Tag Archives: Paige

SmackDown review (Aug. 8): Seth Rollins gets revenge on Dean Ambrose … and Dolph Ziggler

Dean Ambrose has his choice of stipulation for his SummerSlam match with Seth Rollins by virtue of his victory over the now-departed Alberto Del Rio on RAW and, of course, Rollins’ loss to Heath Slater. Yes, you read that correctly. He can pick anything he wants. He breaks out a LIST of possible stipulations.

And he decides on a lumberjack match.

Let me try that again.

The supposedly coolest, edgiest, best-looking, best promo-giving, best guy in wrestling today decides on a FREAKING LUMBERJACK MATCH?! But hey, I’m sure it’ll be the coolest, greatest, most hardcore, most technical, most epic lumberjack match in WWE history, right? RIGHT?! OK, I’m done trolling the Ambrose marks. For now. Here’s a picture of him to distract you from the rest of the blog.

SmackDown 080814 Dean Ambrose
All photos in this post are screenshots from WWE’s broadcast on Hulu Plus.

Now, granted, Ambrose’s list didn’t include great options — just ones you could find variations of in WCW’s extensive library for only $9.99 a month on the WWE Network!!! — but JBL‘s Hat on a Pole and Parking Lot Brawl II would seriously be better. Ambrose’s theory is based in logic, since Rollins can’t run away if the ring is surrounded, but it’s still a bit of a letdown when you have someone “unstable” who cut his teeth being hardcore. I’m also sad Rollins had the first WWE Network plug when there was such a clear opportunity, but I digress. He’s the one studying at the Triple H School of Shameless Plugs this semester.

SmackDown 080814 Seth Rollins

Decent opening promo from both … not spectacular, as Twitter will lead you to believe, but decent.

Rollins kicked more knowledge on Dolph Ziggler a segment or so later than Ambrose and Rollins combined in the opening duel. Ziggler kicked more knowledge than the rest of the show combined with one line:

“Who didn’t always wonder what Catwoman would look like if she did CrossFit all the time?”

When you can diss Rollins’ superhero getup, his masculinity AND a workout fad in 16 words, you win the evening. I’m still convinced CrossFit only lasts as long as its practitioners’ backs and joints will. I almost blew out my knee once just watching an Instagram video. Now let’s see whether the No. 1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship wins the match.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SETH ROLLINS

Sidenote: There was a time when being in Ziggler’s position was an honor. It meant being one of the top workers in wrestling, which Ziggler absolutely is. But now, when the Intercontinental title is still in image rehab and everybody is “buried” if they’re not in the world championship picture or they’re losing some matches, it’s not good enough for anyone anymore. I still think the title is in good hands with a Hollywood heel Miz OR a face Ziggler.

OK, time to call the damn match. Nice touch by Rollins hitting the Three Amigos in Texas … but the fans don’t care. Then again, they could just not be sweetening the crowd for once. Ziggler hits a jawbreaker to escape a rear chinlock, then snaps off two dropkicks. He goes for the Fame Asser early, but Rollins dodges and deposits him outside heading into the break.

Rollins remains the aggressor as we return with a deliberate dominance. Knock him down, let him get up, knock him down again. Ziggler finally gets some separation with a couple strikes, a clothesline that needs to be flattened according to one Steve Austin, a Stinger Splash, a 10-punch combo in the corner and a neckbreaker for 2. Meanwhile, JBL brings up a great idea for a stipulation: What if The Miz couldn’t be hit in the face at SummerSlam? I like it. After a few more covers, both men exchange blows until Rollins wins the mini-battle with his feet. Ziggler opens the next round with that vicious DDT for 2. Fame Asser on Rollins’ return to the ring for 2, and they take their time to reset. They’ll take another short break after Rollins posts Ziggler’s shoulder and knocks him outside. Apparently the shoulder didn’t receive enough punishment, so the barricade and the steps will finish the job. Rollins breaks the count, brings Ziggler back in and hits the Curbstomp.

Hulu Time: 10:47

Technical Merit: Anytime you get two of the top guys in the ring, you’ll get a good contest.

Artistic Impression: Basic in-ring story with Ziggler looking strong, but Rollins’ aggression being enough to win. Rollins played the part well when he came a bit unhinged and battered Ziggler outside.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

Ambrose’s task in the main event? Follow that.

DEAN AMBROSE vs. RANDY ORTON

So do you think Orton won’t work Ambrose’s shoulder since he knows from his dad that if you keep tape or a cast on that long, you’ve actually been fully healed for a while? The Ace Cowboy and his forearm cast approve of Ambrose’s tactics. But Orton debunks my theory at the 2-minute mark because he’s one of the best in-ring psychologists of all time. Now to see whether Ambrose sells it. A right-arm clothesline and a right-side-first leap outside later, it’s break time.

Rest hold on the left shoulder to open the final segment, and Orton decides to just stomp the crap out of it a few seconds later. Sidenote: Do you get PPV pay if you’re a lumberjack for a match? Will they hire actual lumberjacks for minimum wage due to budget cuts? Anyway, back to the left arm, which Orton has worked almost exclusively. Ambrose tells him to put some pressure on, because he’s nuts, and Orton obliges, because he likes to hurt people. Ambrose gets some breathing room with the DDT and punches his way into the driver’s seat. Tornado DDT follows for 2, just as I was thinking about how Ambrose is the guy you see in the bar who will use like a hold or two if necessary, but is more comfortable just beating your ass with his fists. Orton uses his fist to slow Ambrose, then ungracefully yanks him out of the ring and uses the steps and the apron to his advantage. Ambrose, though, counters the through-the-ropes DDT, bodydrops Orton outside and suicide dives right-arm first. Back in the ring, that dumb off-the-ropes clothesline spot ensues, but Dirty Deeds is thwarted by a Rollins distraction ringside. But Ambrose blocks the RKO and hits his finisher, only to have Rollins pull him out at 2 for the DQ.

A typical 2-on-1 Authority beatdown, complete with a soda pour onto Ambrose’s dome, ends the show, because it’s pro wrestling and the good guy will win in the end anyway.

Hulu Time: 9:13

Technical Merit: Ambrose’s KISS method works in that he doesn’t mess up. But I could see someone use his moveset at the nearest honky-tonk bar tonight … and probably get knocked out and have a drink poured on him, too! Orton’s adaptability made this two men brawling for nearly 10 minutes, which was to be expected.

Artistic Impression: It was the story they needed to tell, and they told it pretty well. Ambrose gets one up on Rollins on RAW, Rollins gets him back on SmackDown.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

WWE knew you missed Mark Henry and The Big Show, so they’ll give you both! As a tag team! Because why would you pass up the chance for an 837-pound duo? Pretty sure that’s close to the WWE *and* ROH tag champions combined.

Fact check time: reDRagon is 407 pounds, less than Big Show OR Henry. The Usos come in at 479, giving the champions a sub-50-pound edge over the big guys.

The new Colossal Connection gets the prototypical basic heel tag team of guys whose singles pushes fizzled.

THE BIG SHOW & MARK HENRY vs. RYBAXEL (Ryback & Curtis Axel)

Heel tag team pyschology is applied beautifully near the 2-minute mark, when Axel clips Henry’s knee and double-team action ensues. That, however, doesn’t stack up to Show’s hot tag. He literally passed Ryback off to Henry for the World’s Strongest Slam to set up a chokeslam on Axel. Done.

SmackDown 080814 Big Show Mark Henry

Time: 3:18

•••

We mentioned Laredo’s bordertown location during the Midcard Report. If you thought Zeb Colter talking about Mexicans wouldn’t be enough for WWE, you were absolutely correct.

SmackDown 080814 Damien Sandow

Maybe as a Border Patrol agent, Damien Sandow can audition for a spot in the Real Americans. He could even be a babyface to the lowest-common-denominator fans! This is why someone should give me the book.

“Mr. Border Patrol” DAMIEN SANDOW vs. SIN CARA

JBL’s current events one-liners are on point. So is Sin Cara, who actually reaches to hit the hurricanrana on Sandow. Cara also escapes a Full Nelson to hit the Angle Slam (?!) to set up the senton off the top.

Time: 1:52

SmackDown 080814 Sin Cara

Not long enough to rate, but an impressive effort from the former Hunico, who seems to have polished his usual offering and added some elements to his offense. You don’t see sub-200-pound luchadors suddenly break out that Olympic slam, let alone on someone in the 240 range. Considering Alberto Del Rio‘s exit, Cara likely will get every chance to become the newest Mexican hero. The question is whether irreversible damage has already been done to the character.

•••

Apparently wrestling really is a priority on this show. A solid Ziggler-Rollins match is followed by a contest involving this woman:

SmackDown 080814 Natalya

She faces the No. 1 contender for the Divas Championship, who hopefully will perform more like she did in NXT.

NATALYA vs. PAIGE

Clothesline, butterfly suplex and the Sharpshooter? In the first 40 seconds? You have my attention. Paige Turner outside to start the second minute, but she can’t follow up as Nattie rolls her up upon re-entry. However, a kick to the chest and a modified scorpion crosslock PTO later, that’s it.

SmackDown 080814 Paige

Time: 2:11

Quick, but decent, I guess. The match was better than the name for Paige’s finisher, which is just atrocious. At least when it’s a scorpion crosslock, it sounds like a finisher. PTO sounds like some sort of HR office code … then when you hear what it means? “Paige Tap Out”? Really?

•••

Rusev udrea! Rusev machka!

Guess that whole push for Big E. and Company is over.m First, no sign of Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods. Second, he’s facing the heel who needs to be elevated in the xenophobic angle du jour.

BIG E. vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)

JBL fun fact: Laredo used to be the capital of the Republic of Rio Grande before Texas was a thing. Slight botch when Big E., who actually builds a decent head of steam, goes for the Big Ending. Rusev kind of gets out of the way, but takes Big E.’s legs to the back of his head. No matter, because after the big kick and Accolade, Big E. is humbled.

SmackDown 080814 Rusev Big E

Time: 1:52

•••

SmackDown 080814 Chris Jericho

This episode of SmackDown is Jericho is a serious one. As someone who was an absolute mark for heel Chris Jericho in 2008, I like it when he gets serious.

Bray Wyatt thrives on mind games and pain. His poison is Sister Abigail. But the antidote is Y2J. He’s going to shove the “buzzards” down his throat, and he’s more than willing to get crazy.

I have a good feeling about this match. Jericho is here to put Wyatt over, and especially after Jericho won the first round, it appears Wyatt will get the upper hand in this one. The question will be what’s next for someone who already has worked with Daniel BryanJohn Cena, The Shield and Jericho this year. Some say his character was effectively neutered by the Cena angle, and they may be right. But if he can adapt to each opponent, instead of seemingly using the same rhetoric and inserting a different name, and continue to develop the character, he’ll be fine.

•••

This week’s edition of the RAW Rebound (or RAW Rewind?) it simply this week’s edition of Why Brie Bella sucks. Stephanie McMahon is so far out of her league as a character, it’s actually kind of hard to watch. It’s not all that hard to say a hand-delivered line correctly … though Roman Reigns gives it a degree of difficulty about 4-5 words at a time. But seriously, Brie, get a damn acting coach or something. Ask someone in the back what syllables to emphasize instead of just raising your voice (or often yelling) the last one. Lay off the word “bitch” if you even can. Go ahead and veto the bad prison one-liners, since you can’t even give us the punchline without making our heads hurt. I would offer the alternative of not speaking, but that doesn’t really work if you finish back-to-back shows against the top heel in American professional wrestling.

Just pin Steph and go away until Bryan comes back. Please?

What did you think of SmackDown? What’s your take on the Rollins-Ambrose angle at this stage? Comment below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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WWE Midcard Report (Aug. 5-7): Alberto Del Rio’s final appearance, SlaterGator’s win streak is on the line and A.J. tells us a fairy tale

A four-time world champion was fired Thursday. The fact that this is pertinent to the Midcard Report is a bit depressing, but since he’s a midcard show veteran these days, this seems the best place to discuss Alberto Del Rio.

At this stage, the firing itself is the only news out there, besides the fact that WWE didn’t wish him luck in his future endeavors. In fact, WWE’s entire release:

WWE announced the release of Alberto Del Rio due to unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee.

In other words, Alberto Del Rio did some shit.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network

It’s a hard fall from grace for a man who came in with so much promise — I marked out for the Mexican aristocrat vignettes — and showed plenty of ability, but didn’t move the needle much as champion, had one of the weakest face turns pro wrestling has ever seen and was thrown into the same boring matches with the same boring opponents night in and night out. A man of his résumé regularly competing on the C and D shows should’ve elevated them, but at the end of his 4-year run they actually seemed to be the right place for him — a place to go 10 minutes or so and not force the casual fans to watch. The last time most will see him, though, is a well-fought, 15-plus-minute match with the Internet Wrestling Community’s Flavor of the Summer, Dean Ambrose, in a Beat the Clock Challenge on RAW.

With Rey Mysterio gone for long periods of time and now presumably retired, Del Rio had to carry the Latino fan base somehow. With Del Rio presumably on the way out even before his WWE-imposed departure, there’s a huge hole that needs to be filled. There may be no section of the WWE Universe more loyal than la razabut it needs someone to back or else the company’s bottom line may hurt even more than it already is.

•••

As we fire up Main Event on Friday morning … well, this is awkward …

Del Rio, the ultimate tweener at this point, plays up his nationality with the Mexican flag in the border town of Laredo, Texas, and a passionate promo in Spanish. He switches back to English and thanks the fans for their support through the years. He sounds like a man who knows his days are numbered. His opponent, a babyface, gets a mixed reaction playing up the American angle, and his manager heels it up (or faces it up?) with the xenophobic bit.

Main Event 080514 Jack Swagger
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.

These men main event Main Event.

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

We appear to have the rare tweener vs. tweener match, which is odd considering they’re trying to build Swagger as the ultimate American babyface. Flag waving advantage: Del Rio. Athletic tape advantage: Swagger, who’s selling a rib injury. Early wrestling advantage: Del Rio. Swagger finally seems to gain control via back bodydrop to the outside at the 2:15 mark, and he continues his handiwork on the outside as he clearly works heel for the night. The problem: When you deposit someone back in the ring, more often than not you’ll get hit on your re-entry, which Del Rio does via enziguiri before the break.

The Real American elbows out of a rest hold when we return, and the real Mexican introduces his foe to the ringpost. We’re working both shoulders tonight — left to the post, right to the barricade. If we had William Regal, he would discuss how brilliant this is to not only set up both arms for the cross armbreaker, but completely incapacitate Swagger’s upper body, negating his power advantage. You can’t snap on the Patriot Lock if you can’t use your arms. Or something. Rear chinlock and spot-calling time just before 6 minutes, and ADR briefly locks in the cross armbreaker on the left arm on the ropes. Well done. Also well done: Swagger’s superplex, which punishes both men — Swagger more than usual with the injured core. Babyface(?) comeback from Swagger gets some boos, and the Swaggerbomb gets 2. Pretty sure someone yells “CANADA!” during a slow portion. Del Rio picks up the pace once more with the Tornado DDT. Swagger responds with a slam for 2, but then receives the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and short superkick for 2. Armbreaker time just past 10 minutes … but it’s countered directly into the Patriot Lock?! Del Rio escapes and goes for the kick in the corner, but Swagger gets the Patriot Lock once more. No escape this time.

Time: 11:11

Technical Merit: Some slow spots, but a solid, well-thought-out wrestling match.

Artistic Impression: A bit of a Kurt Angle throwback, with multiple counters into ankle locks. Great ring psychology from ADR working the upper body exclusively, but Swagger has the customary comeback as the patriotic babyface, and rightly so. He needs to be built up, not just for the flag match against Rusev at SummerSlam, but for his character as a whole. Swagger appears to be out of the doghouse after his legal issues from last year, and he’s a sorely needed solid mechanic in the midcard. You know, when he’s not concussing people.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

•••

Main Event’s first in-ring action involved the surging SlaterGator! These men dominated last week’s Midcard Report, and Heath Slater pinned Mr. Money in the Bank on the main event of RAW on Monday.

HEATH SLATER & TITUS O’NEIL vs. GOLDUST & STARDUST

Byron Saxton: “Remember, Goldust is the normal one here.” The not-so-normal one gets the not-so-normal result on the crossbody attempt about 2 minutes in, as the Gator catches him, backbreaks him twice and pitches him aside. This happens again, only Stardust lands on his feet and goes for the Goldust trademark drop and slap spot, only he makes it a kick. Goldust hits the original on the hot tag. Titus breaks up the cover after a Goldust powerslam, and Stardust steps off Goldie’s back to hit Titus. The Gator, however, stays on the apron, sneaks a kick on Goldie, and Slater completes a sunset flip for ANOTHER SLATERGATOR WIN, BAY-BAY! No “cosmic key” for the bizarre ones this time.

Time: 4:01

Technical Merit: Basic? Of course. Fun? Yes.

Artistic Impression: Goldust & Stardust nearly make this element 5 stars on their presentation alone. They’re just … bizarre. And I’ll admit it: I’m a SlaterGator mark. I’m a sucker for odd-couple tag teams, and this one just works so well.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

What’s better than SlaterGator? More SlaterGator, of course! This time, the collective winning streak is on the line as the Gator faces the United States Champion on Superstars. No Slater for this one, probably since this match was actually their first of the week. Oh, TV tapings.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. TITUS O’NEIL, non-title match

Titus apparently blames Sheamus for not being U.S. Champ … something to do with the battle royal in which Sheamus won. We’re gonna see just how good he is in this big-man match, and we’ll see whether the “Sheamus vs. non-Del Rio opponent” corollary continues. Nice corner spot after a slow start … the champ simply lifts both legs and drops Titus (nice sell!), and Sheamus removes Titus from the premises before the break.

You have three guesses on what we saw coming out of the break:

  1. Rest hold
  2. Rest hold
  3. Rest hold

If you guessed rest hold, you’re correct! Titus works the arm, then lifts Sheamus on his shoulder and hits a backbreaker. He nearly gets the DQ in the corner, then hits his trademark half-Black Hole Slam. That’s what I’m calling the throw. He proceeds to … slap Sheamus repeatedly. That’s just not going to work. The champ is rejuvenated, and the rolling senton isn’t far off. Neither are the 10 Beats of the Bodhran. Renee Young drops an awkward Grand Theft Auto reference about Sheamus “hijacking” the match, and Titus quickly regains control and slams Sheamus’ ribs into the ropes multiple times. Unfortunately for Titus, he follows up by eating a Brogue Kick.

Superstars 080714 Sheamus

Time: 8:22

Technical Merit: Basic, sometimes painfully, at times. A typical WWE big-man match. The usual bag of tricks from Sheamus. Titus likes to find different ways to inflict punishment, but it’s so sporadic that it doesn’t really have the desired effect.

Artistic Impression: Titus looked like a legitimate threat for a decent portion of the match. The problem is it’ll take a lot more than the U.S. Champ’s efforts to make him look good in a singles setting.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

The last time I saw Summer Rae, it was yesterday during my gradual NXT catchup mission. She barely beat Bayley in a match four weeks ago, and it wasn’t a very entertaining contest. Against the Divas Champion? I don’t see this one being realistic.

A.J. is back from a vicious whiplash suffered at the hands of Paige on SmackDown, complete with a camera bump. This sounds like Bret Hart suffering through “a groin pull the likes you’ve never seen in your whole life!” in WCW. Also, who are you to doubt El Dandy?

Sorry, there’s a match in here somewhere.

WWE Divas Champion A.J. vs. SUMMER RAE, non-title match

The champ takes an apparent neck bump and is down for a few seconds … that will set the tone for this one. Summer works the neck a bit. A.J. responds by working the Black Widow. Ballgame.

Time: 1:53

Now we’re gonna get a fairy tale!

Main Event 080514 AJ Lee

A.J.’s the girl who became an adorable queen by winning the championship. Paige was the evil witch who took it from her, but A.J. was her own white knight when she came back to win. Paige, the “frenemy,” says she can be the white knight. A.J. declares Paige won’t like the way this fairy tale will end, because it’s not Paige’s house, but A.J.’s kingdom.

Well, at least they tried. It wasn’t the greatness some fans made it sound like on Twitter, but they’re trying. I just hope SummerSlam is the end of this angle, since Paige apparently is getting botchier by the match and we’re talking about queens and frenemies and fairy tales and stuff.

On the other hand, we have multiple high-profile women’s matches at SummerSlam, a mark of true progress. These angles are well planned, well built and (except in the case of Brie Bella) well portrayed. The Bella-Stephanie McMahon match WILL be good, because McMahon is the best heel in major professional wrestling right now and she is in great physical shape. Besides, you think, as a former champion married to a 13-time world champion, she hasn’t learned a thing or two in the ring? Long as Brie isn’t yelling “BITCH!” every other word or sentence, which literally seems to be all she knows how to do besides weak-sauce prison jokes, we’ll be OK.

On another note, heel Paige? It looks good on her.

Main Event 080514 Paige

•••

Superstars led off with some more Divas action. If not for my last remaining shreds of journalistic integrity, this girl would be enough to skip forward about 20-30 minutes on this show.

Superstars 080714 Cameron

On the bright side, Emma‘s back! But, considering the phone case fiasco, I think we know how this will go. And I think it will make me angry.

EMMA vs. CAMERON

Cam telegraphs a clothesline from about 15 feet away … and misses. Emma trips her up, rolls her up and scoops her up for a slam. Cam yanks Emma to the ground by the arm, then works the arm in the ropes. The latter wasn’t believable at all; the former was a little bit. More arm work with the weardown hold, so we actually have some ring psychology here. Cameron bridges while having a hold of Emma’s arms, which actually looks pretty cool. Not as cool as the Dilemma, or the Emmamite Sandwich at 3 minutes or so. Emma’s dropkick attempt misses, as does Renee Young‘s Britney Spears reference (people didn’t love her in the early ’90s … as a then-13-year-old boy, I KNOW “Baby One More Time” hit at the end of 1998), and Cameron uses her legs to smash Emma’s head into the mat and win the match. Full points for the cover, at least.

Superstars 080714 Cameron Emma

Time: 3:53

Technical Merit: Cameron needs to be on NXT, but she wouldn’t be a good enough wrestler to hang. I get it, Total Divas, yadda yadda yadda. But she sucks! It looks like she’s trying, so I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh … but she’s taking up TV with a complete lack of wrestling ability. Emma, as she usually does, shows her innovative offense in a quick setting.

Artistic Impression: This wasn’t good. But Cameron needs to be booked semi-strong to even seem like she’s in the same league as former Funkadactyl teammate Naomi.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

Come back for more WWE analysis this weekend with a SmackDown review. Also, we’ll check in with Ring of Honor’s latest TV episode. Feel free to discuss any pertinent topics (especially Del Rio) below, or drop a line on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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 Superstars review (June 5): Paige shuts Cameron up. Quickly. And Big E. beats Titus O’Neil. Again.

All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.
All photos are screenshots from the WWE Network.

Superstars?

… SUPERSTARS?!?!?!

Yes, this is happening. When the less-talented member of The Funkadactyls demands a spot at the table for the WWE Divas Championship, we at least see what happens. And then we instantly lament it because it’s not even close to being worthwhile. But, I guess it helps to have your champion at least try to face everyone to see who works well with her, and vice versa.

Hopefully, there’s no rematch of this one.

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. CAMERON

Cameron has apparently “busted her butt for a year,” so she demands a match with the champion. Meanwhile, as was pointed out on Twitter at least once (and likely many times), Paige has busted hers since age 13, which makes her a champion at 21. Nice head-scissors bit there from Came, but the champ goes right back to beating her down. Now Cameron decides to take a day and a half to get back in the ring, and do the heel beg bit upon her return. Really? Paige falling for it was worse. Bulldog variation for 2, then Cam goes up top? Naturally, the crossbody misses. Time for the modified scorpion crosslock … I mean the PTO (Please Tap Out).

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron

Cameron obliges.

Time: 3:05

Technical Merit: Paige is only as good as her dance partner at this point with the main roster. Not like they can do much in 3 minutes, but she (and her opponents, frankly) seem a bit one-dimensional and formulaic in the quicker matches.

Artistic Impression: Unworthy challenger takes shot at champion. Champion makes her tap out quickly. Life goes on.

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

Superstars 060514 Paige Cameron 2

•••

What’s better than a Superstars match? A Superstars rematch, of course! After skipping ahead through 20 minutes of Payback and RAW recaps? Even better!

Superstars 060514 Big E

BIG E. vs. TITUS O’NEIL

Semi-serious note: Where’s Rusev will to beat the black guys down? Hey, don’t blame me … blame creative for keeping the not-so-subtle racial overtones of the 1980s alive. Meanwhile, Big E. wins a chop war by disqualification when Titus kicks him in the gut. The funny thing about those: Whoever “loses” usually wins control in the long run. If it’s O’Neil, he barks a bit as well. Big E. regains the advantage by catching Titus and hitting a chain of three backbreakers and covering for 2. After a shoulder block from Big E., Titus tosses Langston out, picks him up and throws him into the barricade. Twice. I suddenly feel like I’m watching the Ring of Honor main event from last week. … Especially when Big E. returns the favor against Titus after the break. A weardown hold follows, with Titus locking in an abdominal stretch, but Langston hip tosses out. Titus catches Big E. for a powerslam after that and hits a backbreaker over his shoulder. Neither cover is successful, so Titus slaps him around a bit in the corner, then breaks out a bit of Mojo Rawley‘s offense. OK, that’s a lie … he didn’t use his butt. Big E. powers out of Titus’ next move, catches Titus over the top rope, goes clothesline-clothesline-belly-to-belly, then hits the Ultimate Warrior splash. From there, it’s tim efor the Big Ending? Nope, O’Neil’s size 17. Twice. Titus goes for a corner charge, but Big E. follows him in with a spear. NOW it’s Big Ending time.

Time: 8:27

Technical Merit: The typical, basic big-man match you’d expect here. I think this is the longest I’ve ever seen Titus in the ring at once, and it looks like he doesn’t yet have the repertoire to go any longer. Only one rest hold, though, so that’s better stamina than many bigs have.

Artistic Impression: It wasn’t a riveting match by any means, but it wasn’t terrible. Big E. won last week as well, so Titus is supposed to look good in defeat here.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Superstars 060514 Big E 2

WWE Payback review: John Cena and Bray Wyatt actually have a great match, The Shield has it almost too easy against Evolution, and Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella waste our time

WWE Payback seemed destined for two fates — it would go as expected and be the biggest flop of the year, or it would be one of those “diamond in the rough” shows we’d talk about for years to come.

The actual result? Somewhere in between.

Matches that could’ve been terrible were OK. Matches that could’ve been OK kind of sucked. The odds-on favorite to become Match of the Year became just another good rematch and wasn’t even the Match of the Night. And, of course, John Cena won (LOL), but he and Bray Wyatt also stole the show.

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

Expectations were quite low for the semi-main event. After all, Wyatt and Cena’s first two special-event matches had flickers of potential but usually kind of flamed out. Cena fell just short of becoming the “monster” Wyatt implored him to be (and the one we wanted) at WrestleMania, and Extreme Rules was kind of a mess with a gimmicky finish involving Cena being scared of a little kid. OK matches, but not great.

With the help of Luke HarperErick Rowan and The Usos, who actually took over the focus of the match for a few minutes with some great spots, this match found the sweet spot. Harper superplexing an Uso through two tables onto the floor — a move that seemed to protect the recipient more than the aggressor — is the image that will stick in my mind most. That and Cena actually finding a kinda-sorta cool way to win one of these things that didn’t involve duct tape. Instead, he hit the AA on Wyatt from a production table onto/though an empty storage container, then dumped a presumably full one on top. Typical sneaky Cena? Yes. But one based in some sort of wrestling logic.

The only problem here? It felt like the same ol’, same ol’ with Cena winning again, and Wyatt needs to come out on top in this angle. Wyatt needs the rub of overtaking the great, superhuman John Cena to add to his list of evil accomplishments … because who cares about him if he can’t back up what he says? Yes, he defeated the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the Royal Rumble, but a lot of fans barely remember it … if they do, it was because it added to the “burial” of Daniel Bryan. Cena could recover from losing this war. Wyatt? I’m not entirely sure.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cena, Cena

Match expectations: *-*1/2

Technical Merit: Having solid workers involved in the periphery enhanced the “wrestling” feel. And Cena and Wyatt have always known how to bring it … they just didn’t until Sunday.

Artistic Impression: A great story in a vacuum that loses a bit of luster in the grand scheme of WWE with the finish.

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2 (Match of the Night)

•••

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

Meanwhile, the main event felt like a match that tried oh so hard to live up to the hype, but fell just short.

It would’ve been hard for The Shield and Evolution to follow up their four-star match at Extreme Rules anyway, but Cena and Wyatt actually made it a bit more difficult. On a show that felt far more “extreme” than Extreme Rules last month, the semi-main seemed to take a lot of the best spots. We had Seth Rollins leaping off the stage near the bottom of the Titantron, but that just felt like his rail dive at Extreme Rules from a flashier takeoff point. We did get a bunch of kendo stick shots, which was cool. But we also had a match that felt like it dragged on FOREVER, and not in a “this match is epic” way. It went nearly 31 minutes — about 27 before any eliminations, even though this was an elimination tag match — and they spent so much time outside the ring beating each other down or setting up spots that it just felt like a brawl that would never end.

Then there’s the whole, shall we say, inconsistency of it all.

As soon as the bell rang, all six men paired off and went at it for a few minutes. After that, all of a sudden, it looked like any other six-man tag, with rules and everything! Then everybody went back outside for a day and a half, and when their moms told them to come back home, it was a tornado tag to the finish. It was just … odd … and it really took away from the match. I need logic, people!

Then there was, well, the finish.

Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall at the end to end a show? That’s all well and good. Babyfaces standing/wobbling tall after defeating one of the greatest factions in history last month, then SWEEPING an elimination rematch? That makes no sense either. I know this is supposed to be a quick feud, with Batista leaving to go do semi-movie-star things, it’s already starting to get a little stale and The Shield needed to come out on top at the end. But 3-0 against a group that averages 10 world titles per man? Though it helps The Shield immensely to go over that strong, it raises a couple questions: What exactly was the point of reforming Evolution? And what was the point of this angle if it was going to be so one-sided?

It’s a good thing Payback felt like the end of the line for two major rivalries, because I would probably just skip the rubber match of this one.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Evolution (via swerve), Shield (clean)

Match expectations: ****1/2

Technical Merit: Did they even really wrestle? No. But what they did perform was smooth.

Artistic Impression: Great story if you’re a Shield mark. If you want a little epicness to your six-man main-event rivalry, it certainly left a few things to be desired.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

***

It would almost be better to skip the Daniel Bryan Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon part, but that would do the reader a greater disservice than the aforementioned did by subjecting us to the crap we saw. Nobody cares about Brie … except maybe the fangirls on social media who actually are worried she’s gone for good. You know, since she plays such a vital role in Total Divas. Steph has been the company’s best heel for a while now, but she reverted back to her naggy, annoying self that wanted me to launch my coffee table through the TV screen. But she was right about one thing.

Daniel Bryan comes off as a selfish champion.

You worked so hard for this title? Yay! Want a cookie? That doesn’t mean you can just be world champion if you can’t wrestle. You even told the fans last week they deserve an awesome, fighting champion, and you can’t wrestle right now. You don’t even feel like part of the show anymore, though the injury and bereavement were out of your control. You seem to be a man who respects the past — you know, back when you had to give up the title if you couldn’t defend it for 30 days — yet you don’t give a timetable for a return and use the fans as an excuse for not obeying, even though you’re entitled to a rematch upon your return. Jack Tunney would not have stood for this!

Yet all this wouldn’t be a problem if you could do ANYTHING on the mic.

When Daniel Bryan is angry, he can be at least an above-average promo man. Any other time, Bryan looks and sounds like a nervous seventh-grader trying to impress his friends, and he’s been at his worst over the past week. It’s the inflection. It’s the goofy face he makes when he’s trying to act cool. It’s the fact that he doesn’t even say anything in the same area code as profound. It’s the fact that his wife, who would be kicked off an adult film set for her lack of acting skills, fights his battles for him.

And this, my friends, is your world champion? He can keep the belts, but we don’t have a champion anymore.

•••

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Cesaro (DQ), Cesaro

Match expectations: **1/2-***1/2

Technical Merit: A good, solid fight within the confines of a wrestling match. A couple new things, and no glaring mistakes.

Artistic Impression: Champ has to find any way to retain. How all title matches should be.

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

This set the tone for the night, and it sent the message that this night would be better than expected. Having these men lead off was smart, as was putting them in a match in the first place. The buildup was odd, with it centering around a rejected handshake, but they delivered when it was time. Many complained about the finish, but since WWE opted to go clean, this was the right move. Plus, it’s wrestling, people! You can be in total control of a match, but at any time, you can just get caught with your shoulders down and that’s it. It missed the double turn that seemed so obvious and desired, but it was fine nonetheless.

The problem going forward is where they’ll go with Cesaro, who clearly is failing to tread water with Paul Heyman.

Before Heyman, Cesaro not only could win the U.S. title, but also hold it for months. He could win 30-man battle royals. He could push Cena to the brink and defeat Randy Orton. With Heyman, he seems to lose more often than he wins, and sometimes even Jack Swagger can get the best of him with a well-timed run-in. Heyman’s stock is dropping, as well, with only one thing to talk about. I think you know what that is. Pull the trigger, split them up, and give Paul E. a break until Brock Lesnar‘s ready to come back.

•••

What’s better than wrestling? Bonus wrestling! What’s better than bonus wrestling? Bonus wrestling with Cody Rhodes and Goldust!

THE BROTHERHOOD vs. RYBAXEL (late addition to the card)

Technical Merit: A little botchy here and there, but decent. Great tag-team wrestling.

Artistic Impression: It advances Cody’s losing streak and his rift with Dustin, and it establishes Curtis Axel and Ryback as a halfway-decent pair.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

This was the Cody Rhodes story, and he delivered. Except for that moonsault where he slipped and looked like he was about to cripple himself. People want to see Cody face Goldust. Hell, Cody and Goldust want it! They’ve started to build toward it, though Cody simply telling Dustin he needs a better tag team partner is a different way to go about it, and hopefully they let it happen. And hopefully it’ll be at SummerSlam and not some Main Event or Superstars in July. With how they’ve treated The Brotherhood after losing the tag titles, anything is unfortunately possible.

•••

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana
RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Rusev udrea, Rusev machka

Match expectations: *1/2

Technical Merit: Good big-man match that cut a quick pace at times.

Artistic Impression: The problem was it was a little quick, and the buildup couldn’t make us care.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

This was filler, though decent filler. I hoped for the match I received, though it could’ve gone a couple minutes longer and been even better. The spot where Big E. speared Rusev onto the floor was one you usually see from a couple smaller guys, but not 589 total pounds of mass. They could go again and it would be OK, or they could feed someone else to Rusev. Preferably someone not black, unless the rumored Nation of Domination reboot actually happens.

•••

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Barrett, Barrett

Match expectations: *3/4-**

Technical Merit: Same old stuff from RVD. It didn’t seem choppy or botchy, though I kind of stopped paying attention.

Artistic Impression: Even Barrett couldn’t make the story worthwhile.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

I’m with Barrett: Rob Van Dam is Old Yeller, had a dog skated by on his past accomplishments, and needs to be put down. He’s been wrestling the same match for more than a decade, with the only change being who wins. Either way, his top-rope moves hurt himself more than his opponents, and his “educated feet” are less believable than Brie’s acting. He didn’t even set up Barrett all that well because we had to have the same old “Rob … Van … Dam” spots. Barrett deserves better, and we deserve better. Give us some good news, and give Bad News an opponent who’s worth a damn.

•••

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, Divas Championship

Champ and Wifey’s picks: Paige, Paige. Champ finishes 4-for-6, Wifey 5-for-6.

Match Expectations: *1/2-**1/2

Technical Merit: If you like backbreakers and botches, you came to the right place.

Artistic Impression: Alicia is going somewhere with the new character. This match just didn’t go with it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

This felt like all their prior matches, only less crisp. Add that to the fact that we finally saw what women’s wrestling could be Thursday night, and this contest never had a chance. It didn’t have the atmosphere (thank you, Chicago, for that), and it didn’t have the usual skill and attention to detail associated with their prior encounters. It failed to click from the outset, and it never recovered.

None of this is helping Paige one bit.

Though well respected by anyone who watched NXT, to anyone else Paige seems like some kid who came in, got lucky and won the title. Casual fans haven’t warmed up to her, and after being conditioned to believe women’s matches are time to go No. 1, they don’t really get a reason to stick around when she’s paired with the likes of Tamina or Alicia, who have been relegated to typical Divas punchlines for years. Paige needs help badly. Whether it’s with a couple well-placed NXT callups, or simply an angle with Natalya or Emma, who can work well with her and put on a great match (see Paige-Emma at NXT ArRIVAL for an example), it needs to happen quickly, or Paige will be damaged goods at 21.

What did you think of Payback? How did it stack up to NXT Takeover? Where does WWE go from here? Let me know below or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Payback predictions: What will Daniel Bryan do with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Who will make the difference in the Evolution vs. The Shield main event? Will Sheamus finally turn heel? And will John Cena actually lose to Bray Wyatt again?

Are you excited for WWE Payback? Neither am I. The first impression of the six-match card (I refuse to count the El Torito vs. Hornswoggle atrocity again) is it’s the same old stuff as Extreme Rules, only with slightly different stipulations. On paper, knowing WWE’s general tendency toward “safe” booking in pay-per-views (John Cena wins, LOL, etc.), it’s destined to disappoint.

… or is it?

Besides Rusev vs. Big E., in which I hear the winner gets the blonde and other part of his name back, the matches have potential to build things going forward, when hopefully Money In The Bank provides a fresh set of rivalries. Outside of the ring, the entire summer could hinge on a stupid storyline that involves Daniel Bryan having to decide between the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wife Brie Bella‘s job.

I don’t know which is worse: The so-called “smart” fans who think Bryan should keep the title even if he can’t compete AND believe this is his only shot with the belts, or the ones who think Brie would legitimately be fired if Bryan chooses to remain champion. Brie will take some time off, maybe a few months or so, then come back when either somebody else is in charge on TV or wins a match (maybe against Stephanie McMahon?) to “regain” employment. Bryan, whose neck surgery went smoothly, will keep the belts, setting up for what appears to be a Buried Alive match against Kane at MITB and a possible old-school nod to Glenn Jacobs as he rides into the sunset. Brie will get a few parting shots on Steph, setting the stage for somewhere down the line.

On to tonight’s actual wrestling. The matches are placed in order of WWE.com’s predictions piece, with the exception of the first one here.

WWE Payback Rusev Big E Lana

RUSEV (w/Lana) vs. BIG E.

Champ’s pick: Rusev

Wifey’s pick: Rusev

This one’s simple. The company is high on the Bulgarian Russian brute, and the fans are high on his blonde valet (or at least her legs). Big E. is almost damaged goods at this point on the main shows — the wife picked Rusev because the burial of Big E. will continue — and they won’t let him stand in the way of the next monster heel du jour. Whether this push pays off, or whether he’s Vladimir Kozlov or Lord Tensai for a new generation, remains to be seen.

Match potential: *1/2

Payback Paige Alicia Fox

PAIGE (c) vs. ALICIA FOX, WWE Divas Championship

Champ’s pick: Paige

Wifey’s pick: Paige

A lot of people think Foxy will go over here, considering her momentum and the fact that Paige still kind of feels like a placeholder on the main roster after dominating NXT. Fox may be the most entertaining women’s wrestler in years because her character is absolutely nuts, and it helps that she is athletic enough to actually put on a decent match. But at the same time, wouldn’t it be a better display for now for her to get pinned (or tap to the modified scorpion crosslock) and start a one-person riot? Her tantrum would be better television than her celebration. Also, Paige needs to win a solid special event pay-per-view match to be taken seriously by a lot of casual fans, who have been suckered into believing the “Divas” division is the Bella Twins and some show on E! Network. Give them 5 minutes and it’ll feel like RAW. Give them 10, and this could be a good one.

Match potential: *1/2-**1/2

WWE Payback Sheamus Cesaro

SHEAMUS (c) vs. CESARO, United States Championship

Champ’s pick: Cesaro (via DQ)

Wifey’s pick: Cesaro

This could be the most predictable, yet most necessary, double turn in years. The question is how, and how well, they pull it off. Cesaro, who received a babyface reaction at WrestleMania XXX after winning the Real Americans breakup and winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, immediately returned to being a heel the next night, when he became a Paul Heyman Guy. Sheamus, meanwhile, is the second stalest face in the company, which is a shame because his initial heel run actually became believable toward the end. Common sense dictates they reverse roles and have upward mobility. Cesaro and Heyman as a whole are less than the sum of the parts, and though it would seem rash to split this soon, it needs to happen in the very near future. Sheamus, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit in the grand scope of tonight’s main event (more on that later). No matter the booking, the in-ring work will be solid. Cesaro is the best pure professional wrestler in the company, and Sheamus’ work is great when he is motivated and has the right dance partner. This match will be better than it sounds, and both men will be protected.

Match potential: **1/2-***1/2

WWE Payback John Cena Bray Wyatt

JOHN CENA vs. BRAY WYATT, Last Man Standing Match

Champ’s pick: Cena (LOL)

Wifey’s pick: Cena (LOL)

This is the rubber match, and Heel Booking 101 says Wyatt should get the decisive victory. But … this is John Cena we’re talking about. He’s lost stipulation matches before, but not many. Even when he’s weakened, he’ll do something like duct-tape an opponent’s feet to the posts so he can’t get up, which is the problem with a superhuman type of gimmick that must be protected at all times. Other men can lose matches and it’s all good … go get ’em next month. And, actually, Cena is the type of guy right now who would be hurt the least with a defeat here and there. But creative doesn’t seem to get that just yet. Cena should be Hollywood Hulk Hogan in 2002, having matches with top-tier talent and, if necessary, losing to a future superstar to give the ultimate rub. That should be what happens tonight, but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be the match where Cena’s character finally changes after nearly a decade — he reverts to winning by any means necessary, or hits that extra gear as a ruthless competitor — but I honestly don’t have much faith. This could be where Bray Wyatt finally gets the upper hand, breaks Cena and moves on to the next victim, but I honestly don’t have much faith. The match could be brutal, but it won’t. It could live up to the hype of the three months or so worth of promos, but it won’t. It could at least be worthwhile to watch? But it probably won’t. These men can work magic on the mic … but not in the 20-by-20 box.

Match potential: *-*1/2

WWE Payback Bad News Barrett Rob Van Dam

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

Champ’s pick: Barrett

Wifey’s pick: Barrett

It seems like WWE is high on Barrett … this time. This man has undergone so many starts and stops that it’s actually surprising he’s been able to maintain enough momentum with his “Bad News” run as a cool heel. That’s also a testament to how charismatic and talented he is. Being Intercontinental Champion would do so much more for him than RVD, a washed-up part-timer who hasn’t had a mildly entertaining match in nearly a decade. You want this championship to mean something again, WWE? Keep it in Barrett’s hands for a few months, give him some worthwhile competition and build the champion and the championship. I think that’s what they’ll do here. After all, what’s the point of a tournament if the winner holds the belt for a few weeks? We’ll see the same old stuff from Van Dam, because he’s literally incapable of innovation or development, and Barrett will find a new and exciting way to hit the Bullhammer for the win.

Match potential: *3/4-**

WWE Payback Evolution The Shield

THE SHIELD (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) vs. EVOLUTION (Batista, Randy Orton, Triple H), No Holds Barred Elimination Match

Champ’s pick: Evolution (via swerve)

Wifey’s pick: The Shield

This has the potential to be the WWE’s Match of the Year (non-NXT division). All six men here know how to tell a story, and they told a pretty good one at Extreme Rules last month. This will be brutal. This will be epic. And this will have a development that sets the tone for the rest of the year. Batista needs to go be Marvel movie promoter, which means Evolution won’t be in its current incarnation the next time we see them. Evolution also needs to win one of these battles, or else the rivalry is all for naught. A little too basic with the Even Steven booking? Yes. But why bring back the best faction of an era to go out and lose every time? That’s why Evolution will win the battle via some unsavory means.

Match potential: ***-*****

This is where Sheamus comes in.

One of the most popular topics on social media, besides whether and when CM Punk will return, whether Bryan should remain champion if he can’t wrestle and which NXT talent should come up next, is what will happen with Evolution moving forward. Will they just disband without Dave, or will they replace him? What route will they take?

All signs point toward Reigns and Trips squaring off down the line, potentially at SummerSlam, and Rollins is better off as a face, which would leave only Ambrose to possibly “adapt” and join Evolution via swerve. But why do that at a B-level pay-per-view? Something that changes the whole landscape of the promotion is best saved for a major show. What you do have is a babyface midcard champion who would need major character rehab to return to the main event, is far better suited as a heel and probably can rock a suit. Oh, and he’s shown he can beat The Shield by defeating Ambrose in a battle royal for the U.S. title.

Would Sheamus complete the past-present-future premise of the original Evolution? No, but he’s more present than past, unlike Batista. And if they wanted to go future, they could always add someone out of left field who can talk and get it done in the ring to maintain the legacy of the stable.

Which reminds me … have you seen Dolph Ziggler or Cody Rhodes anywhere on the card?

The Champ works Sunday nights, so he won’t be watching live. He will, however, have a complete recap Monday morning after burning some midnight oil, so check back then.

 

NXT Takeover review: Adrian Neville retains his title over Tyson Kidd, Natalya and Charlotte show women’s wrestling is more than a show on E! Network, and Tyler Breeze steals the show with Sami Zayn

NXT Takeover Adrian Neville Tyson Kidd

I could’ve written three words on NXT ArRIVAL, WWE developmental’s first live special event: THIS is wrestling. The only question was whether NXT Takeover would follow up.

Was there another five-star match? No. That’s about all Takeover lacked, because the overall body of work raised the bar. I saw on someone declare on Twitter that NXT really is the “B” show in WWE, surpassing SmackDown. On nights like this, NXT is the pinnacle of professional wrestling in WWE.

Sami Zayn once again was in the best show on the card … though in defeat. Thanks to Charlotte and Natalya, we saw the best WWE women’s match at least since Trish Stratus and Lita were worthy of main-eventing RAW, and even those two couldn’t pull off the old-school mat-wrestling match the princesses of the Flair and Hart dynasties accomplished tonight. The NXT Championship match had to follow those, and Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd put on a title match that would’ve fit right in with the WCW cruiserweights of the late 1990s.

This was a professional wrestling show for professional wrestling fans. On a quarterly basis, NXT’s live specials will be the best wrestling a WWE fan can see.

•••

One cool element of the Adam Rose Experience: It can start outside, then work its way into the arena. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight of the opener.

NXT Takeover Adam Rose 1

The entrance has never been a question with Rose; it’s the ability. That question wasn’t entirely answered against a heel jobber who has shown glimpses of potential.

ADAM ROSE vs. CAMACHO

Full Nelson from Camacho, and Rose … um … grinds his way out. Don’t think that was a full twerk, but a valiant attempt. “Party pooper this!” from Camacho, then an impressive double underhook suplex. He has a decent power game for someone in the 230-pound range. Then he locks on what William Regal calls the single-arm necktie, but Rose works his way out and starts to get a little angry, but his burst of energy doesn’t last long, thanks to Camacho’s Chuck Taylors. Back to the necktie, and Rose starts to escape before Camacho heels on ’em and beats him down. Legdrop for 2, and Rose finally hits some offense with a kick. Leads with the jab, knockdown with the right. HUGE spinebuster, and Adam Rose looks a little more like Leo Kruger for a sec.

NXT Takeover Adam Rose 2

Crotch charge in the corner, then the Party Foul ends it. I’m still not sold on Rose, but that could’ve been much worse.

Time: 5:08

Technical Merit: Too much relying on the rest hold from Camacho, and we still only saw two actual wrestling moves from Rose.

Artistic Impression: But the crowd got behind Rose, which, I guess, is mostly what matters.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

Cool video on Zayn’s journey to Takeover, starting with the best match I’ve seen in years. Zayn then explains just how different he and Tyler Breeze are. His resiliency and adaptability will be Breeze’s undoing.

Breeze, meanwhile, has entered the building, according to the lovely Eden Stiles.

NXT Takeover Eden Stiles

Well done, Cody Rhodes. Well done.

•••

“Lucha! Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!”

This won’t be a squash for The Ascension, which automatically makes it feel like a big match.

NXT Takeover The Ascension

THE ASCENSION (c) vs. EL LOCAL & KALISTO, NXT Tag Team Championship

After being jumped, the challengers dump the champs outside. They go for stereo suicide dives, but receive stereo uppercuts instead. Once we get settled in, The Ascension are in control with quick tags and powerful offense. I wouldn’t mind seeing Viktor as a singles competitor somewhere down the line, maybe in a revamped cruiserweight/light-heavyweight division. He reminds me of Dean Malenko, not in the Man of 1,000 Holds way, but the light heavyweight who can straight-up kick your ass way. Kalisto is resilient as the babyface in peril, kicking out of a Viktor elbow drop as he’s stuck in the ropes. Konnor tosses Kalisto in the ropes from the outside twice, but counters on the second. That only seems to further anger The Ascension, as evidenced by a VICIOUS chop from Viktor. But an elbow and a hurricanrana from behind later, the hot tag comes to El Local, who isn’t quite at Kalisto’s level. Average-at-best moonsault for 2, and some 4-man chaos ensues. Kalisto does a nice roll-through and kick to Konnor, but it doesn’t matter since neither is legal. Once they exit, Viktor hits an STO that leads to the Fall of Man. Champs retain.

NXT Takeover The Ascension 2

Time: 6:17

Technical Merit: The Ascension can go. So can Kalisto. Lo siento, El Local.

Artistic Impression: Good story that felt like the faces would persevere.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Video on the most gorgeous man in wrestling. A WHOLE lot of selfies involved. He also touches on how he’s much more than a pretty face.

And with that, it’s time for the No. 1 Contender’s match … and the greatest entrance music in wrestling. No, not Zayn’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones inspired theme. I’m talking about a Tyler Breeze original.

But first, let him take a selfie.

NXT Takeover Tyler Breeze

SAMI ZAYN vs. TYLER BREEZE, NXT Championship No. 1 Contender’s match

Slow buildup to start until an armdrag medley from Zayn at about 1:30. Breeze backs him down, but a kick puts the face (as opposed to The Face) back in control. Breeze charges Zayn while the latter’s on top. Zayn sticks out the leg, but Breeze blocks and pushes the leg (and Zayn) out for an apron bump outside. Another momentum swing results in a kneedrop and cover, then a bulldog variation, only he goes through the ropes and drive Zayn’s face into the second turnbuckle. Faceplant and cover, then a front facelock for a breather. Zayn finally, on the third lift, tosses Breeze forward to escape, then dumps him outside for a springboard moonsault variation that leads with the arm clubbing Breeze headfirst onto the floor. Back inside and a flying crossbody for 2. Blue Thunder Bomb at about 8:00 for 2 more.  Zayn goes up top, but has to leap over Breeze, then turns around into a kick to the gut and an impaler DDT for 2. Zayn grabs the ropes, but Breeze yanks him out of the corner into a sitout powerbomb?!?! for 2. This is Breeze’s breakout match right here. He is the wrestler people will talk about after this one. Well, at least until Zayn puts Breeze into the buckles with an exploder suplex. After a well-deserved breather, we enter the punch exchange portion of the program. Breeze ends it by trying to whip Zayn into the corner. Zayn puts on the brakes to avoid the ref, which turns into a rollup. Counter-reversal chain, and Breeze breaks free at the ropes and hits Sweet Chin Music on Zayn. Another count as both men are down. Breeze is up first for some strikes, and he tries to whip Zayn to no avail. Zayn sets up for a powerbomb, but Breeze rolls through. Zayn hangs on to the front facelock while Breeze straddles him and flips Breeze for a SICK powerbomb variation. Breeze dips out, and Zayn flip dives onto him. Zayn goes for a big boot in the corner, but Breeze ducks and Zayn injures his groin. That opens up the Beauty Shot and TYLER FREAKING BREEZE IS THE NO. 1 CONTENDER.

NXT Takeover Tyler Breeze 2

Time: 15:55

Technical Merit: That was not a WWE match. That’s a good thing in every way. So much innovation, great pacing and excellent work from both men.

Artistic Impression: We saw a different side of Tyler Breeze tonight — the tenacious, resilient heel who can beat the best wrestlers the company has. Zayn was excellent as always, but it’s hard to take him as a serious threat when he loses all his big matches.

TOTAL SCORE: ****1/2

•••

This could be a huge night for this family.

NXT Takeover Natalya Bret Hart Tyson Kidd

Or they could come up empty. Either way, you know you’ll see two good matches.

•••

I’ve never seen someone wave a flag so violently in my life. But nobody really cares because she’s here.

NXT Takeover Lana

She promos on how awesome Russia is or whatever. Rusev talks briefly, but it’s time to get hyped in the U…S…A… I mean, stay hyped. Mojo Rawley threatens to shove Rusev’s flag up his “Putin”, but Rusev beats the “Putin” out of Mojo. Regal: “Well, I’m on his side.” It’s not a bad place to be.

NXT Takeover Rusev Mojo Rawley

•••

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I just remembered, though I’m a Ric Flair mark till the day I die, I automatically hate Charlotte because she beat Alexa Bliss in the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament. Bliss is Kristen Bell cute … that will win my heart every time.

NXT 051514 Alexa Bliss

Back on topic, Natalya feels the pressure of being the trailblazer of the Hart family, being the first female grappler in the group. Charlotte, meanwhile, wanted to blaze her own trail separate from the Flair name, but has embraced it and become a completely different woman and wrestler since she began her wrestling career.

In addition to Flair and Bret HartPaige is here for this one, yet again debunking JBL‘s logic for stripping her of the NXT Women’s Championship. This will be two NXT matches and one live event appearance since losing that belt.

NXT Takeover Paige

Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

Quick promo time for the former champion, who says the next champion must be strong and have character, and the NXT title can lead to the WWE Divas Championship. Or, if Natalya wins, the reverse.

CHARLOTTE (w/Ric Flair) vs. NATALYA (w/Bret Hart), NXT Women’s Championship

New music for Charlotte as well … bit of a “2001” remix. I like it! It’s clear Nattie’s here to put Charlotte over, so we’ll see how competitive they can keep this match, as well as how much doubt they can preserve. Also, funny visual that shows Charles Robinson as the champion.

NXT Takeover Charles Robinson Charlotte

It’s only right “Little Naitch” is here for this one.

Charlotte slaps on a hammerlock, but Nattie reverses into an armbar. That’s reversed into a figure-four headlock before a break. This will be a WRESTLING match. Nattie headlock is escaped, and Charlotte puts on an armlock of her own. Nattie kips out and works on the left leg, which would neutralize the figure four. Charlotte uses the right to escape. Nattie goes for a kick, which is blocked, but Nattie rolls through and puts on a leg submission. Escape into the side headlock. This is SO old school. Reverse into a front facelock as Nattie “WOOO!”s at Ric. That leads to another reversal, and we get a whip sequence where Charlotte leapfrogs then goes for a faceplant, but Nattie gets the victory roll, only not for a victory. Nattie wraps her legs around the abdomen, then Charlotte resorts to a very non-wrestling maneuver: Pounding Nattie’s head into the mat. Then another, as each woman slaps on, well, a slap! Flair gets a knee to the gut and a knife-edge chop to the chest because she’s a Flair, and that’s what Flairs do. Ric “WOOO!”s back at Nattie, who rides Charlotte and eventually puts on the sleeper, but Charlotte escapes via backpack stunner for 2. A series of faceplants ensue, followed by some footwork in the corner. Back to the figure four headlock, and she turns for multiple faceplants. She rolls again, then flips Nattie over and covers. Abdominal stretch time, but Nattie reverses it and grabs the right leg. Backslide from Nattie, but Charlotte rolls out and short dropkicks Nattie for 2. Butterfly suplex from Nattie, clothesline, snapmare, then the stomp/short dropkick combo for 2. Different Flair, different method to get over the turnbuckle, same result: Flair on the floor. She gets the last laugh, though, as she legwhips Nattie out of the ring onto the floor. Nattie sells the knee as Charlotte covers the injured leg for 2, then goes up top for a moonsault. Different Flair, different move up top, same result: Flair in pain on the floor. Nattie gets back to her feet for a discus clothesline, then puts on the Sharpshooter. After an unsuccessful crawl to the ropes, Charlotte reverses directly into the figure four. Both women roll through twice, and somehow Charlotte is feeling the pressure. Another slap exchange, and Charlotte rolls out of the ring, still locked in, and replicates Bret’s leglock, only instead of wrapped around the pole, it’s a straight pull with Nattie on the apron. Charlotte introduces Nattie’s right knee to the steel steps, and it’s back to the figure four? Nope. One look at Bret, and it’s the Sharpshooter!

NXT Takeover Charlotte Natalya Sharpshooter

Natalya rolls out and tries to apply her own Sharpshooter, but Charlotte powers out and hits the flipping snapmare to become champion. All four parties embrace in the ring afterward, as well they should.

NXT Takeover Natalya Charlotte

And Ric Flair cries because, well, Ric Flair cries.

NXT Takeover Charlotte Ric Flair

Time: 16:48

Technical Merit: That was the best mat-based women’s wrestling match I’ve ever seen, and probably ever will. RAW and SmackDown would never allow a women’s match like this … at least until Total Divas dies a slow, painful cancellation.

Artistic Impression: The next generation of Flair vs. Hart carried that story, as well as that of just a great old-school wrestling story.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

•••

Adrian Neville video time. He fits the champion role well. He can outwrestle anyone who faces him, and each man is a different scenario. Tyson Kidd is a different scenario still, but he’s Neville’s biggest challenge because they’re similar. Neville’s stronger, faster and hungrier. The NXT Championship is his armor, and no one will get through his armor.

On another note, Neville can rock a shirt and tie.

NXT Takeover Adrian Neville

These men can also rock a formal look.

NXT Takeover Cesaro Christian

That one’s for the wife, even though she no-sold the pic when I showed her. She generally has a thing for thinning-haired physical specimens (which is why she likes me) and middle-aged Canadians. Happy wife, happy life, right?

ADRIAN NEVILLE (c) vs. TYSON KIDD, NXT Championship

Kidd comes out looking like he’s already had a match.

NXT Takeover Tyson Kidd

Neville comes out looking younger, stronger and in much better shape. Then again, TJ has about six years on him.

NXT Takeover Adrian Neville 2

We’ll get about 20 minutes for this one.

A minute in, a handshake and a challenge from Kidd for Neville to bring his absolute best. This is a ground-based contest to start as Kidd controls Neville’s head. Neville reverses, Kidd escapes and glares down at him, then pats Neville on the back. Subtle heel work, but damn, it’s effective. Kidd works the left arm, and Neville can’t kip his way out. In fact, it turns from an arm twist into an arm lock. Neville finally escapes via three kip-ups and a cartwheel. Armdrag from Neville into an armbar. Neville looks so much bigger than 194 … the man’s upper body is BUILT.  Keeps the armbar on, underhook suplex, keeps the armbar on still until Tyson reaches the ropes. Tyson tries to monkey flip Adrian, but Neville lands on his feet and hits an armdrag. Kidd responds in kind, they both kip up and simultaneously go for dropkicks. The mirror-image game stops when Kidd goes for high-impact abuse. Neville ends up in the Tree of Woe for a knee to the abdomen and a couple kicks to the back. Make it three and a short dropkick to the head. Kidd remains in control with a side chinlock as he implores the referee to ask Neville if he gives up. Neville gets out, but Kidd hits the Stun Gun, a dropkick and a flip dive outside. Kidd back in control as they return with the headlock … this has the typical longform face-heel feel. Neville gets free and, to seal the similarity bit, we have dueling crossbodies and both men down. Neville hits a couple axe handles and some kicks to finally gain some momentum, and he catches Kidd in the Tree of Woe for a receipt … only his dropkick looked more vicious because he hit the chest hard instead of the head. Springboard forearm for 2. Neville dropkicks Kidd out and goes for a dive through the ropes, but Kidd goes to the apron and kicks Neville in the head and covers. He goes up top, maybe for the Blockbuster, but Neville hits him with a forearm and tries for a superplex. Instead, Kidd tries for a sunset flip powerbomb … but Neville flips and LANDS ON HIS FEET, then hits an alley-oop sitout powerbomb for 2. Neville puts his feet to use, then appears to go for another springboard move, but Kidd runs behind him and hits a Russian legsweep from the second rope?! Damn. Kidd goes up top and Neville appears to block, but Kidd catches the feel and goes for a Sharpshooter. Neville rolls him into a small package, then Kidd gets up for an enziguiri, a short dropkick to the head and a suplex attempt. Neville blocks and reverses, and both men tumble outside. The count begins and nearly ends, but both men dive in at 9. After a breather inside, both men are up and Kidd briefly puts on the Sharpshooter. Neville tries to escape, but Kidd has the arm and the leg wrapped in what Regal calls the Dungeon Lock. It takes all of Neville’s energy to break. Kidd needs plenty of energy to get Neville back up, but kicks Neville and leaves him hanging between the ropes when he does. That leads to a 360 legdrop from the top and a cover. Frustrated, he goes back up, but Neville grabs a leg. Kidd kicks off, but Neville stops him again, only briefly. A third trip to the top turns into a top-rope Frankensteiner, then the Red Arrow. Neville … somehow … retains.

Time: 20:54

Technical Merit: That was as crisp, clean and fluid as it gets, complete with plenty of things we don’t normally see.

Artistic Impression: Kidd played his part well as a foil for Neville. The champ overcoming everything the challenger could possibly throw at him made for a tried-and-true story.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

NXT Takeover Adrian Neville 3

The only things holding this match back were a relative lack of Neville offense and Kidd just not having “it” while he’s in the ring. The No. 1 contender’s match was better because both men applied plenty of offense, and people bought into both personalities. Kidd, though obviously a fantastic worker, just isn’t as successful conveying emotion and showing charisma while competing.

What did you think of NXT Takeover? Please comment below, or join the conversation on Twitter @jpetrie18.