WWE Midcard Report (June 17-19): Seth Rollins outdresses Dean Ambrose and The Wyatt Family stands tall on Main Event, while Alicia Fox stays crazy on Superstars

Main Event is supposed to be filler. It’s supposed to be a supplement to RAW and SmackDown … what Superstars used to be. In the WWE Network era, it’s something different. It often gives us the matches we want. It often actually gives us matches. It gives us Seth Rollins in an all-black suit making important announcements about the next pay-per-view.

All pics, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.
All pics, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.

It’s WWE’s second-most important show.

That’s why it’s a staple of the Midcard Report. That’s why we watched Rollins “congratulate” Roman Reigns on his “small victory” and telling him there are repercussions for sneaking into the battle royal for a Money in the Bank title match spot. That’s why Rollins is calling Reigns a volcano, Dean Ambrose a bumbling buffoon and saying only he can control them. That’s why we’re telling him he sold out while he shows us why he’s still in control.

“Get on with it!”

That’s why he’s telling us there will be two ladder matches at MITB, an actual MITB match for a briefcase. That’s why he’s telling us he’s the first man in because him having that contract is best for business.

That’s why Ambrose interrupts with more bad generic music and beats up Rollins and escapes Kane. Seriously, Ambrose and Rollins have terrible music; Reigns lucked out with The Shield‘s bad generic music because it’s less bad. Also, Ambrose needs to stop stealing from the Billy Kidman collection.

Main Event 061714 Dean Ambrose

Or if you’re gonna do it, at least man up, go all in and get the Tommy Hilfiger jorts.

•••

I’m pretty sure if what Lana were saying were realistic, we would be in Cold War II right now. Also, what’s up with the Russian Mount Rushmore?

Main Event 061714 Russia Mount Rushmore Rusev

Gorbachev, Lenin, Putin and Rusev? Even I can’t suspend enough disbelief on that one. If they really meant business, they’d throw Stalin up there.

Santino arrives to interrupt, but not for long.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. SANTINO MARELLA

Superkick, Accolade, done.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Santino Accolade

For some reason, this warranted a replay. Hey, at least he’s beating up white guys now.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Lana Russia

Time: 0:24

•••

Main Event 061714 Luke Harper Bray Wyatt Family

Oh yeah, the Wyatt Family is here.

Sometimes, I see things that aren’t there, and sometimes I hear things that aren’t said. And the only way to make them go away is to make them feel like I do. Usos, your time is up. You have what we want. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I believe the time has come for the dirty ones to soil the world. The Usos and Sheamus, they’re pawns. And tonight, they will fall. For at Money in the Bank, we will be standing tall, rejoicing, as the world begins to burn. Follow the buzzards.

Luke Harper gets better each time he’s on the mic, which he showed again ever so briefly Tuesday. His quote preceded Bray Wyatt‘s, and he came off as crazier than his leader. Well done!

•••

So the Divas Champion has beef with The FunkadactylsCameron in particular. Now Naomi has to clean up the mess? I just can’t care.

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. NAOMI (w/Cameron)

We get some dueling armdrags, dropkicks and kip-ups, giving the opening sequence some purpose. The champ takes control by cutting Naomi off at the pass with a clothesline and eventually locking in an abdominal stretch as the crowd stays silent until Naomi gets a hiptoss. Rollup fails, but she puts in a submission hold. Think a surfboard without Paige going up. So like a boogieboard? You decide.

Main Event 061714 Naomi Paige

Anyway, Naomi rolls and turns this into a bridge for 2. Clumsy collision follows, which probably is planned but never actually looks good. Flying crossbody, but Paige rolls through into a cover. Paige Turner blocked, and Naomi hits her apparent finisher to beat the champion. But this just morphs into Funkadactyl vs. Funkadactyl beef as Cameron celebrates far more than the person who actually won. Paige doesn’t seem too sad about losing, probably because she got to rough up Cameron some more? This is odd.

Time: 5:13

Technical Merit: Kind of an awkward moment or two in there, but otherwise not bad.

Artistic Impression: This apparently was more about the person not in the match. Also not a fan of Paige being all nonchalant about losing. Yes, you can get caught. Yes, you can be defeated. But have some pride, people!

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

There’s a whole lot of bad-looking gold when Sheamus and The Usos are around. OK, the United States Championship isn’t that bad. It’s colorful. The copper-penny World Tag Team Championship belts need to go. On the bright side, Jimmy Uso knows how to cut a promo. A little hyped, a little crazy, a little spot-on.

Also on the bright side, the cellphone flashlight bit is a fine addition to the Wyatts’ entrance. Adds just the right amount of coolness to an eerie entrance.

They’ll throw down after a Special Olympics USA Games plug. As someone who worked with Special Olympians for a couple years in my past life as a sports reporter, WWE can fill its TV time with this all it wants. I covered plenty of great people who simply enjoyed being able to compete and were absolutely grateful to get their names in the paper in any form.

Anyway, the match comes after a Special Olympics plug and an Ambrose-Kane plug for SmackDown. That won’t exactly get me to tune in. Meanwhile, Byron Saxton (I think) refers to the Wyatts as “Three Faces of Fear”. Haku and The Barbarian are wondering whether they’re chopped liver, and why it takes three men when they instilled enough fear as a duo. Also, they would absolutely DESTROY the Wyatts in a shoot. Hell, Haku could do it himself!

United States Champion SHEAMUS & WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

Wyatt starts. Wyatt tags Rowan. Sheamus tosses Rowan out. Harper comes in and trades blows in the corners. With Rowan and Harper in a tag title match at MITB, am I the only one who wants the Wyatts to walk out with all the gold? Rowan tagged in, and Sheamus hits a rolling senton and gets out. Rowan continues to lose his team’s momentum to both Usos — first Jimmy, then Jey. Wait … SHOULDER BLOCK FROM ROWAN!!!!!1! That allows him to tag Harper and move on with wrestling. Jey with a kick and rollup, and Jimmy’s back in. Harper misses a clothesline and gets a crossbody, a kick and a slap before Jey returns. Loving the quick tags to sell the cohesiveness of the champions. Harper decides to just jack Jimmy in the throat to break free, then back to Rowan … just in time for a commercial. The plug for “Road to Paloma” is, guaranteed, better than what we would’ve seen. I seriously tune out every time Rowan’s in the ring.

Harper’s in the ring upon our return. He finally tags to Wyatt, who hits a lariat that Jey sells perfectly with a flip. He gets a chance to sell a few headbutts as well, and a charge in the corner. Back to Harper. Nice sitout scoopslam for 2, then back to Rowan. Time to tune out … until a pumphandle backbreaker? Bet Harper taught him that one. Now it’s time to be a lackey, though, as his shoulder meets the post, and Sheamus meets the hot tag. Harper with an innovative block to 10 Beats of Bodhran with a cutter onto the rope. Apparently Rowan didn’t get the memo, because he gets all 10. Harper stunts Sheamus’ momentum with a dive at the knee, but Jimmy gets the tag and hits a flying crossbody, the Samoan drop and the butt charge in the corner. Rowan misses his chance to attack AGAIN. Wyatt sneaks a tag, which comes into play when the Usos try to fly. Jey dives on Rowan, but when Jimmy goes for Harper, Bray intercepts right into Sister Abigail.

Main Event 061714 Bray Wyatt Jimmy Uso

That’s how you end a match.

Time: 11:38

Technical Merit: Wyatt Family matches really are at their best when Harper is in the ring, and at their worst when Rowan is in. Bray is in the ring infrequently enough that, even if he couldn’t work, it wouldn’t be noticeable. Pretty basic match with these combatants … felt like I’ve seen it before.

Artistic Impression: Sells the Wyatts as a legitimate threat to win at Money in the Bank. Works for me.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

When this girl leads off Superstars, it’s a good thing.

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox

Her opponent? I could do without.

ALICIA FOX vs. NIKKI BELLA

Nikki using a whole lot of non-traditional wrestling moves until the arm wrench and dropkick, and the production team using a whole lot of traditional crowd sweetener. Foxy gets control and slaps on the rear chinlock, then hits a Northern Lights suplex for 2. Stomp on her a bit, then back to the chinlock, but Nikki hits a monkey flip. I can’t get over the fact she has “Thick Chick” on her knee-high socks. Thick compared to what? Your only “thickness” is artificial. Anyway, Fox misses a big boot, and Bella hits the torture rack backbreaker to finish her off. The best part of this is Alicia taking off her boots and knee wraps and throwing them at Nikki. Besides that, this match could’ve been skipped.

Time: 3:40

Technical Merit: Basic, but clean at least.

Artistic Impression: Typical Alicia Fox event these days … more events after the match than during. But hey, I’ll take some crazy!

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox 2

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

The game after the first match of Superstars is trying to figure out where to skip to find the second match. This week, it’s about the 27-minute mark. On that note, I almost forgot about Jack Swagger!

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger

ROB VAN DAM vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Two former ECW champions, and two former Money in the Bank winners, in this match. Now they’re going at it on WWE’s No. 5 show. How the mighty fall … or get past their prime. My thoughts on RVD are well-known, but Swagger has never not been able to wrestle. His personality just doesn’t get over. Which is a bummer, because I actually enjoyed the whole “All-American American” bit. He and Zeb could be good, too, but they’re always thrown on C shows or W, X, Y or Z segments of the A show. First action of note comes at about 3 minutes, when RVD goes up top with his back to Jack, and Swagger pushes him for a sick barricade bump. I’ll credit Van Dam for his willingness to bump around.

Back from a house advertisement, and Swagger’s in control with a mix of weardown holds and strikes. RVD gets a smidgen of momentum when Swagger comes up empty in the corner, then it’s kick, weak lariat, OK lariat, superkick and that lame Rolling Thunder … is blocked into the Patriot Lock! I like it. Van Dam kicks his way out, then kicks Swagger in the head again. And again. Swagger’s been bleeding for a bit. RVD’s feeling froggy, but Swagger climbs up top and tosses him. A couple kick attempts miss, but Rob gets a legscissors cover for 2. Rob goes for a victory roll after that, but Swagger blocks and hits a belly-to-back right on Van Dam’s dome. Swaggerbomb time, but that’s blocked. Now it might be time for the frog splash … I’m giving it about 3 stars. Anyway, RVD wins, Swagger jobs, tune in next week.

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger Zeb Colter

Time: 8:16

Technical Merit: Nice counter wrestling at times. Both men utilize their finishers. Not bad in that regard.

Artistic Impression: It was whatever. It was who could get enough blocks to hit his finisher, kind of like a WWE 2K14 match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

We’ll hopefully get back on track with some higher-quality stuff in the Ring of Honor review Saturday morning. Until then, check out last night’s NXT review and enjoy Friday! Or the rest of it, anyway.

NXT review (June 19): The BFFs be fightin’, The Vaudevillains steal the show, Tyler Breeze shows the importance of a headlock, and Tyson Kidd as petulant heel continues

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you without a dope blog to … step to? We’ll work on that one.

Anyway, The Champ’s back from a self-imposed hiatus due to a few things — my mother’s visit for my birthday last week, excessive time spent on a couple presents (namely Grand Theft Auto V and Gran Turismo 6), and just a brief disenchantment with professional wrestling.

No matter what happens in or out of the ring, watching wrestling is supposed to be fun. We’re supposed to enjoy the experience and all that comes with it. But people can take the fun out of it. Whether it’s an erstwhile champion milking every minute of glory possible by refusing to surrender titles even though them’s the rules (and a full legion of dumb marks agreeing with him), a flood of The Shield breakup stuff that reminds us kayfabe is alive and well AND you apparently can never have too many supposed eye-candy photos of guys who aren’t really all that good-looking on your Twitter timeline, or the usual “Cena wins, LOL,” it happens sometimes.

So what do you do? You don’t watch ANYTHING for a week. You watch RAW with your wife and deem it unworthy of even discussing. Then you return to the old tried and true, good ol’ NXT. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my favorite WWE show for months now didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it didn’t disappoint.

•••

Oh, I see how it is. Go away for a week, miss an NXT Championship match. Might have to go back and see that one. That sets up what could be an awesome tag team with Tyson Kidd and Sami Zayn. Or a terrible one. Guess we’ll see!

Anyway, it doesn’t look like the BFFs are getting along. I’m actively trying to care, but it’s all for naught. Mainly because my diva crush is in the building!

All photos, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.
All photos, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.

NXT 061914 Alexa Bliss 2

ALEXA BLISS vs. SASHA BANKS (w/Charlotte & Summer Rae)

Alexa’s still a little green … OK, maybe a lot green … as shown by a botch about 1:15 in, and the sense of choreography with each move. But the potential is there. Sasha’s there … nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a surfboard, which turns into an opportunity to pull the hair while stretching the opponent. That’s quality heel wrestling. Meanwhile, Summer and Charlotte are setting up a little catfight outside the ring. That distracts Sasha long enough for Alexa to get a rollup … which she kind of has to reset … to get the win.

After the match, the BFFs catfight becomes a three-way. Nothing like a little Total Divas-esque beef to mess up a women’s division that’s actually good.

Time: 3:28

Technical Merit: That was Miss Bliss’ worst match on the Network, by far. Sasha’s locked in.

Artistic Impression: I swear Summer Rae’s mere presence ruins any television segment. That was brutal.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2* 

We follow the infighting with some wrestling-based marital strife. Tyson has a point … it looks weak having Natalya get him a a tag title shot. Then again, you kind of shut up and take it when you get it. He later meets up with Zayn, yadda yadda, get to the point and have the match already!

After a Batista DVD plug and some old-style vignette featuring Aiden English that will take a bit of time to process, it’s time to get hyped. Yay.

MOJO RAWLEY vs. GARRETT DYLAN

I could predict how this goes, but it would take longer to type it than actually watch it. Dylan has a “country strong” gimmick, which means he’s probably a better wrestler than Rawley. He won’t get a chance to show it this time, though. Well, except for the drop toehold into the buckle and a side slam for 2. This is just delaying the inevitable butt-based finishing offense, but I digress. William Regal poses a valid point: If you wear brown trunks, you don’t really care what others think of you. I think his style works. Basic, but fluid “amateur” skills, plus he can brawl … and his expressions and emotions are just the right amount of over the top.

NXT 061914 Garrett Dylan

Sells well, too. With that being said, Stinger Splash, Stinger Splash, butt bump, butt splash, we’re done.

Time: 3:43

Technical Merit: Well one of these was far better than the other. Because one can’t pick a man up and deposit him in the corner without problems.

Artistic Impression: Got to see good stuff from the loser, which is good. Mojo just doesn’t get me hyped one bit.

TOTAL SCORE: *

•••

NXT 061914 CJ Parker

I’m all for anything C.J. Parker does that doesn’t involve speaking or wrestling. So keep doing your thing to save the world, brother.

OK, so that vignette? We’re getting time to decipher it now with … The Vaudevillains.

NXT 061914 The Vaudevillains

NXT 061914 The Vaudevillains 2

NXT 061914 Simon Gotch

Great look, great entrance, great gimmick. The Champ approves of this new tag team.

THE VAUDEVILLAINS (Aiden English & Simon Gotch) vs. ANGELO DAWKINS & TRAVIS TYLER

Dawkins doesn’t look like a stupid hipster this time, so that’s good. Also good: Gotch applying a hammerlock … then doing a ONE-ARMED PUSHUP on Dawkins. English tags in and provides the proper balance of showmanship and impactful offense. Gotch returns and works Tyler’s arm, then English returns. Quick tags proving quite effective. A rolling senton, followed by a tag and a flying senton, end this delightful debut.

NXT 061914 The Vaudevillains 3

Time: 3:12

Technical Merit: More entertainment than sport, but that’s the point with this pair.

Artistic Impression: For a debut, it was strong. Get back to me in a few weeks.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

I like Devin Taylor. I also like Colin Cassady. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get them both in the same shot.

NXT 061914 Devin Taylor Colin Cassady

Some Dean Martin and a nose boop later, Big Cass is gone. In his place is the Roman Reigns father-daughter spot that makes women lose their damn minds.

NXT 061914 Roman Reigns

Then more Devin and some Rob Van Dam … ? He wants to wrestle the NXT Champion. Simple enough. I don’t think Adrian Neville can even save an RVD match, though.

•••

NXT 061914 Tyler Breeze

NXT 061914 Kalisto

So if we have Gorgeous and Lucha Lucha Lucha, that’s wrestling’s version of joga bonito, right? This will be fantastic.

TYLER BREEZE vs. KALISTO

“Breeze is gorgeous! Lucha lucha!” That’s an alternating chant I can get behind. Breeze sets a deliberate pace with a side headlock and takeover, and hooks the arm to add to the effect. He’s able to cover twice by pushing down the other shoulder, and Kalisto tries to escape to no avail. Kalisto rolls Breeze over for 2, but Breeze rolls back into the headlock. Randy Orton must be LOVING this. I’m starting to come around, too. Kalisto finally breaks free after nearly 3 minutes, then it’s lucha time. Nice twisting crossbody, then a headscissors forces the No. 1 contender outside. Kalisto kips up and effective executes a fakeout dive before the break.

We’re back to Breeze hitting a jawbreaker and just stomping the crap out of his foe. He takes just enough time to fix the fur on his boots, covers, and slaps on a front facelock. This one is less fun than the headlock, and Breeze breaks it on his own with a knee to the gut. But he walks right into a hurricanrana for 2. Breeze back to the fists, and three covers to no avail. Tyler Breeze does not like this. So back to the front facelock, and the NXT fans respond with a brief “HEAD-LOCK!” chant. This one is broken with a bulldog into the buckle, but Kalisto rolls onto the apron and plays possum long enough to get a kick to the head and a springboard crossbody. Both men down for a 9 count, then Kalisto starts pounding away as much as he can. Rollup, Breeze rolls out, Kalisto kicks him in the head. The brief offense Kalisto has been able to show has been fun to watch. His repeated escapes are great, but he needed one more than he had as he leaps right into the Beauty Shot. Solid finish.

Time: 10:34

Technical Merit: This was the good kind of slow. Only a top heel could elicit emotion from the fans and make a 3-minute headlock work. Credit to Kalisto as well for finding innovative ways to try to escape. Everything executed was crisp, and the varied pace was a nice touch.

Artistic Impression: See above.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

•••

Now for the episode-long story arc to reach its climax, featuring the second-best entrance music on NXT. And since Zayn is Kidd’s tag partner, we know this will be a hard-fought loss. Also, judging by the time, this will be a quick one. Right up the champions’ alley.

THE ASCENSION (c) vs. TYSON KIDD & SAMI ZAYN, NXT Tag Team Championship

Viktor and Zayn to start, and the former works the latter’s back. Nice backward leapfrog and a kick from Zayn, but he can’t get the tag to Kidd. Konnor does get a tag from Viktor and works Zayn’s front, mainly around the Equator and North Pole. Back to Viktor, who knows how to chop someone’s chest. Good Lord! Quick tags continue, and Tyson is not impressed.

NXT 061914 Tyson Kidd

Viktor back suplexes Zayn as he reaches for Kidd, and the frustration has built to the point where Kidd is done. If Zayn wants to take the whole match, Kidd said, he’s welcome to do so. Top-rope crossbody, and Zayn’s finally in position to tag, but Kidd isn’t.

NXT 061914 Tyson Kidd Sami Zayn

Konnor splash, Fall of Man, Viktor cover, champs retain.

Time: 4:21

Technical Merit: Not great, but clean. Your typical Ascension ass-kicking.

Artistic Impression: The story here was to further establish Kidd as a petulant heel. I love the story, but can’t stand the character. This is effective heel booking.

TOTAL SCORE: **

•••

Now that we’re back, the Midcard Report will have a slightly different look — Main Event and Superstars get full reviews Friday. Follow up with Ring of Honor on Saturday, and we’re back in full swing.

What did you think of NXT? Did anyone have a chance to time Breeze’s headlock and facelocks? Comment below and/or follow me on Twitter @jpetrie18.

NXT 061914 Sami Zayn The Ascension

Ring of Honor review (May 31): ACH and Roderick Strong help make a strong second impression on The Champ, and Jay Briscoe beats down Michael Bennett

Last week was the first time I ever watched a Ring of Honor wrestling program. The show was a little flat, though Silas Young cemented himself as one of The Champ’s favorites and Jay Lethal provided quite the nostalgia trip. Besides Lethal, Homicide and Kevin Steen, I hadn’t heard of anyone.

This week’s viewing lived up to the hype … and that’s even with a DQ in a triple threat.

OK, so Lethal, with Truth Martini‘s help, weaseled his way out of a World Television Championship defense. But who cares? ACH and Roderick Strong put on an eye-opening wrestling match that had a great balance of everything — mat wrestling, high flying, high impact and dynamic pacing throughout.

The best part? We didn’t have to wait at all for it!

Note: All views expressed are those of a fan who has never actually seen any of these guys before, and is unfamiliar enough with their movesets to not even know half of what is going on. I’m green, but I’m a work in progress, people. Work in progress.

ACH vs. RODERICK STRONG (w/The Decade)

ACH really appears to have knocked off elements of MVP‘s gimmick. How many times can you crossover and shoot without an actual basketball? Luckily for him, he has more conventional wrestling attire … and no Breathe Right strip. Strong looks like a frat boy who decided to moonlight as a wrestler.

All photos are screenshots from ROHWrestling.com.
All photos are screenshots from ROHWrestling.com.

Easter egg for a newbie to follow: The Decade won’t shake hands with ACH. Instead, ACH will shake hands with everybody in Baltimore to infuriate The Decade. Strong is mat-based to start with the front facelock, but when ACH gets on top, Strong sticks a leg on the rope to break. Side headlock, but ACH backs him into the corner. After a clean break, ACH breaks out the knife-edge chop. Lather, rinse, repeat, then a series of armdrags, side headlock takeovers and a head-scissors. ACH ends the sequence with the headlock. Strong tries to suplex his way out, but ACH lands on his feet and BACK TO THE HEADLOCK. Randy Orton would be smiling right about now. Strong finally gets a break … and a chop. Pace picks up once more with a stellar dropkick and cover near the 4-minute mark. Then, with Strong on the floor, ACH runs along the apron and kicks him. After a springboard moonsault safely comes up empty, Strong not-so-safely lifts and tosses ACH into the post. This is fun, and this is break time.

Back around 5:45, and Strong gets told by a 12-year-old. Or maybe he’s 14?

ROH 053114 Roderick Strong fan

Strong responds by continuing to abuse ACH outside. Roddy finally returns ACH to the ring in an attempt to, you know, win the match. He stays on ACH with the hands and feet, then a vicious tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for 2. He turned ACH on that one so the leg was parallel to the back, and the point of the knee was right on the spine. ACH escapes another backbreaker, but eats a dropkick instead. Cool bump kind of buckling back, but he’s able to kick out.

Pro tip/math lesson: ROH’s ring, according to Steve Corino, is 18-by-18. That’s 76 square feet smaller than WWE. The next math lesson may be just how many corner lariats ACH just hit … I think it was five. Cool front suplex variation from ACH, and that only yields 2. Back outside, and ACH not only hits a reverse STO into the apron, but a crossbody onto the floor. Nice flying elbow, but another kickout. Strong appears to go for an Angle Slam, but that turns into an armdrag. ACH goes onto the apron, comes through the ropes and appears to hit R-Truth‘s finisher, only much better. However, it’s only worth 2 as well. Corner dropkick attempt, but nobody home. Strong hits a Shining Wizards in the corner, a running forearm and an Angle Slam. STILL ONLY 2. Roddy takes them up top for a superplex, but ACH dumps him, goes for a stomp and misses, then eats a straight kick and an enziguiri. Double underhook powerbomb is countered is countered into a hurricanrana, then ACH rolls through the roll up, gets the back stomp and hits a kick for 2. Strong takes a breather outside and tries to take his foe with him, but ACH kicks him into the barricade, then hits a huge springboard flip dive. Great extension. Strong’s back in, and ACH misses the 450. Big boot from Strong, and what looks like a vertical suplex turns into a backstabber variation for the win. Holy hell.

Time: 14:15

Technical Merit: For an ROH newcomer, that one’s gonna take some time to process. Fantastic wrestling match. So many of the nearfalls were sold well, and the sometimes repeated moves (headlock, headlock, headlock) seemed to actually serve a purpose.

Artistic Impression: It really felt like ACH would get one up on The Decade, but Strong kept coming and truly earned the victory. Neither man was afraid to lay out (I’m specifically thinking ACH’s 450 miss) to advance the story being told.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

•••

A three-way title match, featuring a heel Jay Lethal as champion? If this weren’t free, I’d just tell you to take my money. But first, we get a longform recap of last week’s events to set it up. That was much to Truth Martini‘s chagrin, by the way.

JAY LETHAL (c, w/Truth Martini) vs. MATT TAVEN vs. TOMMASO CIAMPA, ROH World Television Championship

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Taven’s a babyface?

ROH 053114 Matt Taven

Also, hearing Ciampa’s intro, I was half-expecting Tazz to come out. Instead, Lethal jumps Ciampa about five steps down the aisle, and the triple-threat starts outside. If it starts at all … ? Guess we’ll find out after the break.

We’re back, Lethal’s beating Ciampa with a chair, and Taven’s telling the champ to grow a set and give him what’s his, and Ciampa to stick around to get his head cut off.

We FINALLY get started, and Truth runs in and hits Taven with the Book of Truth. Just like that, we have a DQ in a triple threat 13 seconds in?

ROH 053114 Truth Martini

I mean, I know it wasn’t really honorable, but … let them have at it!

Needless to say, the brawl continues until Lethal dips out, belt in hand, as Truth tells him he’s the best in Ring of Honor. This angle’s hot and, of course, far from over. I’m not even mad.

ROH 053114 Truth Martini Jay Lethal

•••

Before the main event, we get an explanation for Matt Hardy‘s personalized ICONIC Championship.

ROH 053114 ICONIC belt

Yeah, that one. Also, there is no scenario in which I would NOT want to punch Hardy in the face. I went to a TNA house show in 2010 with both Hardys in action, and it hilarious that, though both were heels, Jeff Hardy was cheered while Matt received the most heat of the night. Apparently, hating Matt Hardy is a favorite ROH pastime as well. I can go for that!

ROH 053114 Matt Hardy

Anyway, this is The Champ’s reintroduction to Maria Kanellis. She looks as … um … friendly as ever! Her client’s opponent? Not so much.

MICHAEL BENNETT (w/Maria Kanellis) vs. JAY BRISCOE

The redneck gets the first shot on the Masshole, but the harlot distracts the redneck, so the Masshole hits the spear. Twice. Then runs into a forearm to the dome. Briscoe stomps Bennett repeatedly in the corner, headbutts him, whips him for a lariat on the other side, snapmares him out, then eats a dropkick. We go back to the corner beatdown until Bennett tries the back bodydrop over the top. Briscoe lands on the apron, right into a superkick and barricade bump. Bennett gives him a much more direct introduction to the barricades, then scoop slams him onto the floor. Briscoe finally reverses the barricade whip on like the third try, then goes back to the presumably lethal headbutt. The combatants trade barricade shots, inducing a yawn from yours truly. Now they’re trading blows on the stage. Bennett’s stage suplex attempt is blocked … Briscoe’s is not. YET ANOTHER WHIP INTO THE BARRICADE, then the redneck breaks out the Confederate flag as a prop as we head into break.

Back without a house commercial, and without Briscoe connecting on a top-rope crossbody. Bennett does execute a spinebuster, giving us the first semi-technical in-ring wrestling move of the match. Back to brawling, then a scoopslam from Bennett. Top rope legdrop paying homage to Hardy for 2. Meanwhile, Corino’s had a hard-on for Hardy the entire match. Back to trading blows, then a double crossbody as they take a breather. Both men up, and Briscoe wails on Bennett to set him up for a superplex. Bennett powers out, tries to set up a move and just pushes Briscoe off. Briscoe reverse STOs Bennett’s head into the second buckle, then leads with the jab. A kick and a slow, calculated neckbreaker lead to 2. Fireman’s carry, but Bennett elbows out. Briscoe returns the favor. Superkick from Bennett, then a sitout Rock Bottom for 2. Bennett’s back up waiting, and he tries the Twist of Fate. Briscoe counters with something a little more elementary — the sleeper. Bennett falls forward into the bottom rope to force a break. But that just gives Briscoe time for a kick and a setup for some double underhook move. Bennett hits a hammerlock lariat and tries to get the Anaconda Vise, but Briscoe fights out. Death Valley Driver from Jay, then a double underhook piledriver — the Jay Driller — for the win.

ROH 053114 Jay Briscoe

Then it’s time to call Hardy a bitch a couple times … who doesn’t want to do that? He wants his erstwhile world title, now the ICONIC title, back.

Time: 14:12

Technical Merit: As far as straight-up brawls go, this was a decent one. Once they finally focused and got in the ring, it was solid. Both men have cool high-impact movesets when they decide to use them.

Artistic Impression: This was about Bennett paying homage to Hardy, and Briscoe doling out punishment under Hardy returns. Story played out pretty well, and Maria’s mannerisms add a lot to the presentation.

ROH 053114 Maria Kanellis 2

TOTAL SCORE: **

WWE Superstars review (June 5): Paige shuts Cameron up. Quickly. And Big E. beats Titus O’Neil. Again.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.

Superstars?

… SUPERSTARS?!?!?!

Yes, this is happening. When the less-talented member of The Funkadactyls demands a spot at the table for the WWE Divas Championship, we at least see what happens. And then we instantly lament it because it’s not even close to being worthwhile. But, I guess it helps to have your champion at least try to face everyone to see who works well with her, and vice versa.

Hopefully, there’s no rematch of this one.

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. CAMERON

Cameron has apparently “busted her butt for a year,” so she demands a match with the champion. Meanwhile, as was pointed out on Twitter at least once (and likely many times), Paige has busted hers since age 13, which makes her a champion at 21. Nice head-scissors bit there from Came, but the champ goes right back to beating her down. Now Cameron decides to take a day and a half to get back in the ring, and do the heel beg bit upon her return. Really? Paige falling for it was worse. Bulldog variation for 2, then Cam goes up top? Naturally, the crossbody misses. Time for the modified scorpion crosslock … I mean the PTO (Please Tap Out).

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron

Cameron obliges.

Time: 3:05

Technical Merit: Paige is only as good as her dance partner at this point with the main roster. Not like they can do much in 3 minutes, but she (and her opponents, frankly) seem a bit one-dimensional and formulaic in the quicker matches.

Artistic Impression: Unworthy challenger takes shot at champion. Champion makes her tap out quickly. Life goes on.

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron 2

•••

What’s better than a Superstars match? A Superstars rematch, of course! After skipping ahead through 20 minutes of Payback and RAW recaps? Even better!

Superstars 060514 Big E

BIG E. vs. TITUS O’NEIL

Semi-serious note: Where’s Rusev will to beat the black guys down? Hey, don’t blame me … blame creative for keeping the not-so-subtle racial overtones of the 1980s alive. Meanwhile, Big E. wins a chop war by disqualification when Titus kicks him in the gut. The funny thing about those: Whoever “loses” usually wins control in the long run. If it’s O’Neil, he barks a bit as well. Big E. regains the advantage by catching Titus and hitting a chain of three backbreakers and covering for 2. After a shoulder block from Big E., Titus tosses Langston out, picks him up and throws him into the barricade. Twice. I suddenly feel like I’m watching the Ring of Honor main event from last week. … Especially when Big E. returns the favor against Titus after the break. A weardown hold follows, with Titus locking in an abdominal stretch, but Langston hip tosses out. Titus catches Big E. for a powerslam after that and hits a backbreaker over his shoulder. Neither cover is successful, so Titus slaps him around a bit in the corner, then breaks out a bit of Mojo Rawley‘s offense. OK, that’s a lie … he didn’t use his butt. Big E. powers out of Titus’ next move, catches Titus over the top rope, goes clothesline-clothesline-belly-to-belly, then hits the Ultimate Warrior splash. From there, it’s tim efor the Big Ending? Nope, O’Neil’s size 17. Twice. Titus goes for a corner charge, but Big E. follows him in with a spear. NOW it’s Big Ending time.

Time: 8:27

Technical Merit: The typical, basic big-man match you’d expect here. I think this is the longest I’ve ever seen Titus in the ring at once, and it looks like he doesn’t yet have the repertoire to go any longer. Only one rest hold, though, so that’s better stamina than many bigs have.

Artistic Impression: It wasn’t a riveting match by any means, but it wasn’t terrible. Big E. won last week as well, so Titus is supposed to look good in defeat here.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Superstars 060514 Big E 2

NXT review (June 5): Adrian Neville now has two top contenders, Summer Rae makes an unwelcome return to the BFFs and Tyler Breeze drops an epic video premiere

Adrian Neville is, no doubt, a great NXT Champion who is willing to take on anyone.

Now, he has a pair of title defenses to worry about, both involving last week’s awesome NXT Takeover show.

Tyler Breeze earned his on merit, defeating Sami Zayn in a No. 1 Contender’s match, then declaring he’ll take on the champ whenever he chooses. Tyson Kidd lost to Neville at Takeover, then was a sore loser afterward. But since he apologized at the end of tonight’s show and asked for another chance after Neville’s main-event victory over Justin Gabriel, Neville forgave him and decide to give him another title shot.

NXT 060514 Tyson Kidd
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network

We know both matches will be phenomenal, and I say both because I don’t foresee a scenario where Kidd takes the belt off Neville, especially if it’s not at a special event … maybe Neville-Breeze square off in the next one.

We know Neville and Kidd have great in-ring chemistry and can put on an impressive wrestling match … the question is Kidd getting people to care about him. The NXT crowd cared enough to chant derisively toward him last week and say “FACT!” after nearly everything he said tonight, but Kidd’s job will be to make the same crowd believe he can (1) actually defeat Neville in the ring and (2) say something worthwhile to get us to invest in the match other than the obvious athleticism. Kidd plays a heel in the ring, but is super polite on the mic. He hasn’t done a single thing toward Neville to get heat. There are challenges, handshakes and one man walking out. There was an excellent opportunity for Kidd to sucker Neville in with his apologies and his cordialness, then beat him down to turn everyone against Kidd and provide an exciting finish to the show. But the boat was missed … simply because people are too gosh darn nice!

NXT 060514 Tyler Breeze

On the other hand, Breeze had time to heel on Zayn, physically comparing him unfavorably to Seth Rogen; and Neville, calling him “The Man That Maybelline Forgot”. Maybelline did not forget Breeze, and the man who stole last week’s show provided the most entertaining portion of this week’s program. The self-proclaimed King of Cuteville and Definition of Delish debuted his “#MMMGorgeous” video, and unlike many other WWE “Superstar” performances, this one is absolutely, fabulously fantastic.

The lyrics? Eloquent, poignant and, well, gorgeous.

NXT 060514 Tyler Breeze video intro

Is it my eyes? When you look at me

They are so gorgeous, they’ll set you free.

Could it be my walk, or just my stare?

That makes you freeze when I appear.

 

CHORUS: Super good-looking, every hair in place.

Everyone loves this gorgeous face.

You can’t deny my Beauty Shot.

I’m everything that you are not.

 

Part man, but all model.

Am I what you want? Am I who you follow?

Don’t try and fight it. You can’t deny

This is perfection personified.

 

Piercing eyes and a chiseled jaw

Molded by the gods without a flaw.

Can you feel the presence of greatness near?

This hairless look? Prince Pretty’s here.

*repeat chorus*

THAT can go multi-platinum. That, as the fans chant, was awesome. Though it was immediately followed by a riveting Bo Dallas NXT retrospective — complete with post-match tantrum (and extended footage that involves a threat to call Full Sail University campus security) and super-inspirational music — Tyler Breeze stole the show once more.

Breeze showed how talented of a wrestler he is against Zayn, and as a natural relentless heel, he could put on an amazing match with Neville. They’ve met before on TV, but it was actually kind of a boring first impression on The Champ. But Breeze has greatly developed in the ring since then, and when challenged, he really can earn heat from the fans as an arrogant baddie, but also respect as a wrestler who just won’t go away.

The task at hand for Neville was one of Kidd’s former tag-team partners. It was billed as a no-DQ title match on a teaser graphic earlier in the show, which would understandably make fans excited … and confused. Unfortunately, once the match began, it was clear there were no stipulations in place. How dare you with the bait-and-switch?

NXT Champion ADRIAN NEVILLE vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Every time we see Gabriel, it seems his hair gets worse.

NXT 060514 Justin Gabriel

This time, his music has followed suit.

Neville’s in control through the first minute, trying to work Gabriel’s arm, but Gabriel uses a fireman’s carry to escape and respond in kind. I think Gabriel just tried to match Sting‘s “WOOOO!” scream. Neville leapfrogs, hits a hurricanrana and kips up, but his dive outside is cut off by Gabriel inside. Gabriel dumps Neville and tries to hit a dive, but Neville pulls the rope as Gabriel falls. Frontflip dive from the apron from the champion. Quick cover, then back to the left arm as we get a Money In The Bank plug.

As we return, Gabriel is chopping Neville in the corner. He eventually gets a cover, then a suplex rolled into a double underhook submission hold. He shifts to the side headlock, but Neville escapes and puts his forearms and feet to use. The champ measures Gabriel for the missile dropkick, but that only yields 2 as well. Gabriel goes to slam Neville, who straddles a standing Gabriel and puts on a front facelock. Gabriel, however, turns that into a bridging suplex for 2. Well done! Springboard moonsault is escaped, so Gabriel lands on his feet. Neville goes for a crossbody, but Gabriel hits a dropkick instead. This could be 450 time? No, he lands on his feet again as Neville escapes. Vicious short dropkick to a grounded Gabriel in the corner, and Neville hits the Red Arrow. I honestly was hoping for the inverted 450 to show up the soon-to-be vanquished foe, but I’ll take it.

NXT 060514 Adrian Neville Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:22

Technical Merit: A solid cruiserweight-style match with fresh spots and good give-and-take.

Artistic Impression: Good physical story, but we’re just so conditioned to not care about a Justin Gabriel match that it seemed a little flat.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

There were plenty of women in the house for this one, though there was only one match.

We started with Natalya covering for her husband’s actions last week, saying she’ll “always, always” have his back. Yawn. On the other hand, she said these things to the lovely Devin Taylor.

NXT 060514 Devin Taylor

Then I suddenly felt the need for a hug.

NXT 060514 Bayley

Let’s face it, when your gimmick is predicated on hugs, like Bayley‘s is, you’ll get my support every time. Unless you’re facing Alexa Bliss. That one can do no wrong in The Champ’s book.

The new NXT Women’s Champion? Not really in the mood for hugs.

NXT Women’s Champion CHARLOTTE (w/Sasha Banks) vs. BAYLEY

An interesting contrast of styles here: The polished Charlotte and not-so-polished Bayley. Side headlock takeover from the champion, then after a “WOOOO!”, Bayley hits some nice armdrags, spins around her and sort-of locks in an armbar. Quick escape from the champion, and a couple strikes and a cover later, Charlotte spins on Bayley’s back. You know, turnabout, fair play, etc. A couple kneedrops from the champ, then the figure-four headscissors. Charlotte flips Bayley out and covers, but then Bayley gets aggressive, punctuated with a spear in the corner and an elbow, but Sasha Banks provides a distraction outside, Bayley escapes that, returns, goes up for an elbow and gets 2. Charlotte regains the advantage, but Summer Rae‘s music plays, temporarily stopping the momentum. Bayley tries to take advantage with a backslide, but Charlotte kicks out and hits Bow Down to the Queen to finish it off.

Summer joins Sasha and Charlotte to reunite the BFFs and beat up Bayley, but Paige and Emma run down to clear the ring. Somewhere, Teddy Long is beating himself up for not being the NXT General Manager to schedule a six-person tag match. … Playas!

NXT 060514 Paige Bayley EmmaNXT 060514 Sasha Banks Summer Rae Charlotte

Time: 4:17

Technical Merit: Bayley’s sloppiness is actually part of her style, so it works. Charlotte wasn’t at the level of last week, but she also wasn’t facing possibly the best female pure wrestler of this generation.

Artistic Impression: OK story and back-and-forth, and it was possible Summer would return as a face and help Bayley steal one. The fact she went straight back to being one of the BFFs actually enhanced it a bit.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

After the following men’s tag-team match, the BFFs discuss Summer’s comeback … but Charlotte and Sasha are none too pleased. These BFFs aren’t best friends forever, after all. The first F is Fierce, which likely is how Summer will be treated by her “friends” in the near future.

•••

As the show begins, we’re reminded one thing: Like America, when Mojo Rawley gets knocked down, he gets back up. Who cares, though, because, “Spotlight, please!”

NXT 060514 Aiden English

MOJO RAWLEY vs. AIDEN ENGLISH

The clothesline is an addition to Mojo’s repertoire, right? Apparently, getting clotheslined is as well. English takes control with a basic pounding offense, then puts in the rest hold about 90 seconds in. Is this Mojo’s longest match yet? Mojo kicks, then pushes his way out of the corner, then busts out a shoulder block?! This is progress! Mojo tosses Aiden into the corner, butt charge, butt splash, done.

Time: 2:49

•••

After the women’s match, it was time for the next appearance of Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger, whose gimmick is they’re trying to figure out tag-team synergy with catchphrases and entrance.

TYE DILLINGER & JASON JORDAN vs. PHILIP GOULJAR & STEWART CUMBERLAND

Luckily, Jordan and Dillinger’s synergy is much better in the ring. Dillinger makes some noise with a HUGE chop, then after mild resistence from Cumberland, he slaps on another. Cumberland elbows out and tags to Gouljar, who hits an elbow of his own, but Dillinger responds with a butterfly suplex before tagging back to Jordan. Headlock, bodyslam, kneedrop, then into the corner. Tag, bodyslam, Dillinger kneedrop, then Gouljar actually gets a couple shots in for the tag. Quick tags from the jobbers, but that just makes Dillinger angry enough for yet another chop. That provides brief breathing room, who actually is getting worked over by the no-namers. Hot tag to Jordan, who picks up Gouljar and drops him shoulder first for an ugly fall. Dillinger superkicks Cumberland, and Jordan hits a corner spear and the Angle Slam … I mean the Jordan Slam.

Time: 5:54

Technical Merit: Cool to see the clearly pushed team to actually get a challenge, but it never felt like anything other than an extended squash.

Artistic Impression: See above. The extended squash element didn’t help the match one bit.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Check back next week for more!

NXT 060514 Adrian Neville

WWE Midcard Report (June 2-3): The Wyatt Family goes 2-for-2, Bad News Barrett goes 0-for-2 thanks to Cesaro, and the Intercontinental and U.S. championships mean a little bit

I said Tuesday morning the United States Championship became the most prestigious belt in the company.

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

It’s weird seeing IC below U.S., as it stands now, but WWE may have stumbled upon something that could excite the fans, elevate a couple fan-favorite antiheroes and make my favorite championship of all-time mean something for a while.

Cesaro just lost to Sheamus at WWE Payback on Sunday for the U.S. belt, and he dipped out early Monday on RAW, which allowed Sheamus and Rob Van Dam to defeat Cesaro and IC champion Bad News Barrett. Barrett takes exception Tuesday on Main Event, and Cesaro responds in kind.

There’s solid booking around the midcard singles titles, especially considering the U.S. title was a punchline for nearly a year as Dean Ambrose held it … and held it … and held it … and was almost never booked in a match to defend it. With the jokesters shifting toward the absentee WWE World Heavyweight Championship — serioiusly, that thing’s a hot mess — this is a chance for creative to build upon the momentum of some of its just-below-top-shelf talent and at least have some symbol of excellence in athletic competition on its programming.

We start the midcard week as we should, with both midcard champions in action. Slight bummer, though, as they face their Payback opponents. Tag match, playas!

United States Champion SHEAMUS & ROB VAN DAM vs. Intercontinental Champion CESARO & BAD NEWS BARRETT

Paul Heyman implies Sheamus should be ashamed to be an Irishman because he won a fight with a small package, right after Cesaro hits a very manly gutwrench suplex. Just before the 3-minute mark, Barrett nearly one-ups his teammate with a lariat on RVD, who was leaping out of the corner. I understand two people in this match want some form of retribution, but midcard title programs should last about through one special event pay-per-view, especially with the depth of competition below the main event. Guy gets a title shot, he either wins or loses, next man up. We don’t need more RVD when he lost (and put on a bad match) at Payback. During that rant, Cesaro hits the gutwrench on RVD after starting on the ground. The champs get hot tags … well, Sheamus’ was hot. Cesaro narrowly avoids the Brogue Kick, and Heyman decides they should bail. BNB hits Winds of Change, but Sheamus hits the Brogue Kick after tagging to RVD, and Rob feels froggy and hits the splash as the babyfaces triumph.

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

Technical Merit: Nothing bad, but also nothing we haven’t seen for the past month or so.

Artistic Impression: Felt like the same old stuff, and heel Cesaro still isn’t clicking as a personality right now.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

This angle isn’t over. We’ll spill right into Main Event and lead off with the Intercontinental Champion. The challenger got one over on the champion Monday night due to Cesaro being a “coward” and leaving, but WWE decided that was enough to grant a title shot Tuesday. On another note, RVD has been knocked silly (and silly otherwise) for years. His brain is so useless, he points and says RVD all the time so he can actually remember his initials.

All Main Event photos are screenshots from the WWE Network. All RAW photos are screenshots of WWE programming via Hulu Plus.
All Main Event photos are screenshots from the WWE Network. All RAW photos are screenshots of WWE programming via Hulu Plus.

Great mocking job from Barrett, by the way. That’s solid heel work.

Anyway, Van Dam finally decides he’s had enough and gives a quick preview of the Main Event main event.

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

Oh crap. At the midpoint of the show, RVD actually gets some promo time. Apparently, BNB is mistaking RVD’s coolness for weakness. SMH LOL. Van Dam is mistaking himself for the “Whole Damn Show”. Nobody is mistaking Van Dam for somebody who can put together a complete sentence. Just get in the ring already. Well, after a recap of Seth Rollins‘ awesome heel turn. Which, of course, you can read about here.

BAD NEWS BARRETT (c) vs. ROB VAN DAM, Intercontinental Championship

RVD gets the first cover and takes control early, punctuated with a frontflip off the apron at the 2-minute mark. BNB finally creates separation when RVD goes up top with his back turned, and Barrett simply pushes him off the ringpost and into the barricade.

When we return at 4:15, the side headlock is in. Van Dam elbows out and hits the brakes on a whip, but Barrett is there to pull up the legs and kick the abdomen. Nice spot where RVD gets stuck in the ropes as Barrett works him over, and Wade kicks him to the floor when he’s finished and introduces his pea-sized brain to the big steel steps. He follows with a second-rope elbow for 2. This match is better when Barrett’s in control. RVD can at least sell. Another in-the-ropes predicament for the challenger, and his gut suffers once more. RVD elbows a charging champion and goes for a 180 kick, but leaps right into a clothesline.  Now Barrett gets caught in the ropes when a big boot attempt meets nobody. Babyface comeback follows with Rolling Thunder, but the cover only yields 2. Lariat attempt becomes Winds of Change, but RVD kicks out of that as BNB implores the official to wake up. Another corner charge misses, and that gives Van Dam time to feel froggy, but Barrett counters and sets up for the Bullhammer.

He gets a Neutralizer instead. Van Dam gets the same. The King of Swing has struck.

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

Technical Merit: OK match, actually. It would be better, though, if someone could actually run toward someone in the corner and hit the move.

Artistic Impression: I actually like the no-contest finish here. Cesaro deserves to be considered a championship contender, so why not attack the man who called him out and try to win the IC title down the line?

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

There’s no Bray Wyatt sermon this week. But that’s OK, because we get Luke Harper!

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

Now we take up his cause. We prowl the charred landscape like ravenous dragon, with no one left to torture except the same pair of brothers, The Usos. The Usos worked so hard to smite the cause. They will pay for their atrocities. Retribution can not be achieved until they put down like the craven beasts they are. We shall not spare the flock. They will suffer for their misdeeds, and they … will … burn.

What’s not OK is yet another rematch on RAW that’s starting to grow mold.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

The biggest thing to happen is The Usos messing with Wyatt’s chair before the match begins — an ultimate symbolistic sign of disrespect. Otherwise, I just don’t care right now … especially when Rowan is clumsily pushing people down and slapping on rest holds 3 minutes in. It would be better if this man just carried the show.

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

Back from a break, and still not caring. I’ma just let them finish, though they’re taking a while. Fair to them? No. Three of these guys can go. But they need to be doing something else! Then, of course, the guy who sucks wins it with a side slam variation. Cool.

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

A day later, still no Wyatt, but finally a matchup with some intrigue.

So, if you missed WWE Payback, you missed the part where Cody Rhodes decided his half-brother, Goldust, needs a better tag-team partner. As it turns out, young Cody is taking matters into his own hands … and picking partners for Dustin. On Monday, it was Sin Cara. That didn’t go well. On Tuesday, it’s Kofi Kingston, or as Martin Dixon of 4CRWrestling called the team, NesKofi Gold Blend. The man has gems like that all the time. Click here to follow him on Twitter. 

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

The problem? Rowan and Harper take theirs black and blue.

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

Rowan’s in early, so I’m disenchanted once more. Good on the faces, though, to cut off the ring until Rowan simply pushes Goldust across the ring and Harper tags in. Kofi re-enters, and a couple of his kicks seemed to flat-out miss (shoulder instead of head, and an apparent whiff). Harper’s dropkick did not miss. Unfortunately, that means he tags back to Rowan. Kofi connects with a kick in the corner after dipping through the ropes, and that leads to a hot tag to Goldust. Nice top-rope hurricanrana, then a powerslam, but when he goes after Harper, Rowan throws up the slowest roundhouse kick I’ve ever seen. I was simply hoping for another Canadian Destroyer, which almost went unnoticed Sunday.

Anyway, back from break near the 6:30 mark, and we missed a Harper segment. Rowan goes super scientific upon his return, using his fists to try to crush Goldust’s head. Dustin breaks free and hits a backspring elbow, but can’t create an opening. Which is OK, because he HITS THE CANADIAN DESTROYER ON HARPER!!! Not sure which is more impressive: Dustin breaking that move out at 45 or so, or a 280-pound man taking it. Hot tag to Kofi, but a vicious kick to the sternum does the trick. Dustin breaks up the count, but Luke hits a release German … only Kofi lands on his feet. Nice head-scissors takeover ensues, then a frontflip dive outside. This is the type of wrestling Kofi Kingston should do every night. Even his crossbodies have more of a point of impact, which he utilizes to get a cover. A bit of four-man chaos ensues, and Kofi goes for Trouble in Paradise … only to get the Clothesline From Hell. That’s it.

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

Technical Merit: This was a fun match when Harper was in the ring.

Artistic Impression: Two stories in play here, both well executed.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

If Rowan were half as skilled as Harper, this could be a 4-star match. Harper is the best big man in the company, and he shows it every time out. Goldust defies limitations, being better in his 40s than his 20s. Even Kofi showed a few signs of improvement, though he could practice a bit better aim with his kicks. But he’s adopted some more lucha libre elements into his bursts of energy, and it’s great to see. Rowan and Harper showed over the past two days they can fend for themselves, which could be bad (or an asset) for Bray down the line. And the Rhodes brothers’ split is getting an interesting twist on the old story as summer arrives.

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

If anything this week, we learned it’s best when things are done a little differently. One can only hope WWE gives Cody and Dustin the chance to tell a compelling story, and maybe even steal the show.

•••

Back to RAW, where we get an impromptu Money in the Bank qualifier between two men who have cashed in! You know, back when both men were booked to be relevant. Let the records show when one cashed in, actually on the other, it was 14 months ago.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER, Money in the Bank qualifying match

So this could either be a title shot, or a shot at a title shot. Also, I went to look up whether PWTorch gave the tag match a rating in lieu of my difference. They didn’t, but I did find out some interesting information: This is actually the eighth match of RAW, but only the fourth on my stream. It might actually be cable/DVR time, or else how can the integrity of the Midcard Report be maintained? Also, I missed Damien Sandow as Lance Stephenson. That’s television gold! I know some people from Florida who like Sandow … bet they would’ve been torn on that one. Fame Asser at 3:30 finally gets my attention … so basically I’m the announcers right now. ADR gets 2 after a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then DZ pulls out another move from the DX collection: An X-Factor from up top. A nice counter and escape chain leads to the cross armbreaker, and ADR is in MITB.

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

Lana was back Monday to spew something about Vladimir Putin … wait, she may be onto something here, depending on your take on American foreign affairs. OK, now she’s calling Edward Snowden a hero, then THERE’S the Putin plug! Russia honors its heroes, which is why Rusev is suited up to be honored tonight for beating Big E. Or something. I like Kurt Angle‘s medal better.

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

Then we get the Russian anthem, but no Nikolai Volkoff? Seriously, screw this damn show to hell tonight. By this point, I was only here for the heel turn at the end. Because apparently you have to get through a pile of crap to see something glorious on the other side.

Come back Thursday night for an NXT review. If you play your cards right, you can live tweet with me on Twitter! Follow me @jpetrie18. There also will be a Ring of Honor review this week … hopefully Thursday, likely Friday.

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

RAW review (June 2): Seth Rollins reminds us anything can happen in WWE, and John Cena gives us reason to hate Daniel Bryan

RAW 060214 Seth Rollins Triple H Randy Orton 2
All photos are screenshots of the WWE broadcast on Hulu Plus.

WWE Payback was a decent show from a viewing perspective, though from a booking perspective it was safe. Almost a little … too safe.

Seth Rollins took the safety off, cocked back and blew the viewers’ minds with not a full clip of chair shots, but rather CHAIR SHOTS. Those were the kind of blows that seemed lost in eras of attitude and ruthless aggression. Those were the kind of blows that put the exclamation point on a stellar heel turn.

Those were the kind of blows that get you old-school heat.

Rollins executed something WWE hasn’t been able to do for a while: Surprise us. To finish a show that struck out in every possible way for 3-plus hours, the creative team finished with home run that still hasn’t landed. On a night when we were certain The Shield and Evolution were done with each other (and the latter was simply done), Rollins finally pulled the old WWF/WWE adage out of mothballs: Anything can happen.

We all knew The Shield would split eventually, and people assumed it would be Dean Ambrose, the most “heelish” member of the trio. We even figured Evolution would substitute a quitting Batista, and a Shield member was a possiblity. So was Sheamus, the only man who has seemed to be able to knock off anyone in the Shield recently … and probably had more United States Championship defenses than Ambrose since taking the belt from him. But we were halfway expecting this to happen Sunday night, and when it didn’t, it was just another ho-hum event. Then we were lulled to sleep by an episode of RAW so bad that I almost just blew off my semi-journalistic duty and skipped to the good stuff.

Then Rollins woke us up in a multitude of HUGE ways. Some were good. Some? Not so much.

The social media reactions didn’t have a hint of kayfabe. They were 100 percent bought in that what they saw was real. That’s the reaction wrestlers received in the late ’80s, when I started watching, and in eras long since past. People acted like their favorite band broke up, or their favorite athlete died. Granted, my Twitter scope has changed a bit in the past two months, but a lot of people seemed sadder about this than about The Ultimate Warrior dying. You want true heartbreak? Go check out the fangirls after one heartthrob turns on two. There was a photo

That’s what makes this great. We’ll have plenty of time to speculate upon what happens next for both factions. Will The Shield add a third man? Is the inevitable Ambrose-Roman Reigns breakup sooner than we think? Will Rollins cut his hair or go with the shaggy-two-toned-hair-guy-in-a-suit look? You know, all the important stuff. But let’s just focus on the fact that, from a storytelling perspective, this was professional wrestling at its most basic, yet most effective.

And recap how we got there, of course.

•••

“They say it’s always darkest just before the dawn.”

Triple H proved prophetic to open the show … at least until Batista stole the mic and demanded his 1-on-1 title shot. It’s amazing how often heels apply logic. 

RAW 060214 Batista

Trips responds with more logic — since champion Daniel Bryan can’t compete, Dave couldn’t get it anyway — and some knowledge: Big Dave would choke anyway. Trips power trips by informing Dave (and Randy Orton) nobody gets what they want until this is over, and Dave logically decides, much to the fans’ delight, that he’s finished since he didn’t get what was promised him.

Batista’s return was the biggest high-profile flop in years. He probably had no chance after the fans took a collective dump on his Royal Rumble victory because it wasn’t Golden God And Best Wrestler In History Daniel Bryan, but Dave also did everything within his power to hurt matters. He became a punchline with his lack of fashion sense (we’ll always have skinny jeans and Bluetista, among others), looked like he went 20 minutes after about 45 seconds and apparently lost all ability to speak correctly with a microphone. I know he has a contract, but he might be better off being paid to not show up.

During the second hour, we see Orton, who informs Renee Young the rest of Evolution is OK because he has a match with Roman Reigns later. For the main event, we get Reigns and Orton.

Or so we think …

Dean Ambrose brags about the sweep, then Rollins speaks of The Shield adapting, and Evolution perishing and imploding because they were not one like The Shield. They were strangers standing beside each other, not brothers, like Roman Reigns says. At this point, Orton and Trips arrive, the latter with his favorite toy in hand. He admires said implement, then reminds all of us just how cerebral Triple H is.

“There’s always a Plan B.”

And what a great Plan B it was. Rollins breaks a chair over Ambrose and Reigns. Orton sees how fun that is and follows suit. Trips joins in. All is well in the land of the heels. And we finally have some intrigue heading into summertime.

“I never lose. I win. Always.”

RAW 060214 Dean Ambrose

RAW 060214 Roman Reigns

RAW 060214 Seth Rollins Triple H Randy Orton 2

•••

You know what’s not intriguing? This crap over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

RAW 060214 Stephanie McMahon

Stephanie McMahon is absolutely right: Bryan is a selfish little man who chose himself (and his championship) over business, his fans and his wife. She forgot over good television as well. She then provides a scenario where even the marks shouldn’t want Bryan to keep the belts: Bryan vs. Kane at Money in the Bank if he’s healthy; a ladder match for the vacant title if he’s not.

Then, John Cena interrupts. LOL.

RAW 060214 John Cena

Then he drops some more logic — even the wrestlers think the title situation is out of hand. Cena gave up the title due to injury once without question. Hell, there were three title changes that night alone! And nobody’s bigger than the title. Totally on board here. Not Bryan, but also not Stephanie McMahon’s ego. Then Cena sides with Bryan … ? No longer on board. Apparently Bryan won’t give up the championship because he’s afraid not only that he won’t get a rematch, but he’ll be gone altogether. Business is best for business (which is true), but Stephanie’s ego has made a mockery of the championship.

Wait … what?! Not only is Cena wrong, but he gets to do some business right now! Also, if you think the champion is out of sight and out of mind, what about the No. 1 contender?

JOHN CENA vs. KANE

Michael Cole‘s certain to take a pay cut after referring to Kane without “The Demon” first. On the bright side, it’s nice to see Cena face someone outside The Wyatt Family. The only problem is it’s the same old match, though Kane blocked the fifth Move of Doom. Then he takes the DQ while kneeing Cena in the corner and sets up Postmatch Beatdown Template No. 5, but Cena blocks a tombstone piledriver on the steps, posts Kane and administers his second steel stair toss in as many nights. Yay.

Hulu Plus Time: 3:10

Back to the task at hand, and it appears more people agree by the day: The McMahons obviously run the book, so they’re the ones perpetuating this stupid storyline behind the scenes. But on screen, when he actually bothers to show up, Daniel Bryan has made the title a joke. Hey, if your dad dies, handle your business. Do what you’ve gotta do. But taking two weeks for a wedding and honeymoon right after finally becoming world champion, when everyone in the world knows months in advance that you’ll probably win the title? Barely competing at all, then hurting your neck and becoming maybe the second champion to not follow the rules by failing to give up the title? This championship should be vacant right now, only from the viewer’s perspective, the supposed biggest babyface in the company is pulling the biggest chicken heel move of the year to try to maintain some grasp of relevance. As discussed before, that only works if you can cut a promo to save your life. LEAVE. Drop the belts, leave, and stop wasting our damn time. Then, when you’re healthy, come back! We’ll totally take you then, but the actual fans of professional wrestling, who believe this (entertainment) sport should have a champion for others to measure themselves and compete against, need you to drop your gold off at the door on the way out. You know, if you can actually show up.

Right now, the United States Championship is the most prestigious belt in WWE. And many people forgot it still existed until a few weeks ago. Chew on that one until Wednesday’s Midcard Report, when an actual title defense is discussed.