I don’t normally put plugs at the beginning, but since it is wrestling-related I thought I’d share one of my articles at DoubleJump. In case you don’t read the about me section at the end, that’s the video game website I’m reporting for now. The article’s about the downloadable content and season pass for WWE 2K14, so if you’re planning on picking up 2K Sports’ first WWE-licensed game, give it a gander.
Now that we’ve got the shameless self-promotion out of the way, let’s talk about shiny minerals.
This week I’m a little more optimistic. As you might have gleaned from my very overt snark two weeks ago in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly #7, I haven’t been altogether enthusiastic about the WWE lately. The biggest reason is that there hasn’t been a lot of payoff for our biggest storylines. Paul Heyman could read a shopping catalogue and still make it entertaining, but there comes a point where WWE dangling him and CM Punk in front of us and just inches apart from each other doesn’t build the sort of tension it once did. Similarly, WWE’s managed to chill what had previously been a white-hot WWE Championship division with a non-finish, an invalidated finish and a cash-in. Granted, I thought the cash-in was the right move to turn Orton heel and begin his conflict with Daniel Bryan. However, since then Orton’s lost a lot of credibility as a heel and feels secondary to Bryan’s struggle with Triple H and The Authority, whereas the image of Bryan winning the WWE Championship has been cheapened for me by overturning two such occasions. With this drudgery of rising action without climax, not much has been getting me excited. That is, until last week.
Across Raw and SmackDown last week, two interesting things happened. One, Cody Rhodes and Goldust won the WWE Tag Team Championships in a stellar main event match. Two, Big E Langston turned face in opposition of Paul Heyman and his Guys, and he’s since been named number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship.
On the first event, although I love The Shield, their reign as tag champions hadn’t done much to elevate the division or the title. Granted, the titles were at least on guys who were utilized in the upper-card storylines, but the belts weren’t the focus of their roles on television. Now the titles are on two guys I’m especially fond of (even if Cody’s contracted generic smiling babyface syndrome) and are being booked more prominently on the card, such as last week when their title match was booked into the main event. It’s also a plus that The Usos are being included in this program, so that now they’re using their four big players who’ve been developing through The Authority angle, while also showcasing a talented, seemingly more permanent and traditional tag team. I’m skeptical that they’ll put the titles on The Usos at Hell in a Cell, but at least the regular tag teams aren’t being left by the wayside while the title scene’s consumed by temporary pairings. This might even be a way to elevate The Usos so that when The Shield, Cody Rhodes and Goldust do eventually depart from the tag division, it’ll be left in the hands of someone to whom the WWE had given more exposure, thereby getting more over than if they had simply won the titles out of the blue.
Also, I’ll be ecstatic if Goldust as tag team champion means I get to hear him say more things like the quote in the title and “OHHHHHHHHHHH SNAAAAAAAAAAP!” in the most peculiarly melodramatic way possible.
Regarding the second event, let me first say that I really like Big E Langston. I loved his work on NXT, as cheesy as the “five” thing was. Really, it was impressive he could take something so simple and turn it into shtick that fans eat up. It’s similar to Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” and “NO!” chants, in that it’s a fun and unique way to engage with a babyface that makes him seem more accessible and responsive compared to cheering as you would any other face. Big E is also a damn good hoss. My favorite NXT match of his was against Conor O’Brian, who’s put on a lot of bulk since he competed on the old version of NXT. It was straightforward hoss match booking: each man tests the other’s strength, struggles to overcome the other, and eventually they just start dropping bombs that look all the more explosive due to the mass of the two men.
The reason I mention that match is that assuming Big E Langston bulldozes through Curtis Axel (as I hope he does, considering how little the title’s done for Axel and how little he’s done for it), I could see WWE penciling in Langston versus Ryback, who I imagine will be clear of any conflict with Punk after Hell in a Cell. Langston’s an explosive powerhouse with way more speed than is reasonable for a man of his mass and, more importantly, he has a likable quality that’ll contrast perfectly with Ryback, who’s jeered by marks and smarks alike. Although Ryback/Henry at WrestleMania this year wasn’t the hoss match I had hoped for, I’m optimistic Langston could be just the hoss Ryback needs to bring out his inner hoss and have a good ol’ fashion hoss down. This could be hoss-some.
As far as the world titles, with WWE all but releasing a press statement promising a decisive finish after the fan complaints and refunds following Battlegrounds and Night of Champions, in addition to John Cena returning to shake up the World Heavyweight Championship division this Sunday, I’m optimistic that at least we’ll start to see some change in those title scenes. I can’t comment so much on the Divas’ division since over the years I’ve developed a kneejerk reaction to most their matches whereby I press fast-forward on the remote. To be fair, I do sometimes go out of my way to watch positively reviewed matches, but 90-percent of the time I am completely checked out of the division.
This past month or more has felt like a grind and I’m going to be honest, there have been weeks where I haven’t felt like watching any WWE programming whatsoever. However, this forthcoming change to the title pictures might be just what I need to reawaken my spirits. I hope in a few weeks’ time I’ll be able to write about all the great things going on, rather than what I hope is coming, which seems to have been a trend lately. Until next week, I hope you all enjoy some wrestling.
Nicholas LeVack is a double major in English creative writing and journalism whose interests include writing, wrestling, video games and occasional outdoorsy things. You can follow him on Twitter, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and take part in his first venture into video game journalism at doublejump.co.