Luke Winkie
Tuesday September 30th, 2014

The Right Guy is getting the Hot Shot to the Top

We left last week with John Cena callously, emotionlessly beating The Authority in a wrestling match. It felt like the final confirmation of a company that was simply out of ideas after watching three of its top guys (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns,) miss time to injury or other, messier endeavors. But Vince McMahon often makes his best decisions with his back against a wall. Enter Dean Ambrose.

It’s funny how Ambrose - a scrawny, rat-faced kid from Cincinnati who was running with the taller, beefier likes of Reigns and Seth Rollins - has become easily the most electrifying guy on the show, but some people were born for this job. Last night Raw was his show, from the hilariously nonchalant kiss-off offered to a Triple H-coddled Seth Rollins, or the impromptu giveaway of WWE merch in the middle of the ring, and the ice-cold retort to the would-be security that came to get things back under control, (“weren’t you guys Rosebuds last week?”) The plot was simple. Dean Ambrose continues his torment of Seth Rollins because that’s what Dean Ambrose does, it’s been the theme since The Shield broke up and somehow it’s not worn thin. That’s all to do with his charisma. Ambrose doesn’t rage, he keeps his acid behind a thin, coolly unhinged operandi. He’s the lunatic fringe, but he’s always in control. Frankly it reminds me of a young Randy Orton, long before his hunger was satiated. The culmination to this whole bit was Ambrose returning the Money in the Bank briefcase he stole from Rollins, only for him to pop it open and get covered with green goo. It was a very PG, very silly ending, but when Ambrose flashed that shit-eating grin I couldn’t help but graciously mark out.

Dean Ambrose won’t ever be much more than a B+ in the ring, and he’ll always be looking up to the behemoths WWE routinely pushes; it makes you think that once the rest of the company gets healthy, Ambrose won’t be headlining Raw for a good long while. And honestly? That’s pretty unfortunate. It’s been a summer of stopgaps for world’s biggest wrestling show, and Ambrose is the only thing that’s felt like genuine gold. We need to cherish these few moments where he’s treated like the top guy, because it certainly won’t last forever.

An End in Sight for the World’s Most Overrated Feud?

Look, I’ve liked what Dolph and Miz have done with the IC title over the last couple months. They’re both good workers, and Damien Sandow playing Miz’s stunt double represents the only time WWE has been genuinely funny in months. All that being said, a feud never becomes great off of one good idea, and a Triple Threat match that ends with Cesaro upper-cutting Miz so Ziggler could get the cover seems like as good of an ending as we’re going to find.

Firstly, that opens the door to a Ziggler/Cesaro feud, which should be great because if there’s anyone who can make Ziggler bump with violent, shockingly strong offense, it’s Cesaro. Secondly, this lead to a great moment after the match where Miz whined to Triple H, and was promptly son’d by the Chief Operating Officer with some “don’t you ever waste my time again” shit. Seriously, we were at peak Trips last night, that boozy, semi-aloof, drunk-uncle-on-a-cruise-ship Hunter that I love so very, very much.

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So, I guess this means this feud is over, because Miz has lost twice in a row to Dolph Ziggler. Part of me knows that these two are 100 percent going to have another segment next week, and that sucks, because this should’ve been the final nail in the coffin.

Are We Going to See Bo Dallas Working Face?

So out stomps Mark Henry, who previously teased a heel turn last week on Main Event. He’s doing the teary I-failed-you thing we saw the night after his PPV loss to Rusev, but is quickly interrupted by that plastic-mold Bo Dallas smile who informs a man twice his size that he just needed to “bo-lieve” in himself. They have a match, where Henry flops Dallas around like a ragdoll, but eventually loses after Dallas rallies a comeback into a Bo-Dog for the pinfall.

Whatever, no big deal right? Good to see Bo Dallas is winning matches again. But then a few minutes later our man is giving a victory interview to Renee Young backstage… before she expertly ducks out of the way as Mark Henry unleashes an absurdly, almost uncomfortable prop-laden beat down. Bo is left unconscious, and Henry’s heel turn becomes very, very real.

In essence, that should make Bo Dallas a face, which is interesting, because it’s hard to imagine a universe where Bo Dallas works as a people’s champ. I mean, the dude’s gimmick is corny inspirational speeches, how’s that going to work out of anything more than pure, undiluted irony? I don’t want to live in a world where Bo’s shtick becomes draped in Cena levels of earnestness, that’d be a classic example of WWE boiling everything down into a generalized common-denominator.

Meanwhile, a storyline where Bo Dallas returns every week to deliver an inspiring speech to Mark Henry, only to get brutalized again, would be absolutely fantastic.

Hey, They Can’t Get Everything Wrong

Nikki Bella cuts a terrible promo on Brie Bella, which ends with Brie getting put in a handicap bout against Eva Marie and Cameron which might literally be the most boring wrestling match of all time. Brie wins, because faces in handicap matches against Total Divas jobbers usually win, and Nikki makes a mean face. Also Brie has new music, which starts with an autotune-drenched “BriiIIeeEe MoDeee” and it is awful in all the ways you expect.

ONE THING THOUGH. Apparently Cameron and Eva Marie are now tagging as “Girl Bye,” and that is pretty awesome. Eva Marie might not be able to simulate the slightest hint of human emotion, but at least she’s in Girl Bye.

The Age of Luke Harper

There seemed to be more talking than wrestling on this Raw, which is good because it seems like the WWE is finally trying to reset some storylines ahead of the final push to the end of 2014. One of the more noticeable absences has been the Wyatt Family, who didn’t have a match on the Night of Champions card, and were completely absent last week. This sort of changed on Monday, the Wyatts didn’t make a live appearance, but they did show off a couple of awesome looking video promos with Bray Wyatt doing his fire-spitting dark-preacher thing in a push for his fantastic sidekick Luke Harper.

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Harper, if you don’t know, is probably the best pure wrestler out of the Wyatt stable. A humongous, frightening dude, who’s still able to glide around the ring and chuck superkicks like a cruiserweight. He’ll powerbomb you, and still dive through the ropes like nothing. He’s the hairier, more interesting Sheamus, and from the tone of the promo videos, it looks like he’ll finally be getting a solo push out from under the (understandably strong) shadow of Bray.

This felt like an inevitability. Harper has the look, he can talk, and he can go. WWE knows talent when they’ve got it, and Harper’s separation from the background is what’s best for business. It also puts in place the similarly inevitable Bray/Harper student vs. master feud that I’ve been fantasy booking since at least the beginning of the year.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Erick Rowan, the sheep-masked hoss who’s played “the guy in the stable who takes the pinfall” role for the Wyatts thus far. A fine worker, sure, but it’s no secret he doesn’t carry the same star power as his countrymen. Do these vignettes mark the moment where Rowan is slowly deemphasized back down to developmental? Who knows, but it’s clear that Harper and Bray are the icons going forward.

Can We Just Skip to the Part Where he Loses to John Cena, Please

I’m officially tired of Rusev.

It’s not his fault. Lana is great, and he’s a solid in-ring performer. I don’t even mind all the baseline U.S.A. vs. the evil Russians stuff because cartoony wrestling tropes are always a nice respite for a few minutes every week.

It’s just that I don’t care about who he’s fighting anymore. The fix is in. We know how this ends. Rusev is not going to lose to Big Show, just like how he isn’t going to lose to Mark Henry, or Jack Swagger, or hell, Zack Ryder. It’d be one thing if the story came with a curve ball but, nope, Big Show loves America, and Rusev hates America. The table is once again set for the upstart to feast on the veteran, as he slowly works his way to the top of the ladder.

And then what? Rusev loses at WrestleMania and is never heard from again? These long-term undefeated streaks only end in one way, and that way is a dancing gimmick.

Yes, This Was Actually a Match on Raw

Reason number 1,052,529 Raw shouldn’t be a three hour show: the penultimate match of the night was between some guy who doesn’t have anything else to do, and Miz’s stunt double.

A Boring Finish, But We’re Getting There

This was a genuinely entertaining episode of Raw. Ambrose is a star, and his burgeoning, reluctant alliance with John Cena is a fascinating subplot. We’ve been teased a Luke Harper push, some Bo Dallas material, and given a surprisingly well-spoken Seth Rollins. Our headliner was a tag-match between Ambrose/Cena and Kane/Randy Orton that explicitly featured Orton saying things like “shit man, didn’t we do this last week?” Which only partially excuses the WHY YES RANDY, WE DID DO THIS LAST WEEK. THANKS.

We end with disqualification by-way-of Seth Rollins, and then Cena and Ambrose taking turn smashing Mr. Money in the Bank’s face in. The heels recover, RKO our heroes, and end the show standing tall and looking mean. It was a subpar finish to what was otherwise a pretty solid wrestling show. Given the blithering nothingness of the product lately, that’s a step in the right direction. The antidote was right in front of them.

Raw is Ambrose.

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