This Week In Spandex: With Friends Like These
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, Sami Zayn made his main roster return to face off againt best friend/blood rival Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose continues to be the most exciting main event babyface since Daniel Bryan, and Paige's mum comes to help with her boyfriend troubles.
Kieran: It’s certainly been an exciting week, and there’s a lot I want to talk about, mostly concerning Sami Zayn, but Elle, you wanted to talk a bit about the Shane McMahon and Vince segment from RAW?
Elle: I’m worried about this whole Shane situation. He’s specifically promising the fans (or at least the internet “smart marks” like you and me), that we’ll get everything we’ve been asking for if he beats the Undertaker. No more micromanaging by an out-of-touch old man. No more half-hour Authority promos to open every episode. No more ignoring talented people in favor of the anointed.
But I feel like he’s promised too much. It’s possible to imagine that the Authority storyline could end and Shane could be the onscreen GM of RAW while Hunter and Steph focus on their backstage jobs and/or SmackDown. And it’s possible to imagine some shift toward exciting new talent from Japan and the indies and away from guys like the Big Show. But it’s hard to believe that Vince, given any say in the matter, will step away. And it’s impossible to imagine that they stop pushing Roman Reigns (who is actually a talented guy, but clearly the one the cheering fans were thinking of on Shane’s “all the breaks...no talent” line), especially since he’s likely to come out of WrestleMania as the World Heavyweight Champion.
The backstage politics will absolutely continue. I’m hoping there’s some sort of halfway solution, where Shane wins but can’t get everything he wants. Because if the Undertaker beats him and the next night the Authority walks out and laughs at the fans for thinking they might get anything they wanted, that will feel too much like a punch in the gut even for this heel of a company. But I’m going to quit being negative (for now), because I know something happened on RAW that made you really happy.
Kieran: So, Sami Zayn debuted on RAW, and that’s a pretty big deal for me, because he’s one of my favorite wrestlers. We even had a hamster last year named Hami Zayn after him (rest in peace, Hami Zayn). I read a rumor that something exciting was going to happen tonight, but a bit more “generic” than Shane McMahon’s arrival last month, and if you aren’t aware, there used to be a masked wrestler on the indies named El Generico whom Sami Zayn reminds a lot of people of, so when Kevin Owens started his post-match beatdown on Neville, my heart was going a mile a minute, waiting for Sami’s music.
I would have liked a bit more than what we got from Zayn and Owens, but I guess that’s kinda the point. I’m not even more excited for a one-on-one match between the two, and it’s a shame that all signs point towards a multi-man match at WrestleMania, because they could do an all-time classic if it was just the two of them.
Elle: I agree that they ought to have a one-on-one match at Mania, but at the same time, unless things go terribly awry, there should be plenty of time for that. If WWE has a future, Zayn and Owens are the future of WWE (alongside Bálor and Banks and Lynch and Bayley and Nakamura and Kalisto and so on, but I digress). In any world that makes sense, Sami and Kevin are in the running to main event WrestleMania within the next couple of years.
Kieran: The only other thing I really want to talk about on RAW was Ryback’s promo to Kalisto. It was so weird! I saw someone on Twitter describe it as like he turned face and heel eight times during one promo, and that’s totally accurate. Every sentence was like “I respect you as a wrestler Kalisto, but I am a monster who is a foot taller and will literally eat you, but I respect that you wear a mask, and continue to honour the tradition of Lucha Libre…”
Elle: Yeah, I’m with you there. In the past, I’ve defended Ryback before as one of those guys that seems charismatic despite what WWE has him do. But to be honest, I’m getting over that feeling and starting to just find him annoying. A heel turn seemed like just what he needed, but it makes no sense and seems to be going nowhere. He’s becoming like Mini-Big Show, but worse because he doesn’t have the same long career to precede becoming the nothing he is now.
Kieran: To round off RAW, we should talk about the closing segment, and it’s been said a million times, but Dean Ambrose is on fire right now, and it’s bananas that he’s keeping Roman’s feud warm for him like this. This is only going to make people hate Roman all over again when he comes back, it’s like an extended version of his Royal Rumble nap.
Elle: I know Total Divas is shot months in advance and edited weeks ahead, but it’s hard not to feel like they read my rant last week. Paige actually said, “I just don’t want to be in a relationship,” and dumped Kevin, the boring tattooed beardo who had nothing going for him except being better looking than the boring tattooed beardo who Rosa’s having a baby with.
And the best part of the episode was the presence of Paige’s Mom, veteran British wrestler Sweet Saraya. I can’t claim to have seen a lot of her work, but I’m always here for tough tattooed moms being moms. And Saraya saying “I’m just a mum,” when she’s concerned about what Paige isn’t telling her kind of broke my heart. But the scene at the park where Paige tells her everything is a sweet resolution to the story.
Kieran: Once again, I haven’t seen Total Divas this week due to the ocean that divides us, but I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend a British documentary called The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. It’s about The Knights, which is Paige’s family, and follows them at a time when both Paige and her brother have WWE try-outs, and then one of them gets a job and the other doesn’t. There are some other great UK wrestling documentaries, but I’ll highlight them when it’s more appropriate. I’m really into wrestling docs.
Elle: Well, we don’t have to spend any time deciding which NXT match to talk about this week, because there’s only one. I have to admit, my attention span has a tough time with hour long matches (even when it’s Prince Puma vs Johnny Mundo), but Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe put on a really entertaining show. I loved how long it took just to get to the first fall. The struggle felt so real for both of them. The whole thing was a great way to get Joe the Contendership while keeping Zayn looking really formidable. And let’s be honest, that ginger Canadian’s having one heck of a week.
Kieran: Oh yeah, this was one of the best week’s of Sami Zayn’s career, and personally, I’m a big sucker for two-out-of-three falls matches. I loved that Graves and Phillips gave the viewer the impression there were matches scheduled for after the #1 Contenders match, and then eventually they were bumped for time. It reminds me of when J.R. used to say that RAW had filled its commercial obligations, and would stay with the main event as long as they have to. It made it feel like a fight, and I’m totally here for anything that helps me let go and lose myself in the fiction of pro wrestling.
The match itself was as good as could be expected, which is to say, up there with the very best NXT matches. I love it during two-out-of-three falls matches when someone taps out as a strategy, knowing they still have a chance of winning. One of my biggest peeves is that tapping out is a sign of weakness, rather than a sound decision to protect your health and career. As big a Sami Zayn fan as I am, this was absolutely the right way to do this match, and I’m looking forward to Joe v Balor II at Takeover: Dallas.
Elle: When Sami Zayn (the undeniable star of this week) was on RAW Monday, I wasn’t sure if he was joining the main roster or just making making another guest appearance. But seeing him on SmackDown cemented that he’s here to stay. And he wasn’t just on SmackDown, he was on a MizTV segment that turned into a tag match, which is about as main roster WWE as it gets. I liked seeing him talk with Miz, and I love that he gets to acknowledge all the years he and Kevin Owens worked in the indies. The Miz did his “putting you over by putting you down” thing on him, which is pretty much the best use of the Miz.
The tag match (in which Kevin Owens joined the Miz and Neville joined Zayn) wasn’t nearly as exciting, and definitely didn’t compare to what we just saw Sami do on Wednesday. But the show, and indeed the company, is better just for him being around.
Kieran: Yeah, I don’t have much else to say about this that I didn’t say in the RAW party, and I missed Sami Zayn’s side of the segment because it’s not on YouTube. I quite liked Neville’s part of MizTV though. He came out, said two intense sentences that weren’t obscured by his accent, and looked like a legitimate threat. This stuff isn’t hard.
I want to talk a little bit about Chris Jericho’s AJ Styles promo, because it’s a Jericho that I’ve missed, but it’s still a nostalgia act. Jericho was so great because of how he reinvented himself. Look at him in 1992 vs 1996 vs 1999 vs 2006 and they’re all different guys, but he came back spitting his ‘99 catchphrases, and now he’s just the polysyllabic slow-talking hel from ‘06. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because lord knows The Rock has been doing it for years, but I think I just expect more from Jericho because he’s always talked about his own ability to reinvent himself. The finals shot of him singing A-J-Sty-les in front of the flaming trashcan was ace though, I loved that.
Elle: I do want to take a minute to mention this developing feud between Lana and Brie Bella, mostly to say that I wish they were doing something else instead. There’ve been moments when I really liked Lana, but her motivations for going after Brie make no sense at all. And I really wish Brie could have gone ahead and left the company after losing to Charlotte at Fastlane. That would have seemed more dignified. Now she just seems like a lame duck wrestler who’s finishing out her contract as cannon fodder for a manager who’s making her transition to the ring.
And that’s another thing --- Lana and Brie both seem like they need someone to carry them through their matches. So the idea that they’re eventually going to fight each other one on one just isn’t a very exciting prospect. But at least we have more than one women’s storyline right now, even if this one feels a lot more pre-revolution than the other.
Kieran: Finally, there was an eight man tag-team match in the main event, which was the most SmackDown main event you can do, and enough digital ink has been spent writing about how unthreatening The Wyatt Family are. Everything’s leading to Roadblock now, which honestly seems like a really great show. Ambrose and Triple H are going to put on a great main event, and I’m excited to see Enzo and Cass in front of a WWE crowd.
We'll be covering Roadblock next week before get to RAW, which will be the model for whenever there's a special event. Until then, we’ll see you next week.