Hey guys, it’s Psyniac back again with The Steel Cage Standings; a monthly power ranking of the stars on WWE’s Main Roster and at developmental show NXT. We’re officially out of the darkness that was the Royal Rumble and it seems like more people are coming around to some of WWE’s decisions or at least learning to live with them. The Wrestlemania card is taking shape and this will be the final edition of The Steel Cage Standings before the event at the end of March. As usual, I have ranked the top 10 and bottom 3 of WWE and the top 3 of NXT as we leave WWE Fast Lane and close in on the Superbowl of the wrestling.
The Memphis, Tennessee crowd at the inaugural Fast Lane has gone down in history as incredibly boring which is a shame since they were witness to a pretty key moment in a key storyline. Sting’s debut feud with Triple H has been a nice, slow build and it’s now official that the two will clash at Mania. It’s highly likely that The Icon is going to have very few appearances during his tenure here at WWE which is why it sucks that Memphis managed to completely no sell the significance of Sting staring down The Game and hitting him with the Scorpion Deathdrop. I know I’m not the only person who went from disinterested to (at the very least) intrigued about Sting finally being in the WWE and now we’re a month away from seeing him finally stand in the corner of that ring and make history.
A new addition to The Steel Cage Standings, John Cena has taken a few missteps in his feud with Rusev & Lana but I was genuinely very impressed with his promo on the final Raw of February. If there’s one thing that will get a split crowd behind him it’s the Pro-America rally which is fine considering his opponent and his affiliation with the work he does with WWE supporting the military. Sure, his spot calling was very loud at Fast Lane but for me this didn’t take away from an exciting match with lots of near falls and a decent ending. John Cena is a logical next step for Rusev and I have no problem with this being the end of his winning streak as long as they have plans for what’s next.
I have to say upfront that a lot of my predictions for Fast Lane were wrong. After Cesaro’s Twitter account was hacked by a Cesaro smark I thought Vince would keep off giving them the gold at Fast Lane; not necessarily as a “screw you”, more of a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” response. I’m happy to be wrong. I’m a sucker for good heel tag teams and the whole dynamic of The Uppercats’ friendship, with a side-order of Natalya defending their actions, makes for a fun time. Let’s hope they have a good run and that creative gives them their own music rather than that cacophony that is Cesaro’s theme.
Recently it feels like the Mizdow/Miz feud has been put on the back burner (possibly due to the Goldust/Stardust break-up) with Mizdow now taking the role of “personal assistant”. Even so, each week the two have been entertaining to watch as Miz requests for Mizdow to fetch him drinks, clean his jacket and even sit in the corner during MizTV. As with every month I have to say what makes this so much fun is there is a new element to the storyline that’s adding fuel to the fire. It’s all been slowly building to something and it turns out that something is the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, with Miz putting over how important it is which is a nice touch. Good on them for making it relevant.
We all knew it was never going to end how we wanted it to. Well, most of us. And that’s fine; Bryan did a great job putting over Reigns on the way to Fast Lane in a variety of matches on Raw and Smackdown, culminating in a main event that wasn’t exactly a bad bout. Not only this but he increased the intensity of the story on the mic in ways I didn’t expect and has shown that he’s really grown as a performer. He may have talked about Reigns’ strengths after their match but he was right when he said no one has more heart than him. Bryan might not be the top guy but at least he’s one of the key players right now and hopefully it stays that way over the coming year.
With all this controversy over nude pictures circulating the internet it’s good to see that neither Seth or WWE have shied away from his character being a big player in the current scene. Admittedly Rollins has taken a step down in order to let Cena/Rusev and Reigns/Lesnar take centre stage, which is fine. He’s definitely cemented himself as a future champion and integral part of the show over the past 9 months or so. After some solid work with Ziggler and co, Rollins finally moves onto the story we’ve all been waiting for for quite some time and he starts it in style: by sprinting out of the arena and into the parking lot. What a slimy bastard.
Speaking of which, Rollins’ opponent hasn’t done too bad for himself either. I’ve never been a big Orton fan but like a lot of people I was really into his energetic, angry character before he was written off of TV. Glad to see he’s come back with every ounce of purpose and seems to actually care about what he’s doing. Sure, it’s a shame that he’s not chasing after Rollins every night like he did at Fast Lane but if they do it right seeing Randy take apart The Authority from the inside should be a good watch, especially when he delivers solid promos and RKO’s like he has done since his return.
It’s good to see WWE going all in on something and it’s especially good to see that that something is Bray. For weeks Bray destroyed an opponent and followed it up later that night with a not-so-cryptic promo about who he was challenging at Wrestlemania. It was clear he would be the one popping out of that box but it was no less entertaining because of it and good on the writing team for making this happen on a big stage like Fast Lane. Follow that with a very old-school promo as Wyatt looks down into a casket and slams the door shut, it’s going to really explode when ‘Taker returns. The mind games, people. The mind games.
In the back of my mind I’ve always been a Cody fan. Since the “firing” in 2013 he has been on the top of his game, and so has his brother Goldust. It seemed strange that the storyline would revolve more around the latter being more human and Stardust being the one lost in his gimmick but Cody’s anguish and fury in his promos has been so hard-hitting that it’s been convincing. It’s an interesting spin to a feud that could have just been “they want to beat each other up now” with Dustin trying to make his brother see sense and Stardust exclaiming that no matter what he tried as himself he failed so he should try and be a character like the Attitude Era guys who are still around. This is indeed as personal as they come because it feels so realistic; blurring the line between kayfabe and the real world is a good look for Cody who falls to his knees and screams as the crowd chant his real name. He has gone out there and brought 100% every time he’s been on screen recently; from live Raw appearances to Raw Fall Out promos which I definitely advise you take a look at.
And whilst we’re on the subject of Raw Fall Out promos Ambrose has been looking like pure gold every time he opens his mouth. I can only hope from here this moves over to the main show. It’s no secret that Ambrose is one of the best talkers in the business but over the past week he’s made everything he’s done before look like child’s play. The booking may not have been perfect but Ambrose taking the title and proclaiming that “the guy makes the title” and the Intercontinental Championship used to mean something does wonders for both the character and the belt.
He was pretty fun on his lead-up to the title match making little news report parodies and tying up BNB to get his match but looking back now we see that this is all a desperate attempt from Dean to grab a hold of something he wants which will in turn become something that gives him recognition. Stealing the title and pushing past Ziggler (also a babyface) gives Ambrose even more of an out-for-myself no-nonsense anti-hero Austin-like persona and I can’t help but be totally drawn in every time he’s on screen.
Ambrose at Mania is what I’m most excited for and it looks as though we’re getting a Fatal Four Way (which, by the way, needs less #GiveTruthAChance and more #Axelmania) or even a six-man fight. If nothing else, I’m shocked that I’ll be cheering someone else in a match seemingly containing Dolph Ziggler.
Maybe they’ve been relegated to Smackdown but I feel like I’ve barely seen The Ascension since they defeated The New Age Outlaws at Royal Rumble. It seems pretty evident that they’ve not connected with the audience, not least because the commentary never bothered to introduce them or put them over properly. Now they’ve taken their first loss to the returning Prime Time Players it seem like we can welcome The Ascension to the
employment line wasteland.
Ziggler has continued to be great in ring and on the mic. But what horrible, horrible booking. He went from the guy who took The Authority out of power to a transitional Intercontinental Champion (for someone written just as badly or worse) to someone who lost to Kane of all people at Fast Lane. Ziggler doesn’t even seem to be booked to get his revenge (again). I’m so happy that it looks like they might be dropping the rumoured tag-team with Ryback and forgetting connections with him and Rowan from here on out but back in the hunt for the IC title? Really? What a God damn mess. I guess it’s better than the Battle Royale.
Since Barrett returned I’m pretty sure we’ve had… one Bad News promo? We had BNZ, does that count? Instead of combining all of the great different quirks about Barrett they’ve neutered him completely. He’s gone from being a bare-knuckle fighter who takes any chance to smash someone’s teeth out to a guy refusing to fight (probably because he loses every week) and trying to run away from a title match. He’s handled it well and at least tried to make it entertaining but this is not what I want to see in BNB and I’m afraid that after Mania he’s disappearing back into obscurity.
Let’s get it out of the way. I’m a Finn Bálor mark now. Everything about him is so unique and interesting and I am #Pants-ing at the thought of his eventual Raw debut. Whilst I personally am a little uneasy about the idea of him using his face-paint at every Takeover and would save it for when a feud gets personal, I can understand the reasoning and I can live with it. The subtle differences between this and it’s previous appearance proved that it will always be something worth looking out for. Combine that with the incredible match he had with Adrian Neville and it means that Finn Bálor, as a complete package, is something worth looking out for.
The Kevin Owens era has begun and let me tell you something: this is the kind of guy you can put the rocket boots on. Owens being instantly pushed to the moon (within the confines of NXT, at least) can be compared to Roman Reigns on the main roster but the difference is clear when comparing who is actually ready for their position. Would this theoretically have worked if Owens had done this on Raw or a WWE pay-per-view? Probably not, but that’s a different discussion. With such a well-defined character (he’s often being referred to by the community as “The Walter White of NXT” which is incredibly accurate); which he displays in new, interesting ways every week, Owens and his Lesnar-esque push go hand in hand and keep the future of the championship in doubt but equally intriguing.
Two months ago on my NXT special Steel Cage Standings I couldn’t choose between Charlotte and Sasha and highlighted them both. Last month, Charlotte really shined and impressed me. Now here we are once more and I’m settling on the other. This is no knock at the whole NXT division who have been killing it every week for some time; delivering some of the best women’s wrestling WWE has ever broadcast and the cherry on top of that was the Fatal Four Way at NXT Rival where Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks put on a genuine Match of the Year potential bout with exciting twists and turns after a perfectly paced set up with no clear winner.
Banks came out on top and is now in charge of leading the female NXT division. Out of the three of them that had not held the belt before, as much as I adore Bayley, Sasha is the most logical person to take that next step. Everything about her character suits her to a tee: from the look and the way she holds herself right down to engagingly catchy entrance music. She’s the real deal and she’s going to look great at the top of the proverbial ladder for the next few months holding all those brass rings.
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 Dolph Ziggler and, occasionally, candy.