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. Or at least for now. With July 2016 ending in the first WWE draft in years, the format of SCS will be changing from here on out but in the mean-time let’s take a look at who looked the best coming through Battleground and the first shows of the so-called “New Era”.
10. Darren Young & Bob Backlund
The number ten spot is often reserved for something strange or unexpected and this month continues that tradition. After way too many weeks of humorous but slightly awkward promos, Darren Young has returned to WWE with Bob Backlund in tow and I’m surprised just how well it’s been going. His match with The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship (earned totally out of dumb luck) had a really confusing end but Darren went into it strong after getting a huge pop on Smackdown when locking in his bequeathed finisher: the cross-face-chicken-wing. Hopefully the crowd don’t get totally bored of him immediately.
09. Daniel Bryan & Mick Foley
Two heavily bearded and much loved faces returned to TV this month and the hopes and dreams of many were confirmed when the two were cast in competing authoritative roles. It’s so good to see Bryan back and seemingly comfortable about it post-retirement from in-ring work (and he’s been fantastic on the Cruiserweight Classic too) and he’s a good fit with Smackdown’s emphasis on the wrestling talent. Mrs’ Foley’s baby boy is equally a decent ying to Stephanie’s yang as an outspoken fan of the company for years (although part of me wishes he was a “Commissioner” again rather than a “General Manager” because then my retro shirt would be in chic).
08. Apollo Crewes
Many have turned their nose up at Smackdown’s slightly more underwhelming roster in comparison to Raw but at the very least it should give a few guys some well-deserved attention. We’ve already seen the fruits of that in one single show starting with Apollo Crewes securing a place in Smackdown Live’s main event with five of the show’s best. Sure, he didn’t quite get that #1 Contendership spot but small things like winning the Battle Royal and giving him a minute to talk about it afterwards go a long way. Apollo has everything needed to be great except personality and things like this can start to build on that foundation.
07. Seth Rollins
In my mind there was only one obvious pick for the number one draft slot and that’s good ol’ Emo Lord Seth Rollins himself. There’s a lot to hate about the 50/50 booking style WWE has fallen into in recent years but I personally have no qualms with Ambrose pinning him clean on Smackdown after Rollins beat Reigns at the previous pay-per-view, particularly because the Lunatic Friend went onto do the same to his other former Shield brother too. Still, Rollins’ star hasn’t fallen all that much because, as Stephanie’s favourite lovely boy, he has been ordained to fight for the brand new WWE Universal title at Summerslam; a match he will in all likelihood win.
06. Dolph Ziggler
From Raw’s top draft pick to a most unexpected winner from Smackdown Live this week, Dolph has had a tumultuous few years in the WWE. From the highs of heeling it up with AJ Lee, Big E and the World Heavyweight Championship to being little more than enhancement talent (with the odd moment of misplaced excitement in the hearts of fans), it’s fair to say nobody saw Ziggler earning a shot at Ambrose’s WWE title at SummerSlam especially when guys like Bray, Cena and Styles were all a part of the mix. It says a lot about how fickle wrestling fans are that when the bell rang out I was already 100% behind one of the guys who got me back into professional wrestling once more.
05. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
Not at all surprising that you take two guys who have been responsible for a number of Match of the Year candidates (both had one with Cena in 2015, Zayn VS Nakamura earlier this year) and put them together and you get something like we were given at Battleground; false finishes, seemingly botched spots turned into ring psychology and emotional storyline pay-off. As an aside, thank the lord it lived up to the hype. Like many, I’m really not keen on the fact both these guys have gone to the same show but now that this feud is (apparently) over we can see these two go on to create classics with others.
04. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
There’s a few people out there that have expressed to me that they feel like Enzo and Cass are being wasted storyline-wise and I couldn’t disagree more. Whilst they’re not aimed, primed and ready to take on The New Day for the WWE Tag Team titles they’re doing something different constantly and it always seems to be entertaining. Their temporary alliance with John Cena was the perfect fit, especially fun for something outside of the championship picture. Consistent and yet always evolving, E&C always approach segments in a fresh way that captivates the audience at home and live and thus they’re nearing Daniel Bryan-levels of over. And they damn well deserve it.
03. Sasha Banks
It’s a little strange to me that WWE didn’t wait until SummerSlam to move the Woman’s Championship over to Sasha Banks but A. at least that means the following pay-per-view will have a fresh match since Charlotte’s rematch is likely to be at ‘Slam and B. how cool was that moment? I didn’t totally hate Charlotte’s run but I’m glad it’s over and whilst we all knew it was going to be at the hands of The Boss, Stephanie and Mick threw in a curveball by booking it for the first episode of Raw of the New Era. Good for Sasha Banks, man. As one of the complete packages in the company she deserves it and that belt looks so right on her. Extra props for that adorable hug with Bayley at Battleground.
02. Finn Bálor
The crowd reaction to the reveal of Finn Bálor being drafted to Raw in the first round is one of the reasons I love wrestling. Finn’s main roster debut was all but a sure thing but I don’t think ever in our wildest imaginations did we expect him to get the treatment he’s had in just three hours of programming. Booked in one of the fatal four-ways and winning made the heart swell but having him go over on the returning Roman Reigns in the main event to match up with Seth Rollins for the new belt is the stuff of IWC fantasy booking dreams. We always knew the future was bright for Bálor but, even if he doesn’t take the Universal championship, this has cemented him as a key player in the new Raw. And imagine if he does win…!
01. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose stays on top of both the Steel Cage Standings and WWE in general. The Lunatic cashing in at Money in the Bank to leave with the title was one thing but most didn’t expect him to keep it very long. Well, he’s already been a part of some major changes by taking the belt into Battleground and walking out with it into Smackdown Live. I even predicted it and I had my doubts but this will do wonders for Ambrose’s staying power as a champion. Now he’s done this, chances are he’ll always be a worthy contender for the title.
This is also helped by the confidence in him that Shane and Daniel had by making him their number one draft pick and having the odds stacked against him. Oh yeah, and he also beat his “brother” Roman Reigns to do it. What a totally crazy month Dean has had ending with being the title-holding face of Smackdown. Long shall the Asylum stand.
03. Eva Marie
Well, here she is again. Eva Marie was called up from NXT in the draft for the, I believe, second time (she was part of the women’s clusterfuck at WrestleMania at least). Confusingly, put on a separate show to the only two decent things about her: her muscle Nia Max and her fanboy commentator Corey Graves are both on Raw. Meanwhile, on Smackdown, when various ladies were staking their claim to the top spot of the show Eva’s response was to come out, show off her well-endowed chest and stand around silently because God help them if they give her a mic. #BooThisLady
02. Roman Reigns
Speaking of trying to make things work, I can’t actually believe that they’re still trying to get us to get behind Roman Reigns but I shouldn’t have expected anything less from WWE. Gladly there’s been so much stuff going on that it’s been easy to overlook but the freshly-bearded Reigns came back to boos and yet still had to cut a respectful face promo after being beaten by Finn Bálor. Even so, it’s been pretty enjoyable to see him eat a few pins and have his cheating ass thrown threw a table. Believe in my disinterest.
01. The Shining Stars
It’s been such a good week right here at the end of July that I actually have hope that this can be turned around. Maybe Enzo and Cass can save these guys and make them seem legitimate? Right now however I’m starting to think they should have both been Mr Irrelevant because if I was running Raw or Smackdown I’d rather go without them. With the tag team division split it needs all the help it can get however I suppose so maybe Primo and Epico can get back to their usual role of being dark-match jobbers.
03. No Way Jose
It’s rare that a “fun” gimmick is ever really fun at all but No Way Jose has at least been entertaining and infectious for the number of weeks he’s been bobbing that little afro around. There’s only so far that integrating dancing and wrestling alone can go however so it’s good to see him get involved in a real feud with Austin Aries which may give him a more serious, human edge. Time will tell if Jose’s character sticks but for now he’s juggling an enjoyable entrance and solid in-ring work pretty handily.
02. Kota Ibushi
Genuine surprises are nice, aren’t they? I don’t think many people expected Ibushi to make his way over to NXT so fast when the Cruiserweight Classic is still in it’s first round but this definitely helps his chances for success. Looking fantastic and having such a warm reception on both shows doesn’t hurt either. With Ibushi’s debut, Itami’s return on the horizon, Asuka holding the Women’s title and a certain other gentleman at the forefront, NXT is vastly becoming a very different WWE show.
01. Shinsuke Nakamura
Not only has Nakamura Kinshasa-ed his way into our hearts but the guy has made a claim to be the most entertaining thing in NXT every month since his debut. In July, he was the exclamation point on Finn Bálor’s time in the WWE’s developmental brand and, although the commentary team went a bit too far on overstating it’s importance, it was a damn fun match. Nakamura was every bit the right choice for Finn’s going-away party and now he’s lining up to challenge for the NXT title. But Samoa Joe is the kind of guy who could hand the King of Strong Style his first loss in WWE. An intriguing proposition.
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 Carmella and, occasionally, candy.