SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
We are just weeks away from officially being on the road to Wrestlemania and WWE pulled out all the stops in trying to compete with the College Football National Championship. Legends returned and titles were on the line. Lets take a look at who made the most of their time and who missed the mark.
RAW ALL STAR: UNDERTAKER
When I learned that The Undertaker would be appearing on Raw weeks after declaring he was a Smackdown wrestler, I was a bit skeptical and wondered if it would hinder the integrity of the roster split. Taker quickly defused that as he explained that he was above brand differentiation and he can do or say whatever he pleases. While his promo could be viewed as “classic Undertaker” I saw him as the all-star of the week because while staying true to his roots, Taker showed a slightly different side of his personality that was truly endearing. For the first time in a while he let his guard down slightly and spoke to the fans in a more casual tone. He pivoted back to Stephanie & Mick, however, in a much different way and made his intentions crystal clear. It was fantastic to see him address the loss he suffered to Brock Lesnar in New Orleans and desire to redeem himself by main eventing this year’s WrestleMania. Sure, it is always amazing to see the spectacle that is The Undertaker when he shows up on WWE television, but the delivery, cadence, and vindication in his voice not only showed that the dead man still has it, but he has made the fans believe as a legit favorite to win the Royal Rumble with his promo on Monday.
RAW UNDER PERFORMER: MICK FOLEY
Since I have started writing this column I have had Mick Foley in my top underperformers each week, but decided against adding him as I was sure he was better than the character he was portraying on television. This week, however, it was made very clear that Foley is nothing more than a stooge to the McMahons and will do anything they say, regardless of the tough persona he has worked so hard to establish during his career. For starters, the idea that there was a “rumor” started by Foley that The Undertaker could show up at Raw was preposterous in of itself as he had been advertised all over WWE’s web-site and social media outlets. From writing down the name of the town he is in on his hand, to changing the tone of his voice from somber to incessantly maniacal in the matter of seconds, and almost breaking into tears when the first gong ran out exploited just how much he was over-acting, and how bad his acting is to begin with. Partner that with his horrible new haircut and offensive turtleneck underneath a lumberjack blazer – the full transformation to an on-air buffoon is complete. Personally, I believe that Mick Foley comes off as the biggest phony on TV and is compromising the fans’ enjoyment of the show. I could elaborate more on the phony comment which started as far back as when I saw him do his live stand-up comedy act, but that is a story for another time. Let us all just hope that his tweet about the Raw GM spot possibly being open soon, as his presence has been an instant channel-changer.
SMACKDOWN ALL-STAR: JOHN CENA
For those that believe John Cena should hang it up, you must be watching a different show than I am. Since his return, Cena has added a notable boost to Smackdown and his work with Baron Corbin this week was excellent. So often we hear stories about top veterans not wanting to do any favors for younger wrestlers, and while Cena did win his match he did wonders for the believability in Corbin. Cena’s promo about being the one that needs to prove something deviated from the “Super Cena” mentality that he is unbeatable. He openly recognized that the landscape of the WWE has changed and he needs to show the fans that he still belongs. The believability in Cena was key here and he delivered. As for the match, he sold everything Corbin did to him like it was the most devastating move or strike he had ever encountered. Going out and beating Corbin in under 10 minutes would have done nothing for the long term picture, but Cena made sure the Lone Wolf looked like a million bucks. Further, it was important to reestablish the Attitude Adjustment finisher as something that could still beat an opponent. After AJ kicked out of that move performed off the second rope at Summerslam, it was a nice touch to end the match. John Cena is gaining a head of steam leading into the Royal Rumble which will see him and AJ try to recreate the magic they made at the Barclay’s Center last August.
SMACKDOWN UNDERPERFORMER: DOLPH ZIGGLER
While it was so refreshing to see Dolph Ziggler finally return to being a heel, which I believe is the best version of himself, the scenes that played out for him on Tuesday left much to be desired. Yes, his attack on Kalisto and Apollo Crews was a vicious one but the crowd did not seem to react the way you would have expected. In his first appearance as a heel, Dolph did not change one thing about his look, tone, or move set to indicate he is any different from the wrestler we have seen for the last 5+ years. It also does not help that he is lashing out against two babyface that are far from over with the crowd. My problem here is just as much with Dolph as it is with the booking team. Understanding that many top babyface on Smackdown are tied up in other feuds, I am sure there was a way to make this more impactful. Moving forward, we will need to see a completely different presentation of Ziggler if we are going to buy into booing him on a consistent basis. What we saw on Tuesday showed no evidence of that.