Before I dive too deep into this week’s edition of “John Cena doing terrible things, but getting away with it anyways”, I do want to say that there is a lot I actually liked about this RAW. I enjoyed this go-home episode of RAW far more than any other recent one that I can remember. For the most part, things that happened seemed to have some manner of consequence, requiring resolution at Survivor Series.
Recently, PPV matches, especially those without titles, have had terrible builds. They are void of any emotion and if there isn’t gold, or the promise of gold, the end result never really seems to matter. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’ Hell in a Cell match serves as the most recent notable exception to this rule. Ambrose once again has found himself in a match that feels like it has some weight behind it, but the main event for Sunday evening rightfully feels like it has the most on the line even though the WWE World Heavyweight Championship isn’t in the picture.
The Authority has done a masterful job of making the seemingly throwaway stipulation that Vince McMahon made a couple weeks ago look like the most important thing in the world. HHH book-ended the show with two excellent promos that sold just how much the power means to him through moments that consistently blurred reality. As HHH spoke about how much the business meant to him, you could easily imagine that Paul Levesque would give a similar emotional speech. Likewise, Stephanie continued, just as in previous weeks, to do everything possible to bribe, tempt, and eventually destroy anyone on Team Cena to ensure she doesn’t lose a power that she feels is her birthright.
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Dolph Ziggler losing his Intercontinental Title via a last minute title match, in which he fell victim to a pre-match attack, as well as Sheamus and the Big Show falling victim to a trap for yet another attack thanks to the allure of a title shot packed a serious punch. Each blow felt massive and felt like it mattered. If ever there was a clear example of a heel faction stopping at nothing to hold on to their power, this was it.
However, through all of this, I couldn’t help but think: “what in the hell is John Cena doing?”
After all, it seems like everyone in Team Authority has each other’s back. At no point in the evening did anyone in Team Authority ever act alone. Luke Harper had Seth Rollins as well as Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury help him capture his title. Mark Henry and Rusev teamed up to try and take out the Big Show and Sheamus despite the fact that just a couple of months prior they two were feuding because America.
But all the while Cena just stays in the back and lets it happen. Not only that, he attempts to more or less recruit Ryback after these events go down and tries to deliver what Michael Cole tried to sell as a convincing argument. An argument that, by the way, had to address the fact that Cena was an insufferable jerk to Ryback a year ago (historical accountability in a WWE storyline–rejoice!!!).
It almost felt like justice that Cena walked out to the contract signing by himself. He then proceeded to deliver a border-line self aware promo in which he practically claimed that he has no issue going 5-on-1 against Team Authority, probably because he is fully aware that he could win such a match thanks to the kayfabe god-like status the WWE has granted him. Honestly, had he stuck to that script, I might have felt slightly better about things, but Cena went back to trying to fill every spot on the “John Cena promo bingo card” (I swear that I’m going to make this) once again and went into his comfort zone of terrible jokes while HHH mockingly laughed at his pathetic attempts.
While Cena ran his mouth, I wanted nothing more than for Team Authority to just attack him, finish the job they started, and lay him out. When Stephanie finally slapped Cena, I popped. Now, here I am as a fan, openly cheering for the heels because I’ve finally had enough of Cena’s crap throughout the evening.
Perhaps some level of confirmation bias is at play here. I want Team Authority to win simply because, without big, bad Brock Lesnar running around, the WWE needs a top heel in their show. The collective unit of The Authority has filled this role so well and the sum is so much greater than its parts, especially when the two most essential cogs in that machine are HHH and Stephanie. Without them, I honestly think that the WWE would find itself treading water in trying to find a new main arc.
However, I just don’t feel like my bias is over-shadowing this situation. Objectively, I just saw a guy bare his soul in the ring (HHH) and you can see that this matters so damn much to him. It’s his life. Then you have Cena thumbing his nose at everything, not caring about his own team, and just acting like he can do whatever the hell he wants because he’s John Cena dammit. So, yes, perhaps The Authority’s moral compass is a bit flawed, but how can I blame them when this insufferable jerk that’s the supposed face of the company keeps acting this way?
Plus, I can’t get the thought out of the back of my mind that Cena just let his team get decimated. He just doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. Why is the biggest hero in the WWE so selfish? The only other logical explanation to explain these actions is that John Cena wants The Authority to remain in charge and I just do not see the WWE pressing the button on that nuclear swerve (although it would be awesome).
The illogical cherry on top of this whole situation is that, while Team Cena has had two members taken out due to injury (Sheamus and Jack Swagger), John Cena gets two replacement members because, eh, why not. Ryback joining Team Cena was incredibly obvious, but the biggest head-scratcher was Erick Rowan coming out to Cena’s aid. Objectively, Rowan and Harper having a showdown is awesome. Logically…huh?!
After being freed by Wyatt, Rowan has quite literally just wandered around aimlessly during WWE programming and stalking Renee Young. I have no idea how any of that translated to “help John Cena”, but here we are.
Logical fallacies and Cena annoyances aside, I’m incredibly pumped for this main event. And, after all, the main goal for the WWE is to sell me that the match matters and I should care about it. Even though they’ve hooked me into caring for the heels, a move that flies in the face of traditional wrestling logic, they’ve still hooked me. Mission accomplished on their end.
Five Takeaways from the Night
1) This episode had the air of the WWE changing direction.
Not so much with the players in their stories, but in how the stories are being told.
Attitude Era-like sexual innuendo made a strong return to this episode. The Bunny sexually assaulted Adam Rose out of nowhere (which could prove to be horribly awkward later if certain rumors about The Bunny’s identity prove true). Lana teased the crowd with a topless photo only to show them Putin, a ploy which works because those are photos that actually exist–or, uh…so I’ve heard. And of course, John Cena decided to make the Sexual Chocolate reference at the end of the night.
Probably not the topless photo you were expecting (or perhaps you were). Photo credit: WWE.com
There were also several moments of serious attempts to blur the lines of reality, especially to those paying a bit more attention than others. As previously, mentioned, Lana’s photo tease was one example. HHH’s promo at the end of the night had a gigantic dose of reality in it. Cesaro’s tease of helping John Cena works because of the internet complaint that he’s being held down so it was believable that he had enough and wanted to fight back. Stephanie’s temptation of the Big Show felt all too real as well.
Then of course you have the final segment which seemed like an honest-to-God effort to hook the smark crowd into being emotionally invested in The Authority.
I know HHH has referred to this era as the “reality era”, but nothing has really seemed to define it other than the fact that the Total Divas clearly has a serious effect on the diva storylines. It’s hard to describe, but this just all felt so different for some reason that it semmed like the WWE was making an effort to break out of some ruts and defining what this “reality era” actually is.
I’m not totally on board with everything that was tried in this episode (seriously, Bunny rape?) but I’m more than willing to allow the WWE to mix it up a bit.
2) Just let Grumpy Cat sleep, Miz!
I had a major eye-roll when a meme was announced to “guest host” RAW, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t actually work. The Miz somehow made me laugh at the whole situation and then Grumpy Cat continued to do so throughout the night when it was clear the poor cat just wanted to sleep and just did not give a damn about being there or anyone around her.
3) Mizdow somehow gets better and better every week.
Mizdow takes a brutal bump…after no one touches him. Photo credit: WWE.com
I am so happy Sandow’s Mizdow gimmick has gotten over in such a big way. What makes it even better for me is that the WWE is now allowing him to continue going over the top with the miming of Miz. At one point in the match, he ran in and did a bump drill right in front of the Usos to hard sell Miz’s sell (that makes sense, right?). Eventually, he’s going to throw himself into a chair, stairs, or ring post before this is all over.
An additional bonus this week was watching Gold and Stardust, the two most bizarre characters in the WWE universe, wonder what in the hell is wrong with Mizdow. Freakin’ priceless.
4) Dean Ambrose knows magic.
Magic! Photo credit: WWE.com
Ambrose got very little time to be his incredible, insane self but made the most of it. His insult of Bray’s gimmick was another one of those moments in which the WWE openly acknowledged criticism and, even though I’m not one that complains much about anything related to Bray, it got a solid chuckle out of me.
I wish they had more time to talk about Dean’s recording though. Whose phone recorded the footage? Did he make a visit to his buddy Roman Reigns? Did he take advantage of Tyler Breeze’s extensive knowledge of how to put cell phone footage on a big screen? Inquiring minds want to know!
5) I’m almost hoping the “A.J. Lee is leaving the WWE” rumors are true at this point.
This is the only way A.J. Lee ever gets mic time anymore. Photo credit: WWE.com
I think A.J.’s great, but I still have no idea what she’s doing with her character, whether it is her doing, or whether the WWE painted her into a corner and she’s just stuck. Either way, if this is all the end result of the WWE not being able to figure out how to write a character without the backing of Total Divas, I do not want to see this week after week.
Either give A.J. the mic again and let her reset her character or just let her go enjoy life with her husband whom the WWE Universe can’t let go of. She is much better than this and it’s aggravating to see her involved half-assed concepts and storylines.