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’s “developmental” program. If you can call it developmental at this stage. This month has had it’s ups and downs but the abused spouse metaphor holds true… two terrible episodes of Raw in a row then BAM. They pull you right back in with a great PPV and logical story progression. Let’s start, shall we?
This might seem like an odd pick for the “good” list considering Cesaro spent most of the month off of Raw or at least in totally forgettable segments. By the time Hell in a Cell rolled around, the Swiss Superman was thrown into a forgettable 5/6ths “European guys” tag feud. In fact, I hesitate to call it a feud. But a good portion of this match was either intentionally dedicated to reminding the audience just incredible he can be or Cesaro took it upon himself to yet again grab those brass rings. The same situation panned out the following night on Raw too. Fast, fluid, powerful, impressive and always a joy to watch. Hopefully this spotlight means an actual story is coming.
09. Tyler Breeze
Well, I mean… it got people to watch Smackdown, didn’t it? Whatever the case, Tyler Breeze is here and thank God for it. Not only was it slightly troublesome that the NXT veteran was waiting for his call-up for so long but the main roster could do with another strong heel and he has the devotion to a gimmick that could make it work. I can see what they’re trying to do with him, Summer and Dolph and I think it could great if it’s given the right amount of time. They’re already trying out some new things for Tyler which is great. VIP section ringside? What’s not to love about that?
08. Alberto Del Rio
Two months ago I pointed out how funny it was that just as the Dudley Boyz rumours went cold they crashed a WWE show when no one expected it. Del Rio was that and then some. Everyone knew he was going to be back at some point but Hell in a Cell was the perfect time because we were all busy debating whether it was going to be Ziggler, Breeze or maybe even Bryan who would answer Cena’s US Open Challenge. This mish-mash of ol’ Berty and Zeb is a little strange and unexplained but the dude can go and he looks good holding gold. It’s off to a shaky start but let’s hope that this go-around is better than his previous few years in WWE.
07. Roman Reigns
Let’s get our facts straight. Reigns is in a better position than he was at Wrestlemania 31 but by no means is he ready to hold the WWE title yet. Compare him to champions of the past. Compare him to Rollins. They’re worlds apart. That being said, when he’s put in the right situation, things are a little bit more manageable. By which I mean he actually earned a chance to fight Rollins by winning a series of matches. At least that makes sense. I pretty much expected them to go “oh, we’re doing a Reigns title-shot again, deal with it” without any lead-up. Sure, it was obvious it was coming but him winning his way there at least made it more digestible.
06. Kevin Owens
It’s all about the little things and Owens knows how to make every second count. In fact, the commentators seem to have no idea that when he’s performing you pay attention and missed yet another cheating victory for the piece of shit bully Intercontinental Champion that we all love. It’s just a shame that his matches with Ryback haven’t been up to scratch, not least helped by it’s placement on the PPV card this month as the palette-cleanser. Owens is so good for that belt but it’s the same thing as when Ambrose had the US; they just aren’t giving him the time he deserves.
05. The Wyatt Family
Back to Reigns for a moment; what made his title-shot even easier to take was his fantastic match with Wyatt at Hell in a Cell. Good on both of these guys for taking the time out to come up with unique spots for their clash. Whilst another loss for Wyatt (who is still proclaiming himself as the Face of Fear even though he’s pretty powerless) is depressing, at the very least they’re moving him onto the next story quickly rather than leaving him in purgatory and the Family as now a unit of four is pretty imposing, especially when they’re carrying out the unconscious bodies of two veterans in Taker and Kane. Because life is cruel, expect a pretty clean slate victory for those two at Survivor Series, I expect.
04. The Undertaker
Before he was carried off to some dark corner of the Staples Center, The Undertaker put on on hell of a match. The whole Brock/Taker III thing was a total rush-job for reasons still unclear and the build-up should’ve been huge. Whatever the case, the match more than made up for that. It was uncomfortable to watch a several points what with Taker, now aged 50, having the living daylights smashed out of him. And if the Reigns/Wyatt Cell match was inventive, this was something else. On the one hand, it’s the kind of thing that horrifies me because Undertaker is a childhood hero of mine. On the other, I was on the edge of my seat. And good on the Dead Man for putting over and cementing Brock as the unstoppable beast he should continue to be pushed as.
03. Seth Rollins
Rollins retains his spot on Steel Cage Standings again after a surprisingly good match with Kane at Hell in a Cell. The build was pretty fun even if they paced it totally strangely; Rollins played off the unexpected twists and turns of Kane’s character really well, eventually shouting that he wasn’t afraid before beating the Big Red Corporate Machine out of his job. He continued his entertaining streak the next night on Raw on commentary confidently stating he didn’t care who won #1 Contendership, totally freaking out when it was Reigns then remembering he’s “Seth freaking Rollins” and that he’s going to kick his teeth in to retain that title. Let’s just hope so. Seth deserves to fight for that belt at Mania at this point.
02. Brock Lesnar
Man, I love Lesnar. Even the Most Boring Podcast in Podcast History™ couldn’t change that. The words “big fight feel” are thrown around a lot, especially by the WWE’s buzzword pelting announce team, but Lesnar squaring up to ‘Taker for the final time at Hell in a Cell is the absolute definition of that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who couldn’t help but be sucked in, going through the emotions as the brutality played out in front of me; wincing as Lesnar bled all over the mat, laughing at his blood-lust and cheering when he finally got the pin after an F5 on the exposed ring. This match could have so easily resulted in Lesnar’s monster push fizzling out. Thank God it didn’t.
01. The New Day
For the third month in a row, I can’t help but place The New Day at our #1 spot. When Raw is good, they’re good. When Raw is bad, they’re the one consistent, shining light. Even with a man down for most of the month due to multiple table-related mishaps, Kofi and Big E managed to keep the momentum going with some great matches, mic-work and all the little touches such as wearing “XW” arm-bands for their fallen comrade.
With several competent victories over the Dudleyz now under their belts, I have to wonder where The New Day go next. The tag division right now is a pretty mixed bag of mostly uninteresting pairings but the true issue is that Kofi, E and Xavier are so over that not only are most opponents not going to seem like a threat but most people would probably rather cheer on The New Day and you know what happens when people start cheering for a heel in the WWE. But maybe that’s just me being cautious and/or sour. For now, The New Day are still bringing it every week.
03. The Cosmic Wasteland
Some of the best things in life always seem to be fleeting. What a perfect pairing (trioing?) Stardust & The Ascension are. Konnor and Viktor suit the henchmen role so well and even if they didn’t it’s a big step up from “The Shouty Tag Team”. Unfortunately however they seem to have vanished out of existence, at least in terms of the main show, and at times I find myself wondering if they’re even a group anymore. Seriously, just start having them run through tag teams and they’ll start going places. It’s not that hard.
02. Dean Ambrose
It saddens me to put Ambrose on the “bad” list because it’s through no fault of his own. The last few months however he’s been less “Serious Competitor” Ambrose and more “Reigns’ Wacky Buddy” Ambrose. Tagged onto random tag matches with the Wyatts and then into a cancelled tag match with Orton, his booking right now could be at an all time low especially when on the last Raw of October he basically existed just to verbally put over Reigns’ title-shot. At least he’s still selling tonnes of merchandise so the WWE won’t care to fix his placement on the card. D’oh.
01. Summer Rae & Rusev
This is a retroactive shudder of disgust since I’m now currently in the “sigh of relief” stage with this program. You know, since it’s OVER. You have to feel bad for everyone this story wrecked (which also included Ziggler and the currently-off-TV Lana) since every week it felt like they had picked another random direction on the compass of story-telling and were reluctantly trudging forward only to spin on their axis next Monday. We had a Summer Rae & Rusev proposal one week followed by the reveal that he was engaged to Lana. Xavier Woods can hang out with buddies on his YouTube channel but apparently sometimes kayfabe DOES exist (but only when it’ll screw with the product).
It’s weird to think that Asuka (formerly Kana) has only been in NXT for a month because A. she fits so well with the product and B. we needed a character like her so badly. With so many girls moving up to the main roster we need some experienced women’s wrestlers to take their place and who better than this giant of the Japanese independent circuit? Also, bonus points for her 21st Century Schizoid Man influenced cover.
02. Chad Gable & Jason Jordan
It’s pretty much universally agreed that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic went down the shitter but at least it gave some teams more of an opportunity to shine and for the crowd to shout their interests, as per usual. My runner-up for the NXT section this week would be The Mechanics because they’ve really surprised me but Gable & Jordan were the true winners of the whole tournament if we’re looking for future stars. I so desperately wanted them to win and it seems I wasn’t alone. Even following it, on regular episodes of NXT, crowds are still super hot for these two guys. Look out, Vaudevillians. I have a feeling I know who’s next.
01. Sasha Banks & Bayley
Very occasionally I can’t pick a top spot so this month you’ll just have to live with both Bayley and Sasha as our queens of NXT. I expect to hear no complaints. I adored their first match, and who wouldn’t? But for my money, the Iron Woman match at Takeover Respect was even better. Firstly, the significance of them main-eventing a PPV shouldn’t be overstated but it’s paramount with the fact this is the first time in WWE history women have been given this stipulation which is used to highlight energy, commitment, uniqueness and story telling prowess.
The match itself was an absolute ride and whilst it didn’t have that underdog victory sensation that the original did it was a total clinic on characterisation with Sasha being the biggest asshole in the world, and Bayley the biggest hero. Yeah, I cried when Bayley won the belt but this display got me even more when Sasha finally bowed out of NXT. We will never see anything like this on this show again and I’m eternally grateful for that. So how could I pick between the two?
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 Finn Bálor and, occasionally, candy.