The booking of Damien Sandow this week has been absolutely brilliant. Well, the non-wrestling part, anyway. Losing to Cody Rhodes (RAW) and Dolph Ziggler (Main Event) won’t exactly build momentum. However, telling Jimmy Hart he’s looked like a Valentine’s Day card for 30 years, declaring teaming with Yoshi Tatsu the worst part of WWE purgatory, threatening Josh Mathews and finally denouncing this gimmick …
… on the RAW preshow, no less, was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a jobber in a while. That set the tone for a fun week of midcard misfits trying to make names for themselves, and possibly succeeding.
Yes, Damien Sandow is a jobber. That’s why, in well-struck worked-shoot fashion, he’s complaining about how he’s used. He doesn’t need to be a supervillain to entertain. He can just talk and wrestle. It’s art imitating life — people lament the fact that men like Sandow and Ziggler aren’t getting pushed, or really given anything to do whatsoever. Why not run with that and make Sandow someone the WWE is trying to “hold back,” “censor” or, in Sandow’s words, “handcuff?” It’s a little too perfect. It would, however, help if Damien could be pointed toward the canvas instead of the sky the next time someone counts to 3.
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. DAMIEN SANDOW
Sandow decides to make a subtle statement by starting the match with his T-shirt on — nobody cares about him, so he doesn’t care about this match just yet. After posting Ziggler at the 45-second mark, he doffs the entrance attire. He stays aggressive, allowing Ziggler to do what he does best — sell the hell out of everything. Dolph finally gains momentum at 2:45 and hits the typical babyface comeback medley. Misses the Fame Asser, though, and after missing a kick, Sandow turns Ziggler into a pretzel. The problem: He tries to follow up with a belly-to-back throw, but Dolph lands on his feet. Zig, Zag, out.
Technical Merit: Clean, if not overly innovative.
Artistic Impression: Decent story with Sandow. Plus, one of the jobbers won!
TOTAL SCORE: *1/2
The aggressive side of Sandow is fun to see. The man is great at dishing out punishment as well as taking it, and he’s one of the company’s best on the mic. The best way to use him just might be a gimmick where they’re “not using” him.
You know who else had a hell of a week? This woman.
After losing (again) to Paige, she had the WWE Universe thinking she quit Monday night. On Tuesday, she chucked a mic into Emma‘s face and beat her up before the match. That may have been her sanest moment of the evening.
EMMA vs. ALICIA FOX
SICK offense from the outset: Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, then a side slam … through the ropes to the floor. “Y’all think I went cray? Oh, you don’t know cray.” I LOVE this. Hairpull toss, then an invitation to talk to the hand. The Emmamite Sandwich gets blocked by a kick. Underrated and overrated get confused. And after all that, she gets rolled up. We find out that’s because, in her words, the ref doesn’t know how to count.
After the match, girl just snaps. She slaps around Tony Chimel. She shakes down Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton. She gets booed a lot. She did the damn thing, and she did it well.
Would it be all that hard to actually give the Divas decent material? It’s really quite easy: Make the heel going against the champion just kind of fly off the handle. Instead, most of the time, we get Total Divas beef.
Case in point … “#TotalDivas” was on my screen during RAW. As is the Bella Twin who looks a bit like she signed a 3-year deal with Brazzers. #NSFW
NIKKI BELLA vs. NATALYA
The angle here: Nikki didn’t like Nattie’s painting of John Cena and her. Nattie thought she should’ve been nice and just accepted it. Also, the rest of the Total Divas cast is “judging” the match ringside. This match already sucks. A bit of wrestling arrives around the 2-minute mark, when Nattie locks in an abdominal stretch and Nikki reverses. And it goes away when they trade pushes that make Erick Rowan look like Gotch or Hackenschmidt. Also, not the last time Rowan’s pushing prowess enters the discussion. Nattie goes for the wheelbarrow victory roll, but Nikki blocks for a pin and Nattie gets sad/mad afterward.
Technical Merit: Too much silly “catfighting” crap and not enough actual athleticism.
Artistic Impression: *hastily puts together “zero” card, holds it up*
TOTAL SCORE: Zero
Zeb Colter wants us to shut up, because apparently real Americans would listen to what he has to say. He’s putting his Deportation List on par with the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Why? Because now Adam Rose is on it, of course! Meanwhile, Colter’s client has a RAW match with someone other than Rose.
JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. ROB VAN DAM
It MIGHT have taken 3 seconds for Rose to interrupt. The only cool thing to come out of it was Swagger swinging and missing as Rose does his “stage dive.” Oh, JBL dropped a Kurrgan and The Oddities reference. Once that’s over, kick, Frog Splash, done. Sometimes I hate wrestling.
Curtis Axel literally won a coin flip to face the United States Champion. That started a Paul Heyman Guy past and present gauntlet of sorts, starting with the two failures of the Heyman experiment on RAW.
United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. CURTIS AXEL
Trying to find the words to describe the Nattie-Nikki match was more interesting than the opening portion of this one. Rolling senton and nice kneelift around the 2-minute mark. Then Sheamus goes up top. When he goes up top, he’s gonna have a bad time … like an effective neckbreaker from Axel. But young Curtis misses a dropkick, lands right into the Cloverleaf and taps. Cool, I guess.
Technical Merit: Nothing good or bad of note. Take that as you will.
Artistic Impression: The coin flip was the story. Take that as you will.
TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*
Ryback couldn’t attack fast enough afterward. This means the Celtic Warrior isn’t done yet.
United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. RYBACK
Lot of escapes and counters early. Sheamus hits the 10 forearms outside, then goes for some sort of shoulder block thing, but Ryback catches him and hits the chinbreaker for 2. Ryback wastes some time, then the Meathook Clothesline is countered right into White Noise for 2. Brogue Kick ducked, and Ryback hits a spinebuster. Sheamus fights back with the running powerslam. When Ryback kicks out, the big fella’s angry. Axel distracts long enough for the Meathook, and Ryback goes for Shell Shocked, but Sheamus slips out and hits the Brogue Kick. An odd match, but a good one.
Technical Merit: If you like escapes and reversals, this was your kind of wrestling match.
Artistic Impression: We saw Sheamus get a little angry, which is good. And we knew it would take some sort of escape to set up the finisher.
TOTAL SCORE: **
Big guys don’t typically have “technical” matches, but that’s what this was. Some purists will see two big, slow, stale guys in the ring and try to see how many negative stars they could possibly give it. Others would say just because the maneuvers aren’t exactly attacking moves doesn’t mean it’s not wrestling.
A day later, Main Event starts with “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!” Because Paul Heyman. The United States Champion interrupts for a mildly entertaining back-and-forth that sets up our main event of the evening.
A former U.S. Champion then interrupts and provides a Neutralizer as an appetizer. Nice, brief segment to give us a reason to desire the match, even though there already was one with Cesaro being involved. This felt like a big deal, due to Sheamus’ strong billing over the past couple days and, it goes without saying, because Paul Heyman.
Near the midpoint of the show, Sheamus confirms we won’t have a match. We’ll have a fight. He’s right.
United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. CESARO (w/Paul Heyman)
That entrance attire …
… and a European uppercut exchange in the first minute? You have my attention. At 2 minutes, Cesaro already needs to regroup, though it provides a great heelish moment when Sheamus dumps him into the ring and he rolls all the way through to the other side. This is a brawl, and it’s a good one to start. Whole lot of strikes, whole lot of Heyman. We get 10 more strikes at about 3:45, much to Heyman’s chagrin. Mike Chioda wants a clean break in the corner; Cesaro provides a couple big boots and an uppercut to the back of the head instead. A rolling senton at 5:30 wasn’t the first wrestling move in the match, but it felt like it. Sheamus goes up, but Cesaro cuts him off and hip tosses him. I think that was the third move.
Sidenote: I want the WWE 50 book. My birthday’s coming up. Just saying …
Anyway, back to another boatload of strikes, which Cesaro wins with a kick. Sheamus gets some momentum, but a clothesline stunts it. Irish Curse backbreaker follows shortly after. Goes for the Cloverleaf, but Cesaro rolls him up. Sheamus hits the powerslam to no avail. Cesaro escapes White Noise and ducks the Brogue Kick into a bridging German suplex. The Neutralizer attempt gets countered into White Noise. Strike 2 on the Brogue Kick, and a strike against Cesaro when he goes up top, but gets knocked to the floor. Sheamus follows with one of the clumsiest crossbodies I’ve ever seen. Cesaro counters a Sheamus charge by dumping him into the timekeeper’s area. A few seconds later, Sheamus clotheslines both of them into the front row. That’ll guarantee a double countout.
Technical Merit: Well-executed brawling style match with plenty of counters and escapes. Solid all around.
Artistic Impression: Usually not a fan of the double countout, but it protects both men and allows the post-match fireworks to commence.
TOTAL SCORE: **3/4
Nice bit afterward to advance the rivalry — Paul E. hands Cesaro a chair, which is put to good use, and Sheamus finally connects on a Brogue Kick to even the score. It looks like if creative wanted, the option to draw this out is there. Sheamus is giving credibility to a championship that sorely needed it after being just some accessory Dean Ambrose wore for a year. Cesaro could help boost the prestige by being the perfect foil — wickedly strong, well-versed in technique and an absolute physical specimen. Cesaro can be a leaner, meaner version of Sheamus, or he could just wrestle circles around him. Or Sheamus could eke out the upper hand and continue his upward trajectory. Plenty of things are in play for a future feud, or it’s just a fun way to spend a Tuesday night.
Hey, if you thought the Total Divas shilling wasn’t enough … don’t worry, you get Legends House plugs now! Also, you can be all “HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and “USA! USA! USA!” all you want, but I know your game, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. I didn’t forget.
Lana interrupts and promos on the U.S. and England — once-great nations whose empires have crumbled and become the laughingstocks of the world. She’s conveniently forgetting about her own country, which only used to be the freaking Soviet Union. Anyway, this was all a ploy to get Rusev and her out here. And for Rusev to snap a 2×4 over his knee like a stick. And for Big E. to run in and get killed.
Random, relevant point on social media Monday night: Kofi. Big E. R-Truth. Xavier Woods. Rusev isn’t exactly an equal-opportunity midcard monster heel. Maybe by beating up only black people, WWE is going for a weird heel-in-America, face-in-Russia (and, judging by soccer, probably some other places in Europe) thing. Also, one of the four may or may not have posted an Instagram pic of The Nation of Domination and suggested this is how they’ll handle business from here on out. If someone in the group could actually assert himself as a leader, it could have legs. If not? Well prepare for next week’s episode of Rusev Squashes Another Black Talent.
Speaking of WWE’s black contingent, on to Superstars, which leads off with a rubber match?
KOFI KINGSTON vs. TITUS O’NEIL
Apparently Titus won 5 weeks ago, and Kofi earned revenge 3 weeks ago. This confirms, in fact, there are Superstars rivalries. Vicious offense from Titus … well, until the bear hug. Because we need a rest hold after 90 seconds. Kofi tries to slip under Titus, but he’s caught, then clubbed in the back of the head. Kofi sells better than he attacks, which is to O’Neil’s benefit here. Titus looks impressive as the big man; it’s a shame they can’t really find anything else from him to do. Well, I guess they did from the 3-minute mark on, because he’s selling for Kofi. No selling necessary on Trouble In Paradise, which is simply caught and turned into a backbreaker. I stand corrected … he’ll have to sell it one way or another.
Technical Merit: A little rough, but not bad.
Artistic Impression: I guess I’d have to watch this show more often to even know there’s a story behind it.
TOTAL SCORE: *1/4
Speaking of Superstars rivalries, here’s 3MB!
Bright side: Hornswoggle isn’t doing the work here.
DREW MCINTYRE (w/3MB) vs. SIN CARA (con Los Matadores y El Torito)
First off, the Los Matadores gimmick SUCKS. It’s not as bad as when they marginalized Tito freaking Santana, but were Primo and Epico all that bad? Second, I officially miss Carlito. Not even sure why, but I was a total mark. His Intercontinental Championship triple threat with Shelton Benjamin and Johnny Nitro in 2006 was legendary. Third, armdrags and monkey flips all around! Give WWE credit: It took 2 whole minutes to address the Hornswoggle-El Torito rivalry. Good news: Drew gains momentum after commercial. Bad news: He might have used a move from Erick Rowan‘s repertoire — push the guy down while he’s running at you. McIntyre works well when he has a bit of a mean streak, of which you don’t get to see a whole lot when he’s in a comedic heel jobber stable. Speaking of jobber, he takes Sin Cara’s babyface comeback. Hornswoggle reprises the under-the-ring gimmick at 6:00, when El Torito chases/corners him. Everybody on the outside follows. Drew is sufficiently distracted. So are the fans when El Torito walks out with Hornswoggle’s pants.
Anyway, back in the ring, Sin Cara hits a kick on the apron and hits the Swanton for the victory.
Technical Merit: It started strong. It finished with a whimper.
Artistic Impression: It’s 3MB vs. Los Matadores. You can skip this one.
TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*