That famous scene in Gladiator occurs when Maximus single-handedly decimates an arena of all the other top warriors. He not only murders them without even really breaking a sweat, but he dispatches them in bloody fashion. When there is no one left to challenge him, he throws his arms up and asks the crowd, “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” That’s all that was missing from the main event of last night’s SummerSlam.
Brock Lesnar is a terrific athlete and a tremendous waste of talent. His matches are annoyingly one-sided and all too often resemble a Maximus-esque slaughter. You can lay that at the feet of WWE Creative if you want and they certainly deserve some blame for booking Brock as an invincible monster, but the Beast Incarnate does not care if he puts on a good show. He doesn’t give a s**t about your kids and he certainly isn’t concerned with helping other wrestlers get over. When Brock left Randy Orton in a pool of his own blood last night, only to continue wailing on him after the match was over, we may as well have been ancient Romans sitting silently as Maximus asked us if we were entertained.
I can’t speak for everyone, but Eric and I were certainly not that entertained and we have a feeling that many of you weren’t as well.
We had originally intended to do a SummerSlam predictions post followed by a recap, but
technology sucks and we’re too reliant on it we weren’t able to. Instead, we had to squeeze this reaction piece together as best we could. You can also see our original predictions so that you can mock our lack of foresight.
(Update: Our friend Eric Schreiber is back for more WWE Raw rumblings. He was gone for a couple weeks for reasons he will explain.)
I decided to group all three of these Raws together with the hope of it getting better, but unfortunately I find myself a little more than slightly disappointed in this “New Era” of Raw. The first Raw after the draft was full of excitement, anticipation, and Surprises (Balor becoming the #1 Contender for the Universal Title and Sasha becoming the Women’s Champ). After such an awesome show, Raw has once again become stale.
Anyone who watched the WWE Draft two weeks ago could tell you that Raw came away with a stacked roster and SmackDown… well, SmackDown was going to take some work. Sure, the blue brand got the WWE Championship along with John Cena and A.J. Styles, but there was a dearth of established talent on the undercard and a noticeable void of other titles.
When Raw put together one of its best episodes in recent memory, with the spotlight directly on Finn Balor and Sasha Banks, it became even more of a daunting task for SmackDown to stand out on its own. And for the most part, it didn’t. The commentary team lacked chemistry, the women’s division is cluttered and they didn’t feature any of their top NXT draft picks. Sure, American Alpha will be on this week, but you think they would’ve debuted and made an impact like Balor did.
SmackDown obviously isn’t going to find its footing overnight, but in the meantime its turning to the star power of Dolph Ziggler to captivate the WWE Universe and generate ratings on the way to SummerSlam.
Wait, did I just say Dolph Ziggler?
(Eric Schreiber, who co-wrote the Battleground predictions and results articles with Jesse, will be posting a Raw recap every week, or at least until he gets sick of working for free.)
The New Era has finally begun, Raw is without a champion, and there are more questions than answers coming into this night. I for one was not expecting a lot of the things that I saw. I expected the same old same with Roman Reigns winning whatever hurdle they put before him and going to Summerslam to face Seth Rollins, especially when they named the two fatal four way matches and their contestants. There were two major points I would love to focus on a bit more: First the fatal four way matches and the main event, second the women’s championship match.
When Eric and I made our predictions, I was pretty worried that Battleground would turn out to be bland and insignificant show. It wasn’t perfect and there were certainly aspects of it that we could’ve done without, but overall I’d say it surpassed our expectations.
So what exactly were we so happy about? What aggravated Eric to the point that he sent me several angry text messages when it happened? Hit the jump and find out!
WWE is in a very odd place right now. Following the brand split, they had the opportunity to forge ahead with fresh talent in order to create some new stars, but instead they seem content to stick to the status quo and do business as usual. Give Cesaro and Sasha Banks a chance to shine on Smackdown? Nah, lets leave them on Raw with everyone else. Keep the Wyatts and the Club together for a while longer so that they can keep building momentum? Nope, we’re going to split them up, because reasons.
Obviously, it’s a little premature to judge this new era in the WWE because it hasn’t even played out yet. That doesn’t mean that I trust the company to not screw things up, but I’m at least willing to wait and see what happens. For now.
In the meantime, WWE Battleground is the last pay-per-view before the brand extension takes full effect, and my buddy Eric Schreiber is here as my tag team partner to help me sort out what will transpire tonight. Everything that we say will happen is definitely going to happen, unless Eric disagrees with me, in which case anything that I predict is the way that things will go. Maybe. Hit the jump and we’ll see.
If you live under a rock and haven’t heard, last night was kind of a big deal for Cleveland. Lebron James, through sheer will and perhaps a little bit of help from God, led the Cavaliers to a title and sent the entire city of Cleveland into a frenzy. Nothing is getting done there for at least two weeks, and the fact that the Cavs became the first team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals is just the icing on the cake. Plus, most Warriors fans are Raiders fans, so them being sad today makes this writer extraordinarily happy. It’s the simple things in life that you treasure.
So what does any of this have to do with wrestling? Well, as you may or may not know, Dean Ambrose is also from Ohio. Cincinnati, to be exact. He is probably all too aware of the decades of suffering that Cleveland has endured, so I find it quite poetic that on the same night that Lebron brought a championship to his hometown, Dean Ambrose shocked the wrestling world and became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
I would say that you can’t write this stuff, but you can. And they did.
Up until this morning, I was going to title this column, “The Hypocrisy of WWE’s New Era.” What followed was going to be a lengthy tirade about how the “New Era” was nothing more than a shiny paint job covering the same product that WWE has been cranking out for most of the decade: an authority figure running Raw (usually a McMahon), cliche storylines being favored over quality wrestling matches with stakes and the wrestlers that the smarks preferred constantly being cast aside and buried in favor of the “face” of the company. I had intended on being wonderfully cynical and brutally sardonic.
But then I woke up the other day and heard about the upcoming brand split. Heard how Smackdown is going to be a live show now and will feature its very own roster of superstars. Supposedly, this will help make Smackdown relevant for the first time in years, a move that many fans have clamored for since… well, for a pretty damn long time. It also suggests that maybe WWE isn’t just spewing out empty promises when it refers to the New Era and that it actually plans on capitalizing on its talented and promising roster.
Of course, there’s always the chance that WWE could blow this. They have an uncanny knack for doing just that.
Ever since the Undertaker’s undefeated streak was conquered by Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 30, I’ve awaited the Deadman’s future with far more anticipation than I ever have before. When a dynasty comes to an abrupt close, when the impossible occurs, you often find yourself in an overwhelming state of suspense and disbelief. “I never thought it could be done,” you might say, “but what happens now?”
In the case of the Undertaker, what came next was a whole lot of nothing. No appearances. No matches. No references of any kind, save for Paul Heyman’s constant reminders that his client was now “the one in 21-1.” Taker wasn’t even around this year to help build toward his annual Wrestlemania bout, leaving Bray Wyatt to promote the match all on his own. Taker showed up for Wrestlemania 31, vanquished Wyatt and once more vanished into the darkness, leaving his fans with no indication on what his next move might be.
As an avid wrestling fan, it is my duty to inform you that we are less than 24 hours from WrestleMania 31. As a procrastinating writer, it is my obligation to admit that I meant for this to be up much sooner. I feel like I’ve said that far too often over the past few years, but hey, at least I am getting things up. Progress, right?
Anyway, WrestleMania is well-known as the biggest wrestling event of the calendar year. It is WWE’s version of the Super Bowl, the granddaddy of them all, the showcase of the immortals. I could go on and on, but we are pressed for time. Obviously I am very familiar with the phenomenon that is WrestleMania, and I’ve always wanted to sit down and figure out what my favorite WrestleMania matches of all-time are. After doing so, I now understand why I may never do this again: it takes FOREVER.
It’s important to point out that this is not necessarily the greatest matches in Mania history, because again that is a subject matter. Some matches that you are expecting to see will be missing, others will be ranked too low and there may even be one or two that makes you think, “Seriously dude? THAT match?” Just keep in mind that there have been hundreds of bouts at WrestleMania, my friend, and getting this down to my top 20 was much harder than I anticipated it would be.
So here we go. As good ol’ J.R. would say, business is about to pick up.