Hello and welcome to the Steel Cage Standings where I, Psyniac, go through the past month of WWE TV and rank the Top 5 Raw and Top 5 Smackdown superstars, Top 3 NXT superstars and then highlight three stars or teams that have been wasted or have been straight-up terrible. October 2016 was our second round of brand-exclusive pay-per-views including the first shoe-horned-in gimmick show, Hell in a Cell. It also gave us the return of Goldberg out of the blue and the build towards Survivor Series. Let’s take a closer look.
RAW Top 5:
05. Braun Strowman
Bit of a weird one to start off with but honestly Braun’s single push has been executed almost perfectly for my tastes. With the brand extension we saw the return of local indie schmuck jobbers and it was the perfect path to put The Abominable Strowman on. After clearing out a few, then “doing a Ryback” by beating multiple opponents at once with ease, Braun found himself in a program with a guy that also needed something to do before he got boring. He and Sami Zayn seem like a good fit although personally I would have had Zayn one-up him in the Battle Royal for a spot on the Survivor Series team to incite Braun’s rage. Still, it’s got some intrigue to it and Braun has even surprised me with his mic work. It’s been simple but effective.
04. Rich Swann
It’s always a relief when a guy you personally love gets over organically. The Cruiserweight Division on Raw has been pretty pointless since day one but if we get nothing but a Rich Swann push out of it then that’s enough for me. Swann has appeared every week since the division began (plus he’s still competing on NXT) and his music, entrance and in-ring style has given him responses that have snowballed every time. It seems pretty obvious that Kendrick taking the belt off the floundering Perkins (we’ll get to that) lines Rich up to be next in line, especially since he beat The Wizard of Odd on Raw recently. Can you handle this, can you handle this?
Speaking of chicken salad amongst chicken shit, the women’s division on Raw has had it’s fair share of problems since it’s inception. Admittedly, part of this is due to injury and… whatever Paige is doing. But the rest is due to non-characters with lame motives building towards important matches for all the wrong reasons. The women’s Hell in a Cell match was pretty average and the flip-flopping off the Raw Women’s Championship is an eye-roll but all in fairness I’d take Charlotte as champion over anyone else these days. For the month of October, she was the only woman on the roster who seemed to understand her character and could cut a half-decent promo. Also, her attacking Sasha before the hell had fully descended made me pop.
Goooooldbeeeeeerg… For the third year in a row a star from the past has returned to the WWE via their involvement with the 2k video game. However, this is the first and hopefully last time a match has been built around the damn thing. Goldberg will be facing off against Lesnar because “reasons” at Survivor Series but before we get there we’ve thus far been treated to two appearances by WCW’s main guy on Raw which have been pretty good. His entrance remains intact, he looks decent and, most amazing of all, he managed to succeed on the microphone. Also, his “I’m Goldberg, BOY” on the Halloween Raw in the face of Rusev was lol-worthy. It’s all a very interesting discussion about whether he should or will beat Brock next month but that’s talk for the November edition. For now, he’s had one of the biggest crowd responses of the year.
01. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
It’s hard to talk about one without the other right now because they compliment each other so well. Their back and forth is incredible; Y2J’s entertaining side helps Owens keep his heat and KO’s frustrations turn his best friend steadily more face. Jericho definitely stole the spotlight during the build but Owens and Rollins had match of the night at Hell in a Cell. Hopefully their bad guy antics will help to make a more clear-cut babyface of Seth Rollins who, in all likelihood, joins them in the Survivor Series team that Owens and Jericho are co-captaining.
Slow and steady seems to win the race. Owens is still rolling his eyes at Jericho’s ridiculousness as the Ayatollah of Rock-and-rollah gets more and more over each week with his list of simple but effective catchphrases and props. It’s definitely just a matter of time until the bubble bursts but for now JeriKO stand united as the most entertaining thing on the RAW brand.
SMACKDOWN Top 5:
05. James Ellsworth
Wrestling is totally stupid. You all know this really. But it’s this kind of stupid that we love. Ellsworth previously appeared as a member of Adam Rose’s rosebuds and returned to Raw this year to job to Braun Strowman. Something happened though and he’s somehow found himself as part of the Smackdown main event scene throughout all of the month of October. I’m not sure he’s signed officially but he might as well be. Not only have his two victories against AJ been hilarious without being damaging to Styles’ character, Ellsworth has made Ambrose more interesting and kept him out of matches with the champion who he’s sure to continue to feud with. What a bizarre thing.
04. Nikki & Carmella
It’s kind of funny because looking at those two names… isn’t one just a stupid reality star bimbo and isn’t the other the lady doomed to fail since she got split up from Enzo and Cass? And yet the two have been putting on one of the most personal feuds in the WWE right now and doing it with fantastic in-ring and on-mic work. Nikki has improved a lot in the last year or so and Carmella has definitely made the most of the time and attention given to her. Good on Smackdown for giving her a chance and good on her for grabbing the so-called brass rings.
03. Dolph Ziggler
I’m not as sour as some people on Miz dropping the Intercontinental Championship to Ziggler, I’m hoping they can make it work. So far so good; Ziggler captured the belt in a title VS career match at No Mercy that had many questioning if Dolph was done in WWE. Following this, Miz bringing in two former Spirit Squad members to reign hell on Ziggler was perfect with the new champion fighting them off as best as he could before a brawl ensued. WWE embracing Dolph’s past has been interesting to see and it’s the kind of reference that long-term fans enjoy. Also, it means this feud at least has something new to keep it moving along a little longer.
02. AJ Styles
Last month I mentioned just how good it was that Styles had the world championship because of the number of fresh title feuds that meant for. To begin with, he beat Cena and Ambrose in a triple threat which is pretty cool and then… went on to have a legitimate storyline with a jobber? Well, can’t say I saw that coming. All our lofty ideas on who he could face, it says a lot about Smackdown’s writing staff and Styles’ talent that he’s made facing off with Ellsworth and continuing to feud with Ambrose actually geniunely interesting. Most importantly, AJ gets his character in a way that comes across so confidently on screen. His emotions and motive are so easy to understand because he’s such a rounded character. Also, he basically saved Ellsworth’s life after a near-botched Styles Clash. So we should probably thank him for that.
01. Alexa Bliss
I mentioned how surprising it was that Nikki and Carmella are doing so well but they’ve got nothing on the current contender to the Smackdown Women’s Championship. When Alexa Bliss was drafted, it’s fair to say we were all a little surprised; not because she was green but more because perhaps she hadn’t reached her full potential in NXT. Well, she’s already jockeying for the belt on Smackdown and someone must’ve seen something in her for her to be doing it so soon. Whoever tat person was, they’re right.
It’s no secret that Smackdown is a much more enjoyable show; concise with better understanding of their roster and very clearly pre-planned storylines so Alexa Bliss should be thrilled about being one of the most exciting things about it. She plays her role so well, has mainstream appeal, spits a mean promo and has got it going on in the ring too. It may be too early to give her the belt but she’s basically ready for it. If and when that day comes, Smackdown is in for a treat. Hell, it could be next month.
03. The Club
Remember how excited we all were for Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows joining the WWE as The Club? No? Good, it’s best you don’t. With The New Day’s grasp on the Raw Tag Team Championship until December at earliest, The Club have been treading water being beaten, mocked and delivering terrible comedy segments. This month they started a second feud with Enzo & Cass and got a solid win at Hell in a Cell. Then the next night Gallows got beaten in a dumb gimmick match whilst having a pumpkin on his head. Great.
02. TJ Perkins
Music cannot save you from a terrible, terrible character. TJ Perkins was nobody’s favourite guy in the Cruiserweight Classic but he was fine enough to put the belt on. Now, retroactively, I can almost let the boos as he was crowned slide. His backstage segments on Raw have been awful as he shoe-horns in random gaming terminology, falling for Kendrick’s fake injury at Hell in a Cell made him look like a chump and on the following night’s Raw he almost killed himself due to a botch over the top-rope. It’s all gone horribly wrong and taking the belt off TJP was the right choice.
01. Sasha Banks
Oh dear, how the mighty have fallen. Sasha has never really reached the heights we saw of her in NXT but since she returned from her first injury this year things have been questionable at best. Her character has been gutted; they refer to her as the “boss” but all I see is Bayley. Her entire lead into the Hell in a Cell was about making history, “being born to do this” and something about Eddie? Plus, her ring work has gotten sloppier and sloppier… hence injuries. Putting the belt on her before the event was totally confusing and I would guess Charlotte was not going to win the match originally but things have taken a turn for the worse with Sasha and she needs to be kept away from the main event, at least for now.
03. Tye Dillinger & Bobby Roode
It was only a matter of time before Tye turned face really and NXT have embraced it well by originally pairing him with Bobby Roode and exciting the fans with the prospect of the “Glorious 10” taking the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic by storm. Then Bobby turned his back on Tye immediately in the face of Sanity, giving the Glorious One some heat (as much as NXT can offer such an astounding character) and the Perfect Ten a little sympathy. In all likelihood, Toronto will side with Bobby over Tye but the two should put on an excellent match that’ll help propel them into their next stories. And Bobby’s will surely be the NXT title…?
02. The Women’s Division
NXT’s dry period post-brand extension is definitely coming to an end. The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic is helping to bulk out that part of the show but also of note is the speed at which NXT is building up it’s next handful of female stars. Liv Morgan failed to topple Asuka, which is fine, and is being built up by her feud with Peyton and Billie. Nikki is so far the stand-out member of Sanity. Ember Moon is finding her footing slowly. We also have Mickie James returning to give Asuka something to do until a new star is ready. It all makes sense and it’s all come together pretty quickly.
01. Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe holds his top spot for the most interesting guy in NXT this month by continuing his role of being the pissed off asshole that makes the life of those in power hell in pursuit of his NXT Championship. After taking Nakamura off TV, Joe spent a few weeks causing havoc by interrupting matches and unblinkingly facing off against Regal. Dan Matha, a guy that NXT fooled us into thinking they were legitimately building, made his debut and was totally destroyed by Joe in his warpath seeking his championship rematch and it was amazing. Now Shinsuke is back things are coming to a boiling point with the champion looking for revenge and playing into Joe’s hand. As always, NXT’s title picture is emotional, engaging and looks to make for one hell of a match.
You can find Psyniac on Twitter at Raw is Psyniac where he tweets about Raw and Smackdown 18 hours after they’ve aired, how much he loves Carmella and, occasionally, candy.