Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - One feud is killing Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler, and Summer Rae, Brock smashes a car and some humans, Cesaro vs. Cena II delights, and more!
By Will Pruett
Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu Plus. He has no regrets.
The most awkward thing going in wrestling today, if you ignore TNA executives on Twitter, is the Lana, Rusev, Dolph Ziggler, and Summer Rae story. I've vacillated about what makes this story as awful as it is. Is it the completely absurd way Lana left Rusev and, by her own admission, used Ziggler? Is it the caricatures WWE is presenting as humans in this story? Is it the odd anti-feminist spin this story seems to take? Is it the horrid presentation of unreasonably beloved character Dolph Ziggler? At this point, I've realized it isn't just one thing. It's all of the things.
Let's recap: Lana and Rusev were paired up on-screen for over a year. They were never referred to as a couple, but it was tangentially assumed. They were quite successful together. Lana and Rusev were a great act. They seemed to elevate each other. Lana was a fantastic mouthpiece for the big Bulgarian/Russian monster. Rusev could physically inhabit the rage behind Lana's voice. These two were two halves of a complete act. They needed each other. They became more than the sum of their parts.
This was fantastic, but for some reason, the decision to split them up was made. Lana, tired of being with the big brute, left him after he began verbally abusing her. He blamed his losses on her. Thus far, everything was consistent with these two characters. Then, Lana decided to pair up with Dolph Ziggler and everything changed.
This story went from being a woman's quest for freedom from an abusive and domineering man, to a woman manipulating and using a man. It was tremendously awkward. Lana, who we are supposed to cheer for in this scenario, was not acting like a nice person. She was using Ziggler, and even if Ziggler knew it, she was less than kind. Lana used her new paramour to make Rusev jealous. Instead of a clean break, she became the girl taunting her former boyfriend with a new one.
Rusev, when Lana left, was an almost perfect chauvinistic heel. This was fine, right up until the moment Dolph Ziggler was introduced. Ziggler proceeded to be a bad brother (as opposed to the often used "good brother" term in wrestling) and make out with Lana right in front of Rusev. This is rude on a number of levels. Rusev, for the longest time, could do nothing about it. It was simply Rusev watching another man make out with the woman he still wanted to be with. It made him into a sympathetic character. It made him into a pathetic character.
What about the other addition, Summer Rae? Summer seems like the opportunistic stereotype of a gold digger. She pounced on Rusev when he was literally and emotionally hurting. An opportunistic character isn't a bad thing to present, but in this context, she is a mere replacement being used by Rusev and somehow trying to use Rusev. Her mere presence makes Rusev look bad. It's an odd way to slot her into the story.
Now, onto this particular show. Rusev and Summer Rae decided to enter and yell. Rusev was still chauvinistic and he objectified Summer. Dolph Ziggler and Lana joined this party, where Ziggler showed off his ability to kiss Lana in front of her ex-boyfriend. Who am I supposed to like here?
Lana went from being a feminist hero to being scorned and petty. Rusev went from being a monstrous foreign menace to being a humiliated rage machine more worthy of laughter than fear. Dolph Ziggler went from being a beloved underdog babyface character to being a compete meathead willing to do anything for those sweet kisses. Summer Rae seems to be the only intelligent human being here, but she isn't acting in an honorable way at all.
Now it seems like Rusev is healthy and the portion of this feud leading to matches can actually begin. The best bet would be to abandon this story entirely and allow these characters to go back to what they had been. This won't happen. WWE never abandons the stories you want them to. Lana and Rusev have proven to be less than the sum of their parts. Dolph Ziggler's remarkable connection with the crowd is fading on a weekly basis. It's time to cut bait, before more damage can be done.
And now for some random thoughts...
- Cesaro vs. Cena II was delightful. I don't think it matched their first match, despite getting 30 minutes to do so. It was a different kind of effort from the two men. John Cena showed his usual clumsiness, both in his actions and in his reckless spot calling. Cesaro seemed up for anything in this match and he had the presentation and response of a true superstar. This was yet another star-making match for Cesaro. Following up on my piece on Cesaro from last week, I have a little more faith in WWE doing something with him. I don't see why he would have been used twice against Cena (the second time being in a Raw main event) if there were absolutely no plans. Cesaro has been presented as a superstar world beater. Let's hope it continues. I'm cautiously optimistic.
- Kevin Owens, in his brief appearances on this show, also performed admirably. He was angry, justifiably so. He lost the thing he most treasures. He seemed like it. This was an excellent presentation of Owens coming off of his major loss.
- Brock Lesnar was amazing on this show. Paul Heyman was amazing on this show. Brock and Paul make a great babyface duo. Brock's bounce as Heyman talked, especially as Brock got happier with what Heyman was saying was wonderful. Both men played their roles so well. Later in the show, when it was time for Brock to smash a car, Brock was violent (legitimately too violent) and frightening and the crowd ate it up. Brock is a great babyface.
- The legitimately frightening car door situation with an audience member being struck was not fun to watch. Hopefully the person struck was fine and WWE found a way to turn the negative into a positive. What a wild moment.
- Nikki Bella should be the women's champion in WWE until WrestleMania.
- Miz yelling over a Ryback and Big Show match was not enjoyable.
- Roman Reigns and Sheamus had a good match right up until the final distraction from not Bray Wyatt. These finishes with Reigns running from the ring to get Wyatt make everyone involved look dumb. Roman shouldn't be dumb. Crowds don't like dumb people.
- Rumors abounded about Stardust/Cody Rhodes returning on this show. It seemed like it would be a great and receptive crowd for him to return in front of. I wonder why WWE didn't have him come back. Strange.
- Speaking of returns, Randy Orton returned from his vacation and proceeded to RKO someone. Good ol' Randy. I can't say Orton vs. Sheamus is an engaging feud.
- Are ax handles sold separately from axes? Did J and J Security have to de-ax a handle to make it safe? What if Seth Rollins had grabbed a ride in the car with J and J? So many fun possibilities.
- Steve Austin being on the cover of a WWE game excites me less than just about anyone else. Why not invest that capital in a star they currently have?
This episode of Raw had a great final 30 minutes and a really fun last hour with the car destruction and Cena/Cesaro included. Once again, the show seemed to rely on one match for overall quality, but when the match is as good as these have been, it works.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren't super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter twitter.com/itswilltime or email me at email@example.com.
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