Last night's grandest stage of them all was not the harbinger of watershed change that I was hoping for, though that's probably my own fault for having my usual #IrrationalIdealist expectations.  We got the distinct impression from Wrestlemania that this is still Vince McMahon's company and, with minimal exceptions, what he says goes.

Doesn't mean it wasn't an enjoyable show to end an enjoyable weekend, though.

Come with me, NAIborhood, as the Pope of Positivity walks you through his personal list of favorite moments from Sunday's Wrestlemania.

 

Kalisto vs. Ryback

Full disclosure: I was doing a food run during this match, so I can't preach too much about the positivity of the match itself, but Kalisto is still our United States champion.  Nothing wrong with that.  I also heard that Ryback might have gone full heel following the match, which is also a good thing.  I imagine this feud will continue throughout the spring, and while I'm not wild about it, I also don't detest the idea as much as I thought I would.

 

Ten Diva Tag Match

This match was way more enjoyable than it really had any business being - I was engaged from start to finish.  I feel like these women knew about the changes coming to their division and decided to step things up.

Let's talk about Lana for a second.  She didn't do a whole lot in this match, which was by design. We saw a couple impressive kicks and I just adored how she stood very tall, extended her hand formally and announced that she'd like to be tagged into the ring now.  I'm excited to see where she goes heading out of Mania season.

Also, if this was truly the swan song for Brie Bella, she picked a very nice way to go out.  Daniel Bryan tweeted it and he was totally right, the rolling Yes Lock Brie performed was better than any version I ever saw her husband do.  I've never been a huge fan of either Bella twin, but you can't say they weren't talented.

Really, there was a lot to like from all participants. Paige, Naomi, Emma, Tamina and Natalya all had nice moments.

Who was the real star?  Do you even need to ask?

evamariepose

It wasn't just that she soaked up those boos from the crowd like they were manna from heaven.  It wasn't that she refused to take in Paige, then tagged Natalya via slap.  Even her most hardcore haters admit she knows how to be an uber-heel.

But Eva Marie acquitted herself quite well purely as a wrestler.  In fact, she did pretty good.

She wasn't in the match long, and she wasn't supposed to be, but when she was there, she did her job.  That's all we can ask.

 

The Dudleys vs. The Usos

I loved that The Dudleys, despite being the storyline heels in this match, got cheered exponentially more than their opponents.  So much so, in fact, that Bubba and Devon seemed to forget they were supposed to be the bad guys.  Didn't they come out on RAW a few weeks ago and say they were done with tables?  Didn't seem to be the case here.

Not a whole lot to say about this match, except one last thing - I am positive that I hate the superkick.

 

IC Ladder match

I normally am not a super-emotional person when it comes to pro wrestling, but I have to admit to getting a tad bit glassy eyed watching Sami Zayn make his way to the ring.  Zayn had a TREMENDOUS weekend, coming close to stealing the show at BOTH NXT Takeover and Wrestlemania.  In a fair and just world, Sami just assured himself a main event spot in WWE.

Loved the Zayn and Kevin Owens moment where they are on either side of the ladder, look up at each other, then drop the ladder and just started punching.  This feud is going to be amazing to watch over the next decade.

I don't want this to turn into a Sami love fest but the way Zayn dove THROUGH THE OPEN LADDER and then over the ropes is something I'm going to need to watch at least a half dozen more times.

zaynladderdive

He was an afterthought for a lot of people in this match but props need to be given to Sin Cara for his performance. We expect botches from Sin Cara, yet he did VERY well here, falling off the ladder into a perfect springboard (WHERE NOBODY CAUGHT HIM, I MIGHT ADD) and then his falling splash onto Stardust later in the match.

As for Stardust, the tributes to daddy Dusty were fantastic.  I still don't think we'll see Cody Rhodes again (at least not for a while, still), but the guy from the cosmos who admits his heritage is pretty cool.

Kevin Owens has now lost his IC title, but really, did he ever need it in the first place?  A lot of people were awed by his frog splash, but I was far more impressed with the way he channeled his inner RVD by leaping up to the top rope in the first place.  I tweeted this earlier, but now it's written in stone - Kevin Owens WILL win Money in the Bank this year.

Provided he isn't dead from that awesome half and half suplex onto the ladder.

He is The Miz, and he is awesome!  He didn't do a whole lot in this match but him posing on the ladder at the very end was priceless.  He's so good at what he does.

As for the winner, Mr. Zack Ryder, this was a shocking victory that proved that WWE can and will reward talents for taking a "demotion" to NXT and working hard when there to develop their characters.  We saw it with Tyson Kidd and again with our IC champ.  Congratulations, Zack, you deserve it.

 

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

This was one of those matches where I found myself too distracted by Twitter to give it a proper viewing. A lot of people are claiming that it's the best of the series, and that might be true, though I find it challenging to watch the same match over and over again. If they had said from the onset this would be a "Best of" series, I think I'd have had an easier time.

Still, I enjoyed AJ's counter to the corner dropkick - hopping over the ropes and delivering one of his own.  I thought Jericho's borrowing of Austin Aries' rope-drop neckbreaker was an interesting choice.  I could keep going here naming specific moments, but I'm already over a thousand words on this column.  Suffice to say, it was a good match.

styles clash

DC's unpopular opinion - The Styles Clash does nothing for me. I don't find it particularly impactful or visually impressive, and I don't care how many legitimate injuries have been caused by it.  That just makes it dangerous AND unexciting.  Get rid of it.  Between the Calf Crusher, the Phenomenal Forearm and the Springboard 450, AJ's got plenty in the arsenal.

I was a bit surprised by the Jericho win, but I'm OK with it.  In fact, it's exciting.  I'm hoping we see them both move on to face other talents - Jericho would be a great matchup with Sami Zayn or either mid-card champion, and truthfully, I'd be all for a Jericho / Reigns program.  As for Styles, the sky is the limit as well.

Just. . . . Just not Styles / Jericho V. . . . Pretty please?

 

New Day vs. League of Nations

New Day's entrance was entertaining, though (and I might lose my nerd card here) I'm not sure what the costumes were referencing. Dragon Ball Z?  Mortal Kombat?

I had really, REALLY hoped Rusev would drive a tank over that big box of Booty-O's, though him looking like he wanted to stomp every piece of cereal was funny.  Rusev was one of the big stars of this match, I thought, showing off his flexibility and skills as a wrestler, doing some of the most enthusiastic celebrating I've ever seen, then taking a Stunner like a champion.  I'm still super high on the talent of the Bulgarian Brute.

Rusevkick

I think this might be the end of the League of Nations. There seemed to be a feeling of finality to things.  I'm guessing we don't see Bad News Barrett in WWE again, and on RAW tonight, "The Lads" go their separate ways.  It's a shame, since I think they were just starting to fire on all cylinders.

New Day was. . . Fine.  I don't think they got as big of a 'rub' as everyone else seems to just because they shared a ring with Austin, Foley and Michaels for about a minute and a half.  Don't get me wrong - I loved the segment, but I do think this bodes well for New Day.

In fact - #PreDCtion -  New Day loses the tag title to Enzo and Cass TONIGHT on RAW.

HEY NAIBORHOOD - The first person to find me a GIF of Austin dancing wins a shout out in this column!  And. . .um. . . a big thumbs up!

cheapplug

THANKS TO BAILEY BISHOP (@baileybishop) for finding it!  YAY!

 

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose

Realistic Aside: If I can be serious for a moment, this match was the most personally disappointing to me.  Again, I blame my own lofty expectations. I really thought this was going to be the Arrival of Ambrose, where Dean ascends to the main event picture full-time, and that was not what I got.  In fact, I'm tempted to . . . .Aw hell, why not?

PreDCtion - Dean Ambrose never main events a major WWE PPV again unless Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns is also a part.

I'm not counting minor shows like Fastlane - These are the big ones.  Unless one of the other, more successful members of The Shield are there to help make it meaningful, Dean never sniffs true main event status again.

I seriously hope I'm wrong. . . But I don't think I am.

Despite this, there were still moments where I can Preach Positivity - I liked that Brock didn't bother with weapons; there was no need for them, obviously.  Paul Heyman, as always, came close to stealing the show, moving into Dean's sight line to gloat and selling the kendo stick shots like he himself was taking them.  Lesnar's cat-like ascension to the top rope was beautiful, and I suppose Dean had a good moment posing with Barbie. . . But yeah. . . That's about it.

Let's move on before I get truly sad.

 

Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

My plan is to do an entire column devoted to the women's division, but just so we're clear, I dig the new Women's title. I like that it looks a lot like the World Heavyweight Championship - There's a level of legitimacy to it that many others belts, including the copper penny tag titles, lack.  It's cool.

I finally found a legitimate reason for Snoop Dogg to be part of a WWE show, so that was nice.  Both Sasha and Charlotte had pretty nice entrances for their first Wrestlemanias.  Charlotte's robe was a particularly nice touch.

In fact, this was the first time in AGES that I watched Charlotte and was reminded of the NXT talent that made me so fervently believe that this could be the best female wrestler of all time.  A lot of that had to do with the lack of Ric Flair presence - Charlotte did most of this on her own.  I hope we see more of that from our new Women's Champion.

charlottemoonsault

Becky Lynch stood out as well - Her suplexes are especially impressive and really bring a level of legitimacy to the quality of wrestling we see.  I also love it every time I see a move I've never seen before, and the hammerlock / reverse DDT combo was a new one for me.

If anything, Sasha Banks had the hardest time making a statement in this match.  The dive through the ropes was nice (I really wonder if she realized she wasn't going fast enough so adjusted it into a flip halfway through to make sure she connected), but otherwise I didn't see anything super memorable from The Boss, save for the ending.

I loved the way this ended. I've been railing against Ric Flair's constant interference for months now, I know, but this worked for me.  It was sneaky, it was dirty, it was Horseman-esque, which is what I want from the 16 time World Champion.  Maybe it's because, on the biggest night of them all, Ric Flair realized that this wasn't about him, so for the most part, he let the women shine.  When he did cheat, he made it count (and got out of the way of the camera).   Nice job, Nature Boy.

Trust me, NAIborhood - This step in the journey for Sasha and Becky will make the destination all the sweeter.

 

Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker

This match should have closed the show for a number of reasons, not the least of which was what I (and Liam Stryker) have been saying all along - The fate of the company trumps the fate of the champion.  Had I been forward thinking, I'd have called an audible in my PreDCtion when I realized the Cell was coming down too early, as there was no way Shane would win at 10 PM.

The use of the McMahon grandchildren was a nice touch for Shane's entrance and it was nice to see a Taker entrance in actual darkness.  Note to WWE - No more outdoor shows.

This match reminded me a lot of the Cell match from Wrestlemania 28, in that I found it almost boring until the steel steps came into play.  One Shane was chokeslammed onto the steps, business, my friends, picked up.  A lot of great moments followed that, from the dueling triangle chokes to Shane's Van Terminator, which was special simply because Shane could have travelled another 5-7 feet if he wanted to.

shaneterminator

Then we went outside the Cell.  Loved when Shane had Taker in the sleeper, and everyone in the world knew Undertaker was about to send them both through a table.  Loved that the toolbox exploded when Shane hit him with it.  Loved The Dive, obviously, and thought that the announce team did a very good job of selling the moment.  We give them a lot of grief, but when the time came, they sounded legitimately concerned, which is all we needed.

I've even talked myself into the ending of the match, which I was not a fan of last night.  Once more, I had convinced myself of something that was probably a silly idea in the first place, and I paid for it with disappointment.  Doc Manson was right, Shane was never going to be a long term fixture in the WWE, as much as we all wanted him to be.  He came back for one more night of glory, got the "respectful pat on the cheek" from Taker (which, in my mind, sold the whole thing), and then lost.  As he probably should to arguable the greatest wrestler in Mania history.

Not the best match of the night, but certainly had some all-time moments.  Well done to all involved.

 

The Andre Battle Royal

It is tempting, I believe, to think back on Wrestlemania and see it, in broad terms, as a bit of a slap to the face of the IWC by Vince McMahon.  Damien Sandow got eliminated by Shaquille O'Neal.  What else is that but a middle finger to all those who love him and sing his praises on Twitter?

Still, this match was good for one reason and one reason only. . .Well, two I suppose - It's always nice to see Tatanka.

BoDallasBattleRoyal

Bo Dallas is my favorite wrestler in WWE right now when you consider the ratio of minutes on air to moments of pure entertainment.  Nobody makes me happier than Bo does.  I mean, come on. . . Look at him!

bodallaspose

How can you not love that excitement?

As for the result, this was totally unexpected, which is a positive in and of itself.  I'm not sure Baron Corbin is WWE ready (in fact, him being called up really screws up some NXT fantasy booking I was planning on doing later today), but this is the right way to use this match.  Baron instantly has more reason for being in WWE than a lot of the other recent NXT call-ups.  We'll see if he's on RAW.

 

The Wyatts / Rock and Cena segment

Odd for the host of the show to make his first appearance right near the end, but I guess The Rock is truly one of those eccentric Hollywood types now!

The best part of this entire segment was listening to Rock put over Bray Wyatt, and even moreso, listening to the crowd go nuts for it.  Obviously most fans want to see something meaningful happen for Bray, and while I'm not sure if we're going to get it, at least I can take solace in the knowledge that the feeling is widespread.

I wrote last week that the Wyatt Family, Bray included, was officially dead, and hopefully last night proved it.  Now is the time for a phoenix to rise from the ashes and take his rightful place among the top talent in WWE.  I still Bray-Lieve!!!

. . . Hmm, that doesn't work as well as his brothers' slogan.

 

Roman Reigns vs. Triple H

Triple H's entrance was good.  Not as good as some of his others, but the fact that he didn't adorn himself in skulls for once was a nice touch.  Sensational Stephie was good, too.

Having watched ALMOST all of the Wrestlemanias from my Lost Years (29 wasn't able to keep my interest in the last hours), I have a deeper appreciation for Triple H's talent than I did before.  The guy is good, plain and simple, and last night was no exception.  I enjoyed his role as the cerebral veteran, taking advantage of Roman's youthful exuberance and capitalizing on his mistakes.  Also enjoyed how he isolated body parts, though his choice of some of them left me feeling uncomfortable.

HHH armwork

Roman didn't do a whole lot in this match and actually, I think that was kind of the point.  As Michael Cole mentioned during the entrances, Triple H has been champion a combined three and a half YEARS  in WWE.  That's as long as Roman Reigns' entire WWE career.  This match shouldn't be all that close, and if Roman wins, it should seem to be a fluke, which that match did appear to be.

I do give Roman credit for making the spear to Stephanie look visually impressive while also being adjusted to ensure she wasn't hurt.  Classy touch.

I shouldn't find this as funny as I did, but watching the cameramen scouring the crowd trying to find people happy about Roman's victory, and not being able to do it, was hilarious.

#PreDCtion - Stephanie and Triple H open RAW tonight. Stephanie tries to gloat about still being in control of the company but HHH is having not of it, beside himself at losing the title.  This results in him going off the reservation, as it were, leading to some sort of No Holds Barred gimmick match at . . . Whatever the next PPV is.

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All in all, Wrestlemania was an exciting show to cap off a fantastic weekend of wrestling.  Could it have been better?  Sure.  There are a lot of questions that remain about some of the events of Wrestlemania, but that just means everyone will be tuning into RAW tonight to see if we get some answers.  In a wrestling world without offseasons, isn't that the point?

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you under somber circumstances.  Going into Wrestlemania week, I had hoped that we happy few members of the NAIborhood would find nothing but frivolity and joy, but it seems, as with all things, we must take some time to be sad.

Today, we lay to rest one of our dearest favorites. . . Someone whom we thought might one day live forever.

Today, we say goodbye to the dearly departed Bray Wyatt.

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Mr. Wyatt came to the attention of WWE fans during my Lost Years, but even as only a very casual observer, I remember being puzzled by the then-named Husky Harris.  “The Army Tank with a Ferrari Engine” remains as one of the all-time dumbest nicknames I have ever heard in my life.  I knew he was the son of a legend, yet I also knew there was much more work to be done in order for this character to become a mainstay.  I was not surprised when young Husky disappeared from view.

My Lost Years became truly lost as the 2010’s rolled on.  Marriage and focusing on my career took precedent over reading RAW results and perusing news sites.  In fact, I believe I was unaware of the existence of this so called “Wyatt Family” until deciding that I would once again re-enter the wrestling watching fray with the debut of the WWE Network, and when I did, the man I knew as Husky Harris was literally and figuratively unrecognizable.  

Slimmer, shaggier and with a wardrobe that I believe was actually pulled from the Waylon Mercy collection, Bray Wyatt was a monster unlike few I had seen before.  Part Skinner, part Raven and yes, even part Undertaker, I drank the Wyatt Family Kool-Aid soon after our first meeting, and yes friends, that was without seeing any of their feud with The Shield.

I firmly believed that Bray Wyatt was a stone’s throw away from greatness.

In hindsight, I can not be blamed for this.  The man was in the midst of a feud with John Cena, multi-time world champion and face of the company!  Surely this was going to be the debut ball for Monsieur Bray, and when that demonic child sang to Mr. Never Give Up, giving Wyatt the win, I knew there had been the dawn of a new era in WWE.  

This was Bray Wyatt’s world. . . It was in his hands. . . We merely lived in it.

While he didn’t win the war with John Cena, I did not lose heart. Merely being in the ring, merely standing toe to toe with “The Face That Runs The Place” was enough.  His next target was Chris Jericho and with all due respect to Y2J, he was clearly a foe much more easily vanquished when facing the might of the Wyatt Family.  It is worth mentioning that he did, in fact, win that feud.  Bray Wyatt was on the periphery of the main event scene, and when Bray set free his Family, I knew this was a symbol; the heralding of Bray Wyatt’s arrival.

Bray’s next target was Dean Ambrose and in him, I believe Wyatt found a kindred spirit.  Both, I believe, were agents of chaos, as evidenced by the wildness of their matches.  One more, Bray Wyatt stood tall and once more, I knew this was the final hoop to jump through before ascending to the throne of the immortals.

Then came, as Michael Cole so often says, the turning point - Bray Wyatt challenged The Undertaker. . .at Wrestlemania.

Those of us still under the thrall of our Face of Fear leader danced in celebration - The Streak may be over, but the legacy of The Undertaker is without compare.  This could be the torch passing we had all expected - The symbolic movement from one WrestleMagic Phenom to another. 

For the next two decades, the world would tremble at the feet of BRAY WYATT!

Then he lost.  Badly.  Sure, we could blame the unfortunate injury Wyatt suffered mere days before Wrestlemania, and yes, Bray Wyatt still shared a ring with The Deadman on the grandest stage of them all, but this was a blow, without question.  If Bray Wyatt was not the next great supernatural wonder. . . Who was he?  We quickly learned that he was the man to take on Ryback, and if the loss to Taker didn’t begin to make you question your faith. . . This did.

Sure, Bray Wyatt defeated Ryback at Payback but what was he doing there in the first place?  This man challenged icons.  Legends.  Men far above, or at the very least on the same level as Bray himself. . . Now he chooses Ryback?  Skepticism reigned. . . Until...

Roman Reigns.  Those of us who questioned our savior once more drank from the cup of good tidings - Roman Reigns was the heir apparent to the title of “Mr. WWE.”  To feud with him, especially in the way said feud started, made us revel in the wonder of the feeling that Bray Wyatt was moments away from being the Piper to Roman’s Hogan, the Orton to Reigns’ Cena. He couldn’t be THE guy, of course, but being THE guy’s most hated rival is certainly a badge of honor.

Then he lost.  Again.  Once more, the excuses poured into our minds, but at the same time, we began to see them as excuses for the first time.  One can only take so many of the same kind of beatings before you begin to realize that the common denominator in all of them is YOU.  Were we wrong to put our faith in Bray Wyatt?  Was he not going to save us after all?

Members of our congregation, who had already began leaving in dribs and drabs, started to depart with more haste and vigor.  I held firm, though, especially when it seemed the feud with The Undertaker (and by proxy, Kane) would resume.  Once more, I allowed my rational brain to. . .well. . . rationalize.  “Of course, Undertaker can’t lose at 2 consecutive Wrestlemanias. . . This is where the torch passing will happen. Sure, it won’t have the same effect as it could have, but it will still be memorable.”

Then he lost.  AGAIN.  When next we saw Bray Wyatt and Family, they were feuding with Team ECW, a group of talents whose primes, with respect, were not in this decade. . . If even this century.

It was then that I had to make a hard choice.  I looked in the mirror and, perhaps for the first time ever, truly realized what Bray Wyatt was.

Bray Wyatt is, at his very best, a B+ heel in the WWE.

He can feud with the greats of his day, though he will rarely, if ever, come out victorious.  He will dominate the mid-card when it suits him, but the idea that he could truly climb to the top of World Wrestling Entertainment was a falsehood.  

The Golden Calf of the Wyatt Family was hollow all along.

I tried to make the best of it.  After all, not only am I the Pope of Positivity but I am also the Maven of the Mid-Card.  If Bray Wyatt’s ceiling was the IC and US title scene, I would be happy with that.

Then it happened.  The final nail in the coffin for the character of Bray Wyatt.

The Wyatt Family, in full costume, went to Wall Street and rank the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

There is no coming back from that.  You can not possess Wrestle Magic whilst in Midtown Manhattan.  Once you ring the bell at the Stock Exchange, there is no mystique to you anymore.  You’re just an unshowered man in hippie clothes who speaks in half-worked riddles.

At 9:30 AM on Monday, March 28, 2016, Bray Wyatt passed away.  He leaves behind multiple members of his family - Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan (please pay them a visit down in NXT sometime in the next few months) and, saddest of all, Luke Harper, who had to watch this travesty unfold while preparing for knee surgery.  I sincerely hope that Harper can be saved - In fact, perhaps the House of Harper can rise from the ashes of The Family of Wyatt. . . But at this point, can we even hope for that?

I can.  

I am the Pope of Positivity and I will try, as delusional as I may seem, to find the silver lining in all things.  I take solace in the notion that by the end of this calendar year, perhaps Luke Harper will get a chance to set his own course in World Wrestling Entertainment.  His talent is on par with the best in the company, and I believe he’ll get a chance to show it.  

As for the man formerly known as Bray Wyatt?  I believe, my friends, only days past the Easter holiday, that Bray Wyatt can be resurrected!  HE CAN BE SAVED!  However, he’ll need some help…

 

Dean Ambrose

deanambrose

Remember, they are kindred spirits, both agents of chaos.  They also have recently both caught the ire of one Brock Lesnar.  This sounds like the beginning of a Two Man Crazy Train to Suplex City, except just like in Batman Begins, the train is planning on blowing itself up, taking the city with it.   

Faces. . . Heels. . . I don’t think it would matter.  The combined insanity of Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose would be a joy to watch.  

 

Shane McMahon

ShaneMcMahon

Shane has repeatedly mentioned the problems in WWE, specifically the ones about the wrong guys getting all of the attention, while the truly talented ones get screwed.  Go back and read this eulogy again - HE’S TALKING (ALONG WITH OTHERS) ABOUT BRAY WYATT!

Plus, who is Shane battling?  The Undertaker!  It’s not like those he and Bray are chums!

Bray Wyatt helping Shane McMahon beat The Undertaker is, in my mind, WAY better than any Bullor / Ballet club storyline.  First of all, Wyatt is already a known commodity, which, and I’m sorry friends, Bullet Club is NOT.  People will recognize the T-shirts, but that’s about it.

Second, Shane has spent all this time talking about the guys currently in the company.  He has NO NEED to look elsewhere for help.  There should be a line out his dressing room door of guys willing to take out Taker in order to give themselves a better shot in Shane’s “New” WWE.

Now we come to my favorite one. . . Which, of course, means it is the most ridiculous.

 

Bo Dallas

raw-bolieve

I’ve been saying for months now that Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas are far more similar than many of us choose to think.  Both were cult leaders in their own right - Bo Dallas, sadly, just never got the chance to amass a following.  They each preached in the power of their philosophies, which involved saving WWE from itself.

Why couldn’t they join forces - The yin and yang saviors?

If this idea doesn’t work for you, don’t worry, I’ve got another one - PUNT!  The gimmicks aren’t working, so trash them and give them new ones.  Let these boys embrace their kayfabe heritage as the sons of Irwin R. Schyster!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Harris Wyatt and Dallas Beau, the Rotunda Brothers!  Each has callbacks to their previous gimmick (in Bray’s case, his past 2 gimmicks) while also sounding extra snooty.  Put the hair in ponytails (or cut it short - let’s get CRAZY), dress them up in suits (with red suspenders in homage to Daddy) and let them have some fun!  Make them Authority lieutenants, put them in the tag division to feud with New Day, the Usos and Enzo and Cass. . .  I don’t care - Just do SOMETHING!

Put their real life sister Mika with them. . . BUT HER NAME IS ABIGAIL!!! ABIGAIL ROTUNDA!  SHE’S THEIR SISTER AND HER NAME IS ABIGAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

. . . . Ok, I might have gone too far with that one.

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Yes friends, Bray Wyatt is no more. . . But if WWE has taught us anything, it’s that one can never say never. . . and nothing is ever truly gone forever.

 

Monday night’s RAW was an historic one. . . Or at least, I believe it was.  For the first time in a WWE (not NXT) ring, we saw Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt, otherwise known as the Rotunda brothers, together.

Well, not technically together.  Bo had just had a shocking of his shell by Ryback, and following said shock, the lights went out, and thus appeared Bray Wyatt, rather handily taking out Mr. “I’m so Hungry!”

Note: This is how this feud should go, by the way.  Bray should defeat Ryback with almost shocking ease.  If it goes any differently, I may have to write an entirely separate column in which I drown my tears in a few thousand words about how much I adore WWE’s most cultish jobber.

While they may not have officially been in the ring together, I (along with countless others on the Twitter) felt a level of excitement that is sometimes hard to come by in sports entertainment these days.  There has been a growing enthusiasm for WWE to band these brothers together in some form or fashion, and as someone fully and completely on board with this notion, I thought we’d take a few minutes to fully flesh out why this idea is both logical and (potentially) wildly entertaining.

Number 1 - They are actually brothers.

There’s something about sibling / family teams / alliances that seem to resonate with wrestling fans.  Maybe it harkens them back to their younger days where they may have dreamed of pro-stardom with their own siblings.  (As an only child, I don’t associate with that particular rationale.)  Mainly, though, being involved with your family as a wrestler allows you to access the history, honesty and passion that comes with said family, and as I’ve said many times before, those things translate on camera.

The Von Erichs.  The Hart Family.  The McMahons and all their craziness.  The Steiners, the Hardy’s, the Uso’s, hell, even the Bella’s qualify, to some extent.  People love seeing families come together (and fall apart) for their entertainment.  The Wyatt’s (which is what I’ll be calling them for the remainder of this column - You’ll see why later) are just another example.

Number 2 - It’s not like they’re doing anything great on their own, anyway.

While the NAIpod boys are right on the money when they say that every promotion needs a mid-card, there’s only so many guys you can have there before it becomes too crowded to be effective.  With a tag team division that seems poised for a breakout in the coming months, why not put the brothers together and see what they’d do?  Sheer logic indicates they’d have some success.  New Day vs. Wyatts?  The promos write themselves!

Number 3 - They are more alike than you think.

Bray Wyatt came to the WWE, it seems, with one goal - to save. On the surface, it was to save us from false idols - the John Cena’s, the Chris Jericho’s, etc.  However, really, it seemed more like Bray was trying to save the idols themselves from falling.  Trying to inspire true rage in Cena, trying to fully let out the crazy in Dean Ambrose.  Both of these stars could aspire to further greatness, Wyatt seemed to feel, if only they. . .

Yes, friends.  Say it with me.

Is that not what baby brother Bo is doing, too?  Is he not trying to inspire others to achieve their full potential?  Doesn’t he feel as if he could lead his opponents to bigger and better things, if only they would embrace his, dare I say, eccentric teachings?

As a teacher, you quickly learn that there is more than one way to get someone to learn something.  Everyone goes about it a different way - some of us are outgoing and kinetic educators while others are quieter and more static.  Yet, at the end of the day, we’re all working from the same curriculum.

The Book of Wyatt, it seems, has a common goal - To collect, to indoctrinate and to transcend.  While Bray tries to achieve this through fear, through intimidation, through a mixture of brutality and mystique, Bo is attempting the “unbridled enthusiasm” approach.  He’s going to just keep smiling and cheering and running laps around the ring until somebody. . .somebody, somewhere. . . seems to get the message.

What we’re seeing here is two ends of the same coin, so I suppose the question is not “Why should they be teaming together?” - it’s ”Why SHOULDN’T they be?”

We’re already seeing signs that Bo might be heading down a darker path.  The scraggly facial hair… The somewhat darker messages… The lack of extreme Tebowing (or maybe that’s just my hope creeping in)... We only need a little more to take him over the top, with the biggest piece being his finishers.

Finisher Friday - Bo Dallas edition

As Jason Moltov is so fond of saying, a good finisher is one where you can see a superstar using it to win a World title.  The Bo-Dog, to me, is just about the furthest thing from that without being an overtly comic finisher, like the Worm or the Cobra. While it may have worked for Trish Stratus, its not working for Bo.

Finisher 1: Slingshot suplex

One of my all-time favorite moves, the slingshot suplex is fairly straightforward.  Lift a guy for a vertical suplex, bounce them off the top rope (thereby, supposedly, providing a little extra momentum), and then let said momentum take them down.

I know, it’s not a Last Ride elevated powerbomb or anything, but really, its not supposed to be.  Bo is not the biggest nor the most technically sound wrestler, so his secondary finisher shouldn’t be something overly spectacular.  This would work, especially since his primary finisher is quite possibly the best thing in the world.

Finisher 2: Anaconda Vice

While associated with wrestling’s most vocal angry ex-girlfriend, the Vice is not as synonymous with CM Punk as the GTS is. Still, its time the move was taken back, and Bo Dallas is the perfect person for it.

Submission finishers require a few things to be truly effective.  First, they need to actually hurt, and since I spent much of my childhood locking people in Boston Crabs, Texas Cloverleafs and Fujiwara armbars, I have a whole list of “friends” who will vouch for most of them.  Second, they need to be visually appealing, with added bonuses if you can see the faces of both wrestlers, particularly in the same camera shot. This is why, Heaven help me, the Camel Clutch will ALWAYS be used by somebody as a finisher - You can see Rusev’s face as well as his opponent’s without having to switch cameras.

While the Anaconda Vice does somewhat obstruct the face of the victim, since his arm is trapped in a particularly painful looking position, it does allow the two wrestlers to face each other, which is crucial in this instance.  Why, you ask?  Isn’t it obvious?

Bo has to cheer for them.

Mr. Dallas is going to lock in his submission finisher. . . And then encourage his opponent NOT to tap out.  “Come on!  You can do it!  Bo-Lieve!  BO-LIEVE!”

Then, when his opponent does submit, Bo can sadly shake his head. . Maybe even give the guy a good natured pat on the head. . . As if next time, he hopes to see a bit more effort.

I won’t take entire credit for this idea - In the social media explosion world, who can say where these thoughts originate from?  What I will say is that this is one of the more unique ideas I have ever heard, and using the Anaconda Vice for it (as opposed to a Crossface or some other finisher) would be just about perfect.

It is my sincere hope that on a not-so-distant future episode of RAW or Smackdown, we see Bo Dallas come to the ring, mic in hand.  He begins to talk about honesty, and how he’s always tried to be truthful with the fans, which is why sometimes he has to say things that are hurtful.  In that spirit, he needs to confess something to us - Dallas is his MIDDLE name.  His full name is Bo. . .Dallas. . .Wyatt. . .Enter his brother, lantern and all.  They embrace in the center of the ring, and WWE has some entertaining programming ahead of it.

Are they a tag team?  Do they form a stable?  Are they just allies, each fighting their own battles but having each others backs?  I could care less.  All I want to see are the Brothers Wyatt in the same ring, at the same time, fighting for the same cause.

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What do YOU think?  Are you on board with Bray and Bo?  What would you like to see from them?  Be Heard.

Top of the morning to you!

Fun Fact:  The proper response to that greeting is “And the rest of the day to yourself.”

That’s why I’m here folks, to entertain AND inform.

After watching RAW this morning, here are three things that stand out to me.

Where in the world is Sheamus?

It feels like he’s been on the verge of return for months now - Are we really going to need to wait until Wrestlemania for him to show up?  I mean, RAW was the night before St. Patrick’s Day - Don’t you want to have your most obviously Irish superstar appear?

To me, this is proof that WWE isn’t quite sure what they want to do with the Celtic Warrior.  If they had a concrete plan in place, they’d have acted on it already.

In order of predictability, some places where Sheamus winds up at Mania.

 The ATG Battle Royal.  If ever there was a match in need of star power, even for someone with such tepid fervor as Sheamus, this is the one.  Since Mark Henry made his official entry this week, it’s POSSIBLE they’re saving Sheamus’ entry for next week, just to add to the “build”, but if that’s the case, shame on WWE for not taking a risk with some creative booking.

 The IC title ladder match.  I know a lot of people are howling on Twitter about how 7 people is too many for a ladder match, but I think that’s bogus.  We’ve watched MITB matches for years that feature between 6-8 superstars, and over that time we’ve learned that if the writing and talents are prepared and bought in, the match will be good.

To that end, if 7 people can be in it, why not 8?  I was really hoping that after Barrett reclaimed his title and was making his way up the ramp last night, we’d see him met with a Brogue kick and Sheamus taking his turn with the title.  Sure, he’d have been a face if he had done so, but that’s easily fixable at Mania or just after.  Again, maybe they’re just biding their time in the hopes of gaining some Celtic momentum on the ‘go-home’ show, but come on, is Sheamus really THAT exciting?

Something unexpected.  I’ll delve into the deep end of the #PromotingPositivity pool with this one, but I’m hoping WWE comes up with a creative way of bringing Sheamus back that is a pleasant surprise.  If he’s going to be a heel, perhaps he’ll come out and attack Cena, giving Rusev the win.  It’s not quite the “World Elite” stable that friends and I have been hoping for, but it would be some outside of the box booking, which is always nice.

The New-Look Rusev

from WWE.com

Perhaps I haven’t paid as much attention as I should have in the last few months, in which case the look Rusev was sporting on RAW isn’t exactly “new”, but I totally liked what I saw from the Bulgarian Brute last night.  Gone was the “monster” and in its place was a put-together, well-spoken (if Anti-American) super athlete.  THAT’S the Rusev that I think we should be seeing more of post-Mania, with even less focus on his nationality.

Let him be who he is - someone who can outfight perhaps everyone on the WWE roster, including (perhaps) our World Heavyweight Champion.

The Tag Team Title Picture

With the news that Jey Uso is out for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury, I firmly believe that the best thing WWE can do at this point is to NOT have a tag team title match at Wrestlemania.

It was enjoyable for what it was, but look at what happened on RAW.  We have Tyson Kidd and Cesaro battling New Day, which on its own isn’t so bad.  Then we have Los Matadores come out. . . . And that’s all!  These are the three teams in the tag title picture?  Why do we even have titles at this point?

I mean, I’m not surprised or anything, but we didn’t even see The Ascension!  That’s how far those two have fallen - they’re not even up to the standards of the flippin’ Matadors!

I know that with a 2 hour pre-show the tag title match is destined to happen before 8 o’clock, but does it even need to happen at all?  Just stick all these guys in the ATG Battle Royal and be done with it!

Or, if you’re INSISTING on having this tag title match, WWE, I have one compound word for you.

BoBreeze.

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What do YOU think?  Where do you see Sheamus at Mania?  Did you like the new Rusev?  Thoughts on the tag title scene?  Be Heard.

Contrary to the opinion of my fellow number 2 contender, The Teacher, I don’t like Bo Dallas.

I don’t like Bo Dallas, and not in the way that I’m supposed to not like Bo Dallas.

I get it, I get the gimmick; Bo Dallas is the antithesis of what wrestling fans like. The attention to detail is there, from the smarmy look, the too-toothy grin, the constant state of wet – everything on this guy is hosed down before he heads to the ring, from hair to shirt. Someone probably should have told Bo that being constantly wet was the Shield’s gimmick, but with that group disbanded I guess the theft is acceptable.

So, Bo Dallas plays the character well. For me, the Bo Dallas character works best when he is oblivious of the hate coming from the audience and the other performers. For me, the illusion breaks when Bo does something heelish in a clearly premeditated manner, like his attacks on El Torito. If Bo really is a bad dude under the exterior, then the character is a façade and the cracks are showing. I was a bigger fan of his match against Damien Sandow on RAW this past Monday night. Sandow gave Bo a proverbial shellacking prior to the match, and I was entertained by the way Bo kept shaking his head, as if to say, “Oh, Damien, you kidder!”

The greater problem here is two-fold: One; The best characters are often those in which the performer sees some reflection of themselves.  The most successful characters, like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, CM Punk, or, dare I say it, Brock Lesnar, all have some foundation in reality. This is a problem for Bo Dallas; no one in this world acts like Bo Dallas’ acts. He’s a cartoon character. Cartoon characters have worked in the past, but that was a different era. Hulk Hogan or Ultimate Warrior, Bo Dallas is not.

Two; Where does this gimmick go? As a quirky comedy act, the Bo Dallas character has the potential to languish in the mid-card forever. Once his undefeated streak ends, where does Bo end up? This Bo Dallas could eventually hold the Intercontinental or U.S. Championship, but that day isn’t soon as he still hasn’t been tested against anyone in the running for either of those titles. What about the day when he drops that hypothetical mid-card title? As is, this character never climbs the card to compete for the world heavyweight championship. More likely, he ends up as enhancement talent.

The silver lining here? Bo Dallas, the performer, is talented. I think the current character does a lot to obscure how green he is on the microphone, but that is a skill that will continue to develop over time. His in-ring work is decidedly solid, even at this early stage. Moreover, I can see the WWE tweaking his character on a weekly basis. The matchup against Damien Sandow this week is proof that they are not wed to the idea of Bo Dallas as a heel. The character is not stagnant, and they are continuing to evolve the concept.

Give it six months. Does Bo fizzle out, or does he evolve into something greater than the character they are offering us now? Time will tell the story of Bo Dallas.

For my money, there’s nothing like a good wrestling stable.  If you were a wrestling fan in the 1980’s, it was the Four Horsemen or the Heenan Family.  During the Monday Night Wars, it was the nWo or the Corporate Ministry.  Raven’s Flock, Los Boricuas, Right to Censor, the Filthy Animals. . . The list goes on and on.

A well-put together stable allows you to showcase multiple talents in a single segment.  Most importantly, it allows young talents to have a chance to grow and shine (Randy Orton in the early days of Evolution) while veteran talent who are getting on in years but can still bring it on the mic get to continue being a relevant force (Arn Anderson during the final days of the WCW Horsemen).  In addition, a stable can help elevate a single superstar by having him be the focus of the group.  (Straight Edge Society is one example, another one that failed dramatically was The Brood.)  Also, stables can sometimes serve as a metaphor for broader issues, be it inside or outside of the wrestling world.

Here are 6 stables (4 re-iterations of a group from the past as well as 2 brand new ones) that I believe could exist in the WWE.  Many of these also provide opportunities for many of the next wave of NXT stars to make their way onto the main roster, while also giving a current Superstar a leadership role.

The Nexus 

Led by Wade Barrett, the Nexus was a group of NXT stars (back when NXT was a competition style show complete with coaches) who banded together to try to secure contracts for all its members as well as make life very difficult for one John Cena.  Among its original members were Daniel Bryan and Skip “Ryback” Sheffield, and the future Bray Wyatt joined up soon after.

Barrett should reform this stable when he returns from injury later this year, giving the Bad News to the wrestling world that its time for another change in the ranks.  I could see Paige being an early member of this group, and by fall, Adrien Neville (current NXT champion) could be a newcomer as well.  I don’t want this to turn into an all-UK group, so let’s also add the reigning NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension, to the mix, who can serve as the muscle of the group.

The Oddities

Originally a group of evil sideshow “freaks”, the Oddities couldn’t help but be fan favorites in the late 1990’s, which is. . . ahem. . .”odd” considering one of them was wearing a leather hood and the other two looked like villains one would find in a James Bond movie.

I’m taking a little bit of liberties with the theme of this stable, going with more of a old-school circus theme (Before you start yelling, yes I am aware that TNA has recently used a circus gimmick, but no, I don’t care.).  Damien Sandow would be the ringmaster of this group that would prominently feature current NXT tag team The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch), as well as either The Great Khali as an enforcer.

The 2014 Oddities wouldn’t set the WWE world on fire, but it would at least get Sandow out of a Sonic uniform and hopefully no longer a jobber.  Speaking of which. . .

The JOB Squad

Led by Al Snow, the JOB Squad was a group of wrestlers who always found themselves on the losing end of matches, hoping that by joining forces, they could better their standing.  This stable all but writes itself.

This stable would have been tailor made for Santino, but with him off TV, Zack Ryder could and should take the lead in this group.  The fact that he found out about his participation in Sunday’s IC title Battle Royal on Twitter would be a natural impetus for him to come out on RAW and voice his frustrations, slowly joined by RybAxel, Heath Slater, Xavier Woods and Fandango.  (Note: This could also be a natural way to transition Johnny Curtis off the dancer gimmick.)  While this likely wouldn’t elevate any of them to main event status, it would allow them to be on TV more often, so maybe one catches lightning in a bottle.

Nation of Domination

I know that I am treading on dangerous waters here, but there is no denying that the issue of racism in wrestling has been all over the Web.  The Cheap Heat Podcast (which comes highly recommended) dedicated an entire episode to it, and Mark Henry has been discussing it as well. In the past, WWE has seemed to address mainstream issues on their programming, so if that’s the case, bringing the Nation back makes sense.

While Mark Henry would be most associated with this, I’d actually prefer to see Big E take the lead of this group.  I don’t know if he is intentionally trying to sound like a Baptist minister in his promos as of late, but that style would work well.  Henry would naturally be the muscle of the group (though Titus O’Neill also would fit in that role), and Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Tamina Snuka and Alberto Del Rio could also be members.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a long-running group, but it would put the issue up front, giving WWE a chance to address it on camera.

OK, time for the two new stables.

Team Gorgeous 

OK, so that’s a working title.  Feel free to let me know if you have a better one.

Dolph Ziggler, after finding himself in the loving arms of both Summer Rae and Layla, realizes that it really is great being a good looking guy.  With his new partner Tyler Breeze (who is already nailing this idea down in NXT), returning Superstars Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel and the current NXT BFF’s Sasha Banks and Charlotte, this group tries to take over every title in the WWE, all without messing up a single hair.

The Bo-Lievers

Whether its The Straight Edge Society or The Brood, there has always been a place for cult-type factions in wrestling.  I could easily Bo Dallas attracting a small group of followers who totally subscribe to his positive philosophies.  This stable would be different from the others in that it would exist solely for the benefit of Bo Dallas, rather than furthering any aims of his minions.

Again, we reach down into NXT, taking the very cheerful and bubbly Bayley as well as Mojo Rawley, who has the muscle and talent to succeed, especially if bo-lieving gets rid of the extra annoying “Stay Hyped” schtick.  If Bo is super annoying on his own, just imagine if he has a posse.

Alright, time for me to step away from the fantasy booking chair.  Feel free to share your thoughts.  Could any of these stables work?  Which ones would you like to see back in WWE?  Let us know!

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