WWE Midcard Report (Sept. 9-11): Rollins vs. Swagger, plus Cesaro and The Ascension

If you’re as disenchanted with the WWE product every week as I am — and judging by Twitter, you are — it gets better than RAW. No, I’m not just talking about NXT Takeover, which will get a thorough (and likely glowing) review from the champ later this evening.

Main Event is consistently better than RAW. You get three or four matches, only one of which is usually a dud, and you don’t have to deal with the Bella Twins or John Cena or anything that seems to drag on and give the “same old stuff” feel. Cena showed up that one time, but it doesn’t happen often.

Not only was Main Event better, but if you skipped through the RAW recaps … Superstars was better. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but there was a good match hidden in there this week that made it worthwhile for at least a few minutes.

These shows are why the Midcard Report exists: To shine a light on the competitors and matches that don’t get seen too often, as well as to remind people it gets better than what you’re seeing. If you don’t like it, then just go watch Nitro. Hell, I’d rather watch that than RAW anyway. #nWo4Life

•••

We kick off the midweek with “breaking news” in the form of two Night of Champions matches:

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins Roman Reigns Main Event 090914 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

Gotta say I like both of those, especially the second one. Randy Orton has been somewhat handcuffed by facing Roman Reigns in the recent past; now he gets someone who has chemistry with him AND ability. Chris Jericho may not be the best in the world at what he does anymore, but he’s still damn near.

Anyway, it’s promo time with the other new NOC combatant, Seth Rollins. Apparently it’s a new episode of “Where Are They Now?” with The Shield.

Main Event 090914 The Shield
All images are screenshots from WWE programming.

They were dominant, and they put WWE on notice. But where’s Dean Ambrose, the unstable, unrelenting one? Well, he made a fatal error by going head-to-head with Rollins and getting curbstomped twice. Excellent use of college dormitory furniture!

Main Event 090914 Dean Ambrose

Rollins brings up a valid point: Ambrose himself probably doesn’t know where he is. Another one, to me anyway: Who cares?

Moving right along to Reigns, and a jealous moment from Rollins. All he heard is Roman this, Roman that, Roman is the future of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. That’s all caps because you don’t hear it in WWE anymore. Frankly, Roman is all we hear about now. I guess it’s Seth’s fault, because he’s taking credit for creating him and leading him to success. But his future is obsolete, and Seth will destroy what he created.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

You know, if he can avoid being impaled by steel cage spikes.

Oh yeah, there’s one more segment to this promo, which is just verbal masturbation. He says he’s the future, and he’s the future World Heavyweight Champion.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 2

Apparently Jack Swagger (?!?!) has had enough. Zeb Colter rationalizes this bit by saying Rollins isn’t a great strategist, but rather someone who wants to talk about his enemies from far away and is too scared to do anything about it.

Main Event 090914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

Zeb’s more than willing to see, through Swagger, whether Rollins is a coward, or a Real American. I guess it works for the latest round of “Seth Rollins needs someone to wrestle.”

Main Event 090914 Jack Swagger

SETH ROLLINS vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Rollins is hot out of the gate, with his right hand, educated feet and quick moves giving him an advantage for about 15 seconds. Swagger’s shoulder deals a pair of crushing blows as Rollins regroups.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re back at about 2:10, and Rollins is back outside. This time, Swagger joins him and uses his power edge to introduce Seth to numerous hard objects. Rollins speeds up and outsmarts Swagger, and he gets a chance to stomp and choke away in the corner. Nice lariat from a man with about a 50-pound disadvantage, then he uses Swagger’s own arm as a weardown weapon. He tosses Swagger into the corner, charges into him with the elbow and waits for Swagger to rise. Maybe he shouldn’t have, though, because Jack catches Seth from the second rope and hits the belly-to-belly. Pair of shoulders from the Big Show/Erick Rowan collection, then the big boot and the Swaggerbomb. Takedown and cover for 2. Jack tries to gain some ride time, but Seth escapes and scores with a kick. Now the elementary, yet effective, fists to the back of the head. Enough of those will neutralize someone, right? Nope. Swagger is unfazed, and with some persistence, slaps on the Patriot Lock. Rollins squirms around and finally finds the ropes. He tries to leap over, but Jack just catches him, deposits him in the corner and goes for Kurt Angle‘s traditional toss from the second rope, but no dice. Seth hits the knee to the head, then the curbstomp. He’ll sell the ankle a bit, but he will do so victoriously.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 3

Time: 8:59

Technical Merit: Both men can work, and they work pretty well together for this being a one-off.

Artistic Impression: Seth is an interesting case. He’s a great wrestler, and he has the Money In The Bank briefcase, but he looks vulnerable in every single match, no matter the opponent. It seems like it would help everyone look good, but it’s at a risk of making himself look bad when he needs to be built up really strong.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Be very, very quiet. Slatergator are hunting wabbits! No, seriously.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil Heath Slater

Apparently Titus O’Neil wants to catch Adam Rose‘s bunny in an attempt to enhance his chances of winning matches. Sound strategy, I think! After all, Bugs Bunny ruined a LOT of Elmer Fudd‘s plans.

After the next match, Slatergator tries to catch the bunny, to no avail. Titus catches Heath instead.

Main Event 090914 Heath Slater

So without the rabbit neutralized, Titus must march on against Rose. Yay.

TITUS O’NEIL (w/Heath Slater) vs. ADAM ROSE (w/The Rosebuds)

Titus is squashing Rose for the first 1:15, but then the bunny runs in … or hops in. Slater opts for a sneak tactic, climbing under the ring and trying to catch the rabbit, who hits an enziguiri?! His workrate is better than Rose’s! Anyway, Rose pushes Titus into Slater and gets the rollup to help this mercifully end. I’m so FREAKING sick of Adam Rose.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil 2

Time: 2:01

•••

Main Event 090914 Cesaro

Who wouldn’t buy one of those Cesaro towels? Are they for sale? I need to look this up. I’d use a set.

Oh my … we’re about to feel REALLY sorry for Zack Ryder. Nice brotee, though.

Main Event 090914 Zack Ryder

CESARO vs. ZACK RYDER

Cesaro shoulder block, but Ryder gets back up, and gets the early advantage with a flapjack AND a dropkick. But that’s shortlived. Cesaro trips Ryder up on the apron, and the left knee pays for it. Stomp on the chest, then a spinning toehold when we’re back inside, but he misses a short dropkick in the corner intended for the knee. Ryder hits the Broski Boot and a splash to the outside, but the left knee is still hurting. He goes for something off the top rope, but Cesaro hits the swing and turns it into a SICK submission hold, a modified clover leaf.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Zack Ryder

It’s academic.

Time: 2:22

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Renee Young

Now it’s promo time, and Cesaro calls out Renee Young for sounding surprised he beat Ryder. Young then says she’s not, and Cesaro makes The Champ lose it for about a solid minute.

“Zack Ryder is a former United States Champion. Who are you to doubt Zack Ryder?

That’s right. Cesaro gave him the El Dandy treatment. Considering Bret Hart‘s classic promo had to do with the U.S. Title, which Ryder held and Cesaro is pursuing, that’s absolute gold.

I’m just bummed Cesaro didn’t call him a jam-up guy. Cesaro declares himself just better than Sheamus. More educated, more interesting, “WAY” better looking, and most importantly, better in the ring. Everyone knows it. The man’s rightHe won’t just be the King of Swing; he’ll be the King of Wrestling. I can get on board with that. So can a lot of people.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro 3

CESARO PROMO: ***

We got to see Cesaro be funny, drop in a WCW Easter Egg and state facts. His in-ring work overshadows his wit, but the latter is totally there, and we’re witnessing it now.

•••

Now THIS is a Main Event main event!

Main Event 090914 The Ascension

The NXT Takeover hype machine rolls on, this time with the Tag Team Champions. Considering it’s the main roster, it’ll be nice to actually know who’s getting squashed this time around. Well, have a 50-50 chance, anyway.

NXT Tag Team Champions THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando)

That entrance was AWESOME. Great new video, and the strobe lights actually have that strobe effect in the larger arena. Viktor starts against … who cares which one? Double shoulder dive after the tag, but Konnor actually takes a drop toehold, a slide while on the ropes and a senton from the apron. He kicks out at 1, carries the other Matador into the ring and tags to Viktor, who just destroys the jobber’s upper body. More double-team work, and a weardown hold ensues. It’s weird hearing Michael Cole talking about NXT wrestlers. Matador wants a tag, but he gets a lariat instead. Tag back to Viktor, and we’re basically just waiting for the Fall of Man at this point. Hot tag for the matadors, but he misses a dive from the corner. Tag to Konnor, and we get what we’ve waited for.

Main Event 090914 The Ascension 2

Time: 3:59

These guys might be the best tag team in WWE. They’re a 180 from The Usos, who I wouldn’t mind seeing take on The Ascension in a 2-on-2 setting for the sheer contrast of high-flying flash vs. straight-up ass-kicking. They’ve squared off once before in a 6-man tag, and Konnor and Viktor looked great when they actually had a challenge.

•••

First time seeing this Superstars intro, which includes a LOT of John Cena, Reigns, Orton and Sheamus.

Then we start the night with … Naomi.

Superstars 091114 Naomi

That seems like false advertising.

I’m surprised Summer Rae and Layla didn’t come out with a little person dressed like an animal. Is that still a thing or no?

NAOMI vs. SUMMER RAE (w/Layla)

Naomi’s in control until … Layla’s dancing distracts her while on the apron? Well then. I mean, Layla can be a distraction, but …

Superstars 091114 Layla

Anyway, whole lot of dancing around at 1:30, then a whip and the leg choke in the corner. Weardown hold from Summer, via pulling Naomi’s left arm in front of her mouth, and Summer “lets” her escape with some hair pulling. More conventional headlock this time and some spot calling, and it’s time for the babyface comeback? Nope, the slowest and worst set-up heelkick ever. Summer’s back to the headlock like she’s Randy Orton or something. Naomi gets out and it’s two dropkicks, back suplex, face into the mat and cover. Layla goes for the distraction again, only Naomi slips out and Summer has to hit the brakes. Bridge pin from the “veteran” Naomi, and we’re out.

Superstars 091114 Naomi Summer Rae Layla

Time: 4:33

I’ve started a 5-minute rule … gotta go 5 to be rated. This match should breathe a sigh of relief, because that sucked. Summer doesn’t really work as a heel, because she can’t believably control a wrestling match, especially against someone with actual talent. Had the roles been reversed, it would’ve had a better chance of working.

Superstars 091114 Naomi 2

•••

On Superstars, this is something to be hyped about.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

Get two small guys in WCW, they actually get some time (and take advantage of the time) to make it worthwhile. My faith is fleeting in this situation.

Also, this passes for a scintillating SmackDown tease.

Superstars 091114 Mark Henry Rusev Lana

Yeah, might skip that show this week. Again.

Anyway, after a bunch of RAW recaps, we get the luchador against the World British Super Duper Championship Motocross Wrestling Champion. That’s what I’m assuming, since he has the whole motocross/wrestling crossover thing going.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 2

JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SIN CARA

I forgot about the mood lighting until it came back on. Sin Cara wins the first minute and works Gabriel’s arm until he gets to the rope. Once free, Gabriel is more interested in using his forearms and pulling on Cara’s mask than actually trying to prove the “best high flyer” claim the announcers are discussing. Sin Cara pleads his case with an armdrag from the top, a dropkick, and a springboard moonsault onto a standing Gabriel from the apron. He tries to springboard back in, but Gabriel pushes him down, then hits a corkscrew splash onto the floor.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 3:40, and Gabriel has a hammerlock applied and is trying to tee off on Cara. A release German will help him as well, and he covers for 2. Russian legsweep follows …. then a submission? Maybe he learned something from Tyson Kidd after all!

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 3

Since it’s not Tyson Kidd applying it, Sin Cara escapes, only to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut some more. Then the spine. Then the spine again. Gabriel goes for the German, but Cara reverses and hits his own release suplex, flipping Gabriel on his face. Cara picks up the pace, hits the headscissors and flips into Gabriel in the corner. He goes up top, but no dice. Gabriel hits the Frankensteiner, then a springboard moonsault for 2. Gabriel? He’s not very pleased. Cara? He’s not very awake.

Superstars 091114 Sin Cara

Now Gabriel sets up for the … spear? Not sure, but Sin Cara goes for the rollup. Nope, a roll-through into a powerbomb. Not bad!

Gabriel hits a DDT at 8:10, then climbs the ropes, but Sin Cara hits the enziguiri. Frankensteiner blocked, and Gabriel gathers himself and hits the 450 for the win.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:49

Technical Merit: A different side of Gabriel in a rare situation as the bigger guy, and it actually worked. He’s believable as a vicious, striking technician when in the ring with other cruiserweights. Sin Cara was Sin Cara … nothing mesmerizing, nothing terrible. Just some dude who hits a couple high spots.

Artistic Impression: Gabriel showed some negative emotions, which is good. He’s working heel. He’s supposed to be frustrated if he doesn’t get the pin. It came off well, and it put into doubt whether he could actually win the rematch. This match was considerably better than I expected.

TOTAL SCORE: **

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