Hello and welcome to the Steel Cage Standings where I, Psyniac, go through the past month of WWE TV and rank the Top 5 Raw and Top 5 Smackdown superstars, Top 3 NXT superstars and then highlight three stars or teams that have been wasted or have been straight-up terrible. November 2016 saw the two brands of WWE collide in the first relevant Survivor Series pay-per-view in years. Not only was it relevant however, it was actually good and was topped off by this year’s biggest surprise. Let’s roll right into it.
RAW Top 5:
05. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
You know RAW is hurting for big stars when I put these guys in here for “making me laugh”. It’s no slight on Enzo and Cass, the tag division right now on RAW is a fucking mess thanks to New Day’s stalemate title run, but they’ve at least had some amusing segments. Be it hocking merch for Black Friday, (how you doin’), Cyber Monday (how you doin’) or ‘Zo walking around with a pixellated yellow banana hammock (how you… hm), at least the two are doing more than looking like jokes like the rest of the division. It may be another story where Rusev should be the face but them being paired up with the Bulgarian Brute, another immensely funny performer, should make for some entertaining moments.
04. Braun Strowman
Braun moves up the list for RAW by being continually booked correctly and taking advantage of the moments he’s given. On the lead into Survivor Series Braun was not made to look like anything over than what he is: a monster. Taking out members of Team Smackdown with his shocking speed and impressively convincing power-moves, we all knew Braun’s inclusion in the 5-on-5 could really help his push. He looked great too, even with only one elimination under his belt (which was helped by Smackdown in-fighting) and was thrown out of the match in a way that didn’t make him look weak whilst managing to call back to his earlier squash match with Ellsworth. Braun and his on-going story have been a highlight of RAW every week.
03. Rich Swann
I’m not really sure how I’m going to tackle 205 Live, both in Steel Cage Standings and also in having enough time in my life to watch yet more WWE programming. But that’s besides the point. Since the debut of the terrible Cruiserweight Division, Swann has been the stand-out guy week-to-week. WWE clearly saw something in him early on which is why he was booked on every episode of RAW, saw his face plastered on the company’s trucks recently and then got a win over Cruiserweight Champion Kendrick. In order to shake things up and generate shock, Swann got the title on the very first episode of 205 Live. The title is already losing steam by being passed around so much but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it and hopefully he’ll be the first guy to get a decent run out of it.
02. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
Before it even began to flourish into the friendship we know and love today, Jericho and Owen’s shaky, temporary partnership was fun. In fact, since the day JeriKO appeared on our screens they’ve been a part of the Steel Cage Standings and usually near the top. Every month however, it gets better. November constantly teased a break-up of the two and whilst it’s clearly coming they managed to subvert our expectations by having the two reconcile over their hate of Roman Reigns. Hell, in the last RAW of the month Kevin lost his cool with Chris, telling him his help was making him look bad (somewhat true, at least) and then later mentioned that their relationship would endure even this. It’s guy love between two guys.
One of the most discussed subjects of November 2016 was whether Goldberg should or would beat Brock Lesnar. Bill has been known to be a bit of a tough businessman and he came back to WWE, twelve years after his initial departure, to show his kid and other children around the world that he’s a “superhero”. On the other hand, Lesnar has been booked as an unbeatable machine for the past two and a half years; beating the streak, decimating Cena and forcefully busting Orton open this summer. Still, with all the talk I don’t think anyone predicted what would transpire.
Goldberg beating Lesnar in 1:26 caused an initial shocked, confused, terrified outcry of many and I was one of them but after mulling it over for a brief period of time it started to make sense and where we’re at now it’s all excitement and all must-see TV. Goldberg has entered the Rumble to pursue the title, Lesnar promises to chase after him and Heyman has been unshaven and whimpering on TV. It’s starting to feel like WrestleMania this year could have some really interesting marquee matches and who would’ve thought Goldberg/Lesnar III would be one of them?
SMACKDOWN Top 5:
05. The Women’s Division
Let’s kick off Smackdown with a range of compliments so broad that I couldn’t just pick one woman or one feud. The Blue Team’s female roster has been booked in increasingly interesting ways basically from top-to-bottom. Carmella and Nikki’s personal grievances have made for brutal promos (something about Nikki being punched so hard her tits come out her back?!) with both of them really getting over in their respective roles. Add the wrinkle of Natalya potentially being the one who took out Bella at Survivor Series, who has been playing this insufferable yet hilarious character dropping song lyrics and talking about her cats and you’ve got some hints for future rivalries. In the title picture we have Alexa and Becky who have been particularly stiff with each other recently and are gearing up to a table match at TLC with very little “THIS IS A MOMENT” fanfare and it has the potential to steal the show regardless. Overall, the women of Smackdown, unlike RAW, haven’t felt like they’re treading water for a second.
04. The Miz
I’m not a fan of the WWE hot potato’ing titles (which is all they seem to do right now) but putting the Intercontinental Championship back on The Miz was the right thing to do, as was have him and Maryse cheat to retain at Survivor Series. Miz may as well have been shooting on Talking Smack when he said that he was making the IC title relevant again because it really feels that way; he’s one of the guys you can really depend upon to make the most of what they’re given and craft something great out of it. His feud with Ziggler is starting to get tired but when the champion is on screen you pay attention.
03. AJ Styles
AJ Styles has come a long way since his time in TNA and the depth of his WWE character is picture-perfect proof of it. Skilled but too arrogant for his own good, Styles has played excellent foil to Ambroses’ chaotic persona and Ellsworth’s lucky streak. Angry, flustered and passionate; as good as every player in this feud has been, AJ has been carrying the story for the most part. With any other guy, this might not have worked. Coming up to a year in the company, Styles’ list of accolades is impressive and hopefully only continues to grow from here as he’s made his presence known as one of the most entertaining guys in WWE.
02. Bray Wyatt
I’ve said it before, numerous times, but I try not to get on the Bray Wyatt bandwagon. I’ve been burned before. Every time it seems as though Wyatt is on a roll he’s sure to lose at that integral moment then disappear off the face of the planet. I’m asking for trouble by saying this but right now it looks as though that may not happen this time. Bray got the most number of eliminations in the Survivor Series Men’s 5-on-5 match and they just so happened to both be the faces of the company; Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Definitely an unexpected end to the match but one that couldn’t come without….
01. Randy Orton
Firstly, RKO put on the most solid performance out of all of the guys at Survivor Series. More importantly, we’ve all been a little worried that this Orton in the Wyatt Family storyline is about to cheapen at any moment with the not-so-sudden revelation that Randy has been planning to takedown the Wyatts from the inside but Orton eating a spear from Reigns and allowing Bray to capitalise says otherwise. For a few weeks now, Bryan and Renee have said they’re waiting for Orton to turn on his bearded brothers so I was starting to think this may be a much more long term deal.
Following their victory at Survivor Series, the two have found themselves in contendership for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship and there’s no reason why these two shouldn’t win. They’re both powerful characters in kayfabe that could do with the win, the gold (Orton’s last tag championship was 2004, Bray has never held a belt) and the extra ingredients to push this intriguing story forward. When Orton stinks, he stinks but when Orton is good, he’s damn fun and right now he’s hugely entertaining to watch.
03. The New Day
Whilst I think things have at least taken an interesting turn in the last couple of weeks with New Day being instantly eliminated from their Survivor Series match and going on a spree of cheating matches to win, we need to address the fact that New Day’s push to beat Demolition’s Tag Team Championship reign and the damage it has done to WWE. The tag division on RAW was never in a great position to succeed with three decent teams and two joke teams making up the entire roster but New Day crushing them all over and over has not exactly done wonders for the future. Hopefully the writers have a plan for building guys back up when they finally drop those titles.
02. Roman Reigns
When Roman won the United States Championship from Rusev there was almost a collective sigh of relief. Point one; he was out of the main event picture for the time being. Point two; it was retreading old ground but at least the predicted US Open Challenge would give him something to do on TV that was worthwhile. Point three… wait, what? I haven’t even finished thinking about the positives and he’s already got a Universal Championship match? How does that make any sense? And what does that do for the poor US title? Holding it over your back like a dickhead definitely isn’t helping it look strong and neither is ignoring it and running headfirst back into boring Roman main event territory.
01. Sasha Banks
For the second month in a row Sasha Banks is the bottom of the WWE barrel. What a horrible state of affairs; once the shining jewel in the so-called “Women’s Revolution” and now a totally ruined character. I said in October that the plus-side to her losing the belt so quickly in her hometown was that she could move out of the title picture for a while and it seemed like this was the plan with Bayley and Charlotte having an altercation at Survivor Series but…. nope. On the final RAW of November, Sasha became three time Women’s Champion in Charlotte’s home city in some weird kind of 50/50 booking bullshit. Three time champion. She doesn’t even feel like one time champion. Oh, and she cried again too so there’s no hope that she’s bringing the boss character back. How tragically disappointing.
03. Peyton Royce & Billie Kay
Royce and Kay; or as Grieg likes to refer to them, “the Aussie cunts”, have found a hole in the NXT’s women’s roster and filled it with gusto. Dressed to the nines and slinking their way down to the ring, they’re the anti-thesis of a lot of the women in indie wrestling today and thus they make for perfect heels against NXT’s up and coming female roster. Them enlisting Daria to save them from Liv, Aliyah and Ember made perfect sense and was a great way to get her back on TV and leaving her out to dry was even better. For the time being, especially since Asuka has very little to do, they’re some of the more entertaining women in NXT.
02. Tye Dillinger
Whether you love it or you hate it the weekend of Survivor Series was permeated with “TEN” chants. I’ll admit that it got a little annoying and took focus away from the matches at hand but to begin with it was so good to see Tye so over. I’ve been a big fan of Dillinger for a good while and his match at TakeOver Toronto was thus far his biggest moment in a very lengthy developmental run. I’m worried for his future but I think we’re likely to see Tye on the main roster sooner rather than later and I’ll be damned if he isn’t ready for it.
01. #DIY & The Revival
For the past year, The Revival have been the pinnacle of tag team wrestling in all of the WWE. Simple and effective at first glance, these guys have more depth than it appears as they have continually proved by putting on multiple match of the year candidates. At least two of these have been with Gargano and Ciampa, known collectively as Team #DIY. These two great single competitors appeared a year ago to take part in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and I don’t think anyone expected themselves to want them to stay as a team. Throughout the summer the two teased a break-up, had a duel in the CWC that has gone down as one of my favourite matches of all time and finally reached the peak of the mountain by knocking of Dash and Dawson for the NXT Tag Team Titles. A show stealing moment that all four guys should be proud of.
You can find Psyniac on Twitter at Raw is Psyniac where he tweets about Raw and Smackdown 18 hours after they’ve aired, how much he loves Carmella and, occasionally, candy.
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