WOW’s main event scene is stuck in a loop

The seventh episode of WOW‘s second season ended with a run-in and disqualification. It’s the fourth main event this season to end in a DQ or no contest, three of which were caused by a run-in. Hazard ended the premiere’s number one contendership match by interfering to help her tag partner Havok. Tessa ran in to beat down Jungle Grrrl with a briefcase three weeks ago. Tonight, we got more of the same, but even lamer, which is a shame because it overshadowed possibly the best match on WOW so far.

We opened this week with McLane in the ring, followed by the Beast. He announced the main event would be a number one contender’s match after Beast declared “Jungle Grrrl don’t want none of the Beast. She can’t handle the Beast.” Tessa will be barred from ringside to stop her interfering. I remain baffled by how this feud has been framed. The Beast became number one contender because Tessa ran in and beat down Jungle Grrrl with a briefcase. Tessa became champion in the first place because the Beast interfered in her match against Jungle Grrrl for the vacant title. But Jungle Grrrl hits the Beast with one little chair, then everyone loses their minds!

The first match of the night was a palatable tag match with the Monsters of Madness facing off against the Bully Busters. Keta Rush stole the match despite very limited time in the ring, delivering several picture-perfect dropkicks to both Havok and Hazard. She seemed to be on the verge of victory as she tried to lock in a sleeper hold on Hazard, but before she could lock it in, Hazard put her away with an abrupt backpack stunner. Stephy had the most ring time of any competitors and it wasn’t to her advantage. Her only notable spot was diving onto Havok at ringside, where they landed with an audible thud. The Bully Busters are one of the most obviously lopsided teams in the division and it’s hard not to worry Keta Rush is getting held back from a great singles career, but it’s harder still to see WOW breaking up a tag team attached to an anti-bullying initiative. Overall, it was a decent match marred by some minor issues on commentary that foreshadowed far larger ones to come.

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Commentary has not been WOW‘s strong suit by any means, but this episode highlighted just how much room the show has to improve. To take a minor example, at one point in this tag match, Havok kicked Stephy Slays into the corner, then immediately pulled her out of it to drag her across the ring to a different corner. Stephen Dickey started to talk about how dangerous a position this was for Stephy, but because of the quick change, ended up talking for longer about how Stephy didn’t want to be in the corner than she spent in the corner. He was saying “Havok can do all sorts of dangerous things while she’s in that corner” as she was almost finished dragging Stephy across the ring.

This isn’t a criticism of Dickey, who was just doing his best to call a live match and simply guessed incorrectly where it was going next. But the show doesn’t air live and spends months in post-production before we ever see it. If there’s an error in commentary on a show that doesn’t air live, you can just rerecord it and fix it in post. I don’t understand why WOW doesn’t do this, but, with the second half of this season in post-production, they need to start as soon as possible and it’s not because of Stephen Dickey either. We’ll circle back to the David McLane of it all later.

The second match saw Serpentine and Reyna Reyes face off in one of the best women’s matches this year. Both have already faced Tessa Blanchard for the title and taken her to the limit, so I wasn’t surprised their match was good, but I was shocked at just how good it was. I could honestly write a whole essay just on this match, breaking it down step by step, but I need to write about the rest of the episode at some point, so I’ll just highlight some of my favorite parts.

Straight away, Serpentine continued to be weirdly hypnotic and hypnotically weird. She mounted the barrier with one leg to taunt McLane and Dickey, then slid into the ring on her knees and started clawing her way sensuously up Shaul Guerrero’s body while Shaul shook her head and struggled not to laugh. It’s so hilarious how dedicated Serpentine is to the snake thing outside the ring and so cool inside the ring, where she slips and slides and squirms during moves like she really might be part-reptile. Both she and Reyes came in to big pops. The crowd loves them and in this, at least, the crowd is right, because they both rule. Reyes was visibly enjoying being over, which was nice to see in an era where a lot of faces lean too hard on humility as a quality.

The match had three distinct acts, kicking off with an exchange of submission moves that demonstrated both women’s affinity for twisting other people’s legs off. It ended with a staredown that featured some absolutely lovely camerawork and editing that I’d like to take a minute to appreciate. I’ve highlighted in previous reviews how WOW‘s visual style helps set it apart from other shows chasing WWE production value and this was a prime example.

First, we had a high-angle in-camera zoom on Serpentine’s face, shot from her left:

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Then, for the reverse-shot, a low-angle shot of Reyes over Serpentine’s shoulder, with a bit of slow, shaky counter-zoom:

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Then, the editors very daringly crossed the 180 degree line for an eye-level shot of Serpentine from her right, behind Reyes, panning gradually right, slowly putting more of Reyes in the frame:

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They cut back to the low-angle shot of Reyes for just a beat before Serpentine began to stand up, then it was back to the eye-level shot, following Serpentine as she rose, then back to the low-angle shot as Reyes stood up. The whole sequence took about ten seconds and it wasn’t super flashy, but it was perfect for this match. It told you visually how both wrestlers were feeling, the growing tension between them, the realization that neither would win as easily as either expected.

The second act kicked off after some chops, a fast-paced and creative exchange of arm drags of that had the crowd—and me—popping like wild. Springboard arm drags, back flip arm drags off the rope, arm drags countered with arm drags. It was WOW‘s lightning pace at its best, just two extraordinary wrestlers pushing each other to greatness. Reyes closed out this act by putting Serpentine in an inverted facelock and throwing her leg over her neck for a split-legged leg drop. It was cool as hell and the crowd squealed in delight and awe, but Serpentine kicked out at two.

The third and longest act saw Serpentine just working the leg, a perfectly reasonable and appropriate response to Reyes almost decapitating her with one. There were some classic spots, with Serpentine swinging Reyes’ leg against the post and nearly tearing it off with a single leg Boston crab. She also transitioned breezily from a leg drop on Reyes’ inner thigh to a kneeling sharpshooter and started shimmying as she leaned back. I could just list stuff I liked about this match all day. It was so fun, so creative, so tightly structured and well-paced. Reyes followed up her hulk-out moment with a springboard stunner. Serpentine landed a flying clothesline on Reyes in the corner through the rope and landed on the apron. I guess Sophia Lopez’s interference at the end wasn’t exactly on the rest of the match’s level, but pobody’s nerfect, as they say. Serpentine won with a fire thunder driver off the distraction and the crowd booed, but they weren’t even booing her, just Lopez. Who could boo either wrestler after a match like that?

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Before the third match—Siren the Voodoo Doll and Holidead vs The Psycho Sisters—we had some video packages. FIrst, Siren the Voodoo Doll said some weird rhymes, called the Psycho Sisters whiny and made a cryptic remark about how they should have left Princess Aussie alone. It’s a weird thing for Siren, who literally kidnapped Aussie, to say, but I’ve given up on trying to follow this storyline. Next, Lana Star approached Sophia Lopez backstage to ask how she gets title matches for her clients. Finally, the Psycho Sisters cut a decent promo. Razor is probably the best talker in WOW and has a knack for selling silly dialogue convincingly, a talent in tragically short supply around these parts.

This is our first second-round match in the tag title series and we’ve apparently made it all the way to the second round without any explanation of the bracket or whether it’s a tournament or a round robin or what. I infer that it’s a tournament, but if that’s the case, it’s a twelve-team tournament, which means a triple threat final. I’m completely fine with that, but it’d be more exciting if I didn’t have to figure it out myself.

Unfortunately, the first second-round match (semi-final?) was a bit of a letdown, mostly due to reasons outside the wrestlers’ control. The canvas was loose for some reason and visibly bunched up in ridges high enough to trip over. Siren the Voodoo Doll seemed to stumble over a ridge when Razor and Fury threw her at the ropes early in the match, alerting everyone else to the danger, and it seemed to just throw everyone off. There were still some good spots—I particularly enjoyed Razor dancing on Holidead’s chest in the corner—but the rhythm and pacing never really came together. It was the first tag title series match to underwhelm, never more so than when Princess Aussie ran in at a completely random moment in the match and attacked Mezmeriah, who’d played a very limited role until then and barely interfered at all. While Aussie and Holidead attacked Mezmeriah and Fury at ringside, Siren apparently gained enough advantage off-camera to suddenly put Razor away with a fire thunder driver.

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It was a dispiriting result, partly because I just enjoy the Psycho Sisters more than their opponents, but mostly because it means this confusing Siren/Aussie story will continue to be at issue in the tag title series. I’m not sure how the other four teams will be paired up, but I hope it’s Chantilly Chella and Sassy Massy vs Amber O’Neal and Jessie Jones, then the Monsters of Madness vs Fire and Adrenaline. One suspects the Monsters of Madness will make the final with how WOW is building them up as monster heels, but I’d rather see Fire and Adrenaline advance along with O’Neal and Jones. Whoever wins the titles can feud with the Monsters of Madness.

The main event was fine. I wish I could offer more, but it wasn’t even the best match that Jungle Grrrl and the Beast have had for the number one contendership this season. The last one ended with Tessa interfering and this one ended with the Lioness and Lana Star interfering on Tessa’s behalf, presumably in exchange for a future title opportunity. The Lioness attacked Jungle Grrrl, giving her the win by disqualification and making her the number one contender. This makes her the heel. Don’t think too hard about the fact that the Beast became the number one contender in the same circumstances just three weeks ago and this made her the face. Don’t think about it at all. The Beast is the face and Jungle Grrrl is the heel because WOW says so. If someone screws you over and you dislike them because of it, aren’t you the real bad guy? Makes you think.

Even if it made sense, this feud has overstayed its welcome and needs to wrap up soon. I don’t know how many more of these finishes I can take. It’s very frustrating to see this storyline take up so much oxygen when more interesting characters are waiting for their chance to shine. WOW need to shelve it and move on.

Finally, let’s talk about David McLane. He’s not a particularly good commentator anyway, but without rerecording, he’s so bad that it actively undermines the matches. He makes blatant errors that are just distracting, like when he repeatedly called Stephy Slays’ dive onto Havok a crossbody, even though she clearly dived directly forward onto Havok’s shoulder and possibly faceplanted at ringside. He referred to both Serpentine and Reyna Reyes as “Serpentine” at one point, while using an already confusing snake metaphor:

“Serpentine is gonna try to cut off the head of this snake. And the head isn’t possibly the head, it’s the legs on this snake, ’cause that’s what makes Serpentine so dangerous in her flying maneuvers in the ring.”

He spent twenty straight seconds of the tag title series match—a match he was allegedly excited about—ignoring what was happening in the ring so he could hype the main event and recap the storyline, even though we just had this match three weeks ago and we’ve already had this all recapped and the show is only an hour long. He hyped the tag title series match during Serpentine vs Reyna Reyes, the best match his show has ever seen!

But even when he’s not making mistakes or otherwise diverting attention away from the performers that make his television show possible, he’s just noticeably not very good at commentary. It’d be irritating in any circumstances, but when the show is called WOW – Women of Wrestling, it’s impossible to listen to his commentary without wondering what woman could have this job if David McLane didn’t.

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