Fresh off our first ever post, Doc Manson and I break down the first RAW of the Number 2 Contenders era.
The Teacher: Monday Night Raw is in the books for July 14th, and the battleground for Battleground is set. The biggest question is, Doc. . . Did you sign up for your free preview of WWE Network?
Doc Manson: Sadly, no. I’m already a subscriber. They sure don’t want anyone to forget that the WWE Network is a thing that you can pay money for down the road though.
T: The way they were going, I’m surprised Vince McMahon didn’t come to the ring, get down on his hands and knees and beg everyone to sign up.
D: That’s practically what John Cena did in the opening segment of RAW. Nothing like taking a time out from selling the current angle to sell the Network instead.
T: Yesterday we gave our State of the WWE, and at that time, you and I disagreed on our opinion of Roman Reigns’ personality. Having forced myself to watch the opening promo (a segment I usually fast forward through), I’ll have to admit I was wrong. Reigns does seem to be coming into his own on the mic, which is really the only thing keeping him from total stardom.
D: Stardom is headed to Roman Reigns, regardless of his work on the mic. He is improving, but is still green next to Cena and even Ambrose. Still, you can’t argue with the crowd. They are behind Reigns in a big, loud way.
T: Were you surprised Ambrose didn’t come out during the main event? I expected him to run out in a hospital gown and beat down Rollins with his IV bag.
D: I’d have prefered a bed pan. Still, with Ambrose’s loose cannon persona, you’d think he’d show less concern with his physical health and would have been involved in the main event. I thought something similar when Ambrose left the ladder match at Money in the Bank due to a shoulder injury. They missed an opportunity for a good moment, I was hoping Ambrose would scream at the doctor to pop his shoulder back into its socket right there at ringside and continue the match. Little moments like that could really cement his character.
T: I think we both agree they are missing the boat on Ambrose in a lot of ways. I really do think he could be the biggest star out of the three Shield members if handled correctly. That kind of natural charisma and verbal skills doesn’t come around that often.
Can Paul Heyman’s ‘Plan C’ be anything other than what we think it is?
D: Plan C can be only one thing: BROOOCK LESNAR.
T: Twitter was all abuzz that Seth Rollins’ apparent injury at the end of RAW was going to lead to Brock Lesnar getting the MITB briefcase. . . As if he would need it.
D: Agreed. The way I would book it, Rollins loses the favor of The Authority over the next few weeks. He finally gets the golden opportunity to cash in the briefcase, and does so successfully. Just as he’s celebrating in the ring, cue the music. Lesnar and Triple H start a match right away, and Rollins immediately drops the title to Lesnar. This gets the title onto Lesnar, and advances the Rollins character into a state where he has no friends left backstage and really has to fight to keep his place.
T: I like what you’re thinking, but I doubt there’s time for anything close to that. Summerslam is on August 17th this year, and as the leaked poster shows, we’re heading towards a Cena / Lesnar match.
My guess is that either Rollins’ injury is a work to keep him out of action for a while, which enables Lesnar to be the Authority’s savior post-Battleground, or Triple H is going to have to strip the briefcase from Rollins, since it’s what is “best for business”. Either way, I imagine Lesnar makes an appearance either this Sunday at the PPV or the following night on RAW.
D: Absolutely. What did you think of the Miz v. Sheamus match we got to see in the next segment?
T: I will refer you to my upcoming “Teacher's Lounge” post, where I shamefully admit to being a Miz fan. Or, at least, this recent iteration of the character.
D: Don’t want to give too much away, I understand. Briefly, I’m also glad to see the Miz back and in a prominent role. He needed that win against Sheamus to look credible for the upcoming Battle Royal at Battleground.
T: Do we need to spend any time at all on the Ziggler / Fandango match?
D: Yes, we do! I have to say, the back and forth between Layla and Summer Rae, fighting over Fandango’s affections, has not been doing anything for me this last month. However, the recent change in Layla’s and Summer Rae’s attitudes towards each other has made the entire bit more watchable. Also, it’s about time Ziggler picked up a win. This guy needs to be more heavily featured, and his character just makes sense to pair with a valet or two.
T: If this is the beginning of a Ziggler push, I’m totally on board. I understand if WWE is hesitant to give the ball to someone with such a concussion risk, but he’s arguably the most talented in-ring performer going right now. Yet another potential favorite for the Battle Royal.
D: Absolutely a favorite this Sunday, but we’ll address the nitty gritty of our Battleground predictions later in the week. Speaking of most talented performers, how about that backstage segment with Damien Sandow going bonkers for a cheesy Sonic pretzel dog? Always sad to see a fellow Scholar have to slum it.
T: I’m sure you’ll never have to work at Sonic, so you should be fine.
I honestly don’t know what they’re doing with Sandow. He’s too good to fill the Santino role. Do we need to see him join his former tag-team partner and become Sand-Dust?
D: I’d love to see it, but somehow I think Sandow’s time has passed. I want to be wrong, I really do.
T: You know whose time I thought had passed but have quickly been proven wrong? Jack Swagger. I don’t know why, but the Swagger / Rusev segments have been consistently good these last weeks.
D: Short term good. I really think they’re damaging the Rusev character by heavily pushing the anti-American gimmick. These feuds don’t lead to lasting legacies any more.
T: Hey, I’m not the only one who remembers Muhammad Hassan!
Actually, scratch that. I might be the only one.
D: Jinder Mahal, anyone?
T: The Putin thing worked when the whole Crisis in the Ukraine was all over the news, but the American short-attention span means its quickly losing steam.
I’m just saying that I didn’t expect Swagger to suddenly become both popular with the crowd and also look far more bad-ass than he has before. As long as he keeps his mouth shut, he’s A-OK with me.
D: My biggest issue with the good guy Colter and Swagger duo is that they have been using the pro-American sentiment as a heel-device for the past year. They don’t get to suddenly be the good guys without at least coming out and apologizing for some of the things they’ve said.
T: The fact that Zeb Colter put an Obama picture on the Titan Tron and said “Even if we don’t agree with him, he is still OUR President” is about as much of an apology as you can hope for. Though I don’t see how they can continue to ride the crowd once Battleground is over. There’s nobody else to feud with, unless they start a program with Alberto Del Rio.
D: The Del Rio v. Van Dam match was of course technically sound, both of these guys can work between the ropes. Just seemed like a filler match, although again Del Rio came out looking strong for the Battle Royal. Not sure if he’s even in that match, actually. I just assume so, since I can’t think of what else he’s doing.
T: I’m going to just go right out and admit that I used the Nikki Bella match and segment as a bathroom break and to get a snack, so if there’s anything worth mentioning here, it’s all you.
D: All I can say is that the Stephanie McMahon promo about Brie is beginning to sound awfully familiar from week to week. This is a feud about a person that isn’t even on television. Something needs to happen to put McMahon’s attention on Nikki and not on the ever-absent Brie.
T: Aren’t we heading towards a Stephanie / Brie match at some point? It certainly seems that way.
D: I think, fifteen years ago, Lawler would have to say something about puppies right now.
T: Speaking of implants, can you get pectoral muscle implants? If so, is that what happened to Big E?
D: No way, that dude is a serious weight lifter. Still holds state records. That’s all natural, man!
T: I liked that Cesaro came out sans Heyman. Like we said before, it was a pairing that never had to be.
Could Cesaro’s losing streak actually make him a favorite in the Battle Royal?
D: He’s got the honor of being the Andre the Giant Battle Royal winner, so maybe this becomes Cesaro’s specialty match. I don’t know what that distinction does for him, but maybe the post-Battlegrounds build will fare better for Cesaro than everything that has happened post-Wrestlemania.
T: If WWE does think of Cesaro as a future star, the Battle Royal gimmick wouldn’t be a bad way to go. He wins this Sunday, wins a couple random other ones this fall, then come January, he looks poised to win the biggest Battle Royal of all, sending him into Wrestlemania 31 with a title shot?
Or am I dreaming too big for poor Antonio?
D: This is another case where I desperately want to be wrong. Cesaro is too good to ignore. I fear that officials think his accent is a barrier to getting over as a singles talent without a mouth piece, but I’m just waiting for them to let him try.
T: Chris Jericho and Bray Wyatt are two wrestlers who do not need a mouthpiece by any stretch of the imagination, though apparently the Richmond crowd took issue with Bray’s promo last night.
D: Did they?
T: There was a “Boring” chant at one point.
D: I will say that Bray has a way of speaking for a long time and yet saying nothing at all. He’s another guy that is getting better with time, and I do enjoy his segments more often than not. Sometimes I think RAW is in danger of overexposing his character though, as he seems to show up in numerous segments every week.
T: I think that’s a sign of a larger problem within the company that is probably best saved for a separate discussion.
Being the wrestling dork that I am, I enjoyed the hell out of Jericho’s promo. Lot of call-backs to wrestlers or ideas I hadn’t heard about in years.
D: Oh yeah, remind me some more about the Bob Barker thing.
T: Back when RAW had guest hosts for a while, Bob Barker was one of them. He got into it with Chris Jericho. If memory serves, Jericho may have slapped him, but I think Barker either didn’t sell it enough or brushed it off completely, then punched him. I bet it can be found on the WWE Network.
Hey, did you know there was a free preview of the WWE Network? I don’t know if it was common knowledge.
D: WWE Network? Never heard of it. Is that like YouTube or something?
T: Oh, it’s fantastic. Tonight there will be a CM Punk documentary that’s never before been seen by any human eyes ever. Unless, of course, you bought the DVD or have had Netflix streaming for the last 18 months. . .
D: So, the real story about the AJ Lee vs. Eva Marie match was Paige on commentary. Super, ridiculously complimentary of AJ Lee the entire time. Are they looking to retread the Mickie James/Trish Stratus super fan storyline? I hope not. Paige was too good in NXT, and I cannot believe the short, weak title reign they used to introduce her to the RAW audience.
T: Might be another case of overexposure. That, or just like Adam Rose, they brought her up without giving proper thought about how they would use her during the first year.
I’m losing track of which segments happened where. When did Ric Flair come out and act like a drunken old man? Was that before Bo Dallas, or after?
D: Flair, wooooooooo, came out just prior to the main event. Bo Dallas and Great Khali got the honor of opening for the Nature Boy.
T: Am I a bad wrestling fan if I said I enjoyed Bo’s frantic urging of the referee to count out Khali more than I enjoyed anything Flair did?
D: The count thing was funny. Too bad for Bo that he’s turning into the other Santino replacement.
T: I don’t know. I think Bo Dallas is, like so many others we’ve mentioned, a favorite for the Battle Royal.
D: Not a chance. Oops, is that a spoiler for our predictions article later this week?
T: It might be, just like my saying I think Miz and Bo Dallas would make amazing tag team champions is a slight spoiler for my article likely posted later today.
D: So, the main event. That was exactly what that match was going to be, right? Handicapped match, Cena and Reigns vs. Orton, Kane, and Rollins. Never got the Ambrose run-in that we all hoped for.
T: Very quickly, before I say anything about the main event, I read online that Cena’s handing of the old WCW title belt to Flair was WWE”s way of retiring it. Think that’s true? I’d like to think if they were really going to do that, there would have been a bit more formality to it.
D: A proper send off would have been appreciated, but honestly it has been way too long that the current champion has continued coming to the ring with two belts. This has been silly since the night after Orton unified the titles.
T: The main event was. . . main event-y? Nice interplay between Cena and Reigns, you had the typical “Oh no, I accidentally hit my partner” spots, and Rollins may or may not have injured himself. We ended RAW with Reigns standing over everyone else, which if history serves, means he has absolutely no shot of winning on Sunday.
D: Yeah, I think the writing is on the wall for a Lesnar v. Reigns match at Wrestlemania 31. I don’t want them to rush the Reigns angle, but I’m not sure how much more over this guy is going to get. Unlike Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns already has the champion look to him. I could see Vince pulling the trigger on a Reigns championship sooner, but that completely messes with the proposed Lesnar title reign which seems like a sure thing at the moment.
T: I think we can safely say that Roman Reigns is THE favorite for the 2015 Royal Rumble.
D: All the data I’ve been able to gather points to yes.
T: Spoiler alert!
For Doc Manson, I’m The Teacher, and class is dismissed.
A long time ago, or at least it seems that way, Doc Manson and I set forth on a journey - to blog about professional wrestling. We called ourselves the Number Two Contenders, which made us feel all sorts of fancy.
What would set us apart, we surmised, would be the fact that we would sometimes blog as a conversation, going back and forth and sharing ideas. What you are about to read is the very first of those conversations.
I originally had asked for your tender mercies here, claiming that "we knew not what we did." Upon re-reading, though, I don't feel I can say that. I'll explain more in the comments.
The Teacher: For our first foray into the blogging realm, we thought we’d step back a bit and give you our “State of the WWE”. What we like, what we don’t like, and how we feel about where things are going. So, Doc, start us off. What’s the biggest reason you’re watching WWE right now?
Doc Manson: There are many good reasons to be watching WWE right now. After years of wishing for new stars, there are a plethora of new faces. Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns - all of these guys are highlights right now.
The Teacher: I notice you didn’t include Seth Rollins in said plethora.
Doc Manson: Not to take anything away from the guy, but Seth Rollins was always the least interesting of the guys in The Shield. Personality-wise he has been pretty one note. He has some killer abilities between the ropes, for sure, but he’s going to have to show me something more than the cowardly heel before I can jump on the Rollins hype-train.
T: Why is he called “The Architect”? Where did that nickname come from?
I agree with you on the personality piece, though I can’t say I get very excited any time Roman Reigns picks up a microphone. He’s got the “main-event” look in spades, but I don’t get much else out of him.
D: A week ago, I’d have agreed completely. His promo on RAW last week, culminating with calling Kane a “bitch” showed me that maybe he’s got some personality in there to back up those monstrous looks.
The real travesty amongst the former Shield members has got to be Dean Ambrose though, at least to me. I like the guy, he’s in a good program right now, but come on. If anyone in that group should have come out as the next top heel, it was Ambrose.
T: Top guy, absolutely, though I think Ambrose has almost-Stone Cold level potential as an anti-hero going up against The Authority. I love that he is refusing to let Rollins cash in his MITB briefcase, although we don’t need to see it each and every week.
D: I love when Ambrose just comes out of nowhere, but yeah the constant threat of the near-cash-in can only be fresh for so long.
T: Here’s a slight tangential question for you. I was watching a then-WWF PPV from 1997 today, back when Kane had first made his debut and was trying to goad the Undertaker into fighting him. In my memory, that seemed to last for a long time. ‘Taker would refuse to fight his brother, Kane would come hit him or cost him a match, and it just kept building and building.
Does the slow build of a storyline or match happen in 2014 WWE? Or is everything shoved down our throats based on the number of hours of programming they have to fill?
D: The slow build absolutely still exists. The lead-up to the Daniel Bryan title reign was so slow it seemed to risk losing momentum each and every week. I think the underlying problem is the internet. In the age of immediate gratification, its difficult to keep the audience’s attention for the long-term. Still, slow builds do still happen although I think most fans just complain about them while simultaneously complaining that they don’t exist anymore. Not to call you out.
T: Fair enough, I may resemble that remark, though I certainly didn’t complain during the Daniel Bryan lead-in. Granted, I wasn’t watching very often.
Have we seen the last of Daniel Bryan as an everyday wrestler?
D: What a set-up. Yes! Yes! Yes!
T: I do what I can.
D: But, no. Not really. DB will be back, although I suspect with a significantly different move-set, and without ever climbing back to the top of the card.
T: I think DB will have difficulty adjusting his repertoire. When Austin broke his neck thanks to an Owen Hart Tombstone back in the 90’s, he was able to fall back on brawling. Bryan’s lack of size is going to make that sort of thing tricky, even if he does administer some of the better kicks I’ve ever seen.
D: So, what about you. Why are you watching the product today?
T: To be honest? The WWE Network. Being able to watch each and every PPV whenever I want (which fits my old man schedule), both past and present cards, brought me back to being more than a casual observer of current storylines. I began to feel compelled to watch RAW each week, since I now had a better idea of what was happening.
D: The Network needs to receive the latest episodes of RAW and Smackdown! in a more timely fashion. I could cancel cable if they weren’t being posted a month out from the original air date.
T: In Vince McMahon’s perfect world, I’m sure that would eventually happen, though he’d lose some amount of money from the mainstream cable channels.
Outside of that, I’m in much the same opinion as you. I love that there are a number of new stars and soon to be stars I can watch each week.
While I’m on the subject, Luke Harper, in my opinion, can be a main event talent some day. Thoughts?
D: Is that the guy with the sheep mask, or the other guy? The other guy is good, but I’m guessing since I can’t remember which is which, he’s going to have some problems transitioning into a strong singles run.
T: Yes, Luke Harper is the one in the tank top. Wild eyes, sometimes goes “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!” and does the occasional leaping over the ropes. Erick Rowan is the one in the sheep’s mask.
In an alternate universe, he and Sheamus are doing a version of the Highlanders’ gimmick right now. Coming out in kilts and animal furs.
D: Yeah, Harper has been impressive, but he’s going to have trouble when/if he has to transition his character into something more than crazy, backwoods bodyguard.
Elephant in the room: Thoughts on CM Punk?
T: I have to imagine that at some point, he’ll make a return to WWE. There’s just too much money to be made both for him and for the company not to work out some sort of arrangement.
Having said that, I don’t imagine it will be during this calendar year. From what I’ve read, Punk might wind up doing a podcast or a TV show, so it looks like he’s going to try just being a celebrity for a while.
D: Yeah. CM Punk is a great talent, was one of my favorites on the roster. Honestly though, I don’t have time to miss him too much. Guys are stepping up and earning the spotlight right now.
T: Cesaro, for example.
D: God, Cesaro! That guy is incredible right now. Well, correction, that guy was incredible coming off winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30, and has just been struggling with Paul Heyman ever since. I love Paul Heyman, but people want to cheer Cesaro right now and once again they are in danger of killing this guy’s momentum on a weekly basis.
T: I always thought Cesaro was an odd choice to be a Paul Heyman Guy. He has enough natural charisma and verbal skills that he doesn’t need a mouthpiece.
You use Paul Heyman for someone who can’t seem to articulate their message or get over on the mic. I want Kofi Kingston to be a Paul Heyman Guy, darn it! If there’s anyone who needs a character reset and a heel turn, he’s got to be high on the list.
D: Adam Rose.
T: Totally a situation where they got a single idea… “Hey, let’s have a party guy entrance!” … And then did zero thinking besides that. Because once you’ve seen that entrance once or twice, you get it. Then you just have a guy with a lollipop and some dork in a bunny suit.
D: Bo Dallas. Yes, I’m just scrolling through the current roster on WWE.com.
T: I didn’t think I would be, but I’m becoming a bit of a Bo-liever. He’s pouring his guts out into that, though I could do without the midget fighting.
OK, I’m going to give you easily one of my Top 3 things going on in WWE right now. Might even be the number one.
D: Love the Stardust character. He is finally hitting a stride, and the matches that the Dust brothers are churning out every week are fantastic. Promos are always a highlight - crazy but fun. Hopefully, this ends with the long rumored Cody v. Dustin at Wrestlemania.
T: Two things.
OK, we should probably wrap this up, so a final thought.
We’ve gone through all of our favorite reasons to watch WWE, yet we didn’t utter the words “Orton”, “Triple H” or “Cena” once. Coincidence?
D: Nope. Again, I’m super happy to see new faces right now. Those guys are established, and the roster maybe needs them as a strong foundation, but its time to let the new stars shine.
T: Personally, I think all 3 could go away and we wouldn’t miss them all that much.
Alright, folks. There you have it. The “State of the WWE”, straight from the minds and hearts of the Number Two Contenders.
We welcome your well thought out comments and opinions to our own comments and opinions.
For my partner Doc Manson, this is The Teacher, signing off.