zayn, who still managed to come out of the match looking credible.

Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed AJ Styles, and this was interrupted by Anderson and Gallows. The pair exchanged a warm greeting with Styles and the trio went off to catch up.

Enzo and Cass vs. The Dudley Boyz (Semifinals of the Tag Tourney)

London gave Enzo and Cass a huge ovation as they entered, and the pair wasted no time in getting their trash talking started for the receptive crowd before the Dudleys emerged.

Enzo started things off, energetic as ever even as both Dudleys began to wear into him.  Bubba Ray didn’t know quite what to make of Enzo’s manic energy, but Enzo running into him was like running into a brick wall. DeVon tagged in and continued the beatdown, and both veterans mocked him as they beat him down.

But Enzo couldn’t be kept down for the count, avoiding asplash off the top rope from Bubba Ray and tagging Big Cass in hot. Big Cass cleaned house, tagging Enzo in for the Rocket Launcher for a beautiful, clean victory.

Is there any doubt as to how incredibly hot Enzo and Cass are? The crowd went absolutely nuts for them, showing the kind of energy serenading Enzo Amore that can only be rivaled by the energy they showed booing Roman Reigns.

The Dudleys also feel fresher than ever against this dynamite duo, being given a pair who can easily match them both on the mic and in the ring. I hope this rivalry doesn’t die here, it’s too good to waste.

Bullet Club strikes

Roman Reigns entered to some pretty sizable boos, which were surprisingly not edited down. He spouted his usual line about being THE guy, talking down about AJ Styles and saying it was his time, and his era.

The crowd started chanting “BORING,” until AJ Styles entered to save the day, getting the kind of welcome he deserves. AJ gave Reigns his due credit, saying he would have to have the match of his life to become champion, but that he was ready to do so.

Reigns acknowledged how popular AJ Styles is, saying he would earn the respect of everyone and adding that he would rather be respected with the championship than liked without it. And Styles said he wanted both.

But as he left, Anderson and Gallows ambushed Reigns to huge cheers, laying him out in the ring as Styles watched from the ramp.

Backstage, AJ assured Roman that he had no idea what was going to happen, saying he didn’t need his friends to beat Reigns, and Roman said it wouldn’t matter either way.

Well, this is interesting.

First, I’m impressed that WWE did not even attempt to edit down the chorus of boos that greeted Roman Reigns, and also am impressed with the champ’s work on the mic. In his new, more arrogant and dispassionate attitude, he seems to be finally finding a real voice, gaining some serious heat when he talked down to AJ Styles and said he didn’t care about being liked. Styles also sounded stronger than ever on the mic, really getting the British crowd behind him with enviable ease.

Second, the Bullet Club’s interference sets up two possibilities: Styles turning heel on tweener Reigns and reforming the Bullet Club, or the Bullet Club turning on Styles and possibly going rogue or rallying behind a debuting Finn Balor.

Color me intrigued, WWE. Keep it up.

Baron Corbin vs. Fandango

With Dolph Ziggler on commentary, Baron Corbin squared off against Fandango, who apparently still exists. Bless him.

Corbin dominated the match, sending Fandango out of the ring and into Dolph Ziggler, getting an easy and decisive victory in no time. He wasn’t able to celebrate for long, with an infuriated Dolph Ziggler going after him, hitting the End of Days at ringside.

Baron Corbin looks to be settling right in on the main roster. His aura has not faded in the slightest and he’s looking better than ever in the ring. Good on you, big Banter. Good on you.

Miz TV

Introduced obnoxiously by Maryse, the Miz wasted no time in mocking Prince George and bragging about being Intercontinental Champion. The two then made out in the ring, and thank goodness were interrupted by Cesaro and his glorious suit.

Charisma showing easily, Cesaro mocked the Miz, who ignored him in favor of delivering a monologue from Taken. The crowd heckled him throughout, so he just delivered the last line again and again.

Cesaro cut him off, saying “when my hand goes up your mouth goes shut,” and the crowd absolutely ate it up. He proclaimed that he would in fact be the WWE Intercontinental Champion and quoted Roddy Piper:

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

The Miz brushed this off and introduced Cesaro’s opponent: Rusev.

But Cesaro revealed that plans had changed, and Miz and the League of Nations would be teaming up against him and….(ripping away his suit to reveal a Booty-O’s shirt) THE NEW DAY!

Cesaro’s charisma shone brightly in this segment, but one of the biggest revelations was how good as a heel pair Miz and Maryse are. They drew heat easily, and Miz looks more and more credible every time she is at his side.

Cesaro & The New Day vs. The League of Nations & The Miz

London popped massively for the New Day, practically blowing the roof off the O2 Arena as they chanted along with Big E for their entrance.

Woods and Miz started things off, with Woods getting some early momentum against the Hollywood star and Big E tagging in to continue dishing out punishment. a tagged Kofi was soon subjected to some punishment from a tagged-in Alberto Del Rio, but a vertical leap allowed the New Day and Cesaro to hit the Unicorn Stampede.

The League of Nations regained some momentum over Xavier Woods, isolating him far away from his team and sending him out of the ring. The heels continued to beat down on him, preventing anyone from being there for Xavier to tag in.

Cesaro finally tagged in, taking Sheamus and the Miz to Uppercut City, even leaving the ring to take the others out before hitting a crossbody on Sheamus. Chaos erupted as all the teams got involved, with Big E evening things out for Cesaro to get the win.

Is there any group more over than the New Day? These guys got the pop of the night and delivered in the ring, clicking with Cesaro wonderfully. They were entertaining as hell, and it’s always great to see Xavier Woods int he ring AND getting some nice offense in.

Backstage, Mauro Ranallo interviewed Charlotte before Natalya interrupted, revealing that Bret Hart would be in her corner at Payback.

Natalya, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch & Paige vs. Charlotte, Naomi, Tamina & Summer Rae

No Superstar stayed in the ring for too long, all tagging in and out with ease. Paige got time to make more of a statement on her home turf, taking out both Naomi and Tamina with a dive from the ring as Becky took Charlotte down herself.

Speaking of the Lass Kicker, she took control of the match soon after, battling through interference from Tamina and Naomi both no matter which heel was tagged in. Summer Rae looked to continue beating the Irish Superstar down before tagging Naomi in.

Lynch was finally able to tag in a hot Natalya, who quickly sent Summer Rae to town before Charlotte tagged in. Tamina and Naomi attempted to break things up, but Sasha and Paige got rid of them, allowing Natalya to lock in the Sharpshooter on Charlotte, forcing her to tap.

Let me start with this: Natalya and Charlotte can build a feud without it being about the men in their families any day of the week. Natalya knows the business well, and Charlotte’s a natural. Adding Bret Hart to the mix is a bit of a distraction from who the true stars should be: the ladies.

That being said, this is Bret’s first appearance since his battle with prostate cancer, and I am thrilled to see him doing better. He and Ric will probably play the same roles they did at NXT in 2014 when the two women first faced off. I predict Bret will only serve to elevate his niece, just as he should.

The Vaudvillains vs. The Usos (Semifinals of the Tag Tourney)

Simon Gotch started things off strong before tagging Aiden English in to continue dishing out the punishment on Jimmy before Jey tagged in. He got some momentum back, hitting a kick tot he face and Samoan Drop before Gotch interfered.

Back in the ring, English worked Jey’s shoulder  before hitting the Whirling Dervish for a decisive victory.

An Apollo Crews vignette aired after, finally giving the casual WWE Universe a glimpse at the latest NXT callup.

NXT truly has arrived, my friends. Bask in the glory.

Apollo Crews vs. Heath Slater

On the deal that if he lost the match he would join the Social Outcasts, Apollo Crews took on Heath Slater.

Crews displayed his power and athleticism with practiced ease, hitting an impressive vertical suplex before a cheap shot by Slater allowed him to slow Crews down. Slater grounded the new Superstar, locking him in a chokehold and beating him down into the mat.

But Crews couldn’t be kept down for long, taking out Dallas and Axel at ringside before hitting a crossbody on Slater and escaping a rollup attempt. Hitting the sit-down powerbomb, Crews got the victory.

He didn’t get to celebrate for long as Owens entered for his main event against Dean Ambrose, not even sparing a glance for Crews as he entered.

Crews is fun in the ring, but if we don’t get to see a glimpse of who he is as a character, he will have a hard time getting any sort of reaction anywhere. I hope he’s given the chance to continue growing, because he really does have what it takes to be huge.

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens

Owens and Ambrose wasted no time in exchanging blows and throwing each other into the turnbuckle. Ambrose took an early lead in the match against a frustrated Owens, who soon got Ambrose caught in a headlock, proclaiming himself the headlock master. Ambrose fought out, clocking Owens before hitting him with a suicide dive when he tried to retreat out of the ring.

In retaliation, Owens sent Ambrose over the announce table, and Ambrose soon returned the favor. However, Owens soon enough regained momentum, using his weight to punish Ambrose as fully as possible before locking in a chinlock.

Ambrose made it to his feet, escaping the lock and striking Owens before being sent over the top rope and being hit with a frog splash off the apron. Ambrose just barely beat the count back to the ring, only to be caught in another chinlock before reversing it into a powerbomb.

Ambrose got to the top rope, hitting a stunning flying elbow out of the ring on a fleeing Owens. Back in the ring, the two once again traded blows before Ambrose hit Owens with a wicked clothesline for a near fall and then a superplex from the ropes for another. Owens nearly hit his finisher, but Ambrose reversed it, only to get hit by a crazy move from the ropes by Owens.

Owens went for another splash from the ropes, but Ambrose hit him with the knees to the gut followed by Dirty Deeds for the victory, but Chris Jericho caught him with a Codebreaker to close out the night.

Another RAW, another fantastic showing from two of WWE’s best and most over workhorses. Hope to see them in the main event scene of pay-per-views soon enough. They both deserve it.

All in all, this week’s RAW continued the WWE’s trend of meaningful, fun hours of wrestling and yes, entertainment. I hope they can continue this for weeks to come.

 

RAW Recap/Analysis – April 11, 2016

Shane McMahon once again helmed Monday Night RAW, and if you thought the surprises would end at last week, you were proved wrong tonight with another fun episode full of surprises and, most importantly, good wrestling.

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Shane O’Mac himself opened RAW for the second week in a row, thanking the WWE Universe for their overwhelming support and announcing a Tag Team tournament for the chance to face The New Day for their titles. He also announced Sami Zayn versus AJ Styles for the chance to compete against Roman Reigns as well.

This prompted an interruption from Kevin Owens, who belittled McMahon for giving Zayn such an opportunity and accused McMahon for screwing him over. McMahon didn’t buy into Owens’ excuses, but did agree to give Owens his rematch for the Intercontinental Championship if he beat Cesaro.

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (No. 1 Contender’s match for the Intercontinental Championship)

Cesaro clearly intimidated the former IC Champ, who ducked out of the ring early on, and proved there was bark to his bite, having fun in the ring as he messed with Owens. Owens briefly gained some momentum, working Cesaro’s weak shoulder hard.

Owens got cocky, going for an uppercut of his own, and Cesaro took advantage, taking Owens to uppercut city, but Owens once again gained momentum by throwing Cesaro’s shoulder into the turnbuckle.

The two exchanged blows, with Cesaro making a comeback through the pain in his shoulders, hitting Owens with a crossbody into a crossface by Owens. Cesaro countered out, locking in the Sharpshooter, but Owens made it to the ropes, hitting the King of Swing with a Superkick and then a Frog Splash, but even then Cesaro kicked out.

He managed to take Owens for a brief swing, but his shoulder gave up on him. That wouldn’t stop him, as he hit Owens with the Neutralizer for the pinfall.

This was a fun match between two extremely talented and over workers, so I expected nothing less than excellence. They delivered. It’s so great to have Cesaro back, especially now that he has a new Bond-esque entrance. He’s a blast to watch, and now the IC picture is ten times more interesting.

Backstage, Dr. Phil confronted Charlotte, telling her to stop using her father to win. And Shane McMahon told an infuriated Kevin Owens to leave the building so he couldn’t ruin anything for Sami Zayn.

The Lucha Dragons vs. The Dudley Boyz

The New Day came out to open the Tag Team Tournament, sponsored by Booty-O’s, of course.

The Dudleys wasted no time in going right after the Lucha Dragons, putting Kallisto out of commission early on, busting his shoulder.

Sin Cara was subjected to what was basically a handicap match, being viciously beat by the two veterans. He managed to stage a brief comeback, gaining momentum against D-Von, but a hidden tag and a 3-D got the Dudleys a quick win.

But the Dudleys couldn’t celebrate for long, as Enzo and Cass emerged to break up their party. The Dudleys didn’t take too kindly to the interruption. Bubba Ray angrily pointed out that they paved the way for tag teams like them, to which Enzo and Cass cheekily replied that they paved their own roads.

Enzo and Cass were fun as ever, and the LA crowd chanted right along with them. Their dynamic with the Dudleys is already very entertaining, and it’s only getting better from here. The crowds are buying into Enzo and Cass quickly, but was anyone really surprised?

They took NXT by storm, and the regular crowds won’t be immune to their charms any less than the Full Sail faithful.

Roman Reigns

Reigns cut his usual promo about he wasn’t a good guy or a bad guy, just THE guy. And because WWE hates us, the League of Nations interrupted him. Reigns simply challenged them to come to the ring.

They did, but they were interrupted by the Wyatt Family, who simply stared Reigns down before Shane McMahon interrupted them, announcing Reigns and Wyatt versus two members of the League of Nations in the night’s main event.

His new catchphrase is already old. I hope WWE makes it into a t-shirt so I can buy one and then burn it.

Reigns is a thousand times more intriguing with this new, smug edge, and the pairing with the Wyatts was interesting considering their long feud from last year. However, it’s something fresh, and frankly, anything is better than seeing Reigns fighting Sheamus ever again.

Charlotte vs. Natalya (WWE Women’s Championship match)

With Dr. Phil at ringside to see if Charlotte would heed his advice, Natalya and Charlotte squared off for the WWE Women’s Championship.

Natalya instantly began to target Charlotte’s legs, prepping her for the inevitable Sharpshooter, but a Spinebuster began to slow her momentum. Natalya locked in an armbar, forcing Charlotte to retreat from the ring.

Upon re-entering, Charlotte was subject to more quick-paced offense from the Canadian Superstar. However, a neckbreaker allowed her to gain some control back, wearing Natalya down until Natalya attempted to lock in an armbar.

Charlotte locked in the Figure Four, but Natalya reversed it, forcing Charlotte to escape. In an ultimate show of disrespect, Charlotte locked in the Sharpshooter until Natalya reversed out of it, hitting a German Suplex and clothesline.

Charlotte fought back, attacking Nattie with a hard boot, repeatedly going for covers and missing a moonsault.

Natalya took advantage, locking in the Sharpshooter and making Charlotte tap, but a distraction by Ric Flair got Natalya the victory . . . by disqualification. So Nattie might have won, but Charlotte kept her title.

The finish was expected, of course, but the match was well-paced and given ample time to flourish. Charlotte and Natalya both work very well together, and continued to show their stuff in a submission wrestling clinic.

It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to see Emma and Becky Lynch further their feud, or Sasha Banks at all, but I know those girls will get their shot. For now, Natalya’s getting some well-deserved time in the spotlight. And Charlotte is proving that she doesn’t need her dad to be a star.

Backstage, Sami Zayn cut a heartfelt promo about not throwing away his shot, and AJ Styles told him that while he respected him and liked him, he intended to be the only one facing Roman Reigns for the title.

The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts

In the next first-round match of the Tag Team Tournament, the Usos took early control over Curtis Axel, who apparently wears jorts now. Axel mounted a bit of a comeback, locking Jey into a chokehold into a dropkick. A tagged-in Slater continued capitalizing on Axel’s momentum before tagging Axel back in.

Their momentum was cut short, however, when a premature Bo-train allowed the Usos to surprise the Outcasts with a rollup victory.

But in a shock move, both teams were ambushed by KARL ANDERSON AND DOC GALLOWS, who laid everyone out at ringside before being forced to leave ringside by officials.

I blinked, and suddenly my boys were on the screen. It happened that fast.

What a fun way for the two Bullet Club alumni to make their debuts! The crowd went nuts when they realized who was in the ring, and both Anderson and Gallows were radiating charisma.

The Tag Team Division is getting more and more loaded every week. I can’t wait to see where this all leads.

Backstage, Jojo tried getting a statement from The Miz, but Maryse pushed her aside and The Miz, in two takes, called himself the Swiss Superman’s kryptonite before looking terrified at the sight of Cesaro, who cheerfully told him he’d get a star-worthy beating.

Oh, and The Miz doesn’t drink “domestic” water. Classic.

AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn

Early on, the two former indy darlings felt each other out, testing the waters. Sami went for an early series of rollups, but Styles got out of both. Zayn and Styles both worked each other’s arms.

Zayn picked up momentum with some quick arm-drags, but Styles responded with an arm drag of his own. Zayn, getting fired up, chopped Styles and challenged him to do more, but Styles responded with a surprise dropkick followed by a suplex.

Now further in control, Styles took the action out of the ring briefly, hitting Zayn with a knee to the face, but Zayn sent Styles out of the ring in turn, flying over the ropes to take Styles down.

But his lead didn’t last long, as Styles worked Zayn with brutal intensity, absolutely torturing his back. He went for the Styles Clash, but Zayn reversed it into a near-rollup pin, getting three near-falls in a row.

Styles countered with a Pelee Kick, but Zayn got him right back with a Blue Thunder Bomb, almost ending the match right there. Styles locked in the Calf Crusher, and Zayn just barely made it to the ropes.

Styles went for a Sunset Flip, but Zayn made it to his feet, nearly hitting the Helluva Kick, but Styles dodged, hitting the Phenomenal Forearm for the pinfall.

Backstage, Styles praised Zayn, shaking his hand and telling him he would get another shot, and Shane McMahon praised THEM for an awesome match.

This match right here is why I love wrestling. It built slowly, a story of struggle against two opponents who respected each other unfolding at a leisurely pace before exploding into a series of fun spots and signatures.

Styles and Zayn worked wonderfully together, crafting a bout that was an absolute blast to watch. Shane’s praise was most certainly well-deserved.

Welcome to the Asylum

Chris Jericho introduced his biggest guest to date, praising them for their accomplishments and calling them a future Hall of Famer.

It was himself, naturally.

He offered the crowd the chance to bask in his glory, giving them the gift of Jericho, and said that nobody on the roster could touch him.

Dean Ambrose crashed his self-celebration, potted plant in hand, and casually told Jericho that this was his show now, and he had a memo from Shane McMahon to prove it.

Welcome to the Ambrose Asylum!

He casually teased Jericho over his scarf, and the furious vet told Ambrose that he would do whatever he wanted, threatening to bury Ambrose and calling him “boy.” Ambrose ignored that, bringing up the scarf again and planting Jericho with Dirty Deeds when his guest got handsy, shoving him.

Ambrose and Jericho have some crazy chemistry. Jericho’s uptight heel persona is a wonderful foil to Dean Ambrose, and his hijacking of the Highlight Reel was both funny and intriguing.

Jericho is still wrestling like he’s in his thirties. Ambrose is in his prime. This feud might be just the thing to put Ambrose back in the main event scene where he belongs.

Backstage, Goldust confronted R-Truth about putting them in the Tag Team Tournament, and even Dr. Phil didn’t want to bother with them.

Apollo Crews vs. Adam Rose

Crews wasted little time in showing off his quick athleticism. Rose showed brief signs of life, attacking Crews with ferocity, but a vertical suplex by Crews halted him in his tracks.

Crews went on a roll, and even an attempted distraction by Bo Dallas couldn’t stop him as he hit Rose with his new powerbomb finisher for the win.

I’m conflicted, you guys.

There’s no questioning that Apollo Crews is straight fire in the ring. He’s athletic, well-built, and technically sound. Physically, he’s the total package.

But aside from that, what do we know about him? What is there to know? Fans of NXT know how hard he’s worked to get here, but so far WWE has given us little reason to care about his rise other than he’s a star in the making.

Give him a character. Let him flesh it out. Let us get to know him. He almost has it all.

Roman Reigns & Bray Wyatt vs. The League of Nations

It took some convincing, but Bray convinced Roman to let him start things off against Sheamus, forcing Sheamus to retreat. Reigns soon tagged in, and the two double-teamed against Sheamus. Soon enough, Wyatt tagged himself back in to everyone’s pleasure, continuing to punish the Celtic Warrior.

Del Rio got some momentum back for the League of Nations, but Wyatt gained some momentum back long enough to tag in Reigns to yeah, a lot of boos and some desperate cheers. Reigns sent Sheamus retreating out of the ring, and the numbers game was not in his favor there.

Reigns took a whopping punishment at the hands of both Del Rio and Sheamus until he hit a Samoan Drop, tagging Bray Wyatt in red hot. Wyatt cleaned house, the crowd going insane for him, and even a distraction couldn’t get him pinned.

The other Wyatts arrived on the scene, neutralizing Rusev and allowing Bray to hit Sister Abigail for the pinfall. Roman hit a spear too, but this was Bray’s moment.

It was thrilling to see the crowd so firmly behind Bray Wyatt, who has been abused by WWE Creative for so long. He and Roman both performed well, capitalizing on their unlikely chemistry and flourishing together.

Overall, this RAW was fun. The matches all had stakes behind them, and many of the pairings were fresh. Here’s hoping WWE continues to build on its momentum going into Payback.

 

 

How the Four Horsewomen brought back Women’s Wrestling

Forget the disheartening booking of WrestleMania 32 and its lackluster buildup. Forget that the Authority is still in power. Forget that only one title changed hands, that Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles lost. Forget all of it. Because when we look back on WrestleMania 32 a year, two years, or ten years from now, only one thing will be immortalized in wrestling history.

And it’s not Roman Reigns. It’s not The Rock or John Cena.

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It’s this.

For years, the women of the WWE have been referred to as Divas, which by definition means, “a woman regarded as temperamental or haughty.” They’ve been booked as catty, boy crazy bitches whose motivations have more to do with stealing spotlights than stealing shows.

Their championship belt, once a standard of excellence held by the likes of Alundra Blayze, Trish Stratus, Chyna and Lita was reduced to a pink and silver butterfly belt that looked more like a toy than a title.

Their matches were woefully short, an excuse to give crowds bathroom breaks rather than entertainment. They were demeaned and sexualized. Their own title was rarely defended at WrestleMania itself. A man once won the Miss WrestleMania battle royale. I won’t even get into the bra and panty matches or bikini contests.

Less focus was put on their athleticism. The WWE chose to push them as reality television stars, spotlighting beautiful women over athletes. Gail Kim left because of this. AJ Lee’s record-breaking reign was broken by a lesser athlete, and even when she was with the WWE her character was diminished to an obsessive stalker. Paige lost her spark, and Emma and Natalya were lost in the shuffle.

But during all of this, a revolution was brewing down in NXT. Four women honed their craft down in developmental, slowly but surely changing the game.

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A second-generation dynamite athlete, Charlotte’s strength and agility in the ring, coupled with an impressive match with Natalya in 2014 thrust her into the spotlight early on. A performer with an unrivaled crowd connection, the ultimate underdog Bayley rose through the ranks to become one of the best wrestlers in the world, male or female. A spitfire wrestler with an affinity for suplexes, Becky Lynch’s endless energy and technical skill earned her fast respect. A boss in every sense of the word, Sasha Banks cemented herself as the top star of NXT quickly, her aggressive style making her one of the WWE’s best heels.

While the Divas of the WWE squabbled over fame in three-minute catfights, the women of NXT rose to main event status. A Fatal Four Way in February of 2015 cemented theii place at the top of the card. In July of 2015, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks made their shocking debuts on Monday Night RAW.

Dubbed by Stephanie McMahon as the Divas Revolution, the top nine Divas of the roster were all pinned against each other in directionless tag matches, all while Nikki Bella held the butterfly. Charlotte and Becky teamed with Paige. Sasha teamed with Naomi and Tamina, all against Alicia Fox and the Bella Twins.

The Horsewomen all drew excited reactions, but even after Charlotte won the Divas Championship, something felt off. They were not being utilized properly.

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Charlotte was reduced to a bland babyface who relied on her father to draw reactions. Becky Lynch became a mere plucky sidekick. Sasha Banks was tied down in Team BAD, mysteriously out of title contention despite being undefeated in singles competition.

But change is never a linear progression of success. Not all was going wrong for the women of the WWE. At NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, Sasha Banks and Bayley put on the match of the year, coronating Bayley as the NXT Women’s Champion. At the next Takeover, they were the main event in a historic 30-minute Iron Man match.

Charlotte turned heel, finding a whole new fire within herself with her new freedom. Becky was positioned as a top babyface, her ultimate underdog status finding the perfect harmony with Charlotte’s arrogance.

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Bayley, the only one of the Horsewomen to remain in NXT, elevated the championship and brought it to new heights. She brought the best out of all of her challengers: Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax and even Eva Marie. She and Japanese sensation Asuka brought the division to a new level.

But the evolution was not complete. How could it be, when all the Horsewomen had left to aspire to was a butterfly belt and the name “Diva?”

The hints of this final evolution began to drop at the Royal Rumble, when Becky Lynch and Charlotte put on a fantastic match capped off by a triumphant return by Sasha Banks to title contention. Over the months, a Triple Threat was set up for WrestleMania, and as the Showcase of the immortals drew closer, electricity surrounded the bout.

At NXT Takeover: Dallas, Asuka defeated Bayley to win the NXT Women’s Championship in a fantastic bout that succeeded despite following Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.

And at WrestleMania, Hall of Famer Lita unveiled a new WWE Women’s Championship belt, modeled after the belt the male Superstars fight for. It’s absolutely stunning to behold, and no longer looks like a Barbie toy. It’s a legitimate title.

Even more, the WWE is dropping the term “Diva” in favor of something worthy of its athletes.

“Our female performers are world-class athletes, actors, public speakers and philanthropists. They’re role models, inspiring and empowering women and girls to be confident and strong. They dedicate themselves to WWE, achieve great success and earn the same respect as their male counterparts. Therefore, from this point forward, all of our performers – male and female – will be known as Superstars,” Stephanie McMahon announced.

Sasha, Charlotte and Becky put on the match of the night at WrestleMania 32. Soon enough, Bayley will join them. With the likes of Paige, Natalya, Emma, Naomi, Summer Rae and more behind them, these Superstars have forced everyone in the WWE to up their game, including the likes of the Bella Twins and yeah, even Eva Marie. Everyone is performing at a new level, because the Horsewomen, the trailblazers, raised the bar.

The world is changing. For years, the WWE have been far behind in regards to the treatment of its women. And while there is still a long way to go, the Four Horsewomen have made history. In NXT, on RAW and now at WrestleMania.

Just as Sasha Banks’ entrance music says, the sky’s the limit.

 

 

WrestleMania 32 Predictions

Happy WrestleMania Sunday, everyone! What a day to be a fan of wrestling, am I right? This year’s WrestleMania, more so than many before it, has an uphill battle to fight. An injury-trodden match card with an abysmal buildup has left much of the WWE Universe feeling pretty, well, not hyped.

But this is WRESTLE FREAKING MANIA, you guys! The WWE knows what’s at stake, and they are going to pull out all the stops to ensure the fans in Dallas get their money’s worth.

So, without further ado, here are my official predictions for WrestleMania 32!

The Total Divas vs. B.A.D. & Blonde

What a joke. What an absolute, disgraceful joke.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten THAT out of my system, let me say this: Diva Battle Royals can be booked right. It’s completely possible. The WWE do it with men all the time. But when it’s booked as no more than a catfight, what does that say?

The WWE loves to praise itself for its so-called Divas Revolution, and it has been making strides (see the Championship match for proof). But how can we truly buy in to it when talents like Paige, Emma, Natalya and Naomi are wasting away in a match used as a lazy excuse for putting as many women in Mania as possible?

Prediction: Eva Marie turns on the Total Divas and Lana gets the pinfall

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

Normal logic dictates that the veteran team put over the younger stars, but I’m going to throw this away because at the moments, a victory by the Usos makes less sense. Granted, the entire buildup of this match makes little sense, but it could have implications for the future of the tag team division.

With the New Day poised to be cemented as full-on babyfaces, the Dudley Boyz could very well be the heel opponents they can face between now and SummerSlam, provided a certain faction don’t debut tonight. They will probably get their tenth reign before they hang up their boots, so a victory tonight would give them some much-needed momentum.

Prediction: The Dudleys get put through tables, but win anyways

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

With rumors circulating that the WWE has changed their minds about giving Braun Strowman an immediate push, this year’s Battle Royale is anyone’s to win. However, I wouldn’t quite rule out a win for the rookie, or having him give an assist to leader Bray Wyatt.

The Social Outcasts, Big Show and Kane have been the centerpieces to the limited storyline going into this match. Expect them to make a statement, even if it’s just a comic relief style one. Big Show could very well pull off another win, and management might want to hand Kane the win in gratitude for his many, many years of service.

As much as I want to write in Tyler Breeze for the win, I’m a realist. Sorry.

Prediction: Braun Strowman wins with help from the Wyatts

Kalisto vs. Ryback (United States Championship match)

This is Kalisto’s chance to cement himself as an upper-level midcard star.

Despite the atrocious booking of the United States champion, Kalisto will, without a doubt, conquer the Big Guy in tonight’s Show of Shows. He has managed to remain very popular among fans despite suffering loss after loss. Heck, he managed to get Sexy Star to be his date to the Hall of Fame! He’s on fire!

In all seriousness, Kalisto looks to be positioned to be the WWE’s Latino star, the heir to Rey Mysterio in ways Sin Cara never could be. This is his chance to prove himself under pressure, and I can’t wait to see what he will do.

Prediction: Kalisto overcomes the odds and retains

 

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Stardust vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara (ladder match for Intercontinental Championship)

What a clusterf@%*#.

But I’m an optimist, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this match will be good despite itself. Remember last year’s awesome ladder match?

Owens has proven himself to be an incredible worker well-able to perform in gimmick matches like this. Expect his rivalry with Sami Zayn to be the emotional core of this match, providing many awesome spots and setting up a feud that will continue through the summer.

Stardust teased a new look, but he’s teased the return of Cody many times before. However, if we actually see Cody, expect the pop to be momentous.

This match belongs to Kevin Owens. It can fully legitimize his reign and set up an underdog (Zayn) chasing the prizefighter: this summer’s Ambrose vs. Rollins.

Prediction: Owens retains

The New Day vs. League of Nations

Oh, what a difference a year can make. In the span of a single year, the New Day have become one of the hottest acts in the entire WWE, their unique blend of charisma and unpredictability turning them into undisputed fan favorites.

The League of Nations, meanwhile, is wallowing without direction.

This will be the New Day’s moment of triumph, their final coronation as complete babyfaces. But don’t be surprise if their next challengers make themselves known as well. We all know the Demon, Finn Balor, is in town.

Might Balor Club have a statement to make to the champs?

Prediction: The New Day wins

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

I’d normally complain about the predictability of a Styles win, but in this case, a Styles win is the only thing that makes sense. This is a moment he’s been building towards for his entire career.

I’ll keep this short and sweet: tonight, AJ Styles will show why for years, he was the best thing not in the WWE. He will prove himself a main event-worthy star and in the process, show the entire wrestling world what a legend he truly is.

Prediction: AJ Styles wins with the Styles Clash

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks (Divas Championship* match)

Forget championships. Forget everything else. This match right here will prove to be the most historically significant match of this year’s WrestleMania.

Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch are trailblazers, skilled athletes who came into the WWE and changed the game along with Bayley, whose callup is fast approaching. They have made the Divas Division something people invest in, regardless of gender.

With the Divas Division set to be rebranded as the Women’s Division tonight or tomorrow, expect the women to be given time to put on an instant classic. All three are fully able to perform under pressure, and they will surely shine.

Prediction: Sasha Banks pins the champ

Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar (No Holds Barred Street Fight)

This right here? MY main event.

The Lunatic Fringe is currently the hottest babyface in the WWE. Casual and hardcore fans alike connect with his struggle to establish himself as the top star in the company. This is his first proper showcase at the Show of Shows, and he will make himself into a star whether he wins or not.

Brock lesnar is an attraction. Carrying an aura like no other, every match he’s in feels like a big deal. If this match was just a regular match, he would be the obvious winner. But it’s not.

Ambrose has been given a lot of toys to play with by the likes of Mick Foley and Terry Funk. He has displayed a new focus unseen before. He could very well pull of an upset.

But I doubt it.

The good thing about this match is that no matter who wins, Dean Ambrose will be cemented as a star. And frankly, it’s long overdue.

Prediction: Lesnar wins, but only JUST BARELY

Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker (Hell in a Cell match)

John Cena is medically cleared.

JOHN CENA IS MEDICALLY CLEARED.

The WWE has the perfect opportunity to not only put Shane over believably, but to set up the dream match we all want for WrestleMania 33.

Cena helps McMahon defeat the Deadman. What a perfect situation.

As for the match itself, expect Shane and Taker to pull out all of the stops on their end to bring the WWE Universe to their feet. A Coast to Coast is almost guaranteed, as is another massive spot from the prodigal son.

Prediction: Shane wins with the help of John Cena

Triple H vs. Roman Reigns (WWE World Heavyweight Championship match)

Oh my. I have no idea what’s going to happen here. I have no idea if the WWE is going to stay its course and let the boos rain down on a “babyface” Roman Reigns, or if they’re going to turn him heel and let him become a star organically.

A swerve is the only way to ensure a memorable ending for all the reasons the WWE wants it to be memorable. The Rock is in town, having been heavily promoted. Why not bring him out to celebrate with Roman, only to have him get pummeled by his “cousin” to close out the night?

I want Roman to succeed. I want him to grow into the star McMahon believes he can be. But at this point time, the only way to get him cheers will be to embrace the boos.

Prediction: Roman Reigns wins and turns heel in the process