This review is going to be short and mostly happy. I am not in a normal frame of mind. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years. A far cry from the time back in the last decade when they were such a defeated franchise that they would give tickets away. Any seats you wanted for just the Ticketmaster service charge. Eight seats in the club level with the waiters coming to take your orders? $25. Total. Those days are cobwebbed memories now, in the crypt with Dollar Bill Wirtz. The Indian has been committed to, and I am giddy and exhausted. It’s 5am, I’m plowing through RAW before work after a night of watching every person in the stadium hold the cup and a goodly amount of celebratory bourbon. I promise next week I have some thoughts to share. It will be a far more analytical and considered piece. For now we cheer, we laugh, we forget the late unpleasantness of last week, and we, for reasons understood by no one, watch WWE Monday Night RAW.

Monday Night RAW
June 15, 2015
Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, Ohio

There was a time, not too long ago, when the name Dusty Rhodes was synonymous on the internet with the worst things of wrestling management. The repetitive booking of Dusty Finishes, the continued putting himself over young stars, the excess of NWA management, his recalcitrance. All of these were laid at Dusty’s feet. It was thought his final legacy would be awful announcing for WCW and a ludicrous run as a member of the nWo. A star who fell prey to his own ego and hung on way too long. And then something happened. Dusty made a few appearances through the years, and they were always designed to put others over, not himself. Then he was down in Florida, his old stomping grounds. Working with the next generation. Imparting his wisdom, his creativity, his passion into these young up and coming wrestlers. In what ended up being his final years, his name meant something different. He had become a grandpa to a group of younger wrestlers who are doing amazing things. Dusty Rhodes had become the beloved figure that he had been for so many years, before he became bogged down in politics and management and personal animosity. Dusty Rhodes was again, and will forever be, the American Dream.

Seth Rollins Told Us So

Rollins is so wonderfully smarmy. I knew his list was going to be all him, and yet it still made me laugh when he started in. And yet a few seconds earlier, during the brief period of fake sincerity, his ability to become a face was apparent. When he returns to being a kid from Davenport chasing a dream, the crowd will go with him on that journey.

One of these days someone is truly going to take the show hostage. It will be three hours of someone sitting in a folding chair. Maybe reading on his Kindle. Or playing Trivia Crack and once in a while asking the crowd for help with a tough question. A tour de force of recalcitrance and character study and stillness. It will be the best television since the blank screen episode of Wacky Delly.

We finished the run of Newhart this past weekend. The final Newhart update will be appearing next week, when I’m not full of bourbon and exhaustion from Cup Fever. Suffice to say this backstage segment of HHH, Steph, and Rollins will be spoken of in that piece. Nothing these people ever seems to make a lick of sense.

Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus

Sheamus winning the Money in the Bank briefcase just seems really odd. But if it one day means we get a Sheamus vs. Lesnar match I’m willing to overlook whatever odd story machinations are necessary to get there. That would be awesome. Sheamus’s chest might turn the color of entropy consuming the universe.

Other sports need to start using the “play another team’s music” and distract someone finish. Just once I want to go to watch a Packers vs. 49ers game where “Bear Down Chicago Bears” starts playing over the PA, Jay Cutler mopes out of the tunnel, and while no one on the Packers is paying attention the 49ers score the game winning touchdown. Winner: Dean Ambrose

The only thing more obnoxious than Seth Rollins being helped by the Authority to keep his belt is a Seth Rollins who wins a match on his own. Everything about this segment with Noble and Mercury is excellent. Seth’s effortless transition to the hillbilly accent brought me joy. Jamie Noble’s willingness to keep speaking truth to power, as he has done since all of this J&J stuff started. And once more the power of simple booking is made clear, as I would love to see a Mercury vs. Rollins match.

R-Truth vs. King Barrett

“What’s up Coach?” Holy shit I laughed far more than that deserved. If I could watch this after the Hawks win the Stanley Cup every week I would be more devoted to WWE than a Heaven’s Gate member was to Marshall Applewhite.

WWE is not good at humor most of the time. Especially when they’re trying to be funny. But Truth is pretty much golden right now.

I wish I didn’t have to think this while in such a good mood, but Wade Barrett has seemingly regressed from where he was as a rookie. He’s grown less charismatic, less interesting, and much more easily ignored. They need to give him his lectern and gavel back. It’s his only hope.

If you are wondering why I’m not talking much about the matches themselves, we’ve had two straight rollup finishes. The finish of choice when a match itself is just a way to get to the next plot point that needs to be hit. Winner: R-Truth

I’m pretty sure Machine Gun Kelly only performs on WWE programming. I’m not sure he even exists. It’s possible he’s just a roadie they put out on tv from time to time, and a studio group does his “albums” for him.

Paige seems to have a cunning plan. She’s far too attractive for me to be certain about this, but I think she may be a distant relative in the Baldrick family line.

Kevin F’n Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler

The RAW crowds lately have been somewhat more pro-Cena than usual. They need to get Owens in front of a Chicago crowd for RAW to make him seem like the big f’n deal they’re making him out to be.

There are few quotes tossed around more regarding wrestling character development than the Michael Hayes one about how a heel must believe they are in the right. It is said far more often than it is truly adhered to. But right now Kevin Owens is deep in that mindset. His deconstruction of how Cena disrespected him by demanding a handshake was compelling and believable. The refusal to put the NXT belt up in his open challenge makes perfect sense yet reeks of cowardice. Kevin Owens is doing real work here.

“There’s nothing like beating a man in his own hometown.” JBL just summed up the booking philosophy of WWE. CM Punk was always the aberration, not the norm.

One of the saddest parts of doing this review for the last almost year has been the rise and slow steady decline of Dolph Ziggler. He looked primed to become a main event guy after Survivor Series, but really it was just that Cena didn’t feel like working too hard that night, and Sting needed someone small to save. Winner: Kevin Owens

Lex Luger is sending letters to Stamford suggesting that maybe they should figure out an alignment for the Bellas and stick with it for a while. Big Show is concerned that they’re becoming hard to follow.

This storyline is going to make my head explode. How I feel when Total Divas crosses over into RAW:

Randy Orton vs. Kane

The Hawks won the Cup. Let’s keep the happy mood going by not watching this match! Winner: Kane

Seth’s not wrong. Kane is pretty much the least feared fearsome guy in the company. A middle manager in cheap trousers who makes mad faces and never wins anything important. Ever since he lost his fire powers and gained his decide what sandwiches to order for a lunchtime conference call powers he hasn’t been the same.

The mention of the Corporation earned a pop from me. I admit it. I’m not ashamed. Going to go listen to the Corporate Ministry entrance theme now.

Big Show vs Miz

Ryback on commentary! I will watch this match!

Ryback’s honest apology for not breaking the Spanish Announce Table at MITB is wonderful and admirable.

“You got Miz all over me!” Ryback should be on commentary at all times. For everything. The Hawks game should have been called by Doc Emrick and Ryback

The Miz celebrating his countout win is both pitch perfect and appropriate for Cleveland. A countout win seems to be worthy of celebration there. I feel bad for Cleveland. They should have been nicer to Jim Brown I guess. Winner: Miz

Roman Reigns Talking

Roman is doing good, uncomplicated, solid face work the last few months. He doesn’t deserve the animus he still gets sometimes. He has pruned away a lot of the annoying parts of his character that made him so punchable during the run to Mania last year.

I watched this segment live. It was between periods of the Hawks game when the always wonderful @jagster27 alerted me to Bray’s fashion choice. I’m in awe. Bray’s got some sort of pimp fur stole or something. It’s like looking outside to see your garbageman working in a tuxedo. Combined with the picture of Reigns with his kid I can only assume the storyline is going to be straight out of Criminal Minds, with Bray kidnapping Roman’s daughter for a Bayou child slavery ring. Johnny Gosch will be there. Only in the end Bray will just wear his awesome fur and sing children’s songs in a really slow tempo. Bray Wyatt is a character from the next evolution of professional wrestling in America, when the Lucha Underground ethos is more mainstream. For now he’s a fat guy with an awesome stole and an ability to sound very serious about nothing at all.

“This is no paradise.” Bray Wyatt’s TripAdvisor reviews are heartfelt, but could probably use a bit more description.

Bellas vs. Paige

Wow, that was a creative and yet terrible finish at MITB. The only time toilet paper should be on a wrestling show is if Jimmy Rave is involved.

Paige needs some friends. I do not remember who posted this picture on Twitter, but it was a thought I had when assuming that someone would come out with Paige to even the odds.

Winners: Bellas

I don’t want to seem like I’m giving dental exams to freely offered equines, but Jesus Christ WWE, at least try to hide the crash pad. It should have had a bullseye and the words “Reserved for Machine Gun Kelly” on it.

New Day vs. Neville/Prime Time Players

Real talk folks. I need to leave for work in like 20 minutes. That time can either go to the final segment or to this match. Don’t worry, I promise we’ll get to talk about New Day vs. PTP every week for the next month or two. Winners: Blackhawks

No, no no no no they showed the Macguffin earlier with Kane’s mask in the glass box and now Ambrose is talking about how the old Kane was a champion and this road is a bad road let’s not go down this road I’ve been down this road it only leads to sorrow and boredom. I am so full of fear right now. The only thing worse than big boy pants Kane is angry demon who still loses a lot Kane.

The Authority Does Stuff that Makes No Sense

I wish it was Joey Mercury facing Rollins. I’d like him as the champ. Especially with Jamie Noble by his side.

I wonder if I’m watching the writers dramatizing the process that happens to most new guys in WWE, where they are given the push, then the bosses break them down to see how they handle it.

I don’t know what to make of the return of Brock Lesnar. I know I like seeing Bork Laser on my television. I know I like Paul Heyman on my television. But the reason they’re here makes little to no sense for me.

Am I allowed as a “reviewer” or whatever the hell I am to not have a fully formed opinion right after watching the show? This is a serious question. Because right now I honestly have no idea what the story they’re trying to tell is. I don’t know if they yet know the story they’re trying to tell. They’ve spent the last few months taking their handpicked champion and putting him in ever increasingly difficult situations. Now they’re making him fight the guy who is established as the ultimate killing machine. And I don’t know if they are playing a spectacular long game where it turns out everything since the breakup of the Shield has been part of the plan, or if they’re winging it and hoping things turn out for the best. I promise to think on this during the week. I promise a considered, thoughtful analysis of the situation next week. But for tonight, for today, I have only BLACKHAWKS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cheer the Blackhawks win with me @spiffie6123. I promise it gets better again next week.