Tag Archives: A.J. Lee

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAW 04/07 review: Daniel Bryan, The Shield, Cesaro and Paige usher in WWE’s new New Generation

There were three clear messages from the in-ring product of WrestleMania 30:

  • Daniel Bryan is the top guy
  • Nothing is sacred. (see: Streak, Undertaker)
  • This is a new generation of WWE.

Sunday set that tone. Monday night hammered it home by starting with this:

RAW 040714 Bryan1

And ending with this:

RAW 040714 Trips

RAW 040714 BryanShield

Welcome to the new New Generation.

Think about the champions: Bryan’s mat résumé speaks for itself. Big E. is a bit green, but the Intercontinental Champion has brute strength and potential. U.S. Champion Dean Ambrose has the talent AND the charisma. The Usos, Monday night’s quick appearance notwithstanding, are the best, most talented organic tag team in years. The Divas Champion is young and thoroughly entertaining in the ring as well. I mean, look at her submission finisher! Then there’s Bray Wyatt, who doesn’t need a belt (or victories, even) to be the best new WWE character in about 15 years. Also, one NXT performer made a huge debut Monday, and two more appear to be on the way.

We’re not in an era of the same old boring matchups at the top of the card. How many times can we see Randy Orton vs. John Cena? Orton vs. Sheamus? Cena really vs. anyone? The Authority will be the heels trying to foil Bryan’s run, and that’s perfectly fine. But Brock Lesnar may be waiting, along with plenty of new guys on either side who can have a perfectly serviceable 20-minute match on a pay-per-view.

If you can wrestle, there’s a place for you on the card. If not? Get the F out.

Let’s move on to the show. We get the D-Bryan video from last night, then we go from one of the worst crowds ever to what should be the best of the year in a 24-hour span. The champ comes out, wearing Goldie and with the WWE belt over his shoulder. ***1/2. Props for wearing Goldie, but Orton’s both-over-the-shoulder look was better.

You guys never get tired, do ya? *NO!* Be careful; I don’t want you to hit your neighbor or anything like that. I don’t think you guys understand how hard it is to do this *lifts arm* while you’re holding two titles, but … *YES!* I’ll do it one more, but then I have to give my shoulders a break. *leads YES! chant* You know, it’s funny because it was a little over 2 years ago, when I started doing this. *lifts other arm* And here we are, a day after WrestleMania 30, and it seems like everybody here and everybody watching, that everybody in the WWE Universe was united with one word, and that word was yes. *YOU CAN’T STOP IT, JBL oversell* Guys, guys, guys, I might deserve it a little bit, but I think you guys deserve it, because when I started YESing, it wasn’t just a word, and it’s not just a hand gesture, it’s not a movement, it’s not about positive thinking, it’s not about any of that. It’s about the power that each and every one of us have to make change, and because of you guys, because of your power, last night I went into WrestleMania 30, I beat The Authority, and right now I stand here as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. *cheers, leads YES! chant, Trips interrupts*

Trips says he’s not going to get into the ring and do something to Bryan he’ll regret, not yet. Bryan confirms Trips won’t get in the ring, then sticks his belts in Trips’ face for a “YES!” chant. ****1/2

Hunter gives him a nickel’s worth of free advice: Enjoy this moment, because that’s all it is, and it won’t last. It won’t make it through it the night, because Bryan’s first title defense is against him. Angry Trips says he’s going to shut everybody up because the reality is it’s his show and there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it.

 

But what about the other guys in the main event?

Trips and Stephanie McMahon are in the back after the Bryan promo, then Batista (while fumbling over his lines) and Randy Orton demand rematches. But Dave never held the world title … ? Trips says they’ll get them, but not tonight. In the meantime, Steph books them in a tag title match against the Usos, and Trips rallies the troops. “Historically, when the three of us are on the same page, no one can stop us.” Evolution reunion? I’m down.

How did they do?

Let’s find out!

THE USOS (c) vs. BATISTA & RANDY ORTON, WWE Tag Team Championship

The heels suddenly work like a cohesive unit, because there’s a certain telekinesis between all wrestling bad guys. When paired, no matter what, they can dominate at least for a little bit. Meanwhile, the smarks are missing a great match. Jericho, Punk, Justin Roberts and JBL chants. You think you’re so funny! Try again. Oh, Randy and Dave forgot there was a match, too. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is a double countout.

TIME: 2:13

Outside, we get a hanging DDT on the barricade and a Batista Bomb onto the steps. Way to boost the profile of the tag-team champs there. Not!

At main event time, Dave and Randy make their return.

Hey, what are they doing when there’s supposed to be a championship match?

Well clearly they’re here to beat up Daniel Bryan, too! RKO, Batista Bomb, you know the drill. Kane liked the idea so much, he came to join in with a chokeslam. NOW Trips is ready for the title match.

DANIEL BRYAN (c) vs. Triple H, WWE World Heavyweight Championship

After some coaxing — you know, job security threats — Mike Chioda finally rings the bell. Hunter thinks he has things in hand, then these guys show up:

RAW 040714 Shield

No word whether “Titty Master” is a TV-PG nickname. But after Steph tried to command The Shield to help Triple H in his quest for a 14th world title, they decide to do their own thing. Reigns spears Trips, theoretically throwing out the match. Rollins and Ambrose dive outside. House is cleared except for the boss, who’s surrounded on all four sides until he receives the running knee from Bryan. The Shield and Bryan stand tall, then everyone theoretically switches to Backstage Pass.

 

So what about that Cena guy, and the crazy dude he faced the night before?

Funny you ask … six-man tag match, playas!

Intercontinental champion BIG E., JOHN CENA & SHEAMUS vs. THE WYATT FAMILY (1:10:11)

Cena and Bray Wyatt start, then the Irishman gets a crack at Wyatt. “Let’s go Wyatt!” chant Ginger-on-ginger crime ensues. This is the most Erick Rowan will get cheered in his life. Oh hi, Intercontinental Champion! I remember you! Sort of … Big E. gets an actual babyface reaction due to his feat of strength — repeated backbreakers on Rowan in one set. New wrinkle for Cena’s Five-Knuckle Shuffle — no running and bouncing off the ropes, straight to “You Can’t See Me!” We call that progress. Luke Harper makes progress by planting Cena’s face into the mat, then tags to Bray.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

The Wyatts take turns on Cena, then a hot tag to Sheamus. Rolling senton of Harper into Rowan, then double forearm off the top rope. After Bray distracts, the numbers game catches up and Rowan stunts the momentum. Hot tag to Big E. now. Warrior splash, straps down, set up for the power slam, but Bray escapes and pushes Langston into a Harper superkick. Harper follows with a suicide dive onto Sheamus. Down to Big E. and Bray, then this:

RAW 040714 Wyatt

Sister Abigail, cover, let’s go home.

TIME: 8:07 Hulu Plus time

TECHNICAL MERIT: Solid.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Intriguing.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

An enjoyable match showcasing all six men. Well, at least five of them. Crowd was hot for it, especially the Wyatts, but Big E. “received some accolades” from the crowd, as Gorilla Monsoon would say. “It’s a happening, Jess!”

 

Wait … who’s this motivational speaker guy with a video that looks like it’s from about 1994?

Oh, that’s Bo Dallas from NXT! Remember, impossible means “I’m possible”. Oh, and Bolieve. His character needs work, especially in the promo department. But he had a great match with NXT Champion Adrian Neville at this show.

 

Hey, what about that guy who shows up a couple times a year? You know, the one who beat The Undertaker?

You mean this guy?

RAW 040714 Lesnar

Yeah, that guy! He’s ugly.

Oh, he was here, too! He’s the biggest heel in the company right now. So was that guy who manages him. Brock Lesnar doesn’t like to talk, so Paul Heyman does it for him.

Why?

Because he talks like this. (Full promo transcribed here).

 

Who’s the guy with the bus?

That’s Adam Rose! He’s a party animal, and probably the most over guy in NXT. You know, that show on WWE Network that’s better than any other weekly offering WWE has. That Bolieve guy is, too. Fresh faces, man.

 

Now who’s the guy in the suit?

He’s this guy, only grown up. He’s in a Hall of Famer now.

WWE.com photo
WWE.com photo

So what did he say?

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat; his lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legendmakers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back, I see many potential legends, some of them with Warrior spirits, and you will do the same for them. You will decide if they live with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends as well. I am Ultimate Warrior, you are Ultimate Warrior fans, and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will live forever!

Not bad. Oddly brief and coherent, considering his history. Great tribute to the fans, and a nice little throwback to the eccentricity of the Warrior. ****

 

Hey, it’s the Divas Champion! She won at WrestleMania! She’ll never lose, right?

That’s what her promo would have you think, right? I mean, 295 days and all.

RAW 040714 AJ

Well … think again.

RAW 040714 Paige1

Who’s that?

That’s Paige! She’s the NXT Women’s Champion. Best part: She can wrestle! She had an awesome match with Emma on NXT a few weeks ago. The thing is, A.J. doesn’t seem to know this, or else the nose booping and face slapping wouldn’t happen. Oh well, she’ll beat this kid up, right?

A.J. LEE (c) vs. PAIGE, Divas Championship

It starts with a beating, then some skipping, then the Black Widow. Wait a second … she powered out? She hit a move? She … she WON?!

RAW 040714 Paige2

TIME: 1:18

TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick and basic

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Newbie comes in and wins the belt. What more do you want?

TOTAL SCORE: ***

The score’s all about the story here. A lot of NXT talent is on the way, and it’s refreshing. Crazy thing about Paige: She’s TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD. It’ll be interesting what we see from her early on — whether we’ll see some actual wrestling and some real matches (and that sick submission), or if it’ll be a watered-down version until the main roster calls up enough people who can hang. I assessed the NXT/WWE Divas here last month.

 

RAW 040714 Hogan

WELL LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING, BROTHER!

Oh hey, Hogan! You even got the venue right this time! Well done, dude! And you’re here to give Cesaro a rub? Come back anytime, brother!

Wait a second … that’s Zeb Colter. But I thought you were a good guy now! *Zeb takes mic, starts to take credit* 

Oh, that’s why! *Stops paying attention, simply wait for Cesaro to take over*

“I’m sorry, Zeb. I’m not that guy. I’m not a Zeb Colter guy. I’m a Paul Heyman guy.”

Shut the front door. What. The. Deuce. Other clichés here. More on Heyman’s night here, if you missed the link above.

By the time we get to process this … and the new “King of Swing” moniker, Jack Swagger runs in and does what we expected someone to do the night before — destroy the battle royal trophy. That’s enough to start a match after the commercial.

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER

Basic wrestling match in the early stages. Swagger’s just boring, especially when he’s in control. Cesaro’s apron superplex changes that. Running uppercut in the corner. Two. Three. Four. Then one to the back. The King of Swing calls for it, but Swagger thinks better of it … and gets what sounds like a “PUSSY!” chant for his efforts. Well, they’re right!

TIME: 5:06

TECHNICAL MERIT: Meh. The end was good.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: The match missed.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Have thoughts on how RAW followed up to WrestleMania, or on WWE moving forward? Comment below or drop me a line on Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WM30 BryanTrips

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

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

Winner: Bryan

Technical merit: Very good from both men

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

TOTAL SCORE: ****1/4

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

WM30 Shield

THE SHIELD vs. KANE & THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS

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

Winner: The Shield

Technical merit: A couple decent spots

Artistic impression: A filler squash match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

WM30 Battle Royal

ANDRÉ THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

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

Winner: CESARO!!!

Technical merit: Formulaic at first, but decent

Artistic impression: Same, though a great finish

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

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

WM30 Cena Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT

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

Winner: Cena (LOL)

Technical merit: Not great, but not bad

Artistic impression: Ambitious, but a bit off

TOTAL SCORE: ***

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

WM30 Taker Lesnar

THE UNDERTAKER vs. BROCK LESNAR

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

Winner: It happened.

Technical merit: A bit slow, but OK.

Artistic impression: I liked it. A lot.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

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

WM30 Divas

VICKIE GUERRERO DIVAS INVITATIONAL for the Divas Championship

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

Winner: A.J.

Technical merit: Just … no.

Artistic impression: Strong finish. Weak everything else.

TOTAL SCORE: *

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

WM30 title

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

Predictions: Champ wants Trips, but knows Bryan will win

Winner: Bryan. Who else?

Technical merit: Solid

Artistic impression: Pretty good

TOTAL SCORE: ***

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

Oh well. Maybe next year, right?

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

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

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

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

RAW 03/31: How was the WrestleMania 30 buildup?

WrestleMania often can be hard to gauge going in, because sometimes the hype is subdued. Sometimes the wrong things are overhyped.

WM29 hype

Yes, I’m looking at you.

Sometimes we simply don’t know what will be good or great until we get there. Monday’s go-home show before WrestleMania is supposed to convince us there’s a chance all of it will be worthwhile. They had seven angles to advance Monday; they are presented in chronological order by their first segment, and grades are given if actually applicable.

 

Angle No. 1: #TheStreak

Buildup so far: C+

This angle had some great moments if isolated, but intermittent at best in the grand scheme with all the absences. Some decent one-liners here. From Taker: “Three things that can’t be beat: Death, taxes … and the streak.” And from Paul Heyman, on Lesnar winning: “That’s not a prediction. That’s a spoiler.”

Remember when Brock didn’t fight for free? He makes Taker wait, then makes an exception here. Emphatically.

033114 RAW Lesnar

Go-home segment: A-

This needed to happen. Brock’s been made to look like a weak, dimwitted fool this entire time, with Taker stabbing his hand to sign the contract then chokeslamming him through the table, then last week with the druids and the coffin. He needed to finally look the worthy, formidable opponent, and this segment did that.

 

Angle No. 2: Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena

Buildup so far: A

Wyatt looks not only strong, but strong enough to defeat Cena. And his mic work is legendary.

This week’s sermon:

The world is bleeding from the inside out. It lives and breathes. And just like everything else, it craves change. The problem is it becomes far too easy to be enamored with the gardens and turn a blind eye to the landfills. You can’t just whisper in people’s ears anymore and expect them to understand you, to believe in you. You have to pry their eyes open and force them to watch.

Do I have your attention now, kids? *chuckle*

She said I was a child born to lead. That I would be the one to teach them the difference between diamonds and dust. That I would be the one to take everything they love, burn it to the ground and leave nothing but ashes. She said that I would change the world.

They’re going to cry for you, John. They won’t understand at first, but in time, they’ll forget you, and you’ll be left with nothing. And they’ll see you the same way that I do. As a monster, John. “He’s got the whole world in his hands. He’s got the whole world in his hands.” WYATT PROMO: ****1/2

This angle had three parts Monday. Part 2 was a novel concept: A wrestling match.

R-TRUTH vs. BRAY WYATT

Basic squash with some powerful and sometimes unique offense from the antagonist. I think Truth had one offensive move. Finally, Sister Abigail for the merciful finish.

WINNER: Wyatt, 4:36.

TECHNICAL MERIT: Squash. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Advances the Wyatt-as-a-badass narrative, at least. TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

Then, there’s company. In an awesome way.

033114 RAW Cena

033114 RAW Cena2

Part 3 goes to Cena again. To Wyatt: “You want change? I’m gonna change the way you walk because I’m gonna stick my foot in your ass!” That’s a parting shot.

Go-home segments: A

I’m excited for this match, and I don’t really care which way it goes. Cena has been motivated to really bring it, and it shows. In no way would I be disappointed if they revisited this. Wyatt’s a perfect foil for Cena right now, and vice versa. Cena using the mindgames with the masked attack was the highlight of the show.

 

Angle No. 3: #YESMovement. Oh yeah, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, too.

Buildup so far: A solid B+

Triple H bemoans people today. They don’t want to actually do work; they just want to be a part of something, and when that doesn’t work for them anymore, they discard it and move on. He’s right. This was most of the Seattle Seahawks fanbase in 2013. Wait till the next time they go 8-8. He uses Fandangoing as a prime example, then applies it to the #YESMovement. Trips has taken down every flavor of the week, including Booker T, Scott Steiner, Jeff Hardy, Mick Foley, RVD, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Goldberg. Then we get a replay of the beatdown from 2 weeks ago. That was some fantastic video work. The rationale: They were all players, and Hunter is The Game. And he’ll beat Bryan AND become the champion at WrestleMania.

Dave Batista in skinny jeans, Timberlands, a Ewing Georgetown throwback and that silly-ass hat is a sight to behold.

033114 RAW Batista

Also, he brings up the fact that Trips has never beaten him. “I figured this out last week. You’re the brains of this operation. Your wife is the brawn.” Orton comes out, sucks up a bit, then implores Hunter to back out of the title match if he beats Bryan. This part actually worked until the champ came in and I lost focus. I do know Hunter declared a no-DQ match for later and implored Orton to unleash The Viper.

Their attempt to regain focus came in the main event.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion RANDY ORTON vs. BATISTA, no-DQ, non-title match

Orton apparently became The Viper when he clotheslined Batista over the barricade. Shortly after, Dave became The Guy With The Chair until Orton ducks a chair shot and regains the advantage. Then Orton is The Viper With The Chair. On another note, Stephanie McMahon is marking the F out for this match on commentary. That’s different from Getting The F Out.

KENDO STICK ALERT AT 4:00!!! I think Orton would use it every match if he could. The Authority is pleased, because The Viper and The Animal are finally showing themselves, I guess. Daniel Bryan shows himself at the 6-minute mark by jumping Hunter at the announce table. Orton shifts his focus toward Bryan, and Batista spears him. Bryan tees off on Dave, including the high knee, then dives and pounds away at Hunter. House is cleaned, and the face stands tall heading into Mania.

033114 RAW Bryan

RESULT: No contest.

Go-home segments: A-

The promo work was OK, I guess. The in- (and out-of-) ring work at the end was probably what was needed. Bryan was MIA basically for two full episodes, then provided the much-needed reminder that, yes, he’s here and he’s ready to compete Sunday.

 

Angle No. 4: WWE Tag Team Championship 4-way match

About 40 percent of the way into Tuesday Morning Hulu Plus RAW, we finally get … a wrestling match!

THE USOS & LOS MATADORES vs. THE REAL AMERICANS & RYBAXEL

Arena’s silent for this one. Usos look great, and Primo and Epico are getting in some licks as well. Pop for Cesaro, who actually applies some offense, unlike the heels in the first 3 1/2 minutes or so. Bodies fly around a bit. When the heels FINALLY get an upper hand, they go to break. By the time we return, it’s hot tag time. So many superkicks. Swing attempt broken up, then a botched springboard leap to the floor. Swagger finally slaps the Patriot Lock on one matador, then after an Uso distraction, Twin Magic ensues to set up a possum pin.

WINNERS: Usos & Matadores, 10:02.

TECHNICAL MERIT: Pretty good. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Not enough heel. TOTAL SCORE: **

 

Angle No. 5: WWE Divas Championship clusterf*** match

This one is “advanced” in the ring as well.

Divas Champion A.J. LEE vs. NAOMI, non-title lumberjill match

At least we get the rules for the Mania match: Fourteen Divas, one fall to a finish.

Stupid Divas … they’ll throw the heel back in, but not the face. Then when the heel does their job, they attack the heel. A.J.’s in control, then her obsession with discussing the title allows the Funkadactyl to gain the upper hand. A.J. goes outside and Tamina shields her from the Divas, then all the lumberjills attack Tamina. Also, a butt bump is a finisher in the Divas division. What. A. Joke.

WINNER: Naomi, 4:03

TECHNICAL MERIT: Poor. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Nope. TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

The only ways I could care about this match: 1) A.J. wins to establish herself as a dominant Diva; 2) Paige or someone from the past shows up. Otherwise? I couldn’t be paid to give a crap.

 

Angle No. 6: The Shield vs. The Remnants of the Attitude Era

Fans voted for a Shield opponent to face Kane. The winner? Of course.

ROMAN REIGNS vs. KANE

Kane dominant early. Goes for the chokeslam, but Roman powers out. Then Reigns’ arsenal, including the apron dropkick and the Superman punch … ? Nope, a Middle Age Outlaws distraction. That’s thwarted by The Shield, and Reigns hits it. After some deliberation in the ring, all three Shield members attack.

WINNER: Kane (via DQ), 3:11.

TECHNICAL MERIT: Meh. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: A way to get all six players involved, at least. TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

 

Angle No. 7: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

For this, we get a Piper’s Pit. The Miz interrupts the Hot Rod, who seemingly obliviously tries to talk over it  for a few seconds. An exchange of “REALLY?”s ensues. I think Piper is trying to steal Miz’s gimmick. Sheamus, then Titus O’Neil, join in. O’Neil has the gall to bark in Piper’s face. Dolph Ziggler then decides to steal the spotlight with an Andre the Giant T-shirt. Piper shows how to start a party by poking Miz in the eye and passing him off to Sheamus. Then we get our Pier 6 brawl when the entire low and midcard come out to play.

033114 RAW Battle Royal

 

Rey Mysterio runs in to try to clean house, then The Big Show comes in, decimates everyone and has his hand raised by Piper.

Go-home segment: A-

I typically can’t stand Piper’s Pit, because Hot Rod just comes off as old, crazy and wildly out of touch. But this one was a lot of fun.

 

Overall, there’s some excitement. I won’t declare the show will be an unequivocal failure if Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt don’t go over decisively, as a vocal portion of the IWC have done in recent days. You know, the people who chant “YES!” and try to “hijack” shows by wearing some other wrestler’s T-shirt instead of supporting their hero, moving the bottom line and forcing the company to take a long, hard look; and voicing their displeasure WHILE PAYING FOR A TICKET SO WWE GETS YOUR MONEY ANYWAY. They call themselves “smart marks”. The thing is, many of them aren’t very smart.

Anyway, aside from that tangent, I don’t really care who wins Sunday. I just want good stories to be told. I want to be pleasantly surprised by what I see. I want the lower and midcard matches to be a showcase of athleticism instead of a piss break. I want legends to show up and get the pops they deserve. I want the show to be good enough so people just sit back and enjoy.