By Luke Winkie
September 22, 2014

This Dusties/Ascension Feud Will be Awesome

The Brothers Dust won the tag-team titles off the Usos, which marks a transition from one of the most anonymous duos on the roster to a pair of guys who pack enough charisma and straight-ahead weirdness to open an entire book of potential angles. That’s great! We need more life in the tag-team divisions, and the Dusties doing strange post-match space-worship is a GREAT START to a whole new dimension. I love what the Usos are capable of in the ring, but their complete lack of discernable character outside of “guys that people who like John Cena like” has assassinated their momentum. They’ll still get to do stuff, and hopefully that involves some soul-searching.

Mostly though, this sets up the Dusties for a killer feud with The Ascension. If you don’t know who The Ascension are, they were the two guys who held the NXT tag belts FOREVER until they lost on Takeover 2 last week. Naturally that signals for a call up to the main show, and that’s great, because when The Ascension are on your wrestling promotion that means fans get to do fun things, like yell “YAK” over and over. The Dust Brothers and The Ascension are both equally weird, which means we’re about to take the tag-team division into the 12th dimension.

Why Didn’t I Like This as Much as You?

I don’t know why this Sheamus/Cesaro match didn’t totally work for me. They’re both guys I like, and two of the best workers in the company, and that final flurry of finishing combos was predictably great. But yeah, there was a lot of lying around on the mat in this match, almost a 1/1 ratio with cool wrestling moves. That can be great, if you’re wrestling a 60-minute WrestleMania iron-man match to pay off a legendary feud, but when you’re just a couple guys competing for the USA strap? It doesn’t really work.

The usual internet wrestling haunts confirm that I’m clearly in the minority on this, but I’m not of the belief that 5 minutes of awesome wrestling justifies 15 minutes of boring wrestling. A precarious position, I know.

The WWE Cares Less About This Ziggler/Miz Match Than You Do

Brandon Stroud said something poignant the other day about how in 2014 “feuding” basically means “exclusively wrestling each other.” It’s unfortunately true, and reflective of the leaking creative energy in the writer’s room. Dolph Ziggler and The Miz have been engaged in a dead-end feud that is destined to elevate neither one of them. You know why I know this? Because before the match Florida Georgia Line, the country duo that made a song with Nelly once, were invited down to join commentary. So for every dropkick, we got a quick cut to our special guests who were here to promote, and I quote, “that WWE honor the troops thing.”

The payoff for their half-remembered USO service is a chance to punch out Damien Sandow. Poor Sandow man, he’s certainly the only guy who’s been beaten up by Hugh Jackman, Florida Georgia Line, and John Cena. Mostly I just think it’s funny that the WWE had this this promotion they needed to do, and instead of having some cut away segment Vince was just like “SCREW IT, PUT EM ON DURING THE MIZ MATCH, THEY’VE BEEN WATCHING THIS SAME THING FOR THE LAST MONTH ON RAW, THEY WON’T CARE.”

The scary thing is, he’s right! I totally don’t care! But that says more about you than it does me!

An Ambrose Run-In That Was Actually Mildly Disappointing

We all knew Ambrose was showing up when Rollins was cutting his “Roman Reigns has a hernia so here I am talking about how great I am” promo, and I popped super hard when that cab rolled up and our beloved lunatic fringe came rumbling down the ramp. Dean Ambrose has been my favorite guy on the whole show, and his absence forced us to watch Heath Slater feud with a bunny, so I’m happy he’s back.

He chases Rollins around the ring for a bit, then outside, and then gets swarmed by security. The segment sort of ends. And… yeah, I don’t know. I was really stoked to see our man again, but not necessarily to see him do what he’s been doing for months. I know I can say that about pretty much anyone on the roster, but Ambrose is dynamic enough that his resurgence deserved some more drama. This might just be sour grapes, but I doubt I’m the only one.

Mark Henry Fails America Worse Than Jack Swagger

We all knew Mark Henry wasn’t going to win, because squandering Rusev’s undefeated streak against a wily old veteran who’s halfway retired would be… silly to say the least.

But man. Did it get me a bit when Mark Henry cried those patriot tears to the national anthem? Absolutely, because he was about to get demolished in a red white and blue onesie. Patriotic jingoism always works best when the guy at the center is genuinely likable.

Here’s the thing though Mark. You couldn’t break the Accolade? Really? Even Jack Swagger broke the Accolade, and he’s lost to Adam Rose before! You’re MARK HENRY. THE WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN! HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TAP THAT QUICK. YOU ACTUALLY HAD ME AGREEING WITH JBL WHEN HE SAID YOU FAILED AMERICA.

You Guys Gotta Start Scouting Randy Orton Before You Wrestle Him.

I actually forgot Chris Jericho/Randy Orton was a match-up until the very moment Jericho’s music hit.

I wasn’t down on it, not at all, but it’s just the exact sort of high-profile flotsam you’d expect from a veteran about to finish his three-month run and return to his rock band. Randy Orton is basically the guy you fight when you’re famous enough to be on the show, but not famous enough to merit any top-card feuds.

It was a perfectly solid match, Jericho’s best moments of his latest run probably came against Wyatt at SummerSlam, but that was mostly for psychology reasons. His romp with Randy Orton reeked of two dudes who have wrestled each other plenty, and were just rolling through the house-show tropes to fill out the mid-card. Best moment? Randy Orton daintily moving JBL’s hat out of the way, before throwing Jericho across the announcer’s table.

One thing though. About a month ago I watched a match with Orton where Sheamus dove from the top rope, and was immediately countered into the RKO. Orton then did the dove pose, and it was awesome. Last night, Jericho did the EXACT SAME THING, and it was met with the EXACT SAME RKO COUNTER, and afterwards Randy Orton did the EXACT SAME DOVE POSE.

Look I know this is all fake. But do you think in kayfabe someone could say “look, when you go out there, make sure you don’t point your head at Randy Orton. That’s like, the last thing you wanna do.” Chris Jericho needs to get into the film room, man.

The Greatest Triple Threat Match of All Time

Like most of you, I was pretty cool on the whole “let’s inject Nikki Bella into this Paige and A.J. feud” thing. Mostly because I was almost certain the match was going to end with some phony, poorly-enunciated Brie Bella run-in. But not only did that not happen, it also might’ve been the best show on the card! Let me count the ways.

  1. Paige is working this weird unrequited love thing with A.J. so well you guys. As much as it might look thirsty for a straight dude being into the storyline that involves a twisted romance between two beautiful women who wrestle, let me make the case that the WWE has been great about stringing this storyline along with a remarkable level of subtlety. Yes! Subtlety! That thing that isn’t Dolph Ziggler leaking Photoshop nudes of The Miz! That moment when they’re on the mat and Paige is screaming “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME!” while giving some savage headbutts was SICK. I’m excited about this angle, and I’m 100 percent sure the WWE will screw it up.
  2. I don’t know who got it into my head that Nikki Bella couldn’t wrestle. Maybe it was Total Divas, maybe it was all that internet wrestling chatter, but man Nikki looked awesome here. She’s throwing girls on her shoulders like motherfucking Goldberg, and it’s the perfect complement to Paige and A.J.’s quicker, more submission-heavy style. The two lightweights take chips off each other until Nikki stomps in to throw backbreakers like the most frightening Hoss in the world.
  3. We need a Nikki/Stephanie tag-team. We need it. Now more than ever. Oh my God can you even imagine.

For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling pretty positive about the women’s division. Hooray! I guess Night of Champions isn’t all bad, right? Right?

You Guys Never Learn, Do You?

I’m willing to give the WWE a bit of a break here, because I’m sure they weren’t exactly planning on Roman Reigns’ stomach to implode and be forced out of the show for a month. My best-of-brand dirt-sheet reconnaissance has lead me to believe that our Cena/Lesnar headliner match was booked and rebooked a number of times over the course of the weekend, which is understandable, considering you’re dealing with a super pivotal feud.

But look man. There was exactly two ways this match could’ve gone down. This isn’t any fantasy-booking hogwash, I’m just going by the logic of the fucking story, which SHOULD matter, because you DO put on a THREE HOUR SHOW every week to make sure the pay-per-view PAYS OFF the major points.

Paul Heyman says John Cena can’t beat Brock Lesnar unless he becomes a monster himself. On the go home show, we have a John Cena (IN BLACK SHORTS!) shove a hapless Paul Heyman out of the ring, who gets an absolutely sinister “I’VE ALREADY WON” look on his face. Cena and Lesnar brawl, and Cena forces Lesnar retreat, ostensibly because Cena gave into the hate at least a little bit. The Night of Champions rematch was a venue where we were going to see whether or not Cena becomes the malefic brute that we all know is residing somewhere deep within his soul. He was either going to embrace the bloodlust, or go down sticking to his ideals. Again, this is the story, the stuff that’s on the show, not me.

But no. Cena fights like John Cena, and that’s somehow more effective against Lesnar this time. Lesnar eats four Attitude Adjustments, but is busted up by a Seth Rollins who’s fixing to cash in his contract. The ref is forced to end the match by way of disqualification, and Rollins hands over the briefcase.

“Cool!” you think. “That whole Cena is Going to Win Because Never Give Up thing was kinda lame and anachronistic, but at least something interesting is going to happen with Rollins! I wonder what he’ll look like in that belt.”

Except, no. Rollins rolls back into the ring to cover Lesnar, but is interrupted by Cena, who runs him all the way backstage. There’s no cash in. Lesnar keeps the belt. We’re literally going around in circles.

Here’s the thing, WWE. You keep telling us that the network is only $9.99, and that’s great! The network is great! I just watched hours of CM Punk matches for another feature that’s going on the site, I could’ve never done that before this year!

But when you balk at PPVs like this, it actually comes off disingenuous! Cena/Lesnar was the only thing of note on the entire card. And it ends with a DQ. A DQ involving a Money in the Bank briefcase that didn’t end up getting cashed in anyway. That’s dumb, you know it’s dumb. Finishes like this are what makes the stocks plunge.

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