If I had told you that this episode of RAW featured both Sting and Ric Flair, one of the most historic wrestling rivalries of all time, you would likely think that the WWE created a moment that would live in the minds of wrestling fans forever. Instead, Sting made his long-awaited WWE debut on the Titantron to encourage pre-orders for WWE2k15.
While I didn’t expect Sting to drop down from the rafters, I figured the combination of his cryptic 7.14.14 tweet, along with an announcement at the beginning of the show that Ric Flair would be on, would naturally lead to some kind of in-ring interaction between himself and Flair. Perhaps Ric would introduce the special Sting pre-order reveal for WWE2k15. After all, it was the two of them that bid WCW farewell in the last ever episode of Nitro and Flair welcoming Sting into the WWE, even in a virtual form, would have been a wonderful full-circle nod to history.
Instead, Flair came out into the ring to be himself and give a predictable prediction that John Cena would retain his title this Sunday at Battleground. This, much like the rest of this week’s RAW, was a huge missed opportunity.
Take the current program between Jack Swagger and Rusev. The two held a “détente” along with their respective mouthpieces, Zeb Colter and Lana, in hopes the two could avoid the most obvious collision course ever at Battleground. The end result was never in doubt and neither was the crowd’s reaction to it. The disappointment and missed opportunities arose from the laziness of the entire segment.
Lana, who can gain all kinds of hot fire from the crowd by doing very little, seemed to realize it in all the wrong ways. She deviated from the simple formula of praising Putin and taking subtle (and at times, not so subtle) jabs at America so that she could repeatedly call America “stupid”. Then followed the mention that America fought the Civil War so soon, or rather “soon” for a nation as old as Russia, after the Revolutionary War. A nice shot, until the slight historical inaccuracy of Russia being a peace-loving country, ignoring their own civil wars and revolutions.
Perhaps that inaccuracy could’ve been written off as a lie to work over the crowd, but Zeb failed to address the heel’s lies if that was so. Instead, he played the veteran card, which did serve a purpose to transition the Real Americans from a racist heels to lovable patriots. Zeb appeared to push towards this new rhetoric by putting face heat on Obama (perhaps the most shocking moment in WWE history?!), but then grabbed the “you’re not a man because you’re hiding behind a woman” crutch.
One step forward. One step back. Right back to where everything started once again.
We could also look to the divas division where Nikki Bella inexplicably can get no one to come to her aid. Stephanie McMahon put her in a “tag team” match turned handicap match because Brie Bella quit months ago, therefore leaving Nikki all alone. This “punishment”, as Stephanie put it, required Nikki to face a team of Alicia Fox and Cameron, the later of whom will participate in a kickoff match against her former tag team partner, Naomi.
The match was simply begging for a Naomi run-in, but it never occurred. This was a missed opportunity on two fronts. Promotion of a PPV kickoff match and progressing whatever program Nikki has found herself in took simply wasn’t in the cards this week.
And then we have cases like Goldust and Stardust, The Usos, and The Wyatt Family who seemingly find themselves placed in the same role week after week. Goldust and Stardust find themselves on permanent backstage promo duty which, while hilarious, kills their progression as in-ring characters and turns them into a side show. Likewise, The Usos and The Wyatts found themselves in more or less the same match as they were in last week (that was a repeat of their Money in the Bank match) with the only wrinkle being that the match was a no-contest due to Harper and Rowan attacking them before the match.
When episode after episode continues this pattern, there is no plan B to fall back on when say, plan B appears to go down with a knee injury. Considering the WWE is already reeling from an injury to Daniel Bryan and the departure of CM Punk, an injury to Seth Rollins, who has been pushed into the main event picture thanks to winning Money in the Bank, would be yet another major setback the company really can’t afford.
This worst part? These injuries and departures happen to the few programs that the WWE seems to truly care about and have a good long-term plan for. The problem though is that all the eggs are more or less in that one basket and when it breaks, nothing but a mess is let behind.
Taking an opportunity for some RAW quick-hits:
- Backstage brawls don’t often lead to a suspension of disbelief that a wrestler has been taken out, but Seth Rollins’ Curb Stomp to Dean Ambrose on a backstage crate looked incredibly vicious and well done to sell that.
- As soon as I saw Damien Sandow dressed as a Sonic car-hop, I immediately thought “great, he’s been relegated to Adam Rose’s role of ad man” and then out comes Adam Rose and the Rosebuds. I’m now a lemon, WWE, thanks.
- The pop from the Sting WWE2k15 reveal was probably one of the loudest pops of the night. I’m a huge Sting mark, but even I know that isn’t a good sign of the current state of things.
- I’m glad Heyman has parted ways with Cesaro. The duo seemed like a can’t miss maneuver after Wrestlemania, but all Heyman seemed to do was keep heat on Brock Lesnar and Cesaro just kind of got put in the backseat.
- Big E v Cesaro was yet another strong exhibit for how the WWE has severely missed out. This match was one of the best of the night.
- Bray Wyatt explained his motivations last week and this week, but everyone’s ignoring it. It’s the lie Jericho told us seven years ago that he’d “Save Us” and never did and still hasn’t. Yeah, it’s a bit obtuse, but then again so is Bray. I don’t understand why the announce team and Chris just don’t admit that it doesn’t make sense to them. That would play off what Bray is already doing in the first place, but just going “huh” makes everything Bray says incredibly worthless which is bad territory to be in for a character that basically speaks in riddles.
- Eva Marie found her way into a match. Somehow she lasted longer than Paige did against A.J Lee. WWE logic at it’s finest.
- How to improve commentary: steal JBL’s headset and make fake friendly conversation with Paige. You are a hero A.J.
- Paige’s heel turn on A.J. should be all kinds of epic if done correctly. Please don’t screw this up.
- Considering Sandow became a Sonic car-hop, once Paige uttered the word “frememies“, I braced myself for a transition into a Sprint “framily” plan commercial.
- Bo Dallas continues to be the greatest and deserves the Intercontinental Title for the unreal humor run (and undefeated streak!) he is on. Calling Khali a “bad giant” and following it up after the match with “little big buddy” slayed me.
- Paul Heyman offered HHH “Plan C” so expect him to tease a C.M. Punk return since he is a master troll, but deliver with Brock Lesnar because that’s the obvious SummerSlam main event.
- Jerry Lawler described the fatal four-way match as impossible odds for Cena to overcome. Spoiler alert: they will be overcome.
- I really hope Seth grabbing his knee was either a work or that it wasn’t as bad as I fear. One of the few things I’m enjoying regularly (Seth’s failed cash-ins thanks to Amrbose) going on the shelf would be terrible. Especially considering, as I described to start, the WWE hasn’t exactly done a good job building the rest of their talent outside of the main two programs.
Tags: A.J. Lee Adam Rose Alicia Fox Big E. Bo Dallas Bray Wyatt Cameron Cesaro Chris Jericho CM Punk Damien Sandow Daniel Bryan Dean Ambrose Erick Rowan Eva Marie Great Khali HHH Jack Swagger JBL Jerry Lawler John Cena Lana Luke Harper Naomi Paige Paul Heyman Ric Flair Rusev Seth Rollins Stephanie McMahon Sting The Authority The Usos The Wyatt Family WWE Battleground 2014 WWE Raw Zeb Colter