We’ve started watching the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE network on Monday nights (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) and so haven’t really been keeping up with RAW. That said, if your ears perk up at all when you hear certain names, you already know that Brock Lesnar fought in UFC, won his match, then failed a wellness policy test a few days later (and then failed a second one), then had his UFC win vacated.
So we’ve got *THAT* real-life storyline informing the happenings at this PPV.
Brief aside: There’s this magnificent little explanation of “kayfabe” here. Al Snow is a magnificent teacher. Those of you who roll your eyes at the words “pro wrestling” might (*MIGHT*) find it interesting. (Warning: some of his language is crude and insensitive and, yes, ableist. That said, he explains some important stuff that might soften how forcefully your eyes roll in the future.)
So we’ve got a handful of matches tonight and, yeah, this is one of the three big PPVs that I really look forward to every year and we’re getting wings and beans and a veritable feast for the experience of sitting in a room and yelling at the television.
So let’s begin with our pre-show matches tonight:
Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Sheamus is yet another example of the guy who has a magnificent look but doesn’t have a particular chemistry with the audience. Cesaro is a good example of a guy who has a less than magnificent look but connects with the audience like magic. if this were a one-off, I’d be hoping that Cesaro wins this… but it’s a best of seven series. And what does *THAT* tell us? Well, they know that Sheamus doesn’t have a connection and Cesaro does and they want to leverage Cesaro in such a way that lifts Sheamus up a bit.
As such, I’m guessing that a handful of things will happen. Best of Seven means that we’re going to have seven matches and they’re going to be 3-3 going into the seventh. Which makes this match tonight somewhat, though not completely, meaningless. Tonight will tell us how it’s going to go, though. Will Cesaro have to try to overcome something like Sheamus cheating? (I assume we’re going to have Cesaro as a face and Sheamus as a heel.) Will they be evenly matched and we’re going to find out whether it’ll be a brute force vs. finesse series? They’re going to be telling two different stories at the same time, tonight. The story of the match, and the story of the match in the context of it being the first of seven matches.
This is really, really easy to do poorly. I don’t have my hopes up.
Especially since it’s a pre-show match. If I could make one match from a pre-show match into a main PPV match, it’d be this one.
Sami Zayn and Neville vs. The Dudleyz
We’ve recently learned one of the “tells” that announcers use when they’re calling a match. That is, a word that they use to describe a wrestler that indicates that they’re likely going to lose. That term is “veteran”. If someone is a skilled wrestler, maybe they’ll win. Maybe they won’t. If they’re a veteran wrestler? They’re building them up so that the young up-and-comer they’re facing will look even better when the young guy wins.
Look for the word “veteran” from the announcers. I’m betting we hear the Dudleyz described with the term.
And then we’ll see Sami and Neville get their arms raised.
Or we would, if it were during the actual show.
12 Man Tag Team Match
I think it’s good that all of these guys are going to get a paycheck.
I could not possibly care less about this match than I do now.
I totally understand why they’re putting this one on the pre-show.
So now we’ve got a huge number of big, big matches. They did a good job putting this together. Every match either has a strong storyline behind it or a belt at risk. This makes pretty much every match on this PPV a meaningful one. I looked for one that I would have swapped out for Cesaro vs. Sheamus and couldn’t find one that I unequivocally would have done it to… so good job there, I guess.
Let’s start with the one that came closest:
The New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson (for the tag team belts)
Big E got “injured” so this is Kofi and Xavier wrestling. I’m giving this to Festus and Chad 2 Badd. The Bullet Club could use the belts and The New Day doesn’t need them.
Rusev vs. Roman Reigns for the US belt
This is the level that Reigns ought to have been wrestling at for the last year. Not the world belt, the US belt.
And because he didn’t, he is going to lose this one.
The bookers didn’t have to drop this ball. I don’t blame Reigns for this for a single second. I blame the bookers.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens
I have no idea how Enzo’s promos actually succeed. They shouldn’t work. They’re far too clunky. Instead of being short and to the point, they’re florid and purple… and yet he holds all of us in the palm of his hand. Heck, I could give Enzo’s speech to you right now and do all of the dance moves and everything.
Look for Jericho to be called a “veteran” before being the guy who gets pinned. Look for this to kick off a Jericho vs. Owens storyline.
Carmella, Becky Lynch, and Naomi vs. Natalya, Alexa Bliss, and… ???
After a bit of a dry spell there, women’s wrestling is awesome again. Now, this one won’t be given the time it deserves, but this is going to be one of the bright spots of the night.
Look for Becky Lynch to be stabbed in the back.
Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
This match will most likely be the best of the night. Best wrestling and best psychology. Here’s how good it is: I have no idea who is going to win. None. There are so many reasons to say “oh, it has to be Charlotte” as well as so many reasons to say “Gotta go with Sasha”.
If they were smart, they’d give it to Charlotte because of Perfectly Acceptable Cheating and we’ll replay, note for note, Ric Flair vs. Barry Windam. We probably won’t get a one-hour match out of the WWE (we will never again see the like) but we might see a return to “this match is scheduled for 20 minutes”…
Oh, I’d scream at the television so loudly for that finish. You’d hear me in Pueblo.
And if there are any two wrestlers that could pull it off, it’s these two.
The Miz (with Maryse) vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Belt
After Charlotte, The Miz is the best heel in the company.
Kevin Owens, despite his best efforts, is what we used to call a “tweener”. Sure, he acts like a heel but he’s just so darned awesome anyway that you kinda want to cheer him.
The Miz? The Miz you can boo with no guilt. You will pay money to boo him.
Apollo Crews is awesome, has a great look, is a good wrestler… man. It’s early to give him a belt. I can see them doing that… but, man. It’s early to give him a belt.
If they were smart, they’d keep the belt on The Miz. If they are too hungry, they’re going to put it on Crews.
I think that they’re too hungry.
Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler for the World Championship
There are several different ways to have a title run. One is to have the belt and fight against other guys who are at your level. Another is to have the belt and fight against other guys who are not at your level.
This is the latter. In an effort to protect Dean, they’re not protecting their championship.
It’s a shame. Dean walks out with this one after a surprisingly good match.
John Cena vs. AJ Styles
I’m kinda looking forward to this one… I’m hoping that we’re turning the corner with John Cena being bulletproof. AJ Styles can make the company a decent amount of money if they play their cards right. John Cena, by comparison, can make the company a decent amount of money even if they get a little sloppy with how they play their cards.
It’s possible to give Styles the win in such a way that makes Styles look good and doesn’t harm Cena at all.
But it’s more likely that they’re going to give Cena the win in a way that makes Styles look weak.
Then they’re going to push Sheamus or something. Sigh.
Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the Universal (sigh) Championship
After the Charlotte/Sasha Banks match, this is the reason to get the PPV. Second best match of the night and, given that it’s for a belt, I’m going to say that Rollins walks away with the win… but Finn Balor is a guy who is going to be holding that belt in a year or two.
I’m *REALLY* looking forward to this one.
And, finally, Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton
This is where we find out how much the office cares about the wellness policy.
If *I* were booking this in a vacuum, I’d have it be an all out brawl, have Lesnar take Orton to Suplexville, have Orton pull RKOs out of nowhere, have both guys go nuts, then have Orton get the upper hand and have Orton kick Lesnar in the head the way that so infuriated all of us years ago… then have Lesnar kick out of the pin and beat the ever-living-crapola out of Orton and then put both guys on the shelf until Survivor Series where Orton can be re-socialized into the WWE universe.
But that UFC thing… If Lesnar hadn’t had his win vacated, I imagine that the bookers would do something like I described above. But Lesnar embarrassed the UFC and that might embarrass the WWE (well, embarrass Stephanie McMahon, anyway) and that might translate into “Orton’s going to be here in 4 years, we don’t know if Lesnar will be” and you give the torch to Orton right now rather than waiting for the perfect guy to topple Lesnar (the one who put the one in twenty-one and one). You can always have the perfect guy topple Orton when the perfect guy shows up, right?
So we’ll see. But if I were booking it, I’d book it the way I said above.
There. Now I can go without talking about wrestling until the Royal Rumble.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)