This Week in Spandex: Into My Own Arms
Here at ComicsAlliance we’ve noticed a huge overlap between superhero comics fans and wrestling fans; wrestling is basically superhero theater. This Week in Spandex is a new weekly feature, in which longtime wrestling fan Kieran Shiach and enthusiastic recent convert Elle Collins summarize the week that was in WWE.
This week things are pretty mixed. The tag teams are great, the women's division is getting no respect at all (except on NXT, of course), and the McMahon family storyline still makes no sense as we barrel toward this Sunday's Payback.
Kieran: Here’s something I want to pitch to you, Elle. Every week that the women are barely featured on a three hour show, we abandon the usual chronological approach to the recap to put it right at the top of the column. Once again, this week’s RAW had one women’s division segment, a match between Natalya and Emma, with Charlotte on commentary.
Furthermore, the feud isn’t about them, it’s about the men that are going to be stood outside of the ring, and whether the women doing the wrestling can live up to their legacy. It was a contrived story in NXT a couple of years ago, and it’s still contrived. The introduction of the WWE Women’s Championship was the start of the progress, not the end, and you don’t get to sit back and reap all that positive PR without backing it up week to week. It’s infuriating.
Elle: I completely agree. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like this is the worst things have been since Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha got called up. For while there it was starting to seem pretty normal to have two women’s matches on RAW, even if one of them didn’t have much of a storyline to go with it, and now we’re down to almost nothing. And I’m really frustrated that they picked now to bring Emma back up, because she was such a great villain in NXT, and such a perfect partner for Dana. Now Dana’s MIA and all Emma’s got is cool-looking shoulder pads. There were some hints of a feud between her and Becky, but they don’t seem interested in building it. I was so excited when they unveiled that belt at Mania, and all of that excitement has evaporated now. Blerg.
Kieran: Okay, onto the main show. We’re still getting fifteen minute opening segments, which is another thing I complain about every week, but Stephanie’s back, so the story is ticking along. I’m not sure I’m into the idea of McMahon Family Promo Time at the PPV, it seems the better story would be to let Shane have control up to and including the special event and then evaluate his success from there, but we’ll wait and see.
Elle: It has to be a brand split, right? There’ve been rumors of that for a while, and it’s hard to imagine that Vince is going to talk at a PPV just to say “Things are staying the same,” or “Things are going back to what they were a month ago.” It seems like there has to be a third option, and giving RAW to one sibling and Smackdown to the other would be a way to do that.
Kieran: This week had three really great singles matches in AJ Styles v Sheamus, Sami Zayn v Rusev, and Roman Reigns v Alberto Del Rio. I especially liked Zayn v Rusev because it reminded me of Lucha Underground. No, no-one turned into a dragon man, but Zayn eking out the win made it feel like anyone can win on any night, given the right circumstances, and it feels like we’re moving away from the so-called “50/50 booking” that has been plaguing the roster.
Onto the Tag Titles segment, I think Enzo Amore wins line of the year with “I wish I could run down a beach into my own arms” because I fell over crying on the couch when he said that. I missed a good chunk of the back-and-forth because I was heavily belly laughing at the line, it’s a work of art. I’m happy to see The Vaudevillains get some time to talk and hang with two teams who are the very best on the microphone right now. They came really well and appropriately contemptible.
Elle: I was a big fan of both these teams in NXT, but I think this is the most I’ve ever enjoyed either of them. I always liked the Vaudevillains mostly on principle because I like old-timey stuff (witness my Koko the Clown tattoo), but now they’re talking more and being great heels, and it’s a lot of fun. And then Enzo and Cass are at the top of their game right now. They’re known for their repeated catch phrases, but lately they’ve been dropping unique gems every time they talk (especially Enzo of course, but Cass has gotten a lot better on the mic too). I do miss Carmella, but I’m glad she stayed at NXT to get better at wrestling. She’d be just a valet for the rest of her career if she’d come up with them.
Kieran: Speaking of tag teams, let’s talking about the Good Brothers, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. I thought their match was serviceable-if-boring, but they don’t feel like they’re here to be wrestlers, they’re props in the AJ Styles/Roman Reigns story. It’ll probably come together after Payback, but I still don’t get a sense of who they are, or why they’re here. Do they want the tag titles? JBL keeps talking about how decorated they are elsewhere, but they don’t seem too interested in anything but Styles and Reigns.
Hey, it’s Damien Sand--Oh, nevermind.
I think aside from Zayn v Owens --- my permanent dream match --- the match I’m looking forward to most at Payback is Cesaro v The Miz. They’ve both evolved their characters so much over the past few weeks and they’re working really hard in and out of the ring. I genuinely hope they steal the show.
Elle: Oh, agreed. Cesaro has been so great since his return; I’m basically grinning every moment he’s onscreen. And the Miz has really taken his heeling to the next level with Maryse’s help. The obnoxious movie impressions gimmick is gold. I fully expect Miz to retain his title on Sunday, but I look forward to him getting some satisfying uppercuts to the face along the way.
Elle: Speaking of of people you want to see hit other people in the face, Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura got to do that to Eva Marie and Elias Sampson, respectively, on NXT this week. Asuka v Eva Marie was a really surprising match, and I have to say I enjoyed it. Eva still isn’t (and probably never will be) the best wrestler, but she’s a wrestler now, and for her that’s progress. Even if there were some off moments, I like that she was treated as a real competitor for Asuka, but of course I was also glad that Asuka won. And then there was the tense moment to set up Asuka v Nia Jax for the future. Is it just me, or does it kind of feel like we’re living in a post-Bayley world, even though Bayley’s still on the NXT roster?
Kieran: I think the Asuka/Eva match was the match was the best match of the night, and I'm starting to think that Eva is being a bit rubbish on purpose to get heat. I've seen her hit the ropes so much stronger than that in Total Divas, and the amount of times she does that awful front kick in the match almost seems on purpose.
Elle: Man, how about the Revival beating the crap out of noted Chikara alums 3.0? And then showing back up to beat the crap out of Mojo Rawley. I wasn’t sure Dash and Dawson had anywhere to go after they lost the belts, and I really like that they’re still really dominant bad guys. The inevitable rematch with American Alpha is going to be intense.
Kieran: I've never liked 3.0, but I can't fault Shane Matthews (Jamoke No. 2) for getting the crowd on-side as much as he did. I'm curious at what level do WWE allow people to use their real names and at what point do the give them names. There's no reason for them to not be 3.0, but maybe they didn't want to perform under that name in an NXT squash match?
Elle: I still love Shinsuke, but I didn’t get much out of him beating Elias Sampson because I’m so bored by Elias Sampson. But at this point, just seeing Shinsuke in the ring is automatically exciting, so that’s something. Many more of these kinds of matches though, and I’m going to start getting really impatient to see him fight somebody he might not beat. I don’t know if the rumors about Finn Bálor getting called up in the next week are true or not, but I’d love to see him fight Shinsuke before he leaves NXT behind for good.
Kieran: All roads seem to lead to Nakamura v Joe in Brooklyn, and that'll be a heck of a match. I definitely agree with you about Nakamura needs more of a challenge, but I think that's a problem with NXT these days. At least half of the matches are squash matches to set up bigger things, and that percentage is increased when you talk about big names like Joe, Bálor and Nakamura.
Elle: I was pretty excited about the first match on Smackdown. It was the League of Nations versus the luchador trio of Kallisto, El Generico, and the Very Mysterious Ice Cream. Wait, my mistake. That was Sami Zayn and Cesaro with Kallisto; I don’t know why I was thinking of those other guys. Anyway, they all got some good spots in (something Kallisto has been especially starved for), but the story of this match was the breakup of the League of Nations. They kept fighting amongst themselves, and then Del Rio walked out. Then Rusev walked out on Sheamus. Then Sheamus walked out on himself, leaving three of my favorite guys on the roster to stand in the ring like “Well, I guess that happened?”
One of the best things on the show was the New Day taking over the commentary desk for Enzo and Cass vs the Social Outcasts. Byron Saxton sat crosslegged on the floor, which was pretty great, and of course New Day are always funny on commentary, and legit great at calling a match. They also had good things to say about Enzo and Cass, which was fun to hear but also makes me think the Vaudevillains’ chances of becoming #1 Contenders are pretty good.
Damien Sandow finally to have his match with Baron Corbin, but of course it was just Corbin beating the crap out of him. Still, Sandow got to be on TV twice in a week, so good for him.
There wasn’t a women’s match on this show at all. Natalya, Charlotte, and Ric Flair were all on the "Ambrose Asylum" to talk about Payback. Ric seemed more out of it than usual, frankly, and a chunk of what he said was edited out of the broadcast, because according to fans who were there, he yelled at Nattie that she should kill herself, and Charlotte gave him an out of character look like “Whoa Dad, back it up.” Honestly, nothing would make me happier than Charlotte winning clean on Sunday and then telling Ric she doesn’t need him and sending him home. And then for the women’s division to get more time and better booking starting next week. I know, all of that’s about as likely as me running down the beach into my own arms, but I can dream.