On a night where modern-day Los Conquistadores (loved them at the Survivor Series in 1988) were launched on RAW with a cartoonish Lucha-style mascot, we saw two veteran pros save a go-home show that needed all the help it could get.
Dusty Rhodes was awesome and remains awesome as a promo in professional wrestling. The fact that he is a boss at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando is great. If you’re going to learn from the best, learn from The Dream.
The Dream and sons have been waiting for revenge against The Establishment and they’ll get their chance against the Establishment’s goons in The Shield at the Battleground PPV. Mind you, the PPV probably isn’t going to draw very well and WWE is not hitting all cylinders on their programs. However, the Rhodes/McMahon storyline has been the most entertaining to emerge from the main event program. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton draw the marquee with their “this is personal now” program, but the Rhodes have scored with their own “this is personal now” angle. Cody the Good Son gets fired on a whim. Dustin the Bad Son can’t avenge the firing and gets humiliated himself. Old man Dream gets knocked out by whiny McMahon goon Big Show. It’s unfortunately the Big Show angle has been disappointing but don’t blame Dusty Rhodes for that. He sold his knockout punch like a champion and made people care. Jim Ross called it an Old Yeller moment.
So, now the McMahons tease the Rhodes clan by offering their jobs back if they can go through the goons. They took Dusty’s job as NXT commissioner away and now they want to permanently ban the sons from ever returning. Putting aside the silliness of saying Cody’s “never, ever returning” again, the fact is that the crowd is buying into the program and you can thank the Rhodes clan for delivering on the basics.
All it took was one line from The Dream, after being threatened by Hunter that he could lose his job, to get everyone’s attention.
“You’re big on getting in people’s faces… Don’t cross the line, old man? Let me tell you something, one stipulation — I’m in my boys’ corner and I’ll be your huckleberry all night long.”
And promptly after that moment, Stephanie McMahon sicked her goons to lay out the Rhodes clan in the ring. Her promo work has been really sharp during this angle and the whiny Big Show angle. You may not agree with her booking, and a lot of people fall into that category, but she certainly can bring a solid speaking game when it comes time to cutting a heel promo. The balance between her and Hunter works, of course. Maybe too well at times to the point of overexposure.
Bottom line? The McMahon/Rhodes angle is interesting. It’s simple. It’s old school. It features a little bit of something for everyone to pay attention to. It makes sense. Dusty Rhodes knows how to make people care.
So does Paul Heyman and CM Punk.
A week after Punk walked into the predictable trap of getting pounded by Paul Heyman’s goons, this week was Punk’s time for revenge. Punk did the WWE-ish angle of beating up a big guy (Big E. Langston) despite being called CM Pretzel by The King. Not only did Punk win, he managed to get heat in a match involving Big E. Langston. Miracles do happen. After he made an example out of Langston, he turned the tables on Heyman and beat up nitwit Curtis Axel to make an example out of a guy to show Ryback that he’ll prevail at Battleground. Again, really simple old-school booking that works. It’s also quite revealing of how WWE views Axel, which at point is the way everyone feels about him — nice athlete, no charisma. He’s a jock but not the charismatic jock that his father was.
Heyman set up the revenge by wanting to tell Ryback that he truly wanted him as a Paul Heyman Guy. He wanted a commitment, a marriage… a relationship. Old-school trolling of a wrestling crowd by playing off crowd sentiment of gays? Not very politically correct in 2013, but the McMahons have always been subjective about what constitutes as bullying and what doesn’t. Hey, Ryback hates bullies, and those fans are a bunch of bullies if they don’t want him to become a Paul Heyman Guy.
“All commitments are about mutual understanding and sacrifice and I even ran this by my children because of the enormous sacrifice I’m going to have to make in order to make this to you.”
Nobody is a better manipulator & pusher of palaver in pro-wrestling than Paul Heyman. What’s amusing (and scary) is what he often says on camera is what he’s probably told other wrestlers in the past when he was running ECW.
“I want to make this commitment to you till death do us part. Ryback, I want to make an honest man out of you.”
As Heyman dropped to a knee, he held the man’s hand and got the answer he wanted. Ryback’s reaction was pitch perfect.
And then the CM Punk shenanigans began. The evening was topped off with Randy Orton intimidating Brie Bella and laying her man Daniel Bryan out while fans were screaming “Randy!” and “Yes!” chants in the background.