Category Archives: RAW

WWE RAW “Season Premiere” review (Sept. 8)

Yes, this post has a warning: It might suck, because the show might suck. It also might suck because what “sucks” and what doesn’t may differ from person to person. Though can we agree Roman Reigns and The Bella Twins suck yet? If you don’t, just step away and come back for the Midcard Report later this week. They’re far from immune from my venom, even if Reigns claims to have an antidote. (That’ll make sense later.)

Anyway, I skipped RAW last week, and I should’ve skipped the week before. But the wife’s out of town, and I’m bored, so let’s give this a shot!

•••

So we’re starting with a steel cage?

RAW 090814 Steel Cage
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are screenshots from WWE programming on Hulu Plus.

And Chris Jericho?

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho

AND Bray Wyatt?

RAW 090814 Bray Wyatt Family

You have my attention. Nobody needs to “save” anyone tonight, boys. Just get in the cage and get it done.

CHRIS JERICHO vs. BRAY WYATT (w/The Wyatt Family), Steel Cage match

We’re going vintage steel cage rules here — you can get out, or you can beat the opponent in the ring. Bray goes for an escape about 90 seconds in, but otherwise the usual deliberate, brawling style from him. Jericho is energetic and impactful, snapping off a dropkick and hitting a nice enziguiri in the first 2 minutes or so. They’re selling the contrasting styles. Y2J’s first attempt comes when he climbs the buckles after being whipped in, but Erick Rowan and Luke Harper were waiting. Plus, well, Bray pulled him down. First use of the cage as a weapon comes at 3:45, when Bray tosses Jericho. Also the first…

…COMMERCIAL BREAK.

We’re back, Wyatt’s on the floor and Jericho’s heading up top. He starts to climb over, but the Family is ready to welcome him. Jericho has other plans, and after a shrug, he does his best Jimmy Snuka impression.

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho steel cage

Not the cleanest splash in the world, but when you’re that high, the crossbody WILL be effective if you make contact. Also, Jericho said on Instagram he hadn’t done that since about 1993, which may be how/why he’s selling the right knee. It’s not enough to keep him from crawling to the door, and basically everything except the feet make it out. Wyatt’s just brutalizing Y2J in an attempt to keep him in, then he finally goes to the right knee five times and rolls out.

Hulu time: 7:26

Technical Merit: Anytime there’s a cage dive, it’s a good thing. Also sold the speed/power dichotomy nicely, and the knee injury was used effectively.

Artistic Impression: This angle has to end somehow, right? If this is it, it ended well, especially with the post-match beatdown with more knee shots and Sister Abigail.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

•••

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler

The Intercontinental Champion has a microphone, and he’s referring to The Fappening. Attention? Retained.

Apparently, nobody should’ve been victimized by the iCloud hack spree. Well, except for one D-lister in his Target trunks.

RAW 090814 The Miz

And with a razor.

RAW 090814 The Miz 2

And…we’re not sure yet, because the D-lister and his stunt double are on the premises to threaten that Dolph Ziggler will never work in this town again. Ziggler doesn’t care about Baltimore too much, so we find out it’s a spray tan.

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow 2

I love it! Damien Sandow Mizdow doesn’t, though, since he does The Miz‘s stunts, like taking a dropkick and the Zig Zag.

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler 2

It’s little things like this that make wrestling fun — and make a belt matter. It’s topical and funny, and it helps the build between two solid characters (three if we count Sandow) continue.

•••

You know what’s not funny, and not supposed to be? This guy.

RAW 090814 Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman wants to say things to John Cena‘s face, so he’ll get the chance.

 

RAW 090814 John Cena Paul Heyman

Heyman leads off by brown-nosing Cena, of course. Then he offers to tell Cena how to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions. Cena responds by burying The Undertaker for not being heard since Mania while he came back in a week, and insults Lesnar’s intelligence by offering a “Never Give Up” towel the champ probably can’t read.

Paul E. tells Cena that being Cena is his downfall. He lives for chants, but Brock doesn’t hear them. Heyman’s insider tip to beating Lesnar: Give up … and give in. Embrace the hate. Feed off the “Cena sucks” chants. Shut the fans up. Maybe heel on the Ravens a bit, because it’s Baltimore. Heyman believes Cena can give in to the hatred, but Brock doesn’t. Then we get the usual suspense spot where Cena weighs the options, ultimately tells Heyman to shut up and says he’ll never change. “Be John Cena, repeat, be John Cena, repeat,” etc. Then he drops Make A Wish and the military in there so you can’t hate him. But he does it with passion, so you really can’t hate him for now.

 

It’s tough as a fan, because Cena clearly buys into what he’s selling, and so do so many other people. But SO many don’t. It makes people buy merch, but it also makes people change the channel, or just “forget” to tune in. If there’s anything WCW taught us, it’s that you can’t just trot out the same aging hero in the main event every week and expect people to flock to the TV, computer, phone, etc. I get he’s a stopgap measure, but after this match, he needs to go away for a while or fade into the upper midcard, mid-to-late-2000s Shawn Michaels role where he makes everyone look good (and was somewhat outlined here).

•••

We get Jericho in the training room, and we expect the beatdown. But we don’t expect it from Randy Orton.

RAW 090814 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

If only this didn’t feel like being jerked around into thinking Orton will finally be the dastardly heel we’ve wanted to return for about 4 years, only to be disappointed yet again.

•••

Seth Rollins is in action, and though I love Dean Ambrose not being around, it seems Rollins is searching for something to do. This week, the United States Champion isn’t busy either. He even has enough time to swat the briefcase out of Rollins’ hands.

SETH ROLLINS vs. United States Champion SHEAMUS

We apparently can’t find a way to talk about the match in the ring, except for an “Ohhh!” after a high-impact move from the Irishman. Sheamus controls the proceedings for nearly 2 minutes before Rollins gets some shots in, but then the rolling senton and a dump outside precede the ambulance … no, it’s just Cesaro in a suit.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Rollins is still bumping around for Sheamus when we get back, which I guess is a nice way to build up one of your champions. Irish Curse followed by a kickout, then a shot to a “scouting” challenger, who grabs the belt.

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title

Don’t worry, he’ll put it back. But that’s enough for Sheamus to be distracted from applying White Noise and make him susceptible to a rollup. Then, after a tug-of-war for the belt, a kick to the back. Then the Curbstomp, which is sold horribly. Like bad enough where the announcers paid attention and said he didn’t get all of it. But it was enough for the win.

Hulu time: 4:25

Technical Merit: Pretty basic, but just terrible selling of the finisher. That’s bad, and that’s on the man taking the move.

Artistic Impression: It made Sheamus look good, and it made the U.S. Title angle seem semi-important. But how are we supposed to believe Rollins is an evil corporate badass if he’s getting his ass kicked like that? It’s not even like a chicken heel element … he’s just getting beaten until he gets help.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

Cesaro’s scouting trip, needless to say, is over. Unless you count seeing how effective the Neutralizer is in real time and judging the weight of the belt itself “scouting”. I’ll allow it.

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title 2

•••

Now we get to see how WWE handles xenophobia this week. Oh, it’s by Lana butchering the national anthem and telling us we’ll fall to Rusev‘s might, then playing the Russian anthem. Doesn’t count unless Nikolai Volkoff‘s singing it. Now the announcers feign anger and disdain. What a lovely segment.

•••

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns

Oh crap. Reigns has a live interview. He’s asked what Orton meant by the whole “making an impact on the season premiere” thing.

“I don’t know what he meant. But I do know one thing. He’s the Viper, and he’s got the venom. *cocks fist* Believe that.”

That, my friends, will be your world champion in seven months. He’s garbage in the ring, and he’s worse on the stick. Maybe this is how the Internet Wrestling Community would’ve treated The Ultimate Warrior back in the day, but at least Warrior knew how to speak, even if it didn’t make sense, and he had some good matches here and there. Roman Reigns has shown us NOTHING that makes him remotely viable as a main-event talent. So he looks good? Cool. You know who looked even better, and had a better moveset? This guy.

Chris Masters

At least Chris Masters could lock on a hold. Get it? Masters? Lock? Master Lock? And dress like an athlete.

•••

The Bellas are absolutely terrible, though Nikki is less so, and Jerry Springer is on this show 15 years too late. Luckily, though, we get to learn where they inherited their acting prowess — their parents! Oh, great, Brie’s yelling again. Screw this. I’m out.

The lack of an on-screen champion or perceived-to-be-credible stars leads to filling time somehow. And, with Total Divas back on, why not cross promote, right? Well, pardon the profanity, but it’s stupid fucking bullshit when this fucking mockery of our intelligence ends up on my TV screen every week. It’s why I skipped last week. It’s why I should’ve skipped this week. It’s not good television, and I don’t see how anyone can actually think it is. It’s not cheeky and fun, like the Ziggler-Miz segment. It’s not passionate, like the Cena-Heyman promo became. It’s not entertaining, like, you know, a wrestling match. It’s shitty, and it’s taking away from men AND women who can provide more compelling air time in the ring or out.

•••

Oh crap. Reigns is in the ring. But hey, it’s a SummerSlam rematch! So there’s that.

RANDY ORTON vs. ROMAN REIGNS

Credit to Reigns for adding a vertical suplex to his arsenal. I think I counted two lariats and that suplex before the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Orton in control, slapping on the headlock for an extended period of time. It’s boring, but I love it every time, probably because he’s not afraid to keep it locked in just … a bit … longer … to add to his heel cred. Hey, I think Reigns used punches AND a kick this time to power out. Side suplex variation, and now both men down. Samoan Drop, because he’s probably contractually obligated as a member of the Anoa’i line, but Orton thwarts the momentum shortly after with the quick powerslam. We’ll get the hangman rope DDT next … nope, a right hand and the dropkick from the floor. Leaping clothesline for 2. Orton gets a cover by dodging Reigns in the corner and rolling him up, then another with the inverted backbreaker. Another powerslam, this time catching Reigns from the second rope, but 2 again. Hangman rope DDT finally follows, and a bit of hardway color below Orton’s lip. Time for the RKO? Blocked and “SUPERMAN PUNCH RIGHT ON THE JAW! RIGHT ON THE BUTTON!” Hey, Hogan’s legdrop was more effective. Orton calls for the cavalry, which includes Rollins, Kane and some production crew, and we mercifully get a DQ as the steel cage comes down (and the accompanying music is on cue).

Hulu time: 9:17

Technical Merit: On one hand, it’s a Randy Orton match. On the other, it’s a Roman Reigns match.

Artistic Impression: These two men just don’t click. Both men need something new to do, and quickly. Orton is one of the best, but even he can’t make Reigns look believable. If he gets the belt, he’ll be the worst worker to carry a world title since The Great Khali, and he had an excuse — he’s freaking 7-foot-3.

TOTAL SCORE: *

There’s far more action after the match than during. Rollins almost gets impaled as the cage comes down, then reaffirms the wrestling fact that if you dive off the top of the steel cage, you’ll now hurt your knee. Though Jericho DID invent that. Reigns got some licks in, but it’s the customary Authority beatdown, complete with vicious chair shots from the Viper and a Curbstomp onto the chair after Rollins says Reigns owes him his entire career. Which looks about right at this point.

RAW 090814 Seth Rollins Randy Orton Kane

•••

If you’re patient enough to make it this far, you’re wondering, “Why u no haz NXT match?” It wasn’t on the “action-packed” 90-minute version on Hulu Plus. But fear not! There will be NXT blogging on Thursday night.

What did you think of RAW? What did you think of the blog? Is The Champ just a grumpy smark who needs to lighten up? Sound off in the comments below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

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

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

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

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

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

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

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

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

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

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

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

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

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

•••

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

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

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And recap how we got there, of course.

•••

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

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

RAW 060214 Batista

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

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

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

Or so we think …

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

“There’s always a Plan B.”

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

“I never lose. I win. Always.”

RAW 060214 Dean Ambrose

RAW 060214 Roman Reigns

RAW 060214 Seth Rollins Triple H Randy Orton 2

•••

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

RAW 060214 Stephanie McMahon

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

Then, John Cena interrupts. LOL.

RAW 060214 John Cena

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

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

JOHN CENA vs. KANE

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

Hulu Plus Time: 3:10

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

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

WWE Midcard Report (May 26-27): To Bolieve is to win, Bad News Barrett asserts himself, D-Sizzle shocks the world and Luke Harper shows his potential

RAW 052614 Bo Dallas Tebowing

*vignette*

The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Be prepared, so when your moment of inspiration arrives, it won’t catch you by surprise. You just have to Bolieve!

*elaborate entrance, makes way to the ring*

Monday Night RAW is the summit on the top of the mountain of my dreams. On my journey to the top, I’ve learned that we don’t conquer the mountain. We conquer ourselves. All you have to do is Bolieve!

*defeats opponent*

Thank you so much, so much, to all of my Bolievers! I couldn’t have done it without you. But the truth is you don’t get satisfaction from just victories. You get the satisfaction from effort. If you gave it your all, and you gave it everything you’ve got, you’re already a winner. All you have to do … is Bolieve!

*hugs opponent, walks out*

If you’re keeping track, that was three motivational speeches from Bo Dallas. That’s the promo trifecta. That, my friends, is why you must Bolieve!

That also is how the Midcard Report should lead off. You know, some nice positive reinforcement before we trash about three-fourths of the matches on here.

BO DALLAS vs. SIN CARA

Sidenotes: Bo’s T-shirt still has the NXT logo, and said T-shirt is absolutely soaking wet. Also, my feed was so moved by Bo’s words that it froze up. Hunicara with a top rope crossbody early, but Bo’s in control when they return. The announce team no-sells the entire match, which is a shame because it’s not half bad! OK, maybe half. Nice series of kneedrops — the first two with a rollout, the third with a thumbs-up and a delay — but Sin Cara responds with some kicks, an enziguiri, a springboard moonsault, a backspring elbow and a Samoan drop. That’s all for naught, because after snakeeyes and the Bo-Dog, it’s time to Bolieve.

Time: 2:54

Technical Merit: I like the less-botchy version of Sin Cara.

Artistic Impression: I also like this version of Bo Dallas.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

This may actually have been RAW’s Match of the Night. Chew on that one for a second.

•••

Good news: Both midcard singles championships are on the line in angles intended to mean something.

Bad news: We have to watch Rob Van Dam and his endless array of THE SAME MOVES THAT WOULD DO NOTHING IN REAL LIFE.

Bad News: Oh, he’s right here!

RAW 052614 Bad News Barrett

ROB VAN DAM vs. CESARO (w/Paul Heyman)

It’s the Heyman Invitational, as long as the No. 1 contenders for the Intercontinental and U.S. championships. But somebody’s afraid he’s got some more Bad News. It’s summertime, so people will throw on their swimsuits and find their stomachs have expanded to roll over their waistbands. The man has a point! He has another: RVD’s Indian Summer will be over after Payback. The good news? Bad News is on commentary! “It’s me! It’s me! It’s BNB!” I’m all for a subtle DDP reference. First thing to get me to pay attention to the actual match: RVD goes for an apron moonsault, but Cesaro catches him and deposits him onto the barricade. Naturally, now that our attention is finally obtained, we go to break.

As we return on Hulu Plus, Rolling Thunder shows up. Yay. This RVD match just had something different for once: A superkick to Barrett outside. That one was legit. Van Dam is feeling froggy, but Barrett provides the distraction and Cesaro hits the bridging German for the win.

Hulu Plus time: 4:27

Technical Merit: Same old stuff, though executed OK.

Artistic Impression: Face messes with heel, face gets got. I don’t mind it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Then, for no real reason, Sheamus graces us with his presence for a Brogue Kick. That didn’t feel like babyface justice; that just felt like a lame excuse to get someone on TV.

Wait … he has a match in the third hour? That’s not logical! Ohhhhh Cesaro attacked him on SmackDown. (Logical) … but that would mean we would’ve had to watch SmackDown. (Not logical)

Anyway, it’s Sheamus-ADR, part 4,863.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

The champ makes this look like a glorified squash for nearly 2 minutes, until ADR recovers after being rolled back into the ring and realizes what his feet are for. Again, it’s break time.

And would you look at that … we return just in time for Sheamus to hit White Noise! He sets up for the Brogue Kick, but his bell is rung. Del Rio rings it again with the enziguiri and the standing sidekick, but only gets 2. Sheamus sells concussion symptoms as ADR sets up for the cross armbreaker, but the redhead slips out and hits the Brogue Kick.

Hulu Plus time: 3:55

Technical Merit: Painfully basic and repetitive.

Artistic Impression: Dumb finish, though it sets up what happens next.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Heyman interrupts Justin Roberts‘ duties and promos just long enough for Cesaro to sneak in and give Sheamus a few more shots to the dome, then the Neutralizer.

What did I say earlier? Face messes with heel, face gets got. The only problem is this probably means the heel gets got Sunday. Guess we should be happy we get a halfway decent United States Championship match out of it. I’m far from sold on the Intercontinental Championship contest, but that’s because RVD’s involved. I haven’t actually enjoyed one of his matches since … Edge won a triple-threat on RAW to take his WWE Championship in 2006? Yeah, about that far back.

•••

We lead off Main Event with a hometown boy!

You know what that means … hometown boy’s gonna lose. Sorry, Cody Rhodes.

Main Event 052714 Cody Rhodes

Speaking of losses, Curtis Axel informed The Brotherhood last night that they’re racking up more losses than Barry Horowitz in his prime. You know the third-generation guy’s gonna know his history!

CODY RHODES (w/Goldust) vs. CURTIS AXEL (w/Ryback)

If you want a decent basic mechanic — no more, no less — Axel’s your man. The man knows what he’s doing in the ring and doesn’t try to exceed his limits. Nice backbreaker with Cody tied up in the second rope early. Rhodes starts his comeback around 3:15 with a sunset flip, some strikes and the the trademark Ted DiBiase Jr. clothesline. He hangs Axel up in the ropes and hits a kick to the gut then, with Axel standing, he hits a moonsault for 2. For the second straight night, though, Cody Disaster Kicks someone on the apron (Ryback this time), and Axel chop blocks Cody, rolls him up and pulls the tights. The streak continues.

Main Event 052714 Curtis Axel Ryback Rybaxel

Time: 4:21

Technical Merit: Your basic 4-minute match where the heel wins. Nothing egregious.

Artistic Impression: I don’t like the story, but it’s being told OK.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

You know where a Southern rapper is going to be over? Atlanta. That’s why WWE decided having not one, but two, was a good idea. This actually is the best gimmick I’ve seen in a minute!

Main Event 052714 Damien Sandow D-Sizzle

Yo, I roll with the sinners, but I’m praised like a saint

And when that bell rings, I go hard in the paint

When fools try to step, I start tossin’

My teeth are clean, but I still be flossin’

*R-Truth rudely interrupts*

Do you have a problem, cousin?

You’re about to run up and get done up

Thuggish livin’ till the end

Tell a friend

Eight bars in, D-Sizzle is better than Macklemore. Who else is better than Macklemore? EVERYBODY! I see you, Kanyon! RIP.

“D-Sizzle” DAMIEN SANDOW vs. R-TRUTH

Tom Phillips says D-Sizzle is no Machine Gun Kelly. He’s right. Sizzle is better. After the Russian legsweep, “THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AY-ER!” After the Elbow of Disdain and cover for 2, “YOU FRONT? YOU FRONT?” Unfortunately, R-Truth didn’t front. He came correct and hit his finisher for the win.

*pours out some liquor for D-Sizzle*

We hardly knew ya, bro.

Time: 2:33

•••

Main Event 052714 Nikki Bella Brie Bella Twins

There’s not a situation where Nikki Bella doesn’t look like a porn star. Then again, isn’t that kind of John Cena‘s thing? I guess if you want a Brazzers video come to life, you have a couple options in WWE.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Meanwhile, someone is here to actually, you know, wrestle.

Main Event 052714 Natalya

NATALYA vs. BRIE BELLA (w/Nikki Bella)

Brie puts on a hammerlock and a side headlock, and she yells like she’s the one taking the move. She keeps quiet for the armdrag, though, and when Nattie has her in an armlock. Brie Mode is reason alone for termination. Especially when it results in a missile dropkick. Here’s our cool spot of the match: Brie locks in a half-crab, but Nattie rolls through into the Sharpshooter.

Main Event 052714 Brie Bella Sharpshooter

Once that happens, that’s it.

Time: 3:33

Technical Merit: Brie Mode was involved. I rest my case.

Artistic Impression: If the story was Nattie comes, Nattie wins, Nattie goes to get ready for NXT Takeover, then it was great! Wait, this was about Brie? … Oh.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

One good thing about Main Event is it allows for promo time with the WWE Tag Team Champions. This meant time for The Usos to make fun of The Wyatt Family‘s lackeys who do nothing but follow Bray Wyatt, which was done effectively. Oh, and Cena will be the last man standing. Yay.

That also means promo time for Luke Harper!

Main Event 052714 Luke Harper

A man with nothing left to lose has nothing left to fear. He saved us. He gave us a purpose. And Usos, some bonds are much stronger than blood.

Bray takes over from there. Blah, blah, blah, I know, right? He took in Harper and Erick Rowan, and they united as brothers in the name of cause. The Usos, meanwhile, are pawns in Cena’s sick little game. Since they’re guilty by association, they’ll burn.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN (w/Bray Wyatt)

Rowan starts the match with the mask … ? Oh, it’s so Jey Uso can slap it off. I like it! Nice no-sell from Harper, which only leads to a double-team that still ends with Harper in control via dropkick.

Back from break and Rowan’s back in, just in time for Jimmy Uso to tag to Jey. Rowan gets an advantage when Jey can’t lift him for a Samoan drop, then Erick fallaway slams Jey, who rolls outside. That gives Harper a chance to pick away at some scraps outside after the tag before returning and tagging once more. Rest hold time! Jey kicks Rowan after escaping, but Rowan backs into Harper for the tag and Harper goes after Jimmy. Harper is a great tag-team wrestler. Harper does the Gator Roll, throwing in a couple suplexes for good measure. A second rest hold, then Jey makes the mistake of attacking Rowan. That allows Harper to hit a sitout slam, which causes Jimmy to break it up, which distracts the ref, which allows the heels to maintain control. You know, until Rowan inevitably screws it up. Missile dropkick leads to stereo tags, and Jimmy comes in hot. Jimmy can hit the Samoan drop on Harper … as well as a superkick that leads to 2. Chaos time, and the champs execute their tandem dive outside. That’ll get Bray out of his seat, and he gives Harper marching orders. Jimmy goes up top, but Rowan tosses Jey into the ropes. Jimmy wobbles off the ropes, which sets up the Clothesline from Hell and the pin.

Time: 10:35

Technical Merit: These are two good tag teams. Rowan couldn’t cut it in a singles capacity, but as the bumbling tag partner he’s effective. Harper might be the best big man in the company at the moment, and the Usos are the best team.

Artistic Impression: The match kept The Usos intertwined in the Cena-Wyatt angle, and it sold the Wyatt Family as a stronger threat than ever to hustle, loyalty, respect, etc.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Come back Thursday night for analysis and reaction to NXT Takeover. In the meantime, follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE RAW review (May 26): Daniel Bryan refuses to surrender the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, John Cena says the B-word to Bray Wyatt, and the Shield vs. Evolution contract signing went as expected in pro wrestling

Remember when go-home shows were good? I almost don’t, either. The lead-in to Payback didn’t pay off, and it was difficult to maintain interest throughout even the 90-minute version Tuesday morning. You know how many matches were on Hulu Plus? FOUR! You know how many looked worthwhile? ZERO! RAW was promo-heavy, derivative and repetitive, and the only reason I stuck through it was for you, Dear Readers. So enjoy! Or at least try.

•••

Triple H wears two hats in this episode. The first? Authority figure. Actually, make that guy who stands there while Stephanie McMahon talks about Daniel Bryan surrendering the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. “B+ body” jokes aside, she’s absolutely right. Once you take the mark shades off, it’s clear: If you can’t physically compete, you shouldn’t be the champion.

Oh, now it’s Trips’ turn to talk!

RAW 052614 Triple H

He’s talking about superstars and legends, and adapting and perishing and, yeah, that’s what I thought. He has the second hat on maybe 7 minutes into the show. Wait … back to the first. This guy is wishing he didn’t switch back.

RAW 052614 Brad Maddox

The rationale is, well, rational! Boss says nobody outside of an official capacity can be ringside for a match. You, unwillingly or otherwise, fail to honor that request. You’re done! The only thing wrong was maybe sending out Kane to finish the job on young Brad Maddox.

On another note, apparently we have to differentiate between which Kane we’re seeing. Corporate Kane! The Demon Kane! Fake Diesel Kane! Dentist Kane! Michael Cole‘s commentary lowlights are a long and (not-so) distinguished list, but this device makes the cut. Nitpicky? Maybe a bit. But it’s true … it’s damn true.

Anyway, Steph returns to lead off the third hour and declares it’s time for Bryan to make his choice. He’s not selfish, so according to Steph, he needs to do the right thing and surrender the belts. Bryan said his neck injury was worse than he thought, and acknowledges there’s no shame in giving up the belts, healing and coming back stronger than ever because the fans deserve an awesome champion. (Logical)

RAW 052614 Daniel Bryan

But … (wait for it) … this is about Steph, who has been trying to get the belts off him since April 6. Since that’s the case, that would basically negate the entire #YESMovement. (Not so logical) A couple stabs at Steph’s spoiled upbringing and few “NO!”s later, we still have a champion who can’t wrestle. (Not logical at all)

Steph responds with forcing us to flash back to the worst angry push ever, courtesy of Brie Bella. Therefore, I hate this entire segment. Steph kicks more logic — you can’t put your hands on the boss — so there’s another choice: At Payback, Bryan keeps his belts, or Brie keeps her job.

RAW 052614 Stephanie McMahon

This segment worked perfectly, because now want Daniel Bryan to keep the WWE World Heavyweight Championship so Brie goes home for a while. She literally makes everything worse for everyone involved in this rivalry except Kane. Sorry, Cole; I meant Demon Kane. It’s just one more reason why the Divas Division can’t be taken seriously. It’s why people are complaining about how Bryan is booked right now — nevermind the fact that there’s not really much physically they can do with him at the moment. It’s why there were mental flashbacks to Kane, Zack Ryder and Eve Torres, circa 2012. Ryder, by the way, lost in 38 seconds to Rusev on Monday, so look what that storyline did for him!

But back to the task at hand. Unless Bryan will be ready to compete at Money In The Bank, which is 45 days after his neck surgery — also known as more than 30, back when that rule actually mattered — there’s exactly zero reason for him to remain champion. This isn’t like when Stone Cold Steve Austin injured his neck in 1997 and couldn’t compete. First off, Austin surrendered the Intercontinental Championship after 36 days, so there’s that. Second, Austin was established as the best promo guy in the WWF at that time, and he could get over without wrestling by running his mouth and doing badass things like hitting Vince McMahon with the Stunner and being arrested. Steve Austin could cut a promo in his sleep. Daniel Bryan seems like he actually does … B+ would be compliment 80 percent of the time. Finally, and most importantly, Austin had another shot at the title … and then some. I understand how hot Bryan is right now in the eyes of the fans, but if he can’t go, he can’t go. He isn’t good enough to be the top guy without being in the ring.

If he has half the charisma his marks believe he does, he’ll still be hot when he comes back, which should be when he’s healthy. Not before.

•••

Bray Wyatt‘s sing-along time? A little played out. It would help if he had more than one hit. It also would help if he could actually sing. He makes NXT’s Aiden English sound like Luciano Pavarotti.

What’s a little less played out?

Bray Wyatt’s sermon of the week

Never, ever have those words been more true than they are right now. I truly got the whole world in my hands, yeah. You see, the world has come to lean on me, and they lean on me because they know that somewhere deep down, I only want what’s best for all of you. The problem with that is sometimes what is best for us is not the easiest path. No, in this life, we all must make sacrifices. Most of us don’t know it, but we do it everyday. We go to work, and we break our backs so we can keep our childrens fed. And we sulk, and we suffer while another man points his finger in our face and tells us who to be. How to act. But when are you going to understand that all that is pointless. The poison has already set in. And we all know the only way to cure a snakebite is with the anti-venom, so what say you, people of Knoxville? Am I the snake? *NO!* Or am I the cure? *cheers* I know what role I must play in this world, I am the necessary evil that this world so badly needs. And in the end, in the end, if you are my brother or you are my sister, you will stand right beside me. But if you are my enemy, you will fall at my feet. And I think it’s clear. I think we all understand right now, right here, that John Cena is enemy to us all! But don’t you worry, boys and girls, because at Payback, I will be the last man standing! But why should Cena be the only man punished in all this corruption? I don’t believe that’s not right! And I’m no fool. I know to get to the king, you must go through the pawns. Cena is the king. And speaking of kings … Mr. Jerry Lawler. May I have a word with you please?

That transitions into every WWE fan’s dream: JBL getting a clothesline from Hell Luke Harper while trying to protect his broadcast mate. The other dream gets taken away.

Lawler gets interrogated for blindly blowing sunshine up our butts about Cena and feeding us poison until it’s out of control. “Do you feel guilty about this, Jerry? Do you feel remorse for destroying millions of lives, all in his corrupt name? How does it feel to be a liar, Jerry?” Hey, at least Bray apologizes first for what he’s about to do.

There is a brief Cena interruption, but just long enough for Wyatt to explain this is all his fault.

RAW 052614 Bray Wyatt Jerry Lawler

The Usos make the actual save. Cena declares “Enough is enough!” but fails to tell us it’s time for a change. I now don’t care about the rest of this promo, though he declares Wyatt is pure evil … which gets cheers. Apparently Payback isn’t about winning or losing, but being the last man standing … which is the difference between winning and losing in this match.

“Justice may be blind, but for you, Payback will be a bitch.”

It’s about time Cena actually decided to show up for this one, especially considering his logic rivaled Bryan’s selfish ploy to keep the title.

This rivalry has been on its last legs for weeks, and it needs to end at Payback. Whether that’s with Wyatt standing tall, a changed Cena winning, the worst-case scenario of a WrestleMania repeat or the smart fans’ dream of a double turn, this must be the end. Cena’s getting even staler, Wyatt’s just finding new ways to say the same thing, and we all know the match will fail to live up to the billing. Wyatt needs a new muse. Soon. And Cena needs to move on toward the next guy who needs elevating.

•••

There probably was some lead-up to this on the actual broadcast. Through non-USA Network means, these men are thrown cold into a tag-team match.

RAW 052614 Batista

RAW 052614 Randy Orton

On the bright side, The Brotherhood is in the house!

RANDY ORTON & BATISTA vs. CODY RHODES & GOLDUST

Oh, so apparently we missed promo time with Cody Rhodes! Although we do get a quick recap involving “R-K-Blows” and “skinny jean sellout.” You can guess who he referred to on each. Meanwhile, Cole explains The Legacy like it happened 20 years ago, not 5. Batista’s just too damn old to get it done anymore. Screw going 60 minutes; he can’t even go 60 seconds with Cody Rhodes without getting blown up. The general consensus is he’s leaving after Payback to go Marvel movie promoting … maybe he should stay gone until he discovers cardiovascular training. Goldust has no such problem, and he hits the back elbow from the corner before a warm tag to Cody. Disaster Kick to Batista on the apron. Disaster Kick to … an RKO?! Sick spot there, but it’s spoiled with a lame finish where Orton waits a day and a half and hits a second RKO for the pin.

But it’s not over … as it turns out, this is an elimination match. The second stage? It’s no holds barred. Poor Dustin. Basic beatdown outside, surprise spear inside, RKO, Batista Bomb, done. Yawn.

Hulu Plus time: 6:57

Technical Merit: One awesome spot. Otherwise, typical Orton and Batista matches.

Artistic Impression: Sells Evolution’s strength as the marginalization of The Brotherhood continues.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

RAW 052614 Shield Evolution contract

This is the reason Evolution and The Shield are in the ring for the final segment. But don’t act like this will go smoothly. Also, Roman Reigns alert, ladies!

RAW 052614 Roman Reigns

Five signs of a contract signing going awry

  1. Reigns is tossing the chairs out while Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are talking. Awesome.
  2. Trips ditched the suit for his Levi’s Street Fight collection, complete with taped fists.
  3. Reigns tosses the contract at Triple H’s feet after signing.
  4. Trips tosses it back.
  5. Reigns just eliminates the pretense and directly challenges his foes.

After the bait and switch of Evolution stepping in, then out, then back in, Payback comes early, complete with a piped-in “THIS IS AWESOME!” chant! Reigns hits the Superman Punch on Batista, but that’s nothing a sledgehammer, an RKO and a spear can’t fix. And a couple more sledgehammer shots. And a triple powerbomb through the announce table.

Also, Roman Reigns alert, ladies.

RAW 052614 Roman Reigns 2

Like the other main elements of the card, this needs to end at Payback. It’s just a bunch of formulaic WWE brawls on every show with Even Steven booking. The Shield will win Monday, setting the stage for either an Evolution split or Batista to be replaced. Depending on the Bryan situation, this also could free up most of the guys actually worthy of a world title shot.

Was RAW worth it this week? No, especially as a go-home show. After some great writing and booking, WWE is stumbling into Payback. But I’ll watch anyway Sunday night (or early Monday morning), and I’ll be pleased with some matches and disappointed with others.

What did you think of RAW? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18. Also, come back Wednesday for the Midcard Report!

Photo gallery: Paige, The Wyatt Family, Hollywood Hogan and more

Having a blog seems simple enough. Have a thought, write it down, click Publish. Trying to have a good blog involves other elements. Including watching as many WWE in-ring shows and typing as many coherent words as possible, there’s an essential visual element: Photos.

At realworldchamp.com, these photos are screenshots of WWE programming. There are a lot to sift through, and a lot to edit after that to get the right photos for the right posts. That almost leans there are a lot of leftovers. After hanging onto most of these for a month or more, here’s a quick batch of photos from WWE events I viewed in April. More from May will sprout up throughout the week.

AJ Lee confronts Paige before their WWE Divas Championship match at RAW on April 7. Paige won the match, and AJ hasn't been in the ring since.
AJ Lee confronts Paige before their impromptu WWE Divas Championship match at RAW on April 7. Paige won the match, and AJ hasn’t been in the ring since.
The Wyatt Family during RAW on April 14. Bray Wyatt accepted John Cena's challenge for a steel cage match at Extreme Rules, which Wyatt won.
The Wyatt Family during RAW on April 14. Bray Wyatt accepted John Cena’s challenge for a steel cage match at Extreme Rules, which Wyatt won.
Evolution — Randy Orton, Triple H and Batista — make their way ringside at RAW on April 28.
Evolution — Randy Orton, Triple H and Batista — make their way ringside at RAW on April 28.
Extra Main Event 042914 Goldust
Goldust walks down the ramp before a match against Alberto Del Rio at Main Event on April 29.
Paige celebrates a victory over Alicia Fox at the April 29 Main Event ...
Paige celebrates a victory over Alicia Fox at the April 29 Main Event …
... but not for long after seeing Tamina Snuka, her challenger for the WWE Divas Championship at Extreme Rules, right behind her.
… but not for long after seeing Tamina Snuka, her challenger for the WWE Divas Championship at Extreme Rules, right behind her.

Another fun part of the blog is/was World Championship Wednesday and Flashback Friday, which hopefully will make a return when The Champ gets some more spare time. One particularly entertaining WCW show was Halloween Havoc 1998, for some good and plenty of bad reasons.

The Ultimate Warrior made his final pay-per-view match appearance, beating Hollywood Hogan in a terrible semi-main event.
The Ultimate Warrior made his final pay-per-view match appearance, beating Hollywood Hogan in a terrible semi-main event.
Before his defeat, Hogan was posing and running his mouth with Eric Bischoff. Of note: The nWo Monday Nitro T-shirt on the leader of nWo Hollywood.
Before his defeat, Hogan was posing and running his mouth with Eric Bischoff. Of note: The nWo Monday Nitro T-shirt on the leader of nWo Hollywood.
Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page after their main event, which Goldberg won to improve his unbeaten streak to 155-0. But the main reason for this photo? The shoutout to the 208 right behind them. I see you, Twin Falls!
Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page after their main event, which Goldberg won to improve his unbeaten streak to 155-0. But the main reason for this photo? The shoutout to the 208 right behind them. I see you, Twin Falls!

Be sure to return Tuesday morning for a review of this week’s RAW. And give The Champ a follow on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Midcard Report (May 19-20): An impromptu Beat The Clock challenge rules, Adam Rose is boring, Summer Rae channels her inner porn star, and Paul Heyman and Cesaro need to split

If you haven’t watched any WWE programming this week, I’ll save you the headache: Just skip it. Read this and the RAW review and just move on.

I work nights at a newspaper, which means I watch shows the next day. The lone exception is NXT, which airs on one of my usual days off and is better than anything you’ll see from the main roster this week. (Get caught up on last week here.) When I get home at 1 a.m. (or 3, like last night) and wake up a few hours later to watch wrestling, I want it to be worthwhile. When it’s not, I’m cranky.

Fools better stay out of my way after the past two days.

•••

One bright spot in theory involves the Intercontinental Championship, which belongs to a man who was well-received in his home country and really should be well-received (or well booed) anywhere. He’s one of the most interesting men in wrestling right now.

Now, what makes the title even more interesting? A surprise Beat the Clock Challenge, of course! Six men, three matches, one hopefully suitable No. 1 contender. The first match? Not too bad!

BIG E. vs. RYBACK

This one’s interesting. Both men generally rely on their massive size advantage to create a boring match. When they’re both big, we might actually get to see some athleticism. The start was hot, then settles into a test of brute force. JBL drops a Barry Horowitz reference. Then a Steve Lombardi reference. Then clarifies that his loss to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25 took 23 seconds, not 17. Big spinebuster from Ryback at 3:45 to respond to Big E.’s belly-to-belly, then he hits the Meathook Clothesline for 2. And 2 again. And 2 again. Looks like a powerbomb attempt, but Big E. slips out, floors Ryback and Curtis Axel, and hits the Big Ending.

RAW 051914 Big E

Time: 5:02

Technical Merit: This was better than expected. Not great, but a decent little big-man match.

Artistic Impression: Ryback sold the clock element. Big E. was just there for the impressive, brief comeback.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Alberto Del Rio was bred to be a champion. The children deserve to have a role model like him as Intercontinental Champion. The future of the world depends on it. I thought that honor went to this guy.

Captain Planet

Remember, kids, the power doesn’t belong to ADR. THE POWER IS YOURS!

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. ROB VAN DAM

Two highlights with about 3:50 remaining: A Funaki sign somewhere on the 100 level of the O2 Arena, and ADR superkicking RVD as he tries to reenter the ring. Is RVD high right now? If not, he should be because he’s wrestling like crap. Let’s throw some clotheslines a 4-year-old wouldn’t believe, hit some weak-ass kicks and botch a legdrop. He BOTCHED A FREAKING LEGDROP. Hulk Hogan really must’ve been one of the greatest technicians of our time if the move’s that hard. ADR shows how it’s done with an enziguiri with 1:15 remaining. Del Rio goes for another kick, but Van Dam ducks and rolls him up. At least he did that right.

Time: 4:15

Technical Merit: One man was trash. The other wasn’t exactly treasure, but decent.

Artistic Impression: If you can’t wrestle and have no personality, nobody will believe the story you’re telling.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

“I do it quick, and I do it slick.” Dolph Ziggler‘s inset promo was awesome. Also awesome? An INSET PROMO RUN-IN! That’s how you set up a match.

RAW 051914 Dolph Ziggler Mark Henry

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. MARK HENRY

Ziggler bumps around and rolls out, and Henry is more than content to go for the countout. Nice Fame Asser variation when Dolph returns, and he rolls out again when Henry powers out. Let’s just take ALL the momentum from this match, shall we? Dolph knows how to snap off a dropkick, but the two he utilized were about 20 seconds apart. Credit to Ziggler for not rolling all the way out on that kickout. Henry eschews the World’s Strongest Slam for a running powerslam, so needless to say, nobody’s winning this one. Ziggler counters the WSS into the Zig Zag with about 7 seconds left, but he rolls the wrong way and, sure enough, we get freaking RVD in the Intercontinental Championship match.

That means someone’s afraid he’s got some bad news …

RAW 051914 Wade Barrett Rob Van Dam

… which involves Greenwich Mean Time, since England set the time for the entire world. Hey, the man has a point!

Technical Merit: About 45 seconds of action in a 4:15 match.

Artistic Impression: Maybe the slowest Beat the Clock match I’ve ever seen. That was poor.

TOTAL SCORE: 0

•••

This is the most we’ve seen R-Truth on screen since he “ruined” Survivor Series 2011, right? Apparently it was his fault nobody wanted to see John Cena and The Rock team up. Then again, if you’re finally main-eventing a major pay-per-view, don’t get caught smoking weed to get suspended and kill your momentum. His presumed opponent? The man involved in a Twitter love triangle, which blows up in lieu of a wrestling match. To his credit, Fandango got to make out with Layla and a returning Summer Rae. The drawback? Summer made it look like she did more than kiss him.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Um … yeah.

•••

Since it’s London, let’s bring out the cheap Aldous Snow knockoff!

RAW 051914 Adam Rose Renee Young

Adam Rose‘s gimmick’s already stale, which could be why the Brits are giving him the post-WrestleMania 29 Fandango treatment. Or they actually like this whole bit. Either way, I’ve NEVER been so happy to see Zeb Colter.

RAW 051914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

On a lighter note, US rosebuds < UK rosebuds. I see you, sailor chick! On a more serious note … I think … Zeb challenges Rose! Jack Swagger intervenes, and Rose uses his entire offensive repertoire. I think Captain Comic, one of his rosebuds, showed more in-ring potential on NXT. Better looking, too!

NXT 050814 Captain Comic

•••

Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but the moments that take our breath away. Life doesn’t get easier; you just get stronger. Bolieve in yourself. Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me. It’s Bo Time.

RAW 051914 Bo Dallas Bolieve

The Rotunda brothers might be doing the best mic work in WWE right now, and one of them hasn’t even started his current run yet. The question will be what Bo Dallas can do outside of a vignette, since he was so bad just two months ago, I wrote this. He does also lose points for that stupid cliché to lead off. I knew a girl who used to toast with that before like every shot in college. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of her work.

Also on SmackDown:

RAW 051914 Hulk Hogan

At this rate, that might be the only thing that saves the show.

•••

ME 052014 Paul Heyman

How do you start Main Event? Gotta be “the most prolific Main Event advocate in sports entertainment history”! He’s here to inform us of the well-kept secret: “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak of WrestleMania!” Besides that, it’s Heyman kissing Cesaro’s ass, calling him the strongest athlete in WWE, until Mark Henry comes out and declares he is, in fact, the World’s Strongest Man. Then he proves it with a weak-ass bear hug. That whole segment just fell flat.

You know what else is falling flat? The Heyman-Cesaro pairing. It’s just … off.

ME 052014 Paul Heyman Cesaro

Paul E. is clearly doing what he can while Lesnar isn’t around, but it’s clearly his B (or B+?) material. It’s more about Lesnar than Cesaro anyway, which really feels like it hinders Cesaro. Besides, it’s not like Heyman is helping Cesaro win a ton of matches … without pulling the actual win-loss record, Cesaro felt more successful in the couple months pre-Heyman. These guys don’t need each other, and it’s actually a disservice to both to keep them together.

Cesaro doesn’t need Heyman talking him up and taking all his shine. Cesaro needs to be wrestling. With Daniel Bryan on the shelf, he’s the best at it. Actually, screw that. Cesaro is the best wrestler in the company in 2014. Yeah, I said it. Let him have his feats of strength, his innovative offense and athletic skill. This is professional wrestling, after all. Somebody should be able to simply be the best pure wrestler in WWE. Doing anything else with him is absurd.

Speaking of absurd, the main event of Paul Heyman’s Main Event isn’t even a wrestling match … it’s an arm wrestling match  

ME 052014 Cesaro Mark Henry arm wrestling

… which Henry wins by DQ, I guess, when Heyman grabs his arm. That distracts Henry long enough for Cesaro to jump him and dump a table on him, presumably setting up an angle to play out over the next few weeks. But what a waste of time. This entire show was.

•••

ME 052014 Damien Sandow Sherlock Holmes

This is what Damien Sandow has become: A punchline for even R-Truth. You know, the guy who once dressed as a Confederate soldier.

ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com
ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com

Pot, kettle, etc. On the bright side, Sandow … I mean, Sherlock Holmes, is competing in a full suit.

“SHERLOCK HOLMES” vs. R-TRUTH

Sandow looking like “enhancement talent” for the first couple minutes, which is just a damn shame. The only active thing he’s doing is swinging and missing, and dipping out of the ring to examine his shirt and have a puff off the pipe, which Truth hilariously interrupts. Everybody has a few “so-and-so needs a push” guys … for many, one STILL appears to be Daniel Bryan. Those fans double as the ones who want all the midcard mechanics to run the company and have guys like John Cena jobbing out every week. They don’t know how wrestling works — it’s about who can gather a reaction with the masses and draw money.

Now, with that being said, Sandow is grossly misused, even though he’s one of the only people on the roster who actually could pull off the jobber-of-many-faces gimmick. He’s a talented wrestler AND an engaging personality, as he has shown basically any time they give him a microphone. He doesn’t need to be world champion by any means, but that middle to upper midcard tier would be perfect for a man of his talents. His Genius 2.0 character would’ve been This match feels about as long as a pay-per-view contest — Truth had a few minutes of control, then Sandow, then Truth again until Sandow hits You’re Welcome for a rare victory.

Time: 13:12

Technical Merit: Maybe be a little more discreet when calling spots. Otherwise? A semi-suitable contest.

Artistic Impression: Sandow as Sherlock was funny, at least, but this story could’ve been told in about half as much time.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

As a streaming-only fan, I can’t get the Divas Champion and the most compelling female character in the company on my screen during RAW, since the Hulu Plus version decided to skip it. (It also apparently skipped the aforementioned best wrestler in the company defeating the United States Champion).

But you know what I can get? Two Total Divas plugs and a match angle revolving around the show! I seriously hate WWE sometimes. Maybe I should just get cable.

NAOMI (w/Cameron) vs. AKSANA

Nobody involved in this match does anything for me in the ring or as a personality. Naomi’s MASSIVELY overrated, Aksana can’t work, and even one person basically crushing the other’s eye a couple months ago can’t get me compelled enough to pay attention. Anyway, Naomi wins with a butt bump. Another waste of my damn time.

Time: 3:25

Come back Friday morning for insight and analysis on NXT as WWE’s best weekly show prepares for next week’s Takeover event.