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. It’s been an interesting month in WWE which has featured two pay-per-view events in Extreme Rules and Payback and yet somehow not tonnes to review. The weekly shows have started to take a turn back to the quick-and-easy booking of the past but there’s still plenty of light in the darkness to look at. Here’s how the current WWE roster stacked up over May 2016.
10. Dolph Ziggler
Alright, let’s get this out of the way. We got swerved. As a part of what appears to be their endless feud (seriously, this has been going on since the Raw after Mania), Ziggler challenged Corbin to a “technical wrestling match”, threw his head gear on… and kicked him in the nards. Come on. It was pretty God damn funny.
09. Roman Reigns
Right now, Reigns is moving back into a boring face role ready to steamroll through everyone on the roster and the crowd’s hopes and dreams whilst he’s at it starting with Seth at Summerslam but it’s actually been an interesting month for Roman. His feud with AJ was one that felt truly well written and complex, with the pair of them having similar but mistaken reasons to be furious with the other and the Samoan Badass adopted a slightly more “tweener” kind of role by exploding with anger at Styles every time he caught him in a compromising position (usually involving a chair and one or more downed Uce of his). And who can argue that their bouts, particularly the one at Extreme Rules, weren’t fun in their own right?
08. The Vaudevillians
I’ve been weary of the Vaudevillians on the main roster since day one, or even before that, and as much as some of it (such as the entrance) seems a little out of place on the main stage, I have to applaud their booking as a pair of no-nonsense assholes that keep raining on the New Day’s parade whenever the Tag Team Champions start crossing further into the obscure side. It’s really helping to give them heat as did the pair taking responsibility for Enzo’s hospital visit. I would never wish ill-will on anyone but at the very least English and Gotch made the best of a bad situation and used it to further the product. My only worry is where we go from here.
Shout-out to Natalya this week; she’s one of the few women from the last generation of female WWE superstars not only still with the company but also who ever gave a damn to begin with. She clearly lives and breathes wrestling and I wouldn’t have at all been mad with her getting the belt of Charlotte for a short-run before her career winds down. The two put on a pretty interesting story with what they had and whilst it’s tarred with Ric and Bret and screw-job bullshit, looking purely at the in-ring stuff the two really click. This may be one of if not the last major feud of Natalya’s career and she won me over to the point of rooting for her.
06. Dean Ambrose
Even more “well, on the bright side” here with #LunaticFriend Dean Ambrose who is so over even a very average feud with Jericho couldn’t hurt him that much. Sure, they two absolutely kill it when they’re trading blows on the mic but their story was clunky and the Asylum Match type was the nail in the coffin that the WWE will never take Dean 100% seriously. Still, it managed to wake up the live audience and every single person watching on the WWE Network when Ambrose pulled out the thumb-tacks and successfully put Y2J through them. That, at the very least, was a cool moment. And of course he jumped in them himself too… because he’s Dean Ambrose AND HE’S CRAZY, MAGGLE!
Almost as if coming out of nowhere Rusev has returned to some semblance of the man he was before; perhaps with even more self-aware goofiness than previously which is always welcome. But let’s not get it twisted, that inverted Accolade thing? Brutal. Our prayers were answered at Extreme Rules when Kalisto finally faced off in a “Big Man/Little Man” match he couldn’t win and the US strap has come back to the Bulgarian Brute. With Lana back by his side and his tendency to call out anyone and everyone on Twitter, he’s already way more of an entertaining champ. With the upcoming Brand Extension, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the mid-card titles as Rusev running amok on either show by being the only mid-card champion will be really good for his staying power.
04. John Cena
It’s been said before but it says a lot of the mindset of the typical WWE fan these days that most of us were intrigued, nay excited to see the return of Big Match John, wondering where he would fit into the current product. The general consensus seemed to be chasing after the United States title which he had helped elevate last year (and yeah, look at it now) with a few of us expecting him to finally get that Triple Crown with Intercontinental gold (current day Miz vs Cena? Yes please). We didn’t expect what we got; Mr WWE and Mr TNA facing off for the first time and ending in a hellacious beatdown.
03. AJ Styles
Before we got that moment, I want to reiterate how good Styles standing up to Reigns was. AJ was never once presented as being heel; if anything out of the two of them, he was the more respectable one, initially hesitant to use what he had at his disposal to take down Roman. This, and his (more than slightly awkward) dismissal of Anderson and Gallows made his turn on the last Raw of May all the more unexpected. It seemed like the solid three minutes of Cena and AJ chants were the only reason to get them into the ring together and I can’t really complain about that because it was electric but Styles’ repeatedly attacking a downed Cena made that moment special for so many more reasons.
02. The Indie Darlings/Multi-Men
I’m going to take a page out of WWE’s book and throw everyone we love into just one section. To be honest, they’ve all paired together so much it’s hard to tear them apart again right now, for the sake of writing about them at least. Of course I’m talking about IC Champion The Miz and his contenders Cesaro, Sami Zayn and Owens; three of the men who have gone on to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match. Definitely a highlight of practically every show they’ve been put on, either comedically on athletically (definite show-stealer at Extreme Rules); it’s a shame there isn’t much more to them story-wise but at least you know when to stop fast-forwarding through Raw when you see this group start popping up.
01. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
On the one hand I, like many others, was surprised that the writers bothered to use Big Cass at all during Enzo’s brief time away after suffering a concussion at Payback but on the other hand… duh. We all know Vince has a type but Colin Cassady fits the bill perfectly. If he wasn’t part of one of the best wrestling duos of all time and that nobody wants to see split, he’d be basically a guaranteed main eventer. Hey, he still could be.
But that doesn’t mean we’re ready to see Enzo thrown to the side. An outpouring of support occurred from the moment he was stretchered out of the arena until he returned several weeks later; so amped up that he threw his microphone and had to go running after it. Aside from being totally ridiculous, there’s something kind of genuine about both him and Cass and damn is it good to see them being this over on Raw. One of the best moments of every show they’re on, which says a lot since all they’ve been doing is running through the Dudley Boyz repeatedly. It’s very possible that they have a long-road to the top ahead and I for one look forward to that Daniel Bryan-esque moment when they finally win the big one.
03. Seth Rollins
Controversial. I so badly wanted to put Crossfit Jesus on the Top 10 this month because his return was great, he looks amazing and it’s such a relief to have him back. But only two shows in and he’s already being booked poorly. It’s pretty clear Seth had to turn back heel because he would be getting cheered over a boring, bland babyface like Roman which is totally bullshit but following that up with him apparently still being a wuss is disappointing. My advice? If you want your heart broken, watch the WWE24 documentary on Rollins and realise how good of a babyface he would be and start drinking when you realise he’s not getting that belt back any time soon.
02. The Dudley Boyz
I’m all for old guys putting over young talent. In fact, that is explicitly what they should be for. But week after week after week kind of diminishes their ability to do that, especially when two veterans are being taken out by one guy. It’s a dangerous see-saw really and sad to say I think the Dudleyz are losing a lot of validity. They need to get some wins back to make their losses more meaningful.
On the one hand, Tyler Breeze and Fandango should be a good pairing considering their characters and it makes use of two guys who weren’t doing anything (basically ever). On the other, they stink of laziness. At least commit to it, WWE. We can all laugh at how “Fabreeze” would be better but how about something that’s not just two things smashed together like a caveman desperately trying to start a fire. Similarly, the fade in and out mash-up of their two themes is terrible. Either go the whole hog or don’t do it at all I say.
03. Gargano & Ciampa
Tomasso and Johnny Wrestling himself are back together as a tag team and personally I think it’s the best move. NXT has become a bit top-heavy with solo competitors recently especially with all the migrating TNA talent arriving or on it’s way. Within the last few weeks these two have picked up some wins before standing toe-to-toe with The Revival in an episode of NXT that sums up a lot of what I love about the show. It was a full story from start-to-finish with Gargano and Ciampa facing off with Dash and Dawson and then, shockingly, picking up a victory. I can’t be the only one excited to see where this leads.
02. Nia Jax
The line “I’m not like most girls” in her theme is a massive eye-roll BUT there’s plenty of truth to it. I absolutely love the push Nia Jax is getting because she’s like no one else in WWE right now. We’ve been teased a clash of titans with her and Asuka for some time and after she decimated Bailey she’s been built up enough to make up for a fun feud with the new NXT Women’s Champion. Will she win? Not bloody likely. But it’ll be another notch on her belt and another step into what could be a storied career.
01. Shinsuke Nakamura
I mean, no duh. Nakamura claimed the #1 spot of NXT last month purely based on his in-ring main-event performance with Sami Zayn. In May he’s expertly been hitting other notes in NXT with matches against Elias Samson, Tye Dillinger and then teaming up with Austin Aries to take on Blake and Murphy. Now these former partners will be clashing at NXT TakeOver: The End and it’s been pretty fun; the two ribbing each other and Shinsuke delivering brilliant, unique one-line promos. The Greatest VS The King is strangely one of my most anticipated matches for the event. Soak it in because Nakamura won’t be in NXT long. The big leagues are calling.
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.