“Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.” – Stephen King, The Stand

Monday Night Raw
August 17, 2015
Target Center – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Authority Has Arrived

Tip of the hat to WWE for proving my point from the jump.

No picture of Brock Lesnar should be accompanied by such poppy and bouncy music. The cognitive dissonance is too much for me. I am impressed by WWE somehow using music that is both current and not nu-metal, but it still doesn’t fit for Brock Lesnar.

The crowd hates both guys in the title vs. title match. Always a good sign.

OH GOD YES! A CONTRACT SIGNING! The only thing more fun than a business meeting on live television is one between men in costumes! Just think how amazing a live stream of the organizers of a Furries convention signing paperwork to rent a conference center in Dubuque, IA would be under this principle.

A Divas title match between the NXT champ and the WWE champ. This seems like a terrible idea to have tonight. I’m assuming that it never actually happens and turns into some sort of multi person thing.

I would have much preferred a segment with Mean Gene from the studios in Stamford hyping the card than this. The only redeeming factor to HHH and Steph is that their segments usually mean something important is happening. They’re really the only people in the company, outside of Vince, who you can say that about. But having them just come out, read off the wwe.com summary of the upcoming show, and leave does nothing except let everyone remember they’re in charge.

Randy Orton/Cesaro vs. Sheamus/Kevin Owens

Cesaro is channeling Christian in his entrance. I wish he would start calling the Cesaro Section his peeps.

I enjoy the random snarky things that Sheamus says and does. I have no desire to watch him wrestling right now, since he seems to be in WWE Main Event heel mode, instead of awesome pasty hoss mode.

“Fat Owens Fat” sign, Kevin Dunn must be laughing so hard right now.

The method for continuing to get Cesaro over is a very complex one, and I have little faith in WWE to be able to execute it successfully. The plan involves:

  1. Putting Cesaro in matches with other good wrestlers
  2. Letting Cesaro do insane feats of strength and murder people with all the swiss death.
  3. Repeat steps #1-2

As I said, a very complex plan with many moving parts.

Cesaro vs. Owens and Sheamus vs. Orton at SummerSlam. I would be much more interested in the matches switching members. Cesaro vs. Sheamus and Orton vs. Owens keeps the NXT/indie guys in the mix with top level WWE guys instead of ghettoizing them into matches with each other.

There’s a chance that on Sunday we could see a second case this year of Randy Orton beating a guy the night he cashes in Money in the Bank.

Cesaro would do well to flash back to his Claudio Castagnoli days and get the crowd to start going “Hey!” Imagine those rapid fire charging forearms with the crowd HEYing in unison. He needs that interactive hook.

“A place where bad thoughts equal deceitful actions.” I would not be surprised to find out that Byron Saxton is Brooke Hogan’s poetry teacher. Winners: Cesaro/Randy Orton

Undertaker Speaks!

Dude’s been in the business for nearly 30 years now. If he hasn’t gotten the hang of doing promos by now he’s probably not going to get it. Still they persist. No match has ever been more anticipated after a long Taker promo.

I’m surprised that Undertaker is still appearing at Wizard World here in Chicago the day before SummerSlam.

Well that was short and sweet. Boring as all hell, but at least it was quick. I was terrified we would be getting Taker in-ring with the microphone. He’s always been best when he is in a position to be edited, guided, and coached. Because when unleashed in the wild with a microphone in his hand this can happen. 

All of this is of course leading to a match that is pretty much bound by the laws of the universe to be terrible. It’s hard to get excited about watching an old guy who looks like a giant beef jerky stick in a cool hat get ready to fight a sociopathic manbaby who only speaks in punches and throwing things into Chicago wrestling crowds.

Luke Harper vs. Roman Reigns

Why is it that once a feud has begun there is seemingly no one else the participants are allowed to fight? I’m not even going to complain about how it devalues PPV/specials because that horse has been beaten way past death. But the laziness of it is unforgivable. Orton/Sheamus/Cesaro/Owens are in a feud so every week for a month it is a combination of those four fighting. Wyatts and 2/3Shield are in a feud so every week for a month it is a combination of those four fighting. Everyone is trapped in these pocket universes and there is no permeation between them. WWE is not a place where everyone is striving to win or succeed or be champion. It’s not a novel. It’s a short story anthology. Sure, everything has the common theme of wrestling, but they exist independently of each other. When everyone fights each other every week all the fights blur into one single endless flailing mass of shouts and grunts and kicks. Feuds end simply because someone gets bored, or because you’ve been squashed by John Cena. One of the most wonderful things about wrestling is the way that THE story never truly ends. It is neverending and best viewed from atop a Luckdragon. But that doesn’t mean all the small stories that comprise the whole can just be dropped and ignored on a crazy old man’s whim and to keep overworked writers from going postal. Maybe if you watch once a month or so it works perfectly. Maybe that’s the target audience. If so, then they are executing their plan to the very height of perfection. But for someone watching every single week, not to put too fine a point on it, but it fucking sucks all of the sucks that could ever be sucked. It is being sneezed on by someone who just came back from the jungle. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife and oh by the way you have to transport all 10,000 spoons using only your nose, ears, mouth, and ass.

“What kind of condition will Roman Reigns be in at SummerSlam?” Why does it matter? If he loses at SummerSlam they’ll fight on Raw the next night or the next week until one of them gets bored and wanders off into a new feud. The worst part is that it demeans the efforts of these guys. Every week they’re giving it solid effort. This isn’t the 1980s where a guy could have a four-minute squash match on Superstars consisting of a headlock, a punch, and a finisher. Every single week the matches are meaningless but worked very hard. They deserve better. They deserve to be placed into stories that have beginnings, middles, ends, motivations, goals, reasons for existing.

This company has no reason to exist. More accurately the fictional world of WWE has no reason to exist. The company makes money and despite itself entertains people. But there is no driving force behind why the people here are doing the things they do. I’d say they’re a live action video game but from what I’ve seen the story modes in the WWE2K games are more involved than the stories on the show.

Also a match happened and Dean Ambrose said some funny things and Bray Wyatt was out there having a nice rest and looking like a kid in church who got yelled at by his mom to stop playing with the kneeler. If you feel like you missed some of the details, I’m sure this match will happen again soon.

Also also, Luke Harper didn’t wear any cool arts and crafts gear. So disappointing. Winner: Roman Reigns

Tamina vs. Becky Lynch

I guess Tamina had to wrestle in a single match eventually. No one’s happy about it, but these things happen.

I am legit more hyped for Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn than I am for anything else this coming weekend.

Nikki Bella’s hand and wrist are shockingly veiny. Life with Cena has had quite the impact on her.

Tamina is shocking me by not ruining the match. She’s playing the big bruiser well enough, and the mounted forearms had some fire on them, though a few more would have sold it better. Her problem is the timing and the positioning. She was so close for Lynch’s dropkick it lost something. But a perfectly cromulent showing. If she keeps that level I wouldn’t be horrified by her staying around for random monster heel work.

I might be on an island by myself on this one, but I quite like Becky’s music. Winner: Becky Lynch

Rusev vs. Mark Henry

If this were the 90s Rusev would have given Lana a stomping instead of just letting Summer Rae give her the Accolade. If it was the 90s in ECW Tommy Dreamer would have made out with both of them.

I can’t help but feel like maybe these sorts of things wouldn’t happen if Lana didn’t come out to watch every single Rusev match. Why hasn’t she been at home with her beloved boyfriend? Why is she always there with Rusev?

It’s a shame that this angle is so miserable, because Rusev is truly on the next level right now. The shifting from snide to manic to violent, the way he’s always seemingly on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a rage blackout.

In a segment where all the expected things happened, I was surprised by Lana pulling out a Mirko Crocop head kick. Unexpected indeed.

They should leave the Rusev flag up throughout the entire show. Let all battle commence under the unblinking eye of the Bulgarian Brute. All those deemed unworthy shall be cast into the pit of despair. You may know this as TNA. Winner: Rusev

Ryback vs. Miz

I seriously want to meet the adult who isn’t Ryback who would buy a Ryback shirt and wear it in public. Not for very long mind you. Just a quick meet and run in terror.

Hey, three people are in a feud and they’re all out here at the same time. That is so unlike WWE to keep putting the same people in segments together week after week after week after week after week after week.

Miz looked really good on offense early in this match. Convincingly giving a beating to Ryback.

Big Show does better at selling matches on commentary than anyone they pay to be a commentator.

For a short match this was actually quite good. Hard hitting and fast paced. All Ryback matches are best as short sprints, and this was an excellent example of that. Winner: Ryback

Talking and Paperwork

This is an opportunity to watch managers talk to employees and have them review some paperwork. I can’t understand why this show doesn’t draw 10 million viewers per week.

No cheap heat heel should ever pass up a chance to mock the local sports team. It would be an affront to wrestling history.

I don’t think that’s how inoculations work. And I think he meant to say “Seth Rollins listens to the Cure.” Which he should. The Cure is an awesome band.

And now comes the harbinger of doom, the man who wants to give Rob Barry or Ru Gunn a new job, the face that ruins the place.

John Cena giving a motivational speech to his opponent and talking about how brilliant the guy who in another week will be making him miserable is. This is Maximum Cena.

Under normal circumstances I would think that Cena’s unrepentant trolling means that Rollins is going to somehow win or emerge with the title. But given that this is pretty much S.O.P. for Cena it seems hard to believe anything could be read from this. Cena breaks all tropes and customs.

New Day and Los Matadores vs. Prime Time Players and Lucha Dragons

OH THANK F’N GOD IT’S THE NEW DAY! The cooler heads prevailing to get Xavier Woods back on track is just one more example of teamwork and looking out for one another.

So should I mention that the teams fighting on Sunday are the same teams fighting tonight? There’s not even any of the “momentum building” that could happen if New Day beat Lucha Dragons or something like that. This is just all eight guys we’ll see on Sunday having it out tonight.

One day Xavier Woods and El Torito are going to have a match of the year. It will probably be on Superstars. Winners: PTP and Lucha Dragons

I loved the summary of the Stardust/Barrett vs. Amell/Neville feud. The use of the fan art, the graphics package, the promo of Barrett/Stardust, Barrett’s swanky new outfit. For a company that claims to be telling stories and not being in the rasslin’ business I will never understand why they don’t make more use of the ability to present stories in non-traditional ways. They hate being seen as just a wrestling company yet they cannot get out of the way of traditional wrestling tropes.

Nikki Bella vs. Sasha Banks

Having a match between the NXT and WWE women’s champs with no buildup AND giving the Boss a “already in the ring” entrance? This is highly unacceptable.

I’m not sure if the Bellas are faces, delusional heels, or mocking heels. That wouldn’t be a problem if I thought they had an answer to this question. At least then their actions might have a purpose. As it stands though they act as though they’ve never been told someone is supposed to be the good guy and someone the bad guy.

This is a Nikki Bella match that happens to include Sasha Banks. And that’s not the right thing to do with a crowd that has been waiting all show for Lesnar, and you’re the last thing standing between them and a full on Brockgasm. This crowd was into the match before the commercial break, but when they came back it just wasn’t going to hold the crowd’s attention. It happens. Sometimes people get stuck in a death spot. Winner: Sasha Banks

Paul Heyman – Homecoming Chaperone

If this is how it ends then I can think of no better way to go out than one last Paul Heyman promo.

Brock Lesnar is so happy to be home he is not going to randomly murder anyone in the crowd with flying debris or shrapnel.

This is a CM Punk in Chicago sort of hometown reaction. And Paul Heyman knows exactly how to milk this crowd.

I can’t wait for the WrestleMania 33 main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Tough Enough’s ZZ.

Good to see Vince still has a hard on for making guys look weak in their hometown.

LucasFilm product placement? I’m assuming that Looking For Larry swung a deal to get Paul a little more cash.

Wait, what’s this about 22-1? Didn’t Undertaker go into hiding after losing to Lesnar and not appear again until he returned to challenge Lesnar?

I have no idea what the crowd is going to be like at SummerSlam. Obviously tonight’s crowd was not going to have any of this Undertaker beating up Lesnar stuff. But what is the smarky crowd in Brooklyn going to be like. This is the same crowd that sold out 12,000 seats for a show headlined by Prince Devitt vs. Kevin Steen and Mercedes KV vs. Davina Rose. How will they react to Undertaker? Will he get “Please Retire” or “You’ve Still Got It!” chants? How this crowd takes to the match is going to be a major factor in how enjoyable it is to watch and how much sense it makes. But enough speculation about Summerslam for now. I’ll have plenty to say in the SummerSlam preview coming later this week.

Until then, thanks for reading. It has truly been appreciated.