Hello and welcome to the Steel Cage Standings where I, Psyniac, go through the past month of WWE TV and rank the situations of the Top 10 and Bottom 3 superstars of the main roster and the Top 3 of NXT to boot. This has a strange year in WWE so far. It feels like eons since the Royal Rumble and yet WrestleMania is now only days away as I write this. Whilst there’s been a lot to hate or, more likely if you’ve been watching the product for long enough, have absolutely no reaction to I’ll try to find some light in the bleakness that was March 2016 and the build for the WWE’s flagship show.
You might have to give me a bit of lenience here. For the most part, the Goldust and R-Truth backstage segments have been pretty funny in my eyes. Just as it felt as though the well was running dry, the switch in roles freshened the whole thing up which is what it needed with weeks left before ‘Mania. It’s a shame this couldn’t manifest into something greater than a Battle Royal spot but at the same time perhaps that’s the perfect place for it. With WWE’s tag team division being so lacklustre right now, it’ll be nice to have a new team to look out for. I don’t expect greatness from “Golden Truth” but at least it’s something new.
09. Roman Reigns
It’s absolutely a case of “too little, too late” but I found myself agreeing with Derek on the podcast recently when he mentioned that Roman had actually been fun to watch the past few weeks. He’s still been cringeworthy and confusing but he’s had moments that played into the character he should’ve been since day one of breaking up from The Shield. The ramp entrance, lack of dumb battle jacket and “shoot first, ask questions later” thing is way more entertaining than pulling faces, saying “suckering succotash” and displaying no emotion the night after having the title taken away from him. I’m not at all ready for a face-Roman WWE Champion but in a vacuum he’s been at least “okay” this week.
08. Zack Ryder
What a strange decision that I’m totally okay with. With Neville sadly out of the Intercontinental Championship ladder match, Sin Cara was made his incredibly boring replacement. So Ryder was destined for the match all along! Whilst there’s nothing like a guarantee that Zack will take home the strap, it’ll be interesting to see if this is any kind of push for the Long Island Iced-Z and how it affects him as a solo performer as well as his NXT tag team, the Hype Bros. And if nothing else, he got one over on Jericho on Raw this week. Maybe Alex Riley should take the hint and stop moaning on Twitter and he might get booked again like Ryder…
07. AJ Styles
AJ retains his position this month through consistently solid work and an intriguing future. It’s safe to say that the build towards his first WrestleMania match hasn’t exactly been ground-shaking but that’s mostly down to the fact we all expected something slightly different. Sure, another bout with Jericho isn’t going to be the most exciting thing in the world but they’ve done what they can with what they’ve been given and they should deliver something strong. If nothing else, it’ll be nice to see AJ Styles finally walk down the ramp at the Grandest Stage of Them All for the first time.
06. The New Day
The New Day have had another month of fans not being entirely sure where they’re going. With their flash-in-the-pan match with Y2AJ out of the way, WWE moved them full-speed into their feud with the League of Lads and it’s not been their most entertaining. However, I will say that their apparent “face turn” went about as well as could be expected. They were getting cheers anyway so it was mostly unnecessary beyond just being a generic demonstration of “now we want you to cheer for them” and whilst their promos haven’t always hit, I don’t think it’s because of this “change”. As I said last month, they’re still above and beyond more entertaining than the majority of the roster. And if they come out to Mega Ran’s “New Day Raps” at ‘Mania I will freak out.
05. Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch
I hate to keep packaging these two together but that’s just the way it is. Sadly, in recent weeks the build for the #ButterflyBelt match has been pretty generic and forgettable but the long-play for this feud has been the kind of thing I can really get behind. Now, we’re finally at a head and it’s safe to say that Banks VS Lynch VS Flair is one of my most looked-forward to fights of the entire weekend, especially if the rumours are true about a new Women’s Title the following night. It’s entirely possible that Sasha or Becky get to be the first new Women’s Champion and that excites me no end. If it’s the latter, you will hear me screaming in delight but both girls totally deserve it.
04. Sami Zayn
Last month I wrote “Sami Zayn is back in NXT and here to stay”. In this case, I’m happy to be wrong. Zayn has had an interesting history with the WWE; he’s been featured on Raw in a US Championship Open Challenge, he was briefly at Royal Rumble and now he’s made his true, blue debut. WWE aren’t handling him great and it feels as though most of the crowd don’t yet know why he’s so damn lovable. A few video packages is all it takes and I’d take a one-on-one with Owens whilst we’re at it but sadly that’s not going to be the case. As ever with WWE, I’m of the mindset that “once the clusterfuck clears, we’ll see what happens”.
03. Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman could probably talk me into selling my own kidneys for pogs. What a damn fine promo he had on our last stop before WrestleMania. He got the crowd giddy, made Ambrose sound like a million bucks and even seemed to get Lesnar pumped. I’m a little bit of a fan of that thing Brock does when Heyman talks so highly of him that he inadvertently smiles like a goon. He and Dean have had a great little build into this match with Brock attempting to swat Ambrose away like a fly who keeps coming back and looking like a God damn beast doing it. Sure, it’s not all been great. I’m still a little sour that Lesnar ignored the Wyatt Family until it was convenient (AKA Roadblock) but after that was all said and done and the Beast Incarnate and his Advocate could concentrate on the matters at hand… yeah, it’s been fun.
02. Kevin Owens
Owens was described on this week’s podcast as “the most consistent character” which pretty much sums up what I’ve been trying to say since not long after he arrived. This month was a culmination of a lot of that. With Owens such a dislikable prick, he’s been making enemies since day one in NXT and some of those have come back to bite him on the ass by challenging him for the Intercontinental Championship. KO, being who he is, found his way out of this by booking a triple threat for Number One Contendership – featuring totally different guys. In a cruel twist of fate, he now defends against six people who want to get their hands on his title. Furthermore, Owens and company told a great story on the go-home show of Raw with his refusal to tag into a six-man tag team match and eventually being abandoned. KO is a perfect heel and he’s made himself the kind of guy you want to see beaten at WrestleMania.
01. Dean Ambrose
You all probably should’ve seen this coming. Hell, more importantly WWE should’ve seen this coming. Dean fuckin’ Ambrose is the most over guy in the company by a sizeable difference and his lead into Roadblock made that abundantly clear as did the event itself. Toronto became, as the saying goes, unglued when Dean appeared to snatch the Championship away from the tyrannical Triple H but it was all just a ruse. I think, for the most part, fans are resigned for now to the idea that Ambrose may never be “the guy” but if a strong gust of wind was to blow through WWE offices; spin some heads, potentially put someone else’s ideas to the forefront, they would take that huge pop at Roadblock and make money with it.
In the mean-time, Ambrose is locked in with Lesnar and has the backing of not just the fans but Terry Funk and Mick Foley who bestowed him with a few gifts for his no-holds barred street fight. The match itself, it seems, is the most looked forward to for Sunday night and it has a huge chance of stealing the show. It’s a combination of fun story-telling moments (c’mon, the weapon wagon?), a great spectacle (be that the stipulation or Mr Lesnar himself) and an underdog who is so much fun to cheer.
03. Eva Marie
There’s a deep, cruel darkness to us all. Mine is laughing manically at the boos as I re-watch Eva Marie confidently striding out to the ring to save the thrown-together “Team Total Divas” from the equally nothing “Team B.A.D. and Blonde”. What a hysterically, unintentionally shit moment to top off a totally stupid match. Last year we had people rolling their eyes at pointless teams of women and now here we are again. Somethings never change. Including Eva Marie’s level of talent.
02. Kalisto VS Ryback
It’s BIG MAN vs LITTLE MAN because… reasons? Speaking of re-watching stupid moments, I’m hosting a WrestleMania viewing party this year and this match is so boring that for my predictions game all I could come up with was “will Kalisto’s belt fall off before the match starts”?
01. The Undertaker
I almost feel like I could come under some flack for this one but at the same time does anyone really understand the build for Shane VS Undertaker? Sure, it should be an interesting match and it has so many possible outcomes but the whole thing is a damn mess. No more is that evident than Undertaker’s appearances. After being announced by Vince as his son’s opponent, Taker made a visit to Raw to say one line, choke Vince and leave without questioning why he should fight in this match. Suddenly, his WrestleMania career is on the line. Alrighty. Whatever. Cell spots.
Scarcely has a woman been more associated with the word “badass” than Asuka. Her quite demeanour and kick-you-in-the-teeth-if-I-don’t-like-where-you’re-going-with-this attitude has made the NXT women’s division an exciting thing to watch. Whilst I’m not entirely sure about the story leading into her title match with Bayley, it’s hard not to argue the fact she’s earned it and the two polar opposite characters should make for an interesting clash at NXT TakeOver Dallas.
02. The Revival
Truth be told I’m more of a fan of the name “The Mechanics” but there’s at least some truth to Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder’s latest tag team name. No nonsense, no thrills and all punishing. They’re hardly the first duo you think of when you think of NXT’s boisterous and bright tag teams but that’s exactly the point. In the ring, they’re constantly improving and if their match at Roadblock with Enzo and Cass is anything to go by they could well be a strong cornerstone of WWE’s main roster tag team division in the future. Good for them, I say.
01. Samoa Joe
I’ve an admission to make: this is all based on the final NXT show of the month. I wanted to like Samoa Joe in NXT, I really did and I think I still can but he’s not really “wowed” me for most of his tenure. He’s had some cool spots for sure but nothing really struck me until this week. His feud with Bálor is, like Asuka VS Bayley, just a matter of logic for me with very little feeling which is a shame. However, it all exploded and turned into something I really wanted to see as the two brawled through the barriers at the NXT arena and got into a real fight. Now, suddenly Joe seems like the badass he’s meant to be and I’m suddenly interested in seeing Finn try to topple him and retain the NXT Championship.
You can find Psyniac on Twitter at Raw is Psyniac where he tweets about Raw 18 hours after it’s aired, how much he loves Becky Lynch and, occasionally, candy.