Tag Archives: Sheamus

WWE RAW “Season Premiere” review (Sept. 8)

Yes, this post has a warning: It might suck, because the show might suck. It also might suck because what “sucks” and what doesn’t may differ from person to person. Though can we agree Roman Reigns and The Bella Twins suck yet? If you don’t, just step away and come back for the Midcard Report later this week. They’re far from immune from my venom, even if Reigns claims to have an antidote. (That’ll make sense later.)

Anyway, I skipped RAW last week, and I should’ve skipped the week before. But the wife’s out of town, and I’m bored, so let’s give this a shot!

•••

So we’re starting with a steel cage?

RAW 090814 Steel Cage
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are screenshots from WWE programming on Hulu Plus.

And Chris Jericho?

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho

AND Bray Wyatt?

RAW 090814 Bray Wyatt Family

You have my attention. Nobody needs to “save” anyone tonight, boys. Just get in the cage and get it done.

CHRIS JERICHO vs. BRAY WYATT (w/The Wyatt Family), Steel Cage match

We’re going vintage steel cage rules here — you can get out, or you can beat the opponent in the ring. Bray goes for an escape about 90 seconds in, but otherwise the usual deliberate, brawling style from him. Jericho is energetic and impactful, snapping off a dropkick and hitting a nice enziguiri in the first 2 minutes or so. They’re selling the contrasting styles. Y2J’s first attempt comes when he climbs the buckles after being whipped in, but Erick Rowan and Luke Harper were waiting. Plus, well, Bray pulled him down. First use of the cage as a weapon comes at 3:45, when Bray tosses Jericho. Also the first…

…COMMERCIAL BREAK.

We’re back, Wyatt’s on the floor and Jericho’s heading up top. He starts to climb over, but the Family is ready to welcome him. Jericho has other plans, and after a shrug, he does his best Jimmy Snuka impression.

RAW 090814 Chris Jericho steel cage

Not the cleanest splash in the world, but when you’re that high, the crossbody WILL be effective if you make contact. Also, Jericho said on Instagram he hadn’t done that since about 1993, which may be how/why he’s selling the right knee. It’s not enough to keep him from crawling to the door, and basically everything except the feet make it out. Wyatt’s just brutalizing Y2J in an attempt to keep him in, then he finally goes to the right knee five times and rolls out.

Hulu time: 7:26

Technical Merit: Anytime there’s a cage dive, it’s a good thing. Also sold the speed/power dichotomy nicely, and the knee injury was used effectively.

Artistic Impression: This angle has to end somehow, right? If this is it, it ended well, especially with the post-match beatdown with more knee shots and Sister Abigail.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

•••

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler

The Intercontinental Champion has a microphone, and he’s referring to The Fappening. Attention? Retained.

Apparently, nobody should’ve been victimized by the iCloud hack spree. Well, except for one D-lister in his Target trunks.

RAW 090814 The Miz

And with a razor.

RAW 090814 The Miz 2

And…we’re not sure yet, because the D-lister and his stunt double are on the premises to threaten that Dolph Ziggler will never work in this town again. Ziggler doesn’t care about Baltimore too much, so we find out it’s a spray tan.

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow

RAW 090814 The Miz Damien Sandow 2

I love it! Damien Sandow Mizdow doesn’t, though, since he does The Miz‘s stunts, like taking a dropkick and the Zig Zag.

RAW 090814 Dolph Ziggler 2

It’s little things like this that make wrestling fun — and make a belt matter. It’s topical and funny, and it helps the build between two solid characters (three if we count Sandow) continue.

•••

You know what’s not funny, and not supposed to be? This guy.

RAW 090814 Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman wants to say things to John Cena‘s face, so he’ll get the chance.

 

RAW 090814 John Cena Paul Heyman

Heyman leads off by brown-nosing Cena, of course. Then he offers to tell Cena how to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions. Cena responds by burying The Undertaker for not being heard since Mania while he came back in a week, and insults Lesnar’s intelligence by offering a “Never Give Up” towel the champ probably can’t read.

Paul E. tells Cena that being Cena is his downfall. He lives for chants, but Brock doesn’t hear them. Heyman’s insider tip to beating Lesnar: Give up … and give in. Embrace the hate. Feed off the “Cena sucks” chants. Shut the fans up. Maybe heel on the Ravens a bit, because it’s Baltimore. Heyman believes Cena can give in to the hatred, but Brock doesn’t. Then we get the usual suspense spot where Cena weighs the options, ultimately tells Heyman to shut up and says he’ll never change. “Be John Cena, repeat, be John Cena, repeat,” etc. Then he drops Make A Wish and the military in there so you can’t hate him. But he does it with passion, so you really can’t hate him for now.

 

It’s tough as a fan, because Cena clearly buys into what he’s selling, and so do so many other people. But SO many don’t. It makes people buy merch, but it also makes people change the channel, or just “forget” to tune in. If there’s anything WCW taught us, it’s that you can’t just trot out the same aging hero in the main event every week and expect people to flock to the TV, computer, phone, etc. I get he’s a stopgap measure, but after this match, he needs to go away for a while or fade into the upper midcard, mid-to-late-2000s Shawn Michaels role where he makes everyone look good (and was somewhat outlined here).

•••

We get Jericho in the training room, and we expect the beatdown. But we don’t expect it from Randy Orton.

RAW 090814 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

If only this didn’t feel like being jerked around into thinking Orton will finally be the dastardly heel we’ve wanted to return for about 4 years, only to be disappointed yet again.

•••

Seth Rollins is in action, and though I love Dean Ambrose not being around, it seems Rollins is searching for something to do. This week, the United States Champion isn’t busy either. He even has enough time to swat the briefcase out of Rollins’ hands.

SETH ROLLINS vs. United States Champion SHEAMUS

We apparently can’t find a way to talk about the match in the ring, except for an “Ohhh!” after a high-impact move from the Irishman. Sheamus controls the proceedings for nearly 2 minutes before Rollins gets some shots in, but then the rolling senton and a dump outside precede the ambulance … no, it’s just Cesaro in a suit.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Rollins is still bumping around for Sheamus when we get back, which I guess is a nice way to build up one of your champions. Irish Curse followed by a kickout, then a shot to a “scouting” challenger, who grabs the belt.

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title

Don’t worry, he’ll put it back. But that’s enough for Sheamus to be distracted from applying White Noise and make him susceptible to a rollup. Then, after a tug-of-war for the belt, a kick to the back. Then the Curbstomp, which is sold horribly. Like bad enough where the announcers paid attention and said he didn’t get all of it. But it was enough for the win.

Hulu time: 4:25

Technical Merit: Pretty basic, but just terrible selling of the finisher. That’s bad, and that’s on the man taking the move.

Artistic Impression: It made Sheamus look good, and it made the U.S. Title angle seem semi-important. But how are we supposed to believe Rollins is an evil corporate badass if he’s getting his ass kicked like that? It’s not even like a chicken heel element … he’s just getting beaten until he gets help.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/4

Cesaro’s scouting trip, needless to say, is over. Unless you count seeing how effective the Neutralizer is in real time and judging the weight of the belt itself “scouting”. I’ll allow it.

RAW 090814 Cesaro US Title 2

•••

Now we get to see how WWE handles xenophobia this week. Oh, it’s by Lana butchering the national anthem and telling us we’ll fall to Rusev‘s might, then playing the Russian anthem. Doesn’t count unless Nikolai Volkoff‘s singing it. Now the announcers feign anger and disdain. What a lovely segment.

•••

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns

Oh crap. Reigns has a live interview. He’s asked what Orton meant by the whole “making an impact on the season premiere” thing.

“I don’t know what he meant. But I do know one thing. He’s the Viper, and he’s got the venom. *cocks fist* Believe that.”

That, my friends, will be your world champion in seven months. He’s garbage in the ring, and he’s worse on the stick. Maybe this is how the Internet Wrestling Community would’ve treated The Ultimate Warrior back in the day, but at least Warrior knew how to speak, even if it didn’t make sense, and he had some good matches here and there. Roman Reigns has shown us NOTHING that makes him remotely viable as a main-event talent. So he looks good? Cool. You know who looked even better, and had a better moveset? This guy.

Chris Masters

At least Chris Masters could lock on a hold. Get it? Masters? Lock? Master Lock? And dress like an athlete.

•••

The Bellas are absolutely terrible, though Nikki is less so, and Jerry Springer is on this show 15 years too late. Luckily, though, we get to learn where they inherited their acting prowess — their parents! Oh, great, Brie’s yelling again. Screw this. I’m out.

The lack of an on-screen champion or perceived-to-be-credible stars leads to filling time somehow. And, with Total Divas back on, why not cross promote, right? Well, pardon the profanity, but it’s stupid fucking bullshit when this fucking mockery of our intelligence ends up on my TV screen every week. It’s why I skipped last week. It’s why I should’ve skipped this week. It’s not good television, and I don’t see how anyone can actually think it is. It’s not cheeky and fun, like the Ziggler-Miz segment. It’s not passionate, like the Cena-Heyman promo became. It’s not entertaining, like, you know, a wrestling match. It’s shitty, and it’s taking away from men AND women who can provide more compelling air time in the ring or out.

•••

Oh crap. Reigns is in the ring. But hey, it’s a SummerSlam rematch! So there’s that.

RANDY ORTON vs. ROMAN REIGNS

Credit to Reigns for adding a vertical suplex to his arsenal. I think I counted two lariats and that suplex before the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Orton in control, slapping on the headlock for an extended period of time. It’s boring, but I love it every time, probably because he’s not afraid to keep it locked in just … a bit … longer … to add to his heel cred. Hey, I think Reigns used punches AND a kick this time to power out. Side suplex variation, and now both men down. Samoan Drop, because he’s probably contractually obligated as a member of the Anoa’i line, but Orton thwarts the momentum shortly after with the quick powerslam. We’ll get the hangman rope DDT next … nope, a right hand and the dropkick from the floor. Leaping clothesline for 2. Orton gets a cover by dodging Reigns in the corner and rolling him up, then another with the inverted backbreaker. Another powerslam, this time catching Reigns from the second rope, but 2 again. Hangman rope DDT finally follows, and a bit of hardway color below Orton’s lip. Time for the RKO? Blocked and “SUPERMAN PUNCH RIGHT ON THE JAW! RIGHT ON THE BUTTON!” Hey, Hogan’s legdrop was more effective. Orton calls for the cavalry, which includes Rollins, Kane and some production crew, and we mercifully get a DQ as the steel cage comes down (and the accompanying music is on cue).

Hulu time: 9:17

Technical Merit: On one hand, it’s a Randy Orton match. On the other, it’s a Roman Reigns match.

Artistic Impression: These two men just don’t click. Both men need something new to do, and quickly. Orton is one of the best, but even he can’t make Reigns look believable. If he gets the belt, he’ll be the worst worker to carry a world title since The Great Khali, and he had an excuse — he’s freaking 7-foot-3.

TOTAL SCORE: *

There’s far more action after the match than during. Rollins almost gets impaled as the cage comes down, then reaffirms the wrestling fact that if you dive off the top of the steel cage, you’ll now hurt your knee. Though Jericho DID invent that. Reigns got some licks in, but it’s the customary Authority beatdown, complete with vicious chair shots from the Viper and a Curbstomp onto the chair after Rollins says Reigns owes him his entire career. Which looks about right at this point.

RAW 090814 Seth Rollins Randy Orton Kane

•••

If you’re patient enough to make it this far, you’re wondering, “Why u no haz NXT match?” It wasn’t on the “action-packed” 90-minute version on Hulu Plus. But fear not! There will be NXT blogging on Thursday night.

What did you think of RAW? What did you think of the blog? Is The Champ just a grumpy smark who needs to lighten up? Sound off in the comments below, or on Twitter @jpetrie18.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

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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 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 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.

 

WWE Midcard Report (May 26-27): To Bolieve is to win, Bad News Barrett asserts himself, D-Sizzle shocks the world and Luke Harper shows his potential

RAW 052614 Bo Dallas Tebowing

*vignette*

The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Be prepared, so when your moment of inspiration arrives, it won’t catch you by surprise. You just have to Bolieve!

*elaborate entrance, makes way to the ring*

Monday Night RAW is the summit on the top of the mountain of my dreams. On my journey to the top, I’ve learned that we don’t conquer the mountain. We conquer ourselves. All you have to do is Bolieve!

*defeats opponent*

Thank you so much, so much, to all of my Bolievers! I couldn’t have done it without you. But the truth is you don’t get satisfaction from just victories. You get the satisfaction from effort. If you gave it your all, and you gave it everything you’ve got, you’re already a winner. All you have to do … is Bolieve!

*hugs opponent, walks out*

If you’re keeping track, that was three motivational speeches from Bo Dallas. That’s the promo trifecta. That, my friends, is why you must Bolieve!

That also is how the Midcard Report should lead off. You know, some nice positive reinforcement before we trash about three-fourths of the matches on here.

BO DALLAS vs. SIN CARA

Sidenotes: Bo’s T-shirt still has the NXT logo, and said T-shirt is absolutely soaking wet. Also, my feed was so moved by Bo’s words that it froze up. Hunicara with a top rope crossbody early, but Bo’s in control when they return. The announce team no-sells the entire match, which is a shame because it’s not half bad! OK, maybe half. Nice series of kneedrops — the first two with a rollout, the third with a thumbs-up and a delay — but Sin Cara responds with some kicks, an enziguiri, a springboard moonsault, a backspring elbow and a Samoan drop. That’s all for naught, because after snakeeyes and the Bo-Dog, it’s time to Bolieve.

Time: 2:54

Technical Merit: I like the less-botchy version of Sin Cara.

Artistic Impression: I also like this version of Bo Dallas.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

This may actually have been RAW’s Match of the Night. Chew on that one for a second.

•••

Good news: Both midcard singles championships are on the line in angles intended to mean something.

Bad news: We have to watch Rob Van Dam and his endless array of THE SAME MOVES THAT WOULD DO NOTHING IN REAL LIFE.

Bad News: Oh, he’s right here!

RAW 052614 Bad News Barrett

ROB VAN DAM vs. CESARO (w/Paul Heyman)

It’s the Heyman Invitational, as long as the No. 1 contenders for the Intercontinental and U.S. championships. But somebody’s afraid he’s got some more Bad News. It’s summertime, so people will throw on their swimsuits and find their stomachs have expanded to roll over their waistbands. The man has a point! He has another: RVD’s Indian Summer will be over after Payback. The good news? Bad News is on commentary! “It’s me! It’s me! It’s BNB!” I’m all for a subtle DDP reference. First thing to get me to pay attention to the actual match: RVD goes for an apron moonsault, but Cesaro catches him and deposits him onto the barricade. Naturally, now that our attention is finally obtained, we go to break.

As we return on Hulu Plus, Rolling Thunder shows up. Yay. This RVD match just had something different for once: A superkick to Barrett outside. That one was legit. Van Dam is feeling froggy, but Barrett provides the distraction and Cesaro hits the bridging German for the win.

Hulu Plus time: 4:27

Technical Merit: Same old stuff, though executed OK.

Artistic Impression: Face messes with heel, face gets got. I don’t mind it.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Then, for no real reason, Sheamus graces us with his presence for a Brogue Kick. That didn’t feel like babyface justice; that just felt like a lame excuse to get someone on TV.

Wait … he has a match in the third hour? That’s not logical! Ohhhhh Cesaro attacked him on SmackDown. (Logical) … but that would mean we would’ve had to watch SmackDown. (Not logical)

Anyway, it’s Sheamus-ADR, part 4,863.

United States Champion SHEAMUS vs. ALBERTO DEL RIO

The champ makes this look like a glorified squash for nearly 2 minutes, until ADR recovers after being rolled back into the ring and realizes what his feet are for. Again, it’s break time.

And would you look at that … we return just in time for Sheamus to hit White Noise! He sets up for the Brogue Kick, but his bell is rung. Del Rio rings it again with the enziguiri and the standing sidekick, but only gets 2. Sheamus sells concussion symptoms as ADR sets up for the cross armbreaker, but the redhead slips out and hits the Brogue Kick.

Hulu Plus time: 3:55

Technical Merit: Painfully basic and repetitive.

Artistic Impression: Dumb finish, though it sets up what happens next.

TOTAL SCORE: *

Heyman interrupts Justin Roberts‘ duties and promos just long enough for Cesaro to sneak in and give Sheamus a few more shots to the dome, then the Neutralizer.

What did I say earlier? Face messes with heel, face gets got. The only problem is this probably means the heel gets got Sunday. Guess we should be happy we get a halfway decent United States Championship match out of it. I’m far from sold on the Intercontinental Championship contest, but that’s because RVD’s involved. I haven’t actually enjoyed one of his matches since … Edge won a triple-threat on RAW to take his WWE Championship in 2006? Yeah, about that far back.

•••

We lead off Main Event with a hometown boy!

You know what that means … hometown boy’s gonna lose. Sorry, Cody Rhodes.

Main Event 052714 Cody Rhodes

Speaking of losses, Curtis Axel informed The Brotherhood last night that they’re racking up more losses than Barry Horowitz in his prime. You know the third-generation guy’s gonna know his history!

CODY RHODES (w/Goldust) vs. CURTIS AXEL (w/Ryback)

If you want a decent basic mechanic — no more, no less — Axel’s your man. The man knows what he’s doing in the ring and doesn’t try to exceed his limits. Nice backbreaker with Cody tied up in the second rope early. Rhodes starts his comeback around 3:15 with a sunset flip, some strikes and the the trademark Ted DiBiase Jr. clothesline. He hangs Axel up in the ropes and hits a kick to the gut then, with Axel standing, he hits a moonsault for 2. For the second straight night, though, Cody Disaster Kicks someone on the apron (Ryback this time), and Axel chop blocks Cody, rolls him up and pulls the tights. The streak continues.

Main Event 052714 Curtis Axel Ryback Rybaxel

Time: 4:21

Technical Merit: Your basic 4-minute match where the heel wins. Nothing egregious.

Artistic Impression: I don’t like the story, but it’s being told OK.

TOTAL SCORE: *1/2

•••

You know where a Southern rapper is going to be over? Atlanta. That’s why WWE decided having not one, but two, was a good idea. This actually is the best gimmick I’ve seen in a minute!

Main Event 052714 Damien Sandow D-Sizzle

Yo, I roll with the sinners, but I’m praised like a saint

And when that bell rings, I go hard in the paint

When fools try to step, I start tossin’

My teeth are clean, but I still be flossin’

*R-Truth rudely interrupts*

Do you have a problem, cousin?

You’re about to run up and get done up

Thuggish livin’ till the end

Tell a friend

Eight bars in, D-Sizzle is better than Macklemore. Who else is better than Macklemore? EVERYBODY! I see you, Kanyon! RIP.

“D-Sizzle” DAMIEN SANDOW vs. R-TRUTH

Tom Phillips says D-Sizzle is no Machine Gun Kelly. He’s right. Sizzle is better. After the Russian legsweep, “THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AY-ER!” After the Elbow of Disdain and cover for 2, “YOU FRONT? YOU FRONT?” Unfortunately, R-Truth didn’t front. He came correct and hit his finisher for the win.

*pours out some liquor for D-Sizzle*

We hardly knew ya, bro.

Time: 2:33

•••

Main Event 052714 Nikki Bella Brie Bella Twins

There’s not a situation where Nikki Bella doesn’t look like a porn star. Then again, isn’t that kind of John Cena‘s thing? I guess if you want a Brazzers video come to life, you have a couple options in WWE.

RAW 051914 Summer Rae

Meanwhile, someone is here to actually, you know, wrestle.

Main Event 052714 Natalya

NATALYA vs. BRIE BELLA (w/Nikki Bella)

Brie puts on a hammerlock and a side headlock, and she yells like she’s the one taking the move. She keeps quiet for the armdrag, though, and when Nattie has her in an armlock. Brie Mode is reason alone for termination. Especially when it results in a missile dropkick. Here’s our cool spot of the match: Brie locks in a half-crab, but Nattie rolls through into the Sharpshooter.

Main Event 052714 Brie Bella Sharpshooter

Once that happens, that’s it.

Time: 3:33

Technical Merit: Brie Mode was involved. I rest my case.

Artistic Impression: If the story was Nattie comes, Nattie wins, Nattie goes to get ready for NXT Takeover, then it was great! Wait, this was about Brie? … Oh.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

One good thing about Main Event is it allows for promo time with the WWE Tag Team Champions. This meant time for The Usos to make fun of The Wyatt Family‘s lackeys who do nothing but follow Bray Wyatt, which was done effectively. Oh, and Cena will be the last man standing. Yay.

That also means promo time for Luke Harper!

Main Event 052714 Luke Harper

A man with nothing left to lose has nothing left to fear. He saved us. He gave us a purpose. And Usos, some bonds are much stronger than blood.

Bray takes over from there. Blah, blah, blah, I know, right? He took in Harper and Erick Rowan, and they united as brothers in the name of cause. The Usos, meanwhile, are pawns in Cena’s sick little game. Since they’re guilty by association, they’ll burn.

WWE Tag Team Champions THE USOS vs. LUKE HARPER & ERICK ROWAN (w/Bray Wyatt)

Rowan starts the match with the mask … ? Oh, it’s so Jey Uso can slap it off. I like it! Nice no-sell from Harper, which only leads to a double-team that still ends with Harper in control via dropkick.

Back from break and Rowan’s back in, just in time for Jimmy Uso to tag to Jey. Rowan gets an advantage when Jey can’t lift him for a Samoan drop, then Erick fallaway slams Jey, who rolls outside. That gives Harper a chance to pick away at some scraps outside after the tag before returning and tagging once more. Rest hold time! Jey kicks Rowan after escaping, but Rowan backs into Harper for the tag and Harper goes after Jimmy. Harper is a great tag-team wrestler. Harper does the Gator Roll, throwing in a couple suplexes for good measure. A second rest hold, then Jey makes the mistake of attacking Rowan. That allows Harper to hit a sitout slam, which causes Jimmy to break it up, which distracts the ref, which allows the heels to maintain control. You know, until Rowan inevitably screws it up. Missile dropkick leads to stereo tags, and Jimmy comes in hot. Jimmy can hit the Samoan drop on Harper … as well as a superkick that leads to 2. Chaos time, and the champs execute their tandem dive outside. That’ll get Bray out of his seat, and he gives Harper marching orders. Jimmy goes up top, but Rowan tosses Jey into the ropes. Jimmy wobbles off the ropes, which sets up the Clothesline from Hell and the pin.

Time: 10:35

Technical Merit: These are two good tag teams. Rowan couldn’t cut it in a singles capacity, but as the bumbling tag partner he’s effective. Harper might be the best big man in the company at the moment, and the Usos are the best team.

Artistic Impression: The match kept The Usos intertwined in the Cena-Wyatt angle, and it sold the Wyatt Family as a stronger threat than ever to hustle, loyalty, respect, etc.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Come back Thursday night for analysis and reaction to NXT Takeover. In the meantime, follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.