The Road to #HELLINACELL -- Week 1 (Raw 9/16 & Smackdown 9/21)
Daniel Bryan is Going to Fight: Well the ununthinkable happened on Raw just like we all knew it would. HHH did an expert job breaking down the "800 lb gorilla that is sitting in the room" (Trips, if you're going to use a cliche, use the damn cliche, don't try to "spruce it up" or whatever) of the fast count on Daniel Bryan's title win at Night of Champions like a sportscaster breaking down a coach's challenge in football. Showing Scott Armstrong's "normal cadence" was a particularly nice touch. An even nicer touch was Armstrong turning to Bryan and saying "they got us Daniel" and HHH holding this up as indisputable evidence of a conspiracy between Bryan and Armstrong (as Bryan desperately insists he doesn't know what Armstrong is talking about but who the hell cares) and proceeding to mercilessly berate him about embarrassing himself and the company and disgracing the title and a plague on his house. Hunter announces that the WWE title will be "held in a state of abeyance" (because I guess that somehow makes this different from all the times the title has been "vacated") and eventually fires Scott Armstrong, promising him a very generous severance package and repeatedly insisting he will "take care" of him. It seems pretty well implied here that the conspiracy is between HHH and Armstrong rather than Bryan and Armstrong but we'll have to see how all that plays out.
When we return from commercial, we're backstage and Orton is seething that he's not having the title handed back to him but he gets silenced by Steph who goes Full Linda Blair on Orton's ass, screaming like some sort of demon that Orton deserved to lose and that they want to see the old Randy--the vicious Viper who handcuffed HHH and DDT'd Steph. Who showed no morality and...no merorse. Anyway. More on that later.
I would have liked to have seen Bryan actually hold the belt hostage until Battleground but I still really like what they're doing with him, contrary to the beliefs of much of the "smark" community who thinks WWE is neutering Daniel Bryan. That's just crazy talk. Bryan is the perennial underdog and the most over guy on the roster by far and he's currently the centerpiece of the main WWE narrative. Belts are just storytelling props, D-Bry has been "champion" of WWE since he went solo.
So now there will be a rematch in three weeks (now two weeks) at Battleground. I hate the awkwardness of having another PPV three weeks later and ANOTHER one three weeks later. As is to be expected, it's going to be comprised of almost entirely rematches. Seriously, how are they possibly charging people for this?
AMEEERICAAAN DREEEAM: Dusty Rhodes comes out to a legend's welcome and gives a heartfelt performance as "Virgil Runnels" pleading the McMahons for his son's job back. MotherFUCK you, Cleveland--so very, very hard--for WHATing Dusty FUCKING Rhodes and bravo Dusty for being a seasoned veteran who knows how to change his cadence to cut off a bunch of drunk idiots from ruining your awesome promo. I'm reluctantly willing to forgive the "Stephanie...drag them long legs out here" comment because, hell, the guy is a 67-year-old wrestler. (as a small aside: look at Dusty's fucking forehead in hi-def...holy road map of America...)
So Steph brings her long pants-suited legs out and proceeds to shift into ULTRA-EVIL and condescendingly try to "relate" to the "son of a plumber" as the "daughter of a genius" herself. Giving Dusty a Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift card to make up for everything was perfect and when he rightfully tosses it aside, Steph's "Well that's where they were registered! Well, if that's how this is gonna go..." was perfectER. She then offers Dusty the "business proposition" she referred to "on the tweet" (I love wrestling people trying to understand technology; especially when they're 67 years old) which is that there is one open job and that she's going to let Dusty decide whether Cody or Goldust gets it. Dusty, obviously, tells Steph to "go straight to HELL" and Steph is "sorry [he] feel[s] that way."
Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta.
But wait, Steph realizes this isn't very fair and decides to bring someone out to even the odds. "Oh, Big Show!" But it's not what you think. Well, no, it probably is. She gives Dusty another choice: be dismembered by The Shield or get knocked out by the Big Show. Again he refuses to decide so Steph makes the decision for him: "Big Show: KNOCK HIM OUT!" After some very compelling anguish from Big Show, he finally acquiesces and delivers an overwhelmingly reluctant KO punch to Dusty before hugging him to the ground. Backstage they wheel Rhodes into an ambulance and Show goes with him.
The Miz finds his niche and it's getting annihilated: Next up, Miz gets a huge opportunity in front of his hometown of Cleveland and his parents sitting at ringside to face off against Randy Orton. I probably don't have to tell you that this doesn't end well. Orton takes Steph's advice and sadistically and systematically dismantles Miz, going so far as to drag him literally within inches of his parents to sock him in the face and then do that sickening feet-on-the-barricade DDT to the floor at ringside. To top it all off, he clamps a chair over Miz's head and brings down a savage knee as his parents try their best to look horrified (well, his mom, at least; his dad was expressionless through the whole ordeal).
Ryback/Heyman--BEST (FRIENDS) IN THE WORLD: Anytime Paul Heyman is on the mic is happy time. He exhaustively explains that he is the "Best in the World" because he "pinned...C...M...PunKCH!" He then reveals (if he is to be believed in the first place) that he had no master plan, that Ryback took the initiative himself to save Heyman's ass. If this is true, it really doesn't make much sense and diminishes the image of Heyman as an evil mastermind who didn't even have a back-up plan in case Curtis Axel somehow lost a wrestling match to the guy who was WWE champ for 434 days.
He then hands the mic to Ryback who reminds us how much he can't stand a "bolly" and so apparently he just couldn't bare to sit idly by and watch Punk "bolly" Heyman. He assures Paul that as long as he's around, Paul has nothing to worry about, which leads to this...
SO MUCH THIS.
Daniel Bryan Has a Posse: For our main event, Daniel Bryan faces Roman Reigns with The Shield and Randy Orton at ringside. As expected, these two have a stellar match highlighted by Reigns catching Bryan in midair on a suicide dive and driving him into the apron. The match ends when Bryan gets Reigns in the Yes Lock, prompting Orton to interfere, which gets him a Yes Lock for his trouble before the rest of The Shield beats him down. Then there's a great moment where Orton clamps Bryan's head in a chair like Miz and is about to bring down the knee again. At this point, it's pretty obvious that someone is on their way to save Bryan--especially due to the camera angle conspicuously framing the stage and ramp. But who will it be? OH MY GOD IT'S FUCKING EVERYONE! RVD, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, The Usos, Primetime Players, R-Truth, Zach Ryder, and Justin Gabriel bum rush the ring. Randy Orton SPRINTS off into the crowd as The Shield gets their shit kicked in to the sound of one of the biggest pops of the year, topped off by Daniel Bryan turning Seth Rollins inside-the-fuck-out with a brutal running knee. After The Shield gets sent packing, PTP hoist Bryan up on their shoulders and he leads the loudest "YES!" chant I've ever heard. I'm not gonna lie, I got a little teary-eyed...
AND THE REST:
-Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose had a very nice rematch of their match from Night of Champions the night before (which, by all accounts, was actually better than the PPV match). The U.S. champion, being that he is a champion and only allowed to win title matches at PPVs because WWE plot devices, lost to Ziggler, which, of course, puts him in line for another shot at the title. After all, Battleground is only three weeks away. The best thing about this match, however, is Dean Ambrose's face after he loses and, for some reason, the announcer announces that he's "STILL YOUR UNITED STATES CHAMPION..."
-Fandango and R-Truth also had a perfectly decent match. These two guys are highly underrated as in-ring talents but R-Truth seems hellbent on getting over as a rapping wrestler and Fandango has been ruined by a WWE Creative that seems to have no idea what to do with him.
-RVD and Damien Sandow faced off. One of these guys has a Money in the Bank briefcase right now. Which one do you think lost the match? I'll give you a hint: MITB briefcase basically = championship belt.
-The Divas came out and did something and I honestly couldn't tell you what because I fast forwarded through it.
-The Usos, Real Americans, and Tons of Funk had a really good tag match to decide the #1 contenders for the tag titles that had a KILLER ending. Check it out...
-Last but CERTAINLY not least...check out this awesome kid with Down Syndrome in the front row getting MAD LOVE from Ziggler and RVD...
EXCUSE ME: Vickie continues to be a mediocre-at-best talker but somehow manage to be a LEVEL: EXPERT heel and an even better corporate stooge (which actually kinda makes her near-robotic delivery on the mic work because obviously she's just a puppet regurgitating lines she's been fed by the Facgime). She brought out Daniel Bryan to the most condescending introduction she can possibly muster, comparing him unfavorably to Hornswoggle and comparing his title reigns of 5 minutes and 22 hours to Bob Backlund's 2,135 day reign and C.M. Punk's reign of 434 days.
She then gave Bryan one more chance to come clean and tell the truth. Bryan's response is, in fact, the truth: Bryan kneed Orton in the face and the ref could have counted to 87 and Orton still wouldn't have kicked out. Vickie's response is classic Vickie: "YOU'RE SUCH A LIAR!" But then she moves on to address the locker room revolt, unnecessarily cycling through pictures of every single guy who came to Bryan's rescue before announcing that there would be an 11-on-3 gauntlet match where each guy who revolted would go 1-on-3 with The Shield and then Bryan would be saved for last. She closes with a classic Vickie cackle for good measure.
Natalya was "born a champion" in the same way I was born a Cuban: So AJ and Naomi had a perfectly decent match here--well, I think they did. I'm not sure I saw any of it since I was so distracted by Natalya being THE LAST PERSON YOU SHOULD EVER PUT ON GUEST COMMENTARY EVER. Jesus Christ what was that?! Did someone kick Natalya directly in the logic center of her brain? Even the awful Michael Cole and JBL could poke holes all over Natalya's papier mache arguments with their squishy little fingers. Did she really need to say "AJ is a title holder, I was born a champion" TWICE?! Did she really think that was that much of a zinger?! I mean...wow...
Zeb Coulter is still my favorite racist: I'm totally digging this new Santino Marella v. Real Americans feud, especially the first Marella/Cesaro match which was stellar and featured the debut of the GIANT SWING.
Hopefully soon WWE will find him a tag team opponent and we can get some awesome tag team action and possibly some three-ways with Usos.
The real highlight, however, was Zeb Coulter's pasta puns. I never thought I'd be happy to hear someone say they were going to give someone else a "pizza" their mind but I'll be god damned if that's not exactly what happened. Zeb Coulter: let me love you.
Big Guy, Big Traps: I'm also totally digging Ryback the Anti-Bully. Squashing some guy no one has ever heard of because apparently Ryback saw him snub some kid who wanted his autograph? Oh, yes, please. The capper, though, was the best pin ever: "I...HATE...BULLIES!"
Randy Orton tries hard: Talking isn't exactly Randy's strong suit. He tries hard, though. He's doing a great job of reverting back to sadistic, remorseless a-hole Randy but, much like Vickie, mic skills aren't what's doing it for him. Still, he gets a gold star...
Orton's No Viper, Just a Snake: No gold star, however, to this lady, who seems totally lost on the entire point of Randy Orton's nickname being "The Viper" (and the general concept of a play on words, for that matter). You didn't try at all.
Vickie has no idea what's best for business: I love the fact that no matter what Vickie tries to do to appease the Facgime, she fails miserably. In the middle of the 11-on-3 (right as RVD appeared poised to score a win, ironically), HHH comes down and stops the match, screaming "SHUT IT DOWN" and "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU'VE DONE?!" at Vickie and rushing her off to his office to reprimand her. He explains, quite logically, that when you do what Vickie just did, the fires of revolt spread like wildfire and that what's best for business right now is fair, healthy competition. Then he orders her to make a six-man tag match between The Shield and Daniel Bryan and the Usos. Talk about stoked!
HHH then proceeds to go around the locker room making amends with other dudes involved in the match. First he apologizes to Zach Ryder and Justin Gabriel and promises them some "competition" which comes in the form of a squash job at the hands of Erick Rowan and Luke Harper (a perfect excuse for Bray Wyatt to talk, which hasn't been happening enough lately because the Wyatts are another one of those things that WWE Creative doesn't know what to do with). Then he apologizes to RVD and gives him a rematch with Del Rio for the WHC at Battleground--and immediately after he leaves, RVD is brutally attacked by Del Rio. WWE needs to be better at convincing me that something fishy is going on instead of being forced to have Michael Cole say things like "YOU DON'T THINK IT'S A COINCIDENCE THAT HHH LEAVES AND DEL RIO IS RIGHT THERE" or whatever.
This Daniel Bryan/Usos v. Shield match is very Daniel Bryan/Usos v. Shield: I mean, what do you expect me to say about this? You know how great it was without even watching it. We all knew how great it would be before it ever started. And DEAR GOD, the end of this match. Just sit back and enjoy...
AND THE REST:
-Del Rio fought R-Truth for some reason. The End.