By Luke Winkie
September 16, 2014

A Cena Heel Turn is in Play, I Repeat, a Cena Heel Turn is in Play

The culmination of tonight’s show was a confrontation between John Cena and Paul Heyman. If you remember last week, you’ll know that John Cena made an unpredictably heelish proclamation that if Brock Lesnar didn’t show up on Raw this week, he would instead fight Paul Heyman. You know, the fat, bald, 49-year old dude with two kids who really didn’t do anything particularly evil other than representing the guy that beat him up at SummerSlam. So we open the show with a dueling promo, Paul Heyman gets put in a headlock and dragged to Cena’s locker room, and we get a rare winning moment of WWE comedy, when Cena inexplicably asks The Great Khali in Punjabi to guard the door. Best moment? JBL saying “John Cena knows Punjab?” Um, it’s Punjabi, not Punjab, you know what? Never mind.

But this was a capitalized Serious Moment. It was John Cena, the guy who goes on Wounded Warrior tours and Make-a-Wish fulfillments, clearly terrorizing an innocent man. It was a tippy-top babyface in full-on bully mode. Maybe this doesn’t shock you, because if you’re paying attention you’ve noticed that Cena has had plenty of moments of cruelty throughout his career. But on this night, Paul Heyman actually called him out on the hypocricy.

He was right. He had driven Cena to a place of recklessness he’s never entertained. The kicker was that ugly shove he gave Heyman at the end of his speech, teetering his body out of the ring, and summoning Brock Lesnar from the tunnel.

Does this mean that John Cena has truly given in to hate? Probably not. It makes a lot of sense that this is just the set up to some redemption angle where Cena rediscovers his true self, but I can say right now that I really hope he goes over Lesnar at Night of Champions, which is something I never thought I’d ever write. Why? Well, the only way Cena can beat Brock Lesnar in kayfabe is by becoming the embodiment of pure wrestling evil. A vicious, bloodthirsty, sinister Cena would be one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history, on par with Hogan’s heel turn or something like that. I don’t think it will happen, but it’s in play right now. That’s insane! We could be soon living in a world where John Cena is a Paul Heyman guy! The hammer has never been this close to dropping.

Send Kane Somewhere He Can Learn To Be Interesting Again, Please

Remember when Kane put the mask back on a couple months ago? It was played up as the DEMON UNLEASHED with a brief, violent feud with Daniel Bryan that involved numerous Tombstones into nontraditional surfaces. Bryan then beat him at Extreme Rules, and Kane has lost every single match he’s been a part of since then.

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Seriously though, I don’t think Kane has won a single match in 2014. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so.

I thought this was going to change, because we had a segment a few weeks ago where Kane disgruntledly removed the mask in front of Stephanie like a sad, seven-foot puppy dog, and stormed out of the room. “Hooray!” I thought. “We’re going to get a repackaged Kane! God does he need it!”

But, nah. Nothing changed. He now wasn’t wearing a mask, and still constantly losing. Last night he had a legitimately entertaining clash with Chris Jericho that featured Jericho selling straight-arm punches like they were category-five winds, which he still lost. Kane’s head bounced off an exposed turnbuckle, Jericho got the cover, Jericho looks strong going into his NoC bout with Randy Orton.

I don’t want to watch Kane lose anymore. Not that I think he’s getting shafted, I just don’t care. You have a future Hall of Famer, he’s the fucking Undertaker’s brother, FIND SOMETHING FOR HIM TO DO. IT SERIOUSLY CAN’T BE THIS HARD.

Please WWE, Don’t Stop Bo-Lieving

I’ve read some unsavory rumors around the dirt sheets that Vince McMahon has turned pretty cold on Bo Dallas. Naturally this makes me upset, because Bo Dallas is great, but whatever. Paying attention to dirt sheets is never a positive usage of time. Here’s the thing though, his feud with Jack Swagger has been legitimately awesome. He told Jack Swagger that his failures against Rusev has an American child aspiring to be Vladimir Putin when he grows up. You can’t teach that, it’s absurdist wrestling poetry at its very, very best.

But here we are, a 15-minute match between Swagger and Dallas which seemed to serve as the blow-off for a storyline that seemed to be just getting warmed up.

Look I’m not at all against showing a feature-match on Raw. Technically that’s what the show is supposed to be about. But Bo Dallas tapping out to a Patriot Lock? Bo was getting over! He might be the funniest guy on the roster! Why squander that momentum for a dude whose only moment of relevance over the last couple of years was a jingoistic face-turn and some mediocre Rusev matches? If the rumors are true and Bo Dallas is dead in the water on the main roster, it’s going to be one of the most inexplicable aborts on an angle you’ll ever see.

All-In on Nikki

Like every other wrestling fan in the universe, I’ve taken some great misanthropic pleasure in dissing the Bella storyline over the last couple of weeks. The initial shock of Nikki’s heel turn was great back at SummerSlam, but the twins are so bad at communicating relatable feelings on the microphone that it makes Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots look like the end of Hamlet. Last week Jerry Springer was brought on as a “mediator,” because Vince McMahon has giant green dollar signs instead of pupils.

But last night’s hype was quite simple. A tag match between Brie/A.J. Lee (Brlee?) and Nikki/Paige (Nikkige? Yeah nevermind.) It was your standard affair. A.J. actually never gets tagged in (probably because she’s not… at all… involved in the feud,) Paige’s new-ish reversed DDT thing looks awesome, and Nikki cheats a lot.

My favorite thing was after the match, when Nikki hoisted her sister onto her shoulders and did this torture-rack backbreaker that made her look like King Kong Bundy or something. Seriously, you shouldn’t underestimate her size, Nikki can look big and mean when she wants. And you know what? Brie’s promos have been just atrocious enough that I’m riding all the way with Big Hoss Nikki.

A Match That You Started Forgetting While You Were Watching It

There are absolutely no storyline purposes for Big Show to be wrestling Bray Wyatt. Now, there was nothing wrong with the wrestling, Big Show has looked more mobile in recent weeks, and Bray was bringing those momentum body-blocks that we all love, but, seriously, why did this match exist? Is there a Wyatt/Big Show feud down the pipe? Show and Mark Henry had been fighting Rowan and Harper lately, but Bray was mostly doing his own thing. Let’s not forget, Bray Wyatt totally squashed Big Show like five months ago, but now we’re getting storm-the-sage DQ finishes? Is the WWE eating itself?

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I always know I’m going to be disappointed in a Wyatt match if one very specific thing happens. In the matches he wins, Bray throws that running cross-body takedown, and immediately shifts into the Sister Abigail. In the matches he loses by DQ, Bray throws that running cross-body takedown, and then just kinda wanders around the ring for a bit. As soon as the latter happened against Big Show I literally left the room. It’s like the WWE uses that to tell the hyper-attentive fans to take a bathroom break.

The Best Match of the Night was also Entirely Inconsequential

So it turns out, if you throw the Usos, Sheamus, Cesaro, Goldust and Stardust into a ring together, you get a featherweight, liquid-smooth tag match that makes everyone look great. There’s no real dramatic justification other than the Dusties wanting the Tag belt and Cesaro wanting the U.S. belt, but, man, these guys can go.

Every once in a while, you need to step back and appreciate that a man the size of Sheamus can fly through the air like that. Dude does it every time he’s in the ring, too. I know his character is the most infuriating, please-turn-me-heel uber-masculine nonsense, but let’s do our best to focus on the wrestling.

Did They Mess Up The Booking?

So this... was weird.

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins have a long drawn-out wrestling match with no outside interference or stipulations. They go back on forth, with Rollins mostly sticking to his high-wire oh-god-that-looks-like-it-hurts top-rope stuff, and Roman doing Samoan drops until it’s time to hit his finisher. It’s good! Seriously, no complaints from me. Roman’s looked the best he has in months, which might have something more to do with Rollins but who cares. Eventually Reigns tags a spear and gets the pin clean. Woo! What a fun little house-show clash.

Oh wait, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins are booked to fight at Night of Champions. That’s the pay-per-view this whole Raw has been hyping. But they just fought. On free TV. Before the pay-per-view. And nobody interfered. And it ended with Reigns going over clean. What?

The announcers made some reference like “BE SURE TO TUNE IN TO THE REMATCH NEXT WEEK,” but this seems incredibly strange to me. Maybe it’s a precursor for Rollins going over on the big stage? Preluding a much larger rivalry that goes back and forth until Wrestlemania season? I don’t know, it still feels odd. We know the WWE loves money, and we know the WWE would never hand out much-anticipated stuff that they could charge for. I don’t think I’m crazy when I say next to the Lesnar/Cena rematch, this Reigns/Rollins program was the most anticipated thing on the card.

I’m left thinking that there’s something big at play. I’ve no idea what, but the WWE are breaking these rules on purpose. In a brilliant way, the writers have actually built more hype for the feud because we’re all now curious about what could possibly happen at the PPV to put this booking decision in context. It’s the perfect bait for the Beautiful Mind portion of wrestling fans.

It’s all connected man.

Mark Henry Talking About America was Literally Headlined the Show

Mark Henry is pretty underrated on the microphone, dude sold his wavering patriotic spirit better than any of the other Rusev challengers. It kinda makes me sad that he’s almost certainly going to lose on Sunday, because Mark Henry is old and semi-retired and Rusev has an unspoken date with disgusting max-zealot red-white-and-blue John Cena sometime in 2015.

Still, when he started doing that pledge of allegiance, it got me. Wrestling brings out that reluctant “U-S-A” chant in all of us.

Vince seems to think that Rusev has become big enough of a thing to take the spotlight on Raw. And given the absolute nuclear heat he got when putting the Accolade on Henry, he might not be wrong. I do wonder if there’s going to be a time to transition the Rusev Legacy from evil-foreigner 1989 status to a more universal heel. Dude certainly has the look, and it’d be a shame if he’s stuck in cartoon land for the rest of the relevant part of his career.

Then again, if it lets me hear Mark Henry lecture about the American dream on a regular basis, maybe it’s worth it.