I haven’t posted anything for a while, because in a few ways I haven’t really found WWE TV all that exciting recently. But, having watched Payback and this week’s Raw, there were a few sticking points that came to mind. None of them were really big enough to dedicate entire articles to, so I’ve put them all together here.
The Cyclical World Of Rusev
So I’ve been keeping an eye on the Rusev-Lana split for a while now, and to be honest I find it quite amusing. I’ve said for a long time that the Rusev character just doesn’t interest me because we’ve seen it so many times before, and what do they do? Rehash another storyline from 1998. Again it’s been done several times, but 1998 immediately springs to mind because I’ve been watching old Raws on the WWE Network, and the exact same thing was done with Marc Mero and Sable. Rusev was mistreating Lana, and sending her to the back to get heat, just like Mero did in 98. It was scarily similar until Raw this week, where Lana appeared to align herself with Dolph Ziggler. But don’t be surprised if it ends up being a ruse, and Lana double crosses Ziggler to reunite with Rusev in a month or two.
Ryback is as popular as ever… for some reason
Ryback has confused me for a while now. In the time since he turned face again, he has never done anything particularly impressive, he has never been hugely heroic. But he keeps getting big pops. They tried to humanise him a while back, which to me didn’t work brilliantly and seemed quite awkward. But the fans love him. Even at shows where he doesn’t get the biggest reaction, there are always “Feed Me More” chants when he goes for the meat hook clothesline. It’s obviously a good thing for everyone involved, I’m just a bit mystified as to where his popularity has come from. Nobody really cared about him as a heel, so the turn shouldn’t have been and wasn’t a big deal. He was treated like a big deal heading into Survivor Series last year, with both Cena and The Authority clamouring for him to join their teams, but again since then he’s been an afterthought. It’s all very strange.
Ambrose v Rollins
YES. These two have a habit on putting on great matches, and with good reason – they are two of the best performers in the WWE, they have good chemistry, and their backstory is extensive and personal. I love that they’re going back to these two for the WWE Championship match at Elimination Chamber. It should be a great match with a lot of time, with or without a stipulation.
NXT stars vs Cena
I believe it was my last article here that spoke about the cyclical world of wrestling, talking about how Cena debuted in an open challenge, and about how it was an easy avenue for NXT stars to make an impact. Have to say, I called it. Since I wrote that article, we have seen Sami Zayn produce a show stealing performance in Canada, and this week Kevin Owens debuted, attacking Cena and setting up a match for Elimination Chamber. The U.S. Title Open Challenge is quickly becoming my favourite segment of Raw, because I can’t wait to see who turns up next. Who’s next to appear? Finn Bàlor, Tyler Breeze, possibly Baron Corbin. The latter is far and away the most unlikely, but you never know.
The Tag division is becoming the best thing on TV
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say this, but after watching Payback the tag team division is once again right up there with the best thing on TV. There was a while (when you had The Shield, The Rhodes Brothers returning, The Usos and Rowan & Harper) where the tag division was the highlight week in week out, and it’s getting there again. The New Day have become interesting in something that may have been unlikely a few weeks ago, Cesaro & Kidd deliver every time, Sandow and Axel are providing entertainment, The Lucha Dragons are really impressive flying about the ring. And, well, Los Matadores, The Prime Time Players and The Ascension are there. There’s suddenly a depth to the division again, which is always a sign of potential strength.
The future Shield reunion is money
Arguably the most memorable moment from Payback was the brief Shield reunion. The fact that WWE put those three guys in a position to do it, as well as the crowd’s reaction to it, only serves to confirm reports that came about in the immediate aftermath of the breakup of The Shield. WWE wants to get the three of them together again at some point. They know that it’s money. They know it’s a natural story. And most importantly, they know that the crowd will love it. Maybe it happens soon, maybe it doesn’t. But it is clearly a case of when, not if, and it will be a moment to remember when it does happen.
It’s one of the sad stories of 2015. Daniel Bryan is once again injured, and this time we don’t know if he will ever return. He has barely been back for 6 months, and his surrender of the Intercontinental Championship came a year after he was officially stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Fans clamoured for him to win the Royal Rumble in January, and turned on Roman Reigns when Bryan was eliminated early on. Bryan then went on to win the IC belt at Wrestlemania, but it wasn’t long before he was down and out again. I love Bryan’s work, but unfortunately I have to say he kind of proves the doubters right. There were reports that people behind the scenes thought he was too injury prone, and couldn’t hold up to being the top dog. With the way things have turned out, you have to say WWE made the right decision not to put him right back at the top on his return, much as I hate to say it.
Wade Barrett AKA Bad News Barrett now has another moniker to add to his collection: King Barrett. He’s a good fit for King Of The Ring – he’s a cocky heel who can really play up being king, plus there’s the link to the actual British Monarchy. More to the point though, it’s a sign that there is still a lot of belief in Barrett. Twice before you would have said he was the favourite to win a Money In The Bank briefcase, but he got injured at the worst possible times. I have said for a while that this guy can be a world champion – as have many others – and now, even having lost the Intercontinental Championship, he definitely seems to be on a path back to the top.
Money In The Bank
Looking ahead a bit, the next non-Network exclusive PPV is Money In The Bank. I have written a lot in previous years about how Money In The Bank is my favourite time of year, and as always I will have an article up rating each competitor’s chances in the match. I read an opinion somewhere that MITB had replaced Survivor Series as the 4th biggest PPV on the calendar, and I think that’s fair. It’s usually one of the best events of the year, and there is now far more excitement over the briefcase than Survivor Series. There will be huge expectations of the winner, as we all know how Seth Rollins turned out. Who’s my pick? Not a clue. I have a few possibilities in mind, but they are all dependent on other things that could change between now and then. If I had to guess at this stage, my very early pick would be Roman Reigns.
I’ll leave it there. One last thing though: The Stone Cold Podcast on the WWE Network on June 1st will be a must see/listen – because the guest is Paul Heyman. I’ve listened to Heyman on a few other podcasts before (including Austin), and the man is the best example of genius I can think of. Even if you don’t subscribe, go out of your way to find this show, it will be worth it 100%.