WWE Midcard Report (April 28-29): Bad News Barrett wins twice, The Usos retain the tag team belts and the Extreme Rules card fills out

The Real World Champ likes to mix things up every once in a while. Sometimes you’ll get one huge RAW post. Sometimes four or five little ones.

Sometimes we’ll look at two shows at the same time.

WWE has three well-crafted, main-event-caliber storylines that carried this Monday’s RAW. You can read about those here. This is the first-ever Midcard Report, which takes a look at everything else.

We’ll start with RAW, where the Tag Team Championship was on the line.

THE USOS (c) vs. RYBAXEL, WWE Tag Team Championship

Ryback and Curtis Axel have “suddenly turned it on as a team” or something like that. Nothing of note in the first couple minutes other than a clumsy-looking stereo dive that appears to injure Jey Uso‘s lower left leg. Of note after the commercial break, Rybaxel goes for a tandem superplex, but Jimmy Uso fights them off and front suplexes Axel onto Ryback. Hot tag to Jey, but he’s still favoring the leg. Ryback hits a spinebuster and a cover, THEN starts posing after the fact to set up for the clothesline. That’s enough time to allow Jey to get up and hit a superkick. Jey with another nice counter, turning Shell Shocked into a rollup. Tag to Jimmy, which comes in handy when Axel gets the Perfectplex on Jey. Jimmy hits the top-rope splash on Axel, and the champs retain.

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:44

TECHNICAL MERIT: Some decent spots in this one.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Typical babyfaces-in-peril tag match.

TOTAL SCORE: **

Not great, but certainly better than expected. The heels tried some things that made the match feel a little different, and actually made themselves look decent … not an easy task for this pair.

 

Magneto and motivational speaking

“If you can’t see yourself a winner, you’ll never be one. The power to envision your goals and the power to achieve them is the same thing. No one ever got rich in the passenger’s seat. Take the wheel. Take charge. And Bolieve.”

RAW 042814 Bolieve

This one’s for the ladies.

RAW 042814 Hugh Jackman

This one’s not.

RAW 042814 Sandow Magneto

This was the best bad segment of RAW in a LONG time. It would be the worst if it weren’t so damn hilarious … and if “Magneto” didn’t take a hip toss and the Zig Zag.

 

Paul Heyman’s clients (past and present) and the next Intercontinental Champion

“I’m a liar. I’m a conniver. I’m ruthless. And I’m totally uninhibited by my unethical approach to business. But I take my clients to the top.” That about covers Paul Heyman. And that’s all Cesaro wants to hear.

RAW 042814 Heyman Cesaro

Later in the show, Paul E. decides we need to hear a joke, because “my kids think I’m funny!”

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Mike!

Mike who?

Mike … lient Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!

RAW 042814 Real Americans

Yeah, that didn’t work. But hey, Heyman’s client, Cesaro, won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania! He’ll try to conquer Jack Swagger once more.

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER

Gutwrench suplex … and Cesaro hangs on for another one. Wicked strong. Swagger shouts “We the people!” into Cesaro’s ear during a weardown hold. Zeb Colter trips up Cesaro from outside, then Paul E. takes matters, and Zeb’s mustache, into his own hands. That’s enough of a distraction for a bridging German suplex pin.

TIME: 3:12

TECHNICAL MERIT: A bit clunky at times, actually, but a couple decent maneuvers.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent, quick story.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

These guys aren’t done yet. But until then …

RAW 042814 Bad News Barrett

This man has bad news for Rob Van Dam. Only the “Then” part of the WWE slogan applies to him. In fact, Wade Barrett apparently was in diapers the last time RVD was Intercontinental Championship. That’s a bit of a stretch, but that whole promo was fantastic. Barrett is over as a heel, and it’s great to see. The man can talk, he has charisma, he has a great look and he can work.

ROB VAN DAM vs. BAD NEWS BARRETT, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 contender tournament final

Rob, however, is working him early. Well, until he basically whiffs on an apron moonsault. At least Barrett sold it well. Barrett puts in work outside before the break, and he’s stretching RVD a bit upon return. RVD suddenly goes a bit away from his offense with some Ultimate Warrior clotheslines, then goes to the spinning kick until Cesaro arrives. Swagger follows, and they go at it outside. That appears to set up the Bullhammer, but it turns into a back kick and Rolling Thunder. Yawn. RVD has to fend off Cesaro will perched up top, and that gives Barrett enough time to prepare/block the frog splash. One Bullhammer later and we have our No. 1 contender.

RAW 042814 Big E Barrett

TIME: 4:48

TECHNICAL MERIT: A bit formulaic. It’s an RVD match.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Points here for advancing two stories.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

The aftermath is a three-way midcard scrap, which Cesaro starts but also of which he gets the brunt. Because somebody has to take the frog splash.

RAW 042814 Rob Van Dam

I think RVD’s best place is off my screen, but at least this whole bit makes sense. RVD hates Heyman, so he hates Cesaro by proxy. Swagger still hates Cesaro, and that’s mutual.

“Not sure about the end game, but could make for a fun triple threat down the road.” I wrote that Tuesday morning. Sure enough …

ExR Triple Threat

Potential direction: This feels like a star vehicle for Cesaro, but Swagger could screw him over to continue the feud.

Who should win Sunday: Cesaro

Who probably will win: Cesaro

 

On to the next one …

Moving along  … nothing says Midcard Report quite like WWE Main Event! We lead off with Goldust in action, along with a flashback to RAW, when Cody Rhodes lost to Alberto Del Rio and shoved Goldust in frustration afterward. So, for a Hulu Plus RAW viewer, this was actually quite informative! Though the brothers are on the same page for the moment.

ME 042914 Cody Rhodes Goldust

GOLDUST (w/Cody Rhodes) vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

Both men aggressive out of the gate, and a Backstabber into the cover 30 seconds in. Slows down a bit with the rear chinlock about a minute in, and the “Let’s Go Goldust!” chant to help him out. Signature drop and slap and the powerslam at the 2-minute mark, and ADR with the enziguiri right after that. This could be a quick one. Dragon screw from Goldie to counter the kick, then the Final Cut does it. Guess I was right.

ME 042914 Goldust

TIME: 3:09

TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick, but all the major spots in.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: The story was mostly set up the night before, so not much here besides the winner.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Renee Young … sorry, “Nay Nay” … suggests this could be about the time The Brotherhood splits. Goldie squashes that. Nay Nay asks whether Cody Rhodes is impressed with Dustin’s win; Cody somewhat heelish in saying that doesn’t mean Dustin’s better. He gets back on course and says The Brotherhood is together and will stay that way. Methinks that won’t last too much longer…

On another note, this is happening Friday:

SD 050214 US Title

(No) thanks to Twitter, I know what happens. Oh well.

 

Speaking of champions …

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WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. ALICIA FOX

This goes straight outside, and the champ jumps from the apron and snaps off a head-scissors. These two have pretty good chemistry, though Alicia isn’t the most crisp. She does, however, play the heel part adequately. Big kick to the face around 2:00 after Paige rips off Matt Morgan with the corner elbows. Paige gets a kick of her own 30 seconds later and starts to show her edge — hair pulling, knees to the head, etc. Simple, but effective countering from Alicia. She won’t, however, counter this DDT.

ME 042914 Paige DDT 1 ME 042914 Paige DDT 2

TIME: 3:34

TECHNICAL MERIT: Not great, but certainly not bad.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Typical Paige main-roster match, though she did get some more offense early.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Afterward, the champ has company.

ME 042914 Paige Tamina

Paige vs. Tamina potential direction: Why give the belt to Paige for only a month?

Who should win Sunday: Paige retains.

Who probably will win: You know this one.

 

Promo time with Sheamus to set up a fight with Bray Wyatt later in the show. Something about fighting with guys in Ireland or something. I don’t listen because I don’t want to hear Sheamus talk. I want to see him kick ass and leave.

 

Random fun fact: This man is a 10-time champion in WWE.

ME 042914 Kofi Kingston

That’s the good news.

ME 042914 Bad News Barrett

This is the bad news. More bad news: Big E. is a “cardboard cutout” and a bland, boring champion.

Good news: Mr. Barrett is pulling Midcard Report double duty!

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. KOFI KINGSTON

More bad news: Big back kick to Kofi’s gut. Kingston the speed and a flying cross-body for 2. Nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker from Barrett. Ninety seconds in, he’s calling for the Bullhammer, but Kofi thwarts that with a rollup. Kofi slips Barrett multiple times outside, but literally leaps into the Bullhammer. All Barrett has to do is roll him back in.

TIME: 2:28

TECHNICAL MERIT: Basic.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: The mission — get Barrett over. Success.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

 

“… Kansas City … we’re here.”

So is the Celtic Warrior, who interrupts sing-along time with Bray Wyatt. Not cool. Also, this actually feels like it could be a substitute main-event match down the line; it’s almost overqualified for this slot. But since this is a midcard show …

SHEAMUS vs. BRAY WYATT (w/Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)

Both men opting for the slow build on this one. Sheamus using the power and striking game early, but Wyatt doing just enough to stunt the momentum before it gets excessive. When Sheamus does get something, like a second-rope kneedrop, Bray is kicking out at 1. Back from break, and Wyatt has stepped into the driver’s seat. The rest of the Wyatt Family is staying out of the way for the most part, obstructing Sheamus only enough to let him know they’re here. Forearm to the back on the apron that forces Sheamus to fall face first into said apron, then the running senton inside for 2. After that, good old-fashioned ass whipping until Sheamus blocks a second senton attempt. Charge and kneelift, and a kneelift that propels him outside around 9:00. That helps him long enough to get a uranage slam for 2 1/2. Sister Abigail expertly countered into White Noise and a cover.

On another note, Harper is creepy as hell.

ME 042914 Luke Harper

Sheamus gets the 10 forearms going outside in after landing on his feet on Wyatt’s back bodydrop attempt. At 12:00, Wyatt ducks the Brogue Kick, but runs into the Irish Curse backbreaker on the way back. Rowan distracts Sheamus from attempting the kick again, but does get a powerslam. Rowan AND Harper provide the distraction on either apron, and that allows Wyatt to bash Sheamus in the back and hit Sister Abigail. Great match.

ME 042914 Bray Wyatt Sheamus

TIME: 13:40

TECHNICAL MERIT: It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was effective.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Simple story with the mutual beatdown, and Wyatt stays strong.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

When Sheamus has a decent and/or fresh dance partner, the man can get the job done in the ring. I’ve seen at least two, if not three, good matches out of him against different opponents as of late. He’s a good man to have in the upper midcard because he’s a good hand, he’s powerful and wins and losses don’t really affect him a whole lot.

As for Wyatt, he’s a MUCH better storyteller than technician. His attack is somewhat repetitive and quite simple. But here’s the thing: He’s 26 years old. The skills will continue to develop, and he’s believable as a somewhat unorthodox, powerful brawler. He reminds me of Mick Foley, to be honest: Not the greatest physique and would never be confused for the Excellence of Execution, but you know you’ll see a good fight and a damn good story.

Main Event had a great balance this week: A true main event, and you get some bulletpoints on the portions of the card RAW may not hit. Creative all around seems to have some more depth and more sense, and it makes the whole product more enjoyable to watch.

COME BACK THURSDAY NIGHT FOR A FULL REPORT ON NXT

WWE RAW review (April 28): Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena, Daniel Bryan vs. Kane and The Shield vs. Evolution all set up well during the “go-home” show

“Go-home” shows before a pay-per-view often have a lot of notes to hit. Some are struck beautifully; others often fall flat.

For most fans, this was the go-home show. (I’m still torn on whether SmackDown actually counts for much of anything.) Nothing really fell flat this time around … at least on the Hulu Plus version.

There are three main-event-caliber storylines as WWE enters Extreme Rules: The continuation of the John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt angle, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan‘s first PPV defense against Kane and, of course, The Shield vs. Evolution in a six-man feud (seven if you count Monday’s Ric Flair cameo) that rightfully has been in the marquee slot over the past couple weeks.

Two of those have an air of uncertainty for different reasons. The middle story has been told extremely well, but nobody actually thinks Kane will walk out of Extreme Rules as the champion. He’s a nice stopgap measure who works well with Bryan until this whole Evolution-Shield thing passes and frees up a slew of potential foes.

 

‘He’s got the whole Cenation … in his hands …” 

We open the show with the steel cage down and John Cena out. This is serious John Cena, for those who were wondering. See?

RAW 042814 John Cena 1

He wants to know why he deserved his fate last week — when the WWE Universe chose to give him “no chance against unsurmountable odds.” He also hammered home another point: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become a villain.” This whole bit has been kind of … heelish. Interesting.

Another point: There will be a time to step aside. He knows it’s coming soon and actually welcomes it, then namedrops some of the upper-midcard guys, the WWE Champion and some of the NXT roster. Then he goes back to asking why the crowd is drawn to, brainwashed by, Bray Wyatt. In the steel cage, the rest of the Wyatt Family stays out, and his message stays in.

His message is about to come outside.

RAW 042814 Bray Wyatt

The familiar song is sung, only it’s sung by an entire children’s choir. Then by Bray, then by all of them with some subtle tweaks. “He’s got the whole Cenation … in his hands … he’s got the big bad monster … in his hands …” you get the idea. This actually gets booed a bit. Bray blows out the lantern, the lights come on, then this happens…

RAW 042814 choir sheep 1 RAW 042814 John Cena 2

Wyatt didn’t have to say much of anything. The visuals said it all on this one.

RAW 042814 choir sheep 2

Like seriously. How damn creepy can you get?

Later in the show, Cena declines an interview request from Renee Young. Closer to the end, he acquiesces and is pleased the WWE Universe didn’t turn its back on him. This Sunday, Wyatt won’t have the world in his hands. “He’ll have my fist in his face, and my foot in his ass.” Cena’s just better when he’s a little angry.

So, with all that being said …

Potential direction: Either way.

Who should win Sunday: Wyatt. Evens the series and could take Cena in a whole different direction for the rubber match.

Who probably will win Sunday: It’s a John Cena match. That’s damn near ’nuff said 10 months a year. But this really feels like Wyatt’s turn to go over. I think we’ll be surprised by whatever happens.

 

“I almost believed you … except everyone knows that you’re full of crap.”

RAW 042814 Daniel Bryan Brie Bella

Stephanie McMahon calls for Bryan to come out for an apology … and he’s there? Didn’t expect that. Figured he’d just take all the time off until Extreme Rules. But during his time away from the road for wedding, honeymoon and bereavement, it sounds like he found himself some promo chops!

There was no pandering. No wack-ass dialogue. No doofy smiling or high-pitched, cheesy/snarky delivery. (Yes, he tries to accomplish both most of the time.) This was a slightly battered champion ready for revenge. This was a man who commands respect by his words as well as his actions. This was a man firmly asserting his point: He won’t accept any apology, but he’ll be ready to defend his title Sunday.

This was a solid segment, actually. Steph says she and Triple H never wanted Bryan to be champ, and their emotions “ran a little high” and got out of control. Bryan said Brie Bella‘s did, too, when The Authority kept beating him down, but she stayed out of it because she respects him and she knows he can do it on his own. Steph explains the Kane development: She just wanted to give Kane a backbone and make him a credible opponent for Extreme Rules. Kane just went too far. Steph apologizes for “everything” and almost looks genuine whilst doing so.

RAW 042814 Stephanie McMahon

Bryan’s reponse: “I think you’re still full of crap.”

Steph invites Bryan to the ring so she can convince him otherwise … like that’s not a trap. Bryan stays where he is. He’ll be in the ring Sunday, and if Kane takes him down, he’ll take Kane with him … straight. To. Hell. That’s strong.

Part II of the trap attempt: Brie gets a title shot! And Bryan’s invited ringside! Not to worry … Kane is nowhere to be found, and his mask is locked away in the office. The faces accept …

RAW 042814 Kane mask gone

… but wait a second …

Meanwhile …

PAIGE (c) vs. BRIE BELLA (w/Daniel Bryan), WWE Divas Championship

Brie with a snapmare thing into a cover about 35 seconds in. That just made Paige mad. Toss across the ring, stomps and screaming. Paige is working heel here, and it totally works. Also, we have a superplex in a women’s match. That’s a new one, right? Also, that’s about all the time we have because we have a visitor!

RAW 042814 Kane Brie Bella

TIME: 2:17

Bryan temporarily thwarts the attack with a monkey wrench, but the classic Kane no-sell and chokeslam follow. Brie eventually escapes, but does this man look displeased with his handiwork?

RAW 042814 Kane

Not exactly.

Later, Bryan is getting checked out in the training room when Steph feigns concern about whether the champ still can compete Sunday. She attempts to apologize again and …

“GET OUT, YOU BITCH!”

RAW 042814 Bryan Brie McMahon

Damn. Also, about time. Well done, Brie Bella. Well done.

Potential direction: There’s really only one way this will go.

Who should win Sunday: Bryan, and it’s not even close. Jim Ross said Bryan should hold the title until Brock Lesnar takes it off him, either at SummerSlam or Survivor Series. That’s a hell of a lot more sensible than dropping it to a 47-year-old midcard heel at Extreme Rules.

Who probably will win Sunday: There’s really only one way this will go.

 

“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Hey, this looks familiar!

RAW 042814 Randy Orton

Anyway, The Shield apparently took out 11 men on SmackDown. Trips is impressed! Because they remind him of, well, the group in the ring. The thing is this: Evolution are still here. Hunter brought them in, and Evolution can take them out. They’ll perish Sunday … or so Trips says.

It’s standoff time in the ring until …

“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

RAW 042814 Ric Flair Evolution

Flair is back, and he sounds a bit … hydrated. He’s happy to be in the ring with men who exude what this business is all about: Dominance. Evolution, naturally, nod their heads in approval. He discusses the Four Horsemen (of course) and Evolution, then how things have come full circle. Everything that embodies the business he sees in …

RAW 042814 Ric Flair The Shield

… The Shield? He shakes their hands, turns, winks and bails. Well then.

Oh, by the way, there’s a wrestling match involving this guy!

RAW 042814 Roman Reigns

That one’s for you, ladies.

ROMAN REIGNS (w/Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins) vs. RANDY ORTON (w/Triple H & Batista)

This goes outside quickly. Reigns hits a suplex, breaks the count, then goes back to work until Orton reverses a whip into the steps. Reigns blocks the DDT attempt by doing the simplest thing possible: Just step through the ropes. No way yet, though, to block the floor-to-apron dropkick. Distraction time from Evolution, which means brawl time for The Shield. Trips wins that portion of the battle, but Reigns has control in the ring. He moves out on the rest of Evolution, which means this match gets thrown out.

TIME: 4:44

What follows is our Wrestling 101 lesson for the night: Get the heels over on the go-home show so they’re a threat to the faces on the pay-per-view.

RAW 042814 The Shield 1

Well, at least until Rollins “hits” Trips with a springboard knee. (He whiffed by a few inches at least.) Reigns hits the spear on Hunter, and it’s triple powerbomb time? No, Batista and Orton create a diversion long enough to get out of Dodge. Or St. Louis. Whatever. Both teams look good heading into Extreme Rules, which is exactly what was necessary.

RAW 042814 The Shield 2

Potential direction: Either way.

Who should win Sunday: Depends on how long this plays out. If it’s a lengthy feud, give it to Evolution to lead off. If it’s a one-off, The Shield should take care of business now.

Who probably will win Sunday: I’m feeling Evolution via swerve, whether by Flair, a Shield member or someone else. Someone always swerves in stable warfare, right?

What do you think will happen at Extreme Rules? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

Flashback Friday review (RAW, March 14, 1993): Razor Ramon and Typhoon squash the competition, while Bob Backlund and The Nasty Boys make the WWF far less exciting to watch.

Remember when Monday Night Raw was about a third as long as it is now, and there wasn’t some corporate authority storyline bogging it down? When an angle started as simply as stealing somebody’s hat, using an arm cast filled with cement to hit them from behind, or hitting a guy’s surgically repaired face with a briefcase? When hipster fans didn’t try to “hijack” the show? Better yet, when hipsters didn’t even exist, and the ’80s still kind of did?

Then WELCOME, EVERYONE, TO MONDAY NIGHT RAW!!!!! … in 1993.

WWE Network billing: Bobby Heenan interviews Harvey Wippleman and Giant Gonzalez. Also Razor Ramon, Bob Backlund and more.

We’re LIVE … from Poughkeepsie? There’s a blizzard in New York, and Vince McMahon and many wrestlers are in the city for some awards show. But that’s OK, because we get…

RAW 031493 MonsoonHeenan

Nevermind the dude on the left. Actually, do mind him. He’ll ruin the show for you.

And we start with The Bad Guy? YES! YES! YES!

RAW 031493 Razor1

RAZOR RAMON vs. RUSS GREENBERG (3:17)

Rob Bartlett is spoofing McMahon this week … it’s not working. What is working is Razor showing off a couple wear-down holds ahead of his WrestleMania IX match against Backlund. Belly-to-back off the second rope sets up The Razor’s Edge. Thanks for coming, Russ!

RAW 031493 Razor2

TIME: 3:08

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Squash

 

Speaking of squashes, we have one of the Natural Disasters in action.

TYPHOON vs. L.A. GORE (7:47)

Gore’s the oldest-looking jobber I’ve ever seen. Also, I liked Typhoon so much more as Tugboat. The fans appear to like Typhoon, since they popped for a vertical suplex. And for the belly as an offensive weapon. And for the belly splash at the end.

RAW 031493 Typhoon

TIME: 2:57

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Squash

 

Back from break, Heenan promos on someone in production about cues and such, selling the whole “live” bit, so we get promotional considerations. Once that’s out of the way, and after a bit more Heenan being Heenan, it’s promo time with Heenan, Wippleman and Gonzalez, who is absolutely HUGE.

RAW 031493 GiantGonzalez

Wippleman said he dropped an 8-foot bombshell at the Royal Rumble, and everyone’s ducking Gonzalez except The Undertaker, who hopes to win his third straight match at WrestleMania. Crowd pops for no real reason, then Wippleman insults their ignorance. Taker should bring a giant casket to Mania, because Gonzalez will bury Paul Bearer AND him in it.

 

Hogan promo video.

RAW 031493 Hogan1 RAW 031493 Hogan2

He’s back at WrestleMania IX, when he teams with Brutus Beefcake to face Money Inc. for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Also, Bret Hart will face Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in the main event.

 

Papa Shango is in action for the second straight week. And so is that skull.

RAW 031493 PapaShangoSkull

His opponent? A lot less flashy.

PAPA SHANGO vs. BOB BACKLUND (18:37)

Couple single-leg sweeps from Backlund, then a test of strength from Shango. Backlund escapes and starts wrenching the arm, then a drop toehold, an elbow and a wristlock. Papa gives the match a little action with a backbreaker. They go outside for a bit without actually doing anything except for a charge into the edge of the apron. Rear chinlock, and Backlund tosses his way out. Another Shango backbreaker, then a couple elbow drops. Fascinating stuff here. Back to the chinlock, and Papa uses the ropes. The announcers are so enthralled, they’ve taken more time on the McMahon spoof than analyzing the match. Though they briefly discuss Backlund’s stamina right before he elbows out … right into a kneelift to the breadbasket. Slam, cover, 2. Kick to the gut, but Backlund gets the small package and it works.

TIME: 8:00

TECHNICAL MERIT: Painfully elementary.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Painfully slow.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Backlund’s style was so out of touch with the times that, as a babyface, it just didn’t work. Using Wrestling 101 moves as your ENTIRE offense, then winning with a small package? That doesn’t work now, and it doesn’t look like it really worked then.

 

Now it’s WrestleMania Report time with Gene Okerlund. Sponsored, of course, by ICOPRO. You gotta want it! No, really. They stopped making the stuff 20 years ago, so you REALLY gotta want it! On another note, it’s the world’s largest toga party at Caesars Palace on April 4!

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BRET HART vs. YOKOZUNA, WWF Championship

We get a flashback to Superstars, when Yoko showcases his dominance by pummeling some jobber.

 

RAW 031493 WM2

THE MEGA MANIACS (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. MONEY INC., WWF Tag Team Championship

Brutus apparently recently showed his new mask to protect his nose. Promo time with Money Inc., who say they’ll bring a bigger, armor-piercing briefcase to take to Beefcake.

RAW 031493 MoneyInc

 

RAW 031493 WM3

THE UNDERTAKER (w/Paul Bearer) vs. GIANT GONZALEZ (w/Harvey Wippleman)

Taker says Gonzalez’s nightmare will soon be a reality.

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And to rest in peace and all that stuff.

 

RAW 031493 WM4

Mr. Perfect and Lex Luger, who considers himself better than perfect (so who apparently has never watched one of his own matches) and a plethora of other great matches. LIVE ON PAY-PER-VIEW!

When we return from a WWF Mania plug, it’s tag team action.

 

Fatu nearly became WWF Champion a couple weeks ago. Now he faces The Nasty Boys.

RAW 031493 Fatu

THE NASTY BOYS vs. THE HEADSHRINKERS

34:39

No Afa in Samu and Fatu‘s corner. Fatu enters illegally, but not only does the ref not nice, but Jerry Sags handles both of them. Bartlett seriously needs to be fired. Sags randomly bites Fatu’s arm, but Fatu snaps off the superkick before the break.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

6 minutes left in the show, and we finally get a “WILL YOU STOP?!” from Gorilla. Apparently the fight got out of hand during the break and the ref nearly threw the match out. So basically, the action during the break was better than what we’re seeing. Samu misses a diving headbutt, but tags to Fatu. Meanwhile, hot tag to Brian Knobbs, who is on a clothesline rampage. Double headbanger doesn’t work … a double DDT a few seconds later does. All four men head out of the ring, and we’re over in catering. I’ve only seen this A MILLION TIMES BEFORE. Needless to say, this is a double countout.

TIME: 6:23

TECHNICAL MERIT: Could be a lot better; could be worse.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Another Nasties match ending with mustard. No. Thanks.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

WWF charity plug on the way out, including a drug-free crusade.

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK: Money, Inc., in action, along with Kamala vs. Doink, Tatanka vs. Repo Man, and The Bushwhackers are in the house.

RAW 031493 NastyBoys

WWE NXT review (April 24): Sami Zayn and The Usos triumph in a great six-man tag, and Paige loses two things in one night.

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I found out about NXT’s six-man tag-team main event the morning (OK, afternoon) of the show, and I was immediately stoked. Sami Zayn was about to get a shot at revenge on Corey GravesThe Ascension demanded competition (and we wanted competition for them), and The Usos answered. This match had high expectations from The Champ.

It more or less delivered.

So many stories were in play, and all were executed excellently. Graves avoided Zayn for almost the entire match. The Ascension worked so well together, they almost forgot about Graves. Jey Uso played the babyface in peril for most of the contest, and the heels took turns cutting off the ring. Zayn had to tag quickly to presumably avoid risking another injury. Graves, the chicken heel during the entire first half, took a top-rope crossbody AND the Blue Thunder Bomb from Zayn, then finally stayed down after Jey’s top-rope splash. Nothing weak about that.

Viktor showed he can work for longer than a couple minutes, and showed it’s possible for him to take a bump. Hell, Konnor even had a semi-prolonged run or two in the ring. The pace was good — quick at times, calculated and deliberate at others.

I enjoyed this one-off match, and it easily was the match of the night.

TIME: 12:25

TECHNICAL MERIT: Crisp, diverse and sound.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Great work with all the subplots.

TOTAL SCORE: ***3/4

 

Paige’s Double Whammy

We start the show with the bad news …

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OK, that will NEVER be bad news. The bad news is this …

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JBL declared it’s not fair to NXT for Paige to have both of WWE’s women’s championships, so she’s being stripped of the NXT Women’s Championship, and a tournament will determine the successor. Paige initially refuses, then decides it’s not that bad. Besides, who doesn’t like a good tourney?

The best scenario would, of course, involve Paige defending both titles for a while, but this is the most logical. In storyline, Paige is traveling worldwide and as WWE Divas Champion, so she won’t be able to keep coming back to Orlando to defend her title. (Insert Dean Ambrose/United States Championship joke here.) Plus, you don’t want the Divas Champion to job out to an NXT competitor, right?

… right?

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Oh, OK then.

Charlotte presented the surprise of the night by pinning Paige in a tag-team match also involving Sasha Banks and Emma, the latter of whom picked Paige as her mystery partner. While the title logic was sound, it kind of went out the window when the erstwhile champion did the job about 15 minutes later.

This clearly was a star vehicle for Charlotte, and she showed she was worthy. While taking notes, I wrote, “Charlotte is ridiculously athletic, but it doesn’t yet translate to wrestling. I imagine it will.” Then she slapped on a leg scissors on Emma for a solid minute and a half that include multiple body rolls and even a spot where she lifted Emma up and over to return to the original position. It was a wear-down hold, but she remained active while applying it so it didn’t feel like a time-sapping rest hold. Emma finally countered with a cover to break, and Paige got through her offense with the hot tag until Charlotte dropkicked her leg while trying to set up the modified scorpion crosslock on Sasha. Charlotte later gets the tag and does a frontflip into a cutter variation just above mat level. THAT was something the Nature Boy could be proud of.

TIME: 5:57

TECHNICAL MERIT: Pleased with this one.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent story, VERY unexpected finish.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

Some odd editing beforehand: Emma doesn’t reveal her mystery partner right away, and we’ll apparently find out when we get back from a Slam City plug. We return, and Paige is already on the apron waiting for the match to start. Then they refer to her as the NXT Women’s Champion … then talk about the decision to strip her of said championship. Methinks this was taped before the title was stripped, but it just came off shoddy. At least the last time it was this glaring, it involved whether Cesaro had a first name.

 

On to the rest of the show …

ALEXANDER RUSEV vs. TRAVIS TYLER

Tyler immediately hits a dropkick. That’s about all of his offense tonight. We nearly get as many shots of Lana (probably for good reason) as of the actual match. Straight power game leading into The Accolade. Nothing to see here. Not even sure why Rusev was here.

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TIME: 1:37

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Squash

 

We went from super-serious Rusev to this:

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Adam Rose had two words for Camacho: Party pooper. He also said he was boring. That apparently a beef makes. A good time, it does not. It just didn’t accomplish much. Rose already comes off as a bit stale and one-dimensional, and he’s had what … two or three matches? And he’s getting called up? I must be a lemon instead of a rosebud.

 

After the women’s match, it was the dropdown/reboot match, featuring a former WWE Tag Team Champion (and current Total Diva husband), and a former Nexus reject. Expectations for this one? Low to say the least.

TYSON KIDD vs. MASON RYAN

Classic big man-little man battle, with a dash of Kidd kicking his way to an advantage. Nice apron legdrop from T.J., jumping inside out over the ropes. After a couple more requisite bumps, he hits a blockbuster for the underdog victory …

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… and some promo time. Don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak.

“If you wanna fight? I’ll brawl. If you wanna fly? I’ll soar. If you wanna test me? I’ll prove you WRONG!”

Not spectacular, but that line was good. He’s back, and he’s ready to make a name for himself again in NXT.

TIME: 3:19

TECHNICAL MERIT: Good pacing and give-and-take.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Basic, but pretty effective.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

 

Who the hell is Angelo Dawkins? And why does he look like a giant Lupe Fiasco acolyte? Seriously … this backpacker character is NOT what works in professional wrestling. But who cares about all that? Because this guy has entered the building:

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ANGELO DAWKINS vs. TYLER BREEZE

Dawkins has a strong amateur background, and it shows ever so briefly. But he pissed off Tyler Breeze, so he’s probably going to lose. “DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR!” while the chinlock is applied. THIS feels like a rest hold to pass the time. Pass the time before the Beauty Shot, which Jason Albert keeps calling the Money Shot. Ummm … that’s a little different, buddy.

TIME: 2:00

TECHNICAL MERIT: Could’ve been a lot better.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Breeze has the character. He has athletic ability. And he has knows how to slow a match down like a heel should. But this pacing doesn’t work in a 2-minute match. The chinlock and the stalling before the finisher work in a 10-minute contest, but when you’re going 2, that’s about half the match!

 

Between Breeze and the main event, we revisited the Adrian Neville vs. Brodus Clay feud over the NXT Championship. Neville won by countout last week, and Brodus apparently was angry enough to take it out on the champion backstage. The only thing I really gathered from this …

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… is that a work or a tooth? Either Neville has the hockey-player look, or Mr. Clay was a little too stiff. Guess we’ll find out more next week.

What did you think of NXT? How was the main event? Who do YOU think should/will be the next NXT Women’s Champion? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE NXT semi-preview (April 24): Sami Zayn, Corey Graves, The Usos and The Ascension are in an epic six-man tag, and Paige gets one belt lighter…?

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THIS is a match I can get behind.

The Sami Zayn vs. Corey Graves rivalry is NXT’s best at the moment. Zayn as the super-polite, super-charming, super-athletic babyface is fantastic … it seems a lot less like a character and a lot like a nice guy turned up to 11. It helps that he’s probably the show’s best wrestler. Graves is a great antagonist — careless, brash, and able to stretch you until you can’t take it anymore. Graves basically knocked Zayn out three weeks ago, and this is a shot at revenge. These two can compete against each other as often as they’d like.

But now, both men have reinforcements.

The Ascension are the only true tag team in NXT, unless you count Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, who debuted last week, and it shows. Two-minute squashes are the norm for this pair, which hammers people just long enough to hit the Fall of Man and get out. They’re fun to watch, but it would be even better to actually see them face worthwhile competition.

What better competition than the WWE Tag Team Champions?

The Usos have been on main-roster shows pretty often lately, but it seems like they only go about 4-5 minutes as well, and the teams they face aren’t all that great either. As the NXT main event, this will go at least 10 minutes — maybe 15. Plenty of time to not only get a fresh matchup, but allow both teams to show off their skills in a surprising and entertaining contest.

I legitimately see guys like Zayn and The Usos being the future of the babyface upper-midcard for the next decade or so, and these guys likely will go over tonight — finally giving Zayn a go-home-happy moment in a big match and making the Uso’s trip to Florida worthwhile. I expect at least 3.5 stars, maybe 4, and I expect a nice balance of pace between the faces’ quick energy and the heels’ deliberate high impact. The faces will be battered, but not beaten in this one.

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Then, there’s the matter of Paige.

I’m a mark for two-belt champions, especially with someone as talented and, well, good-looking as this one. Apparently, JBL disagrees. Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com is reporting the NXT GM is stripping Paige of the NXT Women’s Championship tonight, under the rationale that someone can’t hold both women’s championships simultaneously. Basically, The Ultimate Warrior rule from 1990 applied to the ladies. It’s the best move, seeing as Paige can’t really be in two places at once, and it doesn’t weaken her by having the WWE Divas Champion job to someone on NXT.

The second women’s champion could be Emma, the next best talent on the card. Or they could go heel and give it to Sasha Banks, who has proven her worth as a foil for the show’s faces. I say give it to Banks and let Emma, Bayley and maybe even BFF partner Charlotte eventually go after her.

Speaking of … the BFFs and Emma apparently have a tag match tonight that was set up last week. Emma has a “mystery partner”. Seeing as Paige is in the building, it only makes sense for the now-former champ to have a proper sendoff.

These theories may all go completely out the window by 9:50 p.m. EDT, but we’ll see what happens.

What do you think will happen on NXT? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter.

WWE RAW review (April 21, Part V): Evolution and The Shield put in their 2 cents

Champ’s note: This is the fifth and final review on Monday’s episode of RAW. Click here for Part I on Daniel Bryan and Kane, here for Part II on the Intercontinental Championship No. 1 contender’s tournament, here for Part III on the NXT Class of 2014, and here for Part IV on John Cena and Bray Wyatt.

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Evolution, SUIT UP!

There’s something about Triple HBatista and Randy Orton walking down the ramp in more formal attire that brings back fond memories. This is class. This is bravado. This is former world champions looking like world champions. This is quality heel work. But most important of all, it’s Batista out of skinny jeans. *rimshot*

Anyway, these guys are back because they have business to handle. That business is dressed much worse, but on a much higher trajectory at this stage, despite the events of last week that saw Evolution reform.

Triple H compared the beatdown of The Shield to a dad spanking his kids — it’s embarrassing and humbling for the child. Orton said The Shield’s agitation was the spark that lit the fire and led to the reformation of Evolution. Batista told us to deal with the 31 world titles between them, and The Shield has no idea what they’re getting into.

Except The Shield decided to get right into it, and it was Evolution backing off.

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Now alone in the ring, it’s The Shield’s turn to talk, Dean Ambrose gives Evolution credit for their handiwork — not the first beating they’ll get, not the last. But they’re not humbled. He’s so not humbled, he called Orton a cream puff. Which was accurate, considering. Seth Rollins asserts Shield’s dominance and tells us when push comes to shove, each member of Evolution will look out for himself. Orton no-sells it in great heel fashion with a yawn. Roman Reigns, fresh off a selfie war victory over Road Dogg, simply says they’re going to beat Evolution’s asses right now, and they can either fight back or take it.

Trips presents a third option — go through every heel in the midcard! We’re spared a 12-on-3 beating, at least for now, and we segue into the next order of business.

This has the potential to be amazing, but everything right now feels so … rushed. They only really have three more shows to build this into an epic clash, and that’s if they use SmackDown, which appears to be a possibility. We know this is supposed to be a big deal because of the parties involved, but this doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a big deal in two weeks. It also feels like Evolution is a one-off for this pay-per-view instead of a power-trip faction that will be a factor for months. Not sure why I get that vibe, but it’s there.

Will they deliver in the match? Of course. But it feels like they’re a few weeks behind, which means they’re not quite delivering right now.

What did you think of RAW? How you do feel about the buildup to Extreme Rules? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter.

WWE RAW review (April 21, Part IV): Bray Wyatt’s sermon, and the Family’s beatdown of John Cena

Champ’s note: This is the fourth of a few reviews on Monday’s episode of RAW. Click here for Part I on Daniel Bryan and Kane, here for Part II on the Intercontinental Championship contender’s tournament, or here for Part III on the NXT Class of 2014.

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I remember the first time that I was ever struck with truth. The taste was bitter, and it was SO intense. But I liked it. It was something real. Free will has become man’s illusion! They promise it to you, just in time to take it away again. And what have they left us with? What have we become? Just a nation full of mindless sheep, led by wolves and owned by pigs. But I was thinking, tonight, man, what a wonderful night it would be for change? What a wonderful night for change indeed! I was thinking, tonight, they have left the power in your hands! Those fools. Tonight, free will does exist! Tonight, you make a choice. And what fate will you choose for your knight in shining armor. Will you choose the path of less pain for your hero? Or will tonight be the night John Cena finally learns the truth? And the truth is we stand against you. Whether it this brother or that brother, whether it be in a steel cage or inside your mind, John, we stand against you. And at Extreme Rules, inside that steel cage match, two monsters enter. But on this night, it will not matter which monster has the sharpest teeth or the longest claws, because one thing will remain the same. They do not love you anymore, John. Can’t you feel it? Brothers, can’t you feel it? Do you feel the same way I do? Every time we cross paths, John, I take more of them with me. You, and you, and you, my brother. And you my brother, and you my sisters. They are coming with me! Listen, John! Listen as it happens, John! Won’t they sing with me? *sings about having the whole world in his hands* Feel! Feel with me!

Bray Wyatt may have inadvertently cut the best babyface promo of the year. Even as a heel, people love the character so much. Bray is unique and oh so charismatic, and he can captivate a crowd with minimal effort, as he did here. The object: Hype the mystery match for the end of the night involving John Cena and some combination of Wyatt Family members, which was up to a WWE App fan vote. Not only did Wyatt pique people’s interest in his match with Cena at Extreme Rules, but he helped ensure the path of most resistance for the perpetual babyface hero: A 1-on-3 handicap match with the whole family. PROMO: ****3/4

The match? It wasn’t as good.

JOHN CENA vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

No bell at first as all three men charge the ring and pick off Cena in the corner. Wyatt finally backs his men off, the bell rings and Harper starts. “Yeahhhhhhhh!” Tag to Wyatt about 90 seconds in … and he slow dances with Cena a bit and tags out shortly afterward. Quick tags throughout the match while Jerry Lawler questions why anyone would listen to the Wyatts. Ummm … because Bray speaks the truth to an extent. Pumphandle backbreaker from Rowan gets the attention back toward the ring. Bray sets up for a boot to the face … and stops short, and tags back out. Bizarre. Anyway, the squash continues into the break.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

And the squash continues back from the break! It’s realistic, but it’s not exactly entertaining. The rear chinlock rest hold doesn’t help, either, though Cena probably could use a breather from bumping. A breather that lasts all the way into ANOTHER BREAK!

*ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Lawler says, if we really study it, Cena hasn’t generated any offense. I don’t think it really requires a Rhodes scholar (or a Rhodes Scholar) to see that. “You’re welcome.” Nice DDT spot for Cena to actually get a move in, and another for Wyatt on a huge side throw. Wyatt looks like a schlub, but he’s strong. Bray beats up and charges Cena, who is prone through the ropes, and breaks out in song. Rowan follows that up in the ring with a pair of fists to the temple. Very scientific stuff here. Speaking of scientific … we get this:

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Unfortunately, that just becomes an innovative way to end up getting clotheslined. That leads to the Five Moves of Doom. Sometimes, you only need five. But Rowan and Harper break up the cover … and the ref calls for the bell? THEY HAVE UNTIL FIVE! This simply leads to the merciful end of this match (and this beatdown) and some more sing-along time with Bray Wyatt.

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HULU TIME: 13:00

TECHNICAL MERIT: Pretty basic stuff.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Pretty boring stuff.

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

It works in terms of story building for Extreme Rules, but the match seemed to drag on FOREVER. Cena was supposed to take a whipping, come back and possibly win, but he was on the mat for a solid 10 minutes with only a strike here or there. When that happens, you only really have time for the move sequence everybody loathes.