On the day after Wrestlemania, I spent hours sitting in front of my computer sifting through the myriad complains of the NAIborhood, and, if I'm being honest, offering many of my own.
Why did Brock Lesnar so handily defeat Dean Ambrose?
Why did WWE build up the Shane McMahon story only to have Undertaker win?
Why did The Rock put Bray Wyatt over verbally, but not necessarily physically?
Basically, the world wanted to know What in the blue hell is going on?
With last night's RAW in the rearview mirror, I can't look at you and say all of those questions have been answered. In fact, I can't look at you and say that ANY of those questions have been answered.
What I can do is look at you and say. . . Who cares?
The two RAWs coming out of Wrestlemania have been fantastic, WWE Payback looks like it is going to be an amazing Pay Per View, and even some of the most fervent critics of WWE (Hi, Laz!) have been, at least temporarily, silenced. As Pope of Positivity, I am feeling pretty darn good right now about my wrestling experience.
Let me share some of the moments that made me smile most.
Shane McMahon continues to do a stellar job running RAW.
I don't know how long this storyline is going to last, I don't know where exactly it's going to lead and quite frankly, it doesn't bother me in the slightest. Shane coming out and seemingly being "The People's Authority" has resulted in some fantastic television, and I'll enjoy it as long as WWE goes with it.
Kevin Owens might be my perfect wrestler.
I love technical wrestling, I love the ability to mix power and aerial ability and I LOVE Wrestle Silly. What about that is NOT Kevin Owens? While Bo Dallas will always hold a special place in my heart, I don't think I can consider him my favorite wrestler right now while KO continues to turn in such epic performances. Nobody I can think of would take the time to stop, pick up JBL's hat, put it back on the announce table and apologize for knocking it over.
PPV Quality Matches on a Monday Night RAW.
Someone on Twitter didn't really know what to make of Zayn vs. Styles, which could easily have been a main event matchup on pay per view. I think they felt like it was wasted on a RAW. How could it be? With the depth of talent we have in WWE right now, EVERY show should feel like a PPV, match-wise, and let the storylines be darned. I loved AJ vs. Sami, and that's all that matters.
Dean Ambrose is back where he belongs.
While the Wrestlemania loss will still sting for a while, I think, when push comes to shove, I am really just angry with myself for having such irrational expectations as to think Ambrose could feasibly beat Brock. I fell victim to my own fantasy booking.
Now Dean is back where he belongs, FINALLY coming back to address the "feud" that started way back at Night of Champions. He and Jericho are going to do amazing work (the Highlight Reel-turned-Ambrose Asylum was particularly stellar) and Dean will be stronger for it.
I spent a good portion of the morning fanning out with fellow Bray Bo-Lievers (See what I did there?) Shannon Scott and Whitney Harris, and I think we can all agree that last night ranked among the best all-time moments for Bray Wyatt since joining WWE. Everything he did was terrific - The interactions with LON and Reigns midway through the show, his promo before his entrance was thrilling and he might have just redefined what a "hot tag" can be.
Perhaps this has been what's wrong with Bray this entire time - He's meant to have the WWE Universe in his hands. As a "babyface" (using this term VERY loosely), it's entirely possible that the sky is the limit for Mr. Wyatt.
Wrestlemania 32 might be one of the all-time question marks in wrestling history, but that's exactly what it is right now. . . HISTORY.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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 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.
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.
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.
Yesterday, my esteemed partner in podcast crime Doc Manson posted an article about the reasons why he was excited for this Sunday's Wrestlemania. Never one to shy away from borrowing a good idea, I've decided to go ahead and offer my own reasons. In order to keep the good Doctor from screaming about plagiarism on this week's DDTpod, though, I've ranked the matches in order of my excitement AND I have included the three prospective pre-show contests.
The Usos vs. The Dudleys
As I wrote on the forums last week, this has not been a pretty return to World Wrestling Entertainment for Bubba Ray and Devon, as evidenced by the fact that they are in the pre-show and nowhere near the tag team titles. They face the main roster equivalent of Blake and Murphy (ie the Biggest Black Holes of Charisma) The Usos, so yeah. . . I'm not on the edge of my seat for this one.
Why I'm Excited: Well, I'm obviously not, though I suppose the wrestling itself will be good. Plus, I haven't actually watched a Dudley match since they turned heel, I don't think, so that will be nice.
Kalisto vs. Ryback for the US Title
While Ryback's slightly-heelish-but-not-quite character change has been better than anything else he has done of late, I'm still not pumped for this contest. Kalisto became as much of a household name as he currently is by doing crazy things with a ladder - Why not give him the opportunity to do so again at Wrestlemania?
Why I'm Excited: There are few wrestlers in WWE I am continually entertained by more than our United States Champion, and this particular David vs. Goliath matchup will certainly wind up in Kalisto being tossed around like a lawn dart, though it won't be as good as this was...
Divas Tag Match
To be honest, I'm actually a little excited for this match.
Why I'm Excited: After all this time, we finally will get to see if Lana can be a capable wrestler. I expect she won't get a whole lot of ringtime, hence the use of the multi-person format, but it will be more than we've seen so far. Besides Lana, it's always nice to see Natalya wrestle and it has been so long since Paige has competed on major WWE television that I've almost forgotten what she looks like.
She's the pale one, right?
Andre the Giant Battle Royal
Why I'm Excited: First and foremost, just to figure out exactly how they're going to fill the ring, what with all the talents being used elsewhere on the card. My main reason for excitement, though, is that a large number of my favorite WWE superstars will be featured here. Bo Dallas, Damien Sandow, Bray Wyatt (as sad as this makes me), perhaps we'll even get a look at the Ravenesque Alex Riley. I love the lower card talents, so this match is right up my alley.
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
You might think it's unusual, if not plain old wrong, for me to have this match ranked fifth out of eleven, but really, this is a positive thing. This Mania is so good from top to bottom that the World Heavyweight Championship match technically ranks in the bottom half. How cool!
Why I'm Excited - Triple H won't be coming to the ring like a Terminator. . . I hope. . . And even if he does, this arena is indoors, right? We're not going to make the same mistake twice, are we?
Anyway, I'm excited because I'm expecting big things from Roman Reigns on Sunday. The last two weeks have been pretty much everything we could hope for and more and there is no reason to expect any different. Maybe modified theme music, maybe a new outfit (Really, Roman, just ditch the vest. Make the ladies - And some of the gents - happy!), but his evolution (HA!) concludes this Sunday.
Even when Triple H retains his title.
Full Disclosure: Don't tell him, but this match is ranked so "low" because deep down, I know Doc Manson is right, and I can't be too excited about a match where the outcome is so obvious. Fingers crossed for some sort of swerve!
Chris Jericho vs. AJ Styles
I don't understand why so many people have been lambasting this card "on paper". Look at the talent on this show! This is like your WWE 2K16 game come to life! Stop riding the Negativity Narrowboat and climb on board the Paddlewheeler of Positivity - This is going to be FUN!
Why I'm Excited: It's Jericho vs. Styles, and despite the slight letdown of it being part 4 (the inner math nerd cringes when we have even numbered best-of series), this match is going to be pretty tremendous. Earlier today, I listed the "best" matches of the previous Wrestlemanias according to the ratings of Dave Meltzer and Y2J's name appears a couple of times. While I'm not willing to do the research required, let me just go ahead and assure you that AJ Styles has had some 5 star quality matches as well. They will not disappoint.
League of Nations vs. New Day
A lot of people were belly-aching (forgive me, NAIborhood, but it's true) about the fact that this match is no longer listed as being for the WWE tag team championships, but I don't think that's such a big deal. For one thing, how exactly do 4 people carry 2 titles? The Freebird Rule is soon going to be a Hall of Fame standard, so that makes sense. There is no precedent, that I am aware of, for more than three guys holding tag team titles, unless the Villano family did some crazy stuff in Mexico.
I know, I know, that was a deep pull. I'm proud of myself.
Why I'm Excited: This match will feature seven quality wrestlers. All of them are enjoyable to watch, when they feel like giving it their all in some cases, but these guys are going to put on a show. We've been pretty lucky to have some high quality tag team matches at recent PPV's (especially when you consider the relative weakness of the division) and I don't expect anything to change.
I agree with Doc that the New Day gimmick has started to. . .forgive me. . . sour a bit as of late, but unlike the esteemed Monsieur Manson, I find the League of Nations very entertaining, especially in recent weeks. No longer tied so closely to The Authority, they can be a bunch of international hooligans, and that's A-OK with me right now.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Why I'm Excited: The same reasons you all are - For the first time EVER, the women's title match has a really good chance to steal the show. Along with looking up the best Wrestlemania matches this morning, I also went ahead and found the WORST ones, too, and more often than not, the female competitors found themselves on that list. In fact, I just went back and counted. They showed up 11 times. I can pretty much guarantee that won't be the case this time.
Intercontinental Ladder Match
I was delighted to see Miz tweet that he wasn't injured, he was simply acting. I don't buy it, necessarily, but at least this means he'll be competing in some form or fashion at Wrestlemania. In truth, him being injured isn't the worst thing in the world, since Miz' entire character revolves around him trying to sneak his way to victory. Remember when he won the IC title Battle Royal by hiding outside the ring? Expect more of the same Sunday.
Why I'm Excited: With the exception of Sin Cara, I enjoy all of these wrestlers, so putting them all together is never going to be a bad thing. Would I have liked to see Owens vs. Zayn? Of course I would, but I can also understand why WWE would choose to wait for that. You let that story build on the main roster and the payoff at Mania 33 (or 34, or 35, or 40) will be that much sweeter.
I know Sin Cara won't win the title, and I don't particularly want Dolph to win it (only because there's nothing new he can do with it) but outside of that, I am totally fine with any other competitor in this match being the one to bring down the title. That's a very good thing.
Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar
I saw somebody tweet earlier that they were disappointed that Dean Ambrose hadn't yet shown himself to be a true challenger for Lesnar. That's the entire point. Nobody in WWE right now, and in fact, nobody in NXT either, SHOULD be a challenger for Brock Lesnar. The man has been booked to exist on an entirely different plane of existence - Dean Ambrose should absolutely NOT be seen as a credible threat.
Which is why, when he wins, AND HE WILL, it will be that much sweeter.
Why I'm Excited: The no holds barred stipulation (or whatever they're calling it - all means the same thing) is what's going to make this match fun. Ambrose will wheel his shopping cart full of goodies down to the ring, including the chainsaw, and in between being suplexed, F-5'd and kneed right in the face, he'll use every single weapon in his arsenal to bring Brock Lesnar to his knees.
Dean Ambrose's career leaps forward on Sunday. I can't wait to see it.
Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker
Why I'm Excited: It is rare in the wrestling business to have a match where the entire scope of the product hangs in the balance. Yes, I know that it's a storyline, and yes, I know that the powers that be will still be when the Cell raises at the end of the night, but regardless, in 170 hours we could be looking at a completely different WWE. How can that NOT be the most exciting part of Wrestlemania?
Shane McMahon, even at his accelerated age and with his phantom punches, is going to do a tremendous job and take a couple of risks he has no reason to take. Undertaker, as my column earlier today showed, has done his best work in the last 10 years, so there's few worries on his end.
AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!!! We could see Bullet Club . . . Or Balor Club. . . Or the Redneck Reppin' Crew (shut up, it could happen) Triple H could get involved. Kane could get involved. John Cena? Why not? Seth Rollins? Sure, it could happen! The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Sting? The list goes on and on.
Bold (and probably erroneous) Statement to end the Column: Since coming back to regular wrestling watching with the debut of the WWE Network, there has not been a main event match. . . or perhaps even a match itself. . . . I have looked forward to MORE than Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker.
The general consensus from last night's RAW was that the show was a dud.
Well, that's not entirely true. Most people will admit that the show was decent enough, but it paled in comparison to what many believed the penultimate RAW before Wrestlemania "should be". I can understand where those people are coming from - the lack of Lesnar, Undertaker and Shane-O-Mac was pretty evident.
However, let's focus on the show for what it was, not what we wanted it to be. Yes, friends, I'm donning my #PromotingPositivity Pork Pie hat and sharing with you the things I think you should be excited about from last night.
Roman Reigns Silently (and from the Ramp!)
What I expected to be yet another incredibly annoying promo by Stephanie McMahon wound up being far more than I could have hoped for with the entrance of Roman Reigns, from the ramp no less! Sure, he's got the Shield music, sure, he's got the Shield outfit, but just a new way to the ring alone is enough to get some people popping.
Then he got to the ring and. . . He didn't act like The Rock. He wasn't trying to be a Jericho-type "cool guy". He spoke softly AND carried a big stick, and by stick, of course, I mean his serious presence. It couldn't mean anything else, right?
It seemed like the Philly crowd helped us figure out what's really going on with Roman these days. People inherently like him, especially when he acts the way he did, so the initial reaction is to cheer him. Then, after that first burst, people realize that "it's cool to hate Roman" and THAT'S when the boos come. It's not legitimate, it's an artifice. I expected better, Philadelphia.
Styles and Owens, part 2
If it was up to us, NAIborhood, I'm sure we'd let them have a best of 70 series - I didn't catch their Smackdown encounter but this match was everything I hoped for and more.
Food for thought - Has Kevin Owens had a bad match in WWE yet?
Even the ending was fine by me - Yeah, it was a repeat of what happened on Smackdown, but that's going to be what happens until Shane McMahon wins at Wrestlemania and Smackdown becomes a WWE / NXT hybrid show.
If I say it enough, it will come true.
Battle of the Beasts
In a ROH review I wrote yesterday, I mentioned an encounter between Moose and Kongo, and bemoaned the lack of Rusev being used as the monster that he is. He might not have won last night, but at least the match was more along the lines of what I was thinking. He and Big E had a chance to tear the house down and while their stables got in the way, they did just that. I enjoyed that contest, and I hope it's not the last time we see them in a match.
While we're on the subject of New Day, two quick points off the #PromotingPositivity podium. First, what the hell were Big E, Kofi and Xavier talking about last night? Is this what we're going to get out of a "face" New Day? If so, please turn them heel again as soon as possible.
Secondly, Rusev has outgrown the League of Nations. His Twitter feed alone should be enough to get him back into the mid-card singles title market. Why he's not part of the IC ladder match is beyond me.
Ok, let's get back to the column proper.
Bo Flippin' Dallas
If you were to check out my DDTwrestling.com profile, you would notice that I have listed Bo Rida as my favorite current wrestler. That's probably not true, but I'd be hard pressed to find a guy more entertaining on a regular basis than Mr. Dallas. In fact, let me be bold.
Bo Dallas is performing, character wise, on a level very close to one Kevin Owens.
He might not be getting as much of a chance to shine, but in my mind, Bo Dallas is the leader of the Social Outcasts (in fact, I find Heath Slater to be the least entertaining of the bunch). Every little thing he does is magic. Go back and watch him try to beg off of Kane - Totally hilarious.
I'm pulling for Bo Dallas to win the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and then I want his cheesy smile bronzed and put in Andre's place.
Fandango had a match!
His hair might have been terrible, but at least we saw him. I was beginning to forget what he looked like.
The IC ladder match.
I'll be honest - This is not the match I was hoping for. No Harper (though since he apparently got injured, that's probably for the best), no Rusev, obviously no Titus O'Neil. I had originally expected Stardust to be a part of this, so that was nice to see.
Despite my minor disappointment, it's not like this match is going to be terrible, folks. Owens and Zayn can tell their stories, Ziggler and Miz are always dependable for some entertaining action, Sin Cara will dive off of stuff and Zack Ryder will be so legitimately happy to be on the Mania card that we'll be pulling for him the whole time.
Plus, there's always the chance (not really) that Cody Rhodes makes his return.
Young Mister Reigns continued to be the badass we all have wanted him to be by slowly (ssslllooowwwlllyyy) appearing from beyond the garage door and battling Triple H backstage. Once again, no talking, just brooding, exactly what we fell in love with when he was with Rollins and Ambrose.
This is what we've been asking for, folks. Stop moaning that "it's too late". Give him the cheers the last two weeks have earned.
Charlotte and Natalya got the chance to have an actual wrestling match, not a 3 minute hair-pulling contest. I know this is becoming much more of the norm thanks to the Diva's Revolution, but it's still worth mentioning. I get why Natalya can't force her way into the championship triple threat, but it's delightful to see her mattering in WWE again.
Ambrose bringing Hardcore back
Terry Funk might not have had as perfect a moment as Mick Foley did last week, but it was nice to see old Chainsaw Charlie back on my TV screen. As for the main event - I'll admit it, I went to bed after Vince's pretty underwhelming "big announcement". Braun Strowman just doesn't make me want to stay up until 11:00.
I did enjoy hearing that Ambrose got himself disqualified, though. There's no way Dean can beat Brock in a one-on-one contest. I better be seeing Ambrose drag a hot dog cart AND a shopping cart full of weapons to the ring in Dallas.
Like I said when this column began, I get it. Last night was not the explosion of excellence we all expected.
But it was a good RAW. Plenty to enjoy. Wrestlemania weekend is going to be a fantastic time.
I always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but I never got around to it.
Being of a creative and improvisational mind, D&D always seemed to be right up my alley. Creating a character, a backstory, a code of conduct, yet doing my best to adapt to the situations that presented themselves - Nerdy, perhaps, but seems like a lot of fun.
The closest I came was in college, and if memory serves, one Doc Manson was part of that group as well. We started making characters for ourselves (I wanted to be a Rogue-type, despite being one of the least stealthy people I know), but it fizzled out before it got very far. I consider it a missed opportunity, though I’m pretty sure that if I had gotten into it, Mrs. Matthews wouldn’t be sitting in the other room, us being happily married for going on five years.
Why am I telling you this, besides to beef up my nerd cred and (possibly) score some brownie points with my wonderful bride?
WWE needs to take a lesson from Dungeons and Dragons.
No, nobody should be casting magic missles into the darkness (well, maybe New Day could), but one thing that D&D is famous for is not having simply “good” and “bad”. They delineate between those who are evil because they, like the Joker, are agents of chaos and between those who break the rules purely for selfish reasons. There are the rule-followers because they follow rules and the rule-followers who just do what they feel is right.
In WWE, we don’t really have that. . . Or at least, not as much as we should. Doc and I discussed this a little bit on last week’s podcast, or maybe the week before that, talking about how not every babyface in the company needs to be filling wishes each and every day.
What made the biggest boom periods in wrestling interesting was that there were different kinds of heels and babyfaces. You had Ric Flair and the Horsemen, but you also had Kevin Sullivan and Purple Haze. You had Hulk Hogan and you had the Macho Man. You had Steve Austin, The Rock and Kurt Angle, among others, all who may have been rulebreakers at one time, but none of them the exact same type of heel.
So, based off of yesterday’s column about my Top Ten talents I’d build around, mixed in with the great NAIborhood discussion over the last few days, and a dab of foreshadowing of my #FantasyBookingWrestlemania, allow me to present some options for current talents, and how they could be differentiated to perhaps bring more interest to the product.
This one is already happening, and has been so for a decade, hence our general boredom. John Cena is the Hulk Hogan of our times, his “Never Give Up” is the training, the prayers and the vitamins all wrestling children of the 80’s were told to take each and every week. Cena has a strong moral compass that leads him to seek to right wrongs and ensure justice. He doesn’t do it because the rules of the land tell him to, he does it because it’s the right thing to do.
One of the problems with John Cena is that there was never a great yin to his yang, much the same way people are having issues with Rollins and the current main event tier right now. Hogan had the Heenan Family and his ever changing cast of goons to battle. Cena has had Orton, JBL, CM Punk (too briefly). . . and whoever else he fought during the decade or so I stopped watching wrestling.
Did he ever have a real nemesis? Someone help me out.
Yes, friends, I’ll be traveling down the Shawn Michaels road again with the NoseBreak Kid, and I’ll continue doing so until I see something that shows me that Rollins isn’t the next ShowStopper.
Contrary to Cena, who does the right thing even at his own detriment, Rollins should be following rules and defending the innocent, but only to a given point. He should always have his self-interest first on his list of priorities, or at least the interest of his close friends and associates.
This makes Rollins a compelling character because we can see the moments where he decides NOT to do the right thing in order to put himself first. He might even become a heel for a brief period if it serves his interests, as opposed to Cena, who never would.
Hence, again, why Cena can be boring. He’s always going to do the right thing, and he’s almost always going to be successful. Perfection is boring.
Depending on your opinion, the batting average of WWE when it comes to character development varies, and while you might not be happy with the career trajectory of our IC champion, you can’t deny that he certainly is one of the most compelling characters in the company.
One of the reasons for that, besides Owens God-given charisma, is the fact that he’s got a definitive and rational reason for doing what he does. He’s working to provide a better life for his family and to prove that he’s one of the best talents in WWE. Can anyone fault him for that logic?
Owens is going to do whatever he has to do in order to fulfill his mission. He’ll break rules, attack people, take the “cowardly” way out, but he might also help somebody unexpected if it’s a means to an end. This is where selfishness comes in handy, just like with Rollins. Owens could someday run out to save John Cena if it was part of a larger plan. He’s always got his endgame in mind.
In many ways, Zayn is a lot like Ricky Steamboat to me. I think he’s always going to be a babyface - he’s just too talented, too charming, too “aww-shucks ma’am” to pull off a convincing bad guy. Zayn will also have a moral code like Cena would, but he’s probably also always going to follow the letter of the law. If the dirty heel gets to the ropes, Zayn will break the hold. He’ll make sure the rulebook gets adhered to.
Unless he’s facing Owens, in which case he’s more likely to beat KO to death with the rulebook than stick to it. When it comes to the ultimate betrayal that we saw in NXT, Sami Zayn will do whatever it takes to extract his vengeance. He’ll break rules, defy orders, face fines and suspensions, all in order to get his hands on Kevin Owens. That’s what makes his character great.
I firmly believe that Roman Reigns won’t become a legitimate main eventer, specifically in the eyes of the fans, until he turns his back on that crowd he currently walks through. The WWE audience (or maybe just the IWC) won’t get behind him until it’s “cool” to do so. If they keep him as Cena 2.0, or this “Big Dog” business, it won’t work.
Roman Reigns should be the new face of The Authority. Let life imitate art - WWE wants him to be the next “guy”, so have them act that way on television. Reigns should do everything he can to make HHH / Stephanie happy and keep himself on the path to greatness. He should be Rollins without the whining. He is not a cowardly heel, but he will follow orders if they lead to future title shots and more glory.
Oh, and he should be an on-screen partner of Eva Marie. #EmbraceTheHate.
As I said in my previous column and on Twitter a million times, the PG era is what’s keeping Ambrose back. If WWE was willing to take risks, Dean is the man to do it, both in and out of the ring. Everyone compares him to either Roddy Piper, Brian Pillman or Steve Austin, and all three of those guys were over because at any given moment, they could do anything. Ambrose doesn’t have that right now. He can do anything, just as long as it is previously approved by the censors.
In a perfect world, Ambrose is the personification of crazy evil. He’s lighting things on fire just to watch them burn. He’s coming out, beating down a random wrestler with a chair, then just chuckling to himself and walking away. No reasoning, no rationale, just bug-nutty crazy.
At any given point, Ambrose should be capable of saying or doing anything. That’s a compelling character.
With Ambrose as the Crazy Heel, Reigns as the Authority’s heel and Rollins as the cocky babyface, you now have the potential for a Shield Triple Threat. Book it.
This has been a long-standing problem with the Wyatt character, in my opinion. He’s spent the last few years trying to “save” WWE from certain talents, yet they all have been good guys. Isn’t that a little limiting? Wouldn’t a better idea for Bray be that he’s trying to save WWE from evil, yet evil, in his warped mind, takes many forms?
Neutral, in D&D terms, means sometimes the character does the right thing, sometimes not. This should be Bray. Why couldn’t he try to save us from Big Show, who is a heel (last time I checked, anyway)? Or Miz? Or Rusev? Or The Authority in general? Just imagine Bray Wyatt coming out to attack Triple H (and if they wanted to push the envelope, Stephanie) because the WWE needs to be saved from its own power structure?
Bray Wyatt could be our Katniss Everdeen!
Apparently talking about wrestling, Dungeons and Dragons AND The Hunger Games in a single column breaks some sort of code, and being a lawful proponent of #PromotingPositivity, that means I’ve got to stop writing.
What do YOU think? Is this one thing WWE needs? How would you classify your stars? Be Heard.