Category Archives: Pay-per-view

WWE Payback review: John Cena and Bray Wyatt actually have a great match, The Shield has it almost too easy against Evolution, and Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella waste our time

WWE Payback seemed destined for two fates — it would go as expected and be the biggest flop of the year, or it would be one of those “diamond in the rough” shows we’d talk about for years to come.

The actual result? Somewhere in between.

Matches that could’ve been terrible were OK. Matches that could’ve been OK kind of sucked. The odds-on favorite to become Match of the Year became just another good rematch and wasn’t even the Match of the Night. And, of course, John Cena won (LOL), but he and Bray Wyatt also stole the show.

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

Expectations were quite low for the semi-main event. After all, Wyatt and Cena’s first two special-event matches had flickers of potential but usually kind of flamed out. Cena fell just short of becoming the “monster” Wyatt implored him to be (and the one we wanted) at WrestleMania, and Extreme Rules was kind of a mess with a gimmicky finish involving Cena being scared of a little kid. OK matches, but not great.

With the help of Luke HarperErick Rowan and The Usos, who actually took over the focus of the match for a few minutes with some great spots, this match found the sweet spot. Harper superplexing an Uso through two tables onto the floor — a move that seemed to protect the recipient more than the aggressor — is the image that will stick in my mind most. That and Cena actually finding a kinda-sorta cool way to win one of these things that didn’t involve duct tape. Instead, he hit the AA on Wyatt from a production table onto/though an empty storage container, then dumped a presumably full one on top. Typical sneaky Cena? Yes. But one based in some sort of wrestling logic.

The only problem here? It felt like the same ol’, same ol’ with Cena winning again, and Wyatt needs to come out on top in this angle. Wyatt needs the rub of overtaking the great, superhuman John Cena to add to his list of evil accomplishments … because who cares about him if he can’t back up what he says? Yes, he defeated the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the Royal Rumble, but a lot of fans barely remember it … if they do, it was because it added to the “burial” of Daniel Bryan. Cena could recover from losing this war. Wyatt? I’m not entirely sure.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cena, Cena

Match expectations: *-*1/2

Technical Merit: Having solid workers involved in the periphery enhanced the “wrestling” feel. And Cena and Wyatt have always known how to bring it … they just didn’t until Sunday.

Artistic Impression: A great story in a vacuum that loses a bit of luster in the grand scheme of WWE with the finish.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2 (Match of the Night)

•••

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

Meanwhile, the main event felt like a match that tried oh so hard to live up to the hype, but fell just short.

It would’ve been hard for The Shield and Evolution to follow up their four-star match at Extreme Rules anyway, but Cena and Wyatt actually made it a bit more difficult. On a show that felt far more “extreme” than Extreme Rules last month, the semi-main seemed to take a lot of the best spots. We had Seth Rollins leaping off the stage near the bottom of the Titantron, but that just felt like his rail dive at Extreme Rules from a flashier takeoff point. We did get a bunch of kendo stick shots, which was cool. But we also had a match that felt like it dragged on FOREVER, and not in a “this match is epic” way. It went nearly 31 minutes — about 27 before any eliminations, even though this was an elimination tag match — and they spent so much time outside the ring beating each other down or setting up spots that it just felt like a brawl that would never end.

Then there’s the whole, shall we say, inconsistency of it all.

As soon as the bell rang, all six men paired off and went at it for a few minutes. After that, all of a sudden, it looked like any other six-man tag, with rules and everything! Then everybody went back outside for a day and a half, and when their moms told them to come back home, it was a tornado tag to the finish. It was just … odd … and it really took away from the match. I need logic, people!

Then there was, well, the finish.

Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall at the end to end a show? That’s all well and good. Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall after defeating one of the greatest factions in history last month, then SWEEPING an elimination rematch? That makes no sense either. I know this is supposed to be a quick feud, with Batista leaving to go do semi-movie-star things, it’s already starting to get a little stale and The Shield needed to come out on top at the end. But 3-0 against a group that averages 10 world titles per man? Though it helps The Shield immensely to go over that strong, it raises a couple questions: What exactly was the point of reforming Evolution? And what was the point of this angle if it was going to be so one-sided?

It’s a good thing Payback felt like the end of the line for two major rivalries, because I would probably just skip the rubber match of this one.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Evolution (via swerve), Shield (clean)

Match expectations: ****1/2

Technical Merit: Did they even really wrestle? No. But what they did perform was smooth.

Artistic Impression: Great story if you’re a Shield mark. If you want a little epicness to your six-man main-event rivalry, it certainly left a few things to be desired.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

***

It would almost be better to skip the Daniel Bryan Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon part, but that would do the reader a greater disservice than the aforementioned did by subjecting us to the crap we saw. Nobody cares about Brie … except maybe the fangirls on social media who actually are worried she’s gone for good. You know, since she plays such a vital role in Total Divas. Steph has been the company’s best heel for a while now, but she reverted back to her naggy, annoying self that wanted me to launch my coffee table through the TV screen. But she was right about one thing.

Daniel Bryan comes off as a selfish champion.

You worked so hard for this title? Yay! Want a cookie? That doesn’t mean you can just be world champion if you can’t wrestle. You even told the fans last week they deserve an awesome, fighting champion, and you can’t wrestle right now. You don’t even feel like part of the show anymore, though the injury and bereavement were out of your control. You seem to be a man who respects the past — you know, back when you had to give up the title if you couldn’t defend it for 30 days — yet you don’t give a timetable for a return and use the fans as an excuse for not obeying, even though you’re entitled to a rematch upon your return. Jack Tunney would not have stood for this!

Yet all this wouldn’t be a problem if you could do ANYTHING on the mic.

When Daniel Bryan is angry, he can be at least an above-average promo man. Any other time, Bryan looks and sounds like a nervous seventh-grader trying to impress his friends, and he’s been at his worst over the past week. It’s the inflection. It’s the goofy face he makes when he’s trying to act cool. It’s the fact that he doesn’t even say anything in the same area code as profound. It’s the fact that his wife, who would be kicked off an adult film set for her lack of acting skills, fights his battles for him.

And this, my friends, is your world champion? He can keep the belts, but we don’t have a champion anymore.

•••

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cesaro (DQ), Cesaro

Match expectations: **1/2-***1/2

Technical Merit: A good, solid fight within the confines of a wrestling match. A couple new things, and no glaring mistakes.

Artistic Impression: Champ has to find any way to retain. How all title matches should be.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

This set the tone for the night, and it sent the message that this night would be better than expected. Having these men lead off was smart, as was putting them in a match in the first place. The buildup was odd, with it centering around a rejected handshake, but they delivered when it was time. Many complained about the finish, but since WWE opted to go clean, this was the right move. Plus, it’s wrestling, people! You can be in total control of a match, but at any time, you can just get caught with your shoulders down and that’s it. It missed the double turn that seemed so obvious and desired, but it was fine nonetheless.

The problem going forward is where they’ll go with Cesaro, who clearly is failing to tread water with Paul Heyman.

Before Heyman, Cesaro not only could win the U.S. title, but also hold it for months. He could win 30-man battle royals. He could push Cena to the brink and defeat Randy Orton. With Heyman, he seems to lose more often than he wins, and sometimes even Jack Swagger can get the best of him with a well-timed run-in. Heyman’s stock is dropping, as well, with only one thing to talk about. I think you know what that is. Pull the trigger, split them up, and give Paul E. a break until Brock Lesnar‘s ready to come back.

•••

What’s better than wrestling? Bonus wrestling! What’s better than bonus wrestling? Bonus wrestling with Cody Rhodes and Goldust!

THE BROTHERHOOD vs. RYBAXEL (late addition to the card)

Technical Merit: A little botchy here and there, but decent. Great tag-team wrestling.

Artistic Impression: It advances Cody’s losing streak and his rift with Dustin, and it establishes Curtis Axel and Ryback as a halfway-decent pair.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

This was the Cody Rhodes story, and he delivered. Except for that moonsault where he slipped and looked like he was about to cripple himself. People want to see Cody face Goldust. Hell, Cody and Goldust want it! They’ve started to build toward it, though Cody simply telling Dustin he needs a better tag team partner is a different way to go about it, and hopefully they let it happen. And hopefully it’ll be at SummerSlam and not some Main Event or Superstars in July. With how they’ve treated The Brotherhood after losing the tag titles, anything is unfortunately possible.

•••

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana
RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Rusev udrea, Rusev machka

Match expectations: *1/2

Technical Merit: Good big-man match that cut a quick pace at times.

Artistic Impression: The problem was it was a little quick, and the buildup couldn’t make us care.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

This was filler, though decent filler. I hoped for the match I received, though it could’ve gone a couple minutes longer and been even better. The spot where Big E. speared Rusev onto the floor was one you usually see from a couple smaller guys, but not 589 total pounds of mass. They could go again and it would be OK, or they could feed someone else to Rusev. Preferably someone not black, unless the rumored Nation of Domination reboot actually happens.

•••

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Barrett, Barrett

Match expectations: *3/4-**

Technical Merit: Same old stuff from RVD. It didn’t seem choppy or botchy, though I kind of stopped paying attention.

Artistic Impression: Even Barrett couldn’t make the story worthwhile.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

I’m with Barrett: Rob Van Dam is Old Yeller, had a dog skated by on his past accomplishments, and needs to be put down. He’s been wrestling the same match for more than a decade, with the only change being who wins. Either way, his top-rope moves hurt himself more than his opponents, and his “educated feet” are less believable than Brie’s acting. He didn’t even set up Barrett all that well because we had to have the same old “Rob … Van … Dam” spots. Barrett deserves better, and we deserve better. Give us some good news, and give Bad News an opponent who’s worth a damn.

•••

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, Divas Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Paige, Paige. Champ finishes 4-for-6, Wifey 5-for-6.

Match Expectations: *1/2-**1/2

Technical Merit: If you like backbreakers and botches, you came to the right place.

Artistic Impression: Alicia is going somewhere with the new character. This match just didn’t go with it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

This felt like all their prior matches, only less crisp. Add that to the fact that we finally saw what women’s wrestling could be Thursday night, and this contest never had a chance. It didn’t have the atmosphere (thank you, Chicago, for that), and it didn’t have the usual skill and attention to detail associated with their prior encounters. It failed to click from the outset, and it never recovered.

None of this is helping Paige one bit.

Though well respected by anyone who watched NXT, to anyone else Paige seems like some kid who came in, got lucky and won the title. Casual fans haven’t warmed up to her, and after being conditioned to believe women’s matches are time to go No. 1, they don’t really get a reason to stick around when she’s paired with the likes of Tamina or Alicia, who have been relegated to typical Divas punchlines for years. Paige needs help badly. Whether it’s with a couple well-placed NXT callups, or simply an angle with Natalya or Emma, who can work well with her and put on a great match (see Paige-Emma at NXT ArRIVAL for an example), it needs to happen quickly, or Paige will be damaged goods at 21.

What did you think of Payback? How did it stack up to NXT Takeover? Where does WWE go from here? Let me know below or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Payback predictions: What will Daniel Bryan do with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Who will make the difference in the Evolution vs. The Shield main event? Will Sheamus finally turn heel? And will John Cena actually lose to Bray Wyatt again?

Are you excited for WWE Payback? Neither am I. The first impression of the six-match card (I refuse to count the El Torito vs. Hornswoggle atrocity again) is it’s the same old stuff as Extreme Rules, only with slightly different stipulations. On paper, knowing WWE’s general tendency toward “safe” booking in pay-per-views (John Cena wins, LOL, etc.), it’s destined to disappoint.

… or is it?

Besides Rusev vs. Big E., in which I hear the winner gets the blonde and other part of his name back, the matches have potential to build things going forward, when hopefully Money In The Bank provides a fresh set of rivalries. Outside of the ring, the entire summer could hinge on a stupid storyline that involves Daniel Bryan having to decide between the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wife Brie Bella‘s job.

I don’t know which is worse: The so-called “smart” fans who think Bryan should keep the title even if he can’t compete AND believe this is his only shot with the belts, or the ones who think Brie would legitimately be fired if Bryan chooses to remain champion. Brie will take some time off, maybe a few months or so, then come back when either somebody else is in charge on TV or wins a match (maybe against Stephanie McMahon?) to “regain” employment. Bryan, whose neck surgery went smoothly, will keep the belts, setting up for what appears to be a Buried Alive match against Kane at MITB and a possible old-school nod to Glenn Jacobs as he rides into the sunset. Brie will get a few parting shots on Steph, setting the stage for somewhere down the line.

On to tonight’s actual wrestling. The matches are placed in order of WWE.com’s predictions piece, with the exception of the first one here.

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana

RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ’s pick: Rusev

Wifey’s pick: Rusev

This one’s simple. The company is high on the Bulgarian Russian brute, and the fans are high on his blonde valet (or at least her legs). Big E. is almost damaged goods at this point on the main shows — the wife picked Rusev because the burial of Big E. will continue — and they won’t let him stand in the way of the next monster heel du jour. Whether this push pays off, or whether he’s Vladimir Kozlov or Lord Tensai for a new generation, remains to be seen.

Match potential: *1/2

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, WWE Divas Championship

Champ’s pick: Paige

Wifey’s pick: Paige

A lot of people think Foxy will go over here, considering her momentum and the fact that Paige still kind of feels like a placeholder on the main roster after dominating NXT. Fox may be the most entertaining women’s wrestler in years because her character is absolutely nuts, and it helps that she is athletic enough to actually put on a decent match. But at the same time, wouldn’t it be a better display for now for her to get pinned (or tap to the modified scorpion crosslock) and start a one-person riot? Her tantrum would be better television than her celebration. Also, Paige needs to win a solid special event pay-per-view match to be taken seriously by a lot of casual fans, who have been suckered into believing the “Divas” division is the Bella Twins and some show on E! Network. Give them 5 minutes and it’ll feel like RAW. Give them 10, and this could be a good one.

Match potential: *1/2-**1/2

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ’s pick: Cesaro (via DQ)

Wifey’s pick: Cesaro

This could be the most predictable, yet most necessary, double turn in years. The question is how, and how well, they pull it off. Cesaro, who received a babyface reaction at WrestleMania XXX after winning the Real Americans breakup and winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, immediately returned to being a heel the next night, when he became a Paul Heyman Guy. Sheamus, meanwhile, is the second stalest face in the company, which is a shame because his initial heel run actually became believable toward the end. Common sense dictates they reverse roles and have upward mobility. Cesaro and Heyman as a whole are less than the sum of the parts, and though it would seem rash to split this soon, it needs to happen in the very near future. Sheamus, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit in the grand scope of tonight’s main event (more on that later). No matter the booking, the in-ring work will be solid. Cesaro is the best pure professional wrestler in the company, and Sheamus’ work is great when he is motivated and has the right dance partner. This match will be better than it sounds, and both men will be protected.

Match potential: **1/2-***1/2

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT, Last Man Standing Match

Champ’s pick: Cena (LOL)

Wifey’s pick: Cena (LOL)

This is the rubber match, and Heel Booking 101 says Wyatt should get the decisive victory. But … this is John Cena we’re talking about. He’s lost stipulation matches before, but not many. Even when he’s weakened, he’ll do something like duct-tape an opponent’s feet to the posts so he can’t get up, which is the problem with a superhuman type of gimmick that must be protected at all times. Other men can lose matches and it’s all good … go get ’em next month. And, actually, Cena is the type of guy right now who would be hurt the least with a defeat here and there. But creative doesn’t seem to get that just yet. Cena should be Hollywood Hulk Hogan in 2002, having matches with top-tier talent and, if necessary, losing to a future superstar to give the ultimate rub. That should be what happens tonight, but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be the match where Cena’s character finally changes after nearly a decade — he reverts to winning by any means necessary, or hits that extra gear as a ruthless competitor — but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be where Bray Wyatt finally gets the upper hand, breaks Cena and moves on to the next victim, but I honestly don’t have much faith. The match could be brutal, but it won’t. It could live up to the hype of the three months or so worth of promos, but it won’t. It could at least be worthwhile to watch? But it probably won’t. These men can work magic on the mic … but not in the 20-by-20 box.

Match potential: *-*1/2

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ’s pick: Barrett

Wifey’s pick: Barrett

It seems like WWE is high on Barrett … this time. This man has undergone so many starts and stops that it’s actually surprising he’s been able to maintain enough momentum with his “Bad News” run as a cool heel. That’s also a testament to how charismatic and talented he is. Being Intercontinental Champion would do so much more for him than RVD, a washed-up part-timer who hasn’t had a mildly entertaining match in nearly a decade. You want this championship to mean something again, WWE? Keep it in Barrett’s hands for a few months, give him some worthwhile competition and build the champion and the championship. I think that’s what they’ll do here. After all, what’s the point of a tournament if the winner holds the belt for a few weeks? We’ll see the same old stuff from Van Dam, because he’s literally incapable of innovation or development, and Barrett will find a new and exciting way to hit the Bullhammer for the win.

Match potential: *3/4-**

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

THE SHIELD (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) vs. EVOLUTION (Batista, Randy Orton, Triple H), No Holds Barred Elimination Match

Champ’s pick: Evolution (via swerve)

Wifey’s pick: The Shield

This has the potential to be the WWE’s Match of the Year (non-NXT division). All six men here know how to tell a story, and they told a pretty good one at Extreme Rules last month. This will be brutal. This will be epic. And this will have a development that sets the tone for the rest of the year. Batista needs to go be Marvel movie promoter, which means Evolution won’t be in its current incarnation the next time we see them. Evolution also needs to win one of these battles, or else the rivalry is all for naught. A little too basic with the Even Steven booking? Yes. But why bring back the best faction of an era to go out and lose every time? That’s why Evolution will win the battle via some unsavory means.

Match potential: ***-*****

This is where Sheamus comes in.

One of the most popular topics on social media, besides whether and when CM Punk will return, whether Bryan should remain champion if he can’t wrestle and which NXT talent should come up next, is what will happen with Evolution moving forward. Will they just disband without Dave, or will they replace him? What route will they take?

All signs point toward Reigns and Trips squaring off down the line, potentially at SummerSlam, and Rollins is better off as a face, which would leave only Ambrose to possibly “adapt” and join Evolution via swerve. But why do that at a B-level pay-per-view? Something that changes the whole landscape of the promotion is best saved for a major show. What you do have is a babyface midcard champion who would need major character rehab to return to the main event, is far better suited as a heel and probably can rock a suit. Oh, and he’s shown he can beat The Shield by defeating Ambrose in a battle royal for the U.S. title.

Would Sheamus complete the past-present-future premise of the original Evolution? No, but he’s more present than past, unlike Batista. And if they wanted to go future, they could always add someone out of left field who can talk and get it done in the ring to maintain the legacy of the stable.

Which reminds me … have you seen Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes anywhere on the card?

The Champ works Sunday nights, so he won’t be watching live. He will, however, have a complete recap Monday morning after burning some midnight oil, so check back then.

 

WWE Extreme Rules review: The Shield passes Evolution by, Bray Wyatt beats Cena, and Daniel Bryan retains over Kane in an overgimmicked title match

From ages 5 to 21, I was an on-and-off professional wrestling fan who usually happened to miss the best periods and hit the downturns. I caught the WWF in 1991-92, as Hulk Hogan and Co. slowly moving aside for The New Generation. I returned in the summer of 1998 to WCW, after the nWo already split in two and the main-event product (sans Goldberg and DDP) already looked worse for wear. I switched back to the WWF in 1999, well after Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s climb to the mountaintop was complete. I more or less skipped the Invasion, WWE’s cruiserweight heyday and the fun parts of the Ruthless Aggression era, including Evolution.

One part that always intrigued me had nothing to do with WWF/WWE or WCW. It was ECW. It was so different, so cutting edge, so hardcore that I felt I really missed out. And then I catch a match every once in a while and I’m just like, “Oh. Cool … I guess.”

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to my wrestling. There’s brutality that makes perfect sense, like when Kane destroyed Daniel Bryan on RAW a couple weeks ago. Then there’s gratuitous hardcore “wrestling,” like when Bryan beat Kane to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules.

Use a couple chairs? Absolutely. Kendo stick? Love it. An announce table? Perfect. Tire iron? I can appreciate it. But the hood of a car, a snow shovel, a forklift and a flaming table? It felt like one of those matches where someone makes up for a lack of ability by loading up a trash can or shopping cart, picking a few implements, teeing off and calling it professional wrestling. Which is a shame, because Bryan and Kane could actually put on a damn good wrestling match. It just felt overgimmicked and unnecessary for a championship match.

Anyway, on to the card, which was great in theory and decent in practice. For seven matches, there were six clean finishes, which seemed odd. The Bray Wyatt finished needed to be somewhat out there, which it was.

ExR Triple Threat

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER vs. ROB VAN DAM

Technical merit: Generally solid. Some nice spots carried the match.

Artistic impression: Story would’ve been better with Swagger and Cesaro finishing it off.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

The trash can, which was obliterated along the way, hammered home the “extreme” message to lead off the show. Paul Heyman on the mic beforehand was brilliant. “Synagogue of hardcore” and “Thou shalt not boo Paul Heyman” were fantastic one-liners. Cesaro had the usual feats of strength, and it was cool to see him hit the apron superplex on Swagger right into RVD’s Frog Splash. RVD took a bit away from the matchup, mainly because if you’ve seen one RVD match, you’ve probably seen them all. Same feel here. Liked the Neutralizer on the trash can to finish.

ExR Handicap

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. R-TRUTH & XAVIER WOODS

Technical merit: Basically a squash

Artistic impression: Went from handicap squash to 1-on-1 squash

TOTAL SCORE: *

The reason this maintains the baseline score is because R-Truth actually executed some offense and held his own for a couple minutes while Woods was laid out on the floor after a pre-match beating. But that begs the question: Why the hell was Woods there anyway? Let R-Truth just get beaten by himself in 3 minutes. Would’ve had the same effect. Plus Lana would’ve been there, which is all many of the fans care about anyway.

ExR IC title

BIG E (c) vs. WADE BARRETT

Technical merit: Slow. Flat. Didn’t feel like a title match.

Artistic impression: Barrett was strong in seizing the title. That’s all that was necessary.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

This absolutely was the necessary result. Especially since, as the match went on, it just felt like Big E. isn’t ready yet. He was thrust into the picture probably too soon, given a title he didn’t earn yet, then kind of disappeared for a few months. I don’t necessarily think Big E needs to return to NXT or anything, but he needs more time to develop somehow, somewhere. Barrett, on the other hand, is the right man to be an Intercontinental Champion right now. He earned his way into the match, he won, and he finally has a persona he’s been allowed to maintain and build. He was the heel getting a fair share of cheers Sunday night, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He just can’t get them all.

ExR Shield Evolution

Technical merit: Smooth, sound, and a little chaotic. The right balance for a match of this atmosphere and caliber.

Artistic impression: Great psychology throughout the match, with the heels carrying it early and the faces getting revenge.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

I initially gave this ***1/2 on Twitter, but with some time to think, this was very well executed … and easily the Match of the Night. I was mildly disgruntled with The Shield getting a clean win for two reasons: They’re supposed to finish with the upper hand, meaning the end theoretically is already here; and I REALLY wanted to see Ric Flair stumble in and play a factor. I figured an Evolution victory would lead to The Shield seeking revenge and finally getting it a month or two down the line. Maybe Triple HRandy Orton and Batista will be the hunters now. Also, Seth Rollins? Dude’s nuts. Took a suicide dive bump directly into the barricade, then dove off the 200 level railing onto Trips, Orton and Dean Ambrose (who appeared to take the brunt of it) below. Fun match, and one hopefully we’ll get to see again.

ExR Cage

Technical merit: Wasn’t feeling it. Felt disconnected throughout.

Artistic impression: The people outside the ring made the match.

TOTAL SCORE: **

I LOVED the psychology involving Cena, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper in the quest to get outside the cage for the win. Then the child signing at the base of the steps at the end was creepy as hell … which is pitch perfect for this rivalry. The angle is hot … these two are at the top of their game on the microphone. It feels like something’s missing once they lock up. WrestleMania was the same, but different: Cena overacted then and it took away from the match. This one just happened to be more about the hijinks around the ring than the competition in it.

ExR Diva title

Technical merit: Felt like a wrestling match, which is an improvement for the division.

Artistic impression: Ring psychology good, but not enough emotion to the story.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

This match was fine, but could’ve been better. Paige certainly isn’t afraid to take a bump, which she showed after her hurricanrana attempt ended by being tossed into the barricade. She locked in the modified scorpion crosslock on someone Tamina’s size as well, which was impressive. Tamina just needed more of a buildup to be considered a true threat to the championship. She doesn’t command any emotion from the crowd, which is a bummer because she’s an OK heel. She just needs more time to be an OK heel before getting thrown into this situation. Or maybe I missed the entire buildup because I basically watch the Hulu Plus RAW and NXT. But I digress.

ExR WWE title

DANIEL BRYAN (c) vs. KANE

Technical merit: Some good, a lot of gimmick.

Artistic impression: They lost me at the forklift.

TOTAL SCORE: *

As you can tell, these scores are based on what I like to see in a wrestling match.

And I actually bumped this up a quarter-star from the immediate reaction.

The final result? A no-brainer call. Bryan needs to retain at least a couple times to make the chase, triumph and subsequent reign seem worthwhile. We went over what I saw that I didn’t like and why. I get it. This is Extreme Rules, and since there’s technically only one Extreme Rules match, you have to pull out all the stops. But the backstage brawl and the forklift felt very end-of-the-line WCW, when outlandish stipulations were thrown into every match because why not? Maybe they were trying to channel Austin with a forklift instead of a Zamboni or beer truck. Maybe they thought it would prove Kane was willing to do anything to win. Maybe they wanted one more “E-C-Dub!” chant. I don’t know. I feel like someone who is touted and booked as the best professional wrestler in the world should defend his title whilst plying his craft — not setting up his finisher by knocking his opponent into a flaming table. This match would’ve been perfect right after Team Hell No, a big blowoff to their breakup.

Instead, it was an overgimmicked title match to finish an undergimmicked pay-per-view.

What did you think of the show? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Extreme Rules preview: Predictions for Daniel Bryan vs. Kane, The Shield vs. Evolution, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt and more

Extreme Rules is, at least, an interesting card coming out of a WrestleMania that was successful from a booking standpoint, if not an aesthetic or atmospheric one. There are three matches that could carry the main event of almost any show and some actual depth in the midcard with championship matches and a nice triple-threat featuring one of WWE’s top rising talents.

Then, well, there’s …

HORNSWOGGLE vs. EL TORITO, “Wee-LC” match

What The Champ wants: A tag title match in its place

Who will win: El Torito

This has to be one of those sophomoric jokes from the top of the WWE chain. Putting Hornswoggle in 3MB and turning him heel? Having multiple matches on WWE programming? Putting them in the pre-show when guys like Dolph ZigglerSheamusAlberto Del Rio and The Usos are nowhere to be found? This is terrible. I’m grateful to have been able to miss everything except the contract signing on this one.

 

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. R-TRUTH & XAVIER WOODS, Handicap match

What The Champ wants: Rusev

Who will win: Rusev

A squash vehicle for Rusev, since it makes him look better destroying two guys on the actual roster than two 160-pound weaklings. You know, like Ryback did forever. Ryback’s build was stupid; maybe this one will fare better. Besides, people are only watching this one for Lana anyway.

 

ROB VAN DAM vs. JACK SWAGGER vs. CESARO, triple-threat elimination match

What The Champ wants: Cesaro

Who will win: I get a queasy feeling it’ll be RVD

Look, guys can’t get pushed to the moon in a day, and this feud at least makes total sense. But I feel like Cesaro can be utilized better. You have him beat the WWE World Heavyweight Champion heading into an Elimination Chamber match for said title. You have him sneak into a 30-man battle royal, slam The Big Show over the top rope and win. You align him with Paul Heyman. And then you throw him with two guys who haven’t been relevant in at least 4 years. While a talented wrestler, Swagger’s opportunity came and went in 2010, and I’ve had an open disdain for RVD for years. With two heels in this one (I’m calling Cesaro one until we hear otherwise), I just get the odd feeling the lone babyface (RVD) will find a way to take this one. The elimination element is awesome and will make it far different than a conventional triple-threat match, which means we won’t get some super choreographed, contrived ending. You know, unless Swagger throws both foes in the Patriot Lock or something.

 

BIG E. (c) vs. BAD NEWS BARRETT, Intercontinental Championship

What The Champ wants: Barrett

Who will win: Barrett

WWE has managed to make Big E. so irrelevant that there’s no way he can win this one. Even on SmackDown this week, Titus O’Neil kicked his ass so bad and so zealously that he was disqualified. Meanwhile, Wade Barrett won an 8-man tournament and has found a niche with the “Bad News” gimmick. He’s always had a great look, he’s fun to watch in the ring and his heel promo work is among the best in the business. I initially thought Cesaro would be the perfect man to re-elevate the Intercontinental Championship. He still would, but Barrett isn’t a bad backup plan.

 

PAIGE (c) vs. TAMINA SNUKA, Divas Championship

What The Champ wants: Paige

Who will win: Paige

If WWE wanted Tamina to be champion, they would’ve had her turn on A.J. Lee and take it the night after WrestleMania 30. It would’ve been perfectly logical and still accomplished the goal of giving A.J. some time off and ability to come back with a fresh rematch. Instead, they gave the ball to a 21-year-old from NXT with a sick submission finisher who can have a decent match with a sizable portion the women’s roster (some just can’t be helped). Paige will be champion at least until A.J. gets back … or until they want to throw it onto one of the Total Divas for a ratings bump on E! Network.

 

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT, steel cage match

What The Champ wants: Win or lose, Cena to snap

Who will win: Wyatt

Besides the match directly below, this is the one with the most Twitter fans saying, “This match HAS to go this way.” A lot of Internet fans go into an alternate universe with their fantasy booking ideas, but they’re right on this one. Wins and losses will never really affect Bray Wyatt; he’ll be over as long as he wants to be. But if Cena beats Wyatt twice in a row, what’s really the point? Wyatt winning a third match would just ring hollow, and ending it wouldn’t make any sense unless Cena undergoes a character change as a result of tonight’s events. I’m all for Cena getting the upper hand in the end if that’s what creative feels has to happen, but only in a rubber match after Wyatt takes this one. We need Cena to actually be vulnerable. We need Cena to not be Superman. We need Cena to … well … snap. Let him become the monster Bray wants. Let him feel the agony of losing the match (and his control of the fans) to Wyatt. Let him grow cold. THEN maybe have him get revenge.

 

DANIEL BRYAN (c) vs. KANE, WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Extreme Rules match

What The Champ wants: Kane.

Just kidding!

Who will win: Bryan

There’s plenty of speculation about Bryan’s first true championship reign as WWE’s top guy — how long it will last, where it will be on the card, and who will eventually defeat him. Well it’s safe to say it will last longer than a month. The only way it wouldn’t is if Kane wins tonight and drops it in a rematch on RAW, which is exactly how he held the belt in between Steve Austin‘s first and second reigns. It actually would be a nice victory lap. But it doesn’t feel like that’s what they’ll do. Bryan needed an opponent with whom he had a backstory (there are two with Team Hell No and the battle with The Authority) and could build a hot feud in limited time. Mission accomplished. This most likely isn’t the main event — no matter what certain sycophants say, it shouldn’t be — but it will be a high-energy, high-impact, brutal match where the smaller, spunky babyface finds a way to win after taking a beating. You know, like every Daniel Bryan match.

 

THE SHIELD vs. EVOLUTION

What The Champ wants: Evolution now, Shield later

Who will win: Depends on the direction of the feud, but Evolution w/some help

Dean AmbroseSeth Rollins and Roman Reigns will get the upper hand on Triple HRandy Orton and Batista whenever this angle ends. The question is when. This feels too big to be a one-off feud; it would be a waste of an Evolution reunion. But if it is, The Shield will go over now. This rivalry is a torch-passer: The Shield are ready to be legitimate main-event competitors, so why not face three of the best of the past decade? If they want this to have some depth and move forward into Payback and beyond, Evolution will find an unsavory way to win tonight. A clean win would almost defeat the purpose and feel like the burial everyone accuses Trips of on a regular basis. Even though he, you know, helped put over the Internet darling en route to the title on the biggest show of the year. It’ll be dirty, and it’ll give The Shield reason, and an opportunity, for revenge.

Who do you think will win at Extreme Rules? Who will steal the show? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

 

WrestleMania 30 match review: The Champ discusses the parts of WWE’s signature show that didn’t suck.

WrestleMania is supposed to be a showcase. It’s supposed to be an experience. It’s supposed to be the main event of the year, when everyone brings their A game and puts on a show that will be talked about for ages.

It’ll be talked about, all right. Some are saying it’s the best ever, either because their hero won (which would be a somewhat valid point), or because everything here and now is the best ever no matter what anybody else says (not so valid). Some are talking about it for all the wrong reasons.

There are five things that come to mind when discussing a wrestling show.

  • Athleticism: The technical merit portion of our match reviews. You know, the wrestling part.
  • Storytelling: The artistic impression part. What did you show or tell us, and how well did you do it.
  • Commentary: The people whose job it is to tell us what’s going on in the ring, and why we should care.
  • Production: The visuals. The stage, the atmosphere, the camera work. Everything we see on the screen.
  • Audience: The people who pay money to see the show. When something good happens, they cheer. When it’s bad, they boo. When they don’t care, they don’t do anything. An underrated element in defining whether what you’re seeing is important.

I was absolutely livid last night (and/or early this morning) because the last three elements unequivocally failed to deliver. Even if the first two are great, the other three can drag down the rest of the show, and vice versa. I tweeted this early this morning, and I stand by it, solely because of the last three elements.

Clearly not a popular opinion … only one favorite. But I digress. This post is about the first two, independent from the other three, because if you take those out, then this WrestleMania was far from the worst ever.

Note: I didn’t catch the pre-show. It was 1 a.m. when I got home to watch. I’ll go back and pay the proper homage to Cesaro later.

WM30 BryanTrips

DANIEL BRYAN vs. TRIPLE H (winner advances to WWE Championship match later in show)

Predictions: Champ wants Trips to win, thinks Bryan will win. Possible double-DQ to force a 4-way.

Winner: Bryan

Technical merit: Very good from both men

Artistic impression: Best story of the night from physical and post-match standpoints.

TOTAL SCORE: ****1/4

If you focus solely on the 20-by-20 box and its general vicinity, this was a hell of a match. Bryan needed to be beaten up pretty badly to play up the predictable will-he-or-won’t-he angle for the main event, and Mr. Helmsley did what he does best. It was a Wrestling 101 lesson from the start — if a man has a taped shoulder, you try to destroy said shoulder. Plenty of holds and high-impact maneuvers sold that element perfectly. I’ve called for Stephanie McMahon to get off my TV multiple times during The Authority storyline, but she was on point as Trips’ heel valet. She knows what to say and how to say it in the heat of the moment to press any buttons that need pressed. Well done. Bryan, of course, is an expert salesman, and his job was to make you hurt with him. I didn’t understand the overapplication of the underdog storyline here, probably because everybody in the world knew Bryan would emerge with the win; this wasn’t Bret and Owen Hart leading off 20 years ago. But he played the plucky little guy well enough to make you believe he could win, which he did with that running knee that doesn’t devastate opponents, but maybe that’s the point. You’re supposed to make sure someone stays down for 3 seconds. If they proceed to kick your ass, post your shoulder and then whack it with a steel chair, so be it.

WM30 Shield

THE SHIELD vs. KANE & THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS

Predictions: Champ wants Shield to win, thinks the old guys will win somehow and force a Shield breakup.

Winner: The Shield

Technical merit: A couple decent spots

Artistic impression: A filler squash match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

I start matches at one star, then add or subtract points as I proceed. This received a bump because of Roman Reigns‘ apron dropkick that appeared to at least graze two men simultaneously, and the double triple powerbomb of the Outlaws. Everything else sucked. It was an absolute waste of three of the hottest young commodities in the company, as well as the making of a farce of a halfway decent storyline. They actually tried to build this match, yet we were able to see about 3 minutes. This reminded me of WrestleMania VI, when The Hart Foundation and The Bolsheviks had a match that lasted about 30 seconds. At least the Canadians got a nice pop in Toronto for that one. This just fell flat because there wasn’t even time to do anything.

WM30 Battle Royal

ANDRÉ THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

Predictions: Champ wants Dolph Ziggler to win, thinks it’ll be Big Show

Winner: CESARO!!!

Technical merit: Formulaic at first, but decent

Artistic impression: Same, though a great finish

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

This was Cesaro’s star vehicle. He apparently put on a hell of a show in defeat in the pre-show, then ditched Real Americans teammate Jack Swagger to turn babyface. He capped it off by being an unscheduled entrant, doing Cesaro strongman things, selling for Big Show, then PICKING HIM UP AND SLAMMING HIM OUT OF THE RING. The man continues to do things that defy logic … you don’t think of a man 5 pounds from being eligible for The Champ’s theoretical cruiserweight division (oh, like you wouldn’t watch that) lifting and briefly carrying a 425-pound adversary. WWE sent a clear message that this is a new generation of professional wrestling, and Cesaro will feature prominently. The other highlight was Kofi Kingston‘s battle royal non-elimination spot: Being thrown out, but with his feet on the steps. Not as impressive as his long jump at the Royal Rumble, but just as creative. ****

WM30 Cena Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT

Predictions: Champ wants Wyatt, thinks we’ll get Cena

Winner: Cena (LOL)

Technical merit: Not great, but not bad

Artistic impression: Ambitious, but a bit off

TOTAL SCORE: ***

I liked this match. Cena brought it down. I understood the story being told, but Cena seemed to go about three-quarters in telling it. He was erratic and conflicted, but that just meant he made weird faces and paused to reflect in the corner multiple times. He needed to be more active in almost-but-not-quite becoming the monster Wyatt requested. When the ref keeps breaking up your offense, you yell a little, get in his face, then go right back to what you were doing. If you have a chair, you try to get the crowd invested into how you’ll respond, then if you so desire, you TEE OFF on whoever you decide to hit. You get right to the breaking point, then think better of it. I think he tried to do it, but we couldn’t see it. It reminded me of WrestleMania VIII, when “Rowdy” Roddy Piper has a chance to clean Bret Hart’s clock with a bell, and the crowd begs him not to do it, so he relents. That time, the conflict — the desire to be bad — actually worked. Cena just couldn’t do it, and it turned into generic SuperCena at the end. With that being said, Bray Wyatt is a STAR. He and his persona delivered the whole way, and he lived up to the substantial buildup as the charismatic and crazy antagonist.

WM30 Taker Lesnar

THE UNDERTAKER vs. BROCK LESNAR

Predictions: Wanted Lesnar to win. Didn’t think it would happen.

Winner: It happened.

Technical merit: A bit slow, but OK.

Artistic impression: I liked it. A lot.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

This match was a letdown … by Taker’s standards. I actually haven’t seen last year’s WrestleMania, so I had seen him deliver four consecutive five-star matches. I wanted him to be able to go the distance and, win or lose, have a beautiful, brutal match that far exceeded the lackluster hype. He ended up severely concussed and was examined for a possible neck injury, which may have limited what he could do as the match went on. But he looked like he realistically should have in a physical combat situation with a former UFC Heavyweight Champion — old, broken-down and battered. Brock Lesnar beat the hell out of The Undertaker, and pinned him AFTER A THIRD F-5. This is how it should’ve ended. It’s not the fault of these two men that 75,000 fans were idiotic enough to no-sell the whole thing. Lesnar and Taker did their job, and provided one of the most shocking moments we’ve seen in years. Kudos to both men, and if this truly is it for The Undertaker, it’s been a fun ride. I was 5 when he started, and he went only one match past his prime. Well done.

WM30 Divas

VICKIE GUERRERO DIVAS INVITATIONAL for the Divas Championship

Predictions: Champ wants A.J. to retain, but thinks one of the Bellas will take it.

Winner: A.J.

Technical merit: Just … no.

Artistic impression: Strong finish. Weak everything else.

TOTAL SCORE: *

The reason this even retains the base score is because WWE made A.J. finally look strong by making someone tap in the middle of the ring in a 14-person, one-fall match. The rest of the match simply showed how weak the rest of the Divas division truly is. Emma showed her signature offense, and Natalya did her thing as the worker of the match, but this match didn’t need to have 14 people in it if 10 or so of them suck. Poor decision.

WM30 title

RANDY ORTON (c) vs. BATISTA vs. DANIEL BRYAN, WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Predictions: Champ wants Trips, but knows Bryan will win

Winner: Bryan. Who else?

Technical merit: Solid

Artistic impression: Pretty good

TOTAL SCORE: ***

This felt very late WCW-ish in the early stages, with Trips and Stephanie running in, and even bringing in a crooked ref to try to screw the babyface. But hey, Bryan hit a splash on all of them, and The Authority didn’t have a role in the outcome, as it should be. Hell of a spot with the Batista Bomb into an RKO into a table, which the crowd absolutely did not appropriately appreciate, but a bit overbooked as well with Bryan going onto, then off, the cart. This match slowed down quite a bit in the middle, probably so Batista could go 25 minutes, to be honest. But the story was good — typical triple-threat sort of result with one man incapacitating another, then the third coming in and doing what it takes to win; then the whole fact that the champion didn’t factor into the decision. This WILL come up sooner rather than later. But it just didn’t feel like a WrestleMania main event or a WrestleMania moment. This felt like the main event for Battleground or something. The end of the biggest show of the year needs to have the best wrestling match, and it just wasn’t at that level.

Oh well. Maybe next year, right?

COMING TUESDAY: We review Bizarro RAW II … which may not be so bizarre after all.

COMING WEDNESDAY: World Championship Wednesday recalls World War 3, 1997.

COMING THURSDAY: We discuss and review NXT, the best show in WWE right now.

COMING FRIDAY: Flashback Friday continues the first season of Monday Night RAW. Or maybe we throw in a WWF PPV. Who knows? Just come back and find out.

I watched WrestleMania 30. I hated WrestleMania 30. Here’s why.

For months, the WWE Universe has ached for its voice to be heard. There have been attempts to “hijack” shows. There have been #YESMovements, We The People movements, Follow the Buzzards movements, and an odd obsession with fabricating C.M. Punk return stories on the fly. They’ve wanted to facilitate change in the WWE, by any means necessary.

Most of you who were watching in the Silverdome Superdome, congratulations. Your change worked. You completely ruined WrestleMania 30.

You have Hulk HoganSteve Austin and The Rock in the ring to lead off the main show, and you seemed to like it. You were into the Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan match a little bit. After that, you couldn’t be bothered to do anything except FINALLY, and half-heartedly, give The Undertaker some respect after losing the one thing that kept his relevance in the present tense. After one of the coolest spots in recent WrestleMania main-event history, a few of you cheered a bit and tried to start a fecal chant. And even when the hero of the night won his second long-form brutal match, at the moment when this YES! Movement should’ve hit its ear-splitting peak? The vocal majority seemed oddly silent. “YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!” was more like “yes … Yes … yes … yes … yes.”

This is why Triple H trolled many of you last week — you don’t care. You have quite possibly the best assembly of talent in the world, BUSTING THEIR ASSES to put on a good show, and you sit on your hands for the better part of 4 hours. You no-sold a solid match with a great story between John Cena and Bray Wyatt. The Cena haters couldn’t even muster the energy to boo. You completely no-sold Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker, which would’ve actually carried some emotion in any other arena at any other WrestleMania. You get what you want — Daniel Bryan EARNING his status as the man — and the only people cheering were those watching at home.

The professional wrestling experience has layers. There’s the athleticism and storytelling of the men and women in the ring; that was at the level it needed to be on this night. But there are other things. There are, of course, the aforementioned fans.

There’s also the promotion that told us for months how special this show would be, then made it about as special as the one where they put Lawrence freaking Taylor over in the main event. (If you have 2 1/2 hours to kill, go watch WrestleMania XI. It MIGHT make you feel better about this one.)

“Dead air” is when the on-air vocal talent stays silent, sometimes used as a tool to sell the atmosphere and let the event speak for itself. Maybe that’s what Michael ColeJBL and Jerry Lawler were going for? Because there was a whole lot of it. But here’s the problem. THE ATMOSPHERE WAS DEAD. THE CROWD KILLED IT. You can cover poor atmosphere if you’re an announcer by USING YOUR VOICE to sell the actions transpiring in the ring. Gorilla Monsoon did this. Jim Ross made chicken salad out of chicken crap many times. Michael Cole must’ve been too busy seeing what was trending on Twitter to, you know, CALL THE DAMN MATCH. Lawler’s a great guy, but he’s been done for years. JBL sounded too hungover or too generally disinterested to even try. That was the worst announcing job I’ve heard in my life … and I survived part of the Mark Madden era in WCW.

And to whoever directed the televised enterprise, you need to be fired. Today. Even if your name is Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Television shows work, especially sports shows, when you’re able to focus and see all the action. You can do it with a couple cameras or a couple dozen. With the right angles and well-timed switches, you can tell (and we can see) a great story.

Zooming all the way in and switching angles every 3 seconds do NOT a good television show make.

I almost got disoriented with all the camera switches, which seemed to be ANY time someone made impact with a strike or wrestling maneuver. WE MISSED DANIEL BRYAN’S RUNNING KNEE ON TRIPLE H because they switched angles at the exact moment of impact. Couldn’t tell you if he even came close. Daniel’s running, then Trips is falling back. No knee strike on the screen in between. In trying to catch every last piece of the action, we actually missed quite a bit, which painfully distracted from the overall product. We don’t need the biggest wrestling show of the year to look like a handheld documentary with close-up, edgy angles. We want it to look like a professional wrestling show of the highest quality. The same old camera angles were fine for all those years, so now you change it up on a show with so much on the line? How about …

Ambrose nope

Also, way to waste The Shield and decide three of your five championships AREN’T WORTH DEFENDING ON THE MAIN SHOW. No, really, take a bow.

Anyway, it’s 6:15 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, and I’m tired and angry. I need sleep and a cool down, then MAYBE we can muster an educated assessment of the in-ring product that only mattered to those in the ring and outside the Superdome.

WrestleMania 30: The Champ breaks down the biggest night in professional wrestling

I know, I know, I know. Everybody and their brother (real-life or storyline) is predicting the results of WrestleMania 30. (WrestleMania XXX looks like the name of another show altogether. Probably starring Chyna, if you know what I mean.) But it would be irresponsible as a professional wrestling blogger slowly trying to work his way up the card to skip a tradition unlike any other. (Stick it, Jim Nantz.)

There are differing opinions on basically every match on the card, so I present four potential scenarios for each.

  • What Champ wants is who I would like to see win the match, knowing fully well my opinion doesn’t match realistic booking whatsoever in many cases.
  • What Wifey wants … Wifey gets. She wanted to make predictions, too, so she’ll do that while taking a break from watching Scandal.
  • What we’ll get is the actual prediction for the match, based on educated booking guesses.
  • Out of left field … is basically what would happen if this were a WCW pay-per-view anytime from 1998 on, or some kind of swerve that would add to the old “Anything Can Happen … ” mantra.

 

All pics from WWE.com
All pics from WWE.com

THE USOS (c) vs. LOS MATADORES vs. THE REAL AMERICANS vs. RYBAXEL, Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE Tag Team Championship (pre-show)

What Champ wants: The Usos retain

What Wifey wants: “I don’t care,” followed by The Usos retaining; Real Americans break up

What we’ll get: The Usos retain

Out of left field … : Los Matadores

First off, The Usos deserve a long run with the belts. They’ve worked for years to get here, and I often think the first reign for a person or team is the most important. You often don’t get another chance (The Miz as WWE Champion ring a bell?), so you have to make the most of it. There’s no real reason to take the belt off them, unless WWE wants to ride Cesaro‘s momentum into a run with a belt … or stunt it by keeping him with Jack Swagger even longer. Jimmy and Jey are talented and entertaining, and they’re the best tag team in the company right now, since WWE is perfectly content with stupidly allowing Cody Rhodes and Goldust to fade away. It wouldn’t be the first time the tag titles changed hands during the pre-show; the Colóns unified the belts in the pre-show 5 years ago. But I don’t feel like it happens here. Title switches are so rare now that they’re big moments.

 

WM30 BryanTrips

DANIEL BRYAN vs. TRIPLE H, winner gets WWE World Heavyweight Championship shot tonight

What Champ wants: Trips

What Wifey wants: Bryan

What we’ll get: Bryan

Out of left field: Double DQ or interference; both men to main event

This could be the best match of the night, and I want Triple H to win based on pure chaos theory. I want him to win to lead off, so for the next 3 hours people lose their damn minds. Maybe even under some less-than-gentlemanly means, so host Hulk Hogan steps in right before the main event and inserts Bryan to make it a Fatal 4-Way. Actually, that would make it seem to the “smart” fans like they successfully hijacked the show, so they’ll try to do it all the time. You know, since #HijackRAW was such a huge hit. Idiots. I sincerely believe, somehow, Bryan ends up in the main event and wins the championship. Remember: Bret Hart didn’t win to lead off WrestleMania X, but in that case he didn’t have to. For all the griping about Triple H’s, shall we say, business acumen, he knows how to job — he’s 8-9 at WrestleMania. I think it will be brutal. I think it will be technical. I think the #YESMovement succeeds and proceeds in about 35 minutes.

 

WM30 Divas

VICKIE GUERRERO DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP INVITATIONAL (Champion A.J Lee, Aksana, Alicia Fox, Brie Bella, Cameron, Emma, Eva Marie, Layla, Naomi, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, Tamina Snuka)

What Champ wants: A.J. retains

What Wifey wants: A.J. retains

What we’ll get: One of the Bellas

Out of left field … : Eva Marie *throws up in mouth*

There are two possible vehicles for this monstrosity of what Joey Styles called a “Tetradecagon Tussle” on WWE.com. One fall, 14 people? … Really? Anyway, two vehicles: Give A.J. a WrestleMania moment to build her record title reign and put her on the next level of actually legit women’s wrestlers; or drop the strap onto a Total Diva to boost ratings for a piece-of-crap reality show on E! that people either skip or hatewatch. Professional wrestling will probably never again be based on “best competitor wins”. That ship has sailed to who’s trending and who’s “entertaining” outside of the ring. Make no mistake: Daniel Bryan isn’t getting a push because he’s the best wrestler or best storyline or gets the best on-site reaction, which is a shame because it’s all three right now. It’s because the YES! Movement trends on Twitter. WWE wants to make Total Divas a big deal, and Brie and Nikki are with the company’s two biggest male babyfaces. It’s what’s best for “business” but not best for World WRESTLING Entertainment.

 

WM30 Shield

THE SHIELD vs. KANE & THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS

What Champ wants: Shield

What Wifey wants: Shield via DQ

What we’ll get: Kane & NAO; Shield break up

Out of left field … : Shield; Kane screws NAO or vice versa

I don’t like this match. Not because it hasn’t been built or anything like that; this match actually has been built from a storyline and makes sense. However, this is what you have for three upper-midcard stars on the verge of being main-event entities? It’s a match that would’ve seemed befitting of someone in Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns’ position around 2000. But not now. Kane can still work and Billy’s decent, but Road Dogg has been out of shape and mediocre-at-best in the ring for 20 years. Something will develop out of this that has a reach far surpassing the actual match — a Kane/Outlaws victory could be just the thing to put The Shield at its breaking point. Back in the day, this trio would remain together for 3-5 more years. In 2014, this may be the time to pull the trigger on a split.

 

WM30 Battle Royal

ANDRÉ THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL (Alberto Del Rio, Intercontinental Champion Big E., The Big Show, Brad Maddox, Brodus Clay, Christian, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Fandango, Goldust, The Great Khali, Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal, Justin Gabriel, Kofi Kingston, Mark Henry, The Miz, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio, Santino, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Titus O’Neil, Zack Ryder, three unknowns)

What Champ wants: Hmmm … let’s go with Ziggler

What Wifey wants: Henry, Miz or Sheamus

What we’ll get: Big Show

Out of left field … : Sting

Yes, I’ve seen Twitter discussion about Sting making his WWE debut in a midcard battle royal. It would be a waste, but it’s entirely possible. Not sure what they’ll do with the three open spots, but I’m prepared to be underwhelmed. There’s no way this doesn’t end with the man once billed as André’s son taking home the memorial trophy. Plus he may be the only guy who can carry the thing.

 

WM30 Cena Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT

What Champ wants: Wyatt

What Wifey wants: “Cena wins LOL”

What we’ll get: Cena, but it’s close

Out of left field … : Cena via DQ; Rowan & Harper then turn on Wyatt

I honestly think John Cena wants to start passing the torch. At the very least, he wants more star-caliber people to work worth. Some would say Wyatt’s already made, but he’ll officially be a star tonight, win or lose. Well, unless it turns into like a 10-minute DQ, which I could honestly see happening since this match is fourth at best on the show’s priority. People will fret about Cena winning, no matter how Wyatt looks, but you can look great in defeat. Hell, look at Cesaro. John Cena did that. Cena’s victory will “cement his legacy” or something like that, and I think it’ll lead to a bigger payoff down the road. WWE can always come back to this one.

 

WM30 Taker Lesnar

THE UNDERTAKER vs. BROCK LESNAR

What Champ wants: 21-1

What Wifey wants: 22-0

What we’ll get: 22-0

Out of left field … : 21-1

I’m glad they finally decided to make Lesnar at least look competent in the final buildup. This was otherwise looking like a squash. I don’t necessarily get the mystique of The Streak, mainly because it’s simulated athletic competition, but also because it was something WWE happened to stumble upon. “Has Taker lost at Mania? No?! Well I’ll be damned!” Now it’s so protected that someone has to the be the absolute “right guy” to break it, if it gets broken at all. Why not Lesnar, who is well-respected as a legitimate badass? Because it wouldn’t “mean enough” for him to win; he “doesn’t need the rub”. He’d be the right guy to absolutely pound Taker into submission, though.

 

WM30 title

RANDY ORTON (c) vs. BATISTA vs. TRIPLE H or DANIEL BRYAN, Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

What Champ wants: Trips. For the troll factor.

What Wifey wants: Batista

What we’ll get: Bryan wins a 4-way.

Out of left field … : Batista. Because dammit, they had a plan!

This match could go so many ways, but none of them actually seem all that appealing. Orton has been booked as a weak “undisputed” champion … remember the lead-up to Elimination Chamber? But maybe that’s the point — Orton’s beatable, but he just doesn’t get beat. Trips could beat Bryan (or not) and power-trip his way into the main event and add another notch to his title tally in the ultimate “LOL IWC” move. I think Triple H’s current heel persona is fantastic, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a true Corporate Champion for a couple months. Batista’s here partially to work one last actual run, and partially here to promote movies. Remember the cross-promotion discussion concerning the Divas? This is one that actually makes sense … except for the fact that Dave Bautista is nowhere near Dwayne Johnson‘s level, and even The Rock couldn’t work a lick in the ring to make it worthwhile from a wrestling standpoint. Every 10 years, WrestleMania ends with a huge babyface celebration in the middle of the ring. Twenty years ago, it was Bret. Ten years ago, it was Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. This year, imagine this with 70,000-80,000 people, because it’s probably what will happen.

GIF from Fansided.com
GIF from Fansided.com