Derek: We’re coming to you live (four/five days later) from Los Angeles/San Diego! Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker met for the final time, and they were out for blood. We got an introduction to MexAmerica, some old school Hell in a Cell matches, and reassurances that there were, in fact, celebrities in attendance. Now we’re back to break down Sunday and Monday’s sports entertainment action with the ferocity of Brock Lesnar facing a well-meaning, defenseless physician.
Will: The top story: Both Hell in a Cell and the following Raw were pretty damn good. There were matches that felt like they mattered. Old feuds were actually concluded and new ones were begun. We know that John Cena will be out of the picture for a while, but it remains to be seen who will take his place, and/or how. There are at least a handful of potentially interesting storylines, and pieces have been put in place for others to pop up. Given how little we enjoyed the past month or so of WWE programming, these are encouraging signs. Put on your favorite Ryback bib and let’s dig in.
The New Feud of Fear
Derek: Despite my fears that the Undertaker’s streak of consecutive days breathing would come to an end, he handled the punishing task of working with Lesnar quite well. If any of you fine people refer to wrestling as “fake,” I’d recommend checking out this match. Lesnar seems to have a deal with whomever he works that they’re just going to beat the hell out of each other. I don’t like punches in wrestling matches because they almost never look good, but Lesnar isn’t really faking. He’s not throwing haymakers or anything, but he’s throwing good, stiff punches. And he’s willing to do stuff like this:
WWE definitely oversells the weight of those stairs. Our esteemed commentary crew will often act like they way hundreds of pounds, but they’re really no more than 50. Even so, I don’t think I’d like to have a 50-pound dumbbell over my head while off balance falling backward, much less something unwieldy like ring stairs.
Will: The match lived up to expectations, which is no small feat. We didn’t see any wild top-of-the-cage antics, which wasn’t much of a surprise. The Undertaker tossing Mankind off the top of the cell back in ’98 will forever be the standard bearer for HIAC insanity — in-cell-nity? — but its very outrageousness means we’ll probably never see anything like it again. But Taker-Brock was great. It was a fight more than a match. Lesnar ripping up the canvas was an inspired trick, and it underlined the innate violence of wrestling by showing how thin the ring padding is. It’s not much more than a little camping mattress pad over wood planks. Undertaker and Lesnar went a step further, however, to amp up the brutality.
Derek: Ah yes, then there are the blading allegations. Blading, as the name implies, is deliberately cutting oneself with a blade in a match. Blading was once commonplace, but it’s no longer allowed in the PG era. Lesnar denies he did it, of course. I don’t buy it. Here’s the last thing that happened before Lesnar’s head turned into Old Faithful:
Awfully suspicious head rub against the glove, no? And it looks eerily similar to how his head was cut back at WrestleMania, though he wasn’t wearing gloves in that match.
Will: Great, great catch. I was wondering how he pulled that off. I’m still kind of wondering — a blade in the glove seems like it could go real wrong real quick — but that explains it well enough for me.
Derek: Anyway, Lesnar would pin Undertaker clean, giving him two clean victories and a dirty loss in the recent series. WWE clearly wanted to make Lesnar look even stronger. The problem is they’ve made him look so unstoppable it will seem silly when someone finally beats him. And something tells me it’s just a matter of time before John Cena or Roman Reigns does it, causing smarks worldwide to explode into a million pieces.
Will: Who will beat Brock is the question, and as of now there aren’t any clean answers. Cena would seem to make the most kayfabe sense, but Lesnar annihilated him in their last match at 2014’s SummerSlam. Reigns, meanwhile, has been earmarked for a push to the top but isn’t there yet. With Brock built up as much as he has been, I have no idea how they can plausibly have anyone beat him — at least cleanly. Wrestling is scripted, yes, but the script needs to have some modicum of logic.
Derek: Lesnar is probably gone until Royal Rumble in January,1 but Undertaker could make a surprising return at next month’s Survivor Series. After Lesnar left the ring and Taker composed himself, The Wyatt Family came out to assault him and carry him off to an undisclosed location. Bray Wyatt lost to Taker at WrestleMania, so I brushed it off as revenge that would set up a potential rematch next year. But then on Raw, they did the same thing to Taker’s kayfabe brother, Kane. With WWE marketing Survivor Series as the 25th anniversary of Undertaker’s debut, it would make sense if he had a match. Now they look to be sowing the seeds for an old school Survivor Series eight-man tag match. The Wyatt Family has four members these days. I thought Kane and Undertaker could round up some former members of the Ministry of Darkness, but that seems unlikely after looking them up. Outside of Undertaker, they’re all long-retired or dead. Bummer.
Even if they don’t go the nostalgia route, it looks like Kane and Taker will team with someone against the Wyatts next month. If not, I sure don’t know where they’re going with all of this.
Will: Bray’s plan seems to be somehow co-opting Kane and Undertaker’s powers to become the biggest baddest semi-supernatural monster there’s ever been. But I don’t know how they pull that one off. It’s a high-difficulty dive off the top platform, to be sure (not unlike the who will beat Brock problem). One short-term benefit is that it gets Kane and Taker off the screen for a while, opening up segments for WWE’s younger stars like Tyler Breeze, who debuted recently. I’m a long-time Bray fan, and I hope they can stick the landing, but it ain’t gonna be easy.
Mexico’s Greatest Export
Derek: Naturally, all of my guesses for John Cena’s mystery opponent were incorrect. It was a returning Alberto Del Rio who took Cena down. Del Rio was fired in August of last year for reportedly slapping a WWE employee who told a racist joke. While I was sure he would be back at some point, I didn’t expect to see him this soon. I’ll continue to hold out for a CM Punk return.
The big surprise is Del Rio’s new manager, Zeb Colter. Those of you who followed wrasslin’ in the 80’s may remember him as Dutch Mantel, but more recently he’s been the ultra-conservative, foreigner-hating manager for Jack Swagger. In fact, it was Swagger’s music that initially played when Colter emerged, and I may have just shut it down for the evening if Swagger was the surprise we were waiting for.
Swagger actually faced Del Rio at WrestleMania 29, as Colter slammed foreigners at every opportunity, making this team even more unlikely. While their new MexAmerican team doesn’t make a ton of sense, I’m glad to have both of them back. With Colter’s superior facial hair and Del Rio’s delightfully smug attitude, they’ll be unstoppable.
Will: This…this was unexpected. I wasn’t watching WWE much during Del Rio’s first go-round with the company, and I don’t have many fond memories of him. I remember he had a personal announcer who wore a tux, and that’s about it. His character was that of an oligarch, or something. And now he’s aligned with Zeb Colter, the man who once managed the xenophobic Real Americans tag team? And they’re calling themselves MexAmericans? And Colter is riding around on a scooter? And Del Rio has the U.S. Title?
Screw it, I’m in.
For The Man Who Has Beaten Everyone…
Derek: Seth Rollins predictably beat Kane to retain the championship, leading to yet another celebration of his accomplishments at the beginning of Raw. An impromptu tournament was held to see who would face Rollins for the title at Survivor Series, leading to a Fatal Four-Way match between Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns. Reigns interrupted Rollins’ celebration, telegraphing his inevitable victory.
Will: Brief interruption: I loved the mini-tournament to get into the Fatal Four-Way as much as the Four-Way itself. WWE hasn’t made a big deal out of the number one contendership in a while, at least not explicitly, and I thought the stakes gave the matches immediate significance. You could see most of the winners coming — it wasn’t like flippy shit extraordinaire Neville was going to beat a returning Del Rio — but the matches mattered, and they put guys together in such a way that lesser feuds could develop organically. Whether or not any of them will, who knows.
Derek: Let’s talk about ol’ Roman for a minute. He’s been much maligned among the smark crowd, particularly due to the outcome of this year’s Royal Rumble. In our Royal Rumble recap, I compared Roman’s move set to early Goldberg, and I stand by that comparison considering what Roman had shown us at the time. But man, he and Bray Wyatt had a hell of a match Sunday night. His promos still aren’t worth a damn, but at least he’s got something going for him now other than “Vince likes him.” I don’t think Roman will win this match (I think Rollins is going to hold on to the belt until at least WrestleMania) but he has earned this spot. I still don’t count myself as a big Roman fan, but he deserves credit for bouncing back.
Will: Absolutely. Fans revolted at his winning the Royal Rumble, but he’s undergone a solid rehabilitation program and is getting over. The Superman punch and spear will never be beloved moves, but he’s added enough wrinkles that they’re semi-forgivable. One thing I really enjoyed Monday was his reaction after winning the Fatal Four-Way. He looked like he understood how fortunate he was to get another chance. You could see him mouthing “Thank you, God.” It was a moment that he couldn’t have appreciated without the embarrassment of the Rumble. When fans are booing the hell out of you when The Rock is raising your arm, that says something.
Good on you, Roman. Good on you. Now take off that flak jacket and get a real finisher.
So Long, Submission Sorority
Derek: Charlotte retained the Divas Championship against Nikki Bella, which will hopefully remove all of the Bellas from my thoughts and TV screen for several months. Now Team PCB — which was briefly and hilariously known as The Submission Sorority until WWE changed it because they didn’t want kids accidentally Googling porn; that was a fun week — has officially imploded, as Paige assaulted both Charlotte and Becky Lynch on Raw.
I can’t say I’m super excited about this feud, but I’m in favor of just about anything that leads to fewer Bellas.
Will: Here’s my beef with it: Why did Paige come out to celebrate with Charlotte and Becky after Charlotte won the title at Hell in a Cell? I suppose the kayfabe reasoning would be to throw the former C and B of PCB off the scent to set up Monday night’s attack, but wasn’t it already clear as day? I feel like the move would have been to have Paige jump Charlotte right after she won the belt; alas.
The simplest way for WWE to revitalize and re-respectablize (?) the Divas division is one that 1) people have called for for ages and 2) they apparently aren’t going to do, which is to stop calling it the goddamn Divas division. Get rid of the pink butterfly title belt. Just call them women. A crusader for social justice and equality, I am not, but a person who recognizes that Divas just sounds dumb, I am. Even calling it the Chicks division would be a step up.
(My sneaky fear with this feud and the women’s division in general: Are we sure that Charlotte has actual star quality? I’m not. Get Sasha Banks in the title picture pronto.)
Derek: So far, the only definite match we have for November 22 is Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins. There have been hints of Undertaker & Friends vs. The Wyatts and Paige vs. Charlotte. Other than that, there hasn’t been much of an indication of what will be on the card at Survivor Series. The United States Championship changed hands Sunday night, but Cena is probably gone until January,2 so the Cena-Del Rio rematch will have to wait. Kevin Owens pretty much squashed Ryback and New Day took down the Dudley Boyz, so I doubt we’ll see rematches there. I’m at a loss, which means Raw — gasp! — might actually be interesting over the next two weeks! Stuff might actually happen! What a nice change that will be.
Will: This past Monday’s Raw was a minor revelation. Things actually happened. With how little is clearly forecast for the immediate future, we have reason to believe that more things are going to happen, things that might even matter and/or change the direction of the story. It’s a bit embarrassing to say that that hasn’t been the case for weeks, if only because of the man-hours that Derek and I have spent watching that crap.
All that said, we’ve been fooled before. Let us tread lightly over the next week or so, lest we be fooled again.