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.”
This one’s for the ladies.
This one’s not.
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.
Later in the show, Paul E. decides we need to hear a joke, because “my kids think I’m funny!”
Mike … lient Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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:
(No) thanks to Twitter, I know what happens. Oh well.
Speaking of champions …
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.
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.
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.
That’s the good news.
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.
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.
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.
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