As a company that prides itself in its dedication to the troops, WWE of course tries to make Memorial Day special, even if it’s not a highly-viewed episode or anything like that. There’s the video package at the beginning of the show—here, with Ronald Reagan’s words and WWE Superstars and Divas, including the Canadian Natalya—the 10-bell salute, and kind of a free pass for John Cena to be the Marine Who Runs the Terrain (which kind of rhymes), since he is the one who compromised Osama bin Laden to a permanent end, after all.
Sadly, even with all of that “special,” this year translates into Entourage movie pimping (and possibly WWE Diva pimping, to the stars of said movie), WWE misinterpreting women, WWE misinterpreting pretty much anything resembling logic, and stupidity. So much stupidity. This might be the most stupid episode of RAW so far this year, and that’s saying a lot, because main roster WWE makes its name in stupidity. This particular episode of RAW feels like it might have been taken over by Entourage writers, as it feels even worse than the worst in recent memories, but that’s honestly an insult to the Entourage writers.* It’s poorly paced and plotted, repetitive, mind-numbing, nonsensical, and again, stupid.
The saving graces of the show are Roman Reigns and Zack Ryder. Think about that for a moment. Really think about it. Kevin Owens is unsurprisingly on that list too, but it’s not as shocking if he’s included in the sequential lineup. That’s the only no-brainer—in a good way—on this show.
The framing device of this week’s RAW is the fact that Dean Ambrose has to sign the contract for his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match in five days. WWE contract logistics never make any sense on a match-to-match basis, but here, the kicker is that Dean has until the end of the night to sign it, otherwise, poof goes the match. That would supposedly lead to Seth not having to defend the title at Elimination Chamber, despite the fact that what’s “best for business” should, in theory, always mean having the best possible card; if your champion is able to compete, he should be on the card. You’re trying to make money, idiots.
Speaking of, I just remembered Brock Lesnar is actually still signed to WWE. Out of sight, out of mind, huh? (Which is also the case for the jobbers and such who are notably absent in this edition of RAW, despite being people who technically have storylines or… something going on right now).
Also speaking of (this time, idiots trying to make money), that’s supposedly what WWE is trying to do, but time and time again, the choices made by Vince McMahon fail to make any sort of sense. Remember Tout?
What happens in all this nonsense is a backstage kerfuffle with J&J, which leads to a cameraman (in the form of Ring Of Honor’s Will Ferrara) being knocked out, me laughing, and then it becoming a plot point to get Dean arrested by an extra who I’m pretty sure is also one of the military men in one of the Memorial Day commercials during this RAW. Think of it like Stone Cold being arrested on RAW, only with a hundred Seth Rollins laughs (yay) and shirtless, phallic Kane (boo), abd being played for “haha, lunatic fringe” laughs (boo—not as good as Seth Rollins laughs), because that’s often what you sign up for when you choose to watch an episode of RAW, Entourage cast or not. It’s not good.
All of this becomes moot when it turns out Seth threw the cameraman into Dean—thanks WWE’s YouTube!—which is a fact (the video “leaking”) the Authority somehow doesn’t know about, even though the Authority would supposedly be in charge of the YouTube page. Why wouldn’t they assume the other camera right there would get the shot? Aren’t they supposed to be smart? Did Kane’s shirtless appearance shock them stupid? Regardless, Dean Ambrose returns with the police van that took him away, and surprisingly didn’t get ketchup and mustard from Coney Island (that’s just a stone’s throw away from Long Island, right, Michael Cole?) again. Just police sticks. Whatever. It’s the type of WWE storytelling—nay, “storytelling”—that insults the intelligence of everyone watching, which actually makes it fitting that the Entourage cast is here to host—well, “host.” It’ll probably be the highest rated Memorial Day episode ever, because that’s just how things go these days.
Also, Dean should just give Roman power of attorney, as someone as “unstable” as him shouldn’t be in charge of such professional choices anyway.
In a more poorly edited scene than The Good Wife finale’s Alicia/Kalinda “farewell,” the Entourage cast (in pre-tape, which is the only time they show up with the exception of the Cena/Ryder match) talks about how much they love WWE (and make a SummerFest crack that doesn’t forgive the fact that they’re hosting this show instead of noted WWE fan Stephen Amell, who is right there), while the camera closes up on all of them again and again, for no discernible reason. Turtle cracks the obligatory Ronda Rousey joke, and the audience laughs while the men who get paid to be actors give The Miz more and more of a legitimate reason to call himself a master thespian. After that, these men try to scam on the Divas—because Vince McMahon believes women should know their place as concubines to the hosts of the day—and befriend Zack Ryder, as if his irrelevance and uncoolness couldn’t be more pronounced.
You may find it strange that I have chosen to speak mostly of a series of vignettes, but that’s because the show itself isn’t much to sneeze at. Even though sneezing would drive Vince McMahon crazy, allegedly. Like I said, Zack Ryder is a highlight, as he puts on a surprisingly competitive match against Cena at the Open Your Heart To Me, Baby United States Challenge. He busts out an Unprettier and a missed 450 splash. (I’ve gotten burned out on Superstars—did we know Zack Ryder had a 450 in his tank?) But at the same time, it’s a short match—around the length of the Cena/Kane match—and besides those two moves, it really is a match that serves as a reminder that Zack Ryder doesn’t have much to offer wrestling-wise, and hasn’t evolved in and out of the ring, except for in his bulking up and hair-dye/Rogaine regimen. The Entourage cast gets involved in it all, and surprisingly, the Nassau Coliseum isn’t destroyed just then and there.
As for the other highlight, Roman Reigns, it’s a little bit of that magic from Payback, as he gets to team-up with Dean Ambrose to start the night, and then he ends up buying him time for the contract situation at the end of the night. He’s allowed to have fun in the ring when he’s wrestling with his brother, in a way he doesn’t get to do when it’s just Kane or Big Show, take 500. At one point, he does finger pistols at Kane, and I almost did a spit-take. Roman Reigns should be this exaggerated charisma monster (hmm, that sounds familiar, given the lineage) all the time, and he only gets to do that when hanging out with Ambrose.
These matches do, however, kind of highlight the fact that Ambrose and Reigns shouldn’t have immediately broken up post-Shield, because as a tag team, they’re near unstoppable. Plus, being one-half of something would have made the Roman transition to main event singles slightly easier than in the actual case of being one-third of something (and sadly, one-third the wrestler and talker of Seth and Dean). He’s finally getting that chance, but at the same time, he’s also getting into a habit of never winning the big one, talking about how he “almost” got it or had fun doing it, to the point where maybe Bo Dallas was right: He’s not bo-lieving in himself, and that’s a problem.
Also, if that’s not fuel for a heel turn (for someone like Roman, as Sami Zayn faced the same thing and remained pure), I don’t know what is. At least when Dean was losing all the time, it was in nothing matches against Bray Wyatt.
All this said, this edition of RAW doesn’t give nearly as much thought as anything I just wrote above and storytelling or character motivation, because why do that for the go-home show for a pay-per-view (or whatever it is) that was originally a house show?
There’s the Rusev/Lana/Dolph triangle, which asks us to root against WWE’s shoot most adorable couple and also forget the fact that Lana controlled Rusev with an iron fist for most of his career. She could have just told Rusev to “crush” Bray Wyatt, and turned them both face with that. Here, Rusev says “please” and “we need to talk”a lot, because sometimes WWE isn’t a soap opera, it’s a romantic comedy, and he convinces Lana to come back to him, only to ruin it all by trying to make her say “I was wrong.” Though Rusev doesn’t say “this time will be different” (he does say women want his attention, which, okay), Lana makes sure to get in all the unpleasant abuse talk in there, saying she won’t be his “victim” and talks about empowering herself… by chastely kissing noted He-Man Woman Hater, face Dolph Ziggler and, I don’t know, re-creating the “Cry Me A River” video with him or something.
Yes, in this scenario, Lana is Justin and Rusev is Britney. Sorry, Dolph.
Wishful thinking says this is Rusev and Lana playing mind games (for real, not the way Naomi and the Usos did), and the Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber will end with Rusev raising the belt high as he and Lana make out of Dolph Ziggler’s crushed body. Because seriously, everything about Rusev destroying Dolph and Lana just watching during RAW screams foreplay. That doesn’t say as much about my psyche as it does WWE’s inability to tell a story if that’s not the intent.
The match that comes before Ziggler’s destruction is—actually, take a guess. If you guessed Kofi Kingston, you might still be living in 2010-2013, but you’re close—both often look stupid—as the answer is Sheamus, for the 80th time or so this year. Michael Cole keeps calling it the “renewal” of the two’s feud, which doesn’t make sense in any definition of the word “renewal,” because this is a stupid show. By the time the match gets interesting, Lana and Rusev show up to distract from that, and it’s very appropriate for the entire vibe of this show.
The best way to describe the actual Divas match—Paige versus Tamina, with the Bellas on commentary, which feels like a personal attack on all of us at this point—is to just point at Sasha Banks versus Becky Lynch from NXT Takeover: Unstoppable and say “opposite of that.” That’s the best way to describe all Divas’ matches on the main roster at this point (even the longer, “good” ones). The word on the sheets is that, while Triple H and Stephanie (obviously) want to change the way women on the main roster are portrayed and seen, Vince is set in his ways. That’s not really news, as it is completely obvious, but it’s never fun to think about. Just like this RAW.
And because it’s there’s never enough questioning Kane and the Authority’s logic, New Day comes out to complain about how they’re being persecuted with this Elimination Chamber nonsense… and as a result are persecuted for that. A still shirtless Kane (he never puts the shirt back on, even though he was in the first match) puts them in a 10 on 3 handicap match that descends into Royal Rumble-like chaos (where Darren Young might have been legitimately hurt by the Ascension?), because…? That’s actually a legitimate question, because as someone who understands basic heel-face dynamics—and even basic kindergarten storytelling—it makes no sense at all. It just sends me back into the world of Joshua Alston’s Scandal F-grade season finale review and the love story between Nonsense and Bullshit. Shonda Rhimes doesn’t have that on lock; Vince McMahon does.
I will leave you with one final thought about tonight’s RAW. Half the things JBL says, I’m certain he’s speaking in tongues, but this week, one instance in particular was immediately followed up by him saying the line of the night: “Stardust, you have failed this city.” Because Stardust lost again. After he got up in Stephen Amell’s face. Because Stephen Amell, star of Arrow, used to say that all the time on Arrow.
In conclusion, WWE deserves an Undertaking.
- RESULTS: Dean Ambrose/Roman Reigns defeated Seth Rollins/Kane; Rusev defeated R-Truth; Ryback defeated King Barrett; Neville defeated Stardust; Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler; John Cena (c) defeated Zack Ryder; Tamina defeated Paige; New Day defeated all of their Elimination Chamber competition (via DQ)
- *I have watched every episode of Entourage.
- What does my brother think of [insert RAW thing here]? This week, what does my brother think of— He actually started to fall asleep come the organized assault on New Day.
- On the plus side, Seth Rollins trying to turn Justin Bieber into a good thing was nice.
- Ryback beats King Barrett, and two things about that: 1. Ryback apparently thinks putting tape on something is the equivalent of selling. Look at Neville’s selling for the correct way, man. 2. “King” is basically like being a champion, so Barrett must lose. To Ryback.
- The only thing accomplished from the commentary team constantly yelling at each other is… I’m actually drawing a blank.
- Notably absent from this week’s RAW: Randy Orton, Big Show (still), The Miz, Macho Mandow and Axelmania, Fandango, Adam Rose, Rowan and Harper, and Bray Wyatt. But at least we got some good close-ups on Vince (who I hear is doing the movie—Drive Me Crazy 2: Our Parents Are Fucking, What Do We Do?) and the boys.