So the week where I was accused of being too negative about Raw is also the week with the most readers I’ve had in nearly a year of doing this. Perhaps I’ve found my niche. I should just become the grumpy bastard who never says anything good about WWE. Every segment, just trash things until the show ends and then trash everything I saw once more for good measure.

But, I can’t. As long as PTP, New Day, Ryback, and Miz are on the show, I can never let my heart turn wholly black and necrotic. But I’m not going to stop calling out the things I do not care for. These are my opinions. They do not represent Voices of Wrestling as a whole. They are influenced by my own likes and dislikes and personal biases.

Speaking of my own personal likes, this week, to make sure there are some positive vibes in this week’s review, I asked the good folks who follow me on Twitter @spiffie6123 to tell me their favorite album and why. A great album, listened to from beginning to end, is a chance to lose yourself for an hour or so in a single unified artistic statement. It is a different and, to me at least, more immersive experience than a playlist or a random selection of music. Some people had a lot to say. Some people just had a happy thought that made them love an album.

Here was the performance that got me thinking about this topic. A live run through August and Everything After by Counting Crows. I don’t have a tremendously deep rationale for this choice. All of the songs just feel so raw and exposed, and yet eminently catchy. It feels like standing on the precipice of being a full-fledged adult. There is hope and optimism and depression and loss and fear. And you can dance to it a little.

WWE Monday Night Raw
August 31, 2015
Tampa, FL

Der Stinglehoffer

Of all the things WCW did wrong, the one thing they got right was the entrance music for Crow Sting. Short of bringing back Wargames, there is nothing I wish they would resurrect from WCW more than that music. That music makes my hair stand on end and tells my heart to beat faster to prepare for the awesomeness about to happen. This current music…does not.

HHH has gone full Dusty Rhodes in the 80’s. Everyone who talks about HHH has to preface their remarks by talking about how much they respect him.

Names of old guys! Nothing gets a crowd excited like old guys!

Real talk time. I was a gigantic Sting mark growing up. I wrote into PWI trying to win a phone call with the Stinger. I watched Clash of the Champions I and after that I quit watching the Wonder Years in protest of Jason Hervey not doing more to give Sting the victory. I watched Sting feud with Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Vader, Muta, you name it. When Sting went into the rafters I popped every time he came down with the bat. I recorded Uncensored 97 and replayed the ending a couple of dozen times. Almost 20 people crowded into my living room to see Sting and Hogan finally clash at Starrcade 97. When that perfect entrance theme hit and Sting emerged the room buzzed like an epic title fight was about to happen. Like Tyson was coming to the ring. Every single thing WCW had done for 18 months, every single thing Sting had done for over 10 years, all built to that moment.

Then it was gone. Nick Patrick counted a slow fast count, Bret Hart mumbled into a sputtering microphone, Sting yelled in Spanish, and everyone shuffled off into the December night. The Sting I loved, cheered for without reservation for years, and thought was pretty much the best guy not named Ric Flair, was finished. WCW was finished.

I know Sting has been working pretty consistently since then. He was part of the Wolfpac, then he was part of the farewell to Nitro, then he went somewhere else for a long time and no one really remembers any of it. At Survivor Series 2014 he appeared and changed the face of WWE for almost a month. He lost at Mania as collective nostalgia became kind of sentient and took physical form. The nWo came down and helped Sting and pretty well dealt the ultimate death blow to WCW continuity. And then Sting was finished. Again.

Now he wants to write the final chapter. He wants to raise the WWE World Heavyweight championship belt above his painted face and howl one final time as The Icon, The Franchise. I can’t rationally defend that decision. Rollins dropping the belt should be an epochal moment when it happens. It should redefine the direction of the company, and set up the next year’s worth of major angles. It shouldn’t be a gold watch for a guy who spent 25 years working for someone else, a way to show that WWE is so final in its victory over WCW that they can even reward their opponent’s hero with their title. Given and taken at their whim because they are all that remains of the war that scorched the wrestling landscape. This decision would be indefensible, a waste of so many people’s efforts, and in combination with the decision to let Rollins take the belt off Cena a surefire way to devalue titles that WWE had put so much effort and let so many future stars be squashed for.

But if Sting wins that belt, even if he holds it for a day, or 10 minutes, I’ll still probably cheer for him. Little Stingers grow old, grow cynical, and lose faith. But they never fully disappear.

Winner: Nostalgia~!

Favorite Album: Speaking of nostalgia, my dear friend @sueiscool offered up Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan. Simple explanation: “I chose FTE because it’s hauntingly beautiful and poetically raw – it has always spoken to me.” Me too. This was an album I listened to a whole damn lot back in the day. Also this album allows me to at least make reference to my threat to one day just review Lilith Fair 1997 instead of Raw.

I’m not really sure why this feud is about Sting defending HHH’s legacy. As with all inexplicable things involving Rollins, I’m just going to assume it leads to a Shield reunion.

Goddamn right Seth should have his statue back. Are we to believe that Sting somehow snuck the statue out of the building without anyone noticing? Perhaps Sting has some connections with Big Magic. Perhaps David Copperfield had something to do with this. Alas that Frank Drebin has passed on to join the Police Squad in the sky, he would have gotten to the bottom of this.

Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler

I think Raw would be 50% better if the matches were determined by random lottery balls. The talent on this roster is staggering, and yet every week keeps giving us the same old same old.

I don’t like this whole thing with Lana and Ziggler. It’s like they’re trying to break up the best wrestling couple this side of #BigMike Elgin and MsChif.

I’d say this crowd seems quite tepid tonight, but they’ve seen Sting talk about how great HHH is and Round 35 in the endless Rusev vs. Ziggler feud. Not electrifying, no.

Let’s talk about this Lana thing for a second. Not to discuss what an atrocious angle this is or to deconstruct how WWE demeans the agency of women as a matter of course. Let’s talk about how ridiculous Lana dressing as an American is while still trying to keep the Natasha Badinov accent. There are a few ways to fix this:

  1. The Better Off Dead approach. I want a WWE Network series where Ziggler teaches Lana about America. I demand monster truck rallies and deep fried food on sticks be involved. Wacky misunderstandings are assumed to be a regular feature of this series.

  2. Soap Opera approach. At some point in this angle Lana takes a hard spill and gets knocked out. She spends 2 weeks in a coma. When she wakes up she does not recognize Dolph and she now speaks like an American who went to Florida State University. Again wackiness ensues as Ziggler tries to get Lana (now CJ) to fall in love with him all over again. Bonus points if there are date scenes as awesome as those involving D-Lo Brown and Mark Henry.

  3. The Manchurian Valet approach. Lana is actually a CIA double agent who has tricked the KGB into working themselves into a shoot. It turns out she is a trained assassin. She murders Summer Rae and Dolph Ziggler and then shows the world that they were actually KGB spies. Her and Rusev get Congressional Medals of Honor for their efforts to defend America. Wackiness then ensues as Rusev and Lana go all Mr. and Mrs. Smith on each other.

Oh yeah, they wrestled and things happened and Summer Rae interfered and rolled around with Lana. I promise you, my dear reader, you missed nothing.

Dolph after the match promises this isn’t the last time we’ll see Ziggler vs. Rusev. Now that is a threat if ever I heard one.

Winner: WWE Network for getting so many good ideas for free.

I did like the way Renee Young summed up what’s coming up on the show. It was a good way to keep the fans interested without having Michael Cole and the graphics team beat everyone over the head with it. Felt organic.

Favorite Album: From a high quality Twitterer, @CleverIsDead, came something I know as little about as I do what the hell the point of this Rusev/Ziggler angle is. He suggested A Long Hot Summer by Masta Ace. “A Long Hot Summer by Masta Ace is an all-time unrecognized classic in hip-hop: from the songs down to the way that the vignettes fit right in and tell a story. It’s one of a very few albums I almost always listen to all the way through.” I gave this a short listen while finding the Youtube vid for it, and I’m intrigued. Much more than I am by the Rusev/Ziggler angle.

Becky Lynch vs. Alicia Fox

Nikki Bella has nothing on the Santino’s Honk-a-Meter. Now that was the sort of thing that gave a viewer historical perspective and made the crowds desperate for a record to be broken.

It’s not the worst thing that they kept Lynch’s inset promo brief, but it still felt so forced. WWE seems so reluctant to just let their performers express how much they love what they do.

This division needs to have a controlled burn done to it. There is simply not the credibility with the crowd to keep having mediocre to bad matches where one or more participants is simply incapable of carrying their weight. I don’t care if that means having to import some indie vets who might not be their normal look. Or swallowing their pride and throwing cash at Gail Kim to help shore things up. But this is turning into a Revolution where the revolutionaries are being destroyed from within.

I hope Becky’s time holds up. I will always have a soft spot for old K-Nox.

Winner: Becky Lynch

Favorite Album: A selection by someone who is always fun for me to talk to on Twitter, @induceomiting, reaches back for a classic that I haven’t listened to in far too long. Marquee Moon by Television, “Tension, artistry, guitars that sound like seagulls at some points, traffic lights at others. Pure.” I can’t really add anything to that.

Ryback vs. Big Show

Ryback’s interview was perfect. Dude’s a giant ball of steroids and Adderall snorting and positive thinking, and he talks exactly like you expect him to talk. I like the interlacing of things happening backstage, but to really make the strongest impact they needed to circle back to the beginning. Because Ryback was not going to be at all bothered by any of that crap. He’s here to be fed and give Meathooks and murder a giant and visualize himself keeping the I-C belt in a ball of glowing light. Dolph Ziggler in a towel and Summer Rae sprinting down a hallway are just things that happen around The Big Guy.

In-ring introductions always give the match a sense of importance. All title matches should have them. It’s the small things that add up to make a title match an important thing.

I’m not going to act like this was a Young Bucks match or something, but there were some nice things happening in this match. The Big Show DDT. Ryback’s splash being countered into the chokeslam. Show taking the Ric Flair bodyslam off the top.

In a better world Miz and Wade Barrett are color commentators and JBL, Jerry Lawler, and Byron Saxton are doing pre-shows on the WWE Network.

I liked it. Big Show vs. Ryback matches are the kind of elemental wrestling match that makes me happy in a different yet near equal way to a 20 minute indie head kicking finisher trading spectacle. Sometimes big people hitting each other and throwing each other about like Godzilla vs. King Kong is a great thing.


Favorite Album: The first person to respond to this question was @adecorativedrop. Brandon is one of my favorite wrestling writers on the net, and someone who gives the full weight of his intellectual consideration to a question. I was not surprised that his response was the most in-depth response. But, as usual with great writing like Brandon does on the regular, it is balanced with a deep, insistent humanity as he talks about I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes.

“Conor’s cantankerous 2000s songwriting and, more, his delivery, reckless and broken down “bad signing,” depicted the psyche of a subset of young Americans. He pours out what life was like in that recently-passed decade, to be young, barely educated and dwarfed by huge buildings of our parents and grandparents which were always on the verge of catastrophic televised terrorist attack. He pours out what life was like in such an insecure-disguising-as-brave time, when we had no idea how to love people we didn’t know without something to sell them or a religion.” God I feel like an idiot for how I explained my choice after reading that. 

Charlotte vs. Brie Bella

Charlotte’s inset interview was probably the best promo she’s done since entering WWE. She didn’t come off as a heel masquerading as a face. She showed passion and desire without entitlement. That’s the kind of thing you want from a face aiming at a heel champion.

So far the Bellas have been heels. I keep waiting for one or both of them to inexplicably turn face for about ½ of a match.

One positive about this gimmick is that it basically gives all of PCB a squash win over Bellas. A good thing for them. The Bellas, especially Brie and Fox, should not be able to hang with them and be doing 10-15 minute matches. Charlotte should be murdering Brie Bella like her dad wiping the floor with Randy Mulkey or Lee Peek.

Once per week JBL does something that makes me not hate him. He’ll say something funny or smart. And in this case it was suggesting Brie was so focused on stalling that she was not focused on actually wrestling. The clock gimmick threw her off her game and made her even more vulnerable than usual. Well done JBL. Sadly by saying this so early in the show it means the rest of the night is likely to suck.

Winner: Charlotte

Favorite Album: One of the best friends of this column, @jagster27, has a favorite album that I know is shared by a lot of people. And deservedly so. There are a lot of explanations out there for why OK Computer by Radiohead is someone’s favorite album, but his is the only that counts here! “There’s a bit of everything on there and the ‘such a…’ bit on No Surprises still makes my spine tingle.” Is there anything better than when music gives you a physical reaction? That moment when the music becomes a tangible thing that can be felt as well as heard. So so good.

I swear this isn’t me saying this because they’re both black. It’s purely the speech patterns and verbal tics. That said, have we confirmed that D-Von Dudley is not Big E’s dad?

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

The threat of dangerous weather seems to have kept the Cesaro Section from appearing tonight.

When people can wrestle a *** match in your sleep the way these two guys can, it is fun to see the little touches thrown in, maybe to amuse themselves as much as to entertain the crowd. Watching Owens try to punch his way out of the delayed vertical suplex, only to be punched back and down into the suplex was one of those moments.

Cesaro is doing more to engage the crowd. WWE fans love to be told when is a good moment to cheer or boo. The more times a wrestler gives them that opportunity, the happier they are to watch him wrestle.

Owens and Cesaro are good enough at what they do that they’re not afraid to let the work be a bit rough around the edges. Cesaro will lift Owens inelegantly. Owens can fight Cesaro off and kick him into a low arc bump. And it all looks good because they make everything look like a fight, not a simulation of a fight.

So yeah, Cesaro just caught Kevin Owens in mid air and threw him around like me playing with my little nieces. The man is just an absolute blast to watch.

Good ending. They needed to give Cesaro an out if they insisted on this match happening again this week.

I wish these two would wrestle less often, just so it would be more special when they do. A guy getting shot out of a cannon isn’t amazing when he does it every night. But it’s hard to complain about eating steak and foie gras on a regular basis.

Winner: Kevin Owens

Seriously, tell me you wouldn’t rather watch any of my ideas for Lana/Ziggler than this crap. You know damn well that Lana and Ziggler at a minor league ballpark watching GFW would be 100x better than this.

Favorite Album: Sneaking in just under the wire for this column was fellow Voices of Wrestling contributor @AndrewTRich with his choice of The Ladder by Yes. I admit I’m not a huge fan of prog rock, but I don’t know how anyone can deny Jon Anderson’s voice. Andrew says “Perfect mix of prog rock intricacies w/ a modern sound. Has a variety of moods too. Such a great listen.” With a critique like that, I think I should probably give this a shot. So should you!

Dean Ambrose vs. Braun Strowman

I wonder if I can rent Burnt Stromboli and his sixhead for parties when I would like to show a major sporting event or classy 70’s porn on a loop.

If Rock Strongo was about 275 lbs. lighter those pants would totally be hipster approved.

They’ve done a good job of keeping Brat Sausage looking strong. But what the hell is up with Roman Reigns jumping on him just because Dean is getting beaten up fair and square?

I can’t wait for a month from now when Brewed Strongly is getting beaten clean as a sheet in a 6 minute match on Raw.

Winner: Brown Strawman

Favorite Albums: My poker nemesis, a man who has taken too damn much of my money over the years, and a good enough guy that I still like him anyways, @masdumas puts up Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. His reason is a heartwarming one. “It’s a reminder of my parents. It the only album I ever remember them agreeing on.” I figure some positive music and loving thoughts would be good right now, because this is about to get ugly.

Paige vs. Sasha Banks

Well, this pretty much proves someone wants to kill this baby in the crib. The biggest match of the night will be less than 2 minutes long. And oh yeah, this less than 2 minutes long match includes the most talented person in this entire angle. Let me just say a preemptive Fuck You to WWE for this.

JBL is right. That should have been a DQ when Naomi and Tamina interfered.

And oh yeah. Fuck You again WWE. And Fuck You once more. Even Miss Kitty vs. Torrie Wilson would have gotten more time than Paige vs. Sasha.

Winner: One more Fuck You for WWE

So we’re following up having your “revolution” culminate in a 2 minute match followed by a woman making up allegations of sexual impropriety? You keep doing you WWE. And Fuck You.

New Day vs. Dudley Boyz

Xavier Woods has done something to his hair. I don’t have any words to describe it. I’m Ellie Arroway on Vega when I look upon it.

The only thing that could make New Day wrapping a table in bubble wrap, calling the Dudleyz “table poachers” and dancing around it and getting the crowd to chant “save the table” would have been if they named the table Cecil. I would tweet all day about #CecilTheTable.

And now Titus O’Neil just dropped a Cornel West reference in response to Xavier’s hair. This segment is pulling out all the stops to try and get me back into a better mood about this show.

The Dudleyz (always spelled with a “z” because they’re EXTREME~!) are so damn good at getting the crowd to do exactly what they want. One of the things WWE really could use is more long-time veterans in the midcard to give all the newer guys a hand. Obviously there are so many better wrestlers in terms of doing things in the ring. But as awesome as a guy like Owens or Neville or even Cesaro is, there is a certain familiarity with manipulating a WWE crowd that only comes with experience. I don’t want a bunch of old WCW or ECW guys brought in to be in every angle. But having some more guys who have been there would be a way to break up the monotony, and use some lingering nostalgia to help the young guys. Sadly when I sent that message to WWE a few months ago they ended up getting “bring back the Undertaker” out of it. Sorry about that everyone.

Bubba Ray and Xavier in the ring at the same time will be amazing in terms of how much talking there is. Neither one ever shuts up.

Oh my god I just had a vision of the Dudleyz and Ryback vs. all three New Day. A rainbow just shot out of my ass thinking about it.

Cecil the Table survived. Chalk one up for conservation.

Winners: Dudleyz

Favorite Album: The list of people who have ever been as awesome as New Day is right now is a short one. But my poet friend and naturalist savant @discokayaker gives me an album by someone who might make that list. Sign O’ the Times by Prince, “It’s a double album and it can be the sound track for anything. Timeless.” She’s not wrong at all. That said, Prince got nothing on Xavier Woods. Since Prince hates the internet, this is the best you can get. Prince circa 1982.

So there is a possibility that at the end of Night of Champions the title holders for the men could be:

  • WWE World: Sting (30 years)
  • I-C Champ: Big Show (20 years)
  • US Champ: John Cena (16 years)
  • Tag Champs: Bubba Ray Dudley (24 years) and D-Von Dudley (24 years)

Maybe I should take back what I said about bringing in more veteran talent.

Where the Hell is Seth’s Statue?

I really don’t think asking for his statue back means Seth is any sort of a bad guy. Who among us wouldn’t want a statue back if it was made in our honor?

I really have no idea what the hell the point of this whole thing with Rollins talking about HHH and Stephanie taking offense is all about.

I just thought to myself “you know what self? There’s been no John Cena tonight. Hasn’t that been pleasant?” So of course he has to arrive, an orange and green ball of this whole thing sucks.

There’s never a point when it comes to John Cena. He can’t get to the point because his mere existence is the point.

The evil Authority is possibly the most incompetent evil group in wrestling since the Paul Jones Army.

Final Thoughts

If you have been watching every week since Wrestlemania, and seen the arc of the Seth Rollins title reign, there are, to my mind anyhow, only two possible rationales:

  1. This is the longest of long cons. This is a storyline that has been built for nearly two years that will lead to Rollins going over HHH as a mega-face at Wrestlemania 32. Everything since the breakup of The Shield was building to this moment where Rollins becomes the next big face, leader of a reunited Shield.
  2. They have no clue from month to month what the plan is. They keep teasing dissension and pulling back from it because no one even knows what the trigger will do, let alone actually making a decision to pull the trigger.

I’d love to think that the former is what we are in the middle of, only unable to see the forest for the confusing and inconstant trees. Although, there is little reason to believe that’s the case.

That’s all I’ve got this week. Listen to the music, laugh at a joke or two, and we’ll do it all again next week. Be sure to yell at me in the comments or at @spiffie6123.


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