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WWE Main Event review (Sept. 16): Ziggler vs. Miz (w/stunt doubles), Big E. vs. Rollins

There’s no RAW review this week, and there probably won’t be for a while. You put together a crappy show, the fans will refuse to watch. The ratings, apparently, already prove this. I might even skip Night of Champions in protest. Hell, I skipped Battleground and survived.

There also won’t be a Midcard Report, The Champ’s most “over” offering, this week. Why? To cleanse the palate.

I didn’t watch RAW for the reasons above, but plenty of people did. As a result, WWE needs something to help these unfortunate fans try to forget. With Main Event almost always being at least halfway decent, we’re running an ME review early, with Superstars later in the week.

•••

Of course, with Main Event, we start with wrestling. And we start with the Intercontinental Champion! We also start with … multiple jobber identity crises.

Main Event 091614 Dolph Ziggler R-Truth R-Ziggler
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless otherwise noted.

Yes, a choreographed, staged athletic simulation has not one, but now two, stunt doubles. On the bright side, we have Damien Sandow Mizdow in a rivalry involving the Intercontinental title. However, not sure I can handle guys like Sandow and R-Truth, who can both do some decent work in the ring, being gimmicky copycats because they apparently can’t get over on their own.

Main Event 091614 The Miz Damien Mizdow Sandow 2 Main Event 091614 The Miz Damien Mizdow Sandow 3

If this match works, it’ll be in spite of, not because of, this whole “stunt double” bit.

Intercontinental Champion DOLPH ZIGGLER & “R-ZIGGLER” vs. THE MIZ & “DAMIEN MIZDOW”

At 3:15, I’m finally able to get the “stunt double” rant out of the system and try to “CALL THE DAMN MATCH!” Sandow hits a lariat on Dolph and tags to Miz. Miz commits gimmick infringement on Ziggler (you know, more than there already is in this match), but Dolph regroups, goes for the superkick, knowing Miz will duck, and rolls him up. Miz kicks out and tags, and the stunt double eats the dropkick. Sandow much better at this wrestling thing than his boss, and he gets the advantage heading into the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK, tries to take this match seriously

We’re back at 5:35, and Miz locks in the vicioius Cleveland Nose Hook while riding Ziggler. Unfortunately, the CNH is illegal, so he resorts to a headlock. Dolph side suplexes out, and the stunt doubles tag in. Truth with the Stinger Splash, then a series of punches in the corner. Miz creates a distraction on the apron, and Sandow gets aggressive. Miz wails on Ziggler from the floor, and eventually tags in. Knee to the dome and a cover.  Front facelock at 8 minutes as Michael Cole reels off some of the IC lineage. I’m sure this is a high point right now. Miz releases the hold to have a go at Ziggler, which simply allows Truth to hit a back bodydrop. Tag to Sandow, and he’s back on the offensive. Chinlock time, and Truth strikes his way out. Reaches for the tag, but a drop toehold, a drag and a tag to Miz.

Meanwhile, Ziggler can’t wait to get a shot at Miz, and apparently Truth decides he’ll get some shots in. Running corner lariat, though, from Miz, then a weak axe-handle sort of thing from the top. Front facelock again, then the tag to Sandow. Vertical suplex and cover at the 11-minute mark. Series of knees to the head and chest, powerful whip into the corner, and he looks like he’s going for a slowed-down version of that running lariat, but Truth cuts him off in the middle. Hot tag to Ziggler at 12:15.

Splash/neckbreaker combo caps the initial surge. Fame Asser blocked, and Miz hits half the Reality Check. Backslide , cover and reset, and Ziggler’s second attempt is successful for a 2 count. After some angry deliberation, a front facelock from Ziggler. Skull-Crushing Finale is blocked. Figure Four blocked into a cradle, and Ziggler goes for the DDT. Miz blocks, but Truth gets the blind tag. Miz tosses Ziggler out, and Truth hits the DDT, but Sandow breaks up the cover. Damien knees Dolph off the apron. Truth appears to botch the Zig Zag on Sandow, and Miz, the legal man, hits the Finale to triumph.

Main Event 091614 The Miz

Time: 14:03

Technical Merit: Ziggler and Sandow are great wrestlers, so that part was good. Miz does enough to get by. Truth didn’t really appear to know what he was doing at the end, and he was the recipient of a lot of rest holds. He also looked pretty blown out well before the end. It won’t sound that way in the next paragraph, but this was a good match.

Artistic Impression: I like that the Intercontinental Championship has a story line. I don’t like the “double stunt double” bit. It kind of made sense for Sandow, who was imitating people anyway, and it’s funny because he’s better than Miz. But why the hell does Dolph Ziggler, the best salesman/stuntman in the company, need a stunt double? Just let R-Truth come out as himself and an insurance policy.

TOTAL SCORE: **

•••

Renee Young asks Seth Rollins whether losing to Roman Reigns on RAW is a “setback”. Rollins raises the briefcase and, namedropping Dean Ambrose‘s disappearance, etc., scoffs at this idea.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins

He’ll use brain over brawn to beat Big E., then his brain will tell his foot to curbstomp Reigns’s dome into any surface that suits his purpose Sunday.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 2

His purpose appears to either involve not enough hygiene or too much. He’s on the Bo Dallas Hair Hydration System, and he’s a few weeks away from the Edge Is Back Beard. Seriously, that man had facial hair blessed by the Canadian gods themselves when he had time to grow it.

Unfortunately, we have to wait for that match, because it’s Brie Mode now. Yay. Consider the clear stolen gimmick from Marshawn Lynch‘s Beast Mode to Brie Mode, this is yet another reason to hate the Seattle Seahawks. You know, besides the ones their fans give you already. 

Main Event 091614 Brie Bella

This makes me unhappy. This also means promo time with Nikki Bella. And the term “voluptuous derriere.”

Main Event 091614 Nikki Bella Renee Young

Besides that actually awesome line, can this get worse?

Oh yes. Yes. It. Can.

Main Event 091614 Cameron

BRIE BELLA vs. CAMERON

Brie works the arm at :45, showing some semblance of wrestling. A clumsy-ass drop turns into a half-crab, which is escaped pretty easily. Cameron uses the rope as an impact weapon … Brie sells it … and Cameron covers. Properly, this time.

Weak headlock, cover, painful-looking suplex, then the legdrop cover. Again, properly this time as Cameron informs us, “Yeah, I know!”

Main Event 091614 Brie Bella Cameron

Girl, you didn’t know a day before, and it’s your damn job!

cagesideseats.com
cagesideseats.com

Yeah, I’ll count that. I’ll count it as another reason to mock your stupid ass until you mericfully get future endeavored.

Brie with a semi-decent lariat and some short dropkicks at about 3:00. Then that stupid “BRIE MODE!!!” leads into a missile dropkick. Cameron appears to set up “Girl, Bye,” but Brie hits the X-Factor for the win. Considering Brie gets X-Pac heat in this house, that’s SO fitting.

Time: 3:53

Like one of the Divas matches last week, luckily the 5-minute rule applies here, because this was bad. They appear to try — well, Brie does, anyway — but it’s just not there. Cameron’s gotta go; her only benefit is pulling off the “racy schoolgirl” look … which basically EVERY WOMAN WITH A PLAID SKIRT can pull off.

Main Event 091614 Cameron 2

Brie does absolutely nothing for me from an in- or out-of-ring standpoint. At least she didn’t talk this time.

•••

JBL declared the main event would be a good one. We’ll see whether Big E. delivers; he certainly has the ability.

Main Event 091614 Big E

Rollins simply doesn’t have bad matches if he can actually do anything about it.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 3

On another note, THERE’S A FREAKING STING DVD SET COMING OUT NEXT WEEK. Finally.

BIG E. vs. SETH ROLLINS

Canned “You Sold Out!” chants about a half-second after the bell. Nobody actually cares about that anymore … you know, except the marks still hung up on The Shield. Big E. doesn’t care about that; he cares about winning the match, and Rollins isn’t pleased with the early proceedings.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 4

Rollins goes to the classic heel tactic of ducking through the ropes to get a break, then cheap-shotting his way to an advantage. That worked until Big E.’s shoulder and his right fist turn the tide. Shoulder charge to the midsection in the corner. Make that two. Vicious right into the corner, then Rollins hits three right elbows and goes for the suplex. Blocked twice, then Seth goes for the crossbody. Not so much. Big E. catches and hits a chain of three backbreakers before the cover. Rollins audibly calling spots … that one must’ve involved being knocked outside. Big E. bounces Seth’s head off the table, tosses him into a barricade, then presses him back in.

Seth’s springboard attempt blocked, but he does hit a face-first dive outside just before the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 7:00, and Rollins continues his control, this time in the ring. Chop block to the back of the knee, then he slaps on the headlock. Big E. powers out, but misses the lariat and eats a kick. After a cover, Seth locks in the vicious Double Ear Lock, then pulls Langston into the ropes. Kick, kneedrop, back to the headlock. Big E. powers out and knocks Rollins back-first into the corner twice, but Rollins reverses on the third attempt and charges in. After a reminder that brains beat brawn, brawn hits a uranage. Then a lariat of sorts. Then another. Then the belly-to-belly. Rollins hits a couple more kicks. But another belly-to-belly, and the Warrior splash for 2.

Both men down around 11:30. Rollins elbows Big E., dances around a bit, kicks Big E. from the apron, then TAKES THE SPEAR ONTO THE FLOOR. Big E. rolls Rollins back in, knocks him down, and ditches the straps. Big Ending? Nope, Rollins slips onto the apron. Kick, re-entry, duck the shoulder charge, then post Langston in the other corner. That sets up the Curbstomp. Done.

Main Event 091614 Seth Rollins 5

Time: 14:08

Technical Merit: This one was raved about on Twitter, and it was … OK. The style contrast helped, but it seemed a bit slow and repetitive at times. Then again, when did we last see Big E. go 14 minutes on TV? I know it’s been a while for me. Cool spot with the spear to the floor, but otherwise pretty average.

Artistic Impression: Even as Big E. built steam, there was never the feeling he would win the match, mainly because WWE is having Rollins go over on basically the entire midcard at this point. Cool to see, though, that Rollins can go in and work well with almost anyone, which will bode well when he carries a belt, instead of a briefcase, in the future.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

OK, so that wasn’t all that great either. But fear not, wrestling fans: This week’s episode of Ring of Honor (which will be reviewed Thursday) is apparently everything we’ve ever dreamed of, and there’s always WWE’s top show on Thursday. I’ll give you a hint: This guy is the top heel on the top show.

NXT Takeover2 Tyson Kidd 2You know, unless they’re slow-turning their champion. But hey, don’t you actually want to know what happens on NXT?

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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

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

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

And he decides on a lumberjack match.

Let me try that again.

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SETH ROLLINS

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 10:47

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

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

DEAN AMBROSE vs. RANDY ORTON

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 9:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

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

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Big Show Mark Henry

Time: 3:18

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Damien Sandow

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

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

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

Time: 1:52

SmackDown 080814 Sin Cara

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

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Natalya

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

NATALYA vs. PAIGE

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

SmackDown 080814 Paige

Time: 2:11

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

•••

Rusev udrea! Rusev machka!

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

BIG E. vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)

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

SmackDown 080814 Rusev Big E

Time: 1:52

•••

SmackDown 080814 Chris Jericho

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

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 (May 19-20): An impromptu Beat The Clock challenge rules, Adam Rose is boring, Summer Rae channels her inner porn star, and Paul Heyman and Cesaro need to split

If you haven’t watched any WWE programming this week, I’ll save you the headache: Just skip it. Read this and the RAW review and just move on.

I work nights at a newspaper, which means I watch shows the next day. The lone exception is NXT, which airs on one of my usual days off and is better than anything you’ll see from the main roster this week. (Get caught up on last week here.) When I get home at 1 a.m. (or 3, like last night) and wake up a few hours later to watch wrestling, I want it to be worthwhile. When it’s not, I’m cranky.

Fools better stay out of my way after the past two days.

•••

One bright spot in theory involves the Intercontinental Championship, which belongs to a man who was well-received in his home country and really should be well-received (or well booed) anywhere. He’s one of the most interesting men in wrestling right now.

Now, what makes the title even more interesting? A surprise Beat the Clock Challenge, of course! Six men, three matches, one hopefully suitable No. 1 contender. The first match? Not too bad!

BIG E. vs. RYBACK

This one’s interesting. Both men generally rely on their massive size advantage to create a boring match. When they’re both big, we might actually get to see some athleticism. The start was hot, then settles into a test of brute force. JBL drops a Barry Horowitz reference. Then a Steve Lombardi reference. Then clarifies that his loss to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25 took 23 seconds, not 17. Big spinebuster from Ryback at 3:45 to respond to Big E.’s belly-to-belly, then he hits the Meathook Clothesline for 2. And 2 again. And 2 again. Looks like a powerbomb attempt, but Big E. slips out, floors Ryback and Curtis Axel, and hits the Big Ending.

RAW 051914 Big E

Time: 5:02

Technical Merit: This was better than expected. Not great, but a decent little big-man match.

Artistic Impression: Ryback sold the clock element. Big E. was just there for the impressive, brief comeback.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Alberto Del Rio was bred to be a champion. The children deserve to have a role model like him as Intercontinental Champion. The future of the world depends on it. I thought that honor went to this guy.

Captain Planet

Remember, kids, the power doesn’t belong to ADR. THE POWER IS YOURS!

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. ROB VAN DAM

Two highlights with about 3:50 remaining: A Funaki sign somewhere on the 100 level of the O2 Arena, and ADR superkicking RVD as he tries to reenter the ring. Is RVD high right now? If not, he should be because he’s wrestling like crap. Let’s throw some clotheslines a 4-year-old wouldn’t believe, hit some weak-ass kicks and botch a legdrop. He BOTCHED A FREAKING LEGDROP. Hulk Hogan really must’ve been one of the greatest technicians of our time if the move’s that hard. ADR shows how it’s done with an enziguiri with 1:15 remaining. Del Rio goes for another kick, but Van Dam ducks and rolls him up. At least he did that right.

Time: 4:15

Technical Merit: One man was trash. The other wasn’t exactly treasure, but decent.

Artistic Impression: If you can’t wrestle and have no personality, nobody will believe the story you’re telling.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

“I do it quick, and I do it slick.” Dolph Ziggler‘s inset promo was awesome. Also awesome? An INSET PROMO RUN-IN! That’s how you set up a match.

RAW 051914 Dolph Ziggler Mark Henry

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. MARK HENRY

Ziggler bumps around and rolls out, and Henry is more than content to go for the countout. Nice Fame Asser variation when Dolph returns, and he rolls out again when Henry powers out. Let’s just take ALL the momentum from this match, shall we? Dolph knows how to snap off a dropkick, but the two he utilized were about 20 seconds apart. Credit to Ziggler for not rolling all the way out on that kickout. Henry eschews the World’s Strongest Slam for a running powerslam, so needless to say, nobody’s winning this one. Ziggler counters the WSS into the Zig Zag with about 7 seconds left, but he rolls the wrong way and, sure enough, we get freaking RVD in the Intercontinental Championship match.

That means someone’s afraid he’s got some bad news …

RAW 051914 Wade Barrett Rob Van Dam

… which involves Greenwich Mean Time, since England set the time for the entire world. Hey, the man has a point!

Technical Merit: About 45 seconds of action in a 4:15 match.

Artistic Impression: Maybe the slowest Beat the Clock match I’ve ever seen. That was poor.

TOTAL SCORE: 0

•••

This is the most we’ve seen R-Truth on screen since he “ruined” Survivor Series 2011, right? Apparently it was his fault nobody wanted to see John Cena and The Rock team up. Then again, if you’re finally main-eventing a major pay-per-view, don’t get caught smoking weed to get suspended and kill your momentum. His presumed opponent? The man involved in a Twitter love triangle, which blows up in lieu of a wrestling match. To his credit, Fandango got to make out with Layla and a returning Summer Rae. The drawback? Summer made it look like she did more than kiss him.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Um … yeah.

•••

Since it’s London, let’s bring out the cheap Aldous Snow knockoff!

RAW 051914 Adam Rose Renee Young

Adam Rose‘s gimmick’s already stale, which could be why the Brits are giving him the post-WrestleMania 29 Fandango treatment. Or they actually like this whole bit. Either way, I’ve NEVER been so happy to see Zeb Colter.

RAW 051914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

On a lighter note, US rosebuds < UK rosebuds. I see you, sailor chick! On a more serious note … I think … Zeb challenges Rose! Jack Swagger intervenes, and Rose uses his entire offensive repertoire. I think Captain Comic, one of his rosebuds, showed more in-ring potential on NXT. Better looking, too!

NXT 050814 Captain Comic

•••

Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but the moments that take our breath away. Life doesn’t get easier; you just get stronger. Bolieve in yourself. Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me. It’s Bo Time.

RAW 051914 Bo Dallas Bolieve

The Rotunda brothers might be doing the best mic work in WWE right now, and one of them hasn’t even started his current run yet. The question will be what Bo Dallas can do outside of a vignette, since he was so bad just two months ago, I wrote this. He does also lose points for that stupid cliché to lead off. I knew a girl who used to toast with that before like every shot in college. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of her work.

Also on SmackDown:

RAW 051914 Hulk Hogan

At this rate, that might be the only thing that saves the show.

•••

ME 052014 Paul Heyman

How do you start Main Event? Gotta be “the most prolific Main Event advocate in sports entertainment history”! He’s here to inform us of the well-kept secret: “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak of WrestleMania!” Besides that, it’s Heyman kissing Cesaro’s ass, calling him the strongest athlete in WWE, until Mark Henry comes out and declares he is, in fact, the World’s Strongest Man. Then he proves it with a weak-ass bear hug. That whole segment just fell flat.

You know what else is falling flat? The Heyman-Cesaro pairing. It’s just … off.

ME 052014 Paul Heyman Cesaro

Paul E. is clearly doing what he can while Lesnar isn’t around, but it’s clearly his B (or B+?) material. It’s more about Lesnar than Cesaro anyway, which really feels like it hinders Cesaro. Besides, it’s not like Heyman is helping Cesaro win a ton of matches … without pulling the actual win-loss record, Cesaro felt more successful in the couple months pre-Heyman. These guys don’t need each other, and it’s actually a disservice to both to keep them together.

Cesaro doesn’t need Heyman talking him up and taking all his shine. Cesaro needs to be wrestling. With Daniel Bryan on the shelf, he’s the best at it. Actually, screw that. Cesaro is the best wrestler in the company in 2014. Yeah, I said it. Let him have his feats of strength, his innovative offense and athletic skill. This is professional wrestling, after all. Somebody should be able to simply be the best pure wrestler in WWE. Doing anything else with him is absurd.

Speaking of absurd, the main event of Paul Heyman’s Main Event isn’t even a wrestling match … it’s an arm wrestling match  

ME 052014 Cesaro Mark Henry arm wrestling

… which Henry wins by DQ, I guess, when Heyman grabs his arm. That distracts Henry long enough for Cesaro to jump him and dump a table on him, presumably setting up an angle to play out over the next few weeks. But what a waste of time. This entire show was.

•••

ME 052014 Damien Sandow Sherlock Holmes

This is what Damien Sandow has become: A punchline for even R-Truth. You know, the guy who once dressed as a Confederate soldier.

ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com
ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com

Pot, kettle, etc. On the bright side, Sandow … I mean, Sherlock Holmes, is competing in a full suit.

“SHERLOCK HOLMES” vs. R-TRUTH

Sandow looking like “enhancement talent” for the first couple minutes, which is just a damn shame. The only active thing he’s doing is swinging and missing, and dipping out of the ring to examine his shirt and have a puff off the pipe, which Truth hilariously interrupts. Everybody has a few “so-and-so needs a push” guys … for many, one STILL appears to be Daniel Bryan. Those fans double as the ones who want all the midcard mechanics to run the company and have guys like John Cena jobbing out every week. They don’t know how wrestling works — it’s about who can gather a reaction with the masses and draw money.

Now, with that being said, Sandow is grossly misused, even though he’s one of the only people on the roster who actually could pull off the jobber-of-many-faces gimmick. He’s a talented wrestler AND an engaging personality, as he has shown basically any time they give him a microphone. He doesn’t need to be world champion by any means, but that middle to upper midcard tier would be perfect for a man of his talents. His Genius 2.0 character would’ve been This match feels about as long as a pay-per-view contest — Truth had a few minutes of control, then Sandow, then Truth again until Sandow hits You’re Welcome for a rare victory.

Time: 13:12

Technical Merit: Maybe be a little more discreet when calling spots. Otherwise? A semi-suitable contest.

Artistic Impression: Sandow as Sherlock was funny, at least, but this story could’ve been told in about half as much time.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

As a streaming-only fan, I can’t get the Divas Champion and the most compelling female character in the company on my screen during RAW, since the Hulu Plus version decided to skip it. (It also apparently skipped the aforementioned best wrestler in the company defeating the United States Champion).

But you know what I can get? Two Total Divas plugs and a match angle revolving around the show! I seriously hate WWE sometimes. Maybe I should just get cable.

NAOMI (w/Cameron) vs. AKSANA

Nobody involved in this match does anything for me in the ring or as a personality. Naomi’s MASSIVELY overrated, Aksana can’t work, and even one person basically crushing the other’s eye a couple months ago can’t get me compelled enough to pay attention. Anyway, Naomi wins with a butt bump. Another waste of my damn time.

Time: 3:25

Come back Friday morning for insight and analysis on NXT as WWE’s best weekly show prepares for next week’s Takeover event.

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

ME 051314 Damien Sandow

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

SD 050214 Sandow Magneto

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

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

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. DAMIEN SANDOW

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

ME 051314 Dolph Ziggler

Time: 4:11

Technical Merit: Clean, if not overly innovative.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

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

•••

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

ME 051314 Alicia Fox

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

EMMA vs. ALICIA FOX

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

Time: 2:14

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

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

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

NIKKI BELLA vs. NATALYA

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

Time: 3:29

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: Zero

•••

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

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

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

Time: 2:06

•••

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

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. CURTIS AXEL

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

Time: 3:19

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

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

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. RYBACK

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

Time: 5:30

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

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

ME 051314 Sheamus Paul Heyman

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

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

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

That entrance attire …

ME 051314 Cesaro King of Swing

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

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

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

Time: 13:21

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

•••

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

Duggan FB2K

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

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

•••

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

KOFI KINGSTON vs. TITUS O’NEIL

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

SS 051514 Kofi Kingston

Time: 5:10

Technical Merit: A little rough, but not bad.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Speaking of Superstars rivalries, here’s 3MB!

SS 051514 3MB

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

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

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

SS 051514 Hornswoggle

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

SS 051514 Sin Cara

Time: 7:58

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

WWE Midcard Report (May 5-6): John Cena responds to Bray Wyatt, Adam Rose makes a lukewarm debut, Bad News Barrett retains his new title and Dolph Ziggler wins …?

The past is a ghost. The future is a dream. All we ever have is now. Do you know what you’ll do with your here and your now? I do. Bolieve.

RAW 050514 Bolieve

I need to believe Bo Dallas is worthwhile, because Adam Rose is 0-for-2 on non-NXT programming. He made his main-roster debut on RAW, then returned on Main Event to make things worse for Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter. Not sure how this will work, because Swagger could break Rose in half in about 0.46 seconds.

Anyway, on RAW, Zeb wants to deport a decent portion of WWE for no real reason, including Paul Heyman, who’s American (and will play a role later). Apparently this means he’s a lemon, not a rosebud.

RAW 050514 Adam Rose Zeb Colter

Also, this is apparently how they decide to debut Rose, who interrupts Zeb, tugs his mustache, kicks Swagger and back bodydrops him over the top rope. Yay.

On the other hand, he helps Dolph Ziggler the next night.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

This match also appears to be a vehicle for Zeb on commentary to be Zeb … and maybe be a little racist toward Byron Saxton, who apparently doesn’t look like he’s from Virginia. Meanwhile, a halfway decent match transpiring. Swagger with the ride-time advantage early, and Ziggler snaps off back-to-back dropkicks. Swagger regains the upper hand by deliberating tossing Dolph over the turnbuckles and onto the post, which results in a stair bump on the way down. That looked painful. Now Zeb’s talking about wrestling as a sport, and Dolph takes another sick bump over the ropes and straight to the floor. I’m in pain just watching it.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Rest hold back from the break, which Dolph breaks with the jawbreaker. A flurry of offense from the best salesman in the business, and he escapes the ankle lock by leveraging Swagger’s momentum into the post and hitting the Fame Asser for 2. Nice throw from Jack, but Dolph blocks the Swaggerbomb and hits the DDT.

Then, well … Rose shows up. He uses his two catchphrases, which apparently are all he knows how to say. It also creates enough of a distraction for the Zig Zag and the win. Throw in a victory over Magneto Damien Sandow last week on SmackDown, and it’s a good time to be the Showoff!

ME 050614 Dolph Ziggler

TIME: 9:50

Technical Merit: Aside from the multiple distractions, there was a good match going down.

Artistic Impression: Almost too much going on, though Ziggler getting another win was welcomed.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

I thought Rose and his persona would fall flat, and it did. Even having Ziggler party with the group postmatch didn’t save it. Having a constant party of a dozen or so works great in an arena with a few hundred people (I see you, NXT!) — not venues with five-figure attendance. It feels like it’s trying too hard to be a big happening when it suddenly looks so small. The fact that Rose was stale before he even showed up was a bad sign, too.

•••

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman, and in case you didn’t hear the breaking news … my client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!

See? Told you Paul E. would be back! The good news is this means we get Cesaro. The bad news? He’s facing RVD. Now I know why Twitter was complaining about the Albany RAW crowd. Or maybe it was what sounded like a “CM PUNK!” chant while now-former U.S. Champ Dean Ambrose was on the apron during a perilous fight — a 20-man battle royal title defense that he lost to Sheamus. Idiots.

CESARO vs. ROB VAN DAM

Can we just discuss Rolling Thunder being one of the stupidest moves in wrestling? Let’s somersault our way to the opponent, THEN do another one on our foe when we get there. You know what’s not stupid? The uppercut we see from Cesaro coming out of the break. And the chain of three gutwrench suplexes. Then we get a spot with RVD stuck in the Tree of Woe. Cesaro decides he wants to hurt the man, and the ref exhausts his five count. Cesaro keeps going even after that.

Hulu Plus TIME: 4:56

Technical Merit: Halfway decent.

Artistic Impression: A DQ finish? An “injury” angle with RVD? WTF?

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

We all need serious cosmetic surgery to be worthy of an Intercontinenal Champion like Bad News Barrett. This means both midcard titles are defended in the same night! That’s good news.

BAD NEWS BARRETT (c) vs. BIG E., Intercontinental Championship

JBL called Big E. a great, fighting champion. Apparently he’s been too busy thinking of the next snarky Affordable Care Act joke to actually watch the product in front of him. That’s a new one … Big E. spears Barrett into the steel steps. Big E. goes for the same into the post on the other side. Barrett follows with a lariat and an elbow drop from the apron, and he’s more than content with a countout. The challenger isn’t and makes it in at 8, which the announcers sell like it was at 9 3/4.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Big E. ducks the Bullhammer and counters with a chest bump, but then spears them both out of the ring. Cole oversells Big E. after a belly-to-belly, and Barrett escapes the Big Ending attempt, rakes the eye and hits the Bullhammer. That’s how you retain a title.

RAW 050514 Bad News Barrett

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:18

Technical Merit: Nothing spectacular.

Artistic Impression: Passable story involving hit-or-miss risks and Barrett using whatever necessary to keep his belt.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Speaking of midcard titles …

ME 050614 Sheamus

This is Triple H trolling us all, right? Ambrose’s lack of title defenses becomes a running joke, so naturally, Sheamus defends his title four days after earning it. Well done, Trips. Well played.

•••

On to a Divas match, which actually is in place to advance a Total Divas storyline? I’m THIS close to skipping it.

NATALYA & THE FUNKADACTYLS vs. AKSANA, ALICIA FOX & TAMINA

Alicia Fox ever has improved quite a bit, or she’s always been decent and never really shown it. She may be the only heel on the main roster who can have a decent match with Paige, and she held her own with Nattie to start things off. The heels actually have some decent psychology, if not an abundance of skills. They’re not looking great doing it, but they’re cutting Nattie off … until Nattie uses her posterior to create enough separation for the hot tag to Naomi. Naomi uses her butt to set up the … split-legged moonsault? Not bad!

TIME: 4:57

Technical Merit: Had its moments. The middle portion was weak.

Artistic Impression: The “real” story here? Nattie and Cameron have beef. Yawn. Should’ve skipped it.

ME 050614 Natalya

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

 ME 050614 Mr T

You expected someone else? Also, the accompanying video was one of WWE’s greatest comedic moments in a while.

•••

ME 050614 Goldust

It must be Main Event if Goldust is in action! For a non-cable man like me, this apparently is the only place to find him. His opponent also is a veteran of the minor show circuit.

GOLDUST (w/Cody Rhodes) vs. CURTIS AXEL (w/Ryback)

Apparently Ryback faced Cody last night, and Dustin screwed up, which allowed Ryback to win? And apparently it’s right for Axel to completely control the first 4 minutes? I want to go to bed. Goldie finally gets some rapid-fire offense with the usual spots, capped by a powerslam for 2. Axel equalizes by dumping Dustin, which brings Cody and Ryback into play. Goldust ducks as Cody parkours the barricade to hit the Disaster Kick on Ryback, and Goldie hits the Final Cut.

TIME: 6:06

Technical Merit: Not terrible, but the last third was leaps and bounds beyond the first two.

Artistic Impression: The story was told fine enough. The story itself just sucks.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

The main event of Main Event? The newest member of the midcard, of course!

ME 050614 John Cena 1

And he’s perplexed after a flashback to Extreme Rules, when John Cena lost to Bray Wyatt.

Very interesting tactics from an interesting man. Bray Wyatt is an interesting man. He tried to turn me into a monster, he’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, and well, from what I’ve heard lately, he’s got the whole world in his hands. You know, for months I’ve been trying to tell all of you how dangerous Bray Wyatt really is, but I can’t make you listen. So if you want to follow the buzzards, I can’t stop you. I shouldn’t want to, because you should have the power to make up your own minds. So as much as I may not like that, if you all want to go and join the Wyatt Family, I have to let you go. But when you follow the buzzards, what do you really follow? And when you follow something, you believe in it. So I’m basically asking about the Wyatt Family, what is it that you believe in? Is it the song? *singalong time* Catchy, right? Everybody loves a singalong that’s catchy. But did anyone ever ask where that song came from, and did you ever really listen to the words? HE has got the whole world in HIS hands? Oh, wait a second. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s this. The mask. Maybe it’s the mask. Masks are fun. We all wear costumes for Halloween. There’s a ton of different ones. Adam Rose has got a bunch of people that wear masks. It’s a party all the time with him. But of all the masks Bray Wyatt could’ve made, he said, ‘If you want to follow the Wyatts, you’ve gotta wear the face of a sheep.’ And then there’s Bray Wyatt, the man himself. He speaks with so much charisma and captivates the audience. But has any of you ever listened to what Bray Wyatt actually says? *cut to Monday’s five-star sermon* So I come here tonight with one question: What do you believe in? Because in life, if you don’t stand for something, you are sure to fall for everything. I can answer that question in a heartbeat. Each night, I wear it on my sleeve. I wear it on my chest. I wear it on my hat. I wear it on my shoes. This is what I believe. My name is John Cena. I am not a god; I am a man. And I am a man who still believes in respect, in honor and in hard work. And my message is clear as day. No matter what the fight, no matter how tough the odds, you NEVER. GIVE. UP! I’m also a man who understands I may have to fight Bray Wyatt alone. But as a man, I was raised to fight for what I believe in. And here in the WWE, the competition may change, the color of my T-shirt may change, the WWE Universe itself may change, but my resolve and message does not. You never give up, even if I’m the last man standing. You never give up. My name is John Cena. This is my message. This is what I believe in.

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CENA PROMO: **1/4

Normally this would seem like a solid babyface promo, but Wyatt is talking circles around him. So much so, in fact, that Cena looks more out of touch than ever. Normally you could expect him to bite back with passion, and there’s no doubt why he’s been the top dog for about a decade. But it just doesn’t look like it’s there. He’s trying — John Cena always does — but it’s just not clicking for him right now, in the ring or out. Does a change need to be made? Does he need some time off? Or do we simply need to sit back and watch Payback play out, and see Cena — win or lose — deliver the goods in the rubber match?

Who watches Main Event? Let me know if you do, and what you thought of the show, either below or on Twitter @jpetrie18.