Welcome to another edition of WWE Monday Night RAW. My mind is not on RAW as much as it could be. There is a three day weekend in the shimmering distance (as opposed to a SHIMMER weekend in the distance) that promises grilling and sunshine and not being at work. You Buddhists may know this as Nirvana. You Vikings may know this as Valhalla. You Americans may know this as the Fourth of July. So tonight, along with wrestling, we discuss things that go on your grill. To keep with the wrestling theme each of these ten things (listed in alphabetical order) gets a star rating. Feel free to argue over each quarter star like this is a G1 review, and I just let my disdain for Tanahashi short his match a ½ star.

First though, what are we looking for tonight?

  1. Brock Lesnar was left lying for the first time since his return, where do we go from here? They made the Beast into a man. A man who can be taken down by Joey Mercury. I don’t understand why the hell you do such a thing, but I’m not in charge. Does Brock get revenge? Does Paul Heyman come to make vague threats of pain and suffering towards Seth and the Authority? Do we find out why HHH/Steph brought back a man they hate managed by a man they hate even more to threaten the health of their hand-picked champion?
  2. Will there ever be movement in the Paige/Bellas storyline? Paige has no friends. The Bellas are evil and control the division by means of tv shows and connections with the boss. Here is where the announcers needing to constantly hammer everything home makes the waiting seem more pronounced than it should be. The constant analysis of the situation that goes from the second Paige appears on screen until the segment ends demands resolution. Let it breathe a little.
  3. Will anything important happen on this episode? Speaking of letting things breathe, this is the first time that the show has been in a situation where they’re not frantically building to the next thing. In some cases that is a good thing. In others it means the inevitable time filling. Hopefully that means we get some good, long wrestling matches to make up for the fact that we can only take baby steps in story advacnement.

Monday Night RAW
June 29, 2015
Verizon Center – Washington, D.C.

If it’s Monday, it’s time for the Authority

How brave is Jamie Noble to be out here despite having 36 broken ribs? This man is a damned hero, and let’s all honor him as such.

The Seth Rollins opening promo is really stretching to try and link the town the show is in to what Rollins did to Lesnar last week. I can only imagine what the segue would have been if the show had been in other towns.

“My friend, and my mentor, Jamie Noble.” The amazing thing is that before Rollins heeled it back up there was actually a chant for Noble starting to form.

There’s not a chance in hell that Apple paid for product placement here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have lawyers right now drafting letters to WWE demanding that they never mention their brand on this low-rent program ever again.

The lack of a “bingo hall” reference there makes me sad.

My very deep fondness for Don Ho means I’m going to let JBL’s dated reference pass this once. Also why in the hell is there not going to be a WWE Network travel show about Kane hanging out on Hawaiian beaches? You’d watch that wouldn’t you? You know you’d watch it. Kane would be wearing his dress pants the whole time.

This is the best gift giving segment since Eric Bischoff proposed to Hulk Hogan with a ring that was a miniature version of the Big Gold Belt.

Cadillac would like to cosign all of the letters that Apple is sending to WWE.

Between the cheesy game show music and Mercury’s unbridled enthusiasm I can’t hate this. I want to hate it so much. Everything about this is the sort of self-indulgent crap that feels like the darkest days of WCW. But my god they’re just so invested in it, and it is hitting all of my buttons that cause me to love things against my will.

I don’t know to process this in the context of the show that I watch every week. It was so hilariously bonkers and unlike the usual things that happen on this show. I want everything in this segment to stay as it was forever. I want Kane in Hawaii drinking fruit drinks on the beach. I want road trip comedies with Noble and Mercury. Let’s just say this is the end of the Authority as it currently exists and those three get to go on to the lives of happiness and fulfillment that Whitman, Price, and Hadad never were able to enjoy. Winners: All of us

Fire Up the Grill! Bacon

Yes yes yes, bacon is awesome and we all love bacon and I shave with bacon scented shaving cream and brush my teeth with bacon toothpaste and eat my salads out of bacon bowls. Trust me, I’ve been on the bacon train a long time. I was a zombie-obsessed bacon munching neckbeard back when that just made you someone not to be acknowledged in public. But while a bit of grilled bacon is a good thing, because grilled bacon tastes great, it is something to be seen as a side show to the main attractions. Bacon alone cannot make a great day of grilling, but a great day of grilling can happen without bacon. Bacon is, in this one context at least, an enhancement talent. Not quite a Tom Stone, but surely a Freddie Joe Floyd.  **1/2

Big Show vs. Mark Henry

Do these two even have heel/face alignments anymore? Do they flip a coin to decide who the face is whenever they go against each other?

The Miz on commentary was really the highlight. In an earlier era he totally could have been the color guy on some Colosseum Video tapes where they act like Butch Reed vs. Billy Jack Haynes is a main event anywhere in the country. Winner: I don’t even know anymore

Fire Up the Grill! Banana

Meat can have non-meat friends. Meat is open-minded and considers every foodstuff on its own merits. Sometimes meat likes to have over other foods that bring something totally different to the party. This is one of those cases. Meat likes the sweet flavor of a grilled banana, and appreciates that it is versatile enough to be a side dish or a dessert. Meat is like Alton Brown, it approves of multitaskers. ***1/2

Miz vs. Ryback

Somehow Ryback saying he wanted the match now meant the match began now. I’m okay with Ryback having the authority to make any match he wants. He should wander down to the ring during someone else’s match and just demand his own match begins right that moment.

So the story they’re trying to tell is that Miz can only hope to survive with hit and run tactics against Ryback and Big Show. You’ve just given a very good example of that. And then you have Miz in a traditional back and forth match with Ryback. Seriously, there’s an idea that actually makes sense for once and is a story all involved can tell, so immediately undermine that not badly told story. Why not? Winner: Ryback

Fire Up the Grill! Chicken

I’m letting chicken represent the grilled foods that are as dependent on sauce as they are on fire. You could just as easily put ribs in this position and everything would still be true. Because a BBQ chicken leg, lacquered with a good sauce is pure goodness. The best form of chicken outside of fried, and the only chicken form worthy of being mentioned in the same breath. Definitely a dish with a wide range of quality in the final product though. Weak sauce and poor technique and it’s just kind of there. But, to use the lingo of draft commentators, the ceiling for BBQ chicken is incredibly high. In fact, I’d say that an expertly grilled chicken leg, with a perfect rich but slightly tangy sauce glazing the meat could be the best thing grilled at home with traditional ingredients. Only chicken’s tendency to take off some nights keeps it from being a champion. Still though.  ****

Paige vs. Alicia Fox

The wait for Daenerys Targaryan to cross the narrow sea doesn’t compare to the wait for this angle to ever go somewhere. Anywhere.

Alicia Fox can do some individual things that look good. Nice northern lights suplex. But the minute she gets at all out of step it gets ugly.

Two weeks in a row JBL has busted out some Don Quixote. I mention this because I would recommend the documentary “Lost in La Mancha” to anyone with Netflix. Also because JBL is now just trolling me by reaching back centuries for his references.

The last couple minutes of this match were actually pretty sprightly. This was much better than I feared it would be when the match started. The end sequence had some nice intensity in there. Still though, this angle needs to get moving along at some point. Winner: Paige

Fire Up the Grill! Grilled Tofu

To paraphrase Harrison Ford talking to David Blaine, “Get the fuck out of my grill pit.” Zero Stars. No Buys.

Goddammit, it’s John Cena

For a while when Cena was providing really good matches along with always being on the show I didn’t mind seeing him. But now the US title has just become a thing for he and Kevin Owens to play tug of war with I’m thinking I could live with the champ being here a bit less.

Hey, I bet this isn’t going to be Kevin Owens vs. John Cena. Call me a pessimist. Seriously, has no one on the show ever watched this show?

That crowd really talked themselves into the match happening right now.

Cena vs. Cesaro

Kevin Owens is absolutely right about how people abuse the “with all due respect” crutch in society. John Cena is the kind of jerk who tries to get away with everything by using that as a shield.

Poor Cesaro, he’s really going to be in the wrestling netherworld for a while after Tyson Kidd’s injury. I do love the tribute to Tyson with the “KIDD” arm sleeve.

This crowd is really willing to buy things that are not going to happen. Not that the forearm wasn’t awesome looking but if Cesaro wins the US title tonight I will start reviewing every WWE program just for the hell of it.

Holy crap that was a hell of a move with the superplex from the apron.

Owens is relentless as a commentator. If you’re going to come out there as a guest to hype yourself and your match you HYPE it.

And John Cena just busted out the Canadian Destroyer. Against the former Claudio Castagnoli. With the former Kevin Steen on commentary. And Seth Rollins is giving away cars and trips. This is a very odd night.

I have a request of the universe. Can we make that Battleground match a triple threat with Cesaro involved?

You know the worst part about writing this live? I say things like “For a while when Cena was providing really good matches along with always being on the show I didn’t mind seeing him. But now the US title has just become a thing for he and Kevin Owens to play tug of war with I’m thinking I could live with the champ being here a bit less.” And then I have to live with these words. Winner: Cesaro

Fire Up the Grill! Hamburgers

I love a good burger off the grill. Any right thinking person does. But I’ve had more than a handful of poorly grilled burgers in my time, and those are not pleasant things. It is this failing that keeps the burger from being considered for King of the Grill. That said, the burger allows for the most creativity of any summer staple. I still remember with drooling fondness the burgers the good brothers at Butcher and Larder put together last 4th of July. Bourbon-Cured Foie Gras whipped with Bone Marrow wrapped in BBQ Short Rib and Stuffed inside a Burger Patty. The closest I’ve ever come to committing a felony was when I considered taking the shop hostage and demanding all of these for my own. The burger is a blank canvas upon which mad culinary geniuses can let their imaginations run wild. But be careful. A good burger is a thing of beauty. But the poorly cooked burger is a downpour in the middle of your party. ****1/4

Bray Wyatt’s crush is unrequited

Or something. I have no idea what he’s gasping about.

I don’t believe anyone knows what you stand for Bray Wyatt. Including you.

I guess his current gimmick is internet writer from late 2014/early 2015? I bet he has 12 different podcasts.

All Bray promos should feed directly into the entrance of the Lucha Dragons. There is really no better way to show how utterly pointless Bray really is at this point.

Fire Up the Grill! Hot Dogs

Though a case could be made that other forms of encased meat deserve consideration, the one true King of grilled food is the hot dog. Mostly because damn near anyone can make a hot dog on the grill taste good. Nothing else is so accessible to everyone with every type of grill. Super deluxe Grillmaster 5000? Perfect for hot dogs. Tiny portable grill with a cooking area the size of a Frisbee? Perfect for hot dogs. The simplest of simple summer pleasures is a hot dog fresh enough off the grill to burn just a tiny bit, held in a neat white bread bun.  I want to go whisper inappropriate things in the Statue of Liberty’s ear just thinking about it. *****

New Day/Bo Dallas vs. Prime Time Players/Lucha Dragons

This seems like a good time to ask everyone for their favorite Kofi Kingston moments, given that he is in the final days of his life before Brock Lesnar murders him to death in Japan on July 4th. Mine was that time he jumped real high.

Aaaaaaand now a Zig Ziglar reference. The detente between myself and JBL is over. He must be shot into the sun. It’s the only way to save us from his anachronistic name drops. Followed up by Roger Bannister.

JBL jokes about everyone running for president. I think he’d be my second choice among everyone running. Even with the lack of popular culture knowledge beyond about WWII.

The corner stomping was going on so long I kept waiting for Will Ferrell to murder someone with a trident.

Titus doing the Lucha Dragons dance will be a much used gif, I predict.

Moving like a human being is not easy for Titus. He tries though. He really tries. I love him for it. I desperately want six-man tags between New Day and Prime Time Players and Ryback. Winners: PTP/Lucha Dragons

Fire Up the Grill! Pineapple

The meatiest of fruits. I had never given a second thought to grilled pineapple as an acceptable member of the grilling hierarchy until I went to a Churrascaria that was sending out skewers of pineapple in the rotation along with the various meats. Suffused with skepticism I took a slice from an enthused gaucho, reassuring me that I would love it. And while love may be a bit strong, grilled pineapple and I certainly became good friends that day. With enough of a satisfying bite to not seem out of place with meat, but a juiciness and a tartness that cuts through the richness of meat, grilled pineapple belongs in your grilled meat rotation.  ***

Whatever the hell this whole Lana and Dolph thing is

Honest talk. I couldn’t deal with this when watching the show “live” last night. I needed a good night’s sleep and the morning sun to somehow handle getting through this.

Hair down and happy Lana has about 1/10 of the charisma of Putin-loving Lana.

I’m pretty sure this interview is going to propel Lana into next week’s very important list with guest writer contributions.

I’m remembering my time on crutches, and I don’t think Rusev has been instructed in how they work.

At all times the ownership of the women involved must be emphasized.

If I was in charge of WWE, you can be assured Rusev’s entrance theme would be “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by The Smiths.

Seriously, a goddamn Captain Stubing reference? And before you say anything, I know my reader base is familiar with the Smiths. I doubt the 8 year old in a Hustle Loyalty Respect shirt is going to be comparing Gavin McLeod’s work on Love Boat vs. his work on Mary Tyler Moore.

I don’t really get who they’re appealing to with the Lana/Rusev/Ziggler/Summer Rae Romantic Rhombus.  Thinking about WWE’s audience:

  • Little kids: This is, according to those who never ever think anyone but John Cena should be the face of WWE, the keystone audience. I disagree with this, but either way children are a significant part of the WWE fan makeup. These children still most likely say “ewww” when grown-ups kiss. This angle can’t be doing much for them.
  • Total Divas refugees /middle aged women: I don’t think a single person has ever decided to watch WWE because of the show on E! Network. But since WWE seems to think they do, let’s factor them in. Sure this sort of story might be the kind of thing a Kardashian obsessed viewer could be interested in. But there’s not enough backstory for them to sink in. They should have put Lana on Total Divas, since they’ve reduced her character depth to that of a reality show star.
  • Teen boys/Adult men: Yes, men love nothing more than poorly acted out soap opera storylines around jilted lovers. Back in the 90’s this would have culminated in a bikini or lingerie match between Lana and Summer. Without the promise of such titillation these days it is hard to imagine men investing at all in this angle.
  • Teen girls: I guess this would be the sweet spot for this. Though given how aggressively WWE has worked to let women know how little they think of them, I can’t imagine this being a lucrative target.

So I guess this angle is there, like so many other bad ideas, to entertain Vince. So an awful story that kills of multiple characters in a failed attempt to turn someone into Vince’s outdated idea of what a face is? This story checks out. Winner: Vince McMahon’s foggy brain

Fire Up the Grill! Sausages

At first glance it would seem that sausages are the best of all worlds. The simplicity of the hot dog, but the room for creativity of the hamburger. And this is not a wholly inaccurate way of thinking. Since sausages can be made with damn near anything, the possibilities are endless. One round on the grill can cook up sausages with sriracha and lamb, brats with craft beer, sharp cheddar and pork, and a good old fashioned Maxwell Street Polish. But the sausages are flighty. They do not have the forgiving nature of the hot dog. Like the prima donnas that they are, they demand close attention and will spit at you for the slightest cooking failure. There are few sadder sights than a split sausage dripping filling down in the coals because it was not prepped properly. Or the sausage that cannot seem to decide if it is still cold inside or all burnt. Tread carefully with the sausage. It is beautiful, but it is dangerous. ****

I expect the day is going to come when Dean Ambrose just totally breaks character during a promo and says “God this show is dumb, isn’t it?”

Neville vs. Sheamus

I kind of have to support Sheamus here. Being a Chicago Irish meatball and all that.

This show has the feel of week 3 of 5 weeks of buildup. Everything is just sort of happening and none of it matters.

It really never is a wise choice to call one of your wrestlers “little” on commentary. Unless it is Hornswoggle. Then it is acceptable.

Neville looks like he could totally have played a vampire in a 60’s horror film.

Scott Keith used to use the term Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling in his reviews. This feels like the epitome of that term. They did things, none of it was poorly done, the story of big man vs. little man was there, and things mostly made sense. But it was utterly without stakes or reason. As I’ve harped on repeatedly, in the absence of the pretense of fake competition in a fake sport, the only reason for these fights to happen is personal. In which case we need to know these people so much more. Neville likes to jump off things. Sheamus is Irish. Might need a few more details. Winner: Sheamus

Oh my god Noble and Mercury are having the car cleaned spotless. So proud of their awesome gift. This is quite possibly my favorite thing ever.

Pretty sure I remember Kostya Kennedy being on the editorial staff of the Apter Mags. Now he’s working for SI. Very cool. Can he get Eddie Ellner a job?

Fire Up the Grill! Steak

If these were being ranked for how awesome they are in all their forms, steak would win this hands down. I’ve wept at the site of a 70-day aged ribeye being presented for inspection, before the first lick of flame has touched its perfectly marbled skin. Here’s the problem though. You probably don’t have the ability to truly get the most out of your steak.  You’re likely cooking your steaks over heat somewhere from 300-500 degrees. That’s good for many things, and will give you a perfectly cromulent steak. But that steakhouse you love that makes those drop dead perfect ones for you? They’re hitting that steak at up to 1000 degrees. They’re hitting it hard and fast so that the outside gets that lovely sear but the inside can stay nice and medium rare. So go ahead, cook a steak on the grill and be happy with it. But unless you have some awesome equipment, no need to go spend the cash for the best steak possible. ***3/4

Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger

I don’t know how anyone can possibly win this match. They’re made of pure Loseranium. Might as well include Dean Ambrose and see if it is possible for three people to lose the same match at the same time.

I have to assume that Swagger has had his plans disrupted since he was likely scheduled to lose to Rusev another 20 or so times before Rusev’s injury took him out. Not Loser: Wade Barrett. There are no winners here.

Fire Up the Grill! Vegetables

I’ll let you use the grill to cook your vegetables. But be quick about it. There’s meat to be cooked. Blister your tomato, blacken your asparagus, and move along. The grill is for meat. Sure meat can bring a few friends along for the journey, but that’s meat’s prerogative. If meat doesn’t want you and your dirty zucchini to play on its grill, then we listen to the word of meat. *1/2

Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins/Kane

Oh shit, this thing has over 15 minutes to it.

Byron Saxton questioning the sincerity and depth of Seth’s emotions just seems mean and unnecessary. Seth Rollins is a trustworthy man.

Every time someone pulls the apron up a little piece of me hopes they’re going down to answer a subpoena from Little People’s Court. And yes, that makes two Hornswoggle references tonight.

Roman Reigns is just electric in 30 second bursts. The superman punch to a flying Rollins was awesome. A tag team of Reigns and Titus would be called “The Hot Tags” and they would both wait forever on the apron.

Kane’s chokeslams have gotten very lazy looking. No one ever seems to go up more than waist high when they take that move.

Can you even imagine a world where the show ends with someone winning or losing a match and that’s it? Winners: Seth Rollins/Kane

While this show may have caused me to question the very nature of the universe, and what wrestling in our time has become, there were some outstanding questions that need looking back at:

  1. Brock Lesnar was left lying for the first time since his return, where do we go from here? Brock took the week off. Seth gave out gifts. All is quiet for now.
  2. Will there ever be movement in the Paige/Bellas storyline? No. Never. I feel like Xan Brooks watching the John Isner/Nicholas Mahut match at Wimbledon waiting for this thing to get moving.
  3. Will anything important happen on this episode? Cesaro returned from Tyson Kidd’s bedside to have a great match. Gifts were given, Canadian Destroyers were used, and JBL made the 80 year olds in the audience smile with nostalgic delight. That’s about it though.

Tonight’s Awards go to:

  • Ugh: Dolph Ziggler, Lana, Rusev & Summer Rae. I know it’s not your fault. I know what some of you are capable of. But that segment was the dirtiest of dirt worsts.
  • Honorable mention: Kevin Steen for being a hell of a booker, a hell of a commentator, and a heel of the first degree. Cesaro and John Cena for having an awesome match. Kane for being excited about going to Hawaii. Seth Rollins for showing his potential as a game show host. Paige and Alicia Fox for getting their match going at a nice pace as it went on.
  • MVP: Joey MercuryJamie Noble. Their unbridled joy at being given a single car to share between them was a beam of pure light shining into the show. The fact that the car was still intact at the end of the show gives me hope for road trip adventures. At least give me Periscope videos or something.

That’s all folks. Have a safe holiday weekend for those in the USA. Have a safe week for those of you elsewhere. Joey, Jamie, enjoy the holiday driving around in your lovely new car and playing with your Apple Watches. Find me on Twitter @spiffie6123