Tag Archives: Kofi Kingston

WWE Midcard Report (July 29-31): Ambrose Live is interrupted again, Xavier Woods and Associates stop by, and Slatergator wins. Twice.

The Champ hasn’t been here for six weeks. The blog had its best day ever yesterday. Maybe staying away truly was best for business?

Anyway, I’ve been gone due to my tendency toward video game addiction, a relaxing one-week vacation and a general disenchantment with RAW and pay-per-view events as a whole. If Sunday and Monday suck, it’s hard to gather the strength to watch Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Anyway, since I owe you one, and since an old RAW was on as I prepared the battle station, here’s a random jobber drop-in from 1995.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network unless otherwise noted.
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network unless otherwise noted.

It’s a shame about that kid. Coulda been a contendah.

Now on to the most must-see element in Real World Champ history: The Midcard Report!

•••

Main Event 072914 Dean Ambrose

I’ll be real on two points: I don’t get the Dean Ambrose love, and I don’t enjoy the Ambrose/Seth Rollins rivalry. I haven’t seen anything about this match in three days, but I’m laying about $500 on “Rollins run-in/DQ” for Ambrose’s match.

With Ambrose, maybe it’s the bad boy thing? Maybe it’s the crazy bit? Maybe it’s the widespread wearability of his in-ring attire? Maybe it’s the fact that he promos on The Authority every time out? Maybe it’s his abuse of every single microphone he sees? I just don’t … get it. I see a dirty, off-kilter dude with painfully generic music, a painfully unimaginative look and a painfully kamikaze offense. Others see “the most over guy in the business” and “a future world champion”. People compare him to Brian Pillman; I see Pillman without wrestling ability. People obsess over him on Twitter … but are pretty quiet for his matches. He certainly has a cult following, with fans almost refusing to call him by his current name, instead referring to his independent Jon Moxley persona, or “Mox” if you’re a “real fan”. Only one man gets the “Mox” treatment from me and, well, he don’t want … your life.

Jonathan Moxon

Maybe I’m out of touch? Maybe I just see him as a better fit for a hardcore bit than actual wrestling? Maybe we should just agree to disagree? Yeah, let’s go with that. Full points for the grey leather jacket, though.

One thing Ambrose managed was to make this man interesting:

Main Event 072914 Alberto Del Rio

Alberto Del Rio is best classified as “boring” by many professional wrestling fans. His character is stale, his opponents are stale and, as a result, many people tune out the second he’s on the screen. He’s a victim of the Sheamus effect: Boring as hell when he’s facing the same old foe (in ADR’s case, that’s usually Sheamus himself), but can be entertaining with a fresh opponent just because it’s something new.

DEAN AMBROSE vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

The expected brawling offense from Ambrose, and it only took him about 1:40 to toss Del Rio outside. First actual wrestling move at about the 3-minute mark, using a toehold variation and wrapping ADR’s arms around his neck. Del Rio shows his vicious side shortly thereafter, dodging a charge to introduce Ambrose’s injured shoulder, which he kicked to start the show, into the post; dropkicking Ambrose’s head into said post from the outside; and applying his Wrestling 101 mechanics to said shoulder. ADR’s trademark enziguiri takes Ambrose off the apron to the floor, and it’s break time.

We get a wrestling hold after the Sting WWE 2K15 plug: An ADR headlock. Back to strikes for each man after Ambrose breaks free, and back to the post for Ambrose’s left shoulder. The crowd finally makes noise with the go-to “LET’S GO (BABY-FACE!” chant, but that dissipates for a bit when ADR hits a superplex with a nice subtlety: Del Rio twists his body to brace for the impact and take away the effect that move has on the wrestler executing it. Ambrose gets the babyface brawler comeback going, completely no-selling the shoulder in the process. He did show some intelligence, suicide diving with the right shoulder to dump Del Rio into the front row. Fan to ADR: “SHOW ME YOUR TICKET!” Back in the ring, someone FINALLY counters that Ambrose spot where he falls back between the ropes and slingshot clotheslines out. Ambrose responds in kind, countering another enziguiri and hitting a tornado DDT for 2. Eleven minutes in, Ambrose finally sells the effects of the shoulder, and ADR hits the short superkick, also for 2. He calls for the armbreaker, but Ambrose hits the slingshot clothesline this time.

Almost on cue … Rollins comes down the ramp. Ambrose engages him … and gets the DQ win. Pay up, fools!

Main Event 072914 Seth Rollins

Time: 12:34

Technical Merit: Del Rio showed the usual bag of tricks well. Ambrose hid his seeming lack of tricks well.

Artistic Impression: It’s hard to take the match seriously when Ambrose arbitrarily sells and no-sells a taped-up injury, and when you know the Rollins run-in is coming. At that point, you’re wasting two segments just to get to the good stuff, which to me isn’t good when it’s nearly EVERY SINGLE TIME Rollins or Ambrose is in a ring. They could go away until their SummerSlam match, and I’d be fine with it.

TOTAL SCORE: **

I flipped the switch from Main Event to Superstars, and Del Rio is pulling double duty with a chance to … keep his Superstars win streak alive? This man was a four-time world champion! He should have another good showing here, since it’s another fresh foe.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

Gabriel’s ring attire/hair combination tell me he’s going for the South African Motocross Champion gimmick. Somewhere, Grant Langston is claiming gimmick infringement, seeing as he actually is a South African motocross champion. I see you, No. 8!

Supercross.com
Supercross.com

Anyway, as Renee Young (unlike the talent, Byron Saxton can’t work a double) names a bunch of extreme sports Gabriel is doing in his spare time — I think she’s making them up — Del Rio maintains control until Gabriel puts his educated feet to use, throwing some chops in for good measure. He gets a little botchy, swinging and missing, but ADR sells it anyway and stays down for 2. Del Rio’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker isn’t botchy, and neither is his superplex variation with Gabriel’s body turned around from the typical vertical suplex to land face/chest first. Somewhere along the way, on a Gabriel elbow upon further review, his eyebrow is busted open, explaining the cut we saw on Main Event.

Anyway, cross armbreaker and out.

TIME: 4:35

Technical Merit: Gabriel’s errant kick aside, a decent match.

Artistic Impression: The finish seemed abrupt, even with the vicious superplex setting up the finisher. Could’ve gone 8 minutes and I would’ve been fine with it.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

You see Rybaxel and The Usos? That’s one thing. You see these men, as we did on Main Event? It’s something completely different:

Main Event 072914 Kofi Kingston Big E Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods was brought in to sing and dance; he almost has a Ph.D. Kofi Kingston almost won Money in the Bank and was booed. Big E. saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to go down the same path to irrelevance. (He arguably was already there.) They’re done asking for chances; they’re taking now. Kofi’s yet to earn a world title shot; Woods declares it’s time to get that. It’s not time to see the finished product; Woods will declare when that is.

Let’s drop Woods’ kayfabe promo for a moment: This is exactly what these three men need, but this measure shouldn’t have been necessary.

The timing is impeccable — or reactionary. The Atlantic publishes a fantastic piece on race in wrestling and points out the lack of a black WWE Champion, factoring in the premier belt only and The Rock identifying far more often as Samoan than black. Grantland’s Cheap Heat podcast holds a great discussion featuring Dion Beary, the writer of the Atlantic piece, as well as MVP and Gail Kim, on the subject. About a week and a half after Beary’s story drops, and about four days after Cheap Heat discusses how easy it would be to craft a gimmick based on Woods’ intelligence … Woods stops being funky, suits up and speaks like a man with multiple degrees — calm, clear and focused. Kofi stops Jamaican us crazy (even though he’s African and has been in storyline for years) and acts like a man with a decent amateur wrestling background who graduated from Boston College, and Big E. stops acting like a preacher and more like a 280-pound powerlifted-turned-wrestler — both strong, serious, calculated, successful.

I’m extremely interested in how this turns out, because it’s being unofficially billed as The Nation of Domination 2.0, simply because it’s three black guys trying to beat the system. From another angle, it’s three guys who were jobbing out with no direction who suddenly have a compelling one. Depending on which direction it takes, WWE can give a group of midcard guys a bit of a push, or it has a bigger opportunity to tackle a clear issue in the sport head-on within the constructs of its storytelling … here’s hoping they don’t screw it up.

Anyway, they’re here to scout the tag team champions again, because this was simulated athletic competition a great while ago.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. RYBAXEL

Honestly, I’m paying more attention to Woods than this match, though it’s odd to see champions wrestling in T-shirts. These aren’t the Middle Age Outlaws we’re talking about, are they? Curtis Axel tries to remedy that situation on Jey Uso about 3 1/2 minutes in. Ryback finally ropes me in at 5:15 with an attempt at the flying elbow drop. Woods said it’s not smart; he’s right, because the Big Guy swings and misses. That leads to the hot tag to Jimmy Uso, who hits a nice sitout full nelson bomb. Ryback’s distraction allows Axel to hit the Perfectplex, but that’s broken up. Typical Uso match chaos, tag to Jey, splash, we’ve seen this before.

Time: 6:58

Technical Merit: What they did was solid.

Artistic Impression: What they did was the same ol’ Uso match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Main Event 072914 Heath Slater Titus O'Neil

I LOVE Slatergator. I know I’m going to smile when Heath Slater is on the screen, and his odd-couple bit with Titus O’Neil is comedic gold sprinkled in with some pro wrestling talent with room to grow.

I’m not so sure about Zack Ryder‘s “Bro-Tee”.

Main Event 072914 Zack Ryder

But hey, credit to him to shed parts of the Broski gimmick and evolve.

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER & TYSON KIDD

Basic lowcard tag fare until Kidd shows some stuff upon his entrance: Creative rollup coming in, a nice spot where he stops himself between the ropes and pulls Slater out and a flip off the apron. A quick reminder that, yes, this guy can do things in and around the ring. Ryder hits a missile dropkick after being tagged back, but takes some abuse from O’Neil before getting the hot tag to Kidd. Tyson handles business on both Slatergator members, allowing Ryder to hit the Broski Boot along the way, but only gets 2 on Slater. O’Neil’s attempt to pull Kidd off the ropes is thwarted by Ryder, but it did distract enough for Slater to recover, climb the ropes, powerslam Kidd from there and get the win for SLATERGATOR!!!

TIME: 4:54

Technical Merit: Elementary, besides Kidd’s presence

Artistic Impression: Liked the “odd couples” bit and thought Kidd and Ryder worked well together. Also entertained by the odder couple winning.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/8

You know what’s better than one Slatergator match in a week? TWO SLATERGATOR MATCHES!!! At least the C and D shows give the people what they want. We even get promo time in the back, which only serves to further showcase the hilarity.

Also working a double: Zack Ryder. (Woo woo woo, you know it.) That means, out of five matches, four men are featured twice. This has to be a #WWEBudgetCuts thing, right?

SLATERGATOR vs. ZACK RYDER vs. SIN CARA

Ryder was part of the “Dungeon Broskis” with Kidd. He’s part of “Bro-Cara” with Hunicara two nights later. Or really one night earlier, but who’s looking at the calendar? Renee drops a Sweet Valley High reference and compares Heath Slater to Justin Timberlake post-N Sync…which is odd, since Ryder is the boy band aficionado. Ryder works better with his partner du jour once again, sliding through the ropes for a dropkick while the masked one flies over to take out both foes.

After a union-mandated break, Ryder breaks free from Titus’ grip and gets the hot tag. I keep waiting for the Sin Cara botch, but this version actually works … until Slater lays him out and tags to the muscle. Finally a bit of synergy from the odd couple, which means a loss in their future for sure. Sin Cara provides the necessary momentum shift with a kick in the corner, and the Iced Z hot tag awaits. Missile dropkick, elbow and a Broski Boot for O’Neil, and Slater breaks up the cover. Typical tag chaos leads to the Ruff Ryder on Slater, the illegal man, right into Clash of the Titus. SLATERGATOR IS ON A WINNING STREAK BAY-BAY!!!

Actually accurate commentary botch: Tom Phillips calls it Slatergator’s first win, when technically it was. It was just the second one on TV. Those pesky taped shows!

Time: 6:41

Technical Merit: Basic, but smooth.

Artistic Impression: Slatergator finding ways to win is fun. Talent apparently beats quick chemistry any day.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

It won’t be six weeks before another post. Promise. I’ll get to SmackDown this weekend, and I might try to sprinkle in some ROH. NXT won’t happen until I’m caught up, which at this rate will be December.

The floor’s open. Feel free to continue the discussion, especially about Ambrose and the Woods/Kingston/Langston alliance, on here or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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

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

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

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

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

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

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

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

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

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

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

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

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

•••

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

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

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:44

TECHNICAL MERIT: Some decent spots in this one.

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

 

Magneto and motivational speaking

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

RAW 042814 Bolieve

This one’s for the ladies.

RAW 042814 Hugh Jackman

This one’s not.

RAW 042814 Sandow Magneto

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

 

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

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

RAW 042814 Heyman Cesaro

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

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Mike!

Mike who?

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

RAW 042814 Real Americans

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

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER

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

TIME: 3:12

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

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent, quick story.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

RAW 042814 Bad News Barrett

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

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

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

RAW 042814 Big E Barrett

TIME: 4:48

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

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Points here for advancing two stories.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

RAW 042814 Rob Van Dam

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

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

ExR Triple Threat

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

Who should win Sunday: Cesaro

Who probably will win: Cesaro

 

On to the next one …

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

ME 042914 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

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

ME 042914 Goldust

TIME: 3:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

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

On another note, this is happening Friday:

SD 050214 US Title

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

 

Speaking of champions …

ME 042914 Paige

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. ALICIA FOX

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

ME 042914 Paige DDT 1 ME 042914 Paige DDT 2

TIME: 3:34

TECHNICAL MERIT: Not great, but certainly not bad.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Afterward, the champ has company.

ME 042914 Paige Tamina

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

Who should win Sunday: Paige retains.

Who probably will win: You know this one.

 

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

 

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

ME 042914 Kofi Kingston

That’s the good news.

ME 042914 Bad News Barrett

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

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

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. KOFI KINGSTON

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

TIME: 2:28

TECHNICAL MERIT: Basic.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

 

“… Kansas City … we’re here.”

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

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

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

On another note, Harper is creepy as hell.

ME 042914 Luke Harper

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

ME 042914 Bray Wyatt Sheamus

TIME: 13:40

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

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

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

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

COME BACK THURSDAY NIGHT FOR A FULL REPORT ON NXT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WM30 BryanTrips

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

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

Winner: Bryan

Technical merit: Very good from both men

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

TOTAL SCORE: ****1/4

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

WM30 Shield

THE SHIELD vs. KANE & THE MIDDLE AGE OUTLAWS

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

Winner: The Shield

Technical merit: A couple decent spots

Artistic impression: A filler squash match.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

WM30 Battle Royal

ANDRÉ THE GIANT MEMORIAL BATTLE ROYAL

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

Winner: CESARO!!!

Technical merit: Formulaic at first, but decent

Artistic impression: Same, though a great finish

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/4

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

WM30 Cena Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT

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

Winner: Cena (LOL)

Technical merit: Not great, but not bad

Artistic impression: Ambitious, but a bit off

TOTAL SCORE: ***

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

WM30 Taker Lesnar

THE UNDERTAKER vs. BROCK LESNAR

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

Winner: It happened.

Technical merit: A bit slow, but OK.

Artistic impression: I liked it. A lot.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

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

WM30 Divas

VICKIE GUERRERO DIVAS INVITATIONAL for the Divas Championship

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

Winner: A.J.

Technical merit: Just … no.

Artistic impression: Strong finish. Weak everything else.

TOTAL SCORE: *

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

WM30 title

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

Predictions: Champ wants Trips, but knows Bryan will win

Winner: Bryan. Who else?

Technical merit: Solid

Artistic impression: Pretty good

TOTAL SCORE: ***

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

Oh well. Maybe next year, right?

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

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

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

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

State of Pro Wrestling: What if the cruiserweights came back to WWE?

Every once in a while, the Real World Champ will discuss subjects that don’t exactly fit into a current show or hot topic, but generally are worth discussing in the world of professional wrestling. It’s called the State of Pro Wrestling, and this is the second installment. The first is here.

The best part of the WWE Network is accessing its vault of prior events, especially pay-per-views from WWF/WWE, ECW and my personal favorite, World Championship Wrestling. WCW set the biggest boom period of professional wrestling in motion with the New World Order in 1996, but the company had to find ways to appeal to not only those drawn to star power, but also hardcore fans who wanted to see some of the best technical wrestling in the world.

Enter the cruiserweights.

ECW introduced a bit of the lucha libre and Japanese styles to the U.S., using the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris JerichoDean MalenkoRey Misterio Jr. and, yes, Chris Benoit. All were smaller than the WWF template of the mid-1990s, and they put on technical masterpieces. These men didn’t stay long in ECW before Eric Bischoff saw them as a way to lead off WCW Monday Nitro.

When I got back into wrestling in the spring and summer of 1998, I came to WCW for the marquee stars of my childhood and the nWo. I stayed for the little guys — some of whom flew around like superheroes in the lucha libre style, and others who could stretch you every which way until you couldn’t take it anymore.

This topic came up on Twitter (major props to @NewAgeInsiders and new follower @JAMIEGotDatBOMB for the inspiration), and the names flying around brought back some of my fondest memories. There were the aforementioned. There was Billy Kidman, the greasy worker of Raven’s Flock who made the Shooting Star Press one of my favorite finishers. There was Juventud Guerrera, who could knock you out with the Juvi Driver or mesmerize you with the 450. There was Ultimo Dragon, with the cool mask and that vicious Dragon Sleeper. There were other smaller Americans like Lenny Lane and Sean Waltman, who had Cruiserweight and U.S. Championship runs as Syxx. There were some more, shall we say, unorthodox guys like Disco Inferno and Alex Wright. There even were jobbers like Kaz Hayashi, and there were plenty more luchadors like PsicosisEl Dandy and the Chairman of WCW, La Parka.

Toward the end, there were these guys.

3count

Oh, like I was going to get through a WCW post without mentioning 3 Count. Please.

Anyway, I watched these guys for the wrestling, the main-event guys for the promos, and I has a happy viewer for 3 hours every Monday night. All this nostalgia begged one question …

What if WWE revived the cruiserweight division?

SmackDown carried cruiserweights for a decent amount of the 2000s, after it acquired WCW and its younger, somewhat smaller talent, and it thrived until, for some reason, Hornswoggle won the championship in 2007. It’s been retired since.

In that time frame, there weren’t many credible wrestlers on the main roster who were under 225 pounds, since many of those who fit the criteria were phased out. But we’ve moved from a stage where guys like Edge and Randy Orton are on the small end of average at 240 to one where a 218-pound C.M. Punk was WWE Champion for 434 days, and 210 (if that)-pound Daniel Bryan likely will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion at 10:45 p.m. EDT on April 6. Guys like Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston, who don’t seem all that small, easily would be cruiserweights.

In fact, here’s all the eligible talent via WWE.com as of April 5, besides Christian (likely to retire), Punk (likely retired) and Los Matadores (no weights listed), from lightest to heaviest.

  • Evan Bourne, 165 pounds
  • Rey Mysterio, 175
  • Tyson Kidd, 195
  • Hunico/Sin Cara, 205
  • Xavier Woods, 205
  • Daniel Bryan, 210
  • Yoshi Tatsu, 211
  • Kofi Kingston, 212
  • Dolph Ziggler, 213
  • Justin Gabriel, 213
  • Zack Ryder, 214
  • Heath Slater, 216
  • Seth Rollins, 217
  • Cody Rhodes, 220
  • The Miz, 220
  • R-Truth, 220
  • Jinder Mahal, 222
  • Curt Hawkins, 223
  • Dean Ambrose, 225

That’s a 19-man division ranging from main-event-caliber talent to low- to midcard guys, with enough contrasting styles to make it interesting. Some guys, like Slater and Mahal seem to be as part of 3MB, are likely destined in the current WWE construct to be jobbers. But they theoretically could be contenders in this division. Ryder, Miz and Truth could get new life with something to actually compete for. Imagine the high-flying action of Bourne, Kidd and Gabriel. Imagine WWE taking the kid gloves off Bryan (on a brief sabbatical from the main event in this case) and Rollins for 20 minutes. Imagine guys like Ziggler, Rhodes and Ambrose getting fresh in-ring chances to show off their workrate. This could work, and this could be fun.

The Intercontinental and United States championships aren’t being used anyway. Hell, why not just have Ambrose show up with a different belt when The Shield finishes doing its thing and start a seamless transition?

Let me guess, you don’t like the roster. Too many jobbers and stale guys, not enough freshness and excitement. Well you know who else is under 225? ALMOST EVERYBODY RELEVANT ON NXT.

  • Adam Rose, 221
  • NXT Champion Adrian Neville, 194
  • Aiden English, 215
  • C.J. Parker, 220
  • Corey Graves, 208
  • Sami Zayn, 192
  • Tyler Breeze, 195
  • NXT Tag Team Champion Viktor, 219

And those are just the guys who have competed on the show since the Network launched.

At least seven of those eight men have either the talent or persona deserving of a spot at the highest level. (I’m not sold on Parker.) Neville, Zayn and Graves are three of NXT’s best, and even with Bryan on the verge of being the company’s top man, they’re probably “too small to make an impact”. Why not give them a great chance of succeeding in a transition from NXT to the main roster?

Can you seriously say Sami Zayn and Corey Graves’ main event this week couldn’t be on the first hour of SmackDown? Are you telling me Neville and Ambrose, or Neville and Rollins, or Neville and Rhodes, couldn’t tear down the house? Like fans wouldn’t mark the hell out for Neville’s Red Arrow or the inward 450?

GIF from properlypromoted.com
GIF from properlypromoted.com

Like they wouldn’t be thoroughly entertained by a Tyler Breeze-Dashing Cody Rhodes “Not The Face” Match? Come on.

Triple H is developing these fresh faces for something, and they certainly don’t fit the 6-foot-4, 255-pound mold his chiseled physique once made. Why not ease the transition, give them a niche, and let them do something besides “pay their dues” jobbing for Alberto Del Rio or Sheamus in boring 5-minute filler bouts?

I miss the cruiserweights. Here’s a great way to bring them back in full force.

What do you think? Comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter. Enjoy WrestleMania Eve.

SmackDown 02/14: Delayed reaction

After a busy weekend, Monday was (again) the first chance to watch SmackDown.

It was well worth the wait.

This probably has been the case for a while, and I know it is for stretches here and there, but SmackDown is a great professional wrestling show. The Valentine’s Day edition was a refreshing (and much-needed) reminder of why I enjoy the “sport”, and why I’ll probably ever only have one foot out the door.

The opening six-man tag of Daniel Bryan, Christian and Sheamus vs. The Shield was formulaic, but effective. There were hot tags to all three faces to give them some shine, along with plenty of time for the heels to work over the good guys. The match always seemed active … even when Roman Reigns threw a rest hold on Sheamus, there was a purpose of the latter trying to power out and get to his corner. In the end, there was chaos on the floor, and miscommunication among faces (Sheamus Brogue-kicking Christian) to set up the heel victory. All six men looked good, and nobody was weakened by the result. The KISS method of wrestling booking.

Before the main event, the four-way No. 1 contender match for the Intercontinental Championship could’ve stolen the show. There was great ring psychology between Kofi Kingston and Rey Mysterio — team up to neutralize common enemy, then immediately go head-to-head. Kofi was Kofi, hitting his finisher on almost everyone. Rey was entertaining for once. Mark Henry did the typical solid big-man things with his limited exposure; he unfortunately just can’t move like he used to. But Jack Swagger (yes, Jack Swagger) won the match and looked the best doing it. He expertly executed a simultaneous release German suplex of Kofi and Rey. When Kofi tried to flip his way back into the ring from the apron, Swagger was there with the Patriot Lock. Then, when Kofi countered and attempted the Trouble in Paradise trifecta, Swagger countered straight back into the ankle lock for the win. Anything that provides Kurt Angle flashbacks is a good thing. At his best, Swagger could probably only be Kurt Angle Lite, a bad-ass wrestler with less charisma that can be a good hand in the upper-mid card. But there are much worse fates.

The only real non-designed lull seemed to come during the eight-man tag match with Goldust, Cody Rhodes and The Usos vs. Curtis Axel, The Middle Age Outlaws and Ryback. The fact is none of the heels can really go. I damn near fall asleep when Road Dogg is in the ring. Ryback has been sufficiently neutered. Axel and Billy Gunn are OK, but nothing special. There definitely was a come-down segment in the middle of the match until business picked back up at the end. And, my God, are the WWE’s two brother tag teams fun to watch. In the old days, there probably wouldn’t be hesitation to have a faces vs. faces tag team title match. But if The Usos (rightfully) take the belts off the nostalgia act and The Rhodeses were next in line, that could 1) be main-event worthy, 2) be one of the greatest tag-team WRESTLING matches WWE has seen in years.

Two quick come-down matches afterward, though the intensity stayed high after the Damien Sandow-Darren Young match to advance Young’s angle with Titus O’Neil. Fandango vs. The Miz was what it was — let people breathe, grab a beer, go No. 1, etc., before the main event.

And did Cesaro ever deliver.

No Antonio anymore (No Langston for Big E, either), which doesn’t make a lot of sense. But whatever the name, Claudio Castagnoli showed millions of fans what he can do in the ring. He overpowered the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the match’s majority, using a quick pace, mat wrestling and some high-impact strikes and maneuvers to assert himself. Randy Orton sold beautifully, which always helps as well. Cesaro took Orton on the swing for (unofficially) 16 revolutions. Orton went for a backdrop to counter The Neutralizer, and Cesaro stuck the landing on his feet. He hit a sunset-flip powerbomb to ultimately set up The Neutralizer for a clean pin of the champion.

This was a great 15-minute-or-so TV main event, and it was a great rub for Cesaro. I’m still not a huge fan of the champion losing so often (and so cleanly) leading up to a title defense, but Cesaro may have been the one who needed it most because it’s now established he has a chance to win. It also makes you wonder what Christian’s loss means, if anything.

Batista won the Royal Rumble, and I’m OK with it.

This was the Sunday I expected: Free breakfast, check out of the hotel, drive home from a week-long vacation, catch the Royal Rumble match a few minutes late, be somewhat disappointed with the surprises, watch Dave Bautista point at the WrestleMania 30 sign as the winner. This is perfectly fine with me.

Every person who considers him/herself a “true” wrestling fan is absolutely shitting on the result, because none of them can get off Daniel Bryan’s jock.

Bryan’s a great story — the geeky, undersized one-time vegan who trained under legends and spent 10 years in lower-level promotions before getting a break on the first season of NXT. Then he was fired for using the ring announcer’s own attire in a stranglehold on him, since that wasn’t TV-PG. Then he came back, won the U.S. title, won Money in the Bank, became a heel world champion for a few months … then lost it to Sheamus in 18 seconds to open WrestleMania 28.

Since then, he’s built himself into a white-hot character, based on his wrestling acumen and the “YES!” and “NO!” chants that have started to trickle into actual sporting events. He pinned John Cena clean. He has been WWE champion twice — his first reign lasted a few minutes before Randy Orton cashed in his MITB title shot with some help; the second about a day before being stripped due to a ref’s fast count. He ultimately lost the battle to Orton and The Authority, then was shuffled into a feud with Bray Wyatt that resulted in him “joining” the Wyatt Family for about 10 minutes (OK, two weeks) before a quick turn that the fans ate up. Fans clamor for him pretty much during every live moment on WWE TV, because he’s the anti-establishment hero whose popularity can’t be questioned (but can be exaggerated), and whose character can’t be buried (though many fans will tell you he is).

Bryan lost to Wyatt to open Sunday’s pay-per-view, a match that, in rapid-fire reaction, is universally considered the best of the show. People figured, since he lost early, he would be one of the surprise entrants in the main event (maybe at No. 30) and win. When No. 30 came out and was Rey Mysterio, the fans managed to instantly turn on one of the goodiest of good guys because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. There was a bit of cheering when Roman Reigns was one of the last two standing, but the boos were so prevalent when Batista won, “I Walk Alone” may have been played at its highest volume yet.

The problem with many smarks (“smart marks”, or “smart” wrestling fans) is they think it’s all about their people’s champion, and everyone else is a bum trying to bury their man or keep him down. Their yearning for Bryan to be the face of the WWE (as opposed to the corporate storyline “Face of the WWE”) literally is insatiable. They wouldn’t be happy unless he won the Royal Rumble, won the WWE title at WrestleMania, then took the Intercontinental and U.S. titles, won a handicap match for the tag titles, went down to NXT and won their title, then invaded TNA and beat everyone at once for all their belts, too.

Well, I have great news, smarks: There’s a way for that to happen. It’s called WWE 2K14.

Other quick thoughts

• Roman Reigns best be a made man after tonight. He broke Kane‘s 2001 record with 12 eliminations, and he was there until the bell rang. This appears to be the next step in the inevitable Shield breakup, of which Reigns will ultimately triumph. The question is: How do they make Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins work independently from each other? The answer, obviously, is by actually caring about the midcard, but we’ll see if that ever happens.

• Two good Kofi spots to avoid elimination — one involving Alexander Rusev, a barricade, tiptoeing and a long jump; and the other resulting in the confiscation of Jack Swagger’s boot. It’s why Kofi Kingston is in the Royal Rumble, and he’ll probably go back to somewhat interchangeable midcard babyface Monday night.

• Good to see Kevin Nash back, and JBL’s quick spot was entertaining. Sheamus was due to return, and it made sense to do it here. But El Torito? Gimme a break. We can’t get Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam or JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS for a quick one-off, but we can get a pint-sized mascot from a low-card tag team?

• Did anybody really expect anyone else to win? Really? You bring in a former multi-time champion after 4 years off, and he’s supposed to job? Please. This is The Rock’s return last year, except Batista’s only promoting Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, while Dwayne Johnson basically had the entire multiplex on lock. It’s predictable wrestler/actor cross-promotion. The right thing to do for wrestling? Probably not, but it’s doubtful this will be the actual main event. Here’s hoping Dave doesn’t phone it in like Dwayne seemed to for the 2-plus years of his part-time gig.