Tag Archives: Alberto Del Rio

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

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

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

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

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

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

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

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

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

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

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

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

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

•••

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

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

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

WWE Midcard Report (April 28-29): Bad News Barrett wins twice, The Usos retain the tag team belts and the Extreme Rules card fills out

The Real World Champ likes to mix things up every once in a while. Sometimes you’ll get one huge RAW post. Sometimes four or five little ones.

Sometimes we’ll look at two shows at the same time.

WWE has three well-crafted, main-event-caliber storylines that carried this Monday’s RAW. You can read about those here. This is the first-ever Midcard Report, which takes a look at everything else.

We’ll start with RAW, where the Tag Team Championship was on the line.

THE USOS (c) vs. RYBAXEL, WWE Tag Team Championship

Ryback and Curtis Axel have “suddenly turned it on as a team” or something like that. Nothing of note in the first couple minutes other than a clumsy-looking stereo dive that appears to injure Jey Uso‘s lower left leg. Of note after the commercial break, Rybaxel goes for a tandem superplex, but Jimmy Uso fights them off and front suplexes Axel onto Ryback. Hot tag to Jey, but he’s still favoring the leg. Ryback hits a spinebuster and a cover, THEN starts posing after the fact to set up for the clothesline. That’s enough time to allow Jey to get up and hit a superkick. Jey with another nice counter, turning Shell Shocked into a rollup. Tag to Jimmy, which comes in handy when Axel gets the Perfectplex on Jey. Jimmy hits the top-rope splash on Axel, and the champs retain.

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:44

TECHNICAL MERIT: Some decent spots in this one.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Typical babyfaces-in-peril tag match.

TOTAL SCORE: **

Not great, but certainly better than expected. The heels tried some things that made the match feel a little different, and actually made themselves look decent … not an easy task for this pair.

 

Magneto and motivational speaking

“If you can’t see yourself a winner, you’ll never be one. The power to envision your goals and the power to achieve them is the same thing. No one ever got rich in the passenger’s seat. Take the wheel. Take charge. And Bolieve.”

RAW 042814 Bolieve

This one’s for the ladies.

RAW 042814 Hugh Jackman

This one’s not.

RAW 042814 Sandow Magneto

This was the best bad segment of RAW in a LONG time. It would be the worst if it weren’t so damn hilarious … and if “Magneto” didn’t take a hip toss and the Zig Zag.

 

Paul Heyman’s clients (past and present) and the next Intercontinental Champion

“I’m a liar. I’m a conniver. I’m ruthless. And I’m totally uninhibited by my unethical approach to business. But I take my clients to the top.” That about covers Paul Heyman. And that’s all Cesaro wants to hear.

RAW 042814 Heyman Cesaro

Later in the show, Paul E. decides we need to hear a joke, because “my kids think I’m funny!”

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Mike!

Mike who?

Mike … lient Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!

RAW 042814 Real Americans

Yeah, that didn’t work. But hey, Heyman’s client, Cesaro, won the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania! He’ll try to conquer Jack Swagger once more.

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER

Gutwrench suplex … and Cesaro hangs on for another one. Wicked strong. Swagger shouts “We the people!” into Cesaro’s ear during a weardown hold. Zeb Colter trips up Cesaro from outside, then Paul E. takes matters, and Zeb’s mustache, into his own hands. That’s enough of a distraction for a bridging German suplex pin.

TIME: 3:12

TECHNICAL MERIT: A bit clunky at times, actually, but a couple decent maneuvers.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent, quick story.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

These guys aren’t done yet. But until then …

RAW 042814 Bad News Barrett

This man has bad news for Rob Van Dam. Only the “Then” part of the WWE slogan applies to him. In fact, Wade Barrett apparently was in diapers the last time RVD was Intercontinental Championship. That’s a bit of a stretch, but that whole promo was fantastic. Barrett is over as a heel, and it’s great to see. The man can talk, he has charisma, he has a great look and he can work.

ROB VAN DAM vs. BAD NEWS BARRETT, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 contender tournament final

Rob, however, is working him early. Well, until he basically whiffs on an apron moonsault. At least Barrett sold it well. Barrett puts in work outside before the break, and he’s stretching RVD a bit upon return. RVD suddenly goes a bit away from his offense with some Ultimate Warrior clotheslines, then goes to the spinning kick until Cesaro arrives. Swagger follows, and they go at it outside. That appears to set up the Bullhammer, but it turns into a back kick and Rolling Thunder. Yawn. RVD has to fend off Cesaro will perched up top, and that gives Barrett enough time to prepare/block the frog splash. One Bullhammer later and we have our No. 1 contender.

RAW 042814 Big E Barrett

TIME: 4:48

TECHNICAL MERIT: A bit formulaic. It’s an RVD match.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Points here for advancing two stories.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

The aftermath is a three-way midcard scrap, which Cesaro starts but also of which he gets the brunt. Because somebody has to take the frog splash.

RAW 042814 Rob Van Dam

I think RVD’s best place is off my screen, but at least this whole bit makes sense. RVD hates Heyman, so he hates Cesaro by proxy. Swagger still hates Cesaro, and that’s mutual.

“Not sure about the end game, but could make for a fun triple threat down the road.” I wrote that Tuesday morning. Sure enough …

ExR Triple Threat

Potential direction: This feels like a star vehicle for Cesaro, but Swagger could screw him over to continue the feud.

Who should win Sunday: Cesaro

Who probably will win: Cesaro

 

On to the next one …

Moving along  … nothing says Midcard Report quite like WWE Main Event! We lead off with Goldust in action, along with a flashback to RAW, when Cody Rhodes lost to Alberto Del Rio and shoved Goldust in frustration afterward. So, for a Hulu Plus RAW viewer, this was actually quite informative! Though the brothers are on the same page for the moment.

ME 042914 Cody Rhodes Goldust

GOLDUST (w/Cody Rhodes) vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

Both men aggressive out of the gate, and a Backstabber into the cover 30 seconds in. Slows down a bit with the rear chinlock about a minute in, and the “Let’s Go Goldust!” chant to help him out. Signature drop and slap and the powerslam at the 2-minute mark, and ADR with the enziguiri right after that. This could be a quick one. Dragon screw from Goldie to counter the kick, then the Final Cut does it. Guess I was right.

ME 042914 Goldust

TIME: 3:09

TECHNICAL MERIT: Quick, but all the major spots in.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: The story was mostly set up the night before, so not much here besides the winner.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Renee Young … sorry, “Nay Nay” … suggests this could be about the time The Brotherhood splits. Goldie squashes that. Nay Nay asks whether Cody Rhodes is impressed with Dustin’s win; Cody somewhat heelish in saying that doesn’t mean Dustin’s better. He gets back on course and says The Brotherhood is together and will stay that way. Methinks that won’t last too much longer…

On another note, this is happening Friday:

SD 050214 US Title

(No) thanks to Twitter, I know what happens. Oh well.

 

Speaking of champions …

ME 042914 Paige

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. ALICIA FOX

This goes straight outside, and the champ jumps from the apron and snaps off a head-scissors. These two have pretty good chemistry, though Alicia isn’t the most crisp. She does, however, play the heel part adequately. Big kick to the face around 2:00 after Paige rips off Matt Morgan with the corner elbows. Paige gets a kick of her own 30 seconds later and starts to show her edge — hair pulling, knees to the head, etc. Simple, but effective countering from Alicia. She won’t, however, counter this DDT.

ME 042914 Paige DDT 1 ME 042914 Paige DDT 2

TIME: 3:34

TECHNICAL MERIT: Not great, but certainly not bad.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Typical Paige main-roster match, though she did get some more offense early.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Afterward, the champ has company.

ME 042914 Paige Tamina

Paige vs. Tamina potential direction: Why give the belt to Paige for only a month?

Who should win Sunday: Paige retains.

Who probably will win: You know this one.

 

Promo time with Sheamus to set up a fight with Bray Wyatt later in the show. Something about fighting with guys in Ireland or something. I don’t listen because I don’t want to hear Sheamus talk. I want to see him kick ass and leave.

 

Random fun fact: This man is a 10-time champion in WWE.

ME 042914 Kofi Kingston

That’s the good news.

ME 042914 Bad News Barrett

This is the bad news. More bad news: Big E. is a “cardboard cutout” and a bland, boring champion.

Good news: Mr. Barrett is pulling Midcard Report double duty!

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. KOFI KINGSTON

More bad news: Big back kick to Kofi’s gut. Kingston the speed and a flying cross-body for 2. Nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker from Barrett. Ninety seconds in, he’s calling for the Bullhammer, but Kofi thwarts that with a rollup. Kofi slips Barrett multiple times outside, but literally leaps into the Bullhammer. All Barrett has to do is roll him back in.

TIME: 2:28

TECHNICAL MERIT: Basic.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: The mission — get Barrett over. Success.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

 

“… Kansas City … we’re here.”

So is the Celtic Warrior, who interrupts sing-along time with Bray Wyatt. Not cool. Also, this actually feels like it could be a substitute main-event match down the line; it’s almost overqualified for this slot. But since this is a midcard show …

SHEAMUS vs. BRAY WYATT (w/Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)

Both men opting for the slow build on this one. Sheamus using the power and striking game early, but Wyatt doing just enough to stunt the momentum before it gets excessive. When Sheamus does get something, like a second-rope kneedrop, Bray is kicking out at 1. Back from break, and Wyatt has stepped into the driver’s seat. The rest of the Wyatt Family is staying out of the way for the most part, obstructing Sheamus only enough to let him know they’re here. Forearm to the back on the apron that forces Sheamus to fall face first into said apron, then the running senton inside for 2. After that, good old-fashioned ass whipping until Sheamus blocks a second senton attempt. Charge and kneelift, and a kneelift that propels him outside around 9:00. That helps him long enough to get a uranage slam for 2 1/2. Sister Abigail expertly countered into White Noise and a cover.

On another note, Harper is creepy as hell.

ME 042914 Luke Harper

Sheamus gets the 10 forearms going outside in after landing on his feet on Wyatt’s back bodydrop attempt. At 12:00, Wyatt ducks the Brogue Kick, but runs into the Irish Curse backbreaker on the way back. Rowan distracts Sheamus from attempting the kick again, but does get a powerslam. Rowan AND Harper provide the distraction on either apron, and that allows Wyatt to bash Sheamus in the back and hit Sister Abigail. Great match.

ME 042914 Bray Wyatt Sheamus

TIME: 13:40

TECHNICAL MERIT: It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was effective.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Simple story with the mutual beatdown, and Wyatt stays strong.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

When Sheamus has a decent and/or fresh dance partner, the man can get the job done in the ring. I’ve seen at least two, if not three, good matches out of him against different opponents as of late. He’s a good man to have in the upper midcard because he’s a good hand, he’s powerful and wins and losses don’t really affect him a whole lot.

As for Wyatt, he’s a MUCH better storyteller than technician. His attack is somewhat repetitive and quite simple. But here’s the thing: He’s 26 years old. The skills will continue to develop, and he’s believable as a somewhat unorthodox, powerful brawler. He reminds me of Mick Foley, to be honest: Not the greatest physique and would never be confused for the Excellence of Execution, but you know you’ll see a good fight and a damn good story.

Main Event had a great balance this week: A true main event, and you get some bulletpoints on the portions of the card RAW may not hit. Creative all around seems to have some more depth and more sense, and it makes the whole product more enjoyable to watch.

COME BACK THURSDAY NIGHT FOR A FULL REPORT ON NXT

WWE RAW review (April 14, Part IV): The Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender’s Tournament. Brilliant!

Champ’s note: This is the last of four recaps of RAW this week. Click here for Part I, and here for Part II, and here for Part III.

You know how to get my attention? You do this:

RAW 041414 ICgraphic

The Intercontinental Championship actually received a bit of buzz over the weekend due to a false finish and some photos of Jack Swagger holding the belt after “beating” Big E. With plenty of discussion lately on social media about the mid-card titles, this kicked things up a notch. I declared how Cesaro would be the perfect IC Champion.

Well he certainly will be if he gets through this tournament, a great way to showcase midcard talent and make this championship mean something again. Now if Langston just squashes the tournament winner and then holds it for another few months with few defenses, we’ll just forget this all happened.

On to the show!

 

ROB VAN DAM vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender Tournament, first round

RVD just came back, and this match feels stale. Oh, that’s why; they fought for the World Heavyweight Championship last fall. A TON of kicks, as expected, and Van Dam hits a spinning heel kick on Del Rio as the latter is coming off the top rope as we return from Hulu break. ADR regains control with an enziguiri while RVD is on the top. Rough buckle bump where ADR goes to the second rope, but RVD sweeps the legs and suddenly feels froggy.

RAW 041414 RVD

TIME: 5:10 Hulu time

TECHNICAL MERIT: Smooth and sound

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Bit of a back story, but nothing during the match. A lot of “educated feet.”

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

I don’t really like either of these guys, but there were no real complaints. Two bland guys put on an OK match.

 

CESARO vs. MARK HENRY, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender Tournament, first round

No music, and another great Paul Heyman promo heeling on The Undertaker to precede him. Henry to Heyman: “Stay out of my business … Or I’m gonna make you my business!” Paul E. is listening. Henry proving he is, in fact, stronger than someone 175 pounds lighter than him early. On to “Plan 2” apparently. That plan is a bunch of uppercuts and body punches until Henry hits a lariat out of the corner. Henry goes for the World’s Strongest Slam, but Cesaro lands on his feet behind him and hits two uppercuts: One to the back of the head, and one off the second rope. Then it’s Neutralizer time … ? In fact, it is! That’s why you NEVER skip leg day, bro.

RAW 041414 Cesaro

TIME: 3:17

TECHNICAL MERIT: Uppercuts, uppercuts, uppercuts.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Would’ve liked it longer.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

There would’ve been no problem with this going 6-8 minutes instead of 3. Besides that, basic little guy beats big guy with a feat of strength.

 

JACK SWAGGER vs. SHEAMUS, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender Tournament, first round

Does anyone else want this to lead to a Swagger-Cesaro final? Doesn’t look like that’s an option at the outset. Swagger gets an advantage, thanks to Zeb Colter‘s distraction on the apron, with a nice catch and slam at about 1:30. Jack uses a couple upper-body rest holds (with a belly-to-belly in between), which makes perfect sense because his finisher is an ankle lock. Wrestling 101, people. Swagger misses in the corner, and the big fella back on the attack at 4:15. Series of running attacks, then a kneedrop for 2. FINALLY he gets his 10 forearm shots in the corner … then goes up top? OK, a big shoulder block. Sheamus goes for a dive from the apron back in, but Swagger sidesteps and puts on the Patriot Lock. Sheamus rolls out, but Swagger shoulder charges Sheamus out. NOW he attacks the knee outside. You do that the first 5 minutes, Sheamus maybe taps. And you DEFINITELY don’t get Brogue Kicked the second you get back in.

RAW 041414 Sheamus

TIME: 6:55

TECHNICAL MERIT: Average. The lack of Wrestling 101 acumen at the end bothers me.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Meh. Kind of boring.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

 

Now let’s put up two fan favorites who could benefit greatly from a push. Who deserves it more? Depends on who you ask.

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER, Intercontinental Championship No. 1 Contender Tournament, first round

Wade has bad news for Ziggler early. Some strikes, a kick or two, a vertical suplex and a kneedrop. He wants two, but misses. Hammerlock into a side headlock from Dolph. Barrett backs him into the corner, but provides far from a clean break. At 2:30, he chokes Ziggler on the ropes twice. Dolph ducks a couple swings, then snaps off a dropkick and clotheslines them both out of the ring. Barrett gets the advantage outside by posting Ziggler before the break.

*Commercial break*

We return to a superplex attempt, which is blocked twice. Ziggler ragdolls off, but leaps back up for a Super X-Factor. How many DX finishers can he rip off? Ziggler goes for the Zig Zag, but Barrett blocks, turns around and hits Winds of Change for 2. Barrett goes for the Bullhammer, but gets rolled up. He gets lifted about 8 feet into the air, then hit with the Bullhammer off the bounce. JBL: “You can count to 20!”

RAW 041414 Barrett

TIME: 5:46 Hulu time

TECHNICAL MERIT: Not bad. Not great.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Made both look pretty good

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

There’s one reason Ziggler’s a jobber: He can sell ANYTHING. Unfortunately, his ability helps others more than it helps himself.

 

So here’s the bracket:

RAW 041414 ICBracket2

 

Check back next time. Maybe we’ll even preview the next round!

What do you think of the first round of the tournament? Who wins? Does he beat Big E.? Comment below or drop a line on Twitter.

RAW 03/03 match review

Before we get to the matches (or at least the ones on Hulu Plus), I present: Brock Lesnar. Next time, don’t throw the monitor so damn hard.

Now that that’s out of the way…on to the wrestling “in-ring action”.

THE USOS vs. THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS (c), WWE tag team championship

Announcers hype how this could be the Usos’ last shot. You know what that means…!  We come back from break to The Usos cleaning house, but Billy quickly takes over. You know, since he’s the one who can wrestle.

JBL: “They’ve wanted this championship since Day 1. This is your chance, boys!” Yup, they’re winning.

A tag mid-dive. Very nice. Now for the dive from Jey. Sure enough, The Usos win the gold. Good for them. SO well deserved. This too years, and they’ve worked to become the best team in the company. They worked the Superstars circuit to hone their craft, they stuck with it, and they got the win and the pop in front of a hot crowd. Well done.

WINNERS: Usos (new champs)

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

The story here was the Usos’ last shot, and though they foreshadowed it the tire match, it worked. The match felt like a big deal, even if the novelty act now-former tag champs were involved.

And Hulu Plus follows up with Shield-Wyatts II? I could get into this.

THE SHIELD vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

“This is awesome!” chant while Bray Wyatt’s still in his chair. Stereo dives, then Roman Reigns hits a Samoan drop in the ring on Bray. THEN the bell rings.

Belly-to-back superplex maybe 30 seconds in, but Seth Rollins lands on his feet. Flip dive on Luke Harper, then the other side onto Erick Rowan. He reaches up from outside the ring to kick a charging Harper inside, then goes for a top-rope move on Harper, but Ambrose runs in, gets in the way, and Rollins falls off. Great sequence enhanced by Ambrose’s loose-cannon storyline. Also, they replaced the announce table. Boo.

Things slow down a bit with Rowan in the ring. Tag to Harper and a “Roman Reigns!” chant breaks out since he’s yet to enter the match. Nice subtlety from Harper. Gets clotheslined by Ambrose, but grabs his ankle to drag him back to the corner.

Ambrose finally gets over for the tag, but Rollins jumps off the apron and stands on the ramp. Wait a second …

Some insight from Rollins to Reigns: “I can’t be the glue that keeps this team together. … You two figure it out!” Well then.

Reigns comes in illegally and cleans house. He gets the whole move set in, including the apron dropkick. And he spears someone over the announce table. Meanwhile, Harper kicks Ambrose in the ring, then a suicide dive onto Reigns, who goes over the table. This if absolute chaos, and I love it. This feels like a late ’90s tag match, without the TLC stipulations and kamikaze bumps. Suddently, Sister Abigail on Ambrose for the win.

WINNERS: The Wyatt Family.

TECHNICAL MERIT: Great. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Almost perfect. TOTAL: ****1/4

The only problem was the match ended. Great story throughout with Ambrose being dumb and the Rollins walk-out. Even without him, great story in and out of the ring. That was fun, and could’ve gone a few minutes longer.

After Batista shows he’s hit his promo stride as a heel, we have Diva tag action. I WILL be disappointed.

THE BELLA TWINS vs. AKSANA & ALICIA FOX

Aksana just “slapped” Brie repeatedly, only she missed badly every single time. Wait, a sunset flip? And a missile dropkick? Interesting. And some tourture rack backbreaker thing from Nikki. Eh, i’ve seen worse.

WINNERS: Bellas

TECHNICAL MERIT: Below average. ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Meh. TOTAL: *1/4

It was what it was, but it wasn’t a botchfest. Still felt more like choreography than wrestling for most of it, though. The Bellas can work a little bit, but still would need a dance partner to have a good match.

After a Bryan-Authority bit in the ring, ADR is out for the comedown match. Oh yeah, there’s a guest star on this show, and he has Dolph Ziggler riding shotgun. Cool…?

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (w/Aaron Paul)

Alberto, at least TRY to connect with a strike? On the other hand, fantastic dropkick from Ziggler. Excellent elevation and execution. Ziggler could, however, try to connect with the fists as well. A distraction from Paul outside eventually yields a Zig Zag for the win.

WINNER: Ziggler

TECHNICAL MERIT: Eh… ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Eh… TOTAL: *1/4

Good use of the guest as a distraction prop, but otherwise not so much in this one. It felt too quick to build anything, and the match itself was a little on the sloppy side. But hey, Ziggler got one!

After a decent promo from John Cena and another great one from Wyatt, we have a cold main event. Like, was this even hyped? If not, it should’ve been.

BATISTA vs. DANIEL BRYAN

Randy Orton, the champ is ringside. Other than that, kind of a blah, normal WWE match into the first break.  Bryan is mid comeback when we return, and shortly after the full-speed attack is in effect. Business appears about to pick up with The Authority coming down. Batista eventually throws Bryan into Orton, and Orton puts this match to a merciful end, attacking Bryan, then Batista. Whatever, guys.

WINNER: Bryan via DQ, since he was attacked first

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

The match sucked, but it was only there to set up the show’s finish, which we cover toward the bottom of the prior post. Still, would’ve liked to see something more entertaining and less formulaic in your main-event match.