Tag Archives: Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

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

“Get on with it!”

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

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

Main Event 061714 Dean Ambrose

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

•••

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

Main Event 061714 Russia Mount Rushmore Rusev

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

Santino arrives to interrupt, but not for long.

ALEXANDER RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. SANTINO MARELLA

Superkick, Accolade, done.

Main Event 061714 Rusev Santino Accolade

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

Main Event 061714 Rusev Lana Russia

Time: 0:24

•••

Main Event 061714 Luke Harper Bray Wyatt Family

Oh yeah, the Wyatt Family is here.

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

Main Event 061714 Naomi Paige

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

Time: 5:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 061714 Bray Wyatt Jimmy Uso

That’s how you end a match.

Time: 11:38

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox

Her opponent? I could do without.

ALICIA FOX vs. NIKKI BELLA

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

Time: 3:40

Technical Merit: Basic, but clean at least.

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

Superstars 061914 Alicia Fox 2

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

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

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger

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

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

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

Superstars 061914 Jack Swagger Zeb Colter

Time: 8:16

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

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

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

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

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

*more sing-along time*

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

RAW 051914 Bray Wyatt

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAW 051914 Luke Harper

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

HBK Shelton Benjamin

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

Hulu Plus time: 9:30

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

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

RAW 051914 Stephanie McMahon

RAW 051914 Angry fan

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

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

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

•••

First impression: Roman Reigns‘ eye looks jacked up.

RAW 051914 The Shield

“Nine stitches … is that all you got?”

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

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

SETH ROLLINS vs. BATISTA

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

Hulu Plus time: 8:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

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

Oh well, at least we have NXT, right?

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

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

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.