This Week In Spandex: Anyway, Here’s Wonderwall
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 Dean Ambrose is out for revenge over his deceased potted plant, one of our favorite NXT stars gets called up and we rage one last time with "The White Lion" Alex Riley.
Kieran: How about Big Cass, eh? I’ll admit that whenever people pegged him as a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion, I didn’t see it. After his confrontation with Chris Jericho on Monday, I absolutely see it now. I think his biggest problem --- or at least my biggest problem --- was that he never seemed like a giant. He always comes across as a regular dude who happens to be big, rather than a big dude.
Here, he looked like a star and managed to hang with Chris Jericho, one of the best talkers of the past two decades. It happened in NXT as well, and I’d rather it was under better circumstances, but Cass needs a chance to shine solo briefly to show people he’s got a ton of charisma of his own. Enzo casts a long shadow for a tiny dude, so I’m glad WWE are showcasing what Cass can do that’s uniquely him.
Elle: Cass looks great right now, I agree. I was honestly worried he’d just disappear until Enzo recovered, and I’m so glad it’s the opposite. And of course it helps Enzo too. Having Cass on TV so much makes Enzo feel more present, and his actual return more anticipated. It also helps that we hear his voice every time Cass enters, since he performs on their entrance theme. I’ve always thought Enzo’s flow was a little iffy, but like all the other ridiculous things he does, he pulls it off.
Speaking of the Tag Team division, last week I mentioned the accidental racial implications of the Vaudevillains’ gimmick in relation to their feud with the New Day. This week, the New Day made a winking reference to that, which I thought served to deflate it quite nicely. They didn’t make the conflict about race (which would make things much to real for two teams this silly), they just pointed to the elephant in the room and then laughed at it. The New Day’s great at that sort of thing.
Kieran: Is there something about Dolph Ziggler where creative just blanks on what to do with him after the initial idea. Every feud he’s in always manages to just repeat itself endlessly until we’re sick of seeing him fight the guy he’s been fighting for two months. It happened with Kofi, Sheamus, Rusev and now it’s happening with Baron Corbin already. Like, it was a good match but in the words of George Harrison, it’s been done.
Elle: I just do not care for (or about) Dolph Ziggler. He’s fine in the ring, but I don’t find him charismatic at all, and honestly I don’t think I’ve fully gotten over being a little grossed out by the aborted Lana/Summer Rae storyline. And you’re right, they book him to do the same thing over and over again. Like, even more so than the rest of the roster, which is saying something. Also, it just seems like the Miz is a better cocky show-off. Tyler Breeze (if they let him be) is a better pretty boy. Zack Ryder is a better bro. What is Dolph Ziggler for? What’s his purpose?
Kieran: Oh hey, it’s Paige! Paige v Charlotte, this should be good! Oh, what’s that, it’s actually about Ric Flair? Again? Paige wins via distraction? I need more from my women’s wrestling, and I know you agree Elle. There’s So. Much. Talent. On the roster, and they’re being squandered like it’s 2009 all over again.
Elle: I do agree, but I felt a little more charitable towards the goings on this week. First of all, I was happy to see Paige back. I like her a lot as a performer. I rarely like how they book her, but of course she’s got to be around for that to ever change. The next step would be to give her an actual character and stick with it for a while. Which, you know, we’ll see. I’m also glad that we’ve reached a point in the storyline where Ric Flair always being at ringside and interfering is finally being treated like a problem. I don’t know exactly where it leads (it’s not like Natalya’s about to become Women’s Champion), but it feels like motion.
Kieran: On the other hand, here comes perpetual fave Dana Brooke to chew bubblegum and pat heads condescendingly. And she’s all out of bubblegum. I love Dana and Emma so much, and I hope the fact that they’re teamed up again means big things for them both.
Elle: You know, it’s funny. I’ve been complaining since Mania that they have more women on the main roster than they know what to do with, and now they’ve called up another one, and somehow I’m happy about it? But I just love Emma and Dana as a pair so much! Emma’s taciturn soullessness and Dana’s nowhere-near-as-smart-as-she-thinks queen bee verbosity are a match made in heel heaven. Also I kind of ship them, but don’t tell anybody. I way into the team name E.N.D. (that’s new, right?), and its implication that Dana thinks “N” stands for “and.” So yeah, I don’t know how things are going to go, and there’s certainly a lot of change I want to see in the Women’s Division. But Emma and Dana are together and on RAW, and I’m here for that.
Kieran: I think the Intercontinental Championship feud is my favorite thing at the moment, because it reminds me a lot of NXT’s peak right around NXT Takeover: Fatal Four Way. That was a time when there wasn’t a main-event feud, there was a main event scene, with people drifting in and out of it, and I think the current Intercontinental Championship scene is emulating that quite nicely. This match is going to steal the show at Extreme Rules, and rightly so.
Elle: You know, I used to not like the Miz, even as a heel. And I have to say, putting him in this storyline with three guys who I love has really improved my feelings about him. That and Maryse. Maryse is a really magical addition to his gimmick. And for sure, this fatal four way is the thing I’m most excited about at Extreme Rules.
Kieran: I am also really enjoying the massive shades of grey feud that is #TheClub vs #TheFamily, and I’m excited to see AJ Styles and Roman Reigns step in the ring one-on-one again next week. I don’t need to see any more six man tags before then, but maybe we can get Anderson or Gallows (pref Anderson) in singles action at least, or have AJ wrestler an Uso? There’s a lot more to do here than six-man tag after six-man tag.
Elle: I don’t think I’m enjoying this feud as much as you are. I’m not, like, mad about it. I’m glad you and others are into it. I just haven’t found Gallows and Anderson terribly interesting so far, and the Usos certainly haven’t gotten less boring. I’m not a Roman hater, but he’s not a good guy or a bad guy, and he’s certainly not my guy. And that just leaves AJ, who I really enjoy as a performer, but feel iffy about as a person, and every time he talks I’m reminded of every dad of every Baptist kid I was friends with in grade school.
Kieran: I know we talk a lot about disappointment here, but I was really looking forward to that Chris Jericho v Big Cass match and I know “Card Subject To Change” is always in effect, but I don’t think the replacement match of Dean Ambrose vs A Jacket was as good. I kinda like the motivations for this feud because it feels super old school, like something you’d see on TBS in the eighties, but not at the expense of a fresh match-up that’s also a huge opportunity to really make a new star.
Kieran: Possibly my favorite thing of the week was the crowd’s reaction to Elias Sampson interrupting Finn. When that acoustic guitar started, they didn’t boo but they did let out an almighty groan, which is absolutely the correct reaction to someone showing up with unannounced with an acoustic guitar.
Elle: I have to admit, I am struggling to come up with something to say about NXT this week. Every match featured someone I love --- American Alpha, Shinsuke Nakamura, Alexa Bliss, Finn Bálor --- but all of their opponents were as boring as can be, and none of the matches ever really transcended that problem that for me. When Elias Sampson was a face, I was one of the people saying he needed to be a heel. But now he is one, and I still don’t care. And of course Nakamura, perhaps the most exciting living wrestler, had a match against a guy so unpopular that he’d already been fired when the episode aired.
The one surprise this week, I thought, was that Nia Jax is getting a lot better at talking. If she’s going to be a heel she still needs to work on seeming mean, but she’s not nearly as awkward as she was early on.
Kieran: We should take a moment and say goodbye to the… sigh.... “The White Lion” Alex Riley. I kinda feel bad because the fact he tried to get a new nickname over shows he had no idea his release was coming, but he is such a garbage person I don’t care. There are few people actively wrestling today that I genuinely dislike, but Riley seemed so negative and toxic that it was hard to not hate him. Also, I said it elsewhere but “The White Lion” sounds like one of those websites that looks innocuous at a passing glance but is actually filled with Neo-Nazi propaganda.
Elle: Emma and Dana’s backstage segment with Renee Young made my week. Dana’s so great at promos because there’s always this dimension where she doesn’t quite seem to understand the words she’s saying, and somehow that really, really works for her. Dana is a beautiful, defiant bodybuilding champion, and she will tell you exactly that, in those words, to your face. And then she’ll pat your head. “This is my playground, and playtime is over!” But Dana, if it’s your playground, can’t playtime last as long as you want? Why don’t you want to play, Dana? She didn’t pat Renee’s head at least, which was a relief. They’ve built Renee as such a likable character that I don’t want to see her subjected to that humiliation. Who do you humiliate now that Rich Brennan’s gone? It’s a tough question, but I trust Dana Brooke to find the answer.
Dana’s actual debut match against Becky was a little short and ended with interference and a roll-up (darn roll-ups), but there were some good spots in there. I love Dana’s new gear, which has a hint of mermaid about it. Speaking of gear, this was the second time Dana poked Becky in her already injured eye, and it gave me an idea. I know Naomi’s already done it, but you have to admit an eyepatch would go really well with Becky’s Victorian Sky Pirate aesthetic.
Kieran: I am pro-eyepatches. Cesaro had one for two weeks and he looked like Sagat. It was rad.
Elle: Amazing news from SmackDown this week: I think the R-Truth/Goldust storyline is finally resolved! They realized they love each other more than their other tag team partners, and I guess that means they’re going to be a tag team now. I’m more excited, to be honest, about the Tyler Breeze/Fandango tag team that looks like it may also come out of this. Sure, they’ll just job to people, but so will the Golden Truth.
Kieran: This has been going since the Royal Rumble, right? Since January? This is like the modern day Sting v Hogan in ‘97 build-up, with similar payoff. I’m glad it’s over, but it kind of isn’t, it’s the just the act break. If this was a Chris Claremont miniseries, the last page would have had a caption at the bottom that said “The Beginning”.
It’s starting to feel like the writers have a pool going to see how long that can keep an undercard odd-couple tag feud going.