Category Archives: Superstars

WWE Superstars review (Sept. 18): Wyatt Family vs. Matadores, Sin Cara-Gabriel III

This is cool.

All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.

So is this.

Superstars 091814 Erick Rowan

And this.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper

What’s not cool is the ear-bleeding vocal intro. Just terrible oversinging. On the bright side, we at least know this week’s Superstars will be off to a good start. So who will everyone’s favorite heel tag team face?

Superstars 091814 Matadores intro Superstars 091814 Los Matadores El Torito

Oh my God. This will be a bloodbath. Though I appreciate Justin Roberts‘ proper pronunciation on the jobbers’ intro.

THE WYATT FAMILY (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando, w/El Torito)

I think we’ve determined Fernando is starting this match. Rowan beats him down, then tags to the worker of the pair. Tag attempt at 1:15, but Fernando eats Harper’s boot instead. Gator roll time, and it feels like we’re just buying time. Headlock time as El Torito gets on the apron …

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper El Torito

… and provides a distraction as Fernando hits an enziguiri. Hot tag to Diego, who’s actually gaining momentum? Drop toehold into the ropes, and a … 619? No, just a slide onto Harper and out. Cover at 3:00, and Rowan makes the save.

Fernando and Rowan are forced outside in that order, then a Clothesline From Hell … OK, it was just from Harper … results in victory.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper 2

Time: 3:19

That was an interesting quickie match, in that the jobber team actually handled some business. An abrupt ending, but how long did you think Los Matadores would actually hang?

•••

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

I can’t remember who asked it, but the question was posed on Twitter: What exactly is the point of Superstars? Right now, it appears to be a Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel series.

The Lucha Dragon took the first matchup. The World British Super Duper Championship Wrestling champion took the second last week. This, my friends, is the rubber match. Also, kinda hope Cara comes out with NXT gold. Damn. No dice, but a NICE T-shirt of the new squad.

Superstars 091814 Sin Cara

Both wrestlers, especially Gabriel, would probably be better off working with the NXT roster. Hell, Sin Cara will be as one-half of the tag champs. The problem is Gabriel’s a tweener — a perfect fit for NXT without enough of a character, but too experienced in a WWE sense to not be on the main roster. If NXT gained that ECW/WCW popularity Triple H desires, it would be fine to just move him over. But, as a developmental show and no real character for Gabriel, it doesn’t work. At least Tyson Kidd has a pretty good heel persona to show for his efforts.

Gabriel with some new gear tonight. Not as … motocrossy.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel

Can we get this man some late ’90s Shift gear? Maybe something from the iconic Jeff Emig collection? Make him wear the jersey, too.

motorcyclemuseum.org
motorcyclemuseum.org

NXT Tag Team Champion SIN CARA vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

The battle of the high flyers is quite physical early. Cara’s just chopping the hell out of Gabriel, but a kick and an intriguing rollup turn the tide. Some punches, a corner crossbody and an apron rollup, but Cara rolls out. Gabriel ducks the kick, rollup, rollout, connect on the kick, and Cara gets 2.

This is fun. The little guys should stereotypically be running and flying and all that, but they’re unleashing strikes and kicks, and even some mat-based stuff. It’s unexpected, but it works.

Cara goes for maybe a double underhook powerbomb, but Gabriel blocks and reverses into a back bodydrop. Back to throwing hands in the corner, but Sin Cara hits a sitout slam for 2.

First real high risk comes from the masked one off the top at 3:00, but Gabriel dropkicks him in the gut. Both men down, and it’s break time.

We return around 3:45, and it’s rest hold time. Gabriel releases, but only to destroy Cara’s back with an impactful kick combo and a stomp his foot on the throat. Kinda looked like Sin Cara tapped there. Mask removal gimmick time to no avail. Vertical suplex follows, and Gabriel rolls through into an arm hold. Sin Cara reverses and goes for a German, but Gabriel lands on his feet, then a kick to the gut and a lariat. Interesting cover — knee to the chest and a leg hook — for 2. Russian legsweep? No, abdominal stretch, with an elbow into the side for good measures. The luchador back bodydrops out, rejects Gabriel’s corner advances twice, then rolls him through into what looked like a single-arm powerbomb.

Pair of springboard crossbodies after some rest, then a somewhat clumsy headscissors. Kick from the apron, then a senton for 2 as Gabriel grabs the rope. Smart move, and Sin Cara is perplexed.

Gabriel hits a punch, a kick and an elbow, then a not-so-hot moonsault for 2. One thing he can hit, though, is the 450 … only he won’t get the chance, because Cara crotches him.

Cara goes for the top-rope Frankensteiner, meaning this is almost over. Gabriel rolls Cara through for 2, but Cara flips Gabriel and gets 3. Not bad, gentlemen.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel 2

Time: 9:15

Technical Merit: I loved what they did with this match, but the execution got a little spotty at times. *insert Sin Cara joke here* Credit, though, for the attempt.

Artistic Impression: It’s cool to see a miniseries like this, even though you either have to be a hardcore fan or maybe have no life to find it. The past two matches have been solid, and you feel the story build with different elements of the second match coming into the third, especially with the finish. The question is whether a story with these two men is something people want to see.

TOTAL SCORE: **

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 090914 Dean Ambrose

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

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

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

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

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

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 2

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

Main Event 090914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

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

Main Event 090914 Jack Swagger

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

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

COMMERCIAL BREAK

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

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 3

Time: 8:59

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

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

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil Heath Slater

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

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

Main Event 090914 Heath Slater

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

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

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

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil 2

Time: 2:01

•••

Main Event 090914 Cesaro

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

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

Main Event 090914 Zack Ryder

CESARO vs. ZACK RYDER

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

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Zack Ryder

It’s academic.

Time: 2:22

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Renee Young

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

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

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

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

Main Event 090914 Cesaro 3

CESARO PROMO: ***

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

•••

Now THIS is a Main Event main event!

Main Event 090914 The Ascension

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

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

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

Main Event 090914 The Ascension 2

Time: 3:59

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

•••

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

Then we start the night with … Naomi.

Superstars 091114 Naomi

That seems like false advertising.

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

NAOMI vs. SUMMER RAE (w/Layla)

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

Superstars 091114 Layla

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

Superstars 091114 Naomi Summer Rae Layla

Time: 4:33

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

Superstars 091114 Naomi 2

•••

On Superstars, this is something to be hyped about.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

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

Also, this passes for a scintillating SmackDown tease.

Superstars 091114 Mark Henry Rusev Lana

Yeah, might skip that show this week. Again.

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

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 2

JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SIN CARA

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

COMMERCIAL BREAK

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

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 3

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

Superstars 091114 Sin Cara

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

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

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:49

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

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

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

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

In other words, Alberto Del Rio did some shit.

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

These men main event Main Event.

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

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

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

Time: 11:11

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

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

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

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

Time: 4:01

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superstars 080714 Sheamus

Time: 8:22

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

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

Sorry, there’s a match in here somewhere.

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

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

Time: 1:53

Now we’re gonna get a fairy tale!

Main Event 080514 AJ Lee

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

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

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

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

Main Event 080514 Paige

•••

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

Superstars 080714 Cameron

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

EMMA vs. CAMERON

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

Superstars 080714 Cameron Emma

Time: 3:53

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•••

Main Event 072914 Dean Ambrose

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

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

Jonathan Moxon

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

One thing Ambrose managed was to make this man interesting:

Main Event 072914 Alberto Del Rio

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

DEAN AMBROSE vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

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

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

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

Main Event 072914 Seth Rollins

Time: 12:34

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

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

Supercross.com
Supercross.com

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

Anyway, cross armbreaker and out.

TIME: 4:35

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

Main Event 072914 Kofi Kingston Big E Xavier Woods

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. RYBAXEL

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

Time: 6:58

Technical Merit: What they did was solid.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Main Event 072914 Heath Slater Titus O'Neil

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

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

Main Event 072914 Zack Ryder

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

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER & TYSON KIDD

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

TIME: 4:54

Technical Merit: Elementary, besides Kidd’s presence

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/8

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

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

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER vs. SIN CARA

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

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

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

Time: 6:41

Technical Merit: Basic, but smooth.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

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

WWE Midcard Report (June 17-19): Seth Rollins outdresses Dean Ambrose and The Wyatt Family stands tall on Main Event, while Alicia Fox stays crazy on Superstars

Main Event is supposed to be filler. It’s supposed to be a supplement to RAW and SmackDown … what Superstars used to be. In the WWE Network era, it’s something different. It often gives us the matches we want. It often actually gives us matches. It gives us Seth Rollins in an all-black suit making important announcements about the next pay-per-view.

All pics, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.
All pics, of course, are screenshots from the WWE Network.

It’s WWE’s second-most important show.

That’s why it’s a staple of the Midcard Report. That’s why we watched Rollins “congratulate” Roman Reigns on his “small victory” and telling him there are repercussions for sneaking into the battle royal for a Money in the Bank title match spot. That’s why Rollins is calling Reigns a volcano, Dean Ambrose a bumbling buffoon and saying only he can control them. That’s why we’re telling him he sold out while he shows us why he’s still in control.

“Get on with it!”

That’s why he’s telling us there will be two ladder matches at MITB, an actual MITB match for a briefcase. That’s why he’s telling us he’s the first man in because him having that contract is best for business.

That’s why Ambrose interrupts with more bad generic music and beats up Rollins and escapes Kane. Seriously, Ambrose and Rollins have terrible music; Reigns lucked out with The Shield‘s bad generic music because it’s less bad. Also, Ambrose needs to stop stealing from the Billy Kidman collection.

Main Event 061714 Dean Ambrose

Or if you’re gonna do it, at least man up, go all in and get the Tommy Hilfiger jorts.

•••

I’m pretty sure if what Lana were saying were realistic, we would be in Cold War II right now. Also, what’s up with the Russian Mount Rushmore?

Main Event 061714 Russia Mount Rushmore Rusev

Gorbachev, Lenin, Putin and Rusev? Even I can’t suspend enough disbelief on that one. If they really meant business, they’d throw Stalin up there.

Santino arrives to interrupt, but not for long.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. SANTINO MARELLA

Superkick, Accolade, done.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Santino Accolade

For some reason, this warranted a replay. Hey, at least he’s beating up white guys now.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Lana Russia

Time: 0:24

•••

Main Event 061714 Luke Harper Bray Wyatt Family

Oh yeah, the Wyatt Family is here.

Sometimes, I see things that aren’t there, and sometimes I hear things that aren’t said. And the only way to make them go away is to make them feel like I do. Usos, your time is up. You have what we want. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I believe the time has come for the dirty ones to soil the world. The Usos and Sheamus, they’re pawns. And tonight, they will fall. For at Money in the Bank, we will be standing tall, rejoicing, as the world begins to burn. Follow the buzzards.

Luke Harper gets better each time he’s on the mic, which he showed again ever so briefly Tuesday. His quote preceded Bray Wyatt‘s, and he came off as crazier than his leader. Well done!

•••

So the Divas Champion has beef with The FunkadactylsCameron in particular. Now Naomi has to clean up the mess? I just can’t care.

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. NAOMI (w/Cameron)

We get some dueling armdrags, dropkicks and kip-ups, giving the opening sequence some purpose. The champ takes control by cutting Naomi off at the pass with a clothesline and eventually locking in an abdominal stretch as the crowd stays silent until Naomi gets a hiptoss. Rollup fails, but she puts in a submission hold. Think a surfboard without Paige going up. So like a boogieboard? You decide.

Main Event 061714 Naomi Paige

Anyway, Naomi rolls and turns this into a bridge for 2. Clumsy collision follows, which probably is planned but never actually looks good. Flying crossbody, but Paige rolls through into a cover. Paige Turner blocked, and Naomi hits her apparent finisher to beat the champion. But this just morphs into Funkadactyl vs. Funkadactyl beef as Cameron celebrates far more than the person who actually won. Paige doesn’t seem too sad about losing, probably because she got to rough up Cameron some more? This is odd.

Time: 5:13

Technical Merit: Kind of an awkward moment or two in there, but otherwise not bad.

Artistic Impression: This apparently was more about the person not in the match. Also not a fan of Paige being all nonchalant about losing. Yes, you can get caught. Yes, you can be defeated. But have some pride, people!

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

There’s a whole lot of bad-looking gold when Sheamus and The Usos are around. OK, the United States Championship isn’t that bad. It’s colorful. The copper-penny World Tag Team Championship belts need to go. On the bright side, Jimmy Uso knows how to cut a promo. A little hyped, a little crazy, a little spot-on.

Also on the bright side, the cellphone flashlight bit is a fine addition to the Wyatts’ entrance. Adds just the right amount of coolness to an eerie entrance.

They’ll throw down after a Special Olympics USA Games plug. As someone who worked with Special Olympians for a couple years in my past life as a sports reporter, WWE can fill its TV time with this all it wants. I covered plenty of great people who simply enjoyed being able to compete and were absolutely grateful to get their names in the paper in any form.

Anyway, the match comes after a Special Olympics plug and an Ambrose-Kane plug for SmackDown. That won’t exactly get me to tune in. Meanwhile, Byron Saxton (I think) refers to the Wyatts as “Three Faces of Fear”. Haku and The Barbarian are wondering whether they’re chopped liver, and why it takes three men when they instilled enough fear as a duo. Also, they would absolutely DESTROY the Wyatts in a shoot. Hell, Haku could do it himself!

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

Wyatt starts. Wyatt tags Rowan. Sheamus tosses Rowan out. Harper comes in and trades blows in the corners. With Rowan and Harper in a tag title match at MITB, am I the only one who wants the Wyatts to walk out with all the gold? Rowan tagged in, and Sheamus hits a rolling senton and gets out. Rowan continues to lose his team’s momentum to both Usos — first Jimmy, then Jey. Wait … SHOULDER BLOCK FROM ROWAN!!!!!1! That allows him to tag Harper and move on with wrestling. Jey with a kick and rollup, and Jimmy’s back in. Harper misses a clothesline and gets a crossbody, a kick and a slap before Jey returns. Loving the quick tags to sell the cohesiveness of the champions. Harper decides to just jack Jimmy in the throat to break free, then back to Rowan … just in time for a commercial. The plug for “Road to Paloma” is, guaranteed, better than what we would’ve seen. I seriously tune out every time Rowan’s in the ring.

Harper’s in the ring upon our return. He finally tags to Wyatt, who hits a lariat that Jey sells perfectly with a flip. He gets a chance to sell a few headbutts as well, and a charge in the corner. Back to Harper. Nice sitout scoopslam for 2, then back to Rowan. Time to tune out … until a pumphandle backbreaker? Bet Harper taught him that one. Now it’s time to be a lackey, though, as his shoulder meets the post, and Sheamus meets the hot tag. Harper with an innovative block to 10 Beats of Bodhran with a cutter onto the rope. Apparently Rowan didn’t get the memo, because he gets all 10. Harper stunts Sheamus’ momentum with a dive at the knee, but Jimmy gets the tag and hits a flying crossbody, the Samoan drop and the butt charge in the corner. Rowan misses his chance to attack AGAIN. Wyatt sneaks a tag, which comes into play when the Usos try to fly. Jey dives on Rowan, but when Jimmy goes for Harper, Bray intercepts right into Sister Abigail.

Main Event 061714 Bray Wyatt Jimmy Uso

That’s how you end a match.

Time: 11:38

Technical Merit: Wyatt Family matches really are at their best when Harper is in the ring, and at their worst when Rowan is in. Bray is in the ring infrequently enough that, even if he couldn’t work, it wouldn’t be noticeable. Pretty basic match with these combatants … felt like I’ve seen it before.

Artistic Impression: Sells the Wyatts as a legitimate threat to win at Money in the Bank. Works for me.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

When this girl leads off Superstars, it’s a good thing.

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox

Her opponent? I could do without.

ALICIA FOX vs. NIKKI BELLA

Nikki using a whole lot of non-traditional wrestling moves until the arm wrench and dropkick, and the production team using a whole lot of traditional crowd sweetener. Foxy gets control and slaps on the rear chinlock, then hits a Northern Lights suplex for 2. Stomp on her a bit, then back to the chinlock, but Nikki hits a monkey flip. I can’t get over the fact she has “Thick Chick” on her knee-high socks. Thick compared to what? Your only “thickness” is artificial. Anyway, Fox misses a big boot, and Bella hits the torture rack backbreaker to finish her off. The best part of this is Alicia taking off her boots and knee wraps and throwing them at Nikki. Besides that, this match could’ve been skipped.

Time: 3:40

Technical Merit: Basic, but clean at least.

Artistic Impression: Typical Alicia Fox event these days … more events after the match than during. But hey, I’ll take some crazy!

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox 2

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

The game after the first match of Superstars is trying to figure out where to skip to find the second match. This week, it’s about the 27-minute mark. On that note, I almost forgot about Jack Swagger!

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger

ROB VAN DAM vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Two former ECW champions, and two former Money in the Bank winners, in this match. Now they’re going at it on WWE’s No. 5 show. How the mighty fall … or get past their prime. My thoughts on RVD are well-known, but Swagger has never not been able to wrestle. His personality just doesn’t get over. Which is a bummer, because I actually enjoyed the whole “All-American American” bit. He and Zeb could be good, too, but they’re always thrown on C shows or W, X, Y or Z segments of the A show. First action of note comes at about 3 minutes, when RVD goes up top with his back to Jack, and Swagger pushes him for a sick barricade bump. I’ll credit Van Dam for his willingness to bump around.

Back from a house advertisement, and Swagger’s in control with a mix of weardown holds and strikes. RVD gets a smidgen of momentum when Swagger comes up empty in the corner, then it’s kick, weak lariat, OK lariat, superkick and that lame Rolling Thunder … is blocked into the Patriot Lock! I like it. Van Dam kicks his way out, then kicks Swagger in the head again. And again. Swagger’s been bleeding for a bit. RVD’s feeling froggy, but Swagger climbs up top and tosses him. A couple kick attempts miss, but Rob gets a legscissors cover for 2. Rob goes for a victory roll after that, but Swagger blocks and hits a belly-to-back right on Van Dam’s dome. Swaggerbomb time, but that’s blocked. Now it might be time for the frog splash … I’m giving it about 3 stars. Anyway, RVD wins, Swagger jobs, tune in next week.

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger Zeb Colter

Time: 8:16

Technical Merit: Nice counter wrestling at times. Both men utilize their finishers. Not bad in that regard.

Artistic Impression: It was whatever. It was who could get enough blocks to hit his finisher, kind of like a WWE 2K14 match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

We’ll hopefully get back on track with some higher-quality stuff in the Ring of Honor review Saturday morning. Until then, check out last night’s NXT review and enjoy Friday! Or the rest of it, anyway.

WWE Superstars review (June 5): Paige shuts Cameron up. Quickly. And Big E. beats Titus O’Neil. Again.

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

Superstars?

… SUPERSTARS?!?!?!

Yes, this is happening. When the less-talented member of The Funkadactyls demands a spot at the table for the WWE Divas Championship, we at least see what happens. And then we instantly lament it because it’s not even close to being worthwhile. But, I guess it helps to have your champion at least try to face everyone to see who works well with her, and vice versa.

Hopefully, there’s no rematch of this one.

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. CAMERON

Cameron has apparently “busted her butt for a year,” so she demands a match with the champion. Meanwhile, as was pointed out on Twitter at least once (and likely many times), Paige has busted hers since age 13, which makes her a champion at 21. Nice head-scissors bit there from Came, but the champ goes right back to beating her down. Now Cameron decides to take a day and a half to get back in the ring, and do the heel beg bit upon her return. Really? Paige falling for it was worse. Bulldog variation for 2, then Cam goes up top? Naturally, the crossbody misses. Time for the modified scorpion crosslock … I mean the PTO (Please Tap Out).

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron

Cameron obliges.

Time: 3:05

Technical Merit: Paige is only as good as her dance partner at this point with the main roster. Not like they can do much in 3 minutes, but she (and her opponents, frankly) seem a bit one-dimensional and formulaic in the quicker matches.

Artistic Impression: Unworthy challenger takes shot at champion. Champion makes her tap out quickly. Life goes on.

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron 2

•••

What’s better than a Superstars match? A Superstars rematch, of course! After skipping ahead through 20 minutes of Payback and RAW recaps? Even better!

Superstars 060514 Big E

BIG E. vs. TITUS O’NEIL

Semi-serious note: Where’s Rusev will to beat the black guys down? Hey, don’t blame me … blame creative for keeping the not-so-subtle racial overtones of the 1980s alive. Meanwhile, Big E. wins a chop war by disqualification when Titus kicks him in the gut. The funny thing about those: Whoever “loses” usually wins control in the long run. If it’s O’Neil, he barks a bit as well. Big E. regains the advantage by catching Titus and hitting a chain of three backbreakers and covering for 2. After a shoulder block from Big E., Titus tosses Langston out, picks him up and throws him into the barricade. Twice. I suddenly feel like I’m watching the Ring of Honor main event from last week. … Especially when Big E. returns the favor against Titus after the break. A weardown hold follows, with Titus locking in an abdominal stretch, but Langston hip tosses out. Titus catches Big E. for a powerslam after that and hits a backbreaker over his shoulder. Neither cover is successful, so Titus slaps him around a bit in the corner, then breaks out a bit of Mojo Rawley‘s offense. OK, that’s a lie … he didn’t use his butt. Big E. powers out of Titus’ next move, catches Titus over the top rope, goes clothesline-clothesline-belly-to-belly, then hits the Ultimate Warrior splash. From there, it’s tim efor the Big Ending? Nope, O’Neil’s size 17. Twice. Titus goes for a corner charge, but Big E. follows him in with a spear. NOW it’s Big Ending time.

Time: 8:27

Technical Merit: The typical, basic big-man match you’d expect here. I think this is the longest I’ve ever seen Titus in the ring at once, and it looks like he doesn’t yet have the repertoire to go any longer. Only one rest hold, though, so that’s better stamina than many bigs have.

Artistic Impression: It wasn’t a riveting match by any means, but it wasn’t terrible. Big E. won last week as well, so Titus is supposed to look good in defeat here.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Superstars 060514 Big E 2

WWE Midcard Report (May 12-15): Damien Sandow and Alicia Fox go off, Sheamus pulls triple duty and the 3MB-Los Matadores angle mercilessly continues

ME 051314 Damien Sandow

The booking of Damien Sandow this week has been absolutely brilliant. Well, the non-wrestling part, anyway. Losing to Cody Rhodes (RAW) and Dolph Ziggler (Main Event) won’t exactly build momentum. However, telling Jimmy Hart he’s looked like a Valentine’s Day card for 30 years, declaring teaming with Yoshi Tatsu the worst part of WWE purgatory, threatening Josh Mathews and finally denouncing this gimmick …

SD 050214 Sandow Magneto

… on the RAW preshow, no less, was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a jobber in a while. That set the tone for a fun week of midcard misfits trying to make names for themselves, and possibly succeeding.

Yes, Damien Sandow is a jobber. That’s why, in well-struck worked-shoot fashion, he’s complaining about how he’s used. He doesn’t need to be a supervillain to entertain. He can just talk and wrestle. It’s art imitating life — people lament the fact that men like Sandow and Ziggler aren’t getting pushed, or really given anything to do whatsoever. Why not run with that and make Sandow someone the WWE is trying to “hold back,” “censor” or, in Sandow’s words, “handcuff?” It’s a little too perfect. It would, however, help if Damien could be pointed toward the canvas instead of the sky the next time someone counts to 3.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. DAMIEN SANDOW

Sandow decides to make a subtle statement by starting the match with his T-shirt on — nobody cares about him, so he doesn’t care about this match just yet. After posting Ziggler at the 45-second mark, he doffs the entrance attire. He stays aggressive, allowing Ziggler to do what he does best — sell the hell out of everything. Dolph finally gains momentum at 2:45 and hits the typical babyface comeback medley. Misses the Fame Asser, though, and after missing a kick, Sandow turns Ziggler into a pretzel. The problem: He tries to follow up with a belly-to-back throw, but Dolph lands on his feet. Zig, Zag, out.

ME 051314 Dolph Ziggler

Time: 4:11

Technical Merit: Clean, if not overly innovative.

Artistic Impression: Decent story with Sandow. Plus, one of the jobbers won!

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

The aggressive side of Sandow is fun to see. The man is great at dishing out punishment as well as taking it, and he’s one of the company’s best on the mic. The best way to use him just might be a gimmick where they’re “not using” him.

•••

You know who else had a hell of a week? This woman.

ME 051314 Alicia Fox

After losing (again) to Paige, she had the WWE Universe thinking she quit Monday night. On Tuesday, she chucked a mic into Emma‘s face and beat her up before the match. That may have been her sanest moment of the evening.

EMMA vs. ALICIA FOX

SICK offense from the outset: Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then a side slam … through the ropes to the floor. “Y’all think I went cray? Oh, you don’t know cray.” I LOVE this. Hairpull toss, then an invitation to talk to the hand. The Emmamite Sandwich gets blocked by a kick. Underrated and overrated get confused. And after all that, she gets rolled up. We find out that’s because, in her words, the ref doesn’t know how to count.

Time: 2:14

After the match, girl just snaps. She slaps around Tony Chimel. She shakes down Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton. She gets booed a lot. She did the damn thing, and she did it well.

Would it be all that hard to actually give the Divas decent material? It’s really quite easy: Make the heel going against the champion just kind of fly off the handle. Instead, most of the time, we get Total Divas beef.

Case in point … “#TotalDivas” was on my screen during RAW. As is the Bella Twin who looks a bit like she signed a 3-year deal with Brazzers. #NSFW

NIKKI BELLA vs. NATALYA

The angle here: Nikki didn’t like Nattie’s painting of John Cena and her. Nattie thought she should’ve been nice and just accepted it. Also, the rest of the Total Divas cast is “judging” the match ringside. This match already sucks. A bit of wrestling arrives around the 2-minute mark, when Nattie locks in an abdominal stretch and Nikki reverses. And it goes away when they trade pushes that make Erick Rowan look like Gotch or Hackenschmidt. Also, not the last time Rowan’s pushing prowess enters the discussion. Nattie goes for the wheelbarrow victory roll, but Nikki blocks for a pin and Nattie gets sad/mad afterward.

Time: 3:29

Technical Merit: Too much silly “catfighting” crap and not enough actual athleticism.

Artistic Impression: *hastily puts together “zero” card, holds it up*

TOTAL SCORE: Zero

•••

Zeb Colter wants us to shut up, because apparently real Americans would listen to what he has to say. He’s putting his Deportation List on par with the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Why? Because now Adam Rose is on it, of course! Meanwhile, Colter’s client has a RAW match with someone other than Rose.

JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. ROB VAN DAM

It MIGHT have taken 3 seconds for Rose to interrupt. The only cool thing to come out of it was Swagger swinging and missing as Rose does his “stage dive.” Oh, JBL dropped a Kurrgan and The Oddities reference. Once that’s over, kick, Frog Splash, done. Sometimes I hate wrestling.

Time: 2:06

•••

Curtis Axel literally won a coin flip to face the United States Champion. That started a Paul Heyman Guy past and present gauntlet of sorts, starting with the two failures of the Heyman experiment on RAW.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. CURTIS AXEL

Trying to find the words to describe the Nattie-Nikki match was more interesting than the opening portion of this one. Rolling senton and nice kneelift around the 2-minute mark. Then Sheamus goes up top. When he goes up top, he’s gonna have a bad time … like an effective neckbreaker from Axel. But young Curtis misses a dropkick, lands right into the Cloverleaf and taps. Cool, I guess.

Time: 3:19

Technical Merit: Nothing good or bad of note. Take that as you will.

Artistic Impression: The coin flip was the story. Take that as you will.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Ryback couldn’t attack fast enough afterward. This means the Celtic Warrior isn’t done yet.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. RYBACK

Lot of escapes and counters early. Sheamus hits the 10 forearms outside, then goes for some sort of shoulder block thing, but Ryback catches him and hits the chinbreaker for 2. Ryback wastes some time, then the Meathook Clothesline is countered right into White Noise for 2. Brogue Kick ducked, and Ryback hits a spinebuster. Sheamus fights back with the running powerslam. When Ryback kicks out, the big fella’s angry. Axel distracts long enough for the Meathook, and Ryback goes for Shell Shocked, but Sheamus slips out and hits the Brogue Kick. An odd match, but a good one.

Time: 5:30

Technical Merit: If you like escapes and reversals, this was your kind of wrestling match.

Artistic Impression: We saw Sheamus get a little angry, which is good. And we knew it would take some sort of escape to set up the finisher.

TOTAL SCORE: **

Big guys don’t typically have “technical” matches, but that’s what this was. Some purists will see two big, slow, stale guys in the ring and try to see how many negative stars they could possibly give it. Others would say just because the maneuvers aren’t exactly attacking moves doesn’t mean it’s not wrestling.

A day later, Main Event starts with “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!” Because Paul Heyman. The United States Champion interrupts for a mildly entertaining back-and-forth that sets up our main event of the evening.

ME 051314 Sheamus Paul Heyman

A former U.S. Champion then interrupts and provides a Neutralizer as an appetizer. Nice, brief segment to give us a reason to desire the match, even though there already was one with Cesaro being involved. This felt like a big deal, due to Sheamus’ strong billing over the past couple days and, it goes without saying, because Paul Heyman.

Near the midpoint of the show, Sheamus confirms we won’t have a match. We’ll have a fight. He’s right.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. CESARO (w/Paul Heyman)

That entrance attire …

ME 051314 Cesaro King of Swing

… and a European uppercut exchange in the first minute? You have my attention. At 2 minutes, Cesaro already needs to regroup, though it provides a great heelish moment when Sheamus dumps him into the ring and he rolls all the way through to the other side. This is a brawl, and it’s a good one to start. Whole lot of strikes, whole lot of Heyman. We get 10 more strikes at about 3:45, much to Heyman’s chagrin. Mike Chioda wants a clean break in the corner; Cesaro provides a couple big boots and an uppercut to the back of the head instead. A rolling senton at 5:30 wasn’t the first wrestling move in the match, but it felt like it. Sheamus goes up, but Cesaro cuts him off and hip tosses him. I think that was the third move.

Sidenote: I want the WWE 50 book. My birthday’s coming up. Just saying …

Anyway, back to another boatload of strikes, which Cesaro wins with a kick. Sheamus gets some momentum, but a clothesline stunts it. Irish Curse backbreaker follows shortly after. Goes for the Cloverleaf, but Cesaro rolls him up. Sheamus hits the powerslam to no avail. Cesaro escapes White Noise and ducks the Brogue Kick into a bridging German suplex. The Neutralizer attempt gets countered into White Noise. Strike 2 on the Brogue Kick, and a strike against Cesaro when he goes up top, but gets knocked to the floor. Sheamus follows with one of the clumsiest crossbodies I’ve ever seen. Cesaro counters a Sheamus charge by dumping him into the timekeeper’s area. A few seconds later, Sheamus clotheslines both of them into the front row. That’ll guarantee a double countout.

Time: 13:21

Technical Merit: Well-executed brawling style match with plenty of counters and escapes. Solid all around.

Artistic Impression: Usually not a fan of the double countout, but it protects both men and allows the post-match fireworks to commence.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

Nice bit afterward to advance the rivalry — Paul E. hands Cesaro a chair, which is put to good use, and Sheamus finally connects on a Brogue Kick to even the score. It looks like if creative wanted, the option to draw this out is there. Sheamus is giving credibility to a championship that sorely needed it after being just some accessory Dean Ambrose wore for a year. Cesaro could help boost the prestige by being the perfect foil — wickedly strong, well-versed in technique and an absolute physical specimen. Cesaro can be a leaner, meaner version of Sheamus, or he could just wrestle circles around him. Or Sheamus could eke out the upper hand and continue his upward trajectory. Plenty of things are in play for a future feud, or it’s just a fun way to spend a Tuesday night.

•••

Hey, if you thought the Total Divas shilling wasn’t enough … don’t worry, you get Legends House plugs now! Also, you can be all “HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and “USA! USA! USA!” all you want, but I know your game, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. I didn’t forget.

Duggan FB2K

Lana interrupts and promos on the U.S. and England — once-great nations whose empires have crumbled and become the laughingstocks of the world. She’s conveniently forgetting about her own country, which only used to be the freaking Soviet Union. Anyway, this was all a ploy to get Rusev and her out here. And for Rusev to snap a 2×4 over his knee like a stick. And for Big E. to run in and get killed.

Random, relevant point on social media Monday night: Kofi. Big E. R-TruthXavier Woods. Rusev isn’t exactly an equal-opportunity midcard monster heel. Maybe by beating up only black people, WWE is going for a weird heel-in-America, face-in-Russia (and, judging by soccer, probably some other places in Europe) thing. Also, one of the four may or may not have posted an Instagram pic of The Nation of Domination and suggested this is how they’ll handle business from here on out. If someone in the group could actually assert himself as a leader, it could have legs. If not? Well prepare for next week’s episode of Rusev Squashes Another Black Talent.

•••

Speaking of WWE’s black contingent, on to Superstars, which leads off with a rubber match?

KOFI KINGSTON vs. TITUS O’NEIL

Apparently Titus won 5 weeks ago, and Kofi earned revenge 3 weeks ago. This confirms, in fact, there are Superstars rivalries. Vicious offense from Titus … well, until the bear hug. Because we need a rest hold after 90 seconds. Kofi tries to slip under Titus, but he’s caught, then clubbed in the back of the head. Kofi sells better than he attacks, which is to O’Neil’s benefit here. Titus looks impressive as the big man; it’s a shame they can’t really find anything else from him to do. Well, I guess they did from the 3-minute mark on, because he’s selling for Kofi. No selling necessary on Trouble In Paradise, which is simply caught and turned into a backbreaker. I stand corrected … he’ll have to sell it one way or another.

SS 051514 Kofi Kingston

Time: 5:10

Technical Merit: A little rough, but not bad.

Artistic Impression: I guess I’d have to watch this show more often to even know there’s a story behind it.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Speaking of Superstars rivalries, here’s 3MB!

SS 051514 3MB

Bright side: Hornswoggle isn’t doing the work here.

DREW MCINTYRE (w/3MB) vs. SIN CARA (con Los Matadores y El Torito)

First off, the Los Matadores gimmick SUCKS. It’s not as bad as when they marginalized Tito freaking Santana, but were Primo and Epico all that bad? Second, I officially miss Carlito. Not even sure why, but I was a total mark. His Intercontinental Championship triple threat with Shelton Benjamin and Johnny Nitro in 2006 was legendary. Third, armdrags and monkey flips all around! Give WWE credit: It took 2 whole minutes to address the Hornswoggle-El Torito rivalry. Good news: Drew gains momentum after commercial. Bad news: He might have used a move from Erick Rowan‘s repertoire — push the guy down while he’s running at you. McIntyre works well when he has a bit of a mean streak, of which you don’t get to see a whole lot when he’s in a comedic heel jobber stable. Speaking of jobber, he takes Sin Cara’s babyface comeback. Hornswoggle reprises the under-the-ring gimmick at 6:00, when El Torito chases/corners him. Everybody on the outside follows. Drew is sufficiently distracted. So are the fans when El Torito walks out with Hornswoggle’s pants.

SS 051514 Hornswoggle

Anyway, back in the ring, Sin Cara hits a kick on the apron and hits the Swanton for the victory.

SS 051514 Sin Cara

Time: 7:58

Technical Merit: It started strong. It finished with a whimper.

Artistic Impression: It’s 3MB vs. Los Matadores. You can skip this one.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*