A Brief Love Letter To The Man We Call Triple H
So, I really like Triple H. For as successful as he’s been at being a giant denim-bound a**hole his entire career, I feel his current evil-COO/chiding Connecticut dad might be some of the best work of his career. Here he at the top of the show, flanked by two lesser heels who will never dream of eclipsing his prickishness, relentlessly putting over the WWE Network to the point that the crowd actually starts chanting the $9.99 pricetag right along with him.
I love this. It’s the sort of thing that would be absolutely cringe-inducing in lesser hands, but Trips is self-aware enough and emotionally secure enough that it becomes one of the best segments on the show. Way better than John Cena plugging the network with his usual now-or-never moroseness. Triple H loves wrestling because it lets him be an ass in public, those who embrace such privileges will always thrive.
And Now, the Best Kane Has Looked in Months
Maybe it’s because I was at the show, but the Kane/Roman Reigns match felt like a total burner. I’ve gotten uncomfortably used to watching Kane stumble around the ring waiting to eat a finisher, but dude actually looked scary here, capturing the brutality he’s been going for ever since they put him back in the mask. The chokeslam through the table was appropriately devastating, so were the stairs spots, I was actually kinda bummed that the finish was a Reigns spear in the middle of the ring because, well, Kane actually worked like a demon today.
The match was, of course, was punctuated with Kane, back turned to camera, solemnly taking off his mask, handing it to Stephanie and walking silently out of frame.
This must be teasing some sort of repackaging which is great, because for a guy who’s been previously incarnated as The Authority’s big bad secret weapon, he hasn’t been given much to do other than to lose on Raw. I wouldn’t mind seeing an independent Kane, free to be a monster on his own terms, similar to the free reign Bray Wyatt has been enjoying. But honestly I’m hoping for a return to some of his more comedic phases, Kane has always been a performer who’s had an easier time making me laugh than making me cry.
Also it needs to be said that after this match, as Roman Reigns was returning to the tunnel, he looked RIGHT AT my girlfriend who was (of course,) holding a massive Reigns sign replete with stenciled hearts. He waved at her, and I felt legitimate fear.
Damien Sandow Makes it into the Column for the First Time, but Only Because he’s Getting Body Slammed by Mark Henry
So I’ve been avoiding writing about Sandow’s current gimmick of dressing up in some cartoonishly heelish outfit for a throwaway five-minute segment on a wrestling show that’s already about an hour too long, but he actually got a legitimate moment last night when he arrived in Austin’s Frank Erwin Center as an Oklahoma Sooner to get freshly body-slammed by a returning Mark Henry. Henry is, of course, a resident of Austin, and this isn’t even the first time he’s wrestled Damien Sandow in the Frank Erwin Center (I know, ‘cause I was there,) so there’s a pretty good chance that this segment is absolutely meaningless and Henry will return to the retired part of his semi-retirement.
I do miss Mark Henry though, the company is a brighter place when he’s around, and he actually did a wrestling move last night. It wasn’t some body-saving Big Show knockout punch, he delivered a World’s Strongest Slam, and I miss watching him deliver World’s Strongest Slams. If we could cut out the weekly Fandango segment and replace it with Mark Henry doing World’s Strongest Slams, I think the whole world would be okay with that.
Ugh, it’s a Beat The Clock Challenge, But Yay! It’s a Super Aggressive Ambrose/Del Rio Match!
Beat The Clock matches are perhaps the silliest of silly gimmick competitions, and they represent the epitome of wrestling following its own weird logic down the rabbit hole. The premise is this; two people have separate matches with two other people, the first two people have to win their match, and are trying to do so faster than each other. The two people they’re fighting have no vested interest in the meta-game going on across the ring, which is why anonymous flotsam like Alberto Del Rio got booked to facilitate the competition.
If this sounds confusing, that’s because I’m trying to describe a deeply unfair, entirely illogical set-up that’s so stupid it might convince you that wrestling is predetermined or something.
Anyway, enough about that, we need to talk about Alberto Del Rio utterly destroying Dean Ambrose. One of the highest compliments you can pay a performer is saying their offense looks like it hurts, but Del Rio consistently makes it look like it stings. The way he coils around Ambrose’s injured shoulder, or blasts the side of his head with an ugly kick, this was a Beat The Clock match that went 15 minutes, and most of it was spent watching Dean trying desperately to keep his body from imploding in on himself. It was the sort of depravity that reminds you why Alberto Del Rio was in the title picture not too long ago, the physicality of his work speaks for itself.
Ambrose, who did a predictably great job selling throughout the match, eventually stole the win with a backdoor Dirty Deeds, and is well on his way to a potential showstopper with Seth Rollins at Summerslam, but Del Rio was the one reminding everyone what the WWE would be sacrificing if they let him walk.
Cesaro is Not a Jobber, Godd***it
Cesaro isn’t going to have a match at Summerslam, which is fine. They’re retooling his character for a post-Heyman world, and there seems to be a face-turn looming. I’m totally fine with giving him some time off TV to refuel, but what I categorically don’t want to see is Cesaro losing meaningless matches to help progress someone else’s storyline with the Miz.
Okay look, I genuinely like The Miz, and Cesaro was jobbing out to Dolph Ziggler who is legitimately one of the best performers in the country, but a few months ago I saw Cesaro BODY SLAM THE BIG SHOW at WRESTLEMANIA. THERE IS CERTAIN TALENT YOU DON’T USE AS A STOPGAP. IF YOU PLACE CESARO IN A SPOT THAT SHOULD BE OCCUPIED BY ZACK RYDER THE WHOLE WORLD CRIES.
Yay I Get To Write About the Dust Brothers! Boo it’s Against Rybaxel Again!
I’ve not been writing about the Brothers Dust lately because they haven’t been doing anything in the ring. We’ve been getting some amazing pre-packaged video promos, and I am the exact sort of fan that loves the idea of Goldust and Stardust rambling on about “finding the cosmic key,” but this is a wrestling show, and wrestling is generally how characters this fun get over. So when it was announced that tonight we’d be seeing the Dusties finally return to the card I was pretty stoked, because after a weeks-long absence there’s absolutely NO WAY the company would have them fighting Rybaxel again. I mean, they’ve been exclusively fighting Rybaxel for months now, it would be both silly and unfortunate to rehash something that never deserved to be a trend in the first place!
So yeah I almost fell out of my chair when Rybaxel’s music hit.
To be fair it was a fun match, and Stardust’s brand new move-set since putting on the face paint continues to be pretty impressive. I could watch that cartwheel, sprawled-out DDT thing over and over again, and I really loved the way they stalked each other after the match.
But DUDE COME ON HOW ARE WE WATCHING THIS MATCH AGAIN. THE WWE HAS SOMETHING GENUINELY COOL ON THEIR HANDS AND HAVE OPTED TO TREAD WATER IN THE MOST VULGAR WAY POSSIBLE. WHY DON’T WE HAVE AN USOS/DUST BROTHERS TITLE MATCH AT SUMMERSLAM? WHY ARE RYBAXEL THE HARBINGERS OF MEDIOCRITY? HOW CAN THE WWE BE SO BRILLIANT AND SO CLUELESS ON A NIGHT-TO-NIGHT BASIS?
I Still Have Nothing to Say about Wyatt/Jericho
Last night Jericho beat Luke Harper by disqualification when Bray Wyatt interfered, and I’m pretty sure the Wyatt family leads the entire company in DQ finishes. Jericho beat Rowan on Smackdown, which means both of Bray’s henchmen will be banned from ringside at their match at SummerSlam, opening the avenue for Jericho to put him over in the most thorough, victorious way possible. This is a good thing, I like Bray Wyatt and despite managerial missteps I still think he’s one of the best talents in the company, and I’m sure Jericho couldn’t be happier to job out to one of the most unique performers I’ve personally ever seen.
That being said, this feud has never gotten off the ground. We still don’t really know why Wyatt targeted Jericho, and our questions are usually met with “well nobody knows what motivates a crazy guy like Bray Wyatt!” Which is horses***, because we’ve seen Bray explain in pinpoint detail why he wanted to destroy John Cena or win the world championship. The aimlessness of his promos lately seem to imply that not even Wyatt has a full grasp of his storyline, and is left rehashing that old apocalyptic word salad to diminishing returns.
But I am excited to see Bray Wyatt win, just like I’m excited to see him move on to something else.
The Crowd Wants Face Bo Dallas
So nothing new here, Bo Dallas fought R-Truth and then they beat each other after the bell. Nobody gave Dallas a microphone, which will always make me sad. But I will say that Bo came out to a pretty huge pop. People were standing, people were doing his sideways thumbs up thing, you got the sense that Bo is playing his weird blend of stock-photo optimism and flat-out insidiousness so well that the universe might actually prefer to cheer for him.
Then again, Austin also chanted R-Truth’s “WHAT’S UP?!” so maybe we were all just overeager.
Dean Ambrose is a Treasure
As part of the aforementioned stupidity of the Beat The Clock Challenge, Seth Rollins was facing off against Heath Slater. Slater is one of the most consistent jobbers in the company, so the whole storyline here is that The Authority rigged the challenge to stick the person they want to see win with the lowest of low-card guys. That’s great, because I always love it when the company makes references to their own internal kayfabe rankings, and Heath Slater makes for a good sacrificial lamb.
But the real story here is Dean Ambrose, who saunters out about halfway through the match to do absolutely everything in his power to fuck with Rollins. He takes the Money in the Bank briefcase away from Rollins’ corner and casually pops it open, he munches on some popcorn before dumping the rest inside. Later on he’ll put on JBL’s cowboy hat and strut around the announcer’s table before stuffing that into the briefcase as well. Rollins is so incensed at the defilement that he ends up getting backdoor rolled-up by Slater for the victory.
There’s something that wrestling writer Brandon Stroud says to highlight performers like Ambrose. They “play their characters walking.” A lot of guys stop start breaking their gimmicks as soon as they finish their entrance and get into the ring. Not Ambrose, that dude embodies the lunatic fringe every moment he’s on camera. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the mic, in the ring, sitting in on commentary, or just causing chaos elsewhere, I don’t think there’s anyone else who has a better understanding of how to play their character. The more he demonstrates that, the more it looks like Ambrose will end up being the brightest star from the Shield breakup.
Stephanie’s Pedigrees Are Looking Pretty Good
We close the show again with a promo for the upcoming match between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon(!)
A couple things here.
- This might be the first instance of a warranted post-retirement CM Punk chant. As Brie was going through a list of names that have been screwed over by Stephanie (and by the kayfabe company in general,) the crowd revved up a particularly violent CM PUNK, CM PUNK, CM PUNK. Usually those come out of boredom or disrespect but here it was actually put in context.
- I think I’m actually rooting for Stephanie in this match. She’s so thoroughly a better talker than Brie will ever be, and despite her significant mean-streak, she actually makes some good points about the downfalls of Brie’s character. She’s not going to win of course, and as I’ve written before that shows a deeply altruistic side of real-life Steph, but yeah I’m rolling with the McMahons on this one.
- That Pedigree, damn.
For a show that lacked John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, Paige and A.J, all you really needed to give me was Stephanie McMahon in cowboy boots Pedegree-ing twin sisters