First off, what a goddamn segment. For too long Kevin Owens has been screwing around on Smackdown, and even when he was in a feud with someone as great as AJ Styles, it felt like something was missing. After watching this segment, the thing that was missing was the maniacal aggression he showed on the Indies and in NXT. It’s safe to say he’s found that again. Owens will take on Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell, which should be his rebirth, but last night he took out a different McMahon, and in doing so joined an exclusive club of all time superstars.
If you’re interacting with Vince McMahon inside a WWE ring, that’s a good thing 99% of the time. If Vince lets you beats him up AND bloody him, you’re on your way to something special. Stone Cold. The Undertaker. Brock Lesnar. CM Punk. Roman Reigns. That’s just a sample of the guys that have been in the ring with Vince and gotten over, and as Vince ages and falls into that beloved, insane grandpa role, beating him up brings out a sinister side in certain guys. That head butt from Owens was legit, and I like the uniqueness of the beat down. He wasn’t whaling on him with chairs or punching him in the head a bunch of times. One punch, one super kick and one frog splash, plus a tense stare down with Stephanie McMahon did the trick. The key will be for Owens to capitalize on this and make his Hell in a Cell match with Shane a match to remember. Shane O Mac is no stranger to making memorable moments, so that match should be something special.
Last night’s Royal Rumble had a lot of exciting stuff, and was leaps and bounds better than the last two years. I think the wrestling world is in agreement that the hands down biggest moment of the night was the debut of AJ Style as the third entrant in the Royal Rumble. Reigns and Rusev started the Rumble, and Reigns kind of shockingly eliminated Rusev right away. My disappointment turned into elation when the #3’s entrance music hit though, and out walked AJ Styles. I think my favorite thing about the Rumble match itself is how many feuds it set up, which is exactly what the match should be about. You have AJ Styles debut, and although he’s not going to win and become the champion, he looks great and gets eliminated by the only guy the crowds not going to boo, Kevin Owens. Now AJ has a legitimate reason to dislike Owens, and Owens has a fresh new baby face to feud with after he lost to Ambrose earlier in the night. The Wyatt’s/Lesnar feud also got furthered, as Lesnar mauled the Wyatt Family but was ultimately eliminated by them. And now the Championship scene sees HHH on top and Roman Reigns chasing the League of Nations and The Authority. That’s how the Rumble should be booked, and now we have at least 3 money feuds to get WrestleMania season started. Now we just need Enzo and Cass to debut on Raw and start feuding with the New Day. MAKE THAT HAPPEN WWE.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) August 6, 2015
As if NXT Takeover wasn’t already going to be amazing, the NXT title match main event is now going to be a ladder match. The Brooklyn crowd is going to be insane all night, and why wouldn’t it be? In addition to the NXT title match, you have Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s title, The Vaudevillians vs. Blake & Murphy for the NXT Tag titles, Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger and probably at least one or two more matches. According to HHH, the Women’s title match will be the co main event, which means the Brooklyn crowd is in for the best 45 minutes-1 hour of wrestling that they’ve ever seen in their life. I’m infinitely more hyped for Takeover than I am for Summerslam, and that’s not a slight on the WWE main roster. NXT has just built pretty much the perfect show.
The Raw before the go home Raw before Battleground took place last night from Chicago. The show started off a little slow, but picked it up and ended up having one of the most entertaining final hours of a WWE show in recent memory. Brock Lesnar found some fire axes, Paige still has no friends and Cesaro might be finally getting a consistent chance to shine. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw!
So the WWE decided to feud Dolph Ziggler and Rusev for Rusev’s post Cena angle, and on paper it’s perfect. Rusev needs a good feud where he comes out on top and he’s at his best when he can stomp and throw guys around. Dolph Ziggler is the king of losing feuds while still looking good and can get thrown around better than just about anybody. As luck would have it, Rusev broke his ankle and had to start off the first month or so of the feud on crutches, forcing us to sit through multiple weeks of Ziggler and Lana weirdly making out in the ring. Well Rusev ain’t hurt no more, and good God did he put a beating on Ziggler. The best part was that there haven’t been any health updates on Rusev, so the attack and Rusev’s ability to move around and fight came as a complete surprise to me. I like the added dimension of Summer Rae too, because now you have a legitimate women’s wrestler going after Lana. I can’t say I’m rooting for Ziggler here, but if Rusev and Summer Rae continue to be huge assholes, Lana’s revenge will only be that much sweeter. For now, I’m happy my sweet Bulgarian prince is back to kicking ass.
2. Brock Lesnar
The only thing scarier than Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar with a god damn fire axe in each hand, and that’s exactly what we got last night. Everyone complaining that J & J Security’s Cadillac didn’t get destroyed last week now know why it’s best to have a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to professional wrestling. This segment kicked off the final hour of Raw, which was one of the best hours of Raw in recent memory. The story here is that Brock is a beast, but that Rollins can outsmart him by provoking him into handicap situations like a few weeks ago. If you’re facing Brock Lesnar 1 on 1 you aren’t winning. Plain and simple. But if you can lure him into situations that are more advantageous to you than they are to him, then you might have a shot. The only problem with that logic is that Brock is managed by an evil mastermind, and Heyman only had to see his client get beat down once before he altered his game plan. That alteration came in the form of a human being literally ripping the door off a car and throwing it into the crowd. Brock threw the car door so far he actually hit a fan in the front row (who is thankfully ok) and then in probably the scariest part of the whole segment, jumped from the floor to the apron and then hopped over the TOP rope and chased Rollins into the crowd. The only advantage you can possibly have over a guy like Brock is your speed, except Brock is a fucking cyborg so he’s probably going to be faster than you too. I love the way this feud has been booked so far, and I hope Lesnar suplexes Rollins into the stratosphere at Battleground.
3. Titus O’Neil
The Lucha Dragons took on the New Day in a really fun tag match, but like so many other matches on Raw, the announce team tried their hardest to ruin it. JBL talked incessantly about Brock Lesnar destroying the Cadillac, which is fine, but maybe save it for some dead air time and not for a match where all four guys are busting their ass to gain some prominence in the tag team division. Thankfully Titus O’Neil was on commentary, and he shut down JBL so bad that JBL actually stopped talking. The best line was when JBL tried to question Titus’s intelligence, only to be informed by Titus himself that he actually has two college degrees. The announce team is generally horrible, and I’m glad that a team that was sent out there to get not only themselves but also the tag team division over did their job. Too many wrestlers or divas just let the announce team dictate the conversation and you end having something similar to what happens when the Bella Twins are on commentary. They disregard the match AND the feuds that the wrestlers spent so much time building to talk nonsense. Nonsense is ok once in awhile, but when it’s your only card to play, it’s detrimental to the product. Kudos to Titus for shutting up JBL and having some pride in the tag team division.
4. John Cena
There’s really not much that can be said about this match other than it doesn’t get much better than what Cesaro and Cena did in last night’s main event. The match went about 25 minutes, and it was magical. When you have a crowd like Chicago, known for being one of the most vocal crowds in wrestling, literally exhausted from the action, you know you’ve done a great job. Seriously, look at the crowd towards the end of that match. They’re mentally and physically drained. Cena is too, which says nothing about his physical condition and everything about how hard he was busting his ass. In just about every Cena match, it’s almost impossible to believe the other guy is going to win. Cena has been winning for over a decade now, so unless it’s a guy like Brock Lesnar coming in, Cena is going to come out on top. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think Cesaro had him beat a few times last night, and I literally jumped out of my seat when he started picking Cena up for the middle rope Neutralizer. You can praise Cesaro all you want (which I’m going to do) but wrestling is a dance, and you’re only as good as your dance partner. This is easily my favorite run in Cena’s career, and anyone who says he doesn’t do enough to elevate the rest of the roster, go back and watch every Raw since WrestleMania. He’s the real deal.
I want to be Cesaro. Not like him, I literally want to inhabit his body and mind. There’s a certain kind of magic when you’re watching someone who is just so good at what he does. When Cesaro comes out, he’s in great shape, but he doesn’t necessarily stand out. He’s bald with a beard, average height and weight. But when he starts moving around in the ring, or catching John Cena out of mid air, or flipping out of an AA and landing on his feet, you know you’re watching someone special. The knock on him has always been he doesn’t ‘connect’ with the audience. Well there were about 18,000 people in the Allstate Arena last night and Cesaro connected with every god damn one of them. Microphone skills are important, and so is the ability to relate to the fans, but when you’re as good inside that ring as Cesaro, those things really don’t matter as much. I was afraid that their match from last week would overshadow last night’s main event, but Cena and Cesaro went above and beyond and tore the house down. Cesaro has fought Cena before, and has been ‘pushed’ before, but main eventing Raw with John Cena is a step above all that. Hopefully he stays in this Owens/Cena feud, because that’s a triple threat match that needs to happen at Summerslam.
The highlight of WWE’s live special from Tokyo was Finn Balor returning to Japan and winning the NXT Championship from Kevin Owens. I had a feeling it was coming, especially after the three part video series on Finn’s life and career, but that didn’t make the moment any less special. Balor is a otherworldly performer (as is Owens) and their match was great. From the flower ceremony at the beginning to Owens simultaneously beating up Balor and taunting Cena to Balor finally winning with the coup de gras, the NXT title match lived up to the hype and more. Hopefully this loss moves Owens up to the main roster for good, and Balor shouldn’t be far behind. Once Zayn and Itami return from injuries, Balor should be the next call up, and the future of the WWE will be in full gear.
These aren’t the full videos, but if you have the WWE Network, go back and watch the last three NXT’s and find these videos. Finn Balor, formerly Fergal/Prince Devitt, is the future of the WWE, but everyone has a back story. Balor started wrestling in front of only a few people on the independents, opened a wrestling school giving other Irish kids a chance to be wrestlers (including NXT’s Becky Lynch), became a cult hero in NJPW and eventually ended up in NXT. Everyone who has spent any time with him seems to genuinely like him, and his in ring work and character development speak for themselves. Beyond basic wrestling jargon of Balor being the good guy and Owens being the bad guy, I really hope Balor wins the title in Japan. It’d be a special moment for he and the fans, and the NXT title would be in great hands going forward.
Raw was live from New Orleans last night, and just like pretty much every other Raw over the last month, it was a go-home show before a pay per view. Money in the Bank is this Sunday, so most of the matches and storylines centered around the matches you’re going to see Sunday. Dean Ambrose went on a tour of New Orleans, R-Truth stole the show and the WWE champion got pinned by a member of his security team. Let’s get to the five stars from last night’s Raw!’
1. Kevin Owens
I guess I can just copy and paste what I’ve been saying for the past month or so – Kevin Owens is the best character in the WWE. The points he makes are true but he’s just enough of an asshole for you to still hate him. He’s got this cocky confidence mixed with an ‘I don’t give a shit about any of you’ vibe that is just so easy to play off of. Cena opens Raw with an impassioned promo about how he’s still the standard bearer and if you want to make it in this company you have to go through him. Owens saunters out to the ring and just continually calls Cena delusional, offers an open challenge for his NXT title, denies Cena the chance to enter it, then forces Cena to watch on from commentary as he almost power bombs Neville through the ring. This is the third week in a row Owens has had both the best promo and the best match on the show, and I’m genuinely intrigued to see how they handle his match this Sunday against Cena. I don’t know if Owens wins clean again, but they haven’t had a character as good as Owens in a long time, so I hope they tread carefully. Neville also deserves a supplementary best here as well, as he and Owens opened the show with a great match and no one was really able to follow it all night. He should be fun as hell to watch in the MITB match this Sunday.
If you didn’t laugh when R-Truth came out and talked about how he’s going to win the MITB match Sunday only to be told he is not actually in the match, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s as funny as WWE is going to get, and the crowd and everyone in the ring ate it up. The best part is that I can actually believe that R-Truth the character/actual human being never really knows when or who he’s wrestling. He just kind of wanders out when he hears his entrance music and either loudly yells ‘what’s up’ or raps in gibberish until he reaches the ring. I want R-Truth to come out ahead of the main event and tell the crowd why he thinks he’s going to win the WWE title this Sunday and then wrestle Hornswoggle because that’s who he thinks is the champion. Give me more R-Truth is basically what I’m saying.
3. Rowan & Harper 2.0
Usually when the WWE tries to restart someone or something, it’s a bad sign. But if the plan is to bring back Rowan and Harper and correctly push them to the top of the tag team division like they should’ve done from the beginning then I’m all for it. Rowan and Harper dominated the NXT tag team division before the call up, and should’ve done the same thing once they hit the main roster. Unlike the Ascension, Rowan and Harper’s characters translate to the main roster because of their look. They’re not wearing weird leather shoulder pads or face paint, they are two enormous guys with huge beards who will beat and scare the shit out of you simultaneously. For whatever reason, the WWE had the Uso’s continually beat them until they finally broke them up completely, and while Harper always had great matches, it was clear WWE didn’t have anything for either Rowan or Harper as singles stars. Now that they’re back together, giving them a tag team finisher is a step in the right direction, no matter how many ‘legends’ it pisses off. Get Wyatt back as their leader and have them start to pick apart the roster like they should’ve been doing since the beginning. Just keep John Cena at least 1,000 feet away from them at all times.
4. New Day
As good as Kevin Owens has been over the last month or so, New Day has almost been his equal. Every segment they’re in has been wildly entertaining, and they all look great in the ring. Big E had about as good a match as you’re going to get with Titus O’Neil, but Kofi Kingston had a really good match with Roman Reigns. Xavier Woods was great on the outside too, yelling at the announce team to tell viewers at home what hash tags to start using and then getting walloped by a flying Roman Reigns later in the night. I can’t see Kofi winning MITB this Sunday, but New Day should retain against the PTP. With Tyson Kidd hurt, there’s really no other tag team on New Day’s level other than Rowan & Harper, but they need to be built back up again. As long as they continue to be fun to watch, I hope New Day stays on my TV for a long time.
5. Roman Reigns
This was one of the best Raw matches Reigns has had since becoming a singles star, and he’s starting to find his groove again in the ring. I think he’s the favorite to win MITB this Sunday, and while there are no such things as ‘must win’ matches in scripted wrestling, Reigns does need a big win. It would also be poetic justice to get the same briefcase that robbed him of his WrestleMania moment just over two months ago. Reigns and Ambrose have been a little too chummy lately, and it has to eat away at Reigns that Ambrose is getting all these opportunities while he’s still trying to earn his way back to the top. I don’t know if a heel turn is the right move at this time, especially with an impending Brock Lesnar return, but things are looking up again for the handsome prince.
The Raw after Elimination Chamber aired last night from San Antonio, and it was pretty good. The Raw’s after pay per views are usually some of the best ones, and luckily for us, WWE seems to be putting on pay per views every couple of weeks now. We have a new IC champion, Twin Magic returned & John Cena yelled things. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw.
1. Roman Reigns
At this point, I don’t understand anyone who hates on Roman Reigns. If you wanted to hate on him for his John Cena-esque rise to the main event at WrestleMania, fine. If you wanted to hate on him for winning the Royal Rumble over YOUR favorite wrestler, that’s dumb, but fine. But at this point, all the guy has done is work his ass off on the microphone and in the ring, so you’re petty hate is unwarranted. During last night’s show opening promo, Reigns looked as comfortable as I’ve ever seen him on the microphone, and it was the first time that I can remember him speaking without sounding like he was reading a script. He got right to the point, and actually made a lot of sense, and bonus points for getting his best buddy a title match at MITB. After the talking was over and Reigns sufficiently pissed off the Authority, he was put in 3 separate matches, all of which came with the stipulation that if he lost, he’d be out of the MITB ladder match. He won all 3, beating King Barrett, Mark Henry & Bray Wyatt. His match with Wyatt was the main event and my favorite match of the 3, but Reigns just looked great all around last night. At this point, I’d have to assume he’s going to be the frontrunner to win the MITB ladder match, and then we’ll have a 3 way feud for the title with Lesnar and Rollins heading into Summerslam.
2. Kevin Owens
Let’s have a little talk about Kevin Owens. He’s the best character in the WWE right now and he’s fresh off a couple month span where he won the NXT title and beat John Cena clean with a power bomb in his main roster debut. He wrestled a hell of a match against Cena at Elimination Chamber, easily the match of the night, and followed it up with a short but great promo on Raw. Owens is slowly breaking down the John Cena façade, and even though Cena followed it up with a promo inexplicably calling Owens “less than a man”, KO came off looking better than Cena once again. As a side point, if Owens is less than a man, and he beat Cena fair and square last night, what does that make Cena? The tricky thing with Cena is that we’ve been programmed to believe that Cena always wins in the end. You might beat him initially, like Rusev and Bray Wyatt before him, but he will come out on top so decisively that the initial loss doesn’t end up mattering. I think Owens is different. He’s not a character. He’s a guy with a wife and a son. His son, much like other kids, loves John Cena, and instead of asking him how daddy was feeling after his match Sunday night, his son asked how John Cena was doing. If that’s not the best motivation to beat somebody up then I don’t know what is. I hate that they announced the rematch for MITB right after Owens won Sunday night, but for the first time in a long time, I’m not worried about a guy in a John Cena feud.
3. Titus O’Neil
During the 6 man tag match, Titus O’Neil got the hot tag and just started catching and tossing guys around like rag dolls. WWE has decided to push the PTP, and that 2 minute stretch during the tag match last night shows how easy it is for fans to get behind a person or team. Titus O’Neil is bigger and scarier than most of the guys on the roster, so put him in matches where he can be big and scary. I was amped up watching him toss guys around and scream like an animal, and I bet other fans were too. The tag team division is so boring at times because WWE is afraid to let teams show some emotion and get fired up. The talent is there, just like it’s always been, but the match quality has to be there too if the division is ever going to get back on track. Putting teams like Cesaro/Kidd, PTP & New Day together is a step in the right direction.
As much as I love Bo Dallas, this was great. Neville beat Bo clean Sunday night at Elimination Chamber, and now Bo is done with the inspirational talk and just wants to hurt Neville. 2 minutes later Bo is flat on his back and Neville is twisting through the air like a god damn gymnast on his way to another win. Neville might not win MITB, but I can’t think of anyone else in the match I’m more excited to watch.
5. Bray Wyatt
This is more a pity star, as one guy (Reigns) was in half the matches on the show. When Bray Wyatt is on my TV I’m happy, and since he wasn’t on the card for Elimination Chamber and is in limbo again, I was just happy to see him. Now let’s put the Wyatt family back together and have him win some important matches.