When Seth Rollins confronted Jon Stewart on the set of The Daily Show last week, it was the most overt act of aggression yet in the slow-burning feud between the late night talk show host and the current holder of WWE’s Money in the Bank briefcase. Stewart kicked the heat up another notch last night when he showed up on Rollins’ turf, invading WWE Raw as it aired live from Newark.
Rollins provoked a direct response from Stewart by hosting his own ersatz edition of The Daily Show in the middle of the squared circle. Although the former Ring of Honor World Champion is one of the best all around performers in WWE today, electric both in the ring and on the microphone, he proved he isn’t quite ready to host a basic cable political comedy talk show. Of course it was less of a serious attempt at hosting than a way to piss off Stewart, and to that end it worked. Stewart quickly interrupted Rollins’ mockery, even coming out to Bob Mould’s “Dog on Fire”, aka The Daily Show’s theme song. (Mould himself has a wrestling connection, of course; the lifelong fan briefly wrote for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling in 1999.) Stewart proceeded to deliver the best Raw promo in years from somebody who isn’t Paul Heyman, succinctly framing the current storyline between Rollins and the Authority and foreshadowing possible directions for Rollins after Wrestlemania, while also telling good jokes and passionately referencing such greats as Bruno Sammartino, Mick Foley and Steve Austin. (The official WWE video above edits much of Stewart’s promo out, sadly. You can probably watch the whole thing on Hulu Plus.)
Of course this is wrestling (I mean “sports entertainment”), not talking (or “rhetorical entertainment”), so Rollins couldn’t just sit by as a 51-year-old comedian called him a puppet. If Randy Orton hadn’t interrupted, Rollins and his goons in J & J Security (retired wrestlers Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) probably would’ve stomped a mudhole in Stewart. Instead the soon-to-be-former Daily Show host took the distraction as a good time to kick Rollins in the crotch, and quickly scampered to the back of the arena.
Maybe you don’t watch wrestling. Maybe you don’t get why Jon Stewart, one of the most respected people on TV today, would willingly devote so much time and energy to a wrestling angle. This is a hard love to explain, but once you’re hooked on wrestling it’s hard to ever get clean. Stewart’s a lifelong fan. He’s regularly referenced WWE on his show throughout the years, and he’s clearly having a ball working in the same ring as his childhood idols. What’s sad is this is pretty much the only entertaining storyline WWE is building for Wrestlemania this year, which is supposed to be the high point of the year for wrestling fans. If Stewart hadn’t appeared on Raw last night, there would have been no compelling reason to watch the show, and we’re just a few weeks away from the biggest wrestling event of the year. Stewart saved The Daily Show after Craig Kilborn left, turning a goofy news parody into the most important comedy show of the 21st century. Can he now save Wrestlemania XXXI, even if he clearly won’t be wrestling?
Oh yeah, Stewart also cut this promo in the back after the commercial break. Dude has a future with this wrestling thing, if he wanted to be a manager or color commentator. At the very least he’s now guaranteed a spot in the celebrity wing of WWE’s incorporeal Hall of Fame at some point in the 2020s.