This Week In Spandex: Running The Asylum
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 (in spadex) it's Money in the Bank time! We've got two new World Champions in the space of three minutes, possible mind control from The Wyatt Family and the return of The Boss.
Kieran: Here we are at Monday In The Bank, which for my… money has replaced Survivor Series as the fourth most important event of the year along with WrestleMania, Summerslam and Royal Rumble.
Starting with the Fatal Four-Way match for the Tag Team Championships was a good move, because they’re always high-octane affairs to really get the crowd going. I don’t love how they always break down into chaos because I am a man of rules. Everyone got their turn, everyone looked good, and the right team won. I don’t expect The New Day to drop their titles for a long, long time yet but this is the closest I’ve come to possibly expecting a title switch.
Elle: I honestly thought the New Day was going to lose the belts (but probably just temporarily) in this match. Like a lot of people, I thought they give the titles to the Club for a bit, to make those guys look strong. Shows what I know. I’m fine with New Day retaining for now, as long as WWE doesn’t wait too awfully long to pull the trigger on Enzo and Cass. Because wow are those guys over.
Kieran: I feel like we’re being gaslit, 1984 style with the Ziggler/Corbin feud. “Dolph Ziggler has always been at war with Baron Corbin.” I probably won’t mention it during the RAW section, so I’ll say it here: They spent Corbin’s entire match with Zack Ryder talking about this damn feud, so it looks like it still isn’t over. Are they just messing with us now? I feel like they’re just messing with us.
Elle: The thing is I didn’t care about Baron Corbin when he was in NXT, and I’ve never cared about Dolph Ziggler. And yet I somehow manage to care a little bit less every time they’re in the ring together.
Kieran: All there is to mention about the women’s match is Natalya’s betrayal, right? Poor Becky, the modern day Surfer Sting, too trusting and too easy to stab in the back. I can’t wait for her goth phase.
Elle: Becky hiding in the rafters, with her face painted like Su Yung, would be pretty amazing to see actually. Becky appearing behind heels, wielding a baseball bat. Except instead of being silent she says something like, “We’ll see about BAT!” and then makes the Pun Dog face. I think it could work.
Anyway, the only other thing I wanted to mention was Dana Brooke’s new gear, which I loved. I don’t really know where there is to go with Heel Natalya, but at least she probably won’t be talking about her cat’s Instagram on commentary for a while.
Kieran: It might be because we’re writing this Thursday night, but I have no memory of Sheamus v Apollo Crews. It’s just the "Footage Not Found" screen from Arrested Development.
Elle: There was a match between Sheamus and Apollo Crews? Huh.
Kieran: I know it’s the point of the angle, but I did feel robbed by AJ Styles v John Cena. I’m a fan of storytelling in wrestling, and I know they’re going somewhere with it, but I’m also a fan of wrestling in wrestling and this was just a bit too overbooked at the end to truly be the classic we wanted it to become. Maybe the rematch will be better, but we know how that song goes once Cena takes the loss at the first show.
Elle: There are things I like about Cena, but I have a hard time with the way he behaves in ongoing feuds. He talks too much about gender performance, and he has this way of simultaneously acting childish and implying that his opponent is acting childish that’s deeply unappealing. Honestly I just kind of wish he’d get the US Title back so he could do open challenges again. That’s when I liked him the most.
Kieran: I think the most impressive thing about Money In The Bank as a match concept is that it’s still fresh and new and exciting. You’d think there’d only be so many things you can do in a multi-man ladder match, but they keep finding them. Secret MVP of this match was Chris Jericho, whose experience held it all together smoothly. We’ll talk about Dean later, but I’m happy he got the win.
Elle: The thing I liked about this ladder match that made it different from others I’ve seen is that they spent so much time with multiple guys fighting at the top, where it really seemed like any of them could just reach up and grab it at any moment. Dean was absolutely the guy who needed to win, and I was really excited when he did. I do think Kevin Owens is a natural-born Mr. Money in the Bank, but there will be time for that down the road.
Kieran: Onto the United States Championship match, and I may be going to hell but I enjoyed Rusev beating down Titus O’Neil in front of his kids. I kinda wish it wasn’t soured by the unpleasantness surrounding Titus’ suspension, because it makes the whole thing feel mean spirited, but it also makes me like Titus the character more than I have since Pancake Patterson.
Elle: Rusev telling kids that their father’s a loser on Father’s Day is hilarious and exactly the sort of thing Rusev should be doing. Rusev looks great and is great lately. I wish Lana was doing more, though. There’s not much of a point to her lately, and her outfits have been terrible. She used to be Rusev’s manager, but now she just seems like his ring announcer. As for Titus, I still like him a lot, but I sort of feel like there’s a spark missing since he returned from his suspension.
Kieran: Main event time! Both guys are capable of bringing it in a big way in matches like these, there’s no doubt about that. Even if you don’t like Roman Reigns, has he actually had a bad match? The thing I’m unhappy about is the ref bump. We saw one earlier in the night with Cena, and seeing it again makes it blatantly clear that WWE wants to protect their top babyfaces from every looking too vulnerable. The ref bump says, “Oh, they could have and would have won, but they were unlucky." We don’t need that. I know under other circumstances that Roman Reigns could have won, he’s Roman Reigns, we don’t need the shenanigans.
So, how about that Dean Ambrose cash-in? I was always doubtful that they’d put Dean at the same level as Seth and Roman, but he carries it well. I was really happy to hear his music, and I love how Seth beat Roman for the title, Roman beat Dean for the title and Dean beat Seth. Everything about the multi-year long Shield story is so great, and I’m excited to what happens, especially in the face of Roman’s… circumstances.
Elle: All of this was awesome. Seth and Roman put on a great match, and it would have been an exciting main event if that had been that, especially with Seth winning. But the possibility of Dean showing up made it all the more exciting, and then when he did it was electric. Dean’s a character I can go different ways on depending on what they’re doing with him on any given day. But him winning here is the most exciting thing that could have happened, and I’m really glad it did.
And on a meta level, I like that the cash-in happened on the same show. After Seth making so much of the briefcase, and then Sheamus holding onto it for months without much excitement, it makes sense to take a break from the possible cash-in as an ongoing storyline. It’s out of the way, and we can focus on other things this year.
Kieran: So, we should talk about the elephant in the room regarding Roman Reigns, right? We don’t really know what happened, but he’s been suspended for thirty days for a wellness violation, but the match at Battleground still seems to be on. I wonder if they’ll just build it with Dean and Seth and slot Roman in at the end? I feel like if you mess up bad enough you get suspended, you’ve messed up bad enough to get taken out of your main event match at a pay-per-view, but what do I know?
Elle: I don’t understand how he can be in the match at Battleground without being on TV until then. It would be one thing if he could at least show back up the week before the PPV, but the last RAW and SmackDown will already be over when his suspension ends. It would make so much more sense to just have a match between Dean and Seth at Battleground and then bring Roman in to do the Triple Threat at Summer Slam. And I agree with you that if he can come back from his suspension to still be at the top of the card and be “The Guy,” then it barely seems like he’s gotten much comeuppance at all. The whole thing is weird.
Kieran: I’m really glad they treated Sami Zayn beating Kevin Owens with the importance it deserved, because that’s another story that’s been running for over a year now and if they just blew it off unaddressed I would have been angry. I’d rather it would have been at a pay-per-view with a title on the line, but I’m glad that a) Sami got his win and b) this isn’t over.
Elle: Seeing Sami win was great. And as much as we all want these guys to fight forever, I think it’s about time for a break. These guys are likely to be in the company together for years. Let them off and do other stories and have other feuds with other wrestlers, and then come back together down the road.
Kieran: I reckon I’m going to be saying this every week, but what did you think of an old General Manager showing up? I love Johnny Ace and his deadpan comedy, but I imagine it’s a bit confusing for you as a new fan?
Elle: I only knew this guy as the Bellas’ stepfather, but I liked his red suit. I didn’t like how JBL called him “the Patriarch of Bellaville.” Clearly if it’s named Bellaville, it’s not a patriarchy.
Kieran: We got a women’s match, which is quite the achievement these days on Monday Night RAW. Again, it wasn’t so much about the match as it was what happened afterwards, but I loved Dana saying “Timber!” in response to Charlotte saying Paige was going to go down like the Titanic. I’m super jazzed that Sasha is back, because Sasha is the best at everything. I kinda feel like Sasha has to win at Battleground, because Charlotte is dangerously close to Nikki’s 300 day reign, and I’m not sure if they want that broken so soon.
Elle: Well technically it’s a different belt, so Nikki will be the longest-reigning Divas Champion forever.
But yes, Dana continues to be a delight, even if she managed to botch her cheating in this match like I’ve never seen before. She just held Charlotte’s foot against the rope with her hand while the ref was looking right at her. But that kind of screw up kind of works for her, because it’s just the meta-level of thinking “Timber!” is the sound of a boat sinking.
And like you, I’m most excited about Sasha’s return. I just hope she gets to be around for a while this time. I mean, I hope they all do. More Sasha, more time for the women in general.
Kieran: I got so angry that The Wyatt Family were given a “Later Tonight!” bumper when they’re entire deal is showing up unexpectedly. Bray’s definitely lost a lot of momentum because he was so close to being the huge babyface I always knew he could be, then get got injured and sidelined. I’m not sure what they’re doing with The Wyatts and The New Day because it’s such a huge clash of styles, but I’ll wait and see how it plays out.
Elle: I do not find the Wyatt Family exciting. The only one I like at all is Luke Harper, and I’m already fantasy booking him coming back from his current injury with a shave and a haircut and a whole new gimmick. I know they used to be awesome, but what you have to understand is that I’ve been watching WWE for over a year and for that long I’ve been hearing about how awesome they used to be. If I’m going to care about them, I sort of need them to be awesome in the present. But it’s cool, the New Day’s here, and Xavier might be hypnotized, so this could be fun. I’m not going to sleep or anything.
Elle: What’s up with "The Perfect 10" Tye Dillinger losing to an already-in-the-ring jobber? Does that mean we’re building a story for him? Surely it can’t mean he’s really just jobbing even to jobbers now. There surely must be an angle. I need there to be an angle. He’s a Perfect 10; he should be winning, like, all the matches.
Kieran: I’m okay with this, because while I’m the biggest Tye Dillinger fan you’ll find, I’ve been a fan of Oney Lorcan (FKA Biff Busick) for a while. I think the point was to shake up the expected nature of squash matches. NXT likes to do that, it’s why Blake & Murphy, and then later The Revival, won the Tag Team Championships. NXT doesn’t like to let the audience get comfortable with pro wrestling tropes, and now we have Oney Lorcan as a guy on the rise.
Elle: Thank god we still have one show that cares about women’s wrestling. In this episode we got two women’s matches plus a backstage segment, which feels like a lot in a world with RAW and SmackDown. The backstage segment was a confrontation between Alexa Bliss and Carmella, building to a match next week. It really highlighted that Alexa is just a spectacularly talented heel, and Carmella remains very likable despite not being everything I want her to be. And then the matches were Nia Jax and Bayley dominating Liv Morgan and Deonna Purazzo, respectively. Nothing Earth-shaking, but Nia’s doing great lately and it was exciting just to see Bayley back in the ring. And let’s be real, I enjoy Morgan and Purazzo too, just in a more of a “They’re cute and I hope they get somewhere eventually” kind of way.
Kieran: The point of the “Diva’s Revolution” was to bring women’s wrestling on the main show up to par with NXT, but even without three of its biggest stars, NXT is still running rings around RAW and SmackDown. I think it’s time to start investing in more of the women other than Bayley, Nia, Carmella and Asuka though. There’s so few women compared to men, that they need to have people ready to fill spots at a moment’s notice.
Elle: Let’s talk about Austin Aries dancing with No Way Jose. First of all, Aries dancing is just peak dad. I don’t even know if he actually is a dad, but he could not look more like one when he’s trying to dance. And secondly, Aries danced with Jose for so long (seriously, so long) that I abandoned my initial expectation that he was about to attack him and managed to be surprised when he did. It’s amazing what dad-dancing can do.
Kieran: I have a strong dislike for Austin Aries, and I knew the attack was coming but I did enjoy his dad dancing because you’re more endearing to me as a wrestler if you look like you’re having fun and I think this may be the first time Austin Aries has smiled in his entire career.
Elle: While I loved watching the King of Strong Style wrestle, as always, my favorite thing about the Main Event was everyone’s universal agreement that Buddy Murphy had made a really big mistake by ending up in the ring with Shinsuke Nakamura. There was no, “Imagine what a big win this would be for Murphy!” Everyone just knew this man was doomed. It’s going to take him a while to get out of his racing car bed after that match.
Elle: Things worth caring about on SmackDown this week: The New Day had a nice little match against the Vaudevillains, followed by the Wyatt Family showing up on the Titantron to taunt them. They continued the thing on Monday where Xavier seems to be weirdly affected by Bray’s words, which makes me thing that could be a real angle instead just Xavier improvised.
Kieran: Bray has yet to actually turn someone convincingly into a Wyatt Family member, so this is an interesting way to take the angle. I like the idea of Big E and Kofi having to get serious --- which we know they can --- to rescue their friend. It’s something you could only do in wrestling, but I’m surprised at the potential stakes in this feud that I never would have thought to book in a million years.
Elle: There was a women’s match. Becky Lynch fought Dana Brooke, which did not go well for her. It was nothing to write home about. Sasha showed up just long enough to do pretty much the same thing she did Monday. Dana was mean to Renee Young though, which is always fun to watch. I love Renee, but I don’t mind when heels are mean to her because she’s so unflappable. She just gives them that look after they leave like “Oh, you!” Also, Charlotte was dressed like Dean Ambrose, which frankly is a look that really works for her.
Sami Zayn took on Seth Rollins in the main event, which is exactly the sort of match I’m excited to see in this New Era. It wasn’t hard to guess that Seth was going to win, but Sami got some exciting near-falls, and it was just a lot of fun to see two guys so supremely agile, entertaining, and all about talented go at it in the ring. I’d love to see these two get into a real feud sometime down the road.
Kieran: I’m still at the point where I check the SmackDown results to see if there’s something especially worth paying attention to, and this match made my ears perk up. Two of the very best in the world right now, and they were given time to put on a really great exhibition match that served both of their characters well. I’d be happy with more matches that follow this template.