1. Kalisto Won't Reach Full Potential Until Post-Del Rio Feud
Kalisto battling Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship again feels like a band responding to a chant of "Encore! Encore!" by replaying the last song it performed.
There's excitement to be had surrounding Kalisto's title reign, but it won't come with this feud continuing. The narrative of the underdog overcoming the favorite already reached its climax. Kalisto will be better off diversifying his list of enemies in the months ahead.
WWE clearly doesn't agree.
As Kalisto took on Rusev on Monday's Raw, the announcers casually mentioned that Fastlane will feature another showdown between the luchador and Del Rio. Many have shared the same unenthused reaction as WhatCulture WWE had:
Kalisto and Del Rio AGAIN?! Jesus. Hard to get excited about it. RUSEV! There's something to get excited about. Love Ru-Ru & Lana #Raw2016-2-2 01:19:09
The rivals have already had three title matches (with three title changes) in the last month.
There is little suspense this time around, as it's hard to believe WWE would have the belt change hands again.
It's the arc of the narrative, though, that should dictate Kalisto's exit from this rivalry. The story has been that Del Rio didn't take the masked high-flyer seriously at first. Kalisto then beat him in non-title action, followed by dethroning him on Jan. 11.
Del Rio stopped toying with his foe, but after reclaiming the championship on SmackDown just days after Kalisto's win, the babyface battled back to become champ again at the Royal Rumble.
That's it. That's your story. The underdog made it out of the rivalry with gold in hand, and he proved himself by overcoming adversity and a larger opponent.
To continue from there is to assure a letdown. Kalisto has already conquered Del Rio. Seeing him doing it again promises to be a moment lacking in spark.
WWE seems stuck on the idea that all feuds should stretch on for at least two pay-per-views. Some stories beg to be at least that long (e.g., Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins) because there is so much animosity and narrative depth to tap into.
That's not the case here.
Kalisto and Del Rio's feud is a one-note story. It's David versus Goliath in a wrestling ring. Now that David has felled the giant, it makes more sense to see him take on new challengers.
Having Kalisto take on Luke Harper, Kane, Sheamus and other large WWE heels would help paint him as a fighting champion. It would allow him to further this idea of being the triumphant underdog.
It would also allow him to battle folks whom he might have great chemistry with. Kalisto and Del Rio have had strong matches, but there have been marred by missteps. The two have botched minor moments throughout their series, just not clicking like great rivals do.
Why then keep pitting them against each other?
Kalisto's reign feels stuck in first gear as a result. Providing him with fresh foes and new stories will allow him to spread his wings as champion.
2. New Day Chasing History
Xavier Woods, Big E and Kofi Kingston are closing in on becoming one of the longest-reigning WWE tag champs of all time. Just considering the current titles and not the world tag team titles that squads such as Demolition once wore, The New Day already boast the sixth-longest run as champs.
|Longest WWE Tag Team Championship Reigns|
|Team||Days as Champions||Start of Reign||End of Reign|
|Paul London and Brian Kendrick||331||5/21/06||4/17/07|
|John Morrison and The Miz||250||11/13/07||7/20/08|
|Team Hell No||245||9/16/12||5/19/13|
|The New Day||over 160 (ongoing)||9/23/15||N/A|
In two months, The New Day will catch The Usos, garnering the trio membership in the 200-day club. Shortly after that, the heels will be just steps away from making more history.
The tag team division offers the titleholders little competition right now. Besides The Usos, there isn't a babyface team getting much attention from WWE.
And should the company continue to have The New Day spend more time tangling with guest stars and being a part of Roman Reigns' story, the chances of the group retaining shoot up. Woods and company may ride a lack of focus from WWE Creative to a historically lengthy reign.
3. Throwback Video of the Week: Blackjack Mulligan
Mulligan was a monstrous figure in the ring. The outlaw's nasty attitude and large frame made him a memorable presence.
Convincingly threatening, he promised to destroy The Crusher and Mad Dog Vachon in this promo from 1984:
As Dave Meltzer noted on F4WOnline, the Hall of Famer is dealing with health issues, and his grandsons Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas missed Raw on Monday night to be with him. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery.
4. Squandering Bull Dempsey
NXT could have a throwback bruiser and deft trash-talker on its show each week. It could have a big man who can wield a right hand as well as he can hit a diving headbutt from the top rope. Instead, NXT insists on making Dempsey a joke.
It's not just that he has fallen to the bottom of the card, and used as a means to give guys such as Alex Riley and Elias Samson momentum. The fact that the company has gutted his character is baffling.
Dempsey has gone from the man you would bet on to win a bare-knuckle alley fight to a running sight gag. He slaps his belly, struggles to breath after just a touch of cardio and is a goofier, grinning version of what he once was.
This is a case of missing the boat with a talented prospect.
The "Bull Fit" gimmick is not putting Dempsey in the best position to succeed. It's asking a power forward to be the equipment manager.
5. Bret Hart's New Tag Team Partner
The Hitman is teaming up with Cam'ron to form a most unlikely duo. According to TMZ, "The rapper and the wrestling legend have come together to be the celebrity muscle behind a Canadian financial company called, what else, Sharpshooter."
The partnership has apparently inspired Cam'ron to pen new Hart-themed music. An album is in the works.
His first track in that vein is certainly a conversation-starter. No word on if Bo Rida has challenged the rapper to a battle.
6. Batista Deserves a Swansong
If Batista is coming back for a WrestleMania, it should be for more than donning a striped shirt.
The Animal apparently has the same mindset. According to PWInsider.com (h/t Wrestling Inc), Batista turned down an offer to be a special guest referee at WrestleMania 32. Batista reportedly would prefer to have a final run that has more of an impact.
Have him go to war with Bray Wyatt or tangle with Kevin Owens as a sendoff. Harness his star power to create drama in the present and help build stars for the future, just as he did working with Daniel Bryan in 2014.
He's a former world champion whose value in Hollywood is skyrocketing. There's plenty to tap into there.
For Batista to just come in as a referee promises to be something folks forget about shortly after.
7. AJ Styles' Buzz by the Numbers
Fans are thrilled bout Styles entering WWE. And the company has the figures to see that clearly.
The YouTube clip of Styles' debut at the Royal Rumble currently sits at over 2.7 million views. His Raw debut notched 1.5 million-plus views. Over 700,000 fans watched a video that is just his entrance music and his name on the screen.
Styles is making an impact in the marketing department, too. His T-shirt has been a hot-seller. As Nick Hausman noted on Wrestle Zone, "Within just a couple of hours of going on sale the shirt already sold out in all adult sizes."
That all points to Styles needing a high position on the card. If there is much interest in Styles thanks to what he has done outside of WWE, imagine what can happen on a bigger stage. The company has to do everything it can to fan those flames of passion.
8. Recommended Ron Simmons
Some fans may just know him as the guy who says "Damn!" backstage. Simmons, though, was a skilled tag team wrestler and compelling powerhouse.
The recent guest on John "Bradshaw" Layfield's Legends with JBL had his best work in the late '80s and early '90s with WCW. Be sure to seek out these bouts to get a look at what that prime looked like:
- Doom vs. The Steiner Brothers: Halloween Havoc 1989
- Doom vs. The Steiner Brothers: WCW Capital Combat
- Doom vs. Arn Anderson and Barry Windham: WCW Starrcade 1990 (Street Fight)
- Ron Simmons vs. Lex Luger: WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 (2-out-of-3 Falls)
- Tag Team Turmoil (with Bradshaw): Judgment Day 2001
9. Brie Bella Becoming the Big Show of the Women's Division
Pro wrestling booking is built around rooting for one wrestler and rooting against another. WWE seems to have forgotten that tenet when it comes to Brie. Just like with Big Show, she has jumped from babyface to heel and back again with no explanation.
When she appeared on Monday's Raw, WWE tried to drum up sympathy for Brie's sister who is recovering from neck surgery. Brie played the face role all of a sudden as she took on Charlotte that night.
It's hard to feel pathos for the Bella sisters, though. WWE just spent months trying to get us to hate them. They played the cheating, brash, catty villains of the women's division.
Rather than transition Brie into a more sympathetic character over time, it just threw her in a new role. Big Show is experiencing his latest out-of-nowhere turn as well. He took a beating from The Wyatt Family, a moment that failed to stir up any real emotions.
The audience can't be expected to shift its perception of characters that quickly, and with no reason.
10. Shinsuke Nakamura Says Farewell
Nakamura officially left New Japan Pro Wrestling as he prepares to begin his career at WWE. He gave an impassioned speech on his way out.
Per Uproxx, the translation for one key line reads, "I was born here, grew up here...I'll show an unsuspecting world Shinsuke Nakamura."
Watching that process unfold is going to be magnificent. NJPW fans have witnessed the growth of a megastar, of a man filthy rich with charisma. Now, it's the WWE Universe's turn.
Championship history statistics courtesy of WWE.com.