This Week In Spandex: Roadblocked
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, we're all about tag-team wrestling, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles square off one-on-one, and Triple H is still one of the best wrestlers on the planet in the year 2016.
Kieran: We’re starting this week on Saturday, rather than Monday, as we had the first ever WWE Roadblock, a special event live only on WWE Network. I enjoyed Roadblock a heck of a lot, especially the NXT Tag Team Championship match between The Revival and Enzo and Cass, who are the most sympathetic good guys right now. Whenever they have a tag title match, I’m on the edge of my seat hoping for them to get the win. What did you think of this match, Elle?
Elle: I loved it! Enzo is doing the best in-ring work of his career, and they continue to be super-likable and great at storytelling. I only hope the fact that they didn’t get the belts is a hint that they’re being called up to the main roster soon. All I want is for them and the New Day to have a big feud where they get to trash talk each other a bunch, and it needs to happen before the New Day gets too deflated from having nobody better to feud with than the League of Nations.
Kieran: I was a bit disappointed with what we got from Brock Lesnar v Bray Wyatt, especially as it turned into the match I'd much rather see: Brock Lesnar v Luke Harper, but there's no way they'll ever position Harper as an actual threat to Lesnar. In a perfect world, Harper and Lesnar would go fifteen --- twenty minutes and be an all-out war, but that's not the story WWE are interested in telling.
Elle: I also thought the women’s match was really great. Charlotte’s ring work is incredibly dependent on who she’s sharing that ring with, and Natalya is exactly the kind of opponent she needs. Even knowing there was no chance of Nattie winning the belt, it was still an exciting, dynamic match. And while Ric did interfere, it was in a pretty minor way that just kept Nattie looking strong (which is especially important in Canada). I know they’re on different sides right now, but I could see these two on a team in the future. They’re both blonde wrestling royalty, strong as heck, and neither of them are great on the mic, so maybe pair them with a manager (not Ric Flair).
Kieran: In a similar vein, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match hit all the right notes, Triple H can still go like he was fifteen years younger, and I’d say he worked his butt off to make Ambrose look like an equal, but at this point, Ambrose doesn’t need much help. This was possibly the best singles match of Ambrose’s career so far, and I loved that they had him put Triple H down for the three count, that’s a huge vote of confidence. If Ambrose can beat Triple H, and we know Triple H can beat Brock Lesnar, then through the transitive property, Ambrose seems like much of a threat going into WrestleMania.
Elle: I have to be honest, I was not crazy about RAW this week. To start with, there was only one Divas match, and it was totally disconnected from the title picture and really only existed as an excuse for Lana to mess with Brie some more. I never thought I’d see an angle about one of the Bella Twins being gender policed and told she’s not a real woman. But here we are. Not into it.
Kieran: I actually really liked RAW this week, although you’re not wrong with your criticisms. I loved that it started with a wrestling match, and a very good tag team match at that. I thought the League of Nations’ beat-down on The New Day did wonders for both teams in the long run and it has me excited for that weird handicap WrestleMania match. Triple H put on another great match two days in a row too, going all-out with Dolph Ziggler and again, making him look amazing. There were low points, but the high points surpassed them, for me at least.
Elle: I hated seeing Neville get hurt (and it looked painful) in his match with Chris Jericho, but I have to admit it was interesting watching the way Jericho dealt with it on the fly. He may not always be my favorite character (although he’s doing pretty great heel work right now), but that guy is a veteran, and he knows how to take care of his fellow wrestlers. Props to him for that.
Kieran: Yeah, Jericho taking over when Neville fractured his ankle was an interesting little peek behind the curtain, and the miscommunication between himself and referee Charles Robinson ended up working in their favour and allowing the story to progress. Neville’s said to be out two-three months which is a real shame because he deserves to be at WrestleMania. Hopefully it is a quick recovery, and we see him back on the main roster soon.
Elle: The other thing that sticks with me from this episode is Mick Foley showing up and giving Dean Ambrose his barbed wire wrapped bat, Barbie. Even as a newer fan who lacks Attitude Era nostalgia, I thought that was pretty cool. The company’s been working for so long to sell Dean as “the crazy reckless guy,” and having Foley (kind of literally) pass the torch to him is a pretty efficient way to do that.
Kieran: We should finish up by talking about the McMahons/Undertaker segment, which was very by the books and not too exciting, for me at least. However, when Undertaker kept holding his fists up and saying “I have these” and “These are my legacy” it came across to me like he was talking about his PrimeTime Combat Pro MMA gloves, and he was just real proud and wanted to show them off.
Elle: It’s weird on Total Divas how they’ll have some actual real life drama, like Nikki learning how serious her neck problem is, but then it inevitably morphs into some fake-seeming relationship drama, like Nikki asking John to be her rehab coach and then not wanting to listen to the things he tells her. But I guess that’s how reality TV works, if you didn’t embrace the tropes of the genre, things might actually get real, and nobody wants that. On a related note, I’ve always loved how Tyson Kidd usually refuses to treat the show’s fake drama (which is often his wife Nattie’s fake drama) like it’s a big deal. This was a great episode for moments of Tyson standing in the background looking amused.
Kieran: So, Shinsuke Nakamura v Sami Zayn at Takeover Dallas, eh? If you’re only watching WWE, you are in for an absolute treat with Nakamura. He has more wrestling ability and charisma in his pinky than a good portion of the main roster do in their entire bodies. I saw him live last summer in London and it was close to a religious experience.
Elle: I’ve never actually seen Nakamura wrestle, and I’m really excited about it. I’m already in love with his look and persona (That haircut! Those jackets!), and I’ve only ever heard great things about him as a wrestler. Should be a great match, and Sami’s such a perfect choice to put him up against.
Kieran: The one non-Nakamura thing I really wanted to bring up from NXT was that my girlfriend discovered Austin Aries’ “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” nickname and laughed out loud, deeming it “embarrassing”. There were two quite good tag matches on the show though, especially the women’s tag which was not only fun, but moved that storyline on towards its logical conclusion, and I’m probably as excited for Bayley v Asuka as I am for Zayn v Nakamura.
Elle: I can’t wait for Bayley vs Asuka. I love how much Bayley is selling her fear of Asuka. She’s gained so much confidence in the last year, and deservedly so, but Asuka is an opponent of a whole different caliber, and Bayley knows it. And I love what a great job NXT has done of keeping the two of them away from each other until very recently. It’s so much easier to get excited for a match when you’ve never seen it before. That sounds absurdly obvious, but the main roster shows don’t seem to have figured it out.
Elle: Speaking of Bayley, there was this weird moment on SmackDown, where Charlotte called Becky and Sasha out to the ring and gave them this whole mean speech about how they were never really worthy of being named “Horsewomen” after her dad’s famous faction. But the whole time they avoided mentioning the number four, because that would have called attention to Bayley’s absence. I knew it wasn’t possible, but it really seemed like she should have done a run-in on this segment. As the biggest wrestling nerd of the four, you know she would have had something to say. That aside, this was a pretty good segment. I always enjoy when wrestlers who aren’t Dean Ambrose come out in casual street clothes. Charlotte’s outfit was suitably outrageous, while Becky is unsurprisingly adorable in jeans and a tank top. And while I know it’s about promoting the latest merch as much as anything, Sasha wearing a T-shirt with her own face on it is 100% in character.
Kieran: Whenever they have wrestlers wandering the streets of the city they’re in, it can either go really well, or really poorly, but from the clips I’ve seen, Ambrose’s return home to Cincinnati was done perfectly well. I think that’s the match I’m most excited for at WrestleMania this year, and I really, truly think Ambrose has a shot at defeating Brock Lesnar.
Elle: So the main event of SmackDown was AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens. And of course they can do magic in the ring together. And for a few a minutes there I started thinking, maybe it’s a whole new world for SmackDown now. With all these recent additions to the company, they don’t have to do schmozzy nonsense and put together random tag teams for the main events. They can just book two indie veterans who aren’t currently in a storyline together and let them put on a great pure wrestling match. They can let it be about the wrestling in that moment, and not about the build to the next thing. But then, inevitably, my thoughts were interrupted by Chris Jericho coming out and distracting AJ so Kevin could get the pin, and then beating up AJ in the ring. But for a brief, beautiful moment I dared to dream.
Kieran: This is the match I am most excited to watch when SmackDown airs in the UK, because I’ve seen some clips and .gifs from it, but I think it’s going to surpass even my expectations. One small thing I loved that might been on the show, I’m not sure yet, but on Twitter the WWE account hyped it as their first match “in WWE” which doesn’t seem like much, but as someone who watched through the late 00s, it’s still mindblowing to me that WWE have completely changed their attitude when it comes to acknowledging that wrestling exists outside of themselves.