Tag Archives: Rob Van Dam

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.

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

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

The Intercontinental Championship may be catching up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus Time: 8:45

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Rob Van Dam

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

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

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

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro

Time: 10:36

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper

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

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Luke Harper 2

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

Hulu Plus Time: 13:58

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

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

Main Event 060314 Kofi Kingston

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

KOFI KINGSTON & GOLDUST vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN

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

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

Main Event 060314 Luke Harper

Time: 10:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **3/4

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

Main Event 060314 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

•••

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

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

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

RAW 060214 Alberto Del Rio

Time: 5:34

•••

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

RAW 060214 Rusev medal

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

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

Main Event 060314 Cesaro Paul Heyman

WWE 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.

 

WWE Midcard Report (May 19-20): An impromptu Beat The Clock challenge rules, Adam Rose is boring, Summer Rae channels her inner porn star, and Paul Heyman and Cesaro need to split

If you haven’t watched any WWE programming this week, I’ll save you the headache: Just skip it. Read this and the RAW review and just move on.

I work nights at a newspaper, which means I watch shows the next day. The lone exception is NXT, which airs on one of my usual days off and is better than anything you’ll see from the main roster this week. (Get caught up on last week here.) When I get home at 1 a.m. (or 3, like last night) and wake up a few hours later to watch wrestling, I want it to be worthwhile. When it’s not, I’m cranky.

Fools better stay out of my way after the past two days.

•••

One bright spot in theory involves the Intercontinental Championship, which belongs to a man who was well-received in his home country and really should be well-received (or well booed) anywhere. He’s one of the most interesting men in wrestling right now.

Now, what makes the title even more interesting? A surprise Beat the Clock Challenge, of course! Six men, three matches, one hopefully suitable No. 1 contender. The first match? Not too bad!

BIG E. vs. RYBACK

This one’s interesting. Both men generally rely on their massive size advantage to create a boring match. When they’re both big, we might actually get to see some athleticism. The start was hot, then settles into a test of brute force. JBL drops a Barry Horowitz reference. Then a Steve Lombardi reference. Then clarifies that his loss to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25 took 23 seconds, not 17. Big spinebuster from Ryback at 3:45 to respond to Big E.’s belly-to-belly, then he hits the Meathook Clothesline for 2. And 2 again. And 2 again. Looks like a powerbomb attempt, but Big E. slips out, floors Ryback and Curtis Axel, and hits the Big Ending.

RAW 051914 Big E

Time: 5:02

Technical Merit: This was better than expected. Not great, but a decent little big-man match.

Artistic Impression: Ryback sold the clock element. Big E. was just there for the impressive, brief comeback.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Alberto Del Rio was bred to be a champion. The children deserve to have a role model like him as Intercontinental Champion. The future of the world depends on it. I thought that honor went to this guy.

Captain Planet

Remember, kids, the power doesn’t belong to ADR. THE POWER IS YOURS!

ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. ROB VAN DAM

Two highlights with about 3:50 remaining: A Funaki sign somewhere on the 100 level of the O2 Arena, and ADR superkicking RVD as he tries to reenter the ring. Is RVD high right now? If not, he should be because he’s wrestling like crap. Let’s throw some clotheslines a 4-year-old wouldn’t believe, hit some weak-ass kicks and botch a legdrop. He BOTCHED A FREAKING LEGDROP. Hulk Hogan really must’ve been one of the greatest technicians of our time if the move’s that hard. ADR shows how it’s done with an enziguiri with 1:15 remaining. Del Rio goes for another kick, but Van Dam ducks and rolls him up. At least he did that right.

Time: 4:15

Technical Merit: One man was trash. The other wasn’t exactly treasure, but decent.

Artistic Impression: If you can’t wrestle and have no personality, nobody will believe the story you’re telling.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/4*

“I do it quick, and I do it slick.” Dolph Ziggler‘s inset promo was awesome. Also awesome? An INSET PROMO RUN-IN! That’s how you set up a match.

RAW 051914 Dolph Ziggler Mark Henry

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. MARK HENRY

Ziggler bumps around and rolls out, and Henry is more than content to go for the countout. Nice Fame Asser variation when Dolph returns, and he rolls out again when Henry powers out. Let’s just take ALL the momentum from this match, shall we? Dolph knows how to snap off a dropkick, but the two he utilized were about 20 seconds apart. Credit to Ziggler for not rolling all the way out on that kickout. Henry eschews the World’s Strongest Slam for a running powerslam, so needless to say, nobody’s winning this one. Ziggler counters the WSS into the Zig Zag with about 7 seconds left, but he rolls the wrong way and, sure enough, we get freaking RVD in the Intercontinental Championship match.

That means someone’s afraid he’s got some bad news …

RAW 051914 Wade Barrett Rob Van Dam

… which involves Greenwich Mean Time, since England set the time for the entire world. Hey, the man has a point!

Technical Merit: About 45 seconds of action in a 4:15 match.

Artistic Impression: Maybe the slowest Beat the Clock match I’ve ever seen. That was poor.

TOTAL SCORE: 0

•••

This is the most we’ve seen R-Truth on screen since he “ruined” Survivor Series 2011, right? Apparently it was his fault nobody wanted to see John Cena and The Rock team up. Then again, if you’re finally main-eventing a major pay-per-view, don’t get caught smoking weed to get suspended and kill your momentum. His presumed opponent? The man involved in a Twitter love triangle, which blows up in lieu of a wrestling match. To his credit, Fandango got to make out with Layla and a returning Summer Rae. The drawback? Summer made it look like she did more than kiss him.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Um … yeah.

•••

Since it’s London, let’s bring out the cheap Aldous Snow knockoff!

RAW 051914 Adam Rose Renee Young

Adam Rose‘s gimmick’s already stale, which could be why the Brits are giving him the post-WrestleMania 29 Fandango treatment. Or they actually like this whole bit. Either way, I’ve NEVER been so happy to see Zeb Colter.

RAW 051914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

On a lighter note, US rosebuds < UK rosebuds. I see you, sailor chick! On a more serious note … I think … Zeb challenges Rose! Jack Swagger intervenes, and Rose uses his entire offensive repertoire. I think Captain Comic, one of his rosebuds, showed more in-ring potential on NXT. Better looking, too!

NXT 050814 Captain Comic

•••

Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but the moments that take our breath away. Life doesn’t get easier; you just get stronger. Bolieve in yourself. Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me. It’s Bo Time.

RAW 051914 Bo Dallas Bolieve

The Rotunda brothers might be doing the best mic work in WWE right now, and one of them hasn’t even started his current run yet. The question will be what Bo Dallas can do outside of a vignette, since he was so bad just two months ago, I wrote this. He does also lose points for that stupid cliché to lead off. I knew a girl who used to toast with that before like every shot in college. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of her work.

Also on SmackDown:

RAW 051914 Hulk Hogan

At this rate, that might be the only thing that saves the show.

•••

ME 052014 Paul Heyman

How do you start Main Event? Gotta be “the most prolific Main Event advocate in sports entertainment history”! He’s here to inform us of the well-kept secret: “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker‘s undefeated streak of WrestleMania!” Besides that, it’s Heyman kissing Cesaro’s ass, calling him the strongest athlete in WWE, until Mark Henry comes out and declares he is, in fact, the World’s Strongest Man. Then he proves it with a weak-ass bear hug. That whole segment just fell flat.

You know what else is falling flat? The Heyman-Cesaro pairing. It’s just … off.

ME 052014 Paul Heyman Cesaro

Paul E. is clearly doing what he can while Lesnar isn’t around, but it’s clearly his B (or B+?) material. It’s more about Lesnar than Cesaro anyway, which really feels like it hinders Cesaro. Besides, it’s not like Heyman is helping Cesaro win a ton of matches … without pulling the actual win-loss record, Cesaro felt more successful in the couple months pre-Heyman. These guys don’t need each other, and it’s actually a disservice to both to keep them together.

Cesaro doesn’t need Heyman talking him up and taking all his shine. Cesaro needs to be wrestling. With Daniel Bryan on the shelf, he’s the best at it. Actually, screw that. Cesaro is the best wrestler in the company in 2014. Yeah, I said it. Let him have his feats of strength, his innovative offense and athletic skill. This is professional wrestling, after all. Somebody should be able to simply be the best pure wrestler in WWE. Doing anything else with him is absurd.

Speaking of absurd, the main event of Paul Heyman’s Main Event isn’t even a wrestling match … it’s an arm wrestling match  

ME 052014 Cesaro Mark Henry arm wrestling

… which Henry wins by DQ, I guess, when Heyman grabs his arm. That distracts Henry long enough for Cesaro to jump him and dump a table on him, presumably setting up an angle to play out over the next few weeks. But what a waste of time. This entire show was.

•••

ME 052014 Damien Sandow Sherlock Holmes

This is what Damien Sandow has become: A punchline for even R-Truth. You know, the guy who once dressed as a Confederate soldier.

ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com
ilovewrestlinggifs.tumblr.com

Pot, kettle, etc. On the bright side, Sandow … I mean, Sherlock Holmes, is competing in a full suit.

“SHERLOCK HOLMES” vs. R-TRUTH

Sandow looking like “enhancement talent” for the first couple minutes, which is just a damn shame. The only active thing he’s doing is swinging and missing, and dipping out of the ring to examine his shirt and have a puff off the pipe, which Truth hilariously interrupts. Everybody has a few “so-and-so needs a push” guys … for many, one STILL appears to be Daniel Bryan. Those fans double as the ones who want all the midcard mechanics to run the company and have guys like John Cena jobbing out every week. They don’t know how wrestling works — it’s about who can gather a reaction with the masses and draw money.

Now, with that being said, Sandow is grossly misused, even though he’s one of the only people on the roster who actually could pull off the jobber-of-many-faces gimmick. He’s a talented wrestler AND an engaging personality, as he has shown basically any time they give him a microphone. He doesn’t need to be world champion by any means, but that middle to upper midcard tier would be perfect for a man of his talents. His Genius 2.0 character would’ve been This match feels about as long as a pay-per-view contest — Truth had a few minutes of control, then Sandow, then Truth again until Sandow hits You’re Welcome for a rare victory.

Time: 13:12

Technical Merit: Maybe be a little more discreet when calling spots. Otherwise? A semi-suitable contest.

Artistic Impression: Sandow as Sherlock was funny, at least, but this story could’ve been told in about half as much time.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

As a streaming-only fan, I can’t get the Divas Champion and the most compelling female character in the company on my screen during RAW, since the Hulu Plus version decided to skip it. (It also apparently skipped the aforementioned best wrestler in the company defeating the United States Champion).

But you know what I can get? Two Total Divas plugs and a match angle revolving around the show! I seriously hate WWE sometimes. Maybe I should just get cable.

NAOMI (w/Cameron) vs. AKSANA

Nobody involved in this match does anything for me in the ring or as a personality. Naomi’s MASSIVELY overrated, Aksana can’t work, and even one person basically crushing the other’s eye a couple months ago can’t get me compelled enough to pay attention. Anyway, Naomi wins with a butt bump. Another waste of my damn time.

Time: 3:25

Come back Friday morning for insight and analysis on NXT as WWE’s best weekly show prepares for next week’s Takeover event.

WWE Midcard Report (May 5-6): John Cena responds to Bray Wyatt, Adam Rose makes a lukewarm debut, Bad News Barrett retains his new title and Dolph Ziggler wins …?

The past is a ghost. The future is a dream. All we ever have is now. Do you know what you’ll do with your here and your now? I do. Bolieve.

RAW 050514 Bolieve

I need to believe Bo Dallas is worthwhile, because Adam Rose is 0-for-2 on non-NXT programming. He made his main-roster debut on RAW, then returned on Main Event to make things worse for Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter. Not sure how this will work, because Swagger could break Rose in half in about 0.46 seconds.

Anyway, on RAW, Zeb wants to deport a decent portion of WWE for no real reason, including Paul Heyman, who’s American (and will play a role later). Apparently this means he’s a lemon, not a rosebud.

RAW 050514 Adam Rose Zeb Colter

Also, this is apparently how they decide to debut Rose, who interrupts Zeb, tugs his mustache, kicks Swagger and back bodydrops him over the top rope. Yay.

On the other hand, he helps Dolph Ziggler the next night.

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

This match also appears to be a vehicle for Zeb on commentary to be Zeb … and maybe be a little racist toward Byron Saxton, who apparently doesn’t look like he’s from Virginia. Meanwhile, a halfway decent match transpiring. Swagger with the ride-time advantage early, and Ziggler snaps off back-to-back dropkicks. Swagger regains the upper hand by deliberating tossing Dolph over the turnbuckles and onto the post, which results in a stair bump on the way down. That looked painful. Now Zeb’s talking about wrestling as a sport, and Dolph takes another sick bump over the ropes and straight to the floor. I’m in pain just watching it.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Rest hold back from the break, which Dolph breaks with the jawbreaker. A flurry of offense from the best salesman in the business, and he escapes the ankle lock by leveraging Swagger’s momentum into the post and hitting the Fame Asser for 2. Nice throw from Jack, but Dolph blocks the Swaggerbomb and hits the DDT.

Then, well … Rose shows up. He uses his two catchphrases, which apparently are all he knows how to say. It also creates enough of a distraction for the Zig Zag and the win. Throw in a victory over Magneto Damien Sandow last week on SmackDown, and it’s a good time to be the Showoff!

ME 050614 Dolph Ziggler

TIME: 9:50

Technical Merit: Aside from the multiple distractions, there was a good match going down.

Artistic Impression: Almost too much going on, though Ziggler getting another win was welcomed.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

I thought Rose and his persona would fall flat, and it did. Even having Ziggler party with the group postmatch didn’t save it. Having a constant party of a dozen or so works great in an arena with a few hundred people (I see you, NXT!) — not venues with five-figure attendance. It feels like it’s trying too hard to be a big happening when it suddenly looks so small. The fact that Rose was stale before he even showed up was a bad sign, too.

•••

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Paul Heyman, and in case you didn’t hear the breaking news … my client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania!

See? Told you Paul E. would be back! The good news is this means we get Cesaro. The bad news? He’s facing RVD. Now I know why Twitter was complaining about the Albany RAW crowd. Or maybe it was what sounded like a “CM PUNK!” chant while now-former U.S. Champ Dean Ambrose was on the apron during a perilous fight — a 20-man battle royal title defense that he lost to Sheamus. Idiots.

CESARO vs. ROB VAN DAM

Can we just discuss Rolling Thunder being one of the stupidest moves in wrestling? Let’s somersault our way to the opponent, THEN do another one on our foe when we get there. You know what’s not stupid? The uppercut we see from Cesaro coming out of the break. And the chain of three gutwrench suplexes. Then we get a spot with RVD stuck in the Tree of Woe. Cesaro decides he wants to hurt the man, and the ref exhausts his five count. Cesaro keeps going even after that.

Hulu Plus TIME: 4:56

Technical Merit: Halfway decent.

Artistic Impression: A DQ finish? An “injury” angle with RVD? WTF?

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

We all need serious cosmetic surgery to be worthy of an Intercontinenal Champion like Bad News Barrett. This means both midcard titles are defended in the same night! That’s good news.

BAD NEWS BARRETT (c) vs. BIG E., Intercontinental Championship

JBL called Big E. a great, fighting champion. Apparently he’s been too busy thinking of the next snarky Affordable Care Act joke to actually watch the product in front of him. That’s a new one … Big E. spears Barrett into the steel steps. Big E. goes for the same into the post on the other side. Barrett follows with a lariat and an elbow drop from the apron, and he’s more than content with a countout. The challenger isn’t and makes it in at 8, which the announcers sell like it was at 9 3/4.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Big E. ducks the Bullhammer and counters with a chest bump, but then spears them both out of the ring. Cole oversells Big E. after a belly-to-belly, and Barrett escapes the Big Ending attempt, rakes the eye and hits the Bullhammer. That’s how you retain a title.

RAW 050514 Bad News Barrett

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:18

Technical Merit: Nothing spectacular.

Artistic Impression: Passable story involving hit-or-miss risks and Barrett using whatever necessary to keep his belt.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

Speaking of midcard titles …

ME 050614 Sheamus

This is Triple H trolling us all, right? Ambrose’s lack of title defenses becomes a running joke, so naturally, Sheamus defends his title four days after earning it. Well done, Trips. Well played.

•••

On to a Divas match, which actually is in place to advance a Total Divas storyline? I’m THIS close to skipping it.

NATALYA & THE FUNKADACTYLS vs. AKSANA, ALICIA FOX & TAMINA

Alicia Fox ever has improved quite a bit, or she’s always been decent and never really shown it. She may be the only heel on the main roster who can have a decent match with Paige, and she held her own with Nattie to start things off. The heels actually have some decent psychology, if not an abundance of skills. They’re not looking great doing it, but they’re cutting Nattie off … until Nattie uses her posterior to create enough separation for the hot tag to Naomi. Naomi uses her butt to set up the … split-legged moonsault? Not bad!

TIME: 4:57

Technical Merit: Had its moments. The middle portion was weak.

Artistic Impression: The “real” story here? Nattie and Cameron have beef. Yawn. Should’ve skipped it.

ME 050614 Natalya

TOTAL SCORE: 3/4*

•••

 ME 050614 Mr T

You expected someone else? Also, the accompanying video was one of WWE’s greatest comedic moments in a while.

•••

ME 050614 Goldust

It must be Main Event if Goldust is in action! For a non-cable man like me, this apparently is the only place to find him. His opponent also is a veteran of the minor show circuit.

GOLDUST (w/Cody Rhodes) vs. CURTIS AXEL (w/Ryback)

Apparently Ryback faced Cody last night, and Dustin screwed up, which allowed Ryback to win? And apparently it’s right for Axel to completely control the first 4 minutes? I want to go to bed. Goldie finally gets some rapid-fire offense with the usual spots, capped by a powerslam for 2. Axel equalizes by dumping Dustin, which brings Cody and Ryback into play. Goldust ducks as Cody parkours the barricade to hit the Disaster Kick on Ryback, and Goldie hits the Final Cut.

TIME: 6:06

Technical Merit: Not terrible, but the last third was leaps and bounds beyond the first two.

Artistic Impression: The story was told fine enough. The story itself just sucks.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

•••

The main event of Main Event? The newest member of the midcard, of course!

ME 050614 John Cena 1

And he’s perplexed after a flashback to Extreme Rules, when John Cena lost to Bray Wyatt.

Very interesting tactics from an interesting man. Bray Wyatt is an interesting man. He tried to turn me into a monster, he’s like nothing I’ve ever seen, and well, from what I’ve heard lately, he’s got the whole world in his hands. You know, for months I’ve been trying to tell all of you how dangerous Bray Wyatt really is, but I can’t make you listen. So if you want to follow the buzzards, I can’t stop you. I shouldn’t want to, because you should have the power to make up your own minds. So as much as I may not like that, if you all want to go and join the Wyatt Family, I have to let you go. But when you follow the buzzards, what do you really follow? And when you follow something, you believe in it. So I’m basically asking about the Wyatt Family, what is it that you believe in? Is it the song? *singalong time* Catchy, right? Everybody loves a singalong that’s catchy. But did anyone ever ask where that song came from, and did you ever really listen to the words? HE has got the whole world in HIS hands? Oh, wait a second. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s this. The mask. Maybe it’s the mask. Masks are fun. We all wear costumes for Halloween. There’s a ton of different ones. Adam Rose has got a bunch of people that wear masks. It’s a party all the time with him. But of all the masks Bray Wyatt could’ve made, he said, ‘If you want to follow the Wyatts, you’ve gotta wear the face of a sheep.’ And then there’s Bray Wyatt, the man himself. He speaks with so much charisma and captivates the audience. But has any of you ever listened to what Bray Wyatt actually says? *cut to Monday’s five-star sermon* So I come here tonight with one question: What do you believe in? Because in life, if you don’t stand for something, you are sure to fall for everything. I can answer that question in a heartbeat. Each night, I wear it on my sleeve. I wear it on my chest. I wear it on my hat. I wear it on my shoes. This is what I believe. My name is John Cena. I am not a god; I am a man. And I am a man who still believes in respect, in honor and in hard work. And my message is clear as day. No matter what the fight, no matter how tough the odds, you NEVER. GIVE. UP! I’m also a man who understands I may have to fight Bray Wyatt alone. But as a man, I was raised to fight for what I believe in. And here in the WWE, the competition may change, the color of my T-shirt may change, the WWE Universe itself may change, but my resolve and message does not. You never give up, even if I’m the last man standing. You never give up. My name is John Cena. This is my message. This is what I believe in.

ME 050614 John Cena 2

CENA PROMO: **1/4

Normally this would seem like a solid babyface promo, but Wyatt is talking circles around him. So much so, in fact, that Cena looks more out of touch than ever. Normally you could expect him to bite back with passion, and there’s no doubt why he’s been the top dog for about a decade. But it just doesn’t look like it’s there. He’s trying — John Cena always does — but it’s just not clicking for him right now, in the ring or out. Does a change need to be made? Does he need some time off? Or do we simply need to sit back and watch Payback play out, and see Cena — win or lose — deliver the goods in the rubber match?

Who watches Main Event? Let me know if you do, and what you thought of the show, either below or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hulu Plus TIME: 5:44

TECHNICAL MERIT: Some decent spots in this one.

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

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

 

Magneto and motivational speaking

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

RAW 042814 Bolieve

This one’s for the ladies.

RAW 042814 Hugh Jackman

This one’s not.

RAW 042814 Sandow Magneto

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

 

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

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

RAW 042814 Heyman Cesaro

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

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Mike!

Mike who?

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

RAW 042814 Real Americans

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

CESARO vs. JACK SWAGGER

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

TIME: 3:12

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

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Decent, quick story.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

RAW 042814 Bad News Barrett

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

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

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

RAW 042814 Big E Barrett

TIME: 4:48

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

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Points here for advancing two stories.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

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

RAW 042814 Rob Van Dam

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

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

ExR Triple Threat

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

Who should win Sunday: Cesaro

Who probably will win: Cesaro

 

On to the next one …

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

ME 042914 Cody Rhodes Goldust

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

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

ME 042914 Goldust

TIME: 3:09

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

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

On another note, this is happening Friday:

SD 050214 US Title

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

 

Speaking of champions …

ME 042914 Paige

WWE Divas Champion PAIGE vs. ALICIA FOX

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

ME 042914 Paige DDT 1 ME 042914 Paige DDT 2

TIME: 3:34

TECHNICAL MERIT: Not great, but certainly not bad.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

Afterward, the champ has company.

ME 042914 Paige Tamina

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

Who should win Sunday: Paige retains.

Who probably will win: You know this one.

 

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

 

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

ME 042914 Kofi Kingston

That’s the good news.

ME 042914 Bad News Barrett

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

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

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. KOFI KINGSTON

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

TIME: 2:28

TECHNICAL MERIT: Basic.

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

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

 

“… Kansas City … we’re here.”

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

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

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

On another note, Harper is creepy as hell.

ME 042914 Luke Harper

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

ME 042914 Bray Wyatt Sheamus

TIME: 13:40

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: ***1/2

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

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

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

COME BACK THURSDAY NIGHT FOR A FULL REPORT ON NXT

WWE RAW review (April 21, Part II): So, about that Intercontinental Championship contender’s tournament …

Champ’s note: This is the second of a few reviews on Monday’s episode of RAW. Click here for Part I.

Last week, the Intercontinental Championship started to fell like it meant something again. Tournaments will do that. You see the bracket, look at the possible matchups and get excited for the possibilities.

Then what do you end up with in the final?

RAW 042114 ICBracket

Rob Van Dam vs. Bad News Barrett?!

I love Barrett, and he and Sheamus had a great performance on an otherwise poor night in the ring. He’s not the problem here. The problem is stunting the momentum of probably your best wrestler on the card (Cesaro) in favor of a part-timer nobody cares about who has seemingly had the exact same match for a decade or more.

There are people I don’t like, often because they’re force-fed or marked out on so often that I just get sick of them. Then there’s RVD, easily my least favorite wrestler of the past 15 years. The way I see it, the man just brings nothing to the table short of some back kicks, a splash or two and that stupid Rolling Thunder move. Great athlete? Yes. Entertaining professional wrestler? Far from it. He can’t even talk (as in he’s worse than Brock Lesnar), which apparently isn’t necessary to be IC champ anymore, but I digress.

Anyway, rant over. On with the tournament.

 

BAD NEWS BARRETT vs. SHEAMUS, semifinal match

In an interview before the show, Sheamus apparently discussed the lineage of the Intercontinental Championship, which hasn’t really mattered since they put the belt on Road Dogg. How little does it matter? Bet you didn’t know Big E. has been champ since November. Then again, apparently it matters enough that Sheamus will cross-body dive from the top rope to the floor. The big fella does most of the work in the first couple minutes, taking an apron bump (via a big boot) to the floor.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Sheamus looks good! Though no telling how long before he gets blown out. Barrett finally generates some offense by escaping a White Noise attempt, pushing Sheamus into the buckle, ducking a Brogue Kick and hitting the cheap Black Home Slam imitation. Nice spot where Sheamus picked Barrett up from the corner and hit White Noise. Crossbody into Barrett on the ropes knocks both men to the floor. Guess Sheamus will keep up after all! With Barrett in the ropes, Sheamus pokes his head through the ropes … right into the Bullhammer. That’s it.

RAW 042114 Barrett

HULU TIME: 7:02

TECHNICAL MERIT: Pleasantly surprised.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Passionate and well-played.

TOTAL SCORE: *** (Match of the Night)

I expected a clunker and got a great biggish-man match. Barrett on the mic before and Sheamus in the ring throughout made this contest meaningful. Sheamus’ character is stale beyond belief, but when motivated, he’s a perfectly serviceable wrestler. He had a solid match with Aiden English on NXT not long enough, then this one in defeat. If only he could do this each time out.

 

CESARO vs. ROB VAN DAM, semifinal match

The current Paul Heyman guy vs. arguably the original. This match feels slow and clunky to start. Meanwhile, we get all the usual RVD offense in about a minute and a half. That could be why. It also could be Cesaro is using pure strength while RVD no-sells and tries to escape, with is pure wrestling, but not smooth whatsoever. Or it could be the crowd, for some reason, is dead other than a piped-in “RVD!” chant.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK*

Squash in RVD’s favor until Cesaro avoids the Frog Splash with an uppercut. That momentum didn’t last long; split-legged moonsault for 2. Rob misses a spinning kick and gets his foot stuck on the rope … ? Odd spot. That allows another uppercut and a takedown for 2. Rob untucks on a double underhook powerbomb, making it look like Cesaro botched until you see the replay. Rob does, however, provide a textbook kickout at 2. He sets up for the swing, and The Real Americans interrupt. After Cesaro thwarts the first attempt, Jack Swagger successfully distracts on the second by posting Cesaro. Ref doesn’t see it. Ref counts. And THIS IS BULLSHIT.

RAW 042114 RVD

HULU TIME: 5:28

TECHNICAL MERIT: Clunky and a bit boring.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Weak before the run-in, weaker after.

TOTAL SCORE: ZERO

Terrible booking here. People like Cesaro. People like Barrett. So, naturally, let’s put RVD in the final instead. WWE has to PIPE IN A CHANT to make him seem worthwhile, and he can’t do anything outside of the usual non-stop momentum formula. Complete with the stupid ending, this felt like RVD in TNA all over again — forced down our throats when the vast majority of the fans don’t even care about him anymore. Swagger and Zeb Colter interfering in a Cesaro match was bound to happen, but in the SEMIFINALS of a No. 1 contender tournament? If you’re going to pull something like this, at least save it for the title match and make it worthwhile. The timing was terrible, and Cesaro getting to swing Swagger later wasn’t anywhere near a fitting payoff. Just poor all around.