Tag Archives: Erick Rowan

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

This is cool.

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

So is this.

Superstars 091814 Erick Rowan

And this.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper

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

Superstars 091814 Matadores intro Superstars 091814 Los Matadores El Torito

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

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

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

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper El Torito

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

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

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper 2

Time: 3:19

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

•••

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

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

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

Superstars 091814 Sin Cara

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

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

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel

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

motorcyclemuseum.org
motorcyclemuseum.org

NXT Tag Team Champion SIN CARA vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel 2

Time: 9:15

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

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

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

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

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

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

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

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

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

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

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

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

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

•••

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

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

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

WWE Midcard Report (May 26-27): To Bolieve is to win, Bad News Barrett asserts himself, D-Sizzle shocks the world and Luke Harper shows his potential

RAW 052614 Bo Dallas Tebowing

*vignette*

The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Be prepared, so when your moment of inspiration arrives, it won’t catch you by surprise. You just have to Bolieve!

*elaborate entrance, makes way to the ring*

Monday Night RAW is the summit on the top of the mountain of my dreams. On my journey to the top, I’ve learned that we don’t conquer the mountain. We conquer ourselves. All you have to do is Bolieve!

*defeats opponent*

Thank you so much, so much, to all of my Bolievers! I couldn’t have done it without you. But the truth is you don’t get satisfaction from just victories. You get the satisfaction from effort. If you gave it your all, and you gave it everything you’ve got, you’re already a winner. All you have to do … is Bolieve!

*hugs opponent, walks out*

If you’re keeping track, that was three motivational speeches from Bo Dallas. That’s the promo trifecta. That, my friends, is why you must Bolieve!

That also is how the Midcard Report should lead off. You know, some nice positive reinforcement before we trash about three-fourths of the matches on here.

BO DALLAS vs. SIN CARA

Sidenotes: Bo’s T-shirt still has the NXT logo, and said T-shirt is absolutely soaking wet. Also, my feed was so moved by Bo’s words that it froze up. Hunicara with a top rope crossbody early, but Bo’s in control when they return. The announce team no-sells the entire match, which is a shame because it’s not half bad! OK, maybe half. Nice series of kneedrops — the first two with a rollout, the third with a thumbs-up and a delay — but Sin Cara responds with some kicks, an enziguiri, a springboard moonsault, a backspring elbow and a Samoan drop. That’s all for naught, because after snakeeyes and the Bo-Dog, it’s time to Bolieve.

Time: 2:54

Technical Merit: I like the less-botchy version of Sin Cara.

Artistic Impression: I also like this version of Bo Dallas.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

This may actually have been RAW’s Match of the Night. Chew on that one for a second.

•••

Good news: Both midcard singles championships are on the line in angles intended to mean something.

Bad news: We have to watch Rob Van Dam and his endless array of THE SAME MOVES THAT WOULD DO NOTHING IN REAL LIFE.

Bad News: Oh, he’s right here!

RAW 052614 Bad News Barrett

ROB VAN DAM vs. CESARO (w/Paul Heyman)

It’s the Heyman Invitational, as long as the No. 1 contenders for the Intercontinental and U.S. championships. But somebody’s afraid he’s got some more Bad News. It’s summertime, so people will throw on their swimsuits and find their stomachs have expanded to roll over their waistbands. The man has a point! He has another: RVD’s Indian Summer will be over after Payback. The good news? Bad News is on commentary! “It’s me! It’s me! It’s BNB!” I’m all for a subtle DDP reference. First thing to get me to pay attention to the actual match: RVD goes for an apron moonsault, but Cesaro catches him and deposits him onto the barricade. Naturally, now that our attention is finally obtained, we go to break.

As we return on Hulu Plus, Rolling Thunder shows up. Yay. This RVD match just had something different for once: A superkick to Barrett outside. That one was legit. Van Dam is feeling froggy, but Barrett provides the distraction and Cesaro hits the bridging German for the win.

Hulu Plus time: 4:27

Technical Merit: Same old stuff, though executed OK.

Artistic Impression: Face messes with heel, face gets got. I don’t mind it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Then, for no real reason, Sheamus graces us with his presence for a Brogue Kick. That didn’t feel like babyface justice; that just felt like a lame excuse to get someone on TV.

Wait … he has a match in the third hour? That’s not logical! Ohhhhh Cesaro attacked him on SmackDown. (Logical) … but that would mean we would’ve had to watch SmackDown. (Not logical)

Anyway, it’s Sheamus-ADR, part 4,863.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

The champ makes this look like a glorified squash for nearly 2 minutes, until ADR recovers after being rolled back into the ring and realizes what his feet are for. Again, it’s break time.

And would you look at that … we return just in time for Sheamus to hit White Noise! He sets up for the Brogue Kick, but his bell is rung. Del Rio rings it again with the enziguiri and the standing sidekick, but only gets 2. Sheamus sells concussion symptoms as ADR sets up for the cross armbreaker, but the redhead slips out and hits the Brogue Kick.

Hulu Plus time: 3:55

Technical Merit: Painfully basic and repetitive.

Artistic Impression: Dumb finish, though it sets up what happens next.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Heyman interrupts Justin Roberts‘ duties and promos just long enough for Cesaro to sneak in and give Sheamus a few more shots to the dome, then the Neutralizer.

What did I say earlier? Face messes with heel, face gets got. The only problem is this probably means the heel gets got Sunday. Guess we should be happy we get a halfway decent United States Championship match out of it. I’m far from sold on the Intercontinental Championship contest, but that’s because RVD’s involved. I haven’t actually enjoyed one of his matches since … Edge won a triple-threat on RAW to take his WWE Championship in 2006? Yeah, about that far back.

•••

We lead off Main Event with a hometown boy!

You know what that means … hometown boy’s gonna lose. Sorry, Cody Rhodes.

Main Event 052714 Cody Rhodes

Speaking of losses, Curtis Axel informed The Brotherhood last night that they’re racking up more losses than Barry Horowitz in his prime. You know the third-generation guy’s gonna know his history!

CODY RHODES (w/Goldust) vs. CURTIS AXEL (w/Ryback)

If you want a decent basic mechanic — no more, no less — Axel’s your man. The man knows what he’s doing in the ring and doesn’t try to exceed his limits. Nice backbreaker with Cody tied up in the second rope early. Rhodes starts his comeback around 3:15 with a sunset flip, some strikes and the the trademark Ted DiBiase Jr. clothesline. He hangs Axel up in the ropes and hits a kick to the gut then, with Axel standing, he hits a moonsault for 2. For the second straight night, though, Cody Disaster Kicks someone on the apron (Ryback this time), and Axel chop blocks Cody, rolls him up and pulls the tights. The streak continues.

Main Event 052714 Curtis Axel Ryback Rybaxel

Time: 4:21

Technical Merit: Your basic 4-minute match where the heel wins. Nothing egregious.

Artistic Impression: I don’t like the story, but it’s being told OK.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

You know where a Southern rapper is going to be over? Atlanta. That’s why WWE decided having not one, but two, was a good idea. This actually is the best gimmick I’ve seen in a minute!

Main Event 052714 Damien Sandow D-Sizzle

Yo, I roll with the sinners, but I’m praised like a saint

And when that bell rings, I go hard in the paint

When fools try to step, I start tossin’

My teeth are clean, but I still be flossin’

*R-Truth rudely interrupts*

Do you have a problem, cousin?

You’re about to run up and get done up

Thuggish livin’ till the end

Tell a friend

Eight bars in, D-Sizzle is better than Macklemore. Who else is better than Macklemore? EVERYBODY! I see you, Kanyon! RIP.

“D-Sizzle” DAMIEN SANDOW vs. R-TRUTH

Tom Phillips says D-Sizzle is no Machine Gun Kelly. He’s right. Sizzle is better. After the Russian legsweep, “THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AY-ER!” After the Elbow of Disdain and cover for 2, “YOU FRONT? YOU FRONT?” Unfortunately, R-Truth didn’t front. He came correct and hit his finisher for the win.

*pours out some liquor for D-Sizzle*

We hardly knew ya, bro.

Time: 2:33

•••

Main Event 052714 Nikki Bella Brie Bella Twins

There’s not a situation where Nikki Bella doesn’t look like a porn star. Then again, isn’t that kind of John Cena‘s thing? I guess if you want a Brazzers video come to life, you have a couple options in WWE.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Meanwhile, someone is here to actually, you know, wrestle.

Main Event 052714 Natalya

NATALYA vs. BRIE BELLA (w/Nikki Bella)

Brie puts on a hammerlock and a side headlock, and she yells like she’s the one taking the move. She keeps quiet for the armdrag, though, and when Nattie has her in an armlock. Brie Mode is reason alone for termination. Especially when it results in a missile dropkick. Here’s our cool spot of the match: Brie locks in a half-crab, but Nattie rolls through into the Sharpshooter.

Main Event 052714 Brie Bella Sharpshooter

Once that happens, that’s it.

Time: 3:33

Technical Merit: Brie Mode was involved. I rest my case.

Artistic Impression: If the story was Nattie comes, Nattie wins, Nattie goes to get ready for NXT Takeover, then it was great! Wait, this was about Brie? … Oh.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

One good thing about Main Event is it allows for promo time with the WWE Tag Team Champions. This meant time for The Usos to make fun of The Wyatt Family‘s lackeys who do nothing but follow Bray Wyatt, which was done effectively. Oh, and Cena will be the last man standing. Yay.

That also means promo time for Luke Harper!

Main Event 052714 Luke Harper

A man with nothing left to lose has nothing left to fear. He saved us. He gave us a purpose. And Usos, some bonds are much stronger than blood.

Bray takes over from there. Blah, blah, blah, I know, right? He took in Harper and Erick Rowan, and they united as brothers in the name of cause. The Usos, meanwhile, are pawns in Cena’s sick little game. Since they’re guilty by association, they’ll burn.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN (w/Bray Wyatt)

Rowan starts the match with the mask … ? Oh, it’s so Jey Uso can slap it off. I like it! Nice no-sell from Harper, which only leads to a double-team that still ends with Harper in control via dropkick.

Back from break and Rowan’s back in, just in time for Jimmy Uso to tag to Jey. Rowan gets an advantage when Jey can’t lift him for a Samoan drop, then Erick fallaway slams Jey, who rolls outside. That gives Harper a chance to pick away at some scraps outside after the tag before returning and tagging once more. Rest hold time! Jey kicks Rowan after escaping, but Rowan backs into Harper for the tag and Harper goes after Jimmy. Harper is a great tag-team wrestler. Harper does the Gator Roll, throwing in a couple suplexes for good measure. A second rest hold, then Jey makes the mistake of attacking Rowan. That allows Harper to hit a sitout slam, which causes Jimmy to break it up, which distracts the ref, which allows the heels to maintain control. You know, until Rowan inevitably screws it up. Missile dropkick leads to stereo tags, and Jimmy comes in hot. Jimmy can hit the Samoan drop on Harper … as well as a superkick that leads to 2. Chaos time, and the champs execute their tandem dive outside. That’ll get Bray out of his seat, and he gives Harper marching orders. Jimmy goes up top, but Rowan tosses Jey into the ropes. Jimmy wobbles off the ropes, which sets up the Clothesline from Hell and the pin.

Time: 10:35

Technical Merit: These are two good tag teams. Rowan couldn’t cut it in a singles capacity, but as the bumbling tag partner he’s effective. Harper might be the best big man in the company at the moment, and the Usos are the best team.

Artistic Impression: The match kept The Usos intertwined in the Cena-Wyatt angle, and it sold the Wyatt Family as a stronger threat than ever to hustle, loyalty, respect, etc.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Come back Thursday night for analysis and reaction to NXT Takeover. In the meantime, follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE RAW review (April 21, Part IV): Bray Wyatt’s sermon, and the Family’s beatdown of John Cena

Champ’s note: This is the fourth of a few reviews on Monday’s episode of RAW. Click here for Part I on Daniel Bryan and Kane, here for Part II on the Intercontinental Championship contender’s tournament, or here for Part III on the NXT Class of 2014.

RAW 042114 Bray1

I remember the first time that I was ever struck with truth. The taste was bitter, and it was SO intense. But I liked it. It was something real. Free will has become man’s illusion! They promise it to you, just in time to take it away again. And what have they left us with? What have we become? Just a nation full of mindless sheep, led by wolves and owned by pigs. But I was thinking, tonight, man, what a wonderful night it would be for change? What a wonderful night for change indeed! I was thinking, tonight, they have left the power in your hands! Those fools. Tonight, free will does exist! Tonight, you make a choice. And what fate will you choose for your knight in shining armor. Will you choose the path of less pain for your hero? Or will tonight be the night John Cena finally learns the truth? And the truth is we stand against you. Whether it this brother or that brother, whether it be in a steel cage or inside your mind, John, we stand against you. And at Extreme Rules, inside that steel cage match, two monsters enter. But on this night, it will not matter which monster has the sharpest teeth or the longest claws, because one thing will remain the same. They do not love you anymore, John. Can’t you feel it? Brothers, can’t you feel it? Do you feel the same way I do? Every time we cross paths, John, I take more of them with me. You, and you, and you, my brother. And you my brother, and you my sisters. They are coming with me! Listen, John! Listen as it happens, John! Won’t they sing with me? *sings about having the whole world in his hands* Feel! Feel with me!

Bray Wyatt may have inadvertently cut the best babyface promo of the year. Even as a heel, people love the character so much. Bray is unique and oh so charismatic, and he can captivate a crowd with minimal effort, as he did here. The object: Hype the mystery match for the end of the night involving John Cena and some combination of Wyatt Family members, which was up to a WWE App fan vote. Not only did Wyatt pique people’s interest in his match with Cena at Extreme Rules, but he helped ensure the path of most resistance for the perpetual babyface hero: A 1-on-3 handicap match with the whole family. PROMO: ****3/4

The match? It wasn’t as good.

JOHN CENA vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

No bell at first as all three men charge the ring and pick off Cena in the corner. Wyatt finally backs his men off, the bell rings and Harper starts. “Yeahhhhhhhh!” Tag to Wyatt about 90 seconds in … and he slow dances with Cena a bit and tags out shortly afterward. Quick tags throughout the match while Jerry Lawler questions why anyone would listen to the Wyatts. Ummm … because Bray speaks the truth to an extent. Pumphandle backbreaker from Rowan gets the attention back toward the ring. Bray sets up for a boot to the face … and stops short, and tags back out. Bizarre. Anyway, the squash continues into the break.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

And the squash continues back from the break! It’s realistic, but it’s not exactly entertaining. The rear chinlock rest hold doesn’t help, either, though Cena probably could use a breather from bumping. A breather that lasts all the way into ANOTHER BREAK!

*ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Lawler says, if we really study it, Cena hasn’t generated any offense. I don’t think it really requires a Rhodes scholar (or a Rhodes Scholar) to see that. “You’re welcome.” Nice DDT spot for Cena to actually get a move in, and another for Wyatt on a huge side throw. Wyatt looks like a schlub, but he’s strong. Bray beats up and charges Cena, who is prone through the ropes, and breaks out in song. Rowan follows that up in the ring with a pair of fists to the temple. Very scientific stuff here. Speaking of scientific … we get this:

RAW 042114 Bray2

Unfortunately, that just becomes an innovative way to end up getting clotheslined. That leads to the Five Moves of Doom. Sometimes, you only need five. But Rowan and Harper break up the cover … and the ref calls for the bell? THEY HAVE UNTIL FIVE! This simply leads to the merciful end of this match (and this beatdown) and some more sing-along time with Bray Wyatt.

RAW 042114 Bray3

HULU TIME: 13:00

TECHNICAL MERIT: Pretty basic stuff.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Pretty boring stuff.

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

It works in terms of story building for Extreme Rules, but the match seemed to drag on FOREVER. Cena was supposed to take a whipping, come back and possibly win, but he was on the mat for a solid 10 minutes with only a strike here or there. When that happens, you only really have time for the move sequence everybody loathes.

Believe in who you want. Follow who you want. Just watch and enjoy.

WWE has quality wrestlers and decent characters, but the problem is the company seems to zero in on the main feud and call it good on the creative end. If you’re not in the main event, you don’t really have anything compelling to do. Just go out, have a match, maybe hold a belt as a prop, and do the same thing again next week like this week never happened.

There are some subtleties in the product that have improved recently. As The Masked Man pointed out this week on Grantland, the Prime Time Players’ breakup and pending blowoff match at Sunday’s Elimination Chamber is the culmination of a simple, throwback style of feud — an actual tag team breakup where the heel feels like the face has held him down, and it has had time to develop into something meaningful. If Titus O’Neil and Darren Young get buried after this, it may not mean a thing. If they’re elevated, this will be the genesis of two sorely needed fresh faces.

The best, most anticipated match Sunday won’t have two men. It’ll have six. And it’s not the one with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line.

The Shield were called up in late 2012 and immediately started running roughshod over anyone who stood in their path. They’ve been worthy of main-event time as a group, and Roman Reigns appears to have the blessing of creative to be a main-event individual sooner than later. The Wyatt Family joined the fray last year, bringing an interesting, creepy brand of psychological warfare in the form of a mini-cult led by Bray Wyatt, the most original character WWE has developed in about a generation.

They’ve existed in somewhat alternate universes, rarely, if ever, crossing paths. The seeds were planted in November, when the factions briefly squared off, but it was only a taste.

Well, since the Royal Rumble, their paths have met often, and it’s been absolutely fantastic. Great promo work by both sides, and the classic “create tension to a breaking point, then pull it back” buildup. Last week, after about 2-3 minutes of inching toward each other, The Shield entered the ring and The Wyatts teased it, only for Bray to back off the apron and exit up the ramp. This week on RAW, all six men were in the ring, only for Bray to back off yet again. Then, at the end of the show, they finally threw down (jump to about 2:20 for the full chaotic scene).

The cult and its leader

Wyatt Family

Bray is the unquestioned leader of The Wyatt Family, and it works in a way it shouldn’t. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are Wyatt’s followers, and they’re almost too subtle in what they do. Well, maybe except for Rowan’s sheep mask. They don’t seem important, but they 1) do plenty of in-ring work, enough where it feels like a big deal when Wyatt gets in, and 2) add legitimacy to Wyatt and make the group feel like an upper-midcard act. All three are big men, which seems monotonous, but they have great teamwork and they just keep attacking the opponents into submission. (Not literal. Bray pins them.)

With Bray’s cryptic, psychotic mic work, whatever angle the family is in feels like more than wrestling. Case in point: “Are you willing to die for this? Because if you’re not, you’ve already lost.”

The collective juggernaut

Who cares what cutesy nicknames Michael Cole has for this group. Dean Ambrose, Reigns and Seth Rollins are three great wrestlers with the looks and charisma to match. Ambrose was the de facto leader for most of The Shield’s run — and, in the process, he’s been WWE’s longest reigning active male champion, holding the United States Championship since June. Reigns has become the figurehead at least since the Royal Rumble, when he set a record for eliminating 12 of the other 29 competitors, including his teammates. But, in theory, they’re equals, a point Rollins is there to solidify.

You just don’t see stables stay together (or even form) anymore, which makes The Shield’s run so refreshing. They’ve also been booked strong and respond accordingly, making this group far better than The Nexus (which even C.M. Punk couldn’t save) and its sad-ass spinoff, The Corre. Their chemistry is superb, and even with the bits of infighting, which will result in a long-awaited, probably-due-by-now blowoff, that chemistry shines through.

One question is whether Rollins can keep Ambrose’s and Reigns’ game of one-upmanship from breaking the team apart during this match.  Another is whether The Wyatts collectively are at the level where they can beat The Shield in a wrestling match. Is a clear leader a good thing, or is the more talented team the favorite? Still another is whether this one-month buildup is all there will be, or a teaser for WrestleMania, or something that will intertwine these six men for years to come.

Common sense dictates The Wyatts winning due to The Shield falling apart as a unit, elevating The Wyatts into the upper echelon as the heel group du jour and setting up an epic Ambrose/Reigns rivalry, with Rollins stuck in the middle. Then again, The Shield could hold it together to defeat the common enemy, like they have for several weeks.

For once in WWE, it seems like anything can happen. And I can’t wait to see it.