Ring of Honor TV review (Aug. 2): Cedric Alexander wins the Golden Gauntlet for a world title shot

The last episode was about the ROH Tag Team Championship. This one?  It’s for this.

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

Michael Elgin is taking on all comers, and he wanted the Golden Gauntlet match to take place. As a result, six men who have never been ROH World Champion have to go through each other to get to him, and they get an hour to sort it out.

I’m a huge fan of the past two “theme” episodes to set things up for later. No cheesy promos or five-move wonders … just go out, wrestle and see who’s the best. I can totally get used to this. I can also get used to Nigel McGuinness in the booth. He just seems so much more credible and intelligent than Steve Corino, who apparently is training for his match with Kevin Steen in the latter’s ROH farewell.

Anyway, no frills or gimmicks this week — just right into the Golden Gauntlet.

GOLDEN GAUNTLET for a future ROH World Championship shot

B.J. Whitmer (w/TaDarius Thomas & Adam Page) vs. Caprice Coleman

Obviously, these men are at a disadvantage for this event, and obviously there probably won’t be any huge risks — pace yourself, and hope the other man makes a mistake. McGuinness basically repeats this around the 1:45 mark. Chop exchange at about 2 minutes, and Whitmer goes with the thumb to the eye before and after the chops. Somebody tells Whitmer he sucks; Whitmer reminds that fan he’s No. 1. First cover at 3:15 after a Whitmer side suplex.

Now Whitmer calls somebody a bitch. I think he might be the heel in this one. ANOTHER thumb to the eye at 4:10, because why not? Now rest hold and spot-calling time, then Whitmer yanks Coleman’s head to the mat. Coleman’s just here to bump at this point. Slapfight at 5:30, which Whitmer wins with a knee to the gut. Whitmer with a basic scoop slam before the break.

Double clothesline when we come back. Frankly, the break on ROHwrestling.com was almost more entertaining. I know which GM vehicles will result in plenty of compensation when I get hit, and it was promo time with Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, who won a great tag match last week. Coleman hits what looks like a Million Dollar Dream into a legsweep into a choke, but Whitmer rolls him up. Then the heel strategy comes in. Thomas gets on the apron, and while Coleman goes for the Frankensteiner, Page takes advantage of the ref’s distraction by holding Whitmer to block the move. One lariat later, and Whitmer advances to a “You still suck!” chant.

ROHWrestling.com Time: 10:32

Technical Merit: Probably the slowest ROH match I’ve seen yet, but considering the situation, it made sense.

Artistic Impression: Heel does heel things and using his heel cronies to survive and advance. It’s as old as time, and it still works.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

B.J. WHITMER (w/TaDarius Thomas & Adam Page) vs. MATT TAVEN

Taven forces Whitmer out with a shot to the nose, which was injured during the Coleman match. Page tries to sneak up on Taven and eats a superkick, but that allows Whitmer to gain the advantage and toss him into the barricade. Whitmer’s using at least 4 1/2 of the available 5 count every time he’s in the ropes. Taven escapes a corner charge and hits an enziguiri and a superkick for 2. Both men block suplexes, and a nice powerslam by Whitmer for 2, followed by two fisherman suplexes. Never seen a man roll through and hit another one. Taven blocks the Rock Bottom attempt with an armdrag, then a roundhouse kick at break time.

We get back and Taven’s on the top rope. Whitmer ducks under, but Taven hits a springboard kick. He slips on the ropes, but hits the frog splash for the win.

Time: 6:36

Technical Merit: At this point, are superkicks just kicks? It kind of ruins things for me when a signature or finishing-type move is just a basic part of the offense and doesn’t even really do any damage. Besides that, not too bad. I’ll give Taven a pass for the slip.

Artistic Impression: Heel does heel things with heel cronies to try to win, but babyface wins anyway. Also as old as time, and it was OK in this quick setting. A bit bland, but OK.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

This is followed by possibly the greatest entrance music and best gimmick I’ve ever seen. Seriously, if I were a professional wrestler, I would want to be this guy.

ROH 080214 The Romantic Touch

MATT TAVEN vs. THE ROMANTIC TOUCH

We have high-fives and hugs, but Touch rolls him up for 2. Taven asks what’s up, Touch says it’s for the gold, and Taven declares he’ll never hug him again. “You’re right; I will.” So he does and ends up in a headlock, but wins the sequence with a head scissors. Deep armdrag at 1:35, and it looks like we’re down to wrestling now. Touch hits a back elbow from the second rope, a short dropkick and goes to the fists as Kevin Kelly and McGuinness discuss his body fat. Taven with a moonsault at 3 minutes, and after a bit of cat-and-mouse, he turns a side suplex into a sitout powerbomb for 2. Atomic drop and a belly-to-belly from Touch, and business starting to pick up. Stomp time for Touch, then kick time for Taven. Nice springboard 180 senton for 2. Taven goes for a springboard move again, but Touch catches him with a dropkick. Possible powerbomb blocked into a backslide attempt, but that’s blocked as well, but a kick to the head leads to The Climax and the win. Surprisingly, that’s not The Romantic Touch’s finisher.

Time: 5:41

Technical Merit: The pace quickened for this one, and the in-ring work improved. After the humorous opening, they made the most of the short time they had.

Artistic Impression: Absolutely hilarious, then a decent athletic contest. This is how I like my wrestling.

TOTAL SCORE: **

•••

Business, my friends, is about to pick up. This is also my mark-out moment for the evening.

ROH 080214 Jay Lethal

Naturally, we go to commercial.

MATT TAVEN vs. ROH World Television Champion JAY LETHAL (w/Truth Martini & Seleziya)

We join in progress, and Taven is in progress chopping the hell out of Lethal. Both men outside, and Lethal introduced to two barricades and a big boot. Scoop slam on the mat, and The Champ is introduced to a count greater than 10. Taven is introduced to a barricade, meaning they’ve managed to hit three sides. Just need to go opposite the hard camera to touch ’em all. Springboard dropkick from the corner from Taven, then a dive outside. Seleziya throws Lethal back in, then tries to distract Taven long enough for Truth to drop some knowledge on his head, but Taven ducks and throws manager and valet into each other. Truth sells like a champ, and Seleziya picks him up and carries him up the ramp. That’s just funny. Taven with a spinning neckbreaker with Lethal hanging on the ropes for 2?! I like it. Taven does his block and roll in the corner for the third straight match, but Lethal hits the step-up enziguiri. Lethal Combination, also known as the Reality Check, for 2, then Lethal grabs the TV belt … ? Odd decision. Superkick from Taven, then the head of security knocks Taven off the top rope. Clearly I need to watch more and get caught up on some storylines here. Lethal Injection follows, and Lethal’s into the final match.

Time: 6:07

Technical Merit: You can tell these guys have chemistry and beef. We got to see a bit of both in this one, though more outside the ring than in it.

Artistic Impression: This type of match seems congruent to their story, so it works.

TOTAL SCORE: **

•••

ROH World Television Champion JAY LETHAL vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER

Alexander turns it up to 10 with the pace, but Lethal slows it down during commercial. Lethal rolls into the ring, but Alexander executes a sunset flip from the apron for 2. A Ric Flair-worthy chop from Lethal, which only stands to remind me of this:

Cedric has a great in-ring strategy — come out quick, use as many strikes and impact moves as possible, and hope Lethal just wears out. Unfortunately for him, Lethal brings him to a halt with a bodydrop onto the top rope. Jay dumps Cedric outside, then hits a dive through the ropes. The fans want it once more, and Lethal appears to oblige, but hits the brakes to boos. What he will do is beat up Alexander outside, break the count and continue the onslaught. Back in, up top, then the double axe handle. Lethal calls for Truth to no avail, but Lethal’s momentum isn’t stunted for now. He asks the fans if they want to see the double axe again as he goes up top … then steps down to boos. GREAT, simple heel work, then he tells a fan to shut his mouth. Meanwhile Alexander back kicks Lethal, then hits a tornado DDT to give both men a breather. Straight right fist from Alexander, and Lethal responds in time. They switch to chops, and Lethal moves to a midsection kick and DDT to precede the final commercial. Online, it’s not even a break.

We’re back, and Alexander blocks a boot and goes into a Full Nelson into a faceplant. Both men to the top, and Lethal blocks the superplex and hits the flying elbow for 2. Alexander hits a kick, Lethal misses 2, Alexander hits a superkick, Lethal matches, and Alexander hits a lariat but can’t follow up. Both up at 7, trade blows, both down. Lethal calls for Truth once more, but no dice. Alexander escapes the Lethal Combination by handspringing out, then thwarts the Lethal Injection attempt with a kick to the back. Dropkick in the corner, then another after Lethal blocks the brainbuster attempt. The second try is successful, then Alexander hits an absolutely sick finisher … a lift into a backstabber variation near the neck. That’s called the Lumbar Check, and it looks devastating as hell. Such a quick pace to finish a solid match, and Alexander gets Elgin in a world title match at a later date.

ROH 080214 Cedric Alexander 1

He gets the staredown now as we sign off.

Time: 12:26

Technical Merit: By far, the best and most unique match of the night. The battle to set the pace was entertaining, and Cedric is absolutely electric when he gets going. Probably a good thing he went last, because that would’ve been VERY difficult to follow.

Artistic Impression: Jay Lethal is an amazing heel, and he showed it in the finale. Alexander blocked Lethal’s two most effective moves to get the win. Both men were strong and had a great athletic match. That’s all we can ask.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

Next episode, we get this:

ROH 080214 Kyle O'Reilly Michael Elgin

I’m excited. I’m already a fan of Kyle O’Reilly‘s work, and this will be my first exposure to Elgin. Come back later this week (hopefully it’ll be before Sunday) for a full review.

What did you think of the Golden Gauntlet? Comment below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

SmackDown review (Aug. 8): Seth Rollins gets revenge on Dean Ambrose … and Dolph Ziggler

Dean Ambrose has his choice of stipulation for his SummerSlam match with Seth Rollins by virtue of his victory over the now-departed Alberto Del Rio on RAW and, of course, Rollins’ loss to Heath Slater. Yes, you read that correctly. He can pick anything he wants. He breaks out a LIST of possible stipulations.

And he decides on a lumberjack match.

Let me try that again.

The supposedly coolest, edgiest, best-looking, best promo-giving, best guy in wrestling today decides on a FREAKING LUMBERJACK MATCH?! But hey, I’m sure it’ll be the coolest, greatest, most hardcore, most technical, most epic lumberjack match in WWE history, right? RIGHT?! OK, I’m done trolling the Ambrose marks. For now. Here’s a picture of him to distract you from the rest of the blog.

SmackDown 080814 Dean Ambrose
All photos in this post are screenshots from WWE’s broadcast on Hulu Plus.

Now, granted, Ambrose’s list didn’t include great options — just ones you could find variations of in WCW’s extensive library for only $9.99 a month on the WWE Network!!! — but JBL‘s Hat on a Pole and Parking Lot Brawl II would seriously be better. Ambrose’s theory is based in logic, since Rollins can’t run away if the ring is surrounded, but it’s still a bit of a letdown when you have someone “unstable” who cut his teeth being hardcore. I’m also sad Rollins had the first WWE Network plug when there was such a clear opportunity, but I digress. He’s the one studying at the Triple H School of Shameless Plugs this semester.

SmackDown 080814 Seth Rollins

Decent opening promo from both … not spectacular, as Twitter will lead you to believe, but decent.

Rollins kicked more knowledge on Dolph Ziggler a segment or so later than Ambrose and Rollins combined in the opening duel. Ziggler kicked more knowledge than the rest of the show combined with one line:

“Who didn’t always wonder what Catwoman would look like if she did CrossFit all the time?”

When you can diss Rollins’ superhero getup, his masculinity AND a workout fad in 16 words, you win the evening. I’m still convinced CrossFit only lasts as long as its practitioners’ backs and joints will. I almost blew out my knee once just watching an Instagram video. Now let’s see whether the No. 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship wins the match.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SETH ROLLINS

Sidenote: There was a time when being in Ziggler’s position was an honor. It meant being one of the top workers in wrestling, which Ziggler absolutely is. But now, when the Intercontinental title is still in image rehab and everybody is “buried” if they’re not in the world championship picture or they’re losing some matches, it’s not good enough for anyone anymore. I still think the title is in good hands with a Hollywood heel Miz OR a face Ziggler.

OK, time to call the damn match. Nice touch by Rollins hitting the Three Amigos in Texas … but the fans don’t care. Then again, they could just not be sweetening the crowd for once. Ziggler hits a jawbreaker to escape a rear chinlock, then snaps off two dropkicks. He goes for the Fame Asser early, but Rollins dodges and deposits him outside heading into the break.

Rollins remains the aggressor as we return with a deliberate dominance. Knock him down, let him get up, knock him down again. Ziggler finally gets some separation with a couple strikes, a clothesline that needs to be flattened according to one Steve Austin, a Stinger Splash, a 10-punch combo in the corner and a neckbreaker for 2. Meanwhile, JBL brings up a great idea for a stipulation: What if The Miz couldn’t be hit in the face at SummerSlam? I like it. After a few more covers, both men exchange blows until Rollins wins the mini-battle with his feet. Ziggler opens the next round with that vicious DDT for 2. Fame Asser on Rollins’ return to the ring for 2, and they take their time to reset. They’ll take another short break after Rollins posts Ziggler’s shoulder and knocks him outside. Apparently the shoulder didn’t receive enough punishment, so the barricade and the steps will finish the job. Rollins breaks the count, brings Ziggler back in and hits the Curbstomp.

Hulu Time: 10:47

Technical Merit: Anytime you get two of the top guys in the ring, you’ll get a good contest.

Artistic Impression: Basic in-ring story with Ziggler looking strong, but Rollins’ aggression being enough to win. Rollins played the part well when he came a bit unhinged and battered Ziggler outside.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

Ambrose’s task in the main event? Follow that.

DEAN AMBROSE vs. RANDY ORTON

So do you think Orton won’t work Ambrose’s shoulder since he knows from his dad that if you keep tape or a cast on that long, you’ve actually been fully healed for a while? The Ace Cowboy and his forearm cast approve of Ambrose’s tactics. But Orton debunks my theory at the 2-minute mark because he’s one of the best in-ring psychologists of all time. Now to see whether Ambrose sells it. A right-arm clothesline and a right-side-first leap outside later, it’s break time.

Rest hold on the left shoulder to open the final segment, and Orton decides to just stomp the crap out of it a few seconds later. Sidenote: Do you get PPV pay if you’re a lumberjack for a match? Will they hire actual lumberjacks for minimum wage due to budget cuts? Anyway, back to the left arm, which Orton has worked almost exclusively. Ambrose tells him to put some pressure on, because he’s nuts, and Orton obliges, because he likes to hurt people. Ambrose gets some breathing room with the DDT and punches his way into the driver’s seat. Tornado DDT follows for 2, just as I was thinking about how Ambrose is the guy you see in the bar who will use like a hold or two if necessary, but is more comfortable just beating your ass with his fists. Orton uses his fist to slow Ambrose, then ungracefully yanks him out of the ring and uses the steps and the apron to his advantage. Ambrose, though, counters the through-the-ropes DDT, bodydrops Orton outside and suicide dives right-arm first. Back in the ring, that dumb off-the-ropes clothesline spot ensues, but Dirty Deeds is thwarted by a Rollins distraction ringside. But Ambrose blocks the RKO and hits his finisher, only to have Rollins pull him out at 2 for the DQ.

A typical 2-on-1 Authority beatdown, complete with a soda pour onto Ambrose’s dome, ends the show, because it’s pro wrestling and the good guy will win in the end anyway.

Hulu Time: 9:13

Technical Merit: Ambrose’s KISS method works in that he doesn’t mess up. But I could see someone use his moveset at the nearest honky-tonk bar tonight … and probably get knocked out and have a drink poured on him, too! Orton’s adaptability made this two men brawling for nearly 10 minutes, which was to be expected.

Artistic Impression: It was the story they needed to tell, and they told it pretty well. Ambrose gets one up on Rollins on RAW, Rollins gets him back on SmackDown.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

WWE knew you missed Mark Henry and The Big Show, so they’ll give you both! As a tag team! Because why would you pass up the chance for an 837-pound duo? Pretty sure that’s close to the WWE *and* ROH tag champions combined.

Fact check time: reDRagon is 407 pounds, less than Big Show OR Henry. The Usos come in at 479, giving the champions a sub-50-pound edge over the big guys.

The new Colossal Connection gets the prototypical basic heel tag team of guys whose singles pushes fizzled.

THE BIG SHOW & MARK HENRY vs. RYBAXEL (Ryback & Curtis Axel)

Heel tag team pyschology is applied beautifully near the 2-minute mark, when Axel clips Henry’s knee and double-team action ensues. That, however, doesn’t stack up to Show’s hot tag. He literally passed Ryback off to Henry for the World’s Strongest Slam to set up a chokeslam on Axel. Done.

SmackDown 080814 Big Show Mark Henry

Time: 3:18

•••

We mentioned Laredo’s bordertown location during the Midcard Report. If you thought Zeb Colter talking about Mexicans wouldn’t be enough for WWE, you were absolutely correct.

SmackDown 080814 Damien Sandow

Maybe as a Border Patrol agent, Damien Sandow can audition for a spot in the Real Americans. He could even be a babyface to the lowest-common-denominator fans! This is why someone should give me the book.

“Mr. Border Patrol” DAMIEN SANDOW vs. SIN CARA

JBL’s current events one-liners are on point. So is Sin Cara, who actually reaches to hit the hurricanrana on Sandow. Cara also escapes a Full Nelson to hit the Angle Slam (?!) to set up the senton off the top.

Time: 1:52

SmackDown 080814 Sin Cara

Not long enough to rate, but an impressive effort from the former Hunico, who seems to have polished his usual offering and added some elements to his offense. You don’t see sub-200-pound luchadors suddenly break out that Olympic slam, let alone on someone in the 240 range. Considering Alberto Del Rio‘s exit, Cara likely will get every chance to become the newest Mexican hero. The question is whether irreversible damage has already been done to the character.

•••

Apparently wrestling really is a priority on this show. A solid Ziggler-Rollins match is followed by a contest involving this woman:

SmackDown 080814 Natalya

She faces the No. 1 contender for the Divas Championship, who hopefully will perform more like she did in NXT.

NATALYA vs. PAIGE

Clothesline, butterfly suplex and the Sharpshooter? In the first 40 seconds? You have my attention. Paige Turner outside to start the second minute, but she can’t follow up as Nattie rolls her up upon re-entry. However, a kick to the chest and a modified scorpion crosslock PTO later, that’s it.

SmackDown 080814 Paige

Time: 2:11

Quick, but decent, I guess. The match was better than the name for Paige’s finisher, which is just atrocious. At least when it’s a scorpion crosslock, it sounds like a finisher. PTO sounds like some sort of HR office code … then when you hear what it means? “Paige Tap Out”? Really?

•••

Rusev udrea! Rusev machka!

Guess that whole push for Big E. and Company is over.m First, no sign of Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods. Second, he’s facing the heel who needs to be elevated in the xenophobic angle du jour.

BIG E. vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)

JBL fun fact: Laredo used to be the capital of the Republic of Rio Grande before Texas was a thing. Slight botch when Big E., who actually builds a decent head of steam, goes for the Big Ending. Rusev kind of gets out of the way, but takes Big E.’s legs to the back of his head. No matter, because after the big kick and Accolade, Big E. is humbled.

SmackDown 080814 Rusev Big E

Time: 1:52

•••

SmackDown 080814 Chris Jericho

This episode of SmackDown is Jericho is a serious one. As someone who was an absolute mark for heel Chris Jericho in 2008, I like it when he gets serious.

Bray Wyatt thrives on mind games and pain. His poison is Sister Abigail. But the antidote is Y2J. He’s going to shove the “buzzards” down his throat, and he’s more than willing to get crazy.

I have a good feeling about this match. Jericho is here to put Wyatt over, and especially after Jericho won the first round, it appears Wyatt will get the upper hand in this one. The question will be what’s next for someone who already has worked with Daniel BryanJohn Cena, The Shield and Jericho this year. Some say his character was effectively neutered by the Cena angle, and they may be right. But if he can adapt to each opponent, instead of seemingly using the same rhetoric and inserting a different name, and continue to develop the character, he’ll be fine.

•••

This week’s edition of the RAW Rebound (or RAW Rewind?) it simply this week’s edition of Why Brie Bella sucks. Stephanie McMahon is so far out of her league as a character, it’s actually kind of hard to watch. It’s not all that hard to say a hand-delivered line correctly … though Roman Reigns gives it a degree of difficulty about 4-5 words at a time. But seriously, Brie, get a damn acting coach or something. Ask someone in the back what syllables to emphasize instead of just raising your voice (or often yelling) the last one. Lay off the word “bitch” if you even can. Go ahead and veto the bad prison one-liners, since you can’t even give us the punchline without making our heads hurt. I would offer the alternative of not speaking, but that doesn’t really work if you finish back-to-back shows against the top heel in American professional wrestling.

Just pin Steph and go away until Bryan comes back. Please?

What did you think of SmackDown? What’s your take on the Rollins-Ambrose angle at this stage? Comment below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Midcard Report (Aug. 5-7): Alberto Del Rio’s final appearance, SlaterGator’s win streak is on the line and A.J. tells us a fairy tale

A four-time world champion was fired Thursday. The fact that this is pertinent to the Midcard Report is a bit depressing, but since he’s a midcard show veteran these days, this seems the best place to discuss Alberto Del Rio.

At this stage, the firing itself is the only news out there, besides the fact that WWE didn’t wish him luck in his future endeavors. In fact, WWE’s entire release:

WWE announced the release of Alberto Del Rio due to unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee.

In other words, Alberto Del Rio did some shit.

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

It’s a hard fall from grace for a man who came in with so much promise — I marked out for the Mexican aristocrat vignettes — and showed plenty of ability, but didn’t move the needle much as champion, had one of the weakest face turns pro wrestling has ever seen and was thrown into the same boring matches with the same boring opponents night in and night out. A man of his résumé regularly competing on the C and D shows should’ve elevated them, but at the end of his 4-year run they actually seemed to be the right place for him — a place to go 10 minutes or so and not force the casual fans to watch. The last time most will see him, though, is a well-fought, 15-plus-minute match with the Internet Wrestling Community’s Flavor of the Summer, Dean Ambrose, in a Beat the Clock Challenge on RAW.

With Rey Mysterio gone for long periods of time and now presumably retired, Del Rio had to carry the Latino fan base somehow. With Del Rio presumably on the way out even before his WWE-imposed departure, there’s a huge hole that needs to be filled. There may be no section of the WWE Universe more loyal than la razabut it needs someone to back or else the company’s bottom line may hurt even more than it already is.

•••

As we fire up Main Event on Friday morning … well, this is awkward …

Del Rio, the ultimate tweener at this point, plays up his nationality with the Mexican flag in the border town of Laredo, Texas, and a passionate promo in Spanish. He switches back to English and thanks the fans for their support through the years. He sounds like a man who knows his days are numbered. His opponent, a babyface, gets a mixed reaction playing up the American angle, and his manager heels it up (or faces it up?) with the xenophobic bit.

Main Event 080514 Jack Swagger
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.

These men main event Main Event.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

We appear to have the rare tweener vs. tweener match, which is odd considering they’re trying to build Swagger as the ultimate American babyface. Flag waving advantage: Del Rio. Athletic tape advantage: Swagger, who’s selling a rib injury. Early wrestling advantage: Del Rio. Swagger finally seems to gain control via back bodydrop to the outside at the 2:15 mark, and he continues his handiwork on the outside as he clearly works heel for the night. The problem: When you deposit someone back in the ring, more often than not you’ll get hit on your re-entry, which Del Rio does via enziguiri before the break.

The Real American elbows out of a rest hold when we return, and the real Mexican introduces his foe to the ringpost. We’re working both shoulders tonight — left to the post, right to the barricade. If we had William Regal, he would discuss how brilliant this is to not only set up both arms for the cross armbreaker, but completely incapacitate Swagger’s upper body, negating his power advantage. You can’t snap on the Patriot Lock if you can’t use your arms. Or something. Rear chinlock and spot-calling time just before 6 minutes, and ADR briefly locks in the cross armbreaker on the left arm on the ropes. Well done. Also well done: Swagger’s superplex, which punishes both men — Swagger more than usual with the injured core. Babyface(?) comeback from Swagger gets some boos, and the Swaggerbomb gets 2. Pretty sure someone yells “CANADA!” during a slow portion. Del Rio picks up the pace once more with the Tornado DDT. Swagger responds with a slam for 2, but then receives the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and short superkick for 2. Armbreaker time just past 10 minutes … but it’s countered directly into the Patriot Lock?! Del Rio escapes and goes for the kick in the corner, but Swagger gets the Patriot Lock once more. No escape this time.

Time: 11:11

Technical Merit: Some slow spots, but a solid, well-thought-out wrestling match.

Artistic Impression: A bit of a Kurt Angle throwback, with multiple counters into ankle locks. Great ring psychology from ADR working the upper body exclusively, but Swagger has the customary comeback as the patriotic babyface, and rightly so. He needs to be built up, not just for the flag match against Rusev at SummerSlam, but for his character as a whole. Swagger appears to be out of the doghouse after his legal issues from last year, and he’s a sorely needed solid mechanic in the midcard. You know, when he’s not concussing people.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

Main Event’s first in-ring action involved the surging SlaterGator! These men dominated last week’s Midcard Report, and Heath Slater pinned Mr. Money in the Bank on the main event of RAW on Monday.

HEATH SLATER & TITUS O’NEIL vs. GOLDUST & STARDUST

Byron Saxton: “Remember, Goldust is the normal one here.” The not-so-normal one gets the not-so-normal result on the crossbody attempt about 2 minutes in, as the Gator catches him, backbreaks him twice and pitches him aside. This happens again, only Stardust lands on his feet and goes for the Goldust trademark drop and slap spot, only he makes it a kick. Goldust hits the original on the hot tag. Titus breaks up the cover after a Goldust powerslam, and Stardust steps off Goldie’s back to hit Titus. The Gator, however, stays on the apron, sneaks a kick on Goldie, and Slater completes a sunset flip for ANOTHER SLATERGATOR WIN, BAY-BAY! No “cosmic key” for the bizarre ones this time.

Time: 4:01

Technical Merit: Basic? Of course. Fun? Yes.

Artistic Impression: Goldust & Stardust nearly make this element 5 stars on their presentation alone. They’re just … bizarre. And I’ll admit it: I’m a SlaterGator mark. I’m a sucker for odd-couple tag teams, and this one just works so well.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

What’s better than SlaterGator? More SlaterGator, of course! This time, the collective winning streak is on the line as the Gator faces the United States Champion on Superstars. No Slater for this one, probably since this match was actually their first of the week. Oh, TV tapings.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. TITUS O’NEIL, non-title match

Titus apparently blames Sheamus for not being U.S. Champ … something to do with the battle royal in which Sheamus won. We’re gonna see just how good he is in this big-man match, and we’ll see whether the “Sheamus vs. non-Del Rio opponent” corollary continues. Nice corner spot after a slow start … the champ simply lifts both legs and drops Titus (nice sell!), and Sheamus removes Titus from the premises before the break.

You have three guesses on what we saw coming out of the break:

  1. Rest hold
  2. Rest hold
  3. Rest hold

If you guessed rest hold, you’re correct! Titus works the arm, then lifts Sheamus on his shoulder and hits a backbreaker. He nearly gets the DQ in the corner, then hits his trademark half-Black Hole Slam. That’s what I’m calling the throw. He proceeds to … slap Sheamus repeatedly. That’s just not going to work. The champ is rejuvenated, and the rolling senton isn’t far off. Neither are the 10 Beats of the Bodhran. Renee Young drops an awkward Grand Theft Auto reference about Sheamus “hijacking” the match, and Titus quickly regains control and slams Sheamus’ ribs into the ropes multiple times. Unfortunately for Titus, he follows up by eating a Brogue Kick.

Superstars 080714 Sheamus

Time: 8:22

Technical Merit: Basic, sometimes painfully, at times. A typical WWE big-man match. The usual bag of tricks from Sheamus. Titus likes to find different ways to inflict punishment, but it’s so sporadic that it doesn’t really have the desired effect.

Artistic Impression: Titus looked like a legitimate threat for a decent portion of the match. The problem is it’ll take a lot more than the U.S. Champ’s efforts to make him look good in a singles setting.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

The last time I saw Summer Rae, it was yesterday during my gradual NXT catchup mission. She barely beat Bayley in a match four weeks ago, and it wasn’t a very entertaining contest. Against the Divas Champion? I don’t see this one being realistic.

A.J. is back from a vicious whiplash suffered at the hands of Paige on SmackDown, complete with a camera bump. This sounds like Bret Hart suffering through “a groin pull the likes you’ve never seen in your whole life!” in WCW. Also, who are you to doubt El Dandy?

Sorry, there’s a match in here somewhere.

WWE Divas Champion A.J. vs. SUMMER RAE, non-title match

The champ takes an apparent neck bump and is down for a few seconds … that will set the tone for this one. Summer works the neck a bit. A.J. responds by working the Black Widow. Ballgame.

Time: 1:53

Now we’re gonna get a fairy tale!

Main Event 080514 AJ Lee

A.J.’s the girl who became an adorable queen by winning the championship. Paige was the evil witch who took it from her, but A.J. was her own white knight when she came back to win. Paige, the “frenemy,” says she can be the white knight. A.J. declares Paige won’t like the way this fairy tale will end, because it’s not Paige’s house, but A.J.’s kingdom.

Well, at least they tried. It wasn’t the greatness some fans made it sound like on Twitter, but they’re trying. I just hope SummerSlam is the end of this angle, since Paige apparently is getting botchier by the match and we’re talking about queens and frenemies and fairy tales and stuff.

On the other hand, we have multiple high-profile women’s matches at SummerSlam, a mark of true progress. These angles are well planned, well built and (except in the case of Brie Bella) well portrayed. The Bella-Stephanie McMahon match WILL be good, because McMahon is the best heel in major professional wrestling right now and she is in great physical shape. Besides, you think, as a former champion married to a 13-time world champion, she hasn’t learned a thing or two in the ring? Long as Brie isn’t yelling “BITCH!” every other word or sentence, which literally seems to be all she knows how to do besides weak-sauce prison jokes, we’ll be OK.

On another note, heel Paige? It looks good on her.

Main Event 080514 Paige

•••

Superstars led off with some more Divas action. If not for my last remaining shreds of journalistic integrity, this girl would be enough to skip forward about 20-30 minutes on this show.

Superstars 080714 Cameron

On the bright side, Emma‘s back! But, considering the phone case fiasco, I think we know how this will go. And I think it will make me angry.

EMMA vs. CAMERON

Cam telegraphs a clothesline from about 15 feet away … and misses. Emma trips her up, rolls her up and scoops her up for a slam. Cam yanks Emma to the ground by the arm, then works the arm in the ropes. The latter wasn’t believable at all; the former was a little bit. More arm work with the weardown hold, so we actually have some ring psychology here. Cameron bridges while having a hold of Emma’s arms, which actually looks pretty cool. Not as cool as the Dilemma, or the Emmamite Sandwich at 3 minutes or so. Emma’s dropkick attempt misses, as does Renee Young‘s Britney Spears reference (people didn’t love her in the early ’90s … as a then-13-year-old boy, I KNOW “Baby One More Time” hit at the end of 1998), and Cameron uses her legs to smash Emma’s head into the mat and win the match. Full points for the cover, at least.

Superstars 080714 Cameron Emma

Time: 3:53

Technical Merit: Cameron needs to be on NXT, but she wouldn’t be a good enough wrestler to hang. I get it, Total Divas, yadda yadda yadda. But she sucks! It looks like she’s trying, so I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh … but she’s taking up TV with a complete lack of wrestling ability. Emma, as she usually does, shows her innovative offense in a quick setting.

Artistic Impression: This wasn’t good. But Cameron needs to be booked semi-strong to even seem like she’s in the same league as former Funkadactyl teammate Naomi.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Come back for more WWE analysis this weekend with a SmackDown review. Also, we’ll check in with Ring of Honor’s latest TV episode. Feel free to discuss any pertinent topics (especially Del Rio) below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

Ring of Honor TV review (July 26): reDRagon, Christopher Daniels and others show how tag team wrestling should be

“Tag team wrestling is alive and well, especially here in Ring of Honor.”

Steve Corino said this to set us up for what is now last week’s episode of ROH TV. This was one of the biggest freaking understatements I’ve ever heard in professional wrestling.

Let’s have a four-way main event to determine the No. 1 contenders for the ROH Tag Team Championship. Better yet, let’s throw in guys The Champ has even seen before (this is my third ROH viewing ever). Give ’em the entire second half of the hour.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s just bring in the champs unannounced to open the show and have the fastest paced tag matches I’ve seen all year.

With a deep roster and only a 1-hour show each week, it’s hard to put together a home-run program each time out. Take a look at NXT, which can be awesome one week and suck the next if the top tier isn’t involved. My first ROH viewing a couple months ago was … meh. A fan told me to stay the course, and the next week was decent. The third time? This was a grand-slam episode of wrestling that must be viewed ASAP. It’s also a not-so-subtle reminder that production values and looks are all well and good, but in-ring quality and synergy between teammates and opponents are what make professional wrestling great to watch.

ROH Tag Team Champions reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. MONSTER MAFIA (Josh Alexander & Ethan Gabriel Owens), non-title match

This match was so action-packed, I actually had to watch it twice. Also, must find the champs’ entrance music (“Dance Away” by Damn Valentines) and try to match Fish’s mustache.

Alexander going for the amateur look this week with the headgear … Corino informs us he wrestled under a mask in high school. Corino’s also facing Kevin Steen in three weeks. Very well.

Nice double-team work with a drop toehold into Owens’ legdrop to the back of the head. More quality work with a Blue Thunder Bomb while Owens splashes outside. The champs can’t get their bearings until O’Reilly pushes Owens off the top, after much resistance, at about 2:30. O’Reilly continues the onslaught with a sliding knee and a kneedrop, and the quick tags and double-team chance eventually pays off with a kick combination. Fish hits a senton from the apron for 2, and O’Reilly slaps on the rear chinlock. Owens turns the tide, and Alexander goes off on the hot tag. Northern Lights suplex, and the combination is countered, but he counters a tandem suplex and simply suplexes both opponents. Double-team combo into a DDT variation, but Fish kicks out. O’Reilly saves Fish from a tandem spike piledriver, and Fish jacknifes Alexander for 2. Fish hits the Samoan Drop and tags out, and O’Reilly goes off until Alexander hits a forearm so hard, O’Reilly loses the mouthpiece. Enziguiri from Owens, and the Mafia hits an Alexander torture rack into an Owens powerbomb at 7:15, but FISH MAKES THE SAVE. Fish takes care of Owens via the barricade as O’Reilly keeps Alexander at bay inside. Fish Saito suplex, O’Reilly tornado DDT, then Chasing the Dragon — a brainbuster with a kick to the dome — and the champs escape.

TIME: 8:15

Technical Merit: For someone used to the WWE style, that was too quick to even process. I think this is a good thing. Liked the combination of double-team maneuvers, high-impact wrestling moves and vicious striking attacks. A little bit of everything in only 8 minutes? Sold.

Artistic Impression: Monster Mafia looked better, but the champs were strong at the finish. Not knowing much about the combatants, this was quality booking.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

•••

“You’re looking at the future of Ring of Honor, and the future of professional wrestling.”

ROH 072614 Hakim Zane
All photos are screenshots from ROHWrestling.com

I guess we’ll see whether Hakim Zane is legit. His opponent started 20 NFL games on the offensive line, goes about 295 and answers to Moose. Methinks Mr. Zane is done.

MOOSE vs. HAKIM ZANE

We’re about to see some “monster” booking here. Zane doing more escaping than anything, until Moose hits a sick dropkick. He’s already better than Mojo Rawley! Zane thwarts the momentum with a short dropkick to the leg, but his top-rope dive is countered by a flying headbutt. Spear. Done. Moose. Moose. Moose. MOOSE.

ROH 072614 Moose

Time: 1:38

Apparently our new hero was made an offer at Best in the World by manager Veda ScottHello, Red. Her offer still stands, but not for long. Ramon appears to want it to expire. Now. Guess we’ll have to see.

•••

ROH 072614 Golden Gauntlet

A Golden Gauntlet to determine the No. 1 contender for the ROH World Championship? I like it, whatever it is. My money’s on this guy, because Jay Lethal.

ROH 072614 Jay Lethal

•••

Hey, I remember The Decade! Is the group a little bigger than last time? Maybe it’s because Jimmy Jacobs is actually in the ring and looks kind of like a wrestler? Like the pink and black theme nonetheless.

Hey, I remember this guy, too!

ROH 072614 Christopher Daniels

OK, I’m on board. You have my attention.

THE DECADE (Jimmy Jacobs & Roderick Strong) vs. WAR MACHINE (Hanson & Rowe) vs. CHRISTOPER DANIELS & FRANKIE KAZARIAN vs. THE BRISCOES, Four Corner Survival No. 1 contender match for the ROH World Tag Team Championship

Bobby Fish is ringside for commentary, making him the hardest working man in Ring of Honor. The pre-match highlight, referring to The Briscoes: “It’s so loud when they come out. I don’t like it.”

How long do you think the Code of Honor takes with eight men in a match? Daniels starts vs. War Machine’s big, scary guy (Hanson), as opposed to War Machine’s other big, scary guy (Rowe). Once he gets momentum, Jacobs tags himself in. Mark Briscoe does the same to Daniels. Are the Briscoes faces? Because that bad camo and fringe/bad beards bit makes them heels in my book. It’s like What’s Wrong With America (also known as “Rednecks”) rolled into one. Mark dropkicks Jacobs into the corner, but the former Bad Influence forces its way in and actually makes a successful tag to a teammate. Rowe is in, and big-man offense reigns supreme. Though you don’t often see two men of that size use one powerbombing the other as a double-team maneuver. I’m intrigued. Soon, though, they’re bumping for the Briscoes. Both teams are in the ring jawing as we go to our first break.

The big guys with the beards are beating up the little guys with the beards as we return, but the Briscoes seize the momentum, and Jacobs and Daniels blind tag themselves into action in short order. Daniels goes to the apron, but he makes the mistake of doing so right next to Strong. The former Triple Crown winner makes his first appearance 9 minutes in, using the apron to incapacitate Daniels with a side suplex. He finally makes his first appearance in the ring, though briefly before Jacobs continues his attack. Daniels somehow manages to be isolated, and Strong deposits him outside. Jacobs tries to do some damage to Daniels, but Mark joins in. Strong handles that by putting Mark into the barricade. Back inside with the first true resthold of the night, which Daniels hiptosses out. Jacobs, though, provides the distraction and Strong hits the dropkick. Another resthold because, well, Daniels kind of deserves it at this point. Daniels suplexes out, but NO TAG. Strong makes certain of that by booting Kaz off the apron. Neckbreaker from Jacobs with a slight twist — literally — to shift the impact a bit. This gets manly as the announce team refers to Silas Young, discusses mustaches and Strong tries to make Daniels humble.

ROH 072614 Roderick Strong Christopher Daniels

This really has turned into a Decade vs. Daniels handicap match, which is impressive since they can only use like a quarter of the ring. Strong has Daniels around the gut, and he jawbreaks out … right into a Strong dropkick. Daniels kicks out leading into the second commercial break.

Nigel McGuinness informs us during the break that at Death Before Dishonor, this will happen.

ROH 072614 Field of Honor title

Anyone else want to see A.J. Styles with two world titles?

Anyway, back from break, Daniels is STILL IN THE RING. Fireman’s carry into a gutbuster from Strong, dropkick by Jacobs, Daniels still doesn’t quit. Kaz goes for a tag on a whip and misses, but Daniels hits the STO and TAGS TO KAZ at 17:32. Hot tag includes a springboard legdrop, then a sick guillotine legdrop on Jacobs using the ropes and the apron. He DDTs Strong, bobbling a bit, on the way back in, but we finally get some other guys in the ring in a moment. Rowe destroys Daniels with a throw, and the Briscoes and War Machine create some in-ring chaos. Mark Briscoe throws himself and Rowe outside. Strong tags in, hits the boot on Daniels, but no. Jacobs goes for Sliced Bread No. 2, but Kaz neutralizes that threat. Strong hits the jumping knee on Kaz, but Daniels hits the standing uranage slam and the Best Moonsault Ever … HOLY CRAP DANIELS GETS THE PIN.

Time: 20:42

Technical Merit: The only move that wasn’t well executed was a DDT while leaping over the ropes a few seconds after a guillotine legdrop on the apron. Otherwise, 20 minutes of awesomeness.

Artistic Impression: For someone new to the product, the only good way to tell a story is in the ring. Want someone to get to know eight guys? Throw them all in and let them all showcase their stuff. Want to get a returning team over? Have one of them wrestle basically the entire match, take a beating from all comers and finish on top. This was a psychological and storytelling masterpiece you can only see by taking one of the exits off the WWE freeway.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

WWE SmackDown review (Aug. 1): Chris Jericho makes Erick Rowan look good, The Miz actually looks good, and Cesaro is NOT getting “buried”

I don’t usually watch SmackDown. But when I do, there’s usually some proper motivation.

This week, there were two reasons: Last week’s was decent, and one of my Twitter friends (I think it was @TraskVanCity, though since he hits the daily tweet limit, there’s FAR too much to sift through to actually go back and confirm) referred to this week’s as a train wreck. If there’s one thing I like more than awesome, it’s awesomely bad. It’s why I remain a WCW loyalist. Anyway, here’s the rare SmackDown review, which hopefully is more entertaining than most of this week’s television offering.

•••

Why is “buried” the Internet Wrestling Community’s favorite buzzword? “My hero lost a match? He’s being BURIED by VKM and Trips!” At least it’s not like when people were saying Daniel Bryan was getting buried when he literally was like half the show. They are, however, saying Cesaro is being “buried” due to the photo shown above.

Combine it with losses on the SmackDown prior to Dean Ambrose and this week’s RAW to John Cena, and that’s called a losing streak. But notice: Cesaro, a heel, is losing matches to babyfaces WWE is trying to elevate or keep strong. Ambrose is being pushed in an upper-midcard rivalry with Seth Rollins, which continues a bit on this show. Cena is being pushed as, well, the freaking WORLD CHAMPION. Jack Swagger is being pushed as the freshly turned patriotic babyface against Russian baddy Rusev, and I assume Swagger will go over the seemingly invincible foe to put the U, S and A on top.

How do you make Swagger believable in that regard? You build him up. How do you do that? You have him defeat the best wrestler in the company, with whom he happens to have a backstory since they were tag partners just four months ago.

There’s not a vendetta against Cesaro, though creative has squandered his momentum since winning over almost everyone with his double duty at WrestleMania and excellent in-ring work leading up to Elimination Chamber. (After all, who know the Paul Heyman affiliation would flop?) This should be viewed as a Swagger victory far more so than a Cesaro loss, because that’s exactly how WWE presented it.

He could’ve waited a little while before tapping out, though.

JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. CESARO

The good news? Cesaro’s in the leadoff spot for both shows this week. The bad news? He lost on both shows. Oh, and that damn siren, which is now in ambulance form. This is guaranteed to be a good wrestling match, though it starts with the heel paintbrushing the back of the babyface’s head to start. Cesaro adds the super-technical thumb to the eye , then the actually technical gutwrench suplex to regain control. Nice piped-in boos, too. Huge elbow and lariat from the ‘Murican turns the tide, but he gets caught on a Swaggerbomb attempt and gets a direct deposit outside before the break.

Sidenote: I recall people on Twitter saying Michael Cole and JBL neglected to mention the wrestlers’ time as the Real Americans. To be fair, it’s only mentioned thrice or so in the first 4 minutes of air time.

This is a different match than I expected — a lot more striking with some mat moves mixed in, like Swagger’s catch and slam. And Cesaro’s underhook powerbomb? OK, we’re getting somewhere. Couple kicks and a taunt from Cesaro, then a third kick … make that the Patriot Lock and a quick tap? Alrighty then.

Hulu Plus Time: 5:43

Technical Merit: Smooth match, and a change of pace from the expected norm.

Artistic Impression: Kind of quick, and clearly a pro-Swagger vehicle.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Of course, this leads to a Rusev and Lana sighting, and a Flag Match challenge for SummerSlam. Needless to say, Colter accepts, and hopefully we get a blowoff for this angle.

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

Clearly, this is the SummerSlam SetUp SmackDown. Randy Orton challenges Roman Reigns to a match, being more concise and more … Viperish. He’s angry, as shown by his beatdown of Reigns on RAW that unofficially lasted about half the third hour. But really, until he’s no longer a lackey of The Authority — and leaving their thumb would inadvertently result in a face turn — he won’t be believable as THE VIPER.

My wife brought this up recently: Orton needs to be a leader, not a follower. I’ll go one further and suggest he needs to be his own heel, which he hasn’t been for about five years. Orton doesn’t work nearly as well as a neutered heel, and he sure as hell didn’t work as a babyface for more than three years. Let him be his own entity, destroying anything in his path, and let us get a glimpse of what we saw in 2009, which was one of the best, most sinister heel runs we’ve ever seen.

•••

Good to know Bo Dallas hasn’t lost his smile after his “first” defeat Monday. At least now, instead of being the over-babyface heel, he might be an actual heel now, though he’s still trying to be an inspiration to us all.

BO DALLAS vs. R-TRUTH

Truth going for numerous quick covers, using his wrestling acumen early. It’s hard to remember he was a world champion once. Meanwhile, Bo gets Truth where he wants him — taking some punches between the ropes. Unfortunately, he forgets he only has until five and gets the DQ. The beatdown continues for about 45 seconds, then takes the mic and tells us he Bolieves Truth got exactly what was coming to him.

Time: 1:48

•••

Did Alberto Del Rio get new music? No, it’s just Rosa Mendes, who gets sudden TV time to prep her for Season 3 of Total Divas. *yawn* She even gets to face the champ this week!

WWE Divas Champion A.J. LEE vs. ROSA MENDES

Rosa wants a title shot…? HAHAHA Black Widow already! OK, that was funny.

Time: 0:18

What was quicker than that match? Paige knocking the champ out cold … by pushing her off the ramp? Apparently a 3-foot drop can fully incapacitate a 5-foot athlete. Hell, Zack Ryder turned out fine … and he had to hang onto a wheelchair! Oh, OK, there was a camera bump. Still didn’t seem stretcher worthy. I’ll still take neck-braced A.J. in a match over botchy Paige at this point.

•••

Ambrose discusses how he hopes Kane brought two masks to Corpus Christi, because Rollins will need one when he’s done with him. Nevermind that it’s a handicap match … and Ambrose is at the disadvantage. Oh well. That surely was one of the best promos in the history of the company according to Ambrose’s Moxley’s loyal band of followers, since Ambrose Mox is the best there is, plain and simple, and he wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence. Shake and bake!

The promo was timely, however, since he’s up next.

KANE & SETH ROLLINS vs. DEAN AMBROSE

Quick question: Who comes up with the hashtags for each segment? Does someone search far and wide on Twitter so there’s no duplicity? Was that person’s job safe with the recent layoffs? I want to know these things.

Kane starts until Ambrose is vulnerable, then Rollins tags in. Once Ambrose gets a hint of momentum, Rollins tags out. Heel Tag Wrestling 101 there. Nice bit where Rollins walks to the corner where Ambrose’s shoulder meets the post again, then declares Ambrose will never get through Kane. But then he tags in and gets hit by Ambrose once Kane is no longer holding him up. Another quick momentum shift, though, and a quick tag. Ambrose down, Rollins in. But then Ambrose up, both heels down. Suicide dive on both — credit for using the right shoulder — and a drop toehold to Kane onto the steps evens the odds for now. Sloppy Lou Thesz press, and a slightly more accurate pummeling in the corner. But then Kane puts Ambrose into the timekeeper’s table. The good guy decides that’s enough and resorts to the bad guy tactic of taking the DQ with the chair? Then he doesn’t even get the better of Rollins? That’s just poor aggression management.

Time: 6:39

Technical Merit: Not great, but far from terrible.

Artistic Impression: The heels outshined the babyface, who just looks like a sore loser with the finish. I get he’s the brawler who sees red, which works for a decent-sized portion of the fanbase, but I just can’t get on board. I need a wrestler, especially a babyface, to utilize wrestling ability and maintain focus on the task at hand.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

I enjoy Chris Jericho‘s ability to seamlessly transition from humorous to serious, sometimes in the same promo. We get the retro, kitschy Y2J, but we also get a variation of the suit-and-tie Jericho that really was the best in the world at what he did. This is a midcard angle, but it feels like a big deal. We get the hybrid tonight — serious Y2J, who has a chance to have Erick Rowan banned from ringside for SummerSlam. He can’t beat The Wyatt Family, but he can beat Bray Wyatt, which he surprisingly did at Battleground. Wyatt’s obviously winning the rematch, since Jericho is the best in the world at elevating young talent, but this at least provides a different way to get there.

Plus we get the return of Bray Wyatt’s Sermon This Week!

Why is it that you keep coming back here, Chris Jericho? Is it for the thrill? Is it for all these bright, shining lights? Is it for the rush you get when people start chanting your name? Or perhaps, maybe, Chris Jericho, you came back this time because you knew that I would be right here waiting for you. Today, you are dirty, Chris Jericho, but after SummerSlam, you will be just dirt. *chuckle* And you may not know this, but she warned me about you. She told me that you would wear the mask of deception. She said that every word that would fly out of your mouth would be an empty promise. She said that you ride in on your white horse, and you would shout down from the mountaintops about how you were gonna save us all! *chuckles* But you lied to me, Chris. You lied to us all! And now, they, they see right through you, Chris. They only hear my words. They only see my visions, and at SummerSlam, they will be savior, Bray Wyatt, destroy the imposter that is Chris Jericho. There is no dignity left in your martyrdom, Chris. There is only your demise. And at SummerSlam, you will save no one. Especially yourself.

A solid effort, though not as personal and awesome as with Cena. An acceptable substitute, though. WYATT PROMO: ***1/2

CHRIS JERICHO vs. ERICK ROWAN (w/Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper)

Even with the original Best in the World in the house, the expectations are low anytime Rowan is involved. He bumps better than he attacks, which is fine when you’re not a heel outweighing your foe by about 60 pounds. Clumsy throw, strike, strike, clumsy throw is his go-to offense, and the only part he usually gets right is the “clumsy” part. Jericho isn’t pandering at all early, even though he had the chance after a baseball slide and a trip outside. Harper trips up Jericho in the ring a few seconds later, and instead of the quick DQ, Mike Chioda gives us a tease to SummerSlam’s situation by ejecting Harper.

Rowan’s fists are in Jericho’s temples as we return, and we get a pumphandle abdominal stretch into a backbreaker? Didn’t know he had it in him! Y2J has a few chops in him, then goes back to trying to make his foe look good. Rowan beats up Jericho outside, then covers for 2. The bay-bay! face comeback commences, punctuated by countering a catch into a DDT and hitting a missile dropkick … but Rowan stops it with a spinning kick? He’s learning! Enziguiri/short dropkick combo from Jericho, then he actually HITS the Lionsault on Rowan’s back and gets 2. Wyatt implores Rowan to get up and fight, and 8 minutes in, we finally get the signature runover-push thing. I HATE that move. Super fallaway slam attempt thwarted, as is Jericho’s top-rope leap — right into a big boot. A bear hug follows, but Jericho slips out. Codebreaker. Done. Rowan’s SummerSlam paycheck? Gone.

Hulu Time: 9:54

Technical Merit: A pleasant surprise from Rowan, who actually showed some in-ring ability in a longer-form, singles setting, and didn’t look completely out of place in a main event. Jericho deserves credit for helping Rowan actually look devastating, but the third member of the Wyatt Family finally appeared to be more than just some big, bald stiff who doesn’t know how to fight, let alone wrestle.

Artistic Impression: I like what they’re building. This match told a good story, and the two SummerSlam combatants were on point beforehand. This is an upper-midcard angle with thought and execution, and it shows.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Is one of the Rhodes brothers injured? Or has WWE simply decided the Goldust and Stardust backstage bits are more entertaining than their matches? I mean, they’re pretty damn good. Cody Rhodes really can do no wrong, and I’m a fan of a younger, more athletic version of Goldust.

•••

Layla and Summer Rae … ummm … seem to get around these days. They back anyone who faces Fandango, which is all well and good, I guess. But it’s not really a good look. Especially if it involves “molesting a bull,” as JBL described it on RAW. Anyway, Primo Diego is in action.

FANDANGO vs. DIEGO (w/El Torito, Summer Rae & Layla)

Fandango grabs my attention about 30 seconds in, countering Diego’s re-entry via the apron directly into a backbreaker. Unfortunately, immediately afterward, El Torito gets Fandango’s attention. Then the girls get his attention with his music. Then the Backstabber gets Fandango in the loss column. Then the bull feels up Summer. I could’ve gone without that whole bit.

Time: 2:28

•••

The highlight of this show on Hulu Plus is Kristen Bell showing up in a Neutrogena Naturals commercial.

OK, maybe it’s the Intercontinental Champion in a stellar stylist-selected suit on commentary. And a flashback to his stellar match with Dolph Ziggler a week and a half before on RAW. Though The Miz isn’t in the ring, this one should be good as well.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER

Dolph does his signature “get tossed in the air parallel to the mat” bump, but he lands knee first. That looked like it hurt. Del Rio’s German suplex looked solid. So did Ziggler’s DDT.

The champ decides this is the ideal time for Part II of his acceptance speech.

SmackDown 080114 The Miz
WWE.com

Del Rio decides it’s time for a rollup for 2. Ziggler responds with the Fame Asser, right before Miz thanks Ziggler, basically for not being as good as him. Ziggler decides to go after Miz, who gets out of harm’s way. He faces an enziguiri upon re-entry, and the cross armbreaker is academic from there.

Time: 3:57

Technical Merit: Smooth. Usual spots executed well.

Artistic Impression: The Miz-Ziggler angle is working, and they’re backing it up in the ring on RAW when they have the chance. The SmackDown advancement last week was great, and this one was a quality follow-up.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

It took a while to get to the RAW Rebound this week! On another note, Brie Bella is about 100 times better in sit-down interviews than in the arena. She’s the worst actor in the company live, but in a controlled environment she’s calm, cool and much easier to listen to. Probably she isn’t yelling “BITCH!” every chance she gets and raising her voice to a yell at the end of every sentence.

Surely, we’ll get to see more of that at RAW on Monday NIGHT! BITCH!

What did you think of the show? What do you think of Cesaro’s trajectory at the moment? Can you admit The Miz actually is … awesome … as the Hollywood heel Intercontinental Champion? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Midcard Report (July 29-31): Ambrose Live is interrupted again, Xavier Woods and Associates stop by, and Slatergator wins. Twice.

The Champ hasn’t been here for six weeks. The blog had its best day ever yesterday. Maybe staying away truly was best for business?

Anyway, I’ve been gone due to my tendency toward video game addiction, a relaxing one-week vacation and a general disenchantment with RAW and pay-per-view events as a whole. If Sunday and Monday suck, it’s hard to gather the strength to watch Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Anyway, since I owe you one, and since an old RAW was on as I prepared the battle station, here’s a random jobber drop-in from 1995.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network unless otherwise noted.
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network unless otherwise noted.

It’s a shame about that kid. Coulda been a contendah.

Now on to the most must-see element in Real World Champ history: The Midcard Report!

•••

Main Event 072914 Dean Ambrose

I’ll be real on two points: I don’t get the Dean Ambrose love, and I don’t enjoy the Ambrose/Seth Rollins rivalry. I haven’t seen anything about this match in three days, but I’m laying about $500 on “Rollins run-in/DQ” for Ambrose’s match.

With Ambrose, maybe it’s the bad boy thing? Maybe it’s the crazy bit? Maybe it’s the widespread wearability of his in-ring attire? Maybe it’s the fact that he promos on The Authority every time out? Maybe it’s his abuse of every single microphone he sees? I just don’t … get it. I see a dirty, off-kilter dude with painfully generic music, a painfully unimaginative look and a painfully kamikaze offense. Others see “the most over guy in the business” and “a future world champion”. People compare him to Brian Pillman; I see Pillman without wrestling ability. People obsess over him on Twitter … but are pretty quiet for his matches. He certainly has a cult following, with fans almost refusing to call him by his current name, instead referring to his independent Jon Moxley persona, or “Mox” if you’re a “real fan”. Only one man gets the “Mox” treatment from me and, well, he don’t want … your life.

Jonathan Moxon

Maybe I’m out of touch? Maybe I just see him as a better fit for a hardcore bit than actual wrestling? Maybe we should just agree to disagree? Yeah, let’s go with that. Full points for the grey leather jacket, though.

One thing Ambrose managed was to make this man interesting:

Main Event 072914 Alberto Del Rio

Alberto Del Rio is best classified as “boring” by many professional wrestling fans. His character is stale, his opponents are stale and, as a result, many people tune out the second he’s on the screen. He’s a victim of the Sheamus effect: Boring as hell when he’s facing the same old foe (in ADR’s case, that’s usually Sheamus himself), but can be entertaining with a fresh opponent just because it’s something new.

DEAN AMBROSE vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

The expected brawling offense from Ambrose, and it only took him about 1:40 to toss Del Rio outside. First actual wrestling move at about the 3-minute mark, using a toehold variation and wrapping ADR’s arms around his neck. Del Rio shows his vicious side shortly thereafter, dodging a charge to introduce Ambrose’s injured shoulder, which he kicked to start the show, into the post; dropkicking Ambrose’s head into said post from the outside; and applying his Wrestling 101 mechanics to said shoulder. ADR’s trademark enziguiri takes Ambrose off the apron to the floor, and it’s break time.

We get a wrestling hold after the Sting WWE 2K15 plug: An ADR headlock. Back to strikes for each man after Ambrose breaks free, and back to the post for Ambrose’s left shoulder. The crowd finally makes noise with the go-to “LET’S GO (BABY-FACE!” chant, but that dissipates for a bit when ADR hits a superplex with a nice subtlety: Del Rio twists his body to brace for the impact and take away the effect that move has on the wrestler executing it. Ambrose gets the babyface brawler comeback going, completely no-selling the shoulder in the process. He did show some intelligence, suicide diving with the right shoulder to dump Del Rio into the front row. Fan to ADR: “SHOW ME YOUR TICKET!” Back in the ring, someone FINALLY counters that Ambrose spot where he falls back between the ropes and slingshot clotheslines out. Ambrose responds in kind, countering another enziguiri and hitting a tornado DDT for 2. Eleven minutes in, Ambrose finally sells the effects of the shoulder, and ADR hits the short superkick, also for 2. He calls for the armbreaker, but Ambrose hits the slingshot clothesline this time.

Almost on cue … Rollins comes down the ramp. Ambrose engages him … and gets the DQ win. Pay up, fools!

Main Event 072914 Seth Rollins

Time: 12:34

Technical Merit: Del Rio showed the usual bag of tricks well. Ambrose hid his seeming lack of tricks well.

Artistic Impression: It’s hard to take the match seriously when Ambrose arbitrarily sells and no-sells a taped-up injury, and when you know the Rollins run-in is coming. At that point, you’re wasting two segments just to get to the good stuff, which to me isn’t good when it’s nearly EVERY SINGLE TIME Rollins or Ambrose is in a ring. They could go away until their SummerSlam match, and I’d be fine with it.

TOTAL SCORE: **

I flipped the switch from Main Event to Superstars, and Del Rio is pulling double duty with a chance to … keep his Superstars win streak alive? This man was a four-time world champion! He should have another good showing here, since it’s another fresh foe.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Gabriel’s ring attire/hair combination tell me he’s going for the South African Motocross Champion gimmick. Somewhere, Grant Langston is claiming gimmick infringement, seeing as he actually is a South African motocross champion. I see you, No. 8!

Supercross.com
Supercross.com

Anyway, as Renee Young (unlike the talent, Byron Saxton can’t work a double) names a bunch of extreme sports Gabriel is doing in his spare time — I think she’s making them up — Del Rio maintains control until Gabriel puts his educated feet to use, throwing some chops in for good measure. He gets a little botchy, swinging and missing, but ADR sells it anyway and stays down for 2. Del Rio’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker isn’t botchy, and neither is his superplex variation with Gabriel’s body turned around from the typical vertical suplex to land face/chest first. Somewhere along the way, on a Gabriel elbow upon further review, his eyebrow is busted open, explaining the cut we saw on Main Event.

Anyway, cross armbreaker and out.

TIME: 4:35

Technical Merit: Gabriel’s errant kick aside, a decent match.

Artistic Impression: The finish seemed abrupt, even with the vicious superplex setting up the finisher. Could’ve gone 8 minutes and I would’ve been fine with it.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

You see Rybaxel and The Usos? That’s one thing. You see these men, as we did on Main Event? It’s something completely different:

Main Event 072914 Kofi Kingston Big E Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods was brought in to sing and dance; he almost has a Ph.D. Kofi Kingston almost won Money in the Bank and was booed. Big E. saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to go down the same path to irrelevance. (He arguably was already there.) They’re done asking for chances; they’re taking now. Kofi’s yet to earn a world title shot; Woods declares it’s time to get that. It’s not time to see the finished product; Woods will declare when that is.

Let’s drop Woods’ kayfabe promo for a moment: This is exactly what these three men need, but this measure shouldn’t have been necessary.

The timing is impeccable — or reactionary. The Atlantic publishes a fantastic piece on race in wrestling and points out the lack of a black WWE Champion, factoring in the premier belt only and The Rock identifying far more often as Samoan than black. Grantland’s Cheap Heat podcast holds a great discussion featuring Dion Beary, the writer of the Atlantic piece, as well as MVP and Gail Kim, on the subject. About a week and a half after Beary’s story drops, and about four days after Cheap Heat discusses how easy it would be to craft a gimmick based on Woods’ intelligence … Woods stops being funky, suits up and speaks like a man with multiple degrees — calm, clear and focused. Kofi stops Jamaican us crazy (even though he’s African and has been in storyline for years) and acts like a man with a decent amateur wrestling background who graduated from Boston College, and Big E. stops acting like a preacher and more like a 280-pound powerlifted-turned-wrestler — both strong, serious, calculated, successful.

I’m extremely interested in how this turns out, because it’s being unofficially billed as The Nation of Domination 2.0, simply because it’s three black guys trying to beat the system. From another angle, it’s three guys who were jobbing out with no direction who suddenly have a compelling one. Depending on which direction it takes, WWE can give a group of midcard guys a bit of a push, or it has a bigger opportunity to tackle a clear issue in the sport head-on within the constructs of its storytelling … here’s hoping they don’t screw it up.

Anyway, they’re here to scout the tag team champions again, because this was simulated athletic competition a great while ago.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. RYBAXEL

Honestly, I’m paying more attention to Woods than this match, though it’s odd to see champions wrestling in T-shirts. These aren’t the Middle Age Outlaws we’re talking about, are they? Curtis Axel tries to remedy that situation on Jey Uso about 3 1/2 minutes in. Ryback finally ropes me in at 5:15 with an attempt at the flying elbow drop. Woods said it’s not smart; he’s right, because the Big Guy swings and misses. That leads to the hot tag to Jimmy Uso, who hits a nice sitout full nelson bomb. Ryback’s distraction allows Axel to hit the Perfectplex, but that’s broken up. Typical Uso match chaos, tag to Jey, splash, we’ve seen this before.

Time: 6:58

Technical Merit: What they did was solid.

Artistic Impression: What they did was the same ol’ Uso match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Main Event 072914 Heath Slater Titus O'Neil

I LOVE Slatergator. I know I’m going to smile when Heath Slater is on the screen, and his odd-couple bit with Titus O’Neil is comedic gold sprinkled in with some pro wrestling talent with room to grow.

I’m not so sure about Zack Ryder‘s “Bro-Tee”.

Main Event 072914 Zack Ryder

But hey, credit to him to shed parts of the Broski gimmick and evolve.

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER & TYSON KIDD

Basic lowcard tag fare until Kidd shows some stuff upon his entrance: Creative rollup coming in, a nice spot where he stops himself between the ropes and pulls Slater out and a flip off the apron. A quick reminder that, yes, this guy can do things in and around the ring. Ryder hits a missile dropkick after being tagged back, but takes some abuse from O’Neil before getting the hot tag to Kidd. Tyson handles business on both Slatergator members, allowing Ryder to hit the Broski Boot along the way, but only gets 2 on Slater. O’Neil’s attempt to pull Kidd off the ropes is thwarted by Ryder, but it did distract enough for Slater to recover, climb the ropes, powerslam Kidd from there and get the win for SLATERGATOR!!!

TIME: 4:54

Technical Merit: Elementary, besides Kidd’s presence

Artistic Impression: Liked the “odd couples” bit and thought Kidd and Ryder worked well together. Also entertained by the odder couple winning.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/8

You know what’s better than one Slatergator match in a week? TWO SLATERGATOR MATCHES!!! At least the C and D shows give the people what they want. We even get promo time in the back, which only serves to further showcase the hilarity.

Also working a double: Zack Ryder. (Woo woo woo, you know it.) That means, out of five matches, four men are featured twice. This has to be a #WWEBudgetCuts thing, right?

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER vs. SIN CARA

Ryder was part of the “Dungeon Broskis” with Kidd. He’s part of “Bro-Cara” with Hunicara two nights later. Or really one night earlier, but who’s looking at the calendar? Renee drops a Sweet Valley High reference and compares Heath Slater to Justin Timberlake post-N Sync…which is odd, since Ryder is the boy band aficionado. Ryder works better with his partner du jour once again, sliding through the ropes for a dropkick while the masked one flies over to take out both foes.

After a union-mandated break, Ryder breaks free from Titus’ grip and gets the hot tag. I keep waiting for the Sin Cara botch, but this version actually works … until Slater lays him out and tags to the muscle. Finally a bit of synergy from the odd couple, which means a loss in their future for sure. Sin Cara provides the necessary momentum shift with a kick in the corner, and the Iced Z hot tag awaits. Missile dropkick, elbow and a Broski Boot for O’Neil, and Slater breaks up the cover. Typical tag chaos leads to the Ruff Ryder on Slater, the illegal man, right into Clash of the Titus. SLATERGATOR IS ON A WINNING STREAK BAY-BAY!!!

Actually accurate commentary botch: Tom Phillips calls it Slatergator’s first win, when technically it was. It was just the second one on TV. Those pesky taped shows!

Time: 6:41

Technical Merit: Basic, but smooth.

Artistic Impression: Slatergator finding ways to win is fun. Talent apparently beats quick chemistry any day.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

It won’t be six weeks before another post. Promise. I’ll get to SmackDown this weekend, and I might try to sprinkle in some ROH. NXT won’t happen until I’m caught up, which at this rate will be December.

The floor’s open. Feel free to continue the discussion, especially about Ambrose and the Woods/Kingston/Langston alliance, on here or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.