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. Last month, WWE was in a bad way of things. I was at the end of my rope and, rather than attempt to write about it and tempt myself further into taking a break, I looked over at the last 12 months of WWE and ranked that. But December was a bit of shake-up. At times it was pretty enjoyable and at times it was total trash so let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the NXT.
10. John Cena
The last Raw of 2015 was not an easy one to watch for a number of reasons, not least of which was a crowd that rode the line between so quiet they may as well be stood in the parking lot and just generally being annoying as all hell. Gladly, the return of John Cena slapped them out of their slumber. It may not have been the greatest match of his career but Cena has had enough of a good year that it was far from dreadful seeing him back. With the state of the company right now, Cena may be something to look forward to and I never thought I’d be writing those words.
09. Vince McMahon
In the closing moments of TLC 2015, Reigns lost his damn mind and unleashed his fury on Triple H. It only made sense that he would have to answer to the boss himself but I don’t think anyone expected Vince to arrive the next night on Raw. It made for a cool moment and an interesting story: either Reigns wins the big one in the main event or he leaves the WWE. Vince showed that the Mr McMahon character still lives that week, even if he did follow it up with what may have been the worst opening segment of the decade when he found himself arrested for being assaulted by Roman. Swings and roundabouts really but so far the good has outweighed the bad. Ask me at the end of January (after he plays special guest referee to Reigns VS Sheamus) and I may have changed my tune.
08. The League of Nations
It’s saccharine to say but, like most things this month, The League of Nations has been a bit of a rollercoaster. A new heel team meant there could be less of a focus on the tired, old Authority and might liven up the state of play. More importantly, it was also something for the likes of Del Rio to do that wasn’t a confusing Meximerica storyline and guys like Rusev were hardly going to suffer for something new to do either. But, in the same vein it hasn’t really done much as of yet. It may take time to establish the group properly but right now it still seems rather fractured and just like four dudes thrown together without a goal. Probably because it is.
07. Seth Rollins
You can call it scraping the bottom of the barrel if you like but I feel like Rollins deserves this placement after the Slammys episode of Raw. I, and thousands of others, weren’t expecting him to win “superstar of the year” despite how badly he deserved it so for him to get the nod was great. Then of course the man himself made an appearance to accept the award (unlike most of the winners that night, it seemed) and cut a brief promo that played up his heel character whilst at the same time hinted that he would be coming back as the company’s next big babyface when he was ready to go again. We miss you, Seth.
06. Dean Ambrose
Talk about surprises. Ambrose grabbing the Intercontinental belt off of Owens was so sudden that it took a minute to sink in. The moment seemed to signify a few things (one of which we’ll get to later) and confirm others; the big one being that he’s getting his dues for being one of the WWE’s biggest merchandise shifters. I’m still not entirely sure on how this title-run will go, as always it’s down to the booking, but Ambrose and that white belt look made for each other and it’ll be a great image to see him arriving at Wrestlemania 32 with it over his shoulder.
05. The Lucha Dragons
Speaking of surprises, bet you didn’t see this coming a few weeks ago, huh? The Lucha Dragons are one of the few tag teams the WWE have that don’t amount to much. Occasionally, the company will try to get them over (or pretend they are) but not fully commit. So, in December’s TLC PPV, Kalisto took things into his own hands with one of the most insane spots of the year. Following the ladder-hopping Salida del Sol, Sin Cara showed that he’s not as uninterested in his profession as he seems by finishing a match on Raw despite dislocating his shoulder mid-bout. These are the kinds of things that raise the profile of the team. Whilst they may have some ways to go with other aspects, at least they don’t call each other “Uce”.
04. Neville and The Miz
This is another one of those things where I’m already questioning whether or not it’s done with but had me hooked from their first interaction. Slimy, Hollywood-wannabe The Miz promising to do great things for someone’s career whilst obviously riding their coat-tails is the absolute 100% best gimmick the guy could have and, surprisingly, it works really well with Neville who can play the straight-faced counter to his antics, only here to wrestle. With Neville winning a Slammy for his great performances they should be milking this for all it’s worth.
03. The Wyatt Family
The swing of the pendulum. For the rest of the year, The Wyatt Family have gone from being an under-booked mess to a total joke as they stalk about behind the scenes planning retribution just for all four of them to be beaten by two old men repeatedly. I’ve never bet money on any sport (or theatrical sport) but I was dangerously close to putting money on Bray and Co falling victim to another team of old men. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t. Finally, The Wyatt Family are getting some wins and the hard-fought extreme matches are helping exponentially. It might finally be time to start getting invested again.
02. The New Day
They’ve been the top spot of The Steel Cage Standings for the last five months. It’s okay not to be #1 once. Regardless, The New Day have been one of if not the only reason to keep watching through the horror that has been the end of 2015 for WWE. What I liked about them this month is that Xavier seems to have taken a bit more of a back-seat. Sure, throwing his trombone into the middle of the triple-threat ladder-match made all the difference but it was Kofi who got the win. Kofi also went off on a hysterical, surrealist rant about beating up kids a couple of weeks later. And how could we forget about the hypnotic, gyrating goodness that is Big E? Constantly reinventing and constantly entertaining.
01. Kevin Owens
And whilst The New Day are a truly fun trio, Kevin Owens this month has defined “heel”. Owens has positively snapped after parting ways with his Intercontinental title then following that up with losing the “Best Breakout Star” Slammy to, and a 21-second match against, Neville. We’ve been reminded of the threat that Owens can possess after he totally dismantled Ambrose and put him through a table and it seems like he’s being put in a good spot.
If we’re lucky, KO’s aggression will continue to grow and will cost him his rematch. I doubt very much we’ll see him as the top heel of the WWE in time for this year’s Wrestlemania but if they do it correctly he could be doing great things by the time WM33 rolls around. He has consistently shown that he can go with anyone in the ring and demonstrated his uniqueness when speaking on the mic as well as just shouting to the crowd/the commentators/his opponent mid-match. Owens is one of a kind and it’s time to start taking true advantage of that.
Sorry Derek but I’m nothing but glad that the “ravishing Russian” has vanished from TV following Rusev’s introduction into the League of Nations. Lana made a not-so triumphant return to Raw to explain her and her fiancé’s “secret” relationship and engagement. In the following two weeks she’s caught in the middle of things twice and is written off TV as injured. So basically it was a total waste of time.
02. The Big Show
Show knows that the #1 spot in the Royal Rumble is the worst one to have right? He’s been there long enough to understand how the Royal Rumble works, yes? And he knows that, despite his size, someone or a group of someones will find a way to get him over the rope? Yeah? Okay. Just checking.
01. Roman Reigns
See: Vince McMahon. Exciting for one whole week then immediately questionable. The problem is that Reigns has been questionable or worse for weeks and weeks up until the one good Raw (and end of a PPV) he had where he beat down some über-heels like a badass. Then he immediately went back to smirking and trying to be funny and… well, it’s been hit and miss to say the least. And let’s not forget that December 2015 give birth to the “tater tots” moment. I could’ve just written “tater tots” over and over in this description and you guys wouldn’t have questioned it, surely? Because, seriously… tater tots?
03. Sami Zayn
Should I start this with “let’s go!” or simply “he’s back”? Sami Zayn, a man who embodies NXT, has finally made his way back to the developmental show and he did so in incredible fashion. Takeover London was far and away the best place to host Zayn’s return as the crowd fittingly exploded for him from the moment he arrived to the moment he put away Tye Dillinger. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess but it’s such a relief to see Sami back in the ring where he belongs.
02. Chad Gable & Jason Jordan
Two months ago I hinted at the idea that Gable and Jordan may be next in line to take the NXT Tag Titles. Surprisingly, my runner-up addition of Dawson and Dash pulled a victory out over the Vaudevillians to grab the gold and did so very well. In the mean-time, Gable and Jordan have been getting bigger and bigger and more and more over. Breaking Ground has helped a lot of NXT stars obtained more fan interest but for me seeing JJ struggle until he clicked with Gable was very important. Those belts might not be around their waists now but they’re not totally out of the field of view.
I had this moment watching Asuka VS Emma at TakeOver London and it was one of “wow, we’re already at this point?”. Sure, the London crowd were hot basically all night but they went nuts for Asuka. She has been in NXT three months and she already not only fits in with the product as a whole but has carved out her own niche. I’ve never thought of Emma as a great in-ring worker but the two had an excellent bout and Asuka followed this up by teasing a clashing of her and fellow newly-debuted titan Nia Jax. There’s lots to love about Asuka already but lots to look forward to too.
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.