Welcome to Extra Mustard’s brand new Monday Night Raw column! I’m Luke Winkie, and each week I’ll be bringing you the hottest takes from the world’s biggest wrestling show. We’ll be smart, savvy, and hopefully not indulge too much into nerd rage or fantasy booking. Our first edition looks back to last night’s Raw in Montreal, where Bret Hart punched a man dressed up as Bret Hart.
The Burgeoning Roman Reigns/John Cena Feud is the Thing John Cena Needs
I am fairly certain this is the first RAW opening segment that’s ever featured a top-tier babyface superstar going off-script to acknowledge “CENA SUCKS!” chants with a “YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT CENA SUCKS WHEN ROMAN REIGNS IS HERE.”
I’m not gonna lie, that made me pretty happy.
Of course Roman was immediately interrupted by Kane, the official placeholder villain of the WWE, and they had a brief skirmish in the latest of a long string of attempts to legitimize Kane as a Big Scary Guy even though everyone in the entire company beats him every week (including Roman at a Wrestlemania squash.)
But after Roman interrupted a Cena interview later on it seems pretty clear that the primary storyline going into Fatal Fourway title match at Battleground will be the increasing rift between John Cena and Roman Reigns. Which is great, because I think the world is due for another “angry 30-year olds vs. middle schoolers” feud. It makes me think of the Cena/CM Punk battles from a few years ago. I love that the show ends with Reigns alternatively staring down and lifting Cena’s fist in the air. The rivalry might not be as toxic as the Cena feuds in years past, but if done right, it should be pretty memorable.
Now with the solidifying rumors that Brock Lesnar is going to be returning soon to carry the company til next year’s Wrestlemania, this whole thing might be a wash and forgotten about in a couple weeks, but there was that moment during Money in the Bank where Roman cleared Cena from the ring. Right now that still doesn’t feel like a throwaway moment. As long as John has been on top we’ve been waiting for a torch passing, Roman just might be that guy.Rowan and Harper vs. The Usos is Fun, But it Also Shows How Weak the Tag Division is Right Now
At Money in the Bank we had a great tag-team title bout between the lesser Wyatts and the Usos, which was chock full of all the superkicks and between-the-ropes dives you could ask for. The Usos retained, and we were ostensibly done with the feud. But today we had that exact same match, this time with the Wyatts winning, and at Battleground we will almost certainly see it again, and the Usos will almost certainly retain.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that right? Great matches are great matches and we all like watching those dudes wrestle. But for a tag-team division that should be exciting and colorful, there’s just not a whole lot going on right now. The Real Americans are broken up, one of the Matadores is injured, Rybaxel are too boring to hold the gold, and Goldust and Stardust are wrapped up in their own storyline and are too babyface to challenge the Usos. So we’re left with a rematch, out of necessity more than creativity. It’s particularly weird considering you have a team like The Ascension that’s been squashing no-names down in NXT for months and seem particularly groomed to feud with the Usos. It’d certainly be more interesting than to watch Erick Rowan take a turnbuckle dive for the fourth time in a row.
Divas matches already have a hard time getting over, that’s a much larger conversation that the WWE will have to confront at some point. What we can say, is that it’s best not to stack the deck against your female talent, and ideas like a “one hand tied behind your back match” isn’t even Sandow worthy. I get the whole idea that The Authority are putting Nikki Bella in increasingly unwinnable situations to punish her for her sister quitting the company(???), but you know what doesn’t make for good television? A solid two minutes of a referee tying down Nikki Bella’s hand in front of a boozy group of Montrealers. This is one of those segments that literally never had a chance, and I think the writers knew that deep down. So thank you WWE, for dedicating some of your marquee show to Alicia Fox limply tossing around a barely restrained Bella twin in front of chiding, verging on acidic “BO-RING” chants.
Look I get it, you need to do whatever you can to get the unwashed masses to care about women’s wrestling, but you can’t underestimate the transformative power of women doing cool wrestling things. Nikki Bella hasn’t done a cool wrestling thing in months, if we were used to Nikki kicking ass every week, maybe we’d have some sympathy. It’s weird to say, but the WWE might actually be underestimating their fans.Wait, Fandango is Really Good on Commentary
So the match, a fun, violent romp that served as a vehicle for Alberto Del Rio to kick off Dolph Ziggler’s head a couple times. That was good, but the highlight was really Fandango who was sitting in on commentary. Fandango has been given so little to do over the last few months that I actually forgot how weird he was. He refuses to refer to himself in anything other than the third-person, he constantly has his hands steepled, he calls himself the Fonz of the WWE. And then, apropos of nothing, he climbs on top of the announcer’s table and starts dancing, putting Ziggler in a stunned stupor and allowing Del Rio to get the win. That’s beautiful stuff. Maybe if the WWE allowed Fandango to be a lunatic more, people would start liking him again.
My favorite match of the night was probably this mid-card burner between Randy Orton and Dean Ambrose. Ambrose came out with a worked injury on his shoulder to justify him getting pinned to an RKO, but not before Orton bumped absolutely crazy for him. Seriously I’ve never seen Dean look so violent, and it’s really great to have an engaged Orton back in the company. Randy’s last title run was one of the most frustrating things the company has done in quite a while, but after he busted his head open at Money in the Bank and delivered one of the most memorable RKOs ever to Cesaro off the ladder, he’s been on fire. I really hope this is setting the stage for a TLC match at Battleground or something, and I hope that match ends with whatever Ambrose was planning on doing with all those chairs.
The Bret Hart bit was mildly amusing, but let’s not force that dude to actually wrestle in that thing. If we’re talking kayfabe, him getting knocked out by an old ass Hart was punishment enough.I’m Happy for Bray Wyatt, but I’m Sad for The Miz
The Miz, a former Wrestlemania main-eventer, is currently jobbing to Chris Jericho so Chris Jericho can job to Bray Wyatt. There’s nothing wrong with that equation, but it still makes me sad. If you watch some of the more feature-y stuff on the WWE Network, you’ll see that Miz is one of the biggest wrestling nerds in the universe, and to have some bad storyline decisions and a nasty concussion completely sabotage a career like his makes me kinda sad.
That being said, it was still fun watching him tap out to the Walls of Jericho.
Bray Wyatt cut a promo, saying much of the same stuff he said about John Cena during their months-long battle. False prophets, saviors, etc, but instead of making a bunch of self-serious retorts like Cena, Jericho came back with a very Jericho “SHUT THE HELL UP.” I don’t totally know how I feel about this feud, but it is pretty cool that a guy like Chris Jericho is back for a few weeks to elevate Wyatt, he still needs that big win over a top babyface to propel him into true main-event status, which is something he hasn’t gotten in the last few pay-per-views. A clean victory over Jericho might make Bray into the world-conquering antihero he believes he is, or it might teeter the Wyatt Family into top heel contention. Considering Batista is out of the company and was the last everyday wrestler to get legit heat, that’s not a bad thing.
Bo Dallas is perhaps the evilest human being in all of wrestling right now. I mean that with no irony. I’ve never seen a heel who thinks he’s a face, and matching him up with El Torito was just beautiful, beautiful booking. To see Dallas drop to his knees to face off with someone half his size, win, and then jumping to his feet screaming “I DID IT” fuels some pure, nuclear hatred. He’s the perfect blend of audacity and stupidity and I love every moment of it.I Didn’t See the Paige A.J. Lee Tag Team, But I Like it A Lot
When A.J. won the title off Paige last week I thought it was a natural set up to a match at Battleground. Something like that is still probably happening, but instead we’re getting a much slower burn. I love how Paige bounds out first and grabs a microphone to introduce A.J. in the most overcompensating way possible. They also work well together in the ring, and some flashy, hot-tag offense from arguably the two best divas in the company is exactly what’s lacking in the Nikki Bella storyline.
More importantly, this is going to help Paige get over. She’s had a decent debut on the main roster, but it felt that people who weren’t familiar with NXT never got the chance to really get to know her. But more mic time with A.J. and a burgeoning, long-term feud is just what she needed. I mean, who wouldn’t be into a massive blow-off between the two at Summerslam?
The end of this show was exactly what you expected. John Cena got Seth Rollins in a STF, and right before he was going to tap the flames when up and Kane went out to try and incapacitate Cena. Rollins tried to cash in the briefcase, was interrupted by Ambrose, Roman Reigns showed up, etc, etc, etc.
Interferences are supposed to be exciting, they’re supposed to signal the random possibilities of the WWE Universe. But at this point whenever Kane shows up you know that nothing cool or new is going to happen. Without Kane’s presence, either Rollins or Cena would score a clean victory over each other, which would be a significant development that would drastically alter the emotions and motivations of the characters. They even hint at it in a pre-match interview where Cena puts over Rollins as someone he considers a genuine rival. But naturally the WWE needs to save the important stuff for the pay-per-view. Instead you get Kane, who does something “crazy,” but really just reinforces the status quo. Thanks Kane, you’re like the rallying call of mediocrity.