The Good

I freakin’ love stables: As a caveat, I freakin’ love stables when they’re done right. So far, I think Triple H’s new regime has been booked pretty darn well. For me, the biggest attraction of a stable is its ability to encapsulate various characters into one central storyarch, while also progressing each character through more individualized storylines. That’s the ideal, anyway. In the case of recent WWE programming, I believe it’s Triple H’s bid for power, his delusion and mantra that he’s doing “what’s right for business,” around which all other stories revolve. Daniel Bryan’s dogged quest for the WWE Championship was the platform for Triple H’s turn, but isn’t necessarily the most overarching narrative of WWE programming, although you could probably make a case for how it too contributes to various storylines besides its own; obviously Big Show’s. Anyway, beneath Triple H’s new regime we have, in descending order of significance, Daniel Bryan’s fight for the title against the hand-picked face of the company, Randy Orton; Big Show’s moral dilemma about helping enforce Triple H’s Draconian administration for his family’s sake; Cody Rhodes’ unemployment, the subsequent ramifications for his personal life and his family’s dynastic rivalry with the McMahons; and also a bunch of tinier, often one-night stories about Triple H punishing so-and-so for saying such-and-such, which although smaller, enforce the stable’s permeability, provide evidence of how Triple H could bring the iron fist of his new regime down on any insubordinate Superstar. We have a lot of bit players, most notably The Shield, whose inclusion in this storyline has certainly made the moniker “The Hounds of Justice” more appropriate than ever and more susceptible to punning. “Sic ‘im, Ambrose! Sic ‘im!” They may not be receiving much character progression, but it’s better than dogpaddling in the still-pretty-lukewarm tag team division. Also, who doesn’t want to see Seth Rollins flip bump a top rope German Suplex?

DID I EVER MENTION I REALLY LIKE GOLDUST!?: If you were a fan of The John Report circa 2011, you might have scrolled across my old “Rating with Superstars” column. Around that time, Goldust was a regular on Superstars and was often a brightspot (literally and literally) for my reviews since I so enjoyed his work, to the point of possibly fetishizing it among other animalistic subjects that’d be far more appropriate now given one of Daniel Bryan’s current nicknames. In hindsight, I may have overstated a few things, but what I relished most was his mastery of the fundamentals. His gait when he ran the ropes, the way he bumped, how he threw an open right hand, his pacing – although all fundamentals, his handle on these skills was exemplary, which was especially striking to someone who at the time had just begun practicing some of these skills himself, and thus knew how much more difficult it was to do little things like run the ropes or take a back bump than it looked. On RAW, even though Goldust looked a little bit huskier (although by no means TNA husky) and thus moved a little slowly, I still delighted in every audible open-hand strike, every cleverly placed spot, every careful step – all the little intricacies that impressed me so much when I was 17. The match wasn’t particularly great – it was good, but by no means great. However, for me it was a treat, and judging by and extrapolating from the live audience’s reaction, I can tell it satisfied some form of nostalgia for millions of others. Sometimes that’s a better, more savory treat than a great match, of which we’ve already seen a lot this year. Though by all means, keep cranking them out.

Cody Rhodes, from dashing-face, to grotesque-face to babyface: Face turns are often a little less exciting than heel turns, partly because somehow WWE is way better at creating complex heels than they are faces. They’ve worked well for guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk (maybe a little less well the first time around for Punk thanks to Hunter “The Wet Blanket” Helmsley) because they were guys the crowd really wanted to cheer anyway. Both of them championed beliefs that’d previously been marginalized and both of them simply had entertaining shtick (Bryan’s goofiness and chants, Punk’s “f*ck you, I’m a badass” attitude). Although I was super hyped about Alberto Del Rio winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Big Show because it was a great match and the fans ate it up, they didn’t sustain much depth for his character. The same could be said of The Miz, although I can’t ever remember being very hyped about him turning face. So far, I’d compare Cody Rhodes more to Miz and Del Rio than Punk or Bryan. He’s been very successful as a heel. I’d say his year-long metamorphosis from dashing to grotesque to a combination of the two was a product of tremendous booking and long-term thinking. After that, his momentum petered out, he became Sandow’s right-hand man, which led to the inevitable turn, but for the most part he’s just been acting like any ol’ face who was mad at being cheated, rather than a uniquely Cody Rhodes babyface. That’s what I’m hoping this program with the new regime might fix. He’s been given a very personal stake, to which any audience can relate; and he’s been positioned against a polarizing antagonist. They’ve given him sympathy and they’ve given him conflict. That’s an excellent place to start. However, the story can only run so long before the conflict is satisfied. And what will they do from there? He can only play off his legacy for so long. Rhodes has done an excellent job creating gimmicks for himself as a heel. Right now, he’s energetic as a face, as well as well-spoken and talented in the ring. But he needs a shtick that’ll help him stand out. I have no suggestion for that though. I’m just content to wait and see.

The Bad

[Insert generic “WWE thinks we have amnesia” joke here]: Wait, where have I seen that before? Oh right, I used the same section heading last week. If there’s a downside to a storyline that encapsulates a ton of wrestlers, it’s that they have to set continuity aside sometimes in order to make all the little players mesh together for the immediate purposes of the program. In Cody’s and Goldust’s case, what, are they completely okay about their previous conflicts? Am I supposed to forget they previously indicated they had much less a loving big brother-little brother dynamic and much more an estranged relationship? You know what, I treaded this territory enough last week and I conceded plenty to the WWE, empathized enough with the production difficulties. This week, I just want to open the floor to you guys: How can WWE resolve its rampant discontinuity in stories like these? How would you even frame a story in WWE? Is it something isolated or contributive to the WWE in macrocosm? Sound off in the comment section, dear Cantonians.

The Ugly

Stephanie McMahon, reaper of tears: Maybe I’m cheating by using her two weeks in a row, but damn has she been cold – and I love it. The false empathy, the back-handed criticisms, the thinly veiled threats – it’s great stuff. Between her ugly personality and Triple H’s grotesque misuse of his thesaurus, I’d say RAW had plenty of ugliness for people who needed more wince-induced crows’ feet.

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Nicholas LeVack is a junior English creative writing major and media studies minor whose interests include writing, wrestling, video games and occasional outdoorsy things. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at nalevack92@gmail.com.