Retribution storm the ring… except they’re dressed a lot more revealingly than normal. We are immediately told that they have signed WWE contracts, meaning that “they can do anything to anything at any time to anybody!” Couldn’t they do that before?
There are only five of them here even though in previous incidents they seemed to have had at least ten, and in some cases I’m sure there were at least fifteen or twenty. The first one talking is clearly Mia Yim. 70% of her face is showing! But even if I didn’t know who she is, WWE does because she “signed a contract,” so why aren’t the announcers spilling the beans on who they are?
Look… I’m just going to go through everything they say first and then point out all of the reasons why this is stupid at the end.
Mia asks tells WWE that just because Retribution have signed contracts doesn’t mean WWE is safe from them. She criticizes WWE for being motivated by money, and said that they were “tired of being stepped on” while trying to “grab some imaginary brass ring.”
He spouts crap about this being a “hellhole” and the greedy wrestlers being an “infestation,” then tries to be edgy by saying the other wrestlers are “whores.” Retribution will make them pay because they are “the judge, jury, and the executioners.”
The Hurt Business showed up and Retribution left the ring, which was odd because Retribution out-numbered them. It would be explained in the end, but it really felt at the time like the reason this happened was because it was the only way to avoid male-on-female violence, as there was no way Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez were sitting this out. MVP and Lashley cut great promos on them. Soon a bunch more members of Retribution showed up, which shocked me because I was certain WWE just wanted us to ignore the fact that the group shrunk for thirty to five.
Being fearless badasses, the Hurt Business rushed into this fight where they were outnumbered at least five to one. They fought well, but were eventually overcome. Lashley was laid out by a double chokeslam from Diajkovic and the other big one. Then we went to a commercial.
There was some good execution in here if the goal is to turn the Hurt Business babyface, but…
1. The presentation of Retribution here was very bad. The platitudes were bad because they’re just that. As for the group’s ethos, we learned that they are… maybe vaguely Marxists, but mostly have an axe to grind with both WWE and the wrestlers because they were unhappy that they didn’t get opportunities, I think? Their anger makes that seem like the real issue. I’m fine with them grafting onto a worldview to justify their own anger. Plenty of people do that. But having them say the things they said and wears those stupid masks (especially the ones Mia and Dijakovic were wearing, and they were two doing the talking) makes this feel less like some grand new idea and more like Vince finally got around to watching The Dark Knight Rises.
2. If they want to destroy WWE, shouldn’t all of the wrestlers be coming out to help fight them? Don’t the wrestlers love WWE because it’s their dream to work here? If so, you’d think they’d be taking what we’re supposed to see as an existential threat a lot more seriously.
3. We were told that these people had “signed contracts” today, but as far as we know, all of them have been under contract to WWE the entire time. Some (Yim, Dijakovic) have even been on TV since Retribution first debuted!
4. Their complaint seems to be that they thought they were passed over for opportunities, and that’s a REALLY tough grievance to pull off because it’s pretty easy for fans to tell if it’s bullsh*t or not. If you take someone like Yim or Dijakovic and look at what they’ve done in NXT, I think most fans will say that they have been featured relatively well and gotten their fair share of opportunities. When they’ve been winning they’ve gotten more, and when they’ve been losing they’ve gotten less. Then you have guys like Shane Thorne (Wikipedia said he’s the not-as-tall dude) who fans will look at and say “you’re a solid hand, but you’re nothing special, and while you might think that you are, the fact that you’ve been losing means that you’re not that great.” He seems to get the right amount of opportunities for what he has kayfabe earned.
You’re then stuck with a situation where your group will consist of either people like Yim and Dijakovic, where the complaint feels phony, or people like Thorne where the complaint maybe feels a little more believable (at least in his own mind), but- not to put it too bluntly- the reason Shane Thorne is where he is on the card in NXT is because when you advertise that Shane Thorne will be wrestling on the show, the reaction of most fans is “oh. Okay.” Everyone knows that he’s a solid hand, but no one is really excited or eager to see Shane Thorne, and that’s not going to change if you bring him up to the main roster.
Is there a theoretical sweet spot where you could have someone who has been in NXT for a while and everyone knows is great but they just haven’t found anything to do with him/her yet? Yes. But looking over the NXT roster, KUSHIDA feels like he’s really the only guy in that spot. MAYBE you could make an argument for someone like Kazy Catanzaro or Arturo Ruas, but I don’t think Ruas has been featured on TV enough, and while Kacy wins, the fact that they haven’t let her have long matches on TV makes me suspect that they don’t think she’s ready, so bringing her up probably isn’t the best idea. But even if you did have a group of guys like that, as Todd Martin pointed out on last week’s edition of The Fix, fans aren’t going to boo someone in that position. They’re going to say that that person is right and cheer them (see: Punk, CM and Lynch, Becky).
Of everyone in the group that we know of so far, the only one I haven’t listed is the only one who could maybe make this work- Dio Maddin- but even with him, he’s not someone that is going to excite anyone in the ring.
So yeah. I have no hope for this. It comes across as yet another ill-conceived idea that won’t go anywhere.
Oh. Jerry Lawler’s on commentary. That’s something else that doesn’t bode well.
SARAH SCHREIBER INTERVIEWS THE MYSTERIOS SANS DOMINIK- huh
Sarah asks Rey what he thinks about Dominik “pursuing his first championship opportunity tonight.” I assumed this meant that Dominik was getting a title shot, but really he’s just in a #1 contendership match. That’s yet another problem with their stupid cult language. It forces people to say these completely ambiguous phrases that confuse even a careful viewer of the product (so careful am I that I totally didn’t miss Rey’s daughter checking on Murphy last week).
Dominik is in a tag team #1 contendership match tonight. Obviously he’s teaming with his father, seeing as how Rey is the only person Dominik has ever tagged with, and they’re 2-0, right? NOPE! This is WWE so he’s in a #1 contendership match with someone he’s never teamed with before.
WINNER GETS A WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE SHOT AT CLASH OF CHAMPIONS: GOLD RUSH: Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas & Angel Garza vs. Dominik Mysterio & Humberto Carrillo- 4/10
So the top three contenders to the tag titles are:
-A team that has never teamed together before
- A team who broke up recently and who one member of the team attacked the other at the end of last week’s show, and who have not won a match in nearly three months.
- A team that constantly argues, has won a grand total of one match together in the past two and a half months, and who, in that span, are 0-3-1 against the tag champs, including losing to them in under two minutes two weeks ago.
Actually, this is the entire division, other than the tag champs, I think that’s the entire division. Well… other than the more logical team of Rey and Dominik. Neither the Hurt Business nor Ricochet/Crews/Ali trio really have any set pairs in them. MAYBE Lashley & MVP.
Speaking of the tag champs, they were on commentary and were very annoying.
Seth walked out on Murphy, and Murphy got pinned by Garza, because Street Profits vs. Andrade and Garza definitely isn’t a match fans are completely sick of seeing. The announcers pushed the idea that as soon they didn’t have Zelina with them, Andrade and Garza have started winning, but while technically true, that seems pretty unfair to me, as it’s not like Zelina kept costing them wins. They would lose on their own and she would yell at them. MAYBE I could excuse going back to this match if I had faith they were starting to build up new challengers on this show, but given WWE’s track record, I have no reason to have any faith.
Even if I did have faith, I think it would have been better to give Seth and Murphy the win, with Murphy getting the pin, and frame the title match as Murphy desperate attempt to get back in Seth’s good graces, then have them lose and have Seth turn on Murphy afterwards.
Even better, do it like this: Keep Andrade and Garza out of this match. We’ll build up the “they’re better without Zelina” story by giving them undercard wins. Replace them in this match with Ricochet & Apollo Crews. If Rey and Carrillo can be given this opportunity, then why not a makeshift pair from an even more set established group?
I’d have Dominik actually get a roll-up pin on Ricochet here but have Murphy be distracting the referee so he doesn’t see it. Then I’d have Murphy get the pin on Ricochet. You do what I described above at the PPV, but used the visual pinfall to start building up Carrillo and Dominik for a title shot at the next PPV, and meanwhile, we build Garza and Andrade up on the undercard. Street Profits beat Dominik and Carrillo clean to retain at the October PPV. At Survivor Series I’d have Garza and Andrade be the sole Survivors for their team to show that they have learned to work together, and that would earn them the title shot in December, which they would lose with Garza getting pinned. While that is happening, we build up Carrillo and Dominik for a title shot at the beginning of the year, which they fail at, setting up a last chance match for them at the Rumble, which they also lose.
Meanwhile, Zelina has a new team of undercard schmoes who beat some jobbers but can’t ever beat a real team. She tries to send them after Garza and Andrade, and they actually manage to beat them after cheating by Zelina. A rematch is booked for the next week, but the moment the bell rings, Andrade turns on Garza and they all beat him up, putting him out of action. Zelina or Andrade will tell us next week that Zelina had called him and started off by apologizing to him for trying to make him a tag wrestler when she should have stuck with what worked, which was him as a singles wrestler. Garza will return as a babyface and be outnumbered, and his cousin Carrillo will eventually come to his aid (and then I’ll find them a third guy).
Meanwhile, the big angle for WrestleMania is Dominik coming out after the Rumble and telling us that he hasn’t given upon tag team wrestling. In fact, he’s more determined than ever, and he is now determined to win the tag team titles with his dream partner: his father (and, of course, they do).
At that point, after Mania your tag team division will have Rey & Dominik as champs with the Garza Family, Zelina’s new tag team, Street Profits, Viking Raiders (I assume Ivar will be healthy by then), plus possible teams from the Hurt Business, and Crews/Ricochet/Ali underneath them.
RETRIBUTION PROMO- cliché
They don’t like the Hurt Business because they’re greedy. Dijakovic (still unnamed) says the Hurt Business will face them in a match. So is it going to be three-on-three? Are we going to have men and women facing off against each other?
THE KEVIN OWENS SHOW WITH SPECIAL GUEST SHANE MCMAHON- a mixed bag
It was nice of them to remember the history between these two. Shane is here to promote Raw Underground. That’s literally what Owens said. Why does WWE have to book Shane on one of their own talk shows to do this? Can’t they just run a video package?
Shane brings out Dabba-Kato and we are reminded that he attacked Owens for no reason two weeks ago. Owens says that he hasn’t forgotten this and slaps Dabba-Kato in the face… and then reveals that he has also booked Braun Strowman for his show. That seems kind of cowardly of Owens. Also, does this not count as Braun’s Quarterly Brand to Brand Invitation appearance? Even if him showing up on Raw Underground somehow doesn’t count, this is the main show, so I absolutely should.
Braun and Dabba-Kato had a big stare-down, but Shane convinced them to wait until Raw Underground. Then Aleister Black snuck up on Owens, pulled him down, and crotched him on the ringpost repeatedly. This… was effective at building up the matches it was meant to build up, but I thought that Owens in particular came off pretty bad, and he was the only babyface in the segment.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS DREW MCINTYRE- very good
Charly reminds us about Drew’s fractured jaw. Drew says he’ll be fine competing with it. She then asks him about Keith Lee, and Drew cuts a good “I understand and respect that you want the title, and I’m sure we’ll laugh about this someday, but for now, I’m kind of annoyed at you, friend,” promo.
RETRIBUTION ARE BEING PEOPLE UP BACKSTAGE- Titus O’Neil and Humberto Carrillo are soon. See… that’s what happens when you don’t all band together to destroy the invaders. The Smackdown roster figured that out, so why can’t the Raw one?
Dijakovic cut another promo, repeating lines from earlier. We were then told by the announcers that “Retribution vs. the Hurt Business” had been made official. No details about who or how many are wrestling.
IF KEITH LEE WINS, HE BECOMES THE #1 CONTENDER AT CLASH OF CHAMPIONS IF ORTON IS STILL INJURED: Keith Lee vs. Drew McIntyre- 6.75/10
Holy crap! They actually remember last week’s stipulation and did the logical thing of booking a rematch!
Grrr… I’m angry at myself. This match was good enough that I let my guard down and thought maybe we’d have a real finish, but then the finish I assumed was coming last week happened, and Randy Orton ran in for the DQ. He hit Drew with a chair and worked over his fractured jaw, then punted Lee in the head (it didn’t come close to Lee, and not even a camera cut could save it).
RANDY ORTON PROMO- The part where he was in the ring and talking about how he would never miss a title match was great. The part where he went over to the ambulance and tried to connect it to the ark of his year so far was to long, though I did get a chuckle out of Randy saying a very naughty word and forgetting that he was on TV.
SARAH SCHREIBER INTERVIEWS ASUKA- boring
Asuka started talking in Japanese and was quickly interrupted by Billie Kay. Peyton Royce also showed up. These people can’t all just be walking by. This interview is taking place IN A WRESTLING RING. It makes no sense that someone can just get into the ring without attracting the attention of the others in it, but that’s apparently what happened. TWICE.
It turns out the IIconics are still friends. That Billie Kay sure is a forgiving woman, seeing as how her friend ambushed her from behind and threw her into the Raw Underground ring with TWO Horsewomen. And if you were going to have them still be friends, why did you waste their first-ever match against each other last week.
The end result of this was Asuka agreeing to wrestle Peyton Royce later tonight.
#1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH: Mickie James vs. Zelina Vega- 4.5/10
Mickie lost cleanly to the champion in a title match last week. We got no explanation that anything was amiss. Why is she in a #1 contendership match? And who has Vega ever beaten? Also, where the hell is Bianca Belair?
They showed a promo from Mickie from earlier today saying that she didn’t give up last week, but that’s irrelevant because it was a referee stoppage. The match was good, but the wrong woman went over. Or maybe they’re purposely putting a match on PPV they can keep short.
THE HURT BUSINESS BRAWL WITH RETRIBUTION BACKSTAGE- The Hurt Business all by themselves appear to have beaten down all of the minor members of Retribution, which is like fifteen guys. This kind of makes the Smackdown roster look like crap for having so much trouble with them.
VIDEO PACKAGE OF BIANCA BELAIR BEING BETTER AT EXCERCISING THAN SOME RANDOM DUDE IN A GYM- She’s a pro wrestler. We shouldn’t expect anything different. If that other guy were any good, I would have some inkling of who he is.
GOOFBALL 24/7 TITLE SH*T- dumb, as always, but I will admit that I laughed at R-Truth telling Little Jimmy “no! A thermometer goes there! A snorkel goes in your mouth!”
Hey, BRM, didn’t you criticize Vince for having a juvenile sense of humor in your review of last week’s Smackdown?
Also, Tozawa is missing at sea and was possibly eaten by a shark. Yes, really.
MVP & CEDRIC ALEXANDER PROMO- great!
Finally, some details! It’s a six-man tag with MVP, Shelton, and Lashley facing presumably the three dudes in Retribution. Cedric then cut a promo on Apollo Crews. Crews and Ricochet came out and Crews also cut a promo on Cedric and Lashley.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER (w/MVP) vs. APOLLO CREWS (w/Ricochet)- 4.5/10
This was a match that started off well but had a bafflingly stupid finish. Said finish was Ricochet- a babyface- coming over to distract Cedric in order to buy time for Crews to recover, whereupon Crews rolled Cedric up for the win. Are we sure the Hurt Business aren’t the babyfaces in this feud? Apollo is definitely the most annoying person involved.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- meh
The rest of the Hurt Business came out to distract Ricochet and Apollo, allowing Cedric to attack Apollo from behind. The Hurt Business put a hurting on Ricochet and Crews, and Lashley put Apollo in the Full Nelson. Apparently that’s a match happening at the PPV.
RAW UNDERGROUND FIGHT: Arturo Ruas vs. Dolph Ziggler- I’m not even sure there was a point to rating these. They’re just too short. This was very enjoyable while it lasted. Unfortunately, Ruas lost to Dolph Ziggler, which is not something that ANYONE who isn’t already an established person should be doing, because Dolph is a classic example of a guy who we all know will never make it to that next level, and losing to him thus feels like a sign that you’re stuck below him.
BRIANA BRANDY INTERVIEWS BRAIN STROWMAN- This happened in Raw Underground because Brawn yelled that he didn’t want to talk to Shane. Brain is here to fight, but Dabba-Kato is nowhere to be found. This felt like waste of time. We all know the match is happening later, so why tease that it won’t? What do you get out of making Dabba-Kato look like a coward temporarily?
SETH ROLLINS CALLS OUT THE MYSTERIO FAMILY- WEIRD
Seth has finally noticed that it’s weird that Dominik is so tall while Rey (and his wife for that matter) are so short. Well we know why that is. It’s because Dominik is really Eddie Guerrero’s son. Seth has an envelope with him, which he claims contains the results of him hiring people to get to the bottom of this issue.
Seth calls out the Mysterios and opens the envelope, revealing… pictures of Dusty Rhodes having sex with a black woman, as well as the name of the person who raised the briefcase at King of the Ring 1999 to screw Steve Austin out of control of the WWF in his ladder match against Vince and Shane.
Okay, fine. No more jokes. Seth reveals that Rey is not Dominik’s father… which, as I said above, everyone already knew! Wait… now Seth is saying that Aalyah isn’t Rey’s daughter. And he says he has “concrete evidence to back it up,” and then asks the people in the truck to “roll the footage.” Does he have a sex tape of Angie Mysterio doing it with someone else with a date-stamp of nine moths before Aalyah’s birth? Because that’s the only “concrete” evidence on a tape I can think of.
Oh. Apparently Seth finished his sentence by saying “from last week.” I must have been so baffled by the thought that WWE was about to air porn that I zoned out.
Seth was actually talking metaphorically, saying that a Mysterio would not be consoling an enemy of the family. Rey had a GREAT answer for this, which was that he raised her to be a compassionate person. Tremendous!
Then Rey tells Seth to keep his daughter’s name out of his mouth (so far so good)… because she’s “only nineteen” (still good) and “she’s naïve and knows nothing about our world.” Oof. Rey… I don’t even have kids and I know that that’s not a good thing to say about a college-age kid within their earshot. Aalyah was unhappy with this and stormed off. Seth seemed shocked by this, and one by one, all of the Mysterios went after Aalyah.
Seth then claims that he “only meant to inform” not to “drive a wedge.” He apologized, and said he’s sure something similar has happened to some of us and our families.
This whole segment was weird as f*ck. I can’t imagine that this was the best way to do whatever they’re doing with Aalyah and Murphy.
NATALYA & LANA vs. SHAYNA BASZLER & NIA JAX- squash
The Riott Squad were on commentary. They very clumsily said that they were on the same page while the champions were not. I guess this segment got that across well.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- meh
I think the idea here was the challengers were able to escape getting obliterated because Ruby and Liv were able to work together against Nia to… fight her to a stalemate. Then Nia put Lana through the announcers’ table for absolutely no reason.
CHARLY CARUSO INTERVIEWS DREW MCINTYRE- GREAT!
He vows to beat the sh*t out of Orton at the PPV, then gets up, saying that he is going to go “pick a fight.”
THE MYSTERIOS BACKSTAGE- good
Aalyah was tired of her father being so protective. It turned well enough.
RAW UNDERGROUND FIGHT: Riddick Moss vs. Erik- fun while it lasted. Riddick won, which felt like an upset, but as we’ve seen over the past two months, these matches don’t mean anything, so who cares?
DABBA-KATO PROMO- good
MANDY ROSE IS “COMING SOON”- Coming soon? She’s already in the city!
Once again they talk about this “blockbuster trade” without ever mentioning who went to Smackdown in exchange for Mandy.
ASUKA vs. PEYTON ROYCE (w/Billy Kay)- no rating, bad segment
Asuka dominated the match. It didn’t go very long before Vega ran in and attacked Asuka, causing a DQ. Asuka was quickly able to recover and send Vega scampering. This was doing an angle for the sake of doing an angle. It did nothing for the PPV match.
MURPHY APOLOGIZES TO AALYAH- He said he was sort if he had done anything to hurt her, and then left. This was well done, but it’s pro wrestling, so I am now instantly suspicious that he and Seth are in cahoots.
RAW UNDERGROUND FIGHT: Dabba-Kato vs. Braun Strowman- 3/10
This was just as short as everything else. Braun beat Dabbo-Kato, which is not what you want to do with someone like Dabbo-Kato in his first competitive match.
RETRIBUTION vs. THE HURT BUSINESS (w/MVP)- 3/10
The female Retribution members are absent, seemingly so that we don’t wind up having any male-on-female violence. Can we please get some sort of storyline explanation so that it doesn’t feel like non-kayfabe considerations are dictating characters’ choices?
The announcers briefly called Dijakovic “T-bar.” I really hope that’s not his name. Dio Maddin’s name is now “Mace.” Shane Thorne is “Slapjack.” Why are they hiding their identities? They’ve SIGNED CONTRACTS! WWE knows exactly who they are!
Stuff happened. The rest of Retribution ran in for a DQ. How many of these disgruntled NXT guys can their possibly be?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- The Raw roster has finally learned to work together. Yay. So now what? We get a big gang war?
Orton found himself and McIntyre as the only two in the ring so he gave Drew an RKO to close the show.
After last week’s show that left me optimistic, we’re back to where we were, with almost no good wrestling and a lot of frustration. This week confirmed that everything about Retribution is just wild flaming, as they announced that they signed contracts and had them wrestle their first match on the same show, had them in two other brawls, and gave us a f*ck finish in the main event.