Extra Mustard's WWE Raw Recap: Stephanie McMahon vs Brie Bella. It’s happening. I cannot wait.
I Just Can’t Believe You Anymore, Cena
You said you were afraid of Bray Wyatt, and then you beat him three times in a row before even checking your score. You say you’re afraid of Brock Lesnar, even though you beat a younger, angrier Lesnar two years ago. John Cena, someday you will have to understand that you were not put on this earth to be an underdog. You have sneakers, you have dish towels, you have title reigns in the DOUBLE FREAKING DIGITS. YOU ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO PRETEND THAT YOU ARE AFRAID OF OTHER WRESTLERS.
Look I’m not trying to be Angry Wrestling Guy, and I think there’s a 100% chance Lesnar goes over Cena at SummerSlam, but at this point John Cena only makes sense as a character if he has literal, institutional short-term memory loss. Like I’m talking some Memento s**t. In kayfabe, John Cena is the most dominant wrestler in the history of the WWE but apparently he’s completely incapable of realizing he’s pinned every human being in the company, most of them multiple times. You’re downtrodden and solemn because you’re fighting a guy you’ve beaten within the Obama administration? What’s changed? Because he F5’d an old dude dressed as the grim reaper at Wrestlemania now all of a sudden nothing in storytelling history matters? AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO REALIZES THE POTENTIAL FOR COCKY, OVERCONFIDENT JOHN CENA? WHY HASN’T HE GROWN AS A PERSON EVEN A LITTLE BIT OVER THE LAST DECADE? Human beings learn things about themselves and adapt that into their self-perception, but John Cena is either a robot, or the most gullible person in the universe.
Note: I will forgive all of this if Cena leaves SummerSlam in a stretcher.
But Man, I Really Hope They Let Cena and Cesaro Start Feuding Again After All This Brock Stuff
I think Cesaro is finally, finally turning face, which is a weird thing to say after you get pinned clean against, you know, John Cena. But Cesaro is doing the Giant Swing again, he is free of Paul Heyman treating him like a minor afterthought, and there’s absolutely no way the WWE doesn’t realize how euphoric these two are in the ring together. There’s a simple alchemy to putting two really strong dudes in the ring, and honestly it sort of makes me wish WWE brass didn’t doom Cesaro to the mid-card because there’s an alternate history out there where this match is the headliner of SummerSlam. Not that it matters, Cesaro has a lot of great wrestling in his future, but he was so hot after Wrestlemania and if just a few things went differently this sort of match wouldn’t be restricted to the doldrums of mid-PPV cycle Raw.
Again, I’m mostly just happy Cesaro is spinning people around in circles again. It was really sad watching a dude this talented finishing matches with heelish German suplexes.
Heel Paige is Best Paige
I honestly don’t know why it took this long. Paige is at her best when she’s allowed to be brutal and rough around the edges, the anti-diva with some legit blood and guts. Last week she ambushed AJ after their tag-match and ragdolled her across the announce table. It was awesome, a pristine declaration of unimaginable hatred, and the perfect sort of carnage that ought to punctuate this silly “frenemy” angle.
Except they let Paige double down.
She comes out tonight to tell AJ that they’re still friends, makes some regrettable remarks about the latter’s mental health, and gets sufficiently punished by a now seething AJ. This is great because it’s not some sort of backstabby HHH/Shawn Michaels angle, Paige leaves the ring literally crying out “I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS?!?!!” with a peculiar texture of sincerity. Its bizarreness colors Paige as either a deeply misguided person or the most devious next-level emotional tactician in the history of wrestling. You know, stuff that we don’t really get in too many Divas storylines. That’s great, because pretty much all of Paige’s matches thus far have lacked the context needed to tell the world who and what she is.
And guess what guys, the two most interesting feuds in the company right now belong to women, and neither of them are fights over men. Wrestling is great.
In Case You Needed a Reminder Raw Shouldn’t be Three Hours
Chris Jericho arrived on the show twice. The first was to make fun of Stephanie McMahon, the second was to get jumped by Bray Wyatt. If you are a reasonable human being you will know which one of these is justified (albeit barely) to be on the show. Jericho in his current incarnation has absolutely no structural crossover with The Authority. Why is he here? At least when Cena came out to mansplain justice to Stephanie a few months back he had the loose reasoning of being best friends with Daniel Bryan. With this Jericho segment it just seems like they wanted to play his theme music twice in one show.
I have this theory with Raw that the show is entirely structured to make sure Zack Ryder doesn’t appear on your TV. As soon as Zack Ryder shows up you know the company has run out of ideas. They’ll do whatever they can, and that DEFINITELY includes meaningless Chris Jericho segments. But don’t worry Zack, it’s still a long time 'til SummerSlam.
A Six-Man Tag Match with Exactly One Exciting Human Involved
The Usos have been overexposed, underwritten and seem comfortable wrestling the exact same match every time they’re in the ring. Rybaxel were briefly amazing when they were allowed to tell dumb jock stories, but since then they’ve been repeatedly losing to the Brothers Dust and doing incredibly unconvincing top rope dives. The Miz is The Miz, he wears sunglasses and constantly ducks out of the ring, and then there’s Dolph who gets a massive pop for simply existing in the building. He bounces his body against every surface within state ordinance and hits a ZigZag, it looks awesome, and his match with the Miz looks everything but confirmed for SummerSlam.
Let me repeat that to you: DOLPH ZIGGLER IS BOOKED AT A PAY-PER-VIEW! IN A SINGLE’S MATCH! AND IT’S ONE OF THE BIG ONES TOO! THAT’S A BIG DEAL! The cynic in me says he’ll immediately destroy both his knees and be carted off the main roster until 2016, but this is still progress. Pat yourself on the back, all you ornery Internet fans! Yes it’s against The Miz, but I guarantee you’ll never see the skull-busting finale look this good ever again.
Bo Dallas Loses, I’m Actually a Little Disappointed
There were a number of ways they could’ve gone with Bo Dallas’ first loss. He could be completely oblivious to his failure and still take a glowing victory lap with both thumbs held defiantly aloft. He could pass the whole thing off as an effort to show how perseverance pushes the human soul forward, he could’ve started crying, he could’ve refused to leave the ring until awarded a rematch.
But no, we go with the most obvious answer possible. R-Truth rolls up Bo Dallas for the quick victory, Bo Dallas gets really mad and starts beating up R-Truth. Dallas has one of the most interesting characters in the entire business, there has to be a funnier, more nuanced way to handle a loss. I don’t want to live in a world where he’s just another mid-card heel.
This is Make or Break Time for Jack Swagger
There’s gonna be a Rusev/Swagger rematch at SummerSlam, and this will be one of a few dwindling chances for Swagger to permanently make a name for himself. He has ammunition, Zeb Colter is the perfect Yosemite Sam to fire up crowds with well-meaning jingoism, and he’s got an undefeated Slav in Rusev that could stand as a handy stepping stone to larger stagers.
For something that’s staged, you have to imagine Swagger is really, really hoping he’s allowed to beat Rusev. This is the most over he’s ever been, and if he goes down clean he’ll be instantaneously forgotten in favor of the next challenger. Swagger currently has the market cornered on cartoonish patriotism, which has been a consistently good place to make money in the wrestling business. If he’s not the guy they want toppling the Rusev legacy, it’ll be more than likely a trip back to clowning with guys like Adam Rose and Damien Sandow.
I hope he wins, I genuinely like Jack Swagger and he’s been catching guys in that ankle lock in some fun ways lately. Will it happen? Probably not, the plans for Rusev are too big to squander it on the first man they’ve generated significant heat from.
A List of People I’d Like to See Roman Reigns Wrestle Other Than Randy Orton, Kane, and Triple H
Sheamus, Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, Bad News Barrett, Alberto Del Rio, Heath Slater, Those Two Guys From The Ascension, Vince McMahon, El Torito, Sting, Brock Lesnar, Disco Inferno, The Nexus, Ragnaros the Firelord.
You know what match fatigue is? It’s when Randy Orton hits an RKO through an announcer table and I’m still satiated to the point of numbness. I have watched Randy Orton fight Roman Reigns so many times over the last month. How the hell is this your top face's SummerSlam match? I could buy tickets to this match in Jacksonville on a Wednesday afternoon. Oh, but it gets better! They’re teasing some Kane interference! Everybody loves Kane interference! Especially if you hate pacing or the idea of time changing as it moves along.
Seriously, why is Cesaro a heel if he’s not fighting Roman Reigns. That’s an honest question. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I get that this isn’t Reigns’ pay-per-view but I promise you that everybody on earth that matters would be far more excited for a Reigns/Cesaro match than a Reigns/Orton match. This is nothing to do with Orton’s generally excellent work, but lazy booking can only fool the people who think for so long. It just makes me mad because I know I’m going to end up seeing these two fight each other at least three more times after SummerSlam, and you can hold me to that.
I Sorta Get Why Rollins is Heel Now
So there was a moment in this match where old-man Chris Jericho hit a clothesline on Seth Rollins and Rollins’ head skipped across the ring mat like it was bounced across a lake. Suddenly it all makes sense. I remember seeing Rollins kill himself in some crazy bumps with The Shield, the first match against Evolution particularly stands out with Rollins casting himself over a balcony into a number of hands doing their damndest to keep his flesh and blood from the cold metal floors. A few weeks ago we saw him land hard and angry onto the ribbing metal posts of a horizontally suspended metal ladder. It was the sort of bump 67-year old Seth Rollins will look back on when his hips start acting up.
But seriously, Seth Rollins made it look like Chris Jericho rocked his world. It’s a rare combination to sell like that while also taking a whole ton of real-life punishment, and Rollins fits the bill exactly. He’ll never have the mic skills, but Rollins makes it his civic duty to scrunch up his face in excruciating pain.
Oh, also Bray Wyatt showed up to beat up Jericho. No this feud still doesn’t have any context, thanks for asking though.
Yes, We’ve Closed Two Raws in a Row With Promos
So last week we saw Paul Heyman give the best promo of all-time to cap off the show. This week we saw Stephanie McMahon take the PG rating as far as it could go with a solid smack to the face and a very memorable “AT SUMMERSLAM I’LL MAKE YOU MY BITCH.”
Stephanie McMahon vs Brie Bella. It’s happening. I cannot wait.
This may be because I’m a bonafide Steph mark, but I really can’t see this going poorly. Brie will be the most over she’s ever been when she (probably?) takes down Stephanie in the ring, and if we can leave kayfabe alone for a minute, I think we can all appreciate just how altruistic she’s being. Stephanie is not a wrestler, but she’s willing to get into the ring to help elevate one of her performers in the most selfless way she possibly can. A real-life executive who’s giving everything she has to the mechanics of the company, and still willing to put someone over with her own body. That’s a truly great heel right there, and I think someday Steph will get the credit she so deeply deserves. It’s scary enough in that ring with a microphone, it’s much, much more frightening to lose flat on your back.
Now she’ll probably win just to make this column hilariously wrongheaded, in which case I’ll fall for the Queendom even harder.