Category Archives: SmackDown!

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

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

And he decides on a lumberjack match.

Let me try that again.

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SETH ROLLINS

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 10:47

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

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

DEAN AMBROSE vs. RANDY ORTON

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 9:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

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

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Big Show Mark Henry

Time: 3:18

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Damien Sandow

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

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

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

Time: 1:52

SmackDown 080814 Sin Cara

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

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Natalya

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

NATALYA vs. PAIGE

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

SmackDown 080814 Paige

Time: 2:11

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

•••

Rusev udrea! Rusev machka!

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

BIG E. vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)

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

SmackDown 080814 Rusev Big E

Time: 1:52

•••

SmackDown 080814 Chris Jericho

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. CESARO

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 5:43

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

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

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

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

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

•••

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

BO DALLAS vs. R-TRUTH

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

Time: 1:48

•••

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

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

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

Time: 0:18

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

•••

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

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

KANE & SETH ROLLINS vs. DEAN AMBROSE

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

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

Time: 6:39

Technical Merit: Not great, but far from terrible.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 9:54

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

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

•••

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

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

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

Time: 2:28

•••

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

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

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER

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

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

SmackDown 080114 The Miz
WWE.com

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

Time: 3:57

Technical Merit: Smooth. Usual spots executed well.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

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

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

SmackDown review (May 9)/RAW preview (May 12): The Shield are vulnerable against Evolution, and The Wyatt Family gains momentum against John Cena

What happens when you’re a couple days behind, RAW is up and you still have to review SmackDown? You make the SmackDown review the RAW preview, silly! This actually works at this stage, since SmackDown and RAW focus on the same angles in this non-brand-extension, let’s-try-to-make-people-watch-both-shows WWE Universe.

If you missed SmackDown, you didn’t miss anything concerning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship rivalry between Daniel Bryan and Kane, or between the WWE Universe and Brie Bella‘s acting skills. If you miss RAW tonight, you’ll probably miss it, but you probably won’t miss it.

•••

The Shield didn’t have a nice time last Monday — Dean Ambrose lost the United States Championship, and all three men were decimated by Evolution at the end of the show. Their worst week ever continued Friday, and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. Effort certainly was required to make Shield-Evolution II work after The Shield won the first meeting … like what’s the point? The point is Evolution is beating the hell out of them to even the score. Triple H made Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins compete separately Friday night in a trio of singles matches. Only Reigns won, making the top group in WWE quite vulnerable three weeks before Payback.

Also a new storyline on WWE programming: The U.S. title is defended yet again! It’s like Trips forgot there was another belt until he asked what that thing Ambrose carried around was. “Let’s put it on my buddy then!”

SD 050914 Sheamus

SHEAMUS (c) vs. DEAN AMBROSE, United States Championship

So apparently, Sheamus hitting the Brogue Kick on Ambrose on Monday was supposed to be at least the start of a heel turn. You know, since hitting your finisher to win a battle royal, as he did Monday, makes you dastardly. This theory gains a tiny bit of traction with Triple H posting a selfie with Sheamus as champion on the screen behind him. That is, however, far too subtle for anyone. JBL posed a separate, valid point: If Trips has a vendetta and it results in great matches (like The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family on Monday, this one, etc.), he can have it as long as he likes. Business picks up a bit when both men roll outside at 2 minutes, and an Ambrose suplex and a Sheamus rolling senton ensue. Naturally, when the going gets good, the good go to commercial.

Back from break, Ambrose’s babyface comeback begins, and it culminates with the suicide dive through the ropes. Nice Wrestling 101 from Ambrose, working the left knee with a chop block off the top and a figure four. Sheamus responds with Power Wrestling 101 — The Irish Curse backbreaker — and locks in the Cloverleaf. Still weird seeing Sheamus lock in a submission. For some reason, I love the bit where Ambrose gets kicked, bounces off the ropes and hits a clothesline. Mixing a bump and offense? That’s awesome. What Ambrose can’t avoid is a Brogue Kick. He narrowly avoids a countout, but that just gets him another one.

Hulu Plus Time: 8:21

Technical Merit: Ambrose did enough to be believable against someone 40-plus-pounds heavier. Sheamus did enough to look like a champion.

Artistic Impression: Michael Cole tried his best to sell Sheamus as a heel, which took away from the match.

TOTAL SCORE: **

Decent opener — worth watching, but OK to skip. There’s a ready-made joke that we’ve seen more U.S. title defenses in the past week or so than during Ambrose’s 50-week reign. Shield fans aren’t pleased he’s jobbing out here, acting like he’s being compromised. But this is more of a rub for Sheamus, who needs some character recovery after arguably a couple years of being stale and irrelevant.

Round 2 of The Shield’s solo series involves two much larger men. Also, for the ladies …

SD 050914 Roman Reigns

ROMAN REIGNS vs. MARK HENRY

Henry has some beef from back when The Shield were heels and beat him down 3-on-1. He seems to still be a face, as is Reigns. Welcome to the Grey Era! “I’m supposed to take it easy because you hurt?” That appears to sufficiently fire up Reigns, at least until the the next knee to the ribs. “You’re by yourself tonight! You’re by yourself! … I’m looking around, I don’t see nobody!” Underrated: Mark Henry’s ability to vocally advance a match. He’s loud and clear enough to hear on the screen, and it helps sell him as a badass. Getting up to the second rope? Doesn’t help him, but it helps Reigns lift 412 pounds into a Samoan drop. Once the spear happens, that’s it.

Time: 3:47

Technical Merit: Quick and basic. How you want to use Henry in this situation. Also, crazy feat of strength from Reigns.

Artistic Impression: Nice reminder of the backstory, and well done by Reigns to sell the beating from Monday.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Nice, quick little match to advance the narrative of the night. No complaints.

The final round, like the first, involves a man who needs a bit of character recovery himself. This is apparently what he thinks of the fans:

SD 050914 Batista

Coincidentally, that’s exactly what the fans think of him! Nice beard, though.

SETH ROLLINS vs. BATISTA

Cole finally says something that makes sense: This is a unique match with contrasting styles. I’m surprised he was allowed to address the match from an athletic standpoint. Cool/funny spot where Rollins goes for the baseball slide, but ends up in the apron as Batista wallops him heading into break.

As we return, Batista is doing his power-guy thing, and Rollins is selling the effects of three straight days of brutal matches. Yeah, I said it. We all know this happened Tuesday. Nice little inverted bulldog from Rollins — yeah, we’ll call it that — and some leaping around … right into a spinebuster. Say what you want about Batista, but the man knows how to do high-impact offense. He finally seems to be getting his legs under him after 3 1/2 months. And HOLY CRAP what a sick-looking bump: Rollins dives off the top rope, but Batista sidesteps and directs him headfirst into the announce table.

SD 050914 Seth Rollins

That’s how a countout happens.

Time: 6:36

Technical Merit: Good match. The contrasting styles worked here.

Artistic Impression: Not a huge fan of the countout, but it semi-protects Rollins, and what do you expect after that final bump.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

Postmatch beatdown hammers home the point that The Shield are beaten and battered in this stage of the angle. Plus, it’s basic Even Steven-ish booking: Decisive win, decisive loss, countout. Good storyline depth with reasons for all three matches, plus Evolution is intertwined without being overkill. Interesting point with each Shield member coming to the ring alone: I think you could see a lot of this going forward to continue the build of all three men with subtle reminders that they are, in fact, part of a main-event trio.

•••

SD 050914 Bray Wyatt 1

There is such beauty in a flame. It holds no prejudice. Anything can burn; you just have to find the right spark. Mountains must crumble, oceans must boil, and everything they have built must return to ash. But we are all just slaves to judgment. It is judgment that tells me I must survive. It is judgment that tells me I must adapt. And it is your judgment, John, that tells you it is right to fear me. But it’s not the fear that set men apart, John. It’s the distance they’re willing to go. And where we’re going … nobody ever comes back.

(Harper) … Burn.

Bray Wyatt is crazy. There’s no other way to put it. He’s also more in tune with an actual character than anyone has been in at least a decade. This angle with John Cena would seem long and dragged out with anyone else, but Wyatt seems to be getting stronger with each “sermon” and each appearance. This rivalry, along with his Daniel Bryan angle before, are tests of his heel capabilities — can he hang with the top babyfaces in the company? Yes, and then some. PROMO: ****1/4

Meanwhile, like a typical B-show episode, the tag team champions are in the main event. Unlike a typical B-show episode, so is Cena. Though if you blink, you miss him.

JOHN CENA & THE USOS vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

This is a quickie. A lot of quick matches, actually. I like the strategy — get a lot of people on TV and help build the depth throughout the card. With RAW, SmackDown and Main Event (and maybe a match or two on Superstars), we’re getting 6 1/2 hours of main-roster programming each week. What better way to fill it than in the ring? Erick Rowan‘s obviously third in the Wyatt’s hierarchy, but I’m not overly impressed. His main offensive move on Jey Uso was basically running into him. Needless to say, business picks back up when Luke Harper enters, then tags Bray. Wyatt makes “unorthodox” work because his moves still look like they hurt. A lot. Also, when was the last time you saw a 280-something-pound man crabwalk? Harper’s big boot reasserts control at 6:00, but surely Rowan will relinquish it again. Sure enough, a couple misses allow Jey to finally hot tag to Jimmy Uso and run circles around Wyatt. Punch from Cena on the apron, and when Wyatt tags out, Cena goes after him outside. Jey Uso dives on Cena, Rowan and Wyatt, but Harper does what matters, clotheslining the hell out of Jimmy. JBL approves.

SD 050914 Luke Harper

Time: 8:17

Technical Merit: Not great, not terrible. Harper is a great big-man technician, and he carried this match.

Artistic Impression: Asserts the Wyatts’ dominance. Odd seeing Cena as a bit player in a main event. Then again, Cena would’ve spent all 8 minutes selling before those five moves everyone loves.

TOTAL SCORE: **

I wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be, probably because the match basically had no time to breathe. Also, a lack of Cena and too much Rowan stunted the match’s ability to grow.

•••

What did you think of SmackDown? What are you anticipating most on RAW? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Midcard Report (May 8-9): The Usos and Paige make Superstars relevant, and 3MB gets a negative star rating

What’s better than one Midcard Report? TWO Midcard Reports? In this edition, we tackle the non-main-event portion of SmackDown, as well as the WWE’s attempt to even make Superstars relevant … you know, amidst all the near-full replays of RAW matches and storyline developments.

We’ll start there, since it happened first. The WWE Tag Team Champions are in action! But wait … they’re facing 3MB. Consider the expectations non-existent.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. DREW MCINTYRE & JINDER MAHAL (w/Heath Slater & Hornswoggle)

In a matter of two days, the Usos go from facing 3MB to facing the Wyatt Family. That’s a slight difference in the degree of difficulty. Mahal and McIntyre get dumped outside and the Usos get ready to dive out, but everyone in 3MB dips out, leaving Hornswoggle on an island. Luckily for him, the champs put on the brakes.

Back from a Don’t Try This At Home promo, and Jimmy Uso is chopping the holy hell out of McIntyre. That doesn’t last long, as the talent of 3MB regains the advantage. It blows my mind how priorities change on each show — if it’s RAW or SmackDown, the champs take out a decent team in 3 or 4 minutes. If it’s Superstars, they struggle with the quintessential jobbers. Nice tandem offense from the jobbers, actually, including a kneedrop from Jinder and a legdrop from Drew. McIntyre is too good for this group, to be brutally honest. Slater is perfect for it — a fun personality. Not sure what exactly Jinder is, though Jimmy Uso is making him look good here. But Drew is a former Intercontinental Champion who can work. Are you telling me we can’t get an England-Scotland thing against Barrett or an Ireland-Scotland thing with Sheamus. Nice kick out of nowhere from Jimmy to get the hot tag to Jey, who works on smacking Drew around. Funny spot where Heath and Hornswoggle tell a prone Drew to move, but Jey hits the butt charge anyway. Another slightly-less-funny spot where Jimmy goes for a superkick on Hornswoggle and he escapes … headfirst into Slater’s … ummm … equator. Not-funny-at-all spot when Jimmy tags back in and hits the top-rope splash on Drew for the win.

Time: 8:53

Technical merit: Far exceeded expectations

Artistic impression: It was back-and-forth. It was funny. It was a good wrestling match.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

3MB’s week should’ve ended here. Unfortunately, the WWE’s second-worst angle of the year (Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. Kane is setting the standard in a very short time) just had to continue on SmackDown.

HORNSWOGGLE, DREW MCINTYRE & HEATH SLATER vs. EL TORITO & LOS MATADORES

McIntyre actually gets a brief chance to show off his skills, and the big guys team up to drop the little guy on one of the masked guys. Then one of the masked guys absolutely botches … I think a headscissors attempt? … and tags the other masked guy. Then there are tags to the little guys, one of whom bites and gores the other in the butt. Also, this match has officially gone longer than the tag match involving the WrestleMania battle royal winner and the Intercontinental Champion. And the match involving Roman Reigns. Also, Slater just jobbed to a pint-sized luchador via a moonsault. I just … can’t.

Time: 4:19

TOTAL SCORE: -1/2*

Six-year-old Champ would’ve thought this was one of the greatest things ever. Adult Champ wonders why JBL thinks it’s so damn funny. This is why nobody will ever take either of these teams seriously. And Los Matadores, McIntyre and Slater have won gold! I’m through dealing with this crap.

•••

WWE decided to have not one, but two matches involving champions on Superstars. Alicia Fox works well with Paige, so let her job once more!

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. ALICIA FOX

The champ dominant early, which seems to be different from most of her prior matches. Alicia evens the score at 1:15 with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on the floor. GREAT piece of wrestling with a surfboard …

SS 050814 Alicia Fox Paige

… which was released when Fox simply yanks the legs and Paige falls face first. Absolutely vicious. Chinlock, scoop slam, strut … and get kinda-sorta rolled up. Short dropkick from Paige and some tilt-a-whirl crossbody thing. That sequence was just odd. Alicia goes to the second rope, but Paige just pulls her back first onto the mat. Then Paige has a submission hold of her own. I’m sure you’ve heard of the modified scorpion crosslock?

SS 050814 Paige Alicia Fox

Time: 3:47

Technical Merit: Sloppy at parts, but they’re at least trying some different things along the way.

Artistic Impression: These two have a decent basic back-and-forth match down. The problem is there’s no way Paige will lose.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

If Sheamus weren’t indirectly involved in a main-event angle, we’d have all the midcard champs here! On the bright side, we have a heel dream team in a far-too-quick appearance.

Intercontinental Champion BAD NEWS BARRETT & CESARO (w/Paul Heyman) vs. BIG E. & ROB VAN DAM

Barrett’s bad news tonight: Our apathy toward global warming means we’ll all be like Big E. — forgotten pieces of history. Took a while to get to the point, but a funny one. Great teamwork in the first minute: RVD chases Cesaro off the apron, and the latter baits the former into a Barrett clothesline outside. Also, a hairpull takedown from the champion. Good. Hot tag to Big E., whose shoulder-block-type things are just bad. His belly-to-belly and uranage are a bit better. Barrett breaks up the count and pulls RVD outside in the ensuing chaos, which allows The Neutralizer to happen.

SD 050914 Cesaro SD 050914 Bad News Barrett

Time: 2:42

Technical Merit: Rushed, but what we saw was solid.

Artistic Impression: Plenty of backstory depth, but such a quick match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

I want more of Barrett and Cesaro, together or separate. Logic dictates Barrett would make a great Paul Heyman Guy down the line, but Barrett is just too damn good on the mic and too in tune with his current character for that to make sense. They finally gave Barrett something he can make work for the first time since he led The Nexus. Let him take the ball and keep running with it.

•••

Lana is touting Vladimir Putin‘s virtues, but who’s listening?

SD 050914 Lana

On another note, apparently Rusev is the newest member of the first- or last-name-only club.

RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. KOFI KINGSTON

He can go by any name he wants if he’s going to superkick people like he did about 30 seconds in. Kofi’s the perfect midcard underdog to face Rusev — believable on offense, but certainly knows how to take a bump. Spinning slam leads to “RUSEV! CRUSH!!!” The Accolade will do that.

SD 050914 Rusev

This is what we call a squash.

Time: 2:06

•••

Hooray mixed tag action?! I mean, hooray mixed tag action!!!

FANDANGO & LAYLA vs. SANTINO MARELLA & EMMA

Emma trips Santino on the way in. Santino, via Cole, plugs DDPYoga and protein shakes. That’s about as much story as we should expect here. Throw in some leapfrogs and armdrags, and we have Santino’s offense! You know what’s better? The Dilemma (tarantula) and the Emmamite Sandwich (crossbody in the corner). What’s not? That damn Cobra again. Naturally, she gets rolled up. It would insult your intelligence to score that one. Fandango and Layla’s makeout afterward gets about **, but most of that is because Layla is clearly getting better with age. … I mean what?

Time: 2:07

•••

What do you think of the wrestlers and angles below the top tier? How well do you think WWE has developed its midcard (and even low card) in recent weeks? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE SmackDown review (May 2): Bray Wyatt triumphs in and out of the ring, Magneto returns and Dean Ambrose actually defends the United States Championship

I typically don’t watch SmackDown, but I gave it a shot this week. The main reason? See if there was any actual development, or if RAW still serves as the real “go-home” show before a pay-per-view. Some people received a bit of a rub in the ring, and unless you’re closely following the “WeeLC” match angle, there wasn’t anything in the storyline you absolutely had to see. Sure, Bray Wyatt did his thing and Daniel Bryan cut a decent promo building up to his championship match with Kane at Extreme Rules, but if you don’t watch SmackDown, you wouldn’t have really missed out.

What you would’ve missed was a United States Championship main event, which probably hasn’t been a thing since MVP and Matt Hardy were fighting over it. Was the match great? Not exactly. Was it entertaining? A bit. Did Dean Ambrose retain? Scroll down and find out, silly!

But first …

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

Backstory here: The Usos ran in to help Sheamus after the Wyatts attacked him at the end of Main Event, which in real time was … a few minutes before this? So Sheamus and Bray Wyatt are pulling double duty. Also, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are officially contenders in the tag title race. The heels cut off the ring well until and even after Sheamus hits a rolling senton and a kneedrop. Harper and Rowan take control until Sheamus hits a crossbody on the latter and takes a sick bump to the floor. But he’s Irish; he’s fine.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

The Wyatts are absolutely dominant in six-man matches. The three big men isolate one opponent, cut off the ring and batter him. Great double-team work — Harper whips Rowan into Sheamus in the corner, and Rowan whips Sheamus into a Harper superkick. But the hot tag to Jimmy Uso comes when Harper gets greedy, hits Jey Uso off the apron and turns into a Sheamus backbreaker. Jey is more successful at taking on three men until missing a corkscrew moonsault and going into a Michinoku driver for 2 1/2. Action breaks down inside, including a Sheamus Brogue kick on Rowan, but a blind tag by Bray allows him to slip in and hit Sister Abigail on Jimmy. They even handle business afterward, laying waste to all three after one of the Usos dives outside onto Harper and Rowan.

SD 050214 Wyatt Family

Hulu Plus TIME: 7:27

TECHNICAL MERIT: Basic, but no complaints.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Same. Good vehicle for the Wyatts to build momentum, and great ring psychology as always.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

Spectacular? No. But it was good enough for Match of the Night.

 

***

 

All green mini M&Ms, 200 copies of 3MB‘s Greatest Hits playing while training, 10 copies of Rudy on Blu-Ray … those are Hornswoggle‘s demands at one of the most bizarre contract signings in pro wrestling history. The WeeLC match is on. Besides a “short” pun from Vickie Guerrero and a quick spot where neither man could actually reach the contract folder, this was just a waste of time. Though this is probably the first time both combatants stood on the table and fought.

El Torito eventually hit a gore that JBL sold like it was Rhyno‘s heyday, then nailed an actual wrestling move with a dive onto 3MB.

SD 050214 Hornswoggle SD 050214 El Torito

JBL is the only person who will enjoy this match, but that doesn’t stop WWE from putting it on live during the Extreme Rules preshow. You know the type of matches that used to be on pay-per-view preshows? Tag Team Championship matches. United States Championship matches. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Yokozuna for SummerSlam ’96. You know, halfway decent wrestling matches. But I digress.

 

***

 

Before Sunday’s triple-threat elimination match, two of the competitors are in action. The other will just dominate the segment.

SD 050214 Cesaro 1

ROB VAN DAM vs. JACK SWAGGER

Swagger cleaning house early, hitting the Swaggerbomb about 25 seconds in, then hitting Cesaro and RVD outside. But Cesaro holds up Swagger long enough for RVD to get control and hit the Frog Splash. That was quick.

TIME: 1:49

Paul Heyman tells Cesaro to attack afterward, and Cesaro obliges, hitting the Neutralizer on RVD. This got the triple-threat combatants in and out in about 3 minutes. You know, because we needed 5 or so for a miniature TLC match contract signing. It worked for what it was, and Cesaro was on the screen, which is a win for many fans.

SD 050214 Cesaro 2

 

***

 

Remember …

Nobody ever got rich in the passenger’s seat. Take the wheel. Take charge. And Bolieve.

RAW 042814 Bolieve

 

***

 

Who do you care more about: Her?

SD 050214 Lana

Or him?

SD 050214 Rusev

We all know the answer. But, hey, whatever works. Alexander Rusev is here for a squash. So everybody wins. Except R-Truth.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. R-TRUTH (w/Xavier Woods)

Truth actually takes Rusev to the ground with a pair of kicks. But Rusev takes Woods to the ground, then takes Truth into the apron. Woods decides to get revenge in the ring, which is slightly illegal. Woods regains some points, however, for wearing a black Power Rangers T-shirt.

SD 050214 Xavier Woods

TIME: 1:04

The faces took it to Rusev afterward, showing some inkling of a chance to win Sunday. But still … why is this a thing? I guess it’s better to have Rusev destroy two actual competitors instead of local no-name jobbers, like Ryback‘s reign of terror, but this match still isn’t moving the needle. People will watch for Lana’s legs and be on their way.

 

***

 

The champ is here! And judging by the crowd shots, Kansas City doesn’t seem to care. Ohhhhh I see … maybe they’re WAITING for him to tell them to say yes? Nope, still not much. Maybe if Daniel Bryan speaks, they’ll care.

You know, we are all the same. I’m no different than anybody in the world. I’m no different than anybody right here in Kansas City. We stand up for what we believe in. We fight for what we have. And we overcome insurmountable odds everyday. Also, we take care of our families. Ask anyone. Ask any mother, ask any father, ask any sister, ask any brother, ask any wife, ask any husband. Our No. 1 priority is to protect our families. This Sunday, with faith, hope, a whole lot of determination and even more heart, I’m going to walk into the Extreme Rules match as the champion, and I’m going to walk out as the champion. But this is about way more than just the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I have been beaten up. I’ve been attacked. I’ve been put in the neck brace, and I don’t care. Because Kane, YOU PUT YOUR HANDS ON MY WIFE! THIS IS MORE THAN A MATCH. THIS IS MORE THAN A FIGHT. THIS IS MORE THAN EXTREME RULES. THIS IS A WAR. This Sunday at Extreme Rules, by any means necessary, the devil’s favorite demon is going home. And even if I have to go with him, I’m sending him straight. To. Hell.

SD 050214 Daniel Bryan

Bryan has cut back-to-back babyface promos that work. He’s better when he’s serious than when he’s all aw-shucks or trying to act like the smartest guy in the room. Same thing applies to John Cena. These men are wrestlers, not stand-up comedians. (Apologies to Dolph Ziggler, a true dual threat.) Using Brie Bella seems a bit like a cheap way to take advantage of the recent nuptials (and, of course, TOTAL DIVAS!!!!!1!), but if it makes Bryan listenable, I’ll take it. Kane responds with a promo video, and that’s OK. There’s been enough physicality here for someone selling a neck injury.

 

***

 

Speaking of Ziggler, he’s here!

SD 050214 Dolph Ziggler

And Damien Sandow

(Sorry)

… Magneto is back!

SD 050214 Sandow Magneto

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. DAMIEN “MAGNETO” SANDOW

So what happens when two jobbers, one of whom is dressed as a superhero, square off? JBL gives us an X-Men lineage and geography lesson, of course! Magneto almost steals once with a neckbreaker. I’m just … at a loss for words here. Magneto does show some basic ability with a submission hold and a Russian legsweep. But when he tries to use his “magnetism,” Ziggler snaps off a dropkick and hits the Zig Zag. JBL wants to consult the rule book, since Magneto’s cape was in his face. That led to such games as, “SHUT UP, LILLIAN!” and, “Where is Jack Tunney when you need him?!” JBL as the incredulous heel actually worked there. It’s a love-hate relationship with that one.

TIME: 3:20

TECHNICAL MERIT: Superhero hijinks aside, it wasn’t bad.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Superhero hijinks aside, it wasn’t terrible.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

 

***

 

Oh hi, Intercontinental Champion! Does anybody actually believe Big E. will retain? They wouldn’t have a whole tournament, only to have someone who isn’t over beat the winner, right?

BIG E. vs. TITUS O’NEIL

Not only is Big E. probably jobbing Sunday, Titus is punking him out on and around the announce table! THIS is your Intercontinental Champion. Titus says that a few seconds after I type it. Meanwhile, I think I can hear the convo in the second row. LOL. The lack of commentary via the compromised table doesn’t help. Titus is so committed to just beating Big E. that he fails to provide a clean break and gets the DQ.

TIME: 2:14

Big E. gets him some afterward, but it doesn’t help. The further damage to his rep has been done. If he were as over in the ring as he is on Twitter, we’d have something. But he hasn’t been able to make people care about him on screen. He stands tall over Titus, but 1) he’s standing tall over Titus O’Neil, and 2) it’s after a DQ win where he got his ass kicked. That’s some of the weakest booking I’ve ever seen. But maybe that’s the point? I’m confused.

SD 050214 Big E

 

***

 

After waiting all week, we get a sermon after all!

SD 050214 Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt’s sermon this week

What beautiful music children make. Oh, John, if you could only have seen your face Monday night. It was priceless. Those children, they reached inside of your beating heart and they pulled your soul out. And then they handed it to me. Because they trust me, John. Because I believe that children are the future. I offer them hope, John. I offer them a way out. I offer them love and understanding. My word is the word they shall follow, and my light is what shall lead them. Extreme Rules has become so much more than just a steel cage match. It will be the reckoning of the entire Cenation. Because when I climb out of that steel cage, John, I’ll be taking them all with me. They’ll be mine. They’ll be mine, John, and then what will that leave you with? Nothing. Just a withered old man, rotting alone with a decrepit old heart. Follow the buzzards.

WYATT PROMO: ****

The children singing on a record player was creepy, and Wyatt delivered with his words as usual. He seemed to add a bit of an accent, which was odd. But Bray Wyatt’s odd, so it kind of works.

 

***

 

Not only is the United States Championship seeing a rare defense … it’s the main event! I don’t think it would hurt to book Dean Ambrose in a title match once a month. You know, often enough that it’s a big deal, rather than a running joke, when he actually defends it.

DEAN AMBROSE (c) vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. CURTIS AXEL vs. RYBACK, United States Championship

Wifey while reading this week’s Midcard Report: “I forgot about Curtis Axel!” So there’s that. Also, thanks to Lillian Garcia, I now know how to say 239 pounds. Also also, how much of a push would Ryback have received in the ’80s? Would he be a foil for Hulk Hogan, or a midcard monster heel type? Anyway, it’s divide and conquer early, which isn’t a stretch because two of the three heels are in a tag team. They tease actually squaring off, but Ambrose recovers from his first beatdown and receives his second — a Ryback spinebuster and a toss outside.

SD 050214 Rybaxel

I don’t get why tag teams don’t actually throw down more often in such situations. It’s not that hard to be believable; give a handslap or a fistbump and let them go at it. They’re wrestling for a freaking championship, after all.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

The only drama in the first few minutes is Ambrose doing just enough to break up counts and remind people he is, in fact, in the match. Ryback calls him stupid, and Ambrose slaps the taste out of his mouth. Funny spot there. A short time later, Ambrose gets his receipt when Ryback tosses him over the barricade and into the scorer’s position. Meanwhile, Axel’s Perfectplex is far from perfect; ADR kicks out. Nice stomp from ADR, jumping on Axel as he’s tied up in the second rope. In a quick twist, the rope actually allows Axel to break the cover. Uh oh … Ryback clotheslines Axel when Del Rio ducks! Cross armbreaker, but the Big Guy powers out and hits Shell Shock … but Axel pulls him out! It’s about time. Axel crawls toward Del Rio … but Ambrose gets in and gets the rollup! Axel can’t get a break, but he can get a triple powerbomb afterward as The Shield make its cameo as a full unit to send a message to Evolution.

Hulu Plus TIME: 9:25

TECHNICAL MERIT: Actually kind of clunky. It’s supposed to be chaotic, but a little fluidity doesn’t hurt.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: I liked the story of Ambrose being almost a non-factor, then stealing a win. You usually see titles change hands that way, but not retained.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

SD 050214 Shield

SmackDown 03/07: Give me one reason to stay here…

It wasn’t long ago I touted the virtues of SmackDown, calling it something along the lines of a decent alternative to RAW that provides actual wrestling matches. Or something like that … it seems so long ago now.

I fired up Hulu today at least expecting something halfway decent. I tapped out with 30 minutes to go. Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio? Kane and Batista vs. Daniel Bryan and The Big Show? I’m out.

Maybe WWE is stretched too thin with WrestleMania season, the WWE Network launch and a seemingly increased (and wise) focus on NXT. Maybe I’ve just watched so much professional wrestling lately that I’m burned out. Maybe SmackDown is always a letdown the day after NXT. Or maybe WWE is just trotting out the same stale guys, maybe mixing and matching the dance card a bit, throwing in a ton of RAW flashbacks and packaging it as SmackDown, a clear B (at best) show, like they have in the past. No matter what they’re doing, SmackDown absolutely sucked.

Just when I think I’m in, they push me back out. It’s the reverse Michael Corleone.

Maybe one of the aforementioned matches tore the house down and I missed out. But I’m guessing not. I’ve basically been conditioned not to care about four of those guys anymore, one is still too rusty (or too old?) to get it done in the ring anymore, and the other has jumped the shark from being a self-grown force of nature to a force-fed movement with a hashtag whose promos downgrade him to the B+ player the force-fed authority figures say he is.

I admittedly tune out when Daniel Bryan is doing something other than wrestling now, which makes me among the minority (and a heel) in this medium. But it’s not my cup of tea. Or cup of anything.

The whole “YES!” routine is all well and good. It gets the crowd into it when it happens organically. But if I’m actually paying attention to when he talks, I cringe. The nonstop pandering to the fans. The content that makes a 1980s promo seem edgy. The delivery when he actually has the words to say. OH MY GOD, THE DELIVERY. I get he’s supposed to be geeky and awkward, but it just makes him look like foolish and unsure when, for example, he’s trying to zing Batista about his attire. If you’re gonna diss someone, especially a 280-pound badass heel, come correct. Look the dude in the eye, dig up your confident voice, and actually SAY it. Batista stumbles over his lines, and he sounded better Friday.

But even if Bryan didn’t talk the rest of the show and stuck with what he does best, we’re talking 30 or so minutes of stale babyface, stale heel, lost-a-step-or-two heel, stale corporate lackey and stale face this week until he turns heel next week and turns face again the week after that and turns heel the week after that. After two guys who shouldn’t be near a live microphone rambling through an opening segment, three weak-ass matches? The “Shield Summit” couldn’t even save it for me, though I liked the bits of tension (featuring Seth Rollins in a quality performance) and ultimate decision to remain united for now.  I’m not even dignifying the first two-thirds with a review. I’m better off just flipping on the Network and finding something worth a damn to watch.

SmackDown 02/28: The hangover

If you watched NXT ArRIVAL, chances are you were thoroughly impressed. If you watched SmackDown the next day, chances are you weren’t.

It felt like NXT was the white-hot match that should’ve been the main event, and SmackDown was a 2-hour version of the comedown match. Or maybe NXT was the raging, awesome party, and SmackDown was the hangover.

NXT had three great matches. SmackDown had one good one. The main event fizzled — and so did almost every other thing that didn’t involve Batista or Bray Wyatt with a microphone.

Batista finally turned heel Friday, and he seemed to dust off some ring rust and his promo chops while maintaining his walking mid-life crisis (semi-jacked-up physique, bad clothing and *so* many tattoos) and reinstating the awesome spotlight entrance. I liked his prior heel turn better, when poor Rey Mysterio became a rag doll, but this worked. He summed up his mission statement pretty quickly — and pretty well.

“I did not come back to be liked. I did not come back to please all of you. I came back to be WWE World Heavyweight Champion. So you don’t have to support me, but you’re gonna have to deal with it.”

“What the hell happened to this business? What happened to the real men? You chant the names of 195-pound wannabes! You scream, ‘YES! YES! YES! YES!’ But the truth is NO! NO! NO! NO! They will never be me! That’s the truth … deal with it!”

“Do you honestly think that your heroes are as good as me? Everything about me screams WWE World Heavyweight Champion.” (OK, maybe except that silly-ass hat).

“You guys look at your heroes and you think, ‘Oh, he’s just like me. If he can be champion, so can I!’ You’re living in a fantasy, so I need you to go back to your jobs at Hot Topic, get out of your fantasy world, get out of my world. From this point on, I will be systematically destroying each and every one of your heroes on the way to the main event of WrestleMania to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.”

That destruction started with Dolph Ziggler, who declared himself a real man, snapped off a dropkick for good measure, and in a seeming homage to Hulk Hogan, busted out “jack” multiple times in his mic time. Everyone knew he would job — he’s 6 months into an apparent life sentence for speaking his mind — but he wasn’t completely squashed as the scrappy babyface.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. BATISTA

TECHNICAL MERIT: Good, from both men. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Above average. TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

This was the only match above 2 stars, and it led off the second hour. Batista is quickly getting back into the swing of things … either that, or Ziggler’s just match better of a worker than Alberto Del Rio. Batista told the story of systematic destruction by pounding Ziggler’s left knee, then repeated high-impact moves (three spinebusters, then the Batista Bomb) to finish him off. That’s how you book a monster heel in the ring, and of course, nobody can sell like Dolph Ziggler. Not a masterpiece by any means, but a way to advance the narrative.

As for the highlight of the night…

“Everything you think you know is based on lies.”

That’s Bray Wyatt getting your attention. He proceeded to run everyone down as only he can. To paraphrase: Men break their backs to get the money and get the stuff to impress the women, who put on masks (makeup) to impress the men. Lies are plastered all over billboards, and on those billboards is the “man with the plastic smile,” John Cena. Bray Wyatt is an honest man, and he’ll slay the dragon that is Cena.

The Shield don’t seem to care, so they teased another head-to-head scrap right then and there. Triple H decided he’s “invested too much time and money into all six of you” to let this happen without any advance promotion, so he gave us a reason to be semi-excited for RAW on Monday. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins dove onto Luke Harper and Erick Rowan on the outside to tease some action, but Wyatt made everyone wait. Again. The tension in this rivalry is the best thing the main roster has going right now.

As for the rest of the show…

BIG E. and MARK HENRY vs. THE REAL AMERICANS (w/Zeb Colter)

TECHNICAL MERIT: Meh. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: About average. TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Cesaro hit the apron superplex on Big E. Barely. Then Jack Swagger tagged himself in. Later, Cesaro tagged in while Swagger had the Patriot Lock on Henry, then hit the Neutralizer on a 400-pound man. Impressive feats of strength and the Real Americans’ back-and-forth were the only appealing things about this otherwise basic tag-team match.

SHEAMUS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

TECHNICAL MERIT: Average. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Boring. TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Christian, he man outside the ring, was the most important part of the match. And most entertaining. Sheamus doesn’t move the needle. Neither does Del Rio. Put them together? They still won’t.

A.J. LEE (c) vs. CAMERON, Divas championship

TECHNICAL MERIT: Poor. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Boring would be a compliment. TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

Cameron’s not ready — she had the worst clotheslines ever and a below-average bulldog, then just screamed for no reason. But hey, she’s pretty, and hey, Total Divas!!! This was hard to watch, especially after the NXT women’s title match on ArRIVAL. Can we please get A.J. a suitable dance partner who isn’t a means to promote a non-wrestling reality show? Like someone who can, you know, wrestle?

DANIEL BRYAN and THE USOS vs. KANE and THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS

TECHNICAL MERIT: Average at best. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Below average. TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

I’m gonna say it … Daniel Bryan in tag matches is stale. Out of a hot tag, it’s just as predictable and formulaic as his worshippers say John Cena universally is. It’s OK to change things up every once in a while. At least when The Usos do predictable stuff, it’s something like, “The Usos will dive onto whoever’s outside the ring.” I had higher hopes for this match, but it did absolutely nothing for me.

Is it Thursday night yet?