By Will Pruett
Will Pruett attended Raw at the Honda Center in Anaheim last night and thus saw the entire show. Sadly, he lacks a time turner, which would allow him to somehow reduce the show to 90 minutes.
Enzo Amore is basically a national treasure at this point. WWE has used him expertly since calling him up to the main roster. While he seemed to be a cult favorite in NXT, he was never as unhinged as he has been on the main roster. Enzo Amore is built for the large arena stage in WWE and seeing him perform his entire entrance routine with fans all the way up to the rafters of Honda Center chanting along with him was delightful. Enzo is truly great, which is why I’m puzzled by WWE’s reliance on casual homophobia to get their babyfaces over.
Homophobia is nothing new in WWE. For some reason a pseudo-sport featuring muscular men grappling in skin tight clothing feels the need to constantly shout “no homos” at the top of its lungs. Look back at some of what are considered the great (and funniest) promos of the last 20 years and you’ll see a huge amount of homophobia. It’s common. It’s also lazy.
WWE brings large groups of people together on a regular basis. Many of these people are pretty young. Many of these people repeat things the wrestlers say. I know this because I was a young wrestling fan repeating the words my heroes said at one point. I tried to get away with repeating things Chris Jericho said about Stephanie McMahon. I tried to make “bottom line” statements like Steve Austin. Surrounding me in the audience at this show were children as young as four or five years old. When WWE scripts their heroes to make homophobic statements, even for comedic purposes, they give permission to their impressionable audience to repeat this homophobia.
When Enzo Amore makes “Bert and Ernie” jokes about Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, he is excluding an entire group of people. When Enzo makes it sound like homosexuality is a negative lifestyle, he encourages fans to do the same. Enzo doesn’t need to do this. His jokes tend to be hot fire and even the worst of them can land rather efficiently. Enzo Amore doesn’t need to cause an audience to react with angry homophobia like it’s the Republican National Convention. Enzo is better than this.
This is also against WWE’s core message at this moment. WWE is trying to tell everyone, including advertisers, business partners, and fans, that they are progressive. On this same show where casual homophobia once again became a focus for WWE, they rolled this ad in the arena.
Hearing John Cena spread a wonderfully progressive message about all humans being humans and being treated with the dignity humans deserve made my heart soar. This is a message all of us need to hear, especially wrestling fans. I was happy to see this being done, but it left me even more confused about the opening segment.
WWE needs to move past their tendencies towards homophobia and they already should have.
And now for some random thoughts:
– I will always love attending wrestling shows live. There is a certain energy to sitting in the arena and enjoying an overpriced craft beer with a good friend. Even when the show itself isn’t great (and this show was far from great), the experience is delightful.
– Among the awkward moments for the live crowd: A.J. Styles making his advertised appearance during the commercial break, quickly promising to beat up John Cena, and being given the Attitude Adjustment. This all happened within about two minutes. While Cena and Styles fulfilled the commitments they were advertised for, it was disappointing. Why not have a longer tag team dark match?
– The dark match for this show was Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt. It went longer than it needed to, especially once the taping itself had gone almost four hours.
– Finn Bálor not appearing in front of the live crowd was one of the major disappointments of this show. He hasn’t wrestled since his first night on Raw. While I enjoyed the video feature on him, I wanted more. WWE is doing more to explain Finn Bálor’s character on Raw than they did in NXT and that’s a positive thing. I would have loved a squash match with Bálor winning to get his offense on fans minds as well.
– Seth Rollins’ promo on this show was also pretty good. I know some people still aren’t sold on Seth on the mic, but I found him compelling. It does feel like this feud with Finn isn’t quite clicking.
– Honesty time: I went to grab a beer and some fries during the apparently very good Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton video package. It was a video feature, so I doubt it was as good as fries taste. Fries are the greatest of foods.
– Lana and Rusev’s wedding celebration complete with cake and a toast from Roman Reigns demonstrated to me just how willing to hate Roman people are. An eight year old kid decked out in John Cena gear stood up to boo and chant “Roman sucks” when Roman entered. It was sort of uncomfortable. At least in my section, there was a weird palpable anger towards Reigns that I cannot understand.
– What was the point of the Daniel Bryan and Mick Foley segment? As much as it warms my heart to see Bryan in person and see crowds react to his entrance, he was pointless. This whole in-ring segment was fairly pointless. I know they’re still trying to get the brand split and the multitude of authority figures over, but this did nothing.
– Cesaro and Sheamus have good matches together.
– The Cesaro vs. Rusev main event on Raw felt really strange. It was a random match with two wrestlers we had already seen earlier in the night. While it was a good match and a chance for Cesaro to shine, it was ineffective.
– WWE seems to have no plans for Sami Zayn in this post-Kevin Owens feud time period. On WWE’s main roster, all we know about Zayn is that he wears a hat, dances, and fights Kevin Owens. It’s time to develop Zayn’s character and let fans fall in love with his fighting spirit.
– I like Braun Strowman right now. Weird.
– Sasha Banks went to the General Manager, who is supposed to level the playing field and make things fair, demanding an unfair match and was given an opportunity to get the unfair match she wanted if she lost. What was this segment? What was this entire setup with Sasha Banks and Dana Brooke? Why did the end of this match feel so clunky?
– Nia Jax’s video package was a good one, but I had hoped to hear her amazing theme music live.
– Neville and Sin Cara don’t feel right to me as a tag team. Neville could be a great centerpiece and/or top heel for the Cruiserweight Division.
– Darren Young and Titus O’Neil bore me.
– Luke Gallows was given the chance to look like a bad ass in getting a quick win, but Gallows and Anderson vs. The New Day isn’t exciting me yet. Perhaps it was the number of testicle jokes on the show and my misguided hope that we are all more mature than that.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.