This Week In Spandex: You’re Locked In Here With Me
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, women's wrestling continues to be the best kind of wrestling (when they let it be), The New Day go back in time, and cage matches are all the rage.
Kieran: Now, I don’t know how many regular readers of TWIS are aware that I’m in the UK --- which is why I can’t cover Total Divas and have to watch SmackDown clips on YouTube --- but RAW is on at 1AM over here. It starts at one, and it ends at four, and I think this might have been the final week where I attempt to watch it live. I made it one hour into this week’s episode and it was evident I was only hurting myself by staying up that late. I ended up catching up with it the next day, and while it wasn’t terrible, but certainly not worth the effort.
I feel like AJ and Roman’s feud is ready for the blow-off now, I’ve really enjoyed the shades-of-grey storytelling between all six men, but it’s reaching a natural boiling point and I’d be happy to for Sunday to be the end of it.
I loved everything about the Intercontinental Championship segment, and although we didn’t get to see Cesaro/Zayn V, it just makes me hate Miz and Owens, so it’s good work. Owens yelling out “He's the worst one!” about The Miz was a particular highlight of this week’s show.
Elle: Basically anytime Owens is yelling, it’s always gold. I enjoyed the odd-couple booking of the tag team match. Seeing Zayn and Owens as partners is exciting, and seeing them as partners who hate each other is even better. This whole Intercontinental storyline has been a lot of fun, which is no surprise since it includes four of the best guys on the roster. Yeah, I said four. The Miz has been great lately. I might agree with Kevin Owens regarding his ranking in this quartet, but he’s still pretty awesome.
You may notice that I’m not saying anything about the Family/Club feud. I’m saving the last tiny bit of my enthusiasm for that storyline to talk about whatever happens on Sunday.
Kieran: Okay, so The Shining Stars... Where to start? This gimmick feels pretty much dead on arrival, and I don’t see where they fit in the landscape as a whole. It also seems really dodgy to me that you’ve got Puerto Rican bad guys being baddies and then telling you to come visit, while Puerto Rico itself is going through a major economic crisis. Like, this is happening right now, and it seem very poorly timed.
Elle: It is totally super-weird, and to be as charitable as possible, politically unfortunate. Primo and Epico themselves seem pretty fun in this incarnation — certainly more exciting than they were as bullfighters — but the Puerto Rico angle is just a problem. And it’s hard to imagine a tag team gimmick this clumsy and dated having any place alongside Enzo and Cass, the New Day, and even the Vaudevillains.
Speaking of which, how about that New Day segment with the Time Machine? It was pretty out there, and it’s hard to imagine how it worked live, without the visual effects, but I actually ended up thinking it was pretty fun. Jamaican Kofi, “Derriere Squares,” the Vaudevillains showing up out of nowhere to provide a beatdown like the badass heels that they are… I have to say, I’m on board.
Kieran: Jericho was possibly the best he’s been in nearly a decade here, and I love the full dive off the deep end into his character that he’s accomplished. “The Gift of Jericho” was such a great line, and he carries himself in a way that (sorry Enzo) you can’t teach. When he really switches it on, he absolutely oozes heel and I love seeing him in action.
I am curious about this “Asylum Match” though, I can’t remember the last time WWE introduced a wholly new match-time --- outside of the Stairs Match --- so it’ll be interesting to see what two people like Ambrose and Jericho can come up with when given what is essentially a blank canvas.
Elle: The contract signing with Charlotte and Nattie didn’t do much for me. They’re putting so much effort into making Natalya seem dominant and emphasizing how lost Charlotte is without her dad at ringside, but we all know Charlotte’s still going to be champion on Monday, so it all feels a little pointless.
Kieran: I’d be very surprised if Natalya came out of Extreme Rules as champion --- and as I’ve said before --- this feels like a lot of wheel spinning until Sasha Banks is allowed to be important again. I’m not into it, and I want it to end.
Elle: On the other hand, I was all about the Dana Brooke/Becky Lynch match. As I’m sure you heard, Emma just had surgery for a back injury, so there’s no telling how long she’s going to be out. Which is a shame, because she’s awesome. And I was worried that Dana would be lost (or just missing) without her, but here she is, being one of my favorite heels all on her own. I love her and Becky as opponents, too. Becky’s so likable and earnest, while Dana’s so nasty and full of it, and they both have biceps that I see in my dreams. I just way into these two, and I’d love to see them at least on the Extreme Rules pre-show.
Kieran: Dana is amazing, and I’m so glad that she’s back wrestling and on RAW where she belongs. It feels like a great shot in the arm to have a call-up to the Women’s Division that isn’t a Horsewoman, and I’m enjoying finally getting more than one women’s feud at a time. We may just get to this revolution they keep promising us.
Kieran: Man, this week’s NXT was a whole lotta nothing until the end, huh? The tag match was fine, and I think I see what they’re doing with Aries if it leads to a slow-burn heel turn. He’s not lighting the world on fire like Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura, and it’s gonna get to him. That’s a new story that you can only really tell with NXT, and I’m here for it.
Elle: Honestly, I had thought Austin Aries had been a heel since he arrived in NXT. But that may just be the way I’ve seen him act on Twitter. Anyway, I liked seeing Nakamura in a tag match, if only because they don’t seem to want to give him a real ongoing rivalry yet, and this was at least something different to get to see him do.
Kieran: RIP BAMF: The Blake Alexa Murphy Factor is no more. I think this might lead to Murphy getting some sort of solo thing, or at least sticking with Alexa because as far as I know they’re a couple. She’s the star of this group though, and I’d probably be happier if she got to shine on her own. She needed this role when she filled it, but now she’s outgrown it and ready to move on.
Elle: This seemed like a natural move, since Alexa’s been doing her own thing in the Women’s Division for a while now. She really kind of has outgrown them at this point. I can’t imagine ever caring about Blake or Murphy, but NXT is pretty good at surprising me, so you never know. And of course I already love Alexa Bliss. She’s the nastiest of heels, but I can’t help rooting for her a lot of the time.
Maybe I’m just a mark for NXT women in general, but I was also happy to see Carmella fighting Peyton Royce. Royce hasn’t done much to distinguish herself in NXT yet, but I love that she’s a plant monster. Unless you count Chuck Taylor’s buddy the Swamp Monster, I can’t think of any other plant monsters in wrestling. Eva Marie and Taeler Hendrix may resemble Poison Ivy, but Peyton Royce is Poison Ivy, and that’s a lot more interesting. And I’m never going to not like Carmella. Her technical skill is still developing, but her energy and enthusiasm are infectious.
Kieran: I’m excited for the first ever NXT steel cage match. I reckon the intimate setting of Full Sail is going to do it a lot of justice and make it feel like something from WCCW or something. Balor and Joe are going to put on a hell of a match inside that cage, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do… so long as Finn doesn’t shatter his ankles performing a Coup de Grace from the top of the cage.
I loved the main event of this week’s NXT, and I’m glad that Nia Jax won. Bayley doesn’t get anything by beating her again, but a win this dominant cements Jax as a legitimate threat without needing to cheat or have Eva help her out. NXT is still finding its feet with the Women’s Division post-Horsewomen, and Nia Jax is going to be a big part of it.
Elle: Nia looked great in this match. The moment when Bayley got her in the hold that she beat her with last time, and Nia just flipped her onto the mat, you knew Bayley was in trouble. Bayley’s a born underdog, and I think giving her some big losses is actually good for her character right now. We all loved watching her become champion, but watching her be champion was never as exciting as watching her chase it.
Elle: I’m just going to be up front about this: I only watched the first two matches on SmackDown this week. I looked at the card in advance (the convenient thing about SmackDown), and most of it was basically stuff we’ve already seen or stuff we’re going to see again on Sunday. And honestly the first match has some of that, but Cesaro vs Kevin Owens is never going to not be fun. But of course this match between two of the greatest wrestlers in the world ended with a distraction roll-up, because this isn’t just SmackDown, it’s the Go-home SmackDown! Lots of good wrestling along the way, though.
Becky Lynch on commentary is a thing of beauty, and that’s what really made the Dana Brooke/Paige match worthwhile. I still don’t really know what Paige’s deal is at this point, but we got to see Dana fight someone besides Becky, we got to see Paige appear on television, and we got to listen to Becky talk. Ultimately, I’m in favor of all of those things.
Kieran: I think they’ve done a good job of making SmackDown matter again, but I’m not sure they’ve quite got to the point where people are aware that it does, if that makes sense. Stuff is happening on SmackDown that grows stories and has a knock-on effect on what happens on RAW and PPVs --- which is good --- but it still doesn’t feel like essential viewing.