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.

RAW Recap/Analysis – June 27, 2016

WWE has long been able to rely on the charisma of its talent to drive even the most subpar storylines, and that trend continued on June 27’s RAW, which broadcasted from Tampa, Florida.

SUSPENDED!

Seth Rollins immediately addressed the elephant in the room, bringing up Roman Reigns’ suspension and demanding that Reigns be taken out of the Battleground main event. He was interrupted by Dean Ambrose, who asked Rollins what it was all really about.

They were interrupted in turn by AJ Styles, who suggested that he be put in the match in Roman’s place. He reminded everyone that he had a victory over John Cena, and said he deserved a spot in the match. John Cena then emerged, proclaiming Dean Ambrose to be a fighting champion.

Cena suggested that Ambrose fight against him, reminding Ambrose that he beat him the last time they fought. Rollins objected, and Stephanie McMahon emerged. She set two matches to give John Cena and AJ Styles the chance to put themselves in the main event of Battleground.

Rollins was fun on the mic as always. His promos during his title reign could get old, but only because of overexposure. This was short, sweet, and Rollins’ charisma had the crowd listening raptly to everything he said. He and Ambrose have wonderful chemistry, so they will not have any issues building up to their match at Battleground.

The introduction of Cena and Styles into the storyline certainly got a pop from the crowd. WWE would be wise to continue putting the two veterans against the likes of Ambrose and Rollins.

Sasha Banks & Paige vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke

Sasha started things off against Charlotte, but the champion tagged herself out right away, tagging Brooke in. Banks threw her right into the turnbuckle, tagging in Paige to double-team on Brooke with a double dropkick, making both blondes retreat to recover.

Charlotte and Brooke regained control with underhanded tactics, brutalizing Paige in the ring. Charlotte locked Paige into a chokehold, showing off her athleticism and cheapshotting Banks. Banks went after Charlotte, having to be restrained by the referee.

Paige finally tagged in Banks as Brooke tagged in, and Sasha went crazy, dropping Brooke with clotheslines and knees to the midsection from the ropes. She hit Brooke with the Backstabber into the Banks Statement, forcing Brooke to tap.

Banks and Paige were both supremely over. I hope the brand split forces WWE to utilize Paige to the fullest. She certainly deserves it. But the match was all about Banks.

The former NXT Women’s Champion was all fire and attitude, and the audience soaked it up. Sasha Banks was as over as can be and didn’t skip a beat throughout the match. Her title shot, whether it comes at Battleground or SummerSlam, better come with a lengthy title reign!

Rusev vs. Titus O’Neil

O’Neil did not even wait for the match to start, going right after Rusev before the bell could be rung. He rammed Rusev with a series of clotheslines and right hooks, slamming Rusev onto the mat with ferocity.

Rusev made a comeback, bearing down on O’Neil with a series of kicks. He locked O’Neil into a chokehold and continued to wear down on him until O’Neil caught him with an elbow and shoulder tackle.

Rusev retreated from the ring, grabbing his belt with the intention of leaving, but he and O’Neil collided outside the ring. O’Neil sent Rusev into the timekeeping area, where he was counted out.

Backstage, Kane approached Stephanie McMahon asking to be considered for SmackDown GM, but both were interrupted by the Miz. Kane brought up the fact that the Miz hadn’t defended his title in a long time, bringing up the ever-forgotten 30-day rule. Stephanie booked a title match for later that night.

Funny how a feud can pick up steam after the title match, huh?

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena

Cena looked to start off strong, but Rollins had him well-scouted, responding with a shoulder tackle of his own. As the crowds chanted wildly for both men, Rollins gained the upper hand, hitting Cena with a series of strikes and a dropkick.

Cena looked for a comeback, but Rollins once again responded with ferocity, hitting him with a quick move from the ropes and blows to the head. Cena finally managed to get some shoulder tackles in, but Rollins caught Cena with a kick to the face, mocking the franchise man.

Cena took control once more, hitting the Five Knucle Shuffle, but Rollins managed to escape an AA. Cena caught Rollins with a Tornado DDT, but Rollins stayed alive, hitting a dropkick and going for an unsuccessful pin. The two traded blows in the center of the ring, with Rollins gaining the upper hand.

Rollins hit Cena with a corner powerbomb, but Cena dodged his Frog Splash. Cena ascended the ropes, but Rollins caught him, landing a Superplex into a Falcon’s Arrow. Rollins went for the Pedigree, but Cena reversed into the AA, with Rollins staying alive enough to put his foot on the ropes.

Cena caught Rollins in the STF, but then the Club emerged, distracting Cena and allowing Rollins to hit the Pedigree and pick up the win.

“You owe me one,” AJ said to Seth with a smile on his face.

Rollins and Cena have fantastic chemistry in the ring, and although that chemistry wasn’t on full display, it was evident throughout the match. Rollins is looking fantastic, his incorporation of more high-flying moves a very welcome addition to his hard-hitting moveset.

The dynamic between Styles and Rollins at the match’s conclusion was about as intriguing as the ongoing developments between Styles and Cena. I’m looking forward to seeing those two clash someday.

Enzo & Cass vs. Local Competitors

After getting a wave going, Enzo and Cass picked up an easy win over two local jobbrts within seconds. They looked to celebrate, but were cut short by the Social Outcasts. They proclaimed themselves hard (yeah, for real.) and went right for Enzo and Cass.

Well, not exactly. After a big boot from Cass sent Heath Slater packing, Dallas and Axel refused to enter the ring and retreated.

Enzo and Cass are great. The addition/return of the Social Outcasts into the fray is somewhat refreshing, as it’s something other than the Vaudevillains or Dudley Boyz.

Becky Lynch vs. Summer Rae

With Natalya on commentary, Becky Lynch simply went right after the third-generation star, looking for some sweet revenge as she drove Nattie into the barricade with ferocity, screaming to Natalya that she had messed with the wrong girl.

This was far too short for my tastes, but it’s encouraging to see WWE pushing this feud and storyline. Non-title stories for women that aren’t centered around men are all-too rare these days.

The Highlight Reel (with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn)

After complaining about Ambrose being champion, Jericho brought out both Owens and Zayn.

Jericho relished in the tension between the two, bringing up their past as friends and the fact that Zayn was Owens’ best man at his wedding. Zayn refused to play into Jericho’s game, saying that neither he nor Owens would get anywhere until they moved on from each other.

Zayn implored Owens to put an end once and for all to their rivalry at Battleground. Owens just stared at Zayn in silence, and Zayn called him a coward, demanding that Owens admit that he betrayed him because of resentment and envy.

Owens denied it, saying he did what he did for business.He said Zayn is the one who ruined their friendship. He said that he was happy for Zayn when he signed to WWE, and that Zayn should have been happy for him when he won the NXT Title.

“I was always a better friend to you than you were to me,” Owens said, accepting Zayn’s challenge.

Jericho agreed with Owens, calling Zayn pathetic before giving everyone the gift of Jericho. Instead of drinking it in, Owens and Zayn both Superkicked Jericho over, and Owens left without saying another word to Zayn.

I would honestly not mind seeing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens fight forever. What they have together is the stuff of legend, the kind of rivalry that could put either one of them into the Hall of Fame someday. Their storied past combined with their current chemistry has made this feud, which has been building for over five months now, one of the most enthralling stories on WWE television today.

The Miz vs. Kane (Intercontinental Championship match)

Kane immediately caught Miz with a right hook, blasting the champ into the turnbuckle and hitting him with a boot to the face. Kane kept control easily early on, hitting a vertical suplex and dropkick.

But then Maryse fell off the apron, clearly feigning injury, and Miz carried her backstage, giving Kane the victory by countout, but no title belt.

Backstage, Maryse revealed to Miz that she had been acting the whole time, and he certainly approved.

WWE had us all thinking we were fixing to see a debut. How naive and stupid we were.

Cesaro & Apollo Crews vs. Alberto Del Rio & Sheamus

Cesaro started off strong against Del Rio, hitting a series of uppercuts after a beautiful crossbody. He looked to take Del Rio or even Sheamus swinging, but Del Rio took control, planting Cesaro with a DDT.

Sheamus continued his team’s momentum until Cesaro managed to reverse a backbreaker into a back body drop of sorts, allowing Crews and Del Rio to tag in. Del Rio hit Sheamus with a dropkick, quite enjoying himself, and walked out as Crews hit the sit-out powerbomb on Sheamus for the victory.

Backstage, Jojo interviewed Dean Ambrose, but was cut off by an unhappy Stephanie McMahon, who berated Ambrose. The champ, however, was unaffected.

I hope Cesaro and Del Rio are given an actual story sometime soon. It would be a shame to have them wasting away into the cluster f*@k that is this storyline.

New Day falls…?

Dressed as the Wyatts and hilariously spoofing the Wyatt family, the New Day came out to the ring. They roasted the Wyatts cheerfully, though Xavier Woods wanted to wrap things up early. Then, the real Wyatts emerged.

Bray offered a little spoof of his own before saying that the world wasn’t all positivity and rainbows He said the power of positivity was a lie. Wyatt acknowledged how shaken Xavier Woods looked with a sinister laugh, and then repeated… New Day falls.

Backstage, Renee Young asked the New Day if they thought messing with the Wyatts was a good idea. Woods just kind of…walked away.

Woods’ terror is a stark reminder of how talented he really is. He can bring it when called upon, and his team’s worry over him brings an interesting pathos to the entire story. Bray Wyatt’s logic in going after the New Day, also explained, was sound.

This rivalry seems to be finding its footing. Here’s hoping Creative doesn’t ruin it.

Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles

Ambrose and Styles locked up early on, wrestling mat-style. Ambrose looked to roll up Styles, but then the match became a battle of headlocks. Styles took control, driving Ambrose back with a series of chops, looking for Dirty Deeds early on, but Styles dodged, always a step ahead.

He kept control, hitting a wicked dropkick on Ambrose and hitting a series of hard hits on Ambrose, working him into the ground. Ambrose looked to stage a comeback with a clever reversal, going for a back body drop, but Ambrose hit a Codebreaker on Styles, nearly getting a three-count.

Ambrose and Styles exchanged rollups and near-falls. Styles ascended the ropes, but Ambrose caught him, landing a huge superplex. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Ambrose caught him, looking for Dirty Deeds, but Styles caught him once more, the two remaining at a painful stalemate.

Styles rolled Ambrose into the Calf Crusher, but the Lunatic Fringe escaped, hitting a Suicide Dive on Styles out of the ring. Styles hit Ambrose with a pelee kick, but Ambrose responded with a clothesline as the Club emerged. Styles took advantage of the distraction, but Ambrose stayed alive as John Cena ran out.

Ambrose planted Styles with Dirty Deeds, and a relieved Rollins applauded him. Anderson and Gallows, upset, attacked Cena and a distracted Ambrose was planted by Rollins. The Club hit the Magic Killer on the stage, and Rollins planted Ambrose yet again with a second Pedigree.

A fresh match between two stars you’d never offhandedly imagine together proved to be an exciting mesh of different styles, resulting in an entertaining main event. Rollins’ commentary, and reluctant support of Ambrose for his own sake, was a welcome addition to the match. Styles and Ambrose told an entertaining story, complementing each other surprisingly well, and despite the predictable ending, it was fun to watch all the same.

 

 

RAW Recap/Analysis – April 4, 2016

Tonight’s RAW was alive with energy, fresh faces and new rivalries. Surprise endings and electric debuts coupled with a wild post-Mania crowd made this Monday’s episode of the WWE’s flagship program one to remember, and certainly the best of 2016 so far.

Let’s break it all down.

Christmas for smarks everywhere

Vince McMahon started off RAW, acknowledging his son’s wild antics at last night’s WrestleMania and even acknowledging the crowd’s consistent booing of Roman.

But he was soon interrupted by Shane McMahon himself, battered and bruised and barely walking. He shook Vince’s hand and thanked all of the fans for the reception they all gave him. And the crowd was grateful as he was. But Vince wouldn’t let him leave so fast, saying that no one would upstage him.

To prove his point, and just because, Vince gave Shane control of RAW tonight.

And because Shane is the best? Well…

The New Day vs. The League of Nations (WWE Tag Team Championship match)

The New Day entered to an absolutely thunderous ovation, the crowd welcoming them like heroes. They discussed the awesome Stunner Xavier Woods took and showed off the giant piece of Booty-O’s from their entrance, dubbing it the “Booty of Life.” Xavier sang to the tune of “Circle of Life.” It was AMAZING.

Kofi started off hot, sending Sheamus hard out of the ring as Big E sent out Barrett before they double-teamed to further punish Sheamus. But a distraction from Rusev allowed the League of Nations to take control of the match, using their own numbers game against the New Day.

The crowd began the wave, and even Sheamus joined in. Big E and Barrett both tagged in, and Big E took swift control of the match, isolating Barrett for some double teaming. Kofi scored the pinfall.

Infuriated, Sheamus took to the mic, and the League beat down poor Barrett, rolling him out of the ring. Then, the lights went out, and when they came back on, the Wyatts were there, beating them down with brutal ease.

What a fun way to kick off RAW, and what a welcome dominant showing for the Wyatts. It was fresh, unexpected, and most of all….the Wyatts won. God bless.

Backstage, Vince told Renee that RAW would be an absolute trainwreck.

HA.

Sasha Banks vs. Summer Rae

In the ring, Summer Rae trashed Sasha Banks, who quickly interrupted her, taking the mic right out of her hand and slapping her clean in the face. Summer rolled right out of the ring, clearly terrified, and Sasha pulled her right back in.

Summer Rae took an early lead, but Sasha had plenty of fight left in her, locking in the Banks Statement in no time.

This match was short (my common complaint) but it was Sasha Banks, so the crowd ate it up. And after Mania, she will not just fade into the background, and we can all Bank on it.

Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze

Is this NXT?!

Crews wasted little time in showing off his swift athleticism, but Tyler Breeze soon mounted a comeback to the enjoyment of the RAW crowd with a Superkick. However, a moonsault and spinout powerbomb allowed Crews to get the pinfall.

This match served its purpose, showing off Crews’ agility and fun ringwork against an opponent who, while sadly a jobber now, knows him well and has a history with him. Crews, in my opinion, is still a little green for a main roster jump, but he was, after all, running out of steam in NXT. Perhaps this is just what he needs to finally tap into the final ingredient needed to make him the next big thing.

Roman Reigns vs. literally everyone

Oh, man. Those boos were absolutely BRUTAL.

“Aw, come on,” Roman started, saying he wasn’t a bad guy or a good guy, but THE guy, and announced an open challenge for his new championship.

Chris Jericho answered. The crowd cheered him out of principle, but Jericho told them to shut up and called Roman and the crowd idiots. The crowd turned that into a chant. He said he buried AJ Styles and demanded a championship match.

But he was interrupted by AJ Styles, who wanted a shot himself. So did Kevin Owens, who entered with a fury. And Sami Zayn.

Owens and Zayn barely even looked at Roman, as did Styles and Jericho. Two brawls broke out as Roman looked on incredulously, and Reigns speared Jericho. He still couldn’t get any cheers.

Backstage, Shane told Roman that the night’s main event would be a Fatal Four Way between the four men for his title.

This was no fluke. This crowd, while louder, is not unique. It’s a reflection of the sentiments of fans around the world. We’re not buying into this, and it’s likely we never will until something changes.

Roman displayed some heelish mannerisms tonight, acting more arrogant than any babyface ought to.  It was a thousand times more interesting than any of his bland babyface work, and I enjoyed it immensely. I hope it just gets more pointed as time goes on.

Oh, and Roman? Seth is the man, not you. #GimmickInfringement

Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler

Baron Corbin’s entrance was just as electric on RAW as it’s always been on NXT.  The Battle Royale victor introduced himself by detailing his path of devastation and saying he would crush anyone in his way.

Corbin could not be taken down by Ziggler’s quick-paced offense, on his feet even after a dropkick. He tossed Ziggler out of the ring like a rag doll. But the Showoff managed to wear him down with swift strikes and a reversal.

But this wasn’t his showcase. Favoring the knee he “hurt” in the ladder match, Ziggler went for the Fameasser and hit it, but Corbin kicked out, taking their fight into the crowd. He threw Ziggler through the barricade and into the garbage cans, earning himself and Ziggler a countout.

Furious, Corbin tossed Ziggler back to ringside and hit the End of Days on the seasoned performer.

This was as good a way to properly debut Corbin as any. He’s been really coming into his own as a monster heel on NXT, so seeing him get this opportunity is a welcome change. The midcard needs some good heels other than Owens and Miz, and a fresh face might be just the thing to help elevate it.

Zack Ryder vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship match)

The crowd had a lot of love to offer to Zack Ryder, who said that WrestleMania was the greatest night of his life. He thanked his father for always being there for him, but soon enough was cut off by the Miz.

Miz called Ryder a one-hit wonder and told him he ruined his WrestleMania.

“Sucks to be you, bro,” Ryder replied.

Miz challenged Ryder for a title match, and the new champion accepted.

Ryder wasted little time in showing off his aerial arsenal of moves against the Miz, flying off the top rope and then diving out of the ring to a pop from the crowd. The Miz fought back briefly, working Ryder cruelly.

Ryder looked to hit a missile dropkick, but the Miz dodged for a near-fall. Ryder got one  of his own with an impressive reversal, but even that wasn’t ment to be. The crowd rallying behind him, Ryder ascended the ropes, but the Miz joined him there before Ryder pushed him off, hitting him with an el-bro drop. He had it, but Miz got his foot on the ropes.

Miz found some new momentum here, sending Ryder into the barricade right in front of his father. Daddy didn’t take too well to this, shoving Miz to the ground. And the Miz’s wife wasn’t too pleased with THIS, slapping him. Distracted, Ryder took the skull-crushing finale and Miz had the title once more.

….I’m just really sad, you guys. Ryder has a rematch on SmackDown, but I’m still terrified he’ll get buried. Again.

Women’s Wrestling

With the entire Women’s Division standing in the ring, Lita praised them for all of their work and called down Charlotte herself to the ring to receive her championship formally.

Holding the belt, Charlotte proclaimed that the belt was about all of the women in the WWE, and about the crowd, who were too busy cheering and begging for Bayley. Charlotte held the title high, saying that it was the future, and, most importantly, it was thanks to her dad.

Returning to her heelish side, she thanked her father and held the title high. Her gloating did little else but drive the women from the ring. It was Natalya who grabbed a mic, saying that she needed to learn about humility, challenging her to a match.

In reply, Charlotte said her family would always be better, narrowly escaping a Sharpshooter from Natalya and retreating.

I’ll wait a few weeks before completely condemning this, but if this leads to Sasha once again being kept out of the title picture, the WWE is missing a valuable chance to truly elevate the division. On the other hand, Natalya is the most criminally underutilized women on the roster. And after Roadblock, she deserves a chance to shine.

I’m sad Bayley didn’t debut, but we all know it’s inevitable. I can be patient. The crowd made a statement with those cheers tonight, and you just know management heard them.

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz (Tables match)

The match, well, was basically like all of their other matches. Trades of momentum, flying Usos. There were tables. The Dudleys were cool. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But in my opinion, the best thing about this match was the chants. Nakamura…Jordan and Gable…it was amazing.

Naturally, the Dudleys won. Because 50/50 booking. Funnily enough, the timekeeper rang the bell too early, and the Dudleys reacted hilariously.

Backstage, Kevin Owens attacked Sami Zayn as he was being interviewed, powerbombing him through a table, effectively taking him out of the Fatal Four-Way.

“MY NAME IS-“

FINALLY!

Enzo Amore and Big Cass entered to what might be the biggest pop of the night to the puzzlement of the Dudleys. Enzo wasted no time in smack talking the Dudleys to everyone’s delight.

Big Cass challenged the two veterans to come down to the ring, and the infuriated team teased a fight, but retreated.

Well, that didn’t sit too well with the dynamite duo. There’s only one word to describe them, and Cass spelled it out for all of us.

S-A-W-F-T.

Enzo and Cass have been ready to make the leap to the main roster for a long time now. Their charisma and energy in the ring are rivaled only by the New Day, and the Dudleys are a perfect foil to introduce them to the wider WWE audience. It’s a shame Carmella is still in NXT, but I’d rather let her continue to grow as her own wrestler before bringing her up for good.

Congrats, boys. Welcome to the roster. You’ll be champs in no time.

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (No. 1 contender’s match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

With Sami Zayn unable to compete, the final competitor, to the delight of Dallas, was revealed to be . . .

CESARO!!!

Cesaro immediately went after Owens and Styles after Jericho. And soon enough, it was Styles and Cesaro staring each other down in the ring and then going after it. the electricity was palpable as the two ring generals went at it with their quick offensive styles.

Deep breaths, you guys. This is REAL LIFE.

Soon enough, Owens and Cesaro were brawling at ringside , and Cesaro was facing down Jericho. Styles beat Jericho down, clearly infuriated, but it was Cesaro who landed a massive powerbomb of the other three from the ropes into the mat in an owesome Tower of Doom.

Again, Styles and Cesaro went at it before Cesaro caught him with a wicked uppercut. Owens went after Jericho, scoring a near-fall, but it wasn’t enough as he drove himself into the turnbuckle when Jericho dodged. He went for a lionsault, but Owens reversed it.

Each star continued to go at it, with Cesaro going uppercut crazy on the other three. And boy, the crowd ate it up, especially when Cesaro took Jericho swinging. Owens nearly took out Styles, but it was broken up. This pattern continued for some time, with each man breaking up pins left and right.

Jericho locked in the Walls of Jericho, but Cesaro reversed it into the Sharpshooter. Styles broke it up, and he and Owens went at it. Jericho got a near-fall on Styles, who finally hit the Styles Clash for the pinfall.

This is what heaven feels like. This was very nearly the perfect RAW, certainly the best of the year. And it definitely hints towards the long-overdue Roman Reigns heel turn, because there’s no way anyone can stay babyface against the likes of AJ Styles.

RAW did what it’s been struggling to do for a long time: it left me wanting more. It changed the landscape of each title picture. And while it certainly had its low points, it its ending gave me hope.

Bring on 2016, WWE. I’m ready.

 

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

RAW Recap/Analysis – February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day, ladies and gentlemen! Tonight’s RAW began and ended witht he man who, in my opinion, should be the WWE’s top babyface. A relentless underdog who welcomes any and all challenges, regardless of whether or not they destroy him. A man who has put on stellar main event matches with the likes of Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar.

Dean Ambrose.

Know your place

Triple H opened the show, touting his authority figure status, saying that Roman Reigns’ disrespect earned him nothing except a battered face.

“Roman Reigns should know his place.”

But then, Triple H was interrupted by a swaggering Dean Ambrose, who sauntered into the ring without fear, saying Roman Reigns was coming for him. Triple H tried rubbing Ambrose’s sidekick status in his face (though a series of Oscars references), but Ambrose ignored him, asking who he was most afraid of winning the match at Fastlane.

Ambrose stepped right up to Triple H, saying he was sure he was the last guy Triple H wanted to face at Wrestlemania. “You’re smart enough to know that you can’t beat me,” he pointed out tauntingly before challenging the Game to a match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Triple H said he would consider it, and booked a match between the Lunatic Fringe and Alberto Del Rio.

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch (No. 1 Contender’s match for the Divas Championship)

Charlotte emerged to sit in and watch the match between the two biggest stars in the Divas Division.

From the beginning of the match, Sasha and Becky both went for early submissions, keeping the momentum evenly balanced between them, reaching an early stalemate. However, it didn’t last long as Becky’s quick offense swiftly began to show itself. However, Sasha soon countered herself into momentum of her own.

The two continued to trade momentum, with Becky nearly getting the pinfall with a dropkick from the top rope. She went for a move from the top rope, but a sunset flip by Sasha ended the match in a pinfall with both ladies’ shoulders on the ground.

The match was called as a draw.

This was all too short, in my opinion, but the ending gives me hope that we might indeed get a Triple Threat match between three of the four Horsewomen on the grandest stage of them all. Becky and Sasha have excellent in-ring chemistry, so I don’t care how many times we see them go at it: it will never get old for me.

Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz

Blink, and you’d have missed the Miz rolling up Dolph Ziggler for a VERY quick pinfall.

Okay then.

I don’t know where this is going. Nor do I particularly care. Which is a shame, considering how talented both gentlemen are.

Bow down to the queen

Stephanie emerged, looking quite fabulous, I might add, to bask in the glory her brother interrupted last week on RAW. She said she would give her speech, and be given the respect she deserved.

Naturally, the crowd booed her out of the building. Enraged, she knocked over the podium holding the award, going off on her brother, enraged.

“What’s really sad is I love my brother, but I don’t respect him because every time I let my guard down he stabs me in the back.”

She went further, calling the crowd entitled just like her brother, saying the Undertaker would not just defeat Shane, but dismember him.

She ended by saying eventually, everyone would have to bow down to the Queen, her.

Holy hell. Stephanie outclassed her father, who would appear later, in spades, absolutely sinking her teeth into her heelish role. The best heels are grounded in reality, and her mentions of her own daughters and their legacy was a wonderful touch. Black and white plots are boring, anyways.

The Lucha Dragons vs. The League of Nations

The League of Nations (represented by Sheamus and Rusev, who had issued a body slam challenge for his sports car) took control of the match from the beginning, dominating poor Sin Cara absolutely until a DDT allowed Sin Cara to tag in a white-hot Kalisto.

However, it wasn’t enough, and Rusev pinned the US Champ. Del Rio continued to beatdown at the match’s end.

I don’t understand why the WWE keeps insisting on having Kalisto, the better half of the Lucha Dragons by all estimations, taking all the pinfalls, especially with the United States Championship around his waist.

Ryback vs. Adam Rose

Proclaiming in a pretaped promo he wanted the spotlight and would do whatever he had to in order to claim it. He followed through on that statement, making quick work of Adam Rose and hitting the Shell Shock quickly enough.

Ryback’s last dismal heel turn was not much to care for, and this seems to be following suit. Here’s hoping he gets a clear direction soon enough.

Y2AJ vs. The New Day

Entering cheerfully, the New Day hugged before proclaiming that they were the best three-man team in history, denouncing the “League of Booty” and putting themselves over big-time, claiming “Y2AJ” were just pretending to be friends.

Jericho interrupted them with his (still freaking awesome) entrance, followed soon after by Styles, and the rag-tag duo took early control of the match, taking to the air. But the Unicorn Stampede soon brought Styles to his knees. A lucky kick by the Phenomenal One allowed him to tag Jericho in. Big E interfered in a pinfall, but AJ got him out of the way, allowing Jericho to lock int he Walls of Jericho.

After the match, the pair challenged the New Day to a match for the Tag Team Championships the next week on RAW. What a relief for most of the internet, as everyone feared for a hot second Jericho was going to say Wrestlemania.

As entertaining as both groups are, the WWE would be absolutely wasting AJ Styles by sticking him in a tag team. I’m in no way trying to demean Jericho or the New Day, all of whom are the highlights of every segment they’re in. But Styles is not the kind of talent you attach to anyone else.

I hope he gets the singles match he deserves at Wrestlemania, or else the WWE is wasting all of the money they’re investing in the Superstar.

Sins of the father

Vince McMahon himself emerged, proclaiming that only fools believe in miracles, which Shane defeating the Undertaker would be. He said Shane’s match against the Undertaker was going to be a lesson, calling the Undertaker his own instrument of destruction.

The dead man himself didn’t take to kindly to that, grabbing Vince by the throat and saying the blood of his son would be on Vince’s hands, not his. Though visibly shaken, Vince remained steadfast, proclaiming he would write Shane out of his will and renounce him as his son upon his loss.

As much as I loved seeing the Undertaker, and as cool it was seeing him hold Vince by the neck, this segment did little to explain why exactly the Undertaker would play along with Vince’s scheme.

Perhaps he simply wins, no matter what the cost is, even if it means decimating someone who has done no wrong? It would’ve been nice to have an explanation instead of melodrama.

Jey Uso vs. Bubba Ray Dudley

Bubba Ray made quick work of Jey, with DeVon using a table to remove Jimmy from the equation, and took Jey out in under a minute.

Backstage, Goldust approached R-Truth in the locker room, who said he was just done with the odd man’s wild antics. Goldust then became the human equivalent of the sadface emoji.

Kevin Owens vs. Big Show

Owens got Big Show out of the ring soon enough, but when it looked like the human buzzkill was going to make it back into the ring, he hit him with a DDT to keep him down. Big Show, however, made it back at eight, throwing Owens into the ropes in a familiar move that got him eliminated on last week’s SmackDown.

It worked, with Big Show getting the victory.

It’s physically painful writing that. Big Show, as much as I like him as a human being, has no business being involved with Kevin Owens, let alone getting a win over him. I sincerely hope this is not indicative of the WWE’s plans for Owens heading into Wrestlemania.

Brie Bella vs. Naomi

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Brie Bella, head held high following her loss the week before, but the interview was cut short by Lana, who traded barbs with the Total Divas star, insulting her figure and husband both.

Naomi controlled the match early on, with Tamina hitting Brie on the curtain to provide some support for the athletic Diva. Naomi attempted an impressive moonsault, but Brie rolled out of the way, hitting Naomi with her husband’s kicks.

But Naomi would not be denied, locking in a submission hold and forcing Brie to tap out. Following the match, Lana emerged, laughing at Brie following her loss.

Lana has barely been on television in recent months, so it isn’t exactly clear whether or not she’s ring-ready. However, her presence is indeed missed, and it’s nice to see her on television again. However, whether or not she can carry a legitimate feud with Brie is yet to be seen.

Backstage, Charlotte approached a bickering Sasha and Becky, saying they would have one more chance to battle for the chance to challenge her at Wrestlemania on SmackDown.

Dean Ambrose vs. Alberto Del Rio

Still awaiting his answer from the Game himself, Ambrose emerged ready for action against Mexico’s Greatest Export.

Del Rio laid a beating on Ambrose early on, continuously driving the Lunatic Fringe into the barricade before taking a break to flex for the crowd. Ambrose fought back after taking more of a beating at the hands of Del Rio, with the support of the entire League of Nations, mind you, but was left prone outside the ring, just barely crawling back into the ring before being counted out.

However, he managed to start making a comeback, countering into a series of strikes and clotheslines and DDTs galore, hitting a missile dropkick off the top rope for a near fall before taking out the entire League outside the ring from the top rope.

Then, the Game emerged, removing his tie and motioning for the League of Nations to assault Ambrose in the ring as he watched at ringside. Taking a mic, Triple H said that Ambrose would never beat the Authority, but Ambrose attacked him out of nowhere before taking a Pedigree from the enraged COO.

“You want a championship match with me? YOU’RE ON,” Triple H growled, stalking off. Dean just barely managed to utter his thanks, cheeky as ever, prompting the Game to come back for more, throwing Ambrose into the announce table and pummeling his face in to a chorus of boos.

Huh. I seem to recall him doing the exact same thing to Reigns last week and getting cheered like a babyface.

Gosh, I hope all those lousy “smarks” who say that Ambrose is better fit to be the top babyface of the company weren’t watching!

 

 

 

RAW Recap/Analysis – February 22, 2016

Well, Fastlane happened, and wonder of wonders, the status quo has remained the same. Roman Reigns is set to face Triple H in the main event of Wrestlemania. Every champion retained. No face or heel turns.

Not to say that there weren’t some amazing things that happened at Fastlane. The matches were solid, the talent all delivered. Unfortunately, it’s the creative team that dropped the ball.

However, tonight’s RAW almost made up for it, delivering solid entertainment, fun matches, and one absolutely wild surprise that has shaken fans to the core.

The McMahon Legacy

You guys. YOU GUYS.

Vince emerged to start off the show, and presented, to no one’s surprise, the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award to Stephanie. However, soon enough, Shane freaking McMahon emerged to an absolutely thunderous ovation, and demanded control of Monday Night RAW, citing the downhill spiral the WWE has been going down. Sending Stephanie off, Vince agreed, on the condition that Shane win one match, one night.

At this point, I tweeted this:

And then . . .

Vince announced the match would be against, holy hell, the Undertaker, and would be a Hell in a Cell match.

I am in awe. Shane’s re-emergence was an absolutely delightful surprise, and the prospect of him managing RAW is extremely exciting, let me say. A non-heel authority figure is exactly what the WWE desperately needs, and the on-screen acknowledgment of the company’s dismal performance in ratings was a welcome one.

Neville & the Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day

The Lucha Dragons dominated Xavier Woods early on, and Neville impressed as well, working Woods’ armlike crazy before Kingston  and Big E both tagged in, regaining the champions’ momentum, all of them tagging in and beating down Neville with the Unicorn Stampede.

The New Day remained dominant for several minutes on poor Neville, who couldn’t get to the Lucha Dragons in time for the hot tag  for a while before Neville finally tagged Sin Cara in to the match. The Luchador delivered, with both Kalisto and Big E interfering. Woods and Neville got into it as well, and soon, everyone was brawling.

But it was Kofi Kingston who would pick up the win after some mask shenanigans, and the heels left the ring victorious.

No Holds Barred

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar came out to acknowledge the online-captured beating Brock Lesnar rained down on Dean Ambrose before the show’s start. Heyman recapped Lesnar’s near-submission of Roman Reigns, and called out Ambrose for breaking that up with his chair shots. Heyman called Lesnar’s beating plain and simple revenge.

Heyman raged about Ambrose before proclaiming that his client needs a new client for Wrestlemania, and told everyone who could hear that his client would leave a trail of destruction everywhere he went.

Just then, an ambulance burst into the arena, driven by none other than everyone’s favorite Lunatic Fringe: Dean Ambrose, neck brace and all. Dean staggered out of the ambulance and onto the entrance ramp and to ringside, where Lesnar looked down on him before stepping over his face to leave him behind.

But Dean wasn’t done, telling Lesnar that he was indestructible, and he would find out at Wrestlemania in a street fight. Lesnar’s response? An F-5. And a yes from Paul Heyman.

The Usos vs.The Ascension

As the Usos entered for their match against the Ascension, the Dudleys  came out, slamming the Usos and bringing Rikishi into the mix, allowing the Ascension to take an early lead in the match.

But the Usos wouldn’t be down for long, regaining control soon enough and getting the pinfall as the Dudley Boyz looked on.

This rivalry seems to be picking up some steam, which should provide both teams with a direction as we approach Wrestlemania.

Y2AJ vs. The Social Outcasts

Jericho emerged, mic in hand, and proceeded to talk about AJ Styles, putting him over utterly and completely, acknowledging his loss and calling Styles out to the ring. Styles came out to a phenomenal ovation from the crowd, and Jericho congratulated him, saying he had what it takes to go right to the top.

Then, the Social Outcasts came out, mocking all the good vibes in the ring, pointing out that AJ made Jericho tap out and that Jericho said a lot of crap about Styles. Mocking the newfound peace between the two, they demanded that the two former opponents get out of “their” ring.

Jericho cut them off, and a match was born, as was a brand new team.

Styles started off dominantly before the numbers game turned the tide, however a tagged in Jericho brought some momentum back to their side. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho and Styles took out the rest of the Outcasts as they tried to interfere, and just like that, Y2AJ captured the win.

As enjoyable as this teamup is to watch, I hope these two talented performers do not get stuck in a tag team together. If the tag division was deeper, stronger, then I’d be all for it, but as it stands, Styles is a singles star, hands down.

Backstage, Stephanie announced to Reigns that he would be fighting Sheamus (and likely the rest of the League of Nations). And Goldust approached R-Truth with an apology cake. Truth, however, wanted no part in a tag team with Goldust, walking away after shoving the cake in Goldust’s face.

The Wyatt Family vs. Ryback, Kane & Big Show

Funny note: the Wyatts all put their masks on Byron Saxton at the start of the match. I enjoyed it immensely.

The match started off to a chorus of “BORING” chants, and honestly, I don’t completely disagree. These teams have no real chemistry.

Even Ryback got bored, simply walking away from the match, allowing Bray Wyatt to get the win after pinning a distracted Kane. Backstage, Ryback declared he was done being in tag teams.

Sasha Banks vs. Naomi

In an impressively athletic rematch, Naomi took the early lead, laying a brutal beating on Sasha with the help of Tamina. But she couldn’t keep the Boss down for long, fighting back with fierce physicality despite additional distractions from Tamina.

However, Lynch arrived to even the odds, allowing Sasha to lock in the Banks Statement on Naomi. The two Divas shook hands, and then Charlotte herself emerged in Bella-like gear, and informed them that there would be a number one contender’s match for the “honor” of facing her at Wrestlemania.

Smug at the chaos she knows will ensue, Charlotte backed away.

I, for one, am still holding out hope for a Triple Threat match.

Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus

Ah, yes, the feud nobody wanted to see ever again. Reigns fought as valiantly as he always does, working through interference after interference. However, soon enough, the officiall threw them out and the match evened out.

With the odds less stacked against him, Reigns rallied back, nearly scoring a win by countout, but then the Game himself emerged, dressed for battle.The two brawled at ringside, Triple H dishing out a rough punishment on the contender to his throne, throwing him into the bell and announce table, bloodying up the Samoan before a group of officials pulled him aside.

Even then, he wasn’t done, hitting a Pedigree on steel steps and holding up his title to close the show to thunderous applause.

Yeah, great booking of faces and heels, Creative!

Honestly, I pity Roman Reigns. The man is a decent wrestler and seems like a good guy, but he is so horrendously that in what is supposed to be his triumphant rise to the top has become a glaring showcase of everything wrong with the WWE today. Booked right, the man could very well be the face of the WWE, but the WWE jumped the gun, pushing him ahead of other, more prepared and talented wrestlers like, yes, Ambrose.

The WWE has got to start listening to their fanbase. Sure, push Roman Reigns, but do it right. This current formula is not working.

Maybe Shane could fix this, eh?

 

 

Fastlane 2016 Predictions

Last year, I attended my first WWE event for my birthday. And just my luck, it ended up being universally panned and had less star power than some recent episodes of RAW. Regardless, I had a blast, and I was thrilled to see Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan int he flesh. Looking back, I’m very lucky to have seen Bryan perform live before his retirement.

You know, it’s funny. If you had asked me a week ago about my Fastlane predictions, I would have had a card within five minutes. But after a single week of solidly decent programming, I am starting to reconsider everything. That being said, I’m still sure a lot of my original predictions are still correct no matter how much I don’t want to be.

Let’s get to it!

Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio (2 out of 3 Falls match for United States Championship)

This is a pretty easy one to call. With the WWE grappling to find a new star for their Hispanic fans to rally behind, Kalisto is the easy choice to win this one. His in-ring charisma is strong and he also carries the immense appeal of being a true underdog.

Hopefully, Kalisto will put on a dominant showing against Del Rio, who for no good reason has been booked overly strong in the past few weeks despite the outcome of this match being crystal clear. Perhaps the League of Nations (yeah, they’re still a thing) will try and interfere, but a wily Sin Cara will make the save for his Luchador partner.

Prediction: Kalisto retains

Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles

This match has all the makings to be a potential match of the year candidate, if given ample time. Jericho and Styles are both seasoned veterans in the ring, with indispensable knowledge of ring psychology and technical prowess. They can concoct some serious magic and do some awesome storytelling together.

Perhaps one of the best things about this feud is the simplicity of it. Two proud, seasoned competitors who want to prove that they are the best in the world. It’s easy to understand and will be a blast to watch.

The winner of this match depends on the WWE’s plans heading into Wrestlemania. If they want to end the feud at Fastlane and move Styles on to clash (hehehe) with Kevin Owens for the IC Title at Wrestlemania or perhaps face another wrestler ont he roster, then STyles will come out on top for sure.

However, if they wish to prolong this feud into Wrestlemania, Jericho might pull a fast one on us. Or perhaps Styles will win anyways. Either way, if this rivalry is going to last through the Show of Shows, expect Jericho to have a definitive heel turn tomorrow night.

Or, maybe, Kevin Owens will rear his head.

Prediction: AJ Styles wins

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship)

If the WWE has any sense at all, this will be a squash match, plain and simple. No offense to Ziggler, who is an incredible performer in his own right, but this match must continue to elevate Owens as a monster heel.

He has the ability to potentially carry the upper midcard while the likes of Ambrose and Reigns hold up the main event scene as he continues to grow. Owens has big things ahead of him. Hopefully this match is just a stepping stone to something truly special at Wrestlemania.

Prediction: Kevin Owens retains

Ryback, Demon Kane and Big Show vs. The Wyatt Family

The Wyatts are being propelled towards a rivalry with the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, so expect to see them absolutely decimate the so-called Titans of the WWE. This match will probably be used to really put over Braun Strowman, who has yet to really impress anyone in the ring yet.

It’s hard to do that when your finisher is a hug.

Expect Luke Harper to be awesome, as usual, and for Bray Wyatt to continue to be the impressive character he is. Erick Rowan has kind of been lost int he mix, but I hope he gets a nice moment to shine.

It would be an interesting twist if Brock Lesnar were to interfere in this, but in all likelihood they will be the ones attacking him, not the other way around.

Prediction: The Wyatt family wins, Strowman takes the pinfall

 

Naomi and Tamina vs. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch

Sasha Banks has broken out as an absolute star in this program, as she does with everything she’s given, looking hellaciously strong against both members of Team BAD while still retaining her fantastic, tense alliance with Becky Lynch.

If given time, expect these women to put on a fun match. Naomi is terrifically athletic, and she will hopefully have a chance to shine against both Banks and Lynch. Expect some wild suicide dives and tag-team shenanigans as the women brawl it out, but also  expect to see Lynch and Banks come out on top.

Also, don’t be surprised if Banks takes out Lynch right after they pick up their win. Her goal is, after all, to claim the title that is rightfully hers after all.

Prediction: Banks and Lynch win, Banks attacks Lynch after

 

Charlotte vs. Brie Bella (Divas Championship)

I have my issues with Brie Bella and the way she is being pushed, but if she can put on a good show against Charlotte that’s not just variations of her husband’s kicks, I will be impressed. She is set to retire soon, so a good showing here would be a nice sendoff. Heck, maybe even give her the belt and have her drop it on RAW the next night, as a little gift to her before she goes off. She’s definitely improved over the years, so this match ought to be a testament to that.

This match is a bit of an afterthought, really, because Wrestlemania is looming and we all know who truly belongs there.

Prediction: Charlotte retains

 

Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (No. 1 contender’s match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship)

Calling this match is incredibly difficult for me, because it’s like my head is battling against my heart. I want Dean Ambrose to win, and I know that him winning would be absolutely thrilling, but deep down, I’m certain that Roman Reigns will win. Lesnar will probably inflict some heavy damage on them both, but be overwhelmed by the Wyatt clan.

Hopefully, the emotional core of this match will be the growing rivalry between Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Shield conflicts are so multidimensional and wonderful for storytelling. Even with Lesnar in the mix, expect to see a lot of fighting between an increasingly frustrated Ambrose and desperate Reigns.

Though a swerve would be a more than welcome surprise, I’m not completely delusional. The WWE is going to push Roman Reigns no matter what anyone thinks. Hopefully, however, they keep Dean Ambrose in the main event scene and let him shine properly at Wrestlemania. He deserves it.

Prediction: Roman Reigns wins