This Week In Spandex: Deep In The Heart Of Texas
Here at ComicsAlliance we’ve noticed over the years that there’s a huge overlap between superhero comics fans and wrestling fans, almost as if people who are drawn to the violent over-the-top adventures of cartoonish, brightly costumed, outlandishly gimmicky heroes and villains might also enjoy superhero stories. In fact, if we’re honest, wrestling is basically superhero theater.
It's WrestleMania week! Or rather, it was WrestleMania week and we're all on that post 'Mania comedown. This week (in spandex) we've got a jam-packed edition including NXT Takeover Dallas, WrestleMania itself and that always memorable post-Mania RAW. We've got debuts, surprise returns and some of the best matches of the year, all over the course of one blockbuster week.
Kieran: Such a big week this week! We need to start by talking about NXT Takeover Dallas which was a phenomenal show from top to bottom. There was triumph with American Alpha capturing the tag team titles, and heartbreaking with Bayley losing her Women’s Championship, but we have to talk about Sami Zayn v Shinsuke Nakamura.
Is it fair to say this was the best match of the whole weekend? I think so. These two meshed so beautifully and for all the fast-paced move for move action, the devil was in the details with this match. Each wink from Nakamura, or look of frustration from Zayn told such a story, it wasn’t just good wrestling, and I think that’s what sets both competitors apart from other people who are just good wrestlers.
Elle: I’m not going to lie, this match kind of blew my mind. I’ve yet to get into New Japan, so this was the first Shinsuke Nakamura match I’d actually seen. All I really knew was that he looks awesome and everybody who’s familiar with him adores him. That’s a lot to live up to, and Nakamura totally did. He’s amazing, and Zayn (who I already knew was amazing) was the perfect match-up for him. This was absolutely the best match of the weekend.
All three of the title matches were great too. American Alpha are so hot right now, and I’m thrilled they have the belts. On the other hand, seeing Bayley lose was sad, but the storytelling was perfect. Bayley would never give up, so putting her to sleep was the only way for Asuka to win. Plus, Asuka is awesome and her run as champ should be really fun to watch too. After the first two belts changed hands, I genuinely thought Samoa Joe would win and make it a sweep. He fought really hard, though, even when he was covered in blood for that Starrcade ‘84 look. I’m curious where Finn and Joe’s stories go from here, but I certainly won’t mind if they fight again.
Kieran: A lot of people are unsatisfied with WrestleMania, but I’m such a sucker for it. The only time I’ve left one unhappy was when The Rock beat Cena, so it takes a lot to tick me off. There was a lot on the show that was good-not-great like Styles v Jericho or New Day v League of Nations, but it’s best if we focus in on a certain few matches, rather than try to cover the entire show.
Elle: This was my first live WrestleMania (by which I mean the first one I watched on TV as it happening; I wasn’t actually in Texas), and I certainly had a lot of fun watching it, even if I didn’t love every single thing that happened.
Kieran: Starting with the Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match, and going back to Sami Zayn, I got legit goosebumps when I heard his music played for 100,000 people, who in turn began singing along. Again, the next day when I watched it at home (and sober) seeing Kevin Owens’ music elicit such a response made me so happy. With wrestlers like Sami, Owens or even Daniel Bryan, I understand why people who like the fake sports like Football say “We” when talking about their favorite teams.
Good for Zack Ryder though. We’ll talk about RAW when we talk about RAW, but in that moment I was well chuffed for him. I lived through the Ryder Revolution and I bought the t-shirt, and I abandoned him when WWE did, so it was really nice for him to get that WrestleMania moment and share it with his pops.
Elle: Yeah, I was baffled by Ryder’s win in the moment, but he’s very likable and it was fun that something genuinely unexpected happened. Zayn and Owens obviously don’t need a belt to fight over (plus this way they can have a grudge match soon, and the a title match later, whenever one of them gets a title). By the way the ring gear was on point all the way through Mania, and this match was no except. Stardust’s “Hard Times” gear brought a real tear to my eye, and Sin Cara’s matte white ensemble was the best he’s ever looked.
Kieran: The match of the night at WrestleMania goes to the WWE Women’s Championship match, and I can’t say how happy it makes me, on multiple levels, get to type that sentence. Becky, Sasha and Charlotte left it all in the ring and there were times where I saw any one of them winning. I’m not sure if Charlotte was the right call, but getting by the skin of their teeth is kinda the Flair thing.
I love how much it was treated like a main-event, from the entrances to the in-ring action to the over-the-top fireworks after Charlotte won. WWE has talked a big game over the past year, but we’re finally here. This is the Women’s Revolution.
Elle: This match was great! From Sasha’s frog splash to Charlotte’s moonsault to Becky finally taking down that kiss-stealing son of a gun. I was mad Charlotte won in the moment, but I think it was the kind of mad I’m supposed to be when a heel wins. And booking-wise, I’ve come to think that it’s important for the last Diva’s Champion to be the first Women’s Champion. It creates continuity between the titles, and avoids the possible connotation that having held the ugly pink and black belt makes you unworthy to hold that gorgeous red and white belt. Don’t get me wrong though, I still need Ric to go away.
Kieran: I feel like we should talk about Hell in a Cell, but what else can we say about it other than “Shane McMahon did a big jump!” It was an impressive jump sure, but I can’t remember a single other thing about the match.
To wrap up WrestleMania, all I want to talk about is Stephanie McMahon’s promo and outfit. Stephanie can be trying at times, but when she nails it, she blooming nails it. Everything about her monologue and presence in the main event just made everything so much more dramatic. It’s like what Lucha Underground would do every week if they had the budget.
Elle: Stephanie looked amazing. And she and everything around her were working so hard to make the Authority the heels in this match and try to get people behind Reigns. She was literally telling us we’re ants to be crushed beneath her heel, and people would still rather cheer them than that handsome young man with the bionic tattoo arm.
Kieran: I know you’ve talked about this before Elle, but the main event was just a case of “They’re going to do this with or without us, we might as well let them have it” and I checked out for most of it. The overly long Rock/Cena segment dragged on so long that I think it had a negative effect on this match, which was too long in its own right. I liked the fireworks at the end though, I really like post-match arena fireworks.
Elle: I wasn’t engaged in the match either. It happened the way it was always going to happen. I don’t have anything against Roman Reigns, really, but I want this underdog story to be over. Hopefully it is now, and we can all move on.
Elle: The most exciting part of RAW was NXT guying debuting (and one guy returning, but we’ll get to him). First, out of nowhere came Apollo Crews! I think he has a million miles of potential, and I really hope they find good stuff to do with him. His match with Tyler Breeze was great (possibly Breeze’s best match since NXT, which is a little sad), and I really loved how much commentary was putting Crews over. In particular, JBL seemed genuinely thrilled by what a great wrestler Crews is, in a way we rarely hear from him. At one point Crews did a move and JBL literally giggled with delight. It was great.
Kieran: Crews was definitely an odd choice considering who they have down there that could be brought up, but there’s definitely a spot for him. I kinda feel like it’s a waste debuting Crews in front of a crowd that knows him, as weird as that sounds. Imagine if he came out in the middle of an average RAW, in front of a non-NXT watching crowd, and then did all that. I think he’d make a bigger impact out of the gate, but I’m overthinking it.
Elle: I love Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady so much, and thank god they’re finally on RAW. The crowd (god-awful, post-Mania RAW crowd that they were) seemed to be super-into them, and watching the Dudleyz react to Enzo’s promo might be the most I’ve ever enjoyed the Dudleyz. This should be a good feud, but mostly I’m just excited for Enzo and Cass to be around and eventually feud with everybody. They bring so much fun to everything they’re involved in. Also I think it’s funny that Enzo’s hair is the weirdest it’s ever been, as he debuts on RAW. I’m in favor of this; main-roster WWE needs more weirdos.
Kieran: I was super bummed when The Dudleyz segment ended and went to commercial because I was praying for Enzo and Cass, and then when it came back and Bubba & D-Von were still there, I sat right up waiting for that mandolin. I think you could see how much the Dudleyz enjoyed this, because there’s a moment where D-Von definitely moves away from the camera to stop himself laughing. You mentioned how great it was that the announcers were so into Crews, and it felt like the opposite here because as the entire crowd was chanting S-A-W-F-T, you had the announcers calling them “an acquired taste” which was odd.
Elle: Cesaro is back! Thank god for that too. The tear-away suit was awesome, his gear is great, and he was as fantastic as ever in the ring. I was fine with AJ winning the Number One Contendership, as long as we also keep seeing plenty of Cesaro. He’s the Superman of Switzerland, you know. I just hope Lucerne isn’t being taken over by supervillains while he’s over here wrestling.
Kieran: Yeah, Cesaro is one of my absolute favorites and it occurred to me about thirty seconds before his music hit that he might be back, so I got very giddy when he did. The suit thing was awesome and it seems to be his thing now, which I like, but it seems a little goofy. Goofy isn’t always bad though.
As for this match, holy cow, what a match. I’m not a fan of Fatal Four Way matches usually, but sometimes you get four guys like this who know what they’re doing so well that it goes so seamlessly, and this was that match. I’m happy for AJ Styles too. I’ve never been a big fan of his, but he undoubtedly put in the work to get to where he is, and I can respect that.
Kieran: I’m kinda glad NXT was a recap show mostly this week, because this has been a wrestling heavy week and I kinda needed to catch my breath (no Finn Balor pun intended). Crews v Samson was fine, and The Drifter is getting good heat considering most NXT heels end up turning face because the crowd loves them too much, but compared to the rest of the week, it was an average match.
Elle: It kind of struck me as weird to do a recap when you have to assume that (unlike with RAW and the PPVs) every single person watching NXT on Wednesday night has already watched Takeover. But then I ended up paying attention to the whole thing anyway, because I enjoyed Takeover so much that I liked reliving it in an abbreviated fashion. Crews/Samson was meh, but whatever. Crews is on RAW and Samson’s over as a heel; it’ll be fine.
Elle: The Vaudevillains debuted on SmackDown, and had a pretty great match with the Lucha Dragons. I’m enjoying Aiden English and Simon Gotch wrestling as bad guys more than I expected to, and their unfair tactics against Kalisto made it seem a little less ridiculous that the US Champion took the pin in this match. It’s hard to imagine the Vaudevillain gimmick ever really being a thing on the main roster, but I’m certainly rooting for them.
Kieran: English and Gotch are great wrestlers, and it’s a great gimmick, but it’s kinda like Tyler Breeze in that we love them, and we want what’s best for them, but it’s so unlikely to happen in the current WWE landscape. We’ll see.
Elle: Honestly though, my favorite thing on the entire show was Becky Lynch’s backstage promo. It sucks that Becky got hurt on Sunday, but I have to admit, nothing sells the idea that this era of women’s wrestling is really about wrestling and not appearances better than Becky proudly showing off how messed up her face is right now. And beyond that, I just love her character so much. She’s silly and sincere at the same time, and even as she’s making puns she makes clear that she’s a serious, dedicated, and formidable combatant.
Kieran: She’s feuding with Emma now, right? That is a match I want to see more of. I wish Emma had Dana with her because I love them together, but I’m going to be so happy for her if she manages to completely salvage her career following the Girl-Santino debacle and ends up considered on the same tier as the Horsewomen, which is where she belongs.
Elle: This being SmackDown, the main event was a tag match featuring the same guys as the Number One Contender match on RAW. It was fine, but the best part was Cesaro tearing off his suit again, thus confirming that it’s an ongoing part of his gimmick now.
Kieran: I don’t know if it’s just the post-Mania buzz, but this is a SmackDown I’m really looking forward to sitting down and watching when it airs in the UK tonight, and this main event is a big part of it. It’s not gonna have a ton of consequence, but I reckon it’ll be a great match.