Tag Archives: Bray Wyatt

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

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

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

•••

So we’re starting with a steel cage?

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

And Chris Jericho?

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho

AND Bray Wyatt?

RAW 090814 Bray Wyatt Family

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

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

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

…COMMERCIAL BREAK.

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

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho steel cage

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

Hulu time: 7:26

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

•••

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler

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

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

RAW 090814 The Miz

And with a razor.

RAW 090814 The Miz 2

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

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow 2

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

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler 2

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

•••

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

RAW 090814 Paul Heyman

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

 

RAW 090814 John Cena Paul Heyman

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

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

 

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

•••

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

RAW 090814 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

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

•••

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

SETH ROLLINS vs. United States Champion SHEAMUS

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

COMMERCIAL BREAK

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

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title

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

Hulu time: 4:25

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title 2

•••

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

•••

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns

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

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

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

Chris Masters

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

•••

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

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

•••

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

RANDY ORTON vs. ROMAN REIGNS

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

COMMERCIAL BREAK

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

Hulu time: 9:17

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *

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

RAW 090814 Seth Rollins Randy Orton Kane

•••

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

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

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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

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

JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. CESARO

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 5:43

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

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

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

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

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

•••

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

BO DALLAS vs. R-TRUTH

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

Time: 1:48

•••

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

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

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

Time: 0:18

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

•••

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

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

KANE & SETH ROLLINS vs. DEAN AMBROSE

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

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

Time: 6:39

Technical Merit: Not great, but far from terrible.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

WWE.com
WWE.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 9:54

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

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

•••

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

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

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

Time: 2:28

•••

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

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

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER

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

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

SmackDown 080114 The Miz
WWE.com

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

Time: 3:57

Technical Merit: Smooth. Usual spots executed well.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get on with it!”

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

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

Main Event 061714 Dean Ambrose

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

•••

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

Main Event 061714 Russia Mount Rushmore Rusev

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

Santino arrives to interrupt, but not for long.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. SANTINO MARELLA

Superkick, Accolade, done.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Santino Accolade

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

Main Event 061714 Rusev Lana Russia

Time: 0:24

•••

Main Event 061714 Luke Harper Bray Wyatt Family

Oh yeah, the Wyatt Family is here.

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

Main Event 061714 Naomi Paige

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

Time: 5:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 061714 Bray Wyatt Jimmy Uso

That’s how you end a match.

Time: 11:38

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox

Her opponent? I could do without.

ALICIA FOX vs. NIKKI BELLA

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

Time: 3:40

Technical Merit: Basic, but clean at least.

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

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox 2

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

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

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger

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

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

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

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger Zeb Colter

Time: 8:16

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

WWE Payback review: John Cena and Bray Wyatt actually have a great match, The Shield has it almost too easy against Evolution, and Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella waste our time

WWE Payback seemed destined for two fates — it would go as expected and be the biggest flop of the year, or it would be one of those “diamond in the rough” shows we’d talk about for years to come.

The actual result? Somewhere in between.

Matches that could’ve been terrible were OK. Matches that could’ve been OK kind of sucked. The odds-on favorite to become Match of the Year became just another good rematch and wasn’t even the Match of the Night. And, of course, John Cena won (LOL), but he and Bray Wyatt also stole the show.

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

Expectations were quite low for the semi-main event. After all, Wyatt and Cena’s first two special-event matches had flickers of potential but usually kind of flamed out. Cena fell just short of becoming the “monster” Wyatt implored him to be (and the one we wanted) at WrestleMania, and Extreme Rules was kind of a mess with a gimmicky finish involving Cena being scared of a little kid. OK matches, but not great.

With the help of Luke HarperErick Rowan and The Usos, who actually took over the focus of the match for a few minutes with some great spots, this match found the sweet spot. Harper superplexing an Uso through two tables onto the floor — a move that seemed to protect the recipient more than the aggressor — is the image that will stick in my mind most. That and Cena actually finding a kinda-sorta cool way to win one of these things that didn’t involve duct tape. Instead, he hit the AA on Wyatt from a production table onto/though an empty storage container, then dumped a presumably full one on top. Typical sneaky Cena? Yes. But one based in some sort of wrestling logic.

The only problem here? It felt like the same ol’, same ol’ with Cena winning again, and Wyatt needs to come out on top in this angle. Wyatt needs the rub of overtaking the great, superhuman John Cena to add to his list of evil accomplishments … because who cares about him if he can’t back up what he says? Yes, he defeated the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the Royal Rumble, but a lot of fans barely remember it … if they do, it was because it added to the “burial” of Daniel Bryan. Cena could recover from losing this war. Wyatt? I’m not entirely sure.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cena, Cena

Match expectations: *-*1/2

Technical Merit: Having solid workers involved in the periphery enhanced the “wrestling” feel. And Cena and Wyatt have always known how to bring it … they just didn’t until Sunday.

Artistic Impression: A great story in a vacuum that loses a bit of luster in the grand scheme of WWE with the finish.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2 (Match of the Night)

•••

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

Meanwhile, the main event felt like a match that tried oh so hard to live up to the hype, but fell just short.

It would’ve been hard for The Shield and Evolution to follow up their four-star match at Extreme Rules anyway, but Cena and Wyatt actually made it a bit more difficult. On a show that felt far more “extreme” than Extreme Rules last month, the semi-main seemed to take a lot of the best spots. We had Seth Rollins leaping off the stage near the bottom of the Titantron, but that just felt like his rail dive at Extreme Rules from a flashier takeoff point. We did get a bunch of kendo stick shots, which was cool. But we also had a match that felt like it dragged on FOREVER, and not in a “this match is epic” way. It went nearly 31 minutes — about 27 before any eliminations, even though this was an elimination tag match — and they spent so much time outside the ring beating each other down or setting up spots that it just felt like a brawl that would never end.

Then there’s the whole, shall we say, inconsistency of it all.

As soon as the bell rang, all six men paired off and went at it for a few minutes. After that, all of a sudden, it looked like any other six-man tag, with rules and everything! Then everybody went back outside for a day and a half, and when their moms told them to come back home, it was a tornado tag to the finish. It was just … odd … and it really took away from the match. I need logic, people!

Then there was, well, the finish.

Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall at the end to end a show? That’s all well and good. Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall after defeating one of the greatest factions in history last month, then SWEEPING an elimination rematch? That makes no sense either. I know this is supposed to be a quick feud, with Batista leaving to go do semi-movie-star things, it’s already starting to get a little stale and The Shield needed to come out on top at the end. But 3-0 against a group that averages 10 world titles per man? Though it helps The Shield immensely to go over that strong, it raises a couple questions: What exactly was the point of reforming Evolution? And what was the point of this angle if it was going to be so one-sided?

It’s a good thing Payback felt like the end of the line for two major rivalries, because I would probably just skip the rubber match of this one.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Evolution (via swerve), Shield (clean)

Match expectations: ****1/2

Technical Merit: Did they even really wrestle? No. But what they did perform was smooth.

Artistic Impression: Great story if you’re a Shield mark. If you want a little epicness to your six-man main-event rivalry, it certainly left a few things to be desired.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

***

It would almost be better to skip the Daniel Bryan Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon part, but that would do the reader a greater disservice than the aforementioned did by subjecting us to the crap we saw. Nobody cares about Brie … except maybe the fangirls on social media who actually are worried she’s gone for good. You know, since she plays such a vital role in Total Divas. Steph has been the company’s best heel for a while now, but she reverted back to her naggy, annoying self that wanted me to launch my coffee table through the TV screen. But she was right about one thing.

Daniel Bryan comes off as a selfish champion.

You worked so hard for this title? Yay! Want a cookie? That doesn’t mean you can just be world champion if you can’t wrestle. You even told the fans last week they deserve an awesome, fighting champion, and you can’t wrestle right now. You don’t even feel like part of the show anymore, though the injury and bereavement were out of your control. You seem to be a man who respects the past — you know, back when you had to give up the title if you couldn’t defend it for 30 days — yet you don’t give a timetable for a return and use the fans as an excuse for not obeying, even though you’re entitled to a rematch upon your return. Jack Tunney would not have stood for this!

Yet all this wouldn’t be a problem if you could do ANYTHING on the mic.

When Daniel Bryan is angry, he can be at least an above-average promo man. Any other time, Bryan looks and sounds like a nervous seventh-grader trying to impress his friends, and he’s been at his worst over the past week. It’s the inflection. It’s the goofy face he makes when he’s trying to act cool. It’s the fact that he doesn’t even say anything in the same area code as profound. It’s the fact that his wife, who would be kicked off an adult film set for her lack of acting skills, fights his battles for him.

And this, my friends, is your world champion? He can keep the belts, but we don’t have a champion anymore.

•••

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cesaro (DQ), Cesaro

Match expectations: **1/2-***1/2

Technical Merit: A good, solid fight within the confines of a wrestling match. A couple new things, and no glaring mistakes.

Artistic Impression: Champ has to find any way to retain. How all title matches should be.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

This set the tone for the night, and it sent the message that this night would be better than expected. Having these men lead off was smart, as was putting them in a match in the first place. The buildup was odd, with it centering around a rejected handshake, but they delivered when it was time. Many complained about the finish, but since WWE opted to go clean, this was the right move. Plus, it’s wrestling, people! You can be in total control of a match, but at any time, you can just get caught with your shoulders down and that’s it. It missed the double turn that seemed so obvious and desired, but it was fine nonetheless.

The problem going forward is where they’ll go with Cesaro, who clearly is failing to tread water with Paul Heyman.

Before Heyman, Cesaro not only could win the U.S. title, but also hold it for months. He could win 30-man battle royals. He could push Cena to the brink and defeat Randy Orton. With Heyman, he seems to lose more often than he wins, and sometimes even Jack Swagger can get the best of him with a well-timed run-in. Heyman’s stock is dropping, as well, with only one thing to talk about. I think you know what that is. Pull the trigger, split them up, and give Paul E. a break until Brock Lesnar‘s ready to come back.

•••

What’s better than wrestling? Bonus wrestling! What’s better than bonus wrestling? Bonus wrestling with Cody Rhodes and Goldust!

THE BROTHERHOOD vs. RYBAXEL (late addition to the card)

Technical Merit: A little botchy here and there, but decent. Great tag-team wrestling.

Artistic Impression: It advances Cody’s losing streak and his rift with Dustin, and it establishes Curtis Axel and Ryback as a halfway-decent pair.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

This was the Cody Rhodes story, and he delivered. Except for that moonsault where he slipped and looked like he was about to cripple himself. People want to see Cody face Goldust. Hell, Cody and Goldust want it! They’ve started to build toward it, though Cody simply telling Dustin he needs a better tag team partner is a different way to go about it, and hopefully they let it happen. And hopefully it’ll be at SummerSlam and not some Main Event or Superstars in July. With how they’ve treated The Brotherhood after losing the tag titles, anything is unfortunately possible.

•••

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana
RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Rusev udrea, Rusev machka

Match expectations: *1/2

Technical Merit: Good big-man match that cut a quick pace at times.

Artistic Impression: The problem was it was a little quick, and the buildup couldn’t make us care.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

This was filler, though decent filler. I hoped for the match I received, though it could’ve gone a couple minutes longer and been even better. The spot where Big E. speared Rusev onto the floor was one you usually see from a couple smaller guys, but not 589 total pounds of mass. They could go again and it would be OK, or they could feed someone else to Rusev. Preferably someone not black, unless the rumored Nation of Domination reboot actually happens.

•••

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Barrett, Barrett

Match expectations: *3/4-**

Technical Merit: Same old stuff from RVD. It didn’t seem choppy or botchy, though I kind of stopped paying attention.

Artistic Impression: Even Barrett couldn’t make the story worthwhile.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

I’m with Barrett: Rob Van Dam is Old Yeller, had a dog skated by on his past accomplishments, and needs to be put down. He’s been wrestling the same match for more than a decade, with the only change being who wins. Either way, his top-rope moves hurt himself more than his opponents, and his “educated feet” are less believable than Brie’s acting. He didn’t even set up Barrett all that well because we had to have the same old “Rob … Van … Dam” spots. Barrett deserves better, and we deserve better. Give us some good news, and give Bad News an opponent who’s worth a damn.

•••

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, Divas Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Paige, Paige. Champ finishes 4-for-6, Wifey 5-for-6.

Match Expectations: *1/2-**1/2

Technical Merit: If you like backbreakers and botches, you came to the right place.

Artistic Impression: Alicia is going somewhere with the new character. This match just didn’t go with it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

This felt like all their prior matches, only less crisp. Add that to the fact that we finally saw what women’s wrestling could be Thursday night, and this contest never had a chance. It didn’t have the atmosphere (thank you, Chicago, for that), and it didn’t have the usual skill and attention to detail associated with their prior encounters. It failed to click from the outset, and it never recovered.

None of this is helping Paige one bit.

Though well respected by anyone who watched NXT, to anyone else Paige seems like some kid who came in, got lucky and won the title. Casual fans haven’t warmed up to her, and after being conditioned to believe women’s matches are time to go No. 1, they don’t really get a reason to stick around when she’s paired with the likes of Tamina or Alicia, who have been relegated to typical Divas punchlines for years. Paige needs help badly. Whether it’s with a couple well-placed NXT callups, or simply an angle with Natalya or Emma, who can work well with her and put on a great match (see Paige-Emma at NXT ArRIVAL for an example), it needs to happen quickly, or Paige will be damaged goods at 21.

What did you think of Payback? How did it stack up to NXT Takeover? Where does WWE go from here? Let me know below or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Payback predictions: What will Daniel Bryan do with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Who will make the difference in the Evolution vs. The Shield main event? Will Sheamus finally turn heel? And will John Cena actually lose to Bray Wyatt again?

Are you excited for WWE Payback? Neither am I. The first impression of the six-match card (I refuse to count the El Torito vs. Hornswoggle atrocity again) is it’s the same old stuff as Extreme Rules, only with slightly different stipulations. On paper, knowing WWE’s general tendency toward “safe” booking in pay-per-views (John Cena wins, LOL, etc.), it’s destined to disappoint.

… or is it?

Besides Rusev vs. Big E., in which I hear the winner gets the blonde and other part of his name back, the matches have potential to build things going forward, when hopefully Money In The Bank provides a fresh set of rivalries. Outside of the ring, the entire summer could hinge on a stupid storyline that involves Daniel Bryan having to decide between the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wife Brie Bella‘s job.

I don’t know which is worse: The so-called “smart” fans who think Bryan should keep the title even if he can’t compete AND believe this is his only shot with the belts, or the ones who think Brie would legitimately be fired if Bryan chooses to remain champion. Brie will take some time off, maybe a few months or so, then come back when either somebody else is in charge on TV or wins a match (maybe against Stephanie McMahon?) to “regain” employment. Bryan, whose neck surgery went smoothly, will keep the belts, setting up for what appears to be a Buried Alive match against Kane at MITB and a possible old-school nod to Glenn Jacobs as he rides into the sunset. Brie will get a few parting shots on Steph, setting the stage for somewhere down the line.

On to tonight’s actual wrestling. The matches are placed in order of WWE.com’s predictions piece, with the exception of the first one here.

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana

RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ’s pick: Rusev

Wifey’s pick: Rusev

This one’s simple. The company is high on the Bulgarian Russian brute, and the fans are high on his blonde valet (or at least her legs). Big E. is almost damaged goods at this point on the main shows — the wife picked Rusev because the burial of Big E. will continue — and they won’t let him stand in the way of the next monster heel du jour. Whether this push pays off, or whether he’s Vladimir Kozlov or Lord Tensai for a new generation, remains to be seen.

Match potential: *1/2

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, WWE Divas Championship

Champ’s pick: Paige

Wifey’s pick: Paige

A lot of people think Foxy will go over here, considering her momentum and the fact that Paige still kind of feels like a placeholder on the main roster after dominating NXT. Fox may be the most entertaining women’s wrestler in years because her character is absolutely nuts, and it helps that she is athletic enough to actually put on a decent match. But at the same time, wouldn’t it be a better display for now for her to get pinned (or tap to the modified scorpion crosslock) and start a one-person riot? Her tantrum would be better television than her celebration. Also, Paige needs to win a solid special event pay-per-view match to be taken seriously by a lot of casual fans, who have been suckered into believing the “Divas” division is the Bella Twins and some show on E! Network. Give them 5 minutes and it’ll feel like RAW. Give them 10, and this could be a good one.

Match potential: *1/2-**1/2

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ’s pick: Cesaro (via DQ)

Wifey’s pick: Cesaro

This could be the most predictable, yet most necessary, double turn in years. The question is how, and how well, they pull it off. Cesaro, who received a babyface reaction at WrestleMania XXX after winning the Real Americans breakup and winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, immediately returned to being a heel the next night, when he became a Paul Heyman Guy. Sheamus, meanwhile, is the second stalest face in the company, which is a shame because his initial heel run actually became believable toward the end. Common sense dictates they reverse roles and have upward mobility. Cesaro and Heyman as a whole are less than the sum of the parts, and though it would seem rash to split this soon, it needs to happen in the very near future. Sheamus, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit in the grand scope of tonight’s main event (more on that later). No matter the booking, the in-ring work will be solid. Cesaro is the best pure professional wrestler in the company, and Sheamus’ work is great when he is motivated and has the right dance partner. This match will be better than it sounds, and both men will be protected.

Match potential: **1/2-***1/2

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT, Last Man Standing Match

Champ’s pick: Cena (LOL)

Wifey’s pick: Cena (LOL)

This is the rubber match, and Heel Booking 101 says Wyatt should get the decisive victory. But … this is John Cena we’re talking about. He’s lost stipulation matches before, but not many. Even when he’s weakened, he’ll do something like duct-tape an opponent’s feet to the posts so he can’t get up, which is the problem with a superhuman type of gimmick that must be protected at all times. Other men can lose matches and it’s all good … go get ’em next month. And, actually, Cena is the type of guy right now who would be hurt the least with a defeat here and there. But creative doesn’t seem to get that just yet. Cena should be Hollywood Hulk Hogan in 2002, having matches with top-tier talent and, if necessary, losing to a future superstar to give the ultimate rub. That should be what happens tonight, but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be the match where Cena’s character finally changes after nearly a decade — he reverts to winning by any means necessary, or hits that extra gear as a ruthless competitor — but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be where Bray Wyatt finally gets the upper hand, breaks Cena and moves on to the next victim, but I honestly don’t have much faith. The match could be brutal, but it won’t. It could live up to the hype of the three months or so worth of promos, but it won’t. It could at least be worthwhile to watch? But it probably won’t. These men can work magic on the mic … but not in the 20-by-20 box.

Match potential: *-*1/2

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ’s pick: Barrett

Wifey’s pick: Barrett

It seems like WWE is high on Barrett … this time. This man has undergone so many starts and stops that it’s actually surprising he’s been able to maintain enough momentum with his “Bad News” run as a cool heel. That’s also a testament to how charismatic and talented he is. Being Intercontinental Champion would do so much more for him than RVD, a washed-up part-timer who hasn’t had a mildly entertaining match in nearly a decade. You want this championship to mean something again, WWE? Keep it in Barrett’s hands for a few months, give him some worthwhile competition and build the champion and the championship. I think that’s what they’ll do here. After all, what’s the point of a tournament if the winner holds the belt for a few weeks? We’ll see the same old stuff from Van Dam, because he’s literally incapable of innovation or development, and Barrett will find a new and exciting way to hit the Bullhammer for the win.

Match potential: *3/4-**

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

THE SHIELD (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) vs. EVOLUTION (Batista, Randy Orton, Triple H), No Holds Barred Elimination Match

Champ’s pick: Evolution (via swerve)

Wifey’s pick: The Shield

This has the potential to be the WWE’s Match of the Year (non-NXT division). All six men here know how to tell a story, and they told a pretty good one at Extreme Rules last month. This will be brutal. This will be epic. And this will have a development that sets the tone for the rest of the year. Batista needs to go be Marvel movie promoter, which means Evolution won’t be in its current incarnation the next time we see them. Evolution also needs to win one of these battles, or else the rivalry is all for naught. A little too basic with the Even Steven booking? Yes. But why bring back the best faction of an era to go out and lose every time? That’s why Evolution will win the battle via some unsavory means.

Match potential: ***-*****

This is where Sheamus comes in.

One of the most popular topics on social media, besides whether and when CM Punk will return, whether Bryan should remain champion if he can’t wrestle and which NXT talent should come up next, is what will happen with Evolution moving forward. Will they just disband without Dave, or will they replace him? What route will they take?

All signs point toward Reigns and Trips squaring off down the line, potentially at SummerSlam, and Rollins is better off as a face, which would leave only Ambrose to possibly “adapt” and join Evolution via swerve. But why do that at a B-level pay-per-view? Something that changes the whole landscape of the promotion is best saved for a major show. What you do have is a babyface midcard champion who would need major character rehab to return to the main event, is far better suited as a heel and probably can rock a suit. Oh, and he’s shown he can beat The Shield by defeating Ambrose in a battle royal for the U.S. title.

Would Sheamus complete the past-present-future premise of the original Evolution? No, but he’s more present than past, unlike Batista. And if they wanted to go future, they could always add someone out of left field who can talk and get it done in the ring to maintain the legacy of the stable.

Which reminds me … have you seen Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes anywhere on the card?

The Champ works Sunday nights, so he won’t be watching live. He will, however, have a complete recap Monday morning after burning some midnight oil, so check back then.

 

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

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

•••

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

Oh, now it’s Trips’ turn to talk!

RAW 052614 Triple H

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

RAW 052614 Brad Maddox

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

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

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

RAW 052614 Daniel Bryan

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

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

RAW 052614 Stephanie McMahon

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

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

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

•••

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

What’s a little less played out?

Bray Wyatt’s sermon of the week

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

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

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

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

RAW 052614 Bray Wyatt Jerry Lawler

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

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

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

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

•••

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

RAW 052614 Batista

RAW 052614 Randy Orton

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

RANDY ORTON & BATISTA vs. CODY RHODES & GOLDUST

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

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

Hulu Plus time: 6:57

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

RAW 052614 Shield Evolution contract

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

RAW 052614 Roman Reigns

Five signs of a contract signing going awry

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

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

Also, Roman Reigns alert, ladies.

RAW 052614 Roman Reigns 2

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

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

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

WWE RAW London review (May 19): Luke Harper steals the show, Stephanie McMahon trolls Europe and Seth Rollins actually has a bad match. (Thanks, Batista!)

*RAW intro cuts out, goes right into sing-along time*

We’re sharing something right now, something real. I want you to share this with me, brothers and sisters. Sing with me!

*more sing-along time*

Every night, we lay our heads down to dream. And that’s when our minds really start to tick. We start remembering these things, these horrible things, these travesties that have happened to us in our lives. But in our dreams, we’re superheroes, and in our dreams, we can fix everything. We dream of revenge, we dream of payback. Just like that, man. Just like that, we wake up. And that’s when reality starts to set in. That’s when we go to the mirror and we look in it, and we remember that we are not superheroes. We cannot fix everything. And so we bottle all of this rage up inside of us, and we go on living our dismal little lives as if nothing is wrong. Everything, everything, everything is wrong! And I plan to fixing that. You see, I used to have this mean old teacher and this teacher, she used to look down upon me and she went to great measures to make sure that I remembered that I was a piece of trash, and that I would never amount to anything in my life. She believed that everything she read in a book was true and everything I believed in was a lie. So I went up to her and I said, “Miss teacher lady, what is it about you that makes you think you’re so much better than me? That makes you think you’re so much smarter than me. Is it because your mommy and daddy paid for you to go to some fancy school so that you could wave this diploma around all of us, so that you could look down upon children and forcefeed them propaganda? Well I say, ‘Nuh-uh.'” She looked at me and she said, “Bray Wyatt, you are rotten. You stand for nothing.” She said, “Bray Wyatt, the first time that I ever looked inside of your eyes, I knew there was something inside of you. I knew that you were evil.” But I’m proud to say that right now, somewhere, that teacher lady is rotting inside of some retirement home, filled up with her life’s regrets. But I, Bray Wyatt, stand in front of you today as a conqueror! As a revolutionary! As the man of 1,000 truths! And I say, Miss Teacher Lady, look at me right now! I got the whole damn world in my hands!

RAW 051914 Bray Wyatt

That is my payback. My ends justify my means. But Miss Teacher Lady, she was right about one thing. I am evil. I am the necessary evil that must exist in this world to balance everything out. I am evil. My tongue is the scorpion’s tail, and when it starts striking, people start getting behind me. People start getting behind me because I offer them hope. Offer them hope to men like John Cena that want to see everything die. John Cena, he hides behind that plastic smile. He plays the role of hero, while everything around him burns. Well I promise … at Payback, all my people, at Payback, I promise you this fairy tale is going to end! I promise you, at Payback, I will be the last man standing, or I promise no one will ever stand again!

*Cena interrupts, isolates Wyatt and hits the AA. LOL.*

Is it just me, or does Bray Wyatt feel like the babyface here? He’s not the one the people want to see defeated. He’s just the one people want to see. They want to see him blow out the lantern, then inexplicably come out with — guess what? — a fully-lit lantern. They want to hear him sing. They want to hear him tell them what’s wrong with them. They want to hear him tell them what’s wrong with his opponent. They want to hear him tell them he’s a god, and that he will make everything better. They want to see him crabwalk across the ring. They want him to creep everyone the hell out. They want him to win.

On the other side of the coin, Cena’s the one people want to see lose … yet again. But that’s old hat. What’s new? He’s giving like four people a rub right now. (There’s no saving Erick Rowan.) Wyatt is approaching the stratosphere. The Usos are working main events with him in the ring in his corner. And Luke Harper, an underrated big man, takes him 1-on-1 in the Match of the Night.

JOHN CENA (w/The Usos) vs. LUKE HARPER (w/Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan)

Can we get Kurt Angle to return to face Cena, just so we can have the fans chant about how both guys suck during their entrances? Not a whole lot going on before commercial, but Harper’s in control when we get back. Harper successfully counters two of Cena’s Five Moves of Doom, including a belly-to-back with the impact directly on Cena’s left shoulder. Make that three counters when the AA turns into an escape and a faceplant. HURRICANRANA, DROPKICK, SUICIDE DIVE. Throw it down, big man!

RAW 051914 Luke Harper

Cena counters a corner charge because EVERYBODY does now. The tornado DDT, however, was a nice touch. CENACANRANA, but Harper pops back up and hits a superkick that makes Shawn Michaels jealous. You know, unless he’s kicking Shelton Benjamin.

HBK Shelton Benjamin

Harper hits a torture rack neckbreaker (it’s as cool as it sounds) for 2. He waits, gets some approval from Bray, and walks into a Cena clothesline. Harper rolls out of Cena’s grasp, but Cena rolls through and locks in a more effective STF than last week. Rowan hits the apron, but takes a kick from one of the tag champs for his effort. Wyatt hits Sister Abigail on both Usos, and Harper hits the Michinoku Driver on Cena for 2. Cena finally hits the AA, but Rowan is successful with this run-in for the DQ. A third Sister Abigail is reserved for Cena afterward, then after a Harper whip into a Rowan fallaway slam on the stage, Bray serves up a fourth on the stage. Sing-along time, featuring a Harper 10 count, finishes it off.

Hulu Plus time: 9:30

Technical Merit: Harper can go, and Cena gave him the vehicle to do so.

Artistic Impression: Harper as the subordinate to Wyatt was the theme. And Cena could barely handle Wyatt’s No. 2. Not a good look for him going into Payback.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

So, let me get this straight: The fans really thought Daniel Bryan would get neck surgery Thursday in Pittsburgh, hop on a TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT and show up on RAW four days later in London? You’re putting the “mark” in smark there, London. On the bright side, Stephanie McMahon‘s troll hand is WAY strong.

RAW 051914 Stephanie McMahon

RAW 051914 Angry fan

Bryan is our champion, and he’ll fight his way back to active duty, but since we need an active champion, she’s afraid she’s got some … Bad News Barrett mini-montage? The UK fans eat it up … until Steph breaks out a worse accent than even mine and goes full gimmick infringement. She’s contemplating stripping Bryan of the title … and giving it to Kane? *boos* Barrett? *cheers* “You like that, right, because he’s from the UK? You’re so predictable.” Batista? *boos* Triple H? *CM punk chants* Actually, nevermind. She’s not taking the title away … yet. She’ll wait until next week for him to give it up himself.

The odd thing here is the conspicuous “crowd softening” toward the end of the segment. Apparently the crowd was HOT for CM Punk, but the production truck decided that wasn’t kosher. They were hot against Steph, too, so it makes no sense to drown out the crowd noise and inadvertently make it seem like nobody cares what the best heel in the company (Yeah, I said it) has to say. That was weak.

Also weak: The fans who STILL act like Bryan is being buried here if he gets stripped of the title … due to an injury. We’ll obviously know more next week, when he presumably shows up, but it sounds like he could be out 2-3 months. If that’s the case, he can’t wrestle. If he can’t wrestle, he can’t defend the title. If he can’t defend it, he shouldn’t have it. When he comes back, he’ll have a chance to get it back. RELAX, PEOPLE. 

•••

First impression: Roman Reigns‘ eye looks jacked up.

RAW 051914 The Shield

“Nine stitches … is that all you got?”

Second impression: I’m getting a distinct Jesse Pinkman vibe from Dean Ambrose during that promo. All that was missing were a few “Yo”s and a “bitch!” or two.

Third impression: Wasn’t a fan of Seth Rollins’ effort. Seemed a little … whiny? Especially after Reigns actually needed medical treatment and basically asked for more. Maybe I missed the point. But he gets a shot to make amends.

SETH ROLLINS vs. BATISTA

Evolution are taking production into their own hands here. Trips is the guest ring announcer — with taped fists, no less — and Randy Orton is the guest timekeeper. Rollins counters with some special guests of his own to, in Trips’ words, “make the match as big as possible.” This means we get Ambrose and Reigns on commentary, since there conveniently are a couple extra headsets. Orton does his job effectively, at least to start. Ambrose informs us Raw GM Brad Maddox allowed The Shield to do theirs. Go ask him! He’s in the training room. Why? Reigns: “I put him there.” The commentary makes up for the fact that Batista decided not to show up for this one. When people tweet about how you look “extremely bad” as opposed to just bad, that’s not a good thing. Luckily he has Rollins bumping around for him to try to salvage something. Dave apparently didn’t know the Blockbuster was coming. It’s not THAT hard to take a bump, though AJ Styles would disagree. Batista quickly improves his selling technique, and Orton quickly improves his interference technique. Batista hits the spinebuster to a few yawns (no, really … I yawned there), but takes a boot to counter the spear and the knee off the top rope. Triple H shows off his interference prowess, which is enough for Ambrose and Reigns to get physical. Rollins finally tries to get involved, but his dive meets Triple H’s fist, and the match gets thrown out.

Hulu Plus time: 8:13

Technical Merit: You’re only as good as your dance partner.

Artistic Impression: This was all story. Too bad it was all out of the ring.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

That was a waste of time. The outside elements took away from the match, but it was the match’s fault. The overbooking actually was fun, but Batista was TERRIBLE and Rollins couldn’t save it. It’s especially glaring when there’s not really much wrestling on the show (well, the Hulu Plus version anyway). Three Beat the Clock matches, a decent main event, and this one? The wrestling was not strong in this one.

Oh well, at least we have NXT, right?

What did you think of RAW? UK fans: How was the experience? Comment below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18. And don’t forget to come back Wednesday for the Midcard Report.