I complain when nothing changes or develops on WWE TV for months at a time, but when plot does hurtle towards the viewer of a Monday night, it’s sometimes so completely baffling and hard to parse. Bizarre back-and-forth nonsense on RAW left everyone a bit confused as to who has which title shots, and reiterated that earning anything is pointless and tenuous when the Authority have absolute power The general rumblings around the new League of Nations stable run the gamut from skeptical to cautiously optimistic: and as is often the case, it’s not necessarily the ideas being criticised; it’s the execution.
It felt a bit unsettling that on Monday Sheamus would credit Roman refusing the handshake for his championship win, acknowledging his own random combination of luck and opportunism. After all, we’ve had months of a heel champion who was firm in his delusion that he achieved everything by himself, took no favours, and deserved everything he got, even while hanging off Triple H’s trouser leg sniffling.
It does make some sort of sense that Sheamus, being acutely and unusually self-aware of his status of Champion By Virtue Of Nepotism and Happenstance would now to try to surround himself with strong allies (and people who can read books with lots of text in for him quickly) to keep that position comfortable . What makes less sense is Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and the Usos suddenly forging an alliance because of… ? Roman Reigns has literally only just realised he has family in WWE after all this time?
“Let me hear if you’re here with your family tonight? Me too!”
After forging an identity of “one versus all” earlier this year, Roman now elaborates at length that he has thousand of cousins but he’s always been closest to the Usos, leaving Ambrose sloping around awkwardly with his hands in his pockets in the background. What do we call these guys? I’ve been scratching my head for hours, but am creatively spent after portmanteauing dozens of tag teams over in my Tag League reviews this week. I’ve come up with Uce-brose, which is linguistically ugly at best. Even though Ro doesn’t explicitly die on his arse here, as he has done in other show-opening promos, it’s still a bad and nonsensical speech, full of non sequiturs, such as “speaking of the holiday season, here’s Dean Ambrose.”
Reigns invites the League of Nation(s) (he can’t decide) down to the ring for Sheamus to hoarsely present his team as a group of fun-loving fighting immigrants, which is a gimmick that is maybe on the verge of becoming my jam– and explain that he had words with “a WWE official” about booking a match right now. The New Day boys turn up too, and elaborate that the results of this match affect whether Roman will be allowed tag partners for tonight’s main event.
Are the New Day booking SmackDown now? What are the qualifications required to organise matches on Thursdays? I’m sure I could rattle off a list of plausible main events and print them off on headed paper and be a convincing SmackDown GM.
Tyler Breeze vs Neville
Dolph Ziggler’s on commentary here, and he’s straightened his hair, which gives him yet another late entry into “worst WWE fashion mistakes of 2015”. Brennan enthuses “Tyler Breeze sent us a selfie describing what he’s going to do to his opponent!” only to present the usual bog-standard in-corner box video promo. That’s not really a selfie, is it, Brennan? Not everything’s a selfie. I quickly forgive and forget this semantic faux pas as soon as Breeze (black and white checked tights, zebra-print, #bestdressed) arrestingly states: “Call the paramedics, because there’s been a fashion emergency”, and all my worries dissolve. Tyler is here, and he’s going to put the world to rights.
This is a good match, with Neville looking magnificent when he reverses Tyler’s devil-may-care full throttle run into a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Breeze bumps for precise kicks like no one else on the roster, which was what made him such an intensely fun opponent for Itami. They skirt the line here of Breeze looking skilled, but arrogant, rather than just foolish and short-sighted: and Ziggler’s commentary manages to be pleasantly babyface and put everyone over, even erstwhile paramour Summer.
As brilliant and charismatic as Summer is, I think the “hysterical woman shrieking at ringside” trope isn’t lovable or useful from anyone, and I wish she had a more devious or nuanced role in Tyler’s life.
Breeze wins with the Unprettier after Neville gets distracted by Rae.
Brie Bella vs Becky Lynch
Now, what motivates women?
If you have any ideas, please email WWE. They don’t seem to know how to write women as people: or women having thoughts and feelings that make any sense whatsoever.
A short and disappointing showing. Becky is about to lock in the Dis-arm-her here when Charlotte runs in to unconvincingly beat down Brie for the DQ.
“You have infinite potential in the ring…but your personality is…eh”
Miz bumps into a despondent Neville backstage, and extends the offer of mentorship. “You have a unique look, but no charisma. I used to know someone like you…” the Miz muses, “Daniel Bryan?”
Daniel Bryan has been so rarely evoked since his disappearance, to the extent that the announcers won’t even call Brie Bella’s homage kicks anything other than “this looks familiar!”. To wryly draw reference to Bryan’s weird dreamlike stint in proto-NXT feels like a purposeful choice, and the largest of compliments to Neville.
Miz slips Neville a copy of Santa’s Little Helper for his troubles.
The New Day vs Dean Ambrose and The Usos
Having the result of a mid-card match influence the main event is ostensibly a really great way to book a cohesive, interesting show, that gets people invested to watch all the way through . However, in order for us to all collectively suspend disbelief that anything matters, there needs to be some sort of consistency applied, there needs to be an internal logic: someone who’s booking matches, some reason this is happening, other than “we want to make Roman look strong”. You know that this show ends in a DQ fracas. Spoiler warning, but it always does. What do we conclude from that? Who looks good? So by extension: why does this series of related events to get to the same outcome matter at all?
I feel bad for Dean Ambrose, who’s seemingly increasingly twitchy and hunched and neurotic since the face-off with his best friend at Survivor Series; now being dumped with the Usos, glorified face-painted flying clowns. Roman’s stood backstage with his hair in a bun, smiling handsomely at his boy, but Dean’s not comfy at all. He’s a man out of his depth. He’s used to calling the shots, choosing his friends; now he’s stuck in the middle of a Samoan family reunion and it’s starkly reminding him he hasn’t got a family of his own, any more.
Surprisingly, considering its participants, this match manages to be slightly dull. No one seems particularly enthusiastic about this match, even the people who organised it. A high spot is organised around spiking Ambrose’s balls on the top rope and leaving him there, frozen by embarrassment presumably, while Kofi navigates the turnbuckle to dropkick him. At least Xavier plays an appropriately anticlimactic trombone note to underscore the whole incident.
The match drags, and is actually longer than Ambrose and Reigns’ championship match. Xavier gets the pin on Jimmy Uso after Kofi kicks him in the knee.
Bray Wyatt vs D-Von Dudley
In a segment that I’m sure readers will assume I’ve fabricated to keep you on your toes, a confused but waving R-Truth is briefly teleported to the stage following the Wyatts trigger noise and lights-out. The lights go down again and it’s never spoken of again.
Speaking of bizarre appearances, I turn away and blink for five seconds and another hasbeen who refuses to age gracefully is back on WWE TV. Tommy Dreamer is sporting the most unflattering pair of trousers that’s possible to obtain or commission in the entire United States.
Bray Wyatt gets the win with Sister Abigail.
Roman Reigns vs King Barrett, Rusev, Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus
Lawler has spent all show yelping “It’s impossible! Insurmountable odds!”, a foreshadowing the end of the show so brightly that he may as well have painted the words “dirty finish that makes Roman look strong” on to the surface of the sun.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old fashioned “stacking the odds” main event here on the blue brand, so it does have a certain novelty appeal, especially being that the League of Nations are still feeling fresh and spiffy and interesting.
The Nations force Reigns into their corner early and take turns stomping and abusing him while Barrett distracts the ref by being shouty and Mancunian and tall. This match brings out the worst in Roman’s heavily criticised style of selling: alternating between watery-eyed brink-of-death selling and then bouncing into action, throwing forearms from whips.
Eventually Barrett pushes his luck, grabbing Roman’s feet when he isn’t legal, and Robinson decides to send him out to the back. Is there recent precedent for this? To just decide to eliminate one member of a tag match, rather than like… call for a DQ? For the Nations to have evened the odds slightly for Reigns through their own heel tactics seems odd, and drags this match to feel even more interminable. You couldn’t have designed a worse match to showcase Reigns if you tried. He’s best at being ⅓ of a team, not having 4x the exposure than his opponents.
Roman wins by count-out after dispatching the Fightin’ Immigrants into the announce table.
Are you keeping up with our NJPW Tag League coverage? Brandon Howard and I are keeping you company throughout all the tournament matches until Joe Lanza will be your guide for the final on Wednesday, December 9. There’s been some surprising gems and a lot to enjoy! Get your fix of the burgeoning Wrestle Kingdom feuds and read our reviews.