SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The scales have tipped mightily this week in favor of stars that fade so get ready for a strong dose of Raw & Smackdown underachievement.
RISING STAR OF THE WEEK: Austin Aries
Here we go. Monday night was exactly what the cruiserweight division needed. They had the natural heel in Neville and now they have his smarmy, confident counterpart in Austin Aries. What a fantastic set-up it was too: Neville scoffing at Aries even considering the fact that he was on his majesty’s level, and Austin acting intimidated until he milks the moment to smack the taste out of Neville’s mouth. To make comparisons to a Guerrero & Malenko match-up of talent seems a little premature, but if given the appropriate amount of promotion and platform, this rivalry can be one for the ages.
Mickie James: At this point in her career, Mickie James should in no way be looked at as a lackey or sidekick (heck, nor should Dana Brooke for that matter, but that’s another yarn to spin for another time). She should be a feature player, dammit, and even though it’s in accordance with a convoluted, “shoe-horn all the women in one match so everybody gets their ‘ Wrestlemania moment’ even if it’s at the expense of the division’s credibilty” six-way, at least we’re finally getting it.
FADING STAR OF THE WEEK: JBL
So the only reason that JBL gets the top spot of mediocrity is this “serious voice” that heel commentators get when an in-ring heel (in this case Baron Corbin) goes too far. First off, it happens way too often nowadays. Back in my day (old man yelling at cloud), a Heenan or Ventura would quiet down only in the very few moments when a devious bastard would overstep his boundaries; somebody putting a forklift on someone is some Attitude-era type of hijinks. Seems pretty small potatoes. To blow that up as some heinous act from a professional wrestling perspective when goons like James Ellsworth are getting Styles Clashed on steel steps and coming back after a mere seven days is contradictory as all get out. Plus JBL’s “serious voice” sounds as genuine as WWE’s “B.A. Star” campaign.
Sami Zayn: Five minutes in a losing effort against Owens? Really? After they basically put a bow on their feud before the Draft occurred (yeah, that went well). This is a rivalry that we’re supposed to look forward to, like when Wolverine runs into Sabertooth in comics; the two have a very storied and contentious history, but only face off once in a while – not once every month to fill comic book panels (or TV time in Owens/Zayn’s case). And Wolverine never gets his ass beat unceremoniously. Zayn is certainly one of those guys that has that rubber abll ability to him, but doing things like this will make him lose some “bounce” each and every time.
Bayley: I wasn’t lying when I said Bayley is going to be on the wrong side of RSFS and this week unfortunately helps this cause. Your Raw Women’s Champion (I hate saying “Insert show here” Champion, by the way) taps clean in front of everyone? Stuff like this happens all the time in WWE, but it doesn’t make it right nor does it give it any more sense. They lost! That’s it. Sure, the NFL has a great deal of parity, but that’s a team sport with a lot of moving parts where fighting one-on-one (legitimate or simulated) is a pretty-straightforward concept. Every fight has playoff implications. There’s no regular season. It’s ridiculous to treat it as anything different.
Braun Strowman: Yikes. Braun’s brawny yell is getting less and less boisterious as each week passes. I don’t care if the ghost of Lou Thesz appears before you, leaving the ring to give the implication of intimidation is not a good look for a supposed “monster heel.” You want Braun to keep some dignity? Have him stare down Taker and then “present” the ring to him before making an exit. If you’re going to scare a Kamala with a casket to help tell a story with a short-term feud that’s one thing, but with the way Braun was being pushed, you had to think something bigger and badder was planned for him. Not so much, apparently. Just a cog in the system of the Roman Reigns machine. A vessel. A real freaking bummer, man.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: RISING STAR & FADING STAR OF FASTLANE: Big Show, Gallagher, Strowman, Nia Jax, Goldberg