Tag Archives: Sin Cara

A belated NXT Takeover 2 (Fatal 4-Way) photo gallery

One essential element to the presentation of this blog is what we in the journalism business call “art”. Who wants to just read thousands of words of text without some photos to wash it down?

I watch basically every show I review on my iMac and, while taking notes, snap as many screenshots as humanly possible. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition, but often the hits are pretty good. There were enough hits during NXT Takeover 2 (full review here) that they didn’t all fit into the piece.

As a result, here’s a gallery! As always with NXT, all screencaps are taken directly from the WWE Network.

The Lucha Dragons, Sin Cara and Kalisto, led off the night as challengers for The Ascension's NXT Tag Team Championship.
The Lucha Dragons, Sin Cara and Kalisto, led off the night as challengers for The Ascension’s NXT Tag Team Championship.
Viktor brought the intensity and high-impact offense expected of The Ascension. But two days after a solid win on Main Event, he was pinned to drop the NXT Tag Team Championship belts he and Konnor held for nearly a year.
Viktor brought the intensity and high-impact offense expected of The Ascension. But two days after a solid win on Main Event, he was pinned to drop the NXT Tag Team Championship belts he and Konnor held for nearly a year.

NXT Takeover 2 Viktor 3 NXT Takeover 2 Viktor 2

The Lucha Dragons earned the upset win and celebrate with the NXT Tag Team straps.
The Lucha Dragons earned the upset win and celebrate with the NXT Tag Team straps.

•••

CJ Parker faced a mystery opponent ...
CJ Parker faced a mystery opponent …
... whom ended up being Baron Corbin. Corbin made some noise with just a couple moves in his 30-second win.
… whom ended up being Baron Corbin. Corbin made some noise with just a couple moves in his 30-second win.

•••

Big Cass signals the start of the comic relief portion of the program, featuring Enzo Amore and The Legionnaires.
Big Cass signals the start of the comic relief portion of the program, featuring Enzo Amore and The Legionnaires.
Sylvester LeFort lost his hair vs. hair match with Enzo Amore, and thought he would lose his hair. But he did what any heel Frenchman would do — bail and make his partner, Marcus Louis, take the stipulation-fulfilling punishment.
Sylvester LeFort lost his hair vs. hair match with Enzo Amore, and thought he would lose his hair. But he did what any heel Frenchman would do — bail and make his partner, Marcus Louis, take the stipulation-fulfilling punishment.

•••

This man entered Takeover as Kenta ...
This man entered Takeover as Kenta …
... and left as Hideo Itami, with an upper hand on The Ascension to boot.
… and left as Hideo Itami, with an upper hand on The Ascension to boot.

•••

Bayley challenged Charlotte for the NXT Women's Championship.
Bayley challenged Charlotte for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Charlotte retained her NXT Women's Championship in another solid Takeover match.
Charlotte retained her NXT Women’s Championship in another solid Takeover match.

NXT Takeover 2 Charlotte 5•••

The most gorgeous man in wrestling ...
The most gorgeous man in wrestling …

NXT Takeover 2 Tyler Breeze 4

... with the most gorgeous entrance.
… with the most gorgeous entrance.
Sami Zayn put on another valiant effort to no avail. He's 0-3 in NXT special events, but averaging about 4.83 stars per match.
Sami Zayn put on another valiant effort to no avail. He’s 0-3 in NXT special events, but averaging about 4.83 stars per match.
On Sept. 11, 2014, Tyson Kidd was the top heel on WWE's best in-ring show. Fact.
On Sept. 11, 2014, Tyson Kidd was the top heel on WWE’s best in-ring show. Fact.
Pre-midlife crisis for Tyson Kidd? Or just a way to drown out the "Nattie's husband" chants?
Pre-midlife crisis for Tyson Kidd? Or just a way to drown out the “Nattie’s husband” chants?
A very confident (almost cocky) Adrian Neville poses with the NXT Championship as Sami Zayn waits.
A very confident (almost cocky) Adrian Neville poses with the NXT Championship as Sami Zayn waits.
Adrian Neville celebrates after retaining the NXT Championship.
Adrian Neville celebrates after retaining the NXT Championship.
Adrian Neville holds his NXT Championship belt after pinning Tyson Kidd in a 24-minute, 5-star fatal 4-way match. Sami Zayn couldn't get back into the ring quickly enough to make the save.
Adrian Neville holds his NXT Championship belt after pinning Tyson Kidd in a 24-minute, 5-star fatal 4-way match. Sami Zayn couldn’t get back into the ring quickly enough to make the save.
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WWE Superstars review (Sept. 18): Wyatt Family vs. Matadores, Sin Cara-Gabriel III

This is cool.

All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.
All photos are screenshots from WWE Network programming unless noted.

So is this.

Superstars 091814 Erick Rowan

And this.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper

What’s not cool is the ear-bleeding vocal intro. Just terrible oversinging. On the bright side, we at least know this week’s Superstars will be off to a good start. So who will everyone’s favorite heel tag team face?

Superstars 091814 Matadores intro Superstars 091814 Los Matadores El Torito

Oh my God. This will be a bloodbath. Though I appreciate Justin Roberts‘ proper pronunciation on the jobbers’ intro.

THE WYATT FAMILY (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando, w/El Torito)

I think we’ve determined Fernando is starting this match. Rowan beats him down, then tags to the worker of the pair. Tag attempt at 1:15, but Fernando eats Harper’s boot instead. Gator roll time, and it feels like we’re just buying time. Headlock time as El Torito gets on the apron …

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper El Torito

… and provides a distraction as Fernando hits an enziguiri. Hot tag to Diego, who’s actually gaining momentum? Drop toehold into the ropes, and a … 619? No, just a slide onto Harper and out. Cover at 3:00, and Rowan makes the save.

Fernando and Rowan are forced outside in that order, then a Clothesline From Hell … OK, it was just from Harper … results in victory.

Superstars 091814 Luke Harper 2

Time: 3:19

That was an interesting quickie match, in that the jobber team actually handled some business. An abrupt ending, but how long did you think Los Matadores would actually hang?

•••

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

I can’t remember who asked it, but the question was posed on Twitter: What exactly is the point of Superstars? Right now, it appears to be a Sin Cara vs. Justin Gabriel series.

The Lucha Dragon took the first matchup. The World British Super Duper Championship Wrestling champion took the second last week. This, my friends, is the rubber match. Also, kinda hope Cara comes out with NXT gold. Damn. No dice, but a NICE T-shirt of the new squad.

Superstars 091814 Sin Cara

Both wrestlers, especially Gabriel, would probably be better off working with the NXT roster. Hell, Sin Cara will be as one-half of the tag champs. The problem is Gabriel’s a tweener — a perfect fit for NXT without enough of a character, but too experienced in a WWE sense to not be on the main roster. If NXT gained that ECW/WCW popularity Triple H desires, it would be fine to just move him over. But, as a developmental show and no real character for Gabriel, it doesn’t work. At least Tyson Kidd has a pretty good heel persona to show for his efforts.

Gabriel with some new gear tonight. Not as … motocrossy.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel

Can we get this man some late ’90s Shift gear? Maybe something from the iconic Jeff Emig collection? Make him wear the jersey, too.

motorcyclemuseum.org
motorcyclemuseum.org

NXT Tag Team Champion SIN CARA vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL

The battle of the high flyers is quite physical early. Cara’s just chopping the hell out of Gabriel, but a kick and an intriguing rollup turn the tide. Some punches, a corner crossbody and an apron rollup, but Cara rolls out. Gabriel ducks the kick, rollup, rollout, connect on the kick, and Cara gets 2.

This is fun. The little guys should stereotypically be running and flying and all that, but they’re unleashing strikes and kicks, and even some mat-based stuff. It’s unexpected, but it works.

Cara goes for maybe a double underhook powerbomb, but Gabriel blocks and reverses into a back bodydrop. Back to throwing hands in the corner, but Sin Cara hits a sitout slam for 2.

First real high risk comes from the masked one off the top at 3:00, but Gabriel dropkicks him in the gut. Both men down, and it’s break time.

We return around 3:45, and it’s rest hold time. Gabriel releases, but only to destroy Cara’s back with an impactful kick combo and a stomp his foot on the throat. Kinda looked like Sin Cara tapped there. Mask removal gimmick time to no avail. Vertical suplex follows, and Gabriel rolls through into an arm hold. Sin Cara reverses and goes for a German, but Gabriel lands on his feet, then a kick to the gut and a lariat. Interesting cover — knee to the chest and a leg hook — for 2. Russian legsweep? No, abdominal stretch, with an elbow into the side for good measures. The luchador back bodydrops out, rejects Gabriel’s corner advances twice, then rolls him through into what looked like a single-arm powerbomb.

Pair of springboard crossbodies after some rest, then a somewhat clumsy headscissors. Kick from the apron, then a senton for 2 as Gabriel grabs the rope. Smart move, and Sin Cara is perplexed.

Gabriel hits a punch, a kick and an elbow, then a not-so-hot moonsault for 2. One thing he can hit, though, is the 450 … only he won’t get the chance, because Cara crotches him.

Cara goes for the top-rope Frankensteiner, meaning this is almost over. Gabriel rolls Cara through for 2, but Cara flips Gabriel and gets 3. Not bad, gentlemen.

Superstars 091814 Justin Gabriel 2

Time: 9:15

Technical Merit: I loved what they did with this match, but the execution got a little spotty at times. *insert Sin Cara joke here* Credit, though, for the attempt.

Artistic Impression: It’s cool to see a miniseries like this, even though you either have to be a hardcore fan or maybe have no life to find it. The past two matches have been solid, and you feel the story build with different elements of the second match coming into the third, especially with the finish. The question is whether a story with these two men is something people want to see.

TOTAL SCORE: **

NXT Takeover 2 review (Sept. 11): Adrian Neville takes the Fatal 4-Way, and the Match of the Year

With the first NXT special event, we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped for great, but thought we’d see pretty good.

I wrote a headline that night that said, “THIS is wrestling”.

There was no way to follow that up, right? I mean, Cesaro came down to help out, and so much of the talent in the title matches got the call to the big leagues. Three 4-star matches later, including the best women’s wrestling match WWE has probably ever had, NXT Takeover put the “developmental” brand above the flagship in terms of in-ring quality.

So now the bar is set impossibly high for Round 3 on Thursday night. The first few matches are definitely solid, but not quite up to par. Granted, every hole on this course is a par-2 instead of 3, 4 or 5. But when I took a quick break before the main event, I thought, “Well, this Takeover is good, but the main event must deliver.”

Holy crap, did it ever.

Not only was the Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Championship WWE’s match of the year, but there’s no group of four men on the active main roster who could come close to topping it. In terms of ability? Maybe. But they’re not hungry enough to put on a contest of that magnitude.

In NXT, we’re seeing a shift away from SuperCena (and SuperReigns, at this point) and supernatural sports entertainment characters, and toward focused, determined, technically gifted PROFESSIONAL WRESTLERS. I have friends in Florida, and I’m jealous they can partake in the atmosphere live, whether it’s a house show or TV. When it shows up on Thursday nights, it’s like an Attitude Era crowd was crammed into a fieldhouse and placed around the WCW cruiserweight roster of the late ’90s.

It’s to the point where I don’t want to see NXT guys get called up unless it’s in bulk. I want these men to compete at Full Sail again in three months, because when you put Adrian Neville, Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn with Hideo Itami (Who? You’ll see), Kevin SteenPrince Devitt and maybe/hopefully others … you’re getting unparalleled pro wrestling. If I’m in WWE, and I want to hone my craft to the best of my ability, I either want to be in NXT or be working with NXT talent as soon as it’s called up.

I knew of Kidd for years, but as a basically WWE-only guy for so many years, I didn’t know Zayn, Neville or Breeze before I flipped on NXT earlier this year. I now know them as three of the finest workers under the banner of the premier promotion in the world. There was passion you don’t see on RAW, SmackDown or Impact. There was in-ring work the main-roster guys either aren’t able, willing or allowed to replicate. There was intense drama for the entire second half of a 24-minute event. And there was a champion who, against three opponents who would deserve the belt in a heartbeat, showed why he’s carrying the brand.

Anyway, I’m burying the lead. Here’s why the show was so good.

•••

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

Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!

Well here’s a good way to start an event. Considering how much matching attire Kalisto and Sin Cara have, methinks they’ll be a pair for a while. I just don’t expect them to become champions tonight … because, well, The Ascension.

NXT Takeover2 The Ascension

THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor, c) vs. THE LUCHA DRAGONS (Kalisto & Sin Cara), NXT Tag Team Championship

Obvious points of emphasis here: The power-speed dichotomy, and the synergy of the new team vs. the team that has held the belts for nearly a year. Cara showcases the speed with about three springboard moves, but Viktor knocks him into the barricade, tags to Konnor, and the big man elaborates on Viktor’s handiwork. Back in the ring, and Sin Cara’s newest tattoo may be Konnor’s bootprint on his chest. Big fan of the ground-and-pound here, and it appears The Ascension is pacing itself for a longer match.

NXT Takeover2 Viktor Sin Cara

 

Meanwhile, Kalisto is begging for the hot tag. Viktor nearly powerbombs Cara out of the ring, but he bounces off the ropes and hits a headscissors. No tag, however, and when Konnor gets in, Sin Cara just isn’t prepared for the onslaught.

NXT Takeover2 Konnor Sin Cara

Two kicks from Sin Cara, but he can’t break free. Maybe an enziguiri? Not so much. Some elbows? Nope. Konnor bull rushes Cara into the corner and tags, but Sin Cara slips over and gets the hot tag to Kalisto at 5:25.

Top-rope crossbody, springboard corkscrew, and a sunset flip catch powerbomb for 2. Oh, and Kalisto hit two slides on Konnor during that. Jesus. Cara dives onto Konnor outside. Kalisto hits another headscissors onto Viktor, who dips out. Kalisto dives onto The Ascension, who catch and toss Kalisto, only he (kind of) lands on his feet on the ramp. Sin Cara follows with a successful suicide dive. Back in the ring, and Viktor hits the lariat. That sets up the Fall of Man? Nope, Sin Cara cuts off Konnor. Kalisto hits his finisher …

NXT Takeover2 Kalisto Viktor

… and the upset is complete!

NXT Takeover2 Kalisto Sin Cara 3

Time: 7:36

Technical Merit: Quality match with the contrasting styles. Everything looked good, and there were counters when necessary. Great logical move by Sin Cara to cut off The Ascension’s finisher, and it opened up possibly the only way for the champs to lose. It was clean and made sense.

Artistic Impression: Cool story with the smaller underdogs winning. Guess this clears the way for The Ascension to … well … ascend!

TOTAL SCORE: ***

•••

Related to nothing else, Byron Saxton can rock a damn suit. Take notes, gentlemen. That’s style.

NXT Takeover2 Byron Saxton Tom Phillips

After a nice Adrian Neville video package, it’s time for our next match …

… which involves this clown.

NXT Takeover2 CJ Parker

His opponent? Not a clown. He falls more under badass. If you ask my Twitter bestie (I see you, Heather!), there probably are some other glowing descriptors.

NXT Takeover2 Baron Corbin

C.J. PARKER vs. BARON CORBIN

Collar-and-elbow. Advantage Corbin. Lariat. Powerful, POWERFUL finishing maneuver. Done.

Baron F-ing Corbin, ladies and gentlemen.

NXT Takeover2 Baron Corbin 2

NXT Takeover2 CJ Parker 3

Time: :30

If you must use Parker, get him out as quickly as possible. I like it.

•••

A super-arrogant video from Tyson Kidd, then … a hair match? I missed far too much many episodes.

Clearly Sylvester LeFort is The Legionnaires‘ candidate, seeing as he has the *much* higher quantity of hair, on his chest and his head.

To be fair, Enzo Amore might look better with a shaved head. On another note, HOW YOU DOIN?!

NXT Takeover2 Big Cass Enzo Amore

Amore sounds like a young DDP. Kinda looks like a young DDP if he had about four too many disco biscuits, too. OK, that last part’s a stretch. But Enzo would’ve been a NICE addition to the Jersey Triad.

SYLVESTER LeFORT (w/Marcus Louis) vs. ENZO AMORE (w/Big Cass), Hair vs. Hair Match

Semi-related note: I tried cutting my own hair with a brand-new clipper set when I was 21. I was all good until I tried to clean up the back. Ended up about halfway up the back of my head. Had to shave it all. Was scared as hell, but it looked good, and I’ve more or less kept it since. Methinks whomever loses this match either knows or at least thinks he’s got a good head. I feel like LeFort could pull it up. Keep the beard, the chest hair, all of it. But just take it all off the top.

Anyway, back on topic. Nothing too memorable to note in the first 80-85 percent of the match. Enzo leads with the jab, but gets distracted by Louis, and LeFort hits a lariat for 2. Louis and Big Cass get into their own battle outside while LeFort looks on, and Enzo gets the rollup.

NXT Takeover2 Enzo Amore Sylvester LeFort

We’ll see about my LeFort theory.

NXT Takeover2 Sylvester LeFort 2

Time: 5:37

Technical Merit: Good thing there’s a stip, because that match was boring as hell. Nothing really happened.

Artistic Impression: The background story is good. The characters are great. But that match sucked. Then LeFort bails! Guess Louis has the better-shaped head. Poor execution with the bucket, though. Now Louis won’t have eyebrows or arm hair either.

TOTAL SCORE: 1/2*

•••

The most gorgeous vignette of the night follows. Complete with a Beauty Shot montage. Also, thanks for #Uggo, #Hobbit and #NattiesHusband.

Every outfit I wear matches gold.

That’s the fashion sense a true champion needs.

Hi, Jojo!

NXT Takeover2 Jojo

And hello, Mr. General Manager!

NXT Takeover2 William Regal

And konbanwa, KENTA!

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 2

Thank God … they gave him good music. That’s been a worry in WWE lately. (See: Ambrose, Dean; Rollins, Seth; Cesaro, Antonio). And he gave himself a good suit. Well done! The man’s always impeccably dressed when he’s near a ring. I can appreciate that.

And he’s cutting his promo in Japanese. I love it. Transitions to English … and transitions to Hideo Itami as a tribute to one of his heroes.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 3

And, I guess, transitions to an Ascension interruption?! And he transitions to the floor.

“Yeah, we’re in a bad mood.”

Konnor demands a rematch, but there’s one problem … Hideo’s still standing.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 4

And literally kicking The Ascension out of the ring. And grabbing a chair. This is freaking awesome. Even Regal’s enjoying it.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 5

•••

I’ve never given an NXT match a negative rating, but if Mojo Rawley wins this next match, I just might.

NXT Takeover2 Bull Dempsey

Bull Dempsey? He’s a little more legit. By a little, I mean a lot. Mojo at least comes out swinging.

BULL DEMPSEY vs. MOJO RAWLEY

Dempsey fulfilling my wishes early, then Mojo gets an elbow up and hits a double-leg. That’s at least a wrestling move. Also a wrestling move: A 300-pound man hitting a diving headbutt. That’s it.

Time: 1:11

Just for fun, he gives us another.

NXT Takeover2 Bull Dempsey 2

… BULL! … BULL! … BULL! Let’s get him against ROH’s Moose Ojinnaka this minute. Or maybe Silas Young in a battle over who’s the manliest? I could go either way here.

•••

We revisit the hair situation. Again, like a true Frenchman, LeFort retreats. That leaves Louis to fend for himself. That leaves Louis’ head to be exposed to the universe.

NXT Takeover2 Marcus Louis

There’s potential. He just needs to finish the job and he’s got a good look!

•••

We move from hair gimmicks to hugs. I’ll take it! Cool video package hyping Bayley as the sympathetic, happy-go-lucky babyface … and a possible future champion.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley

This might be the best entrance attire I’ve ever seen. That’s fringe that’ll make The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage jealous from above. I freaking love Bayley.

The champ? She looks more than ready to go. If this were Jim Ross, he’d mention Charlotte noticeably slimming down from her last PPV match to give her more speed and endurance. Plus, well, she’s a Flair. Gotta be able to go 60, right?

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte

CHARLOTTE (c) vs. BAYLEY, NXT Women’s Championship

“Bayley’s gonna hug you. Bayley’s gonna hug you. Bayley’s gonna hug you.”

Charlotte offers a handshake, but the challenger won’t have it. I get the feeling this will be less of a technical battle than last time and more of a traditional sports-entertainment affair. Though Bayley shows some nice pace and keeps the pressure on the champion. A backslide is viciously blocked into a neckbreaker. That looked painful from the champ.

Charlotte drops the knee a few times, and a cover 2 minutes in. Choke in the ropes, and the figure four headlock follows. Always a great sequence because it’s never just the headlock.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley Charlotte

Bayley bridges for 2, but the champ keeps it locked in. Bridge again, and the champ finally breaks on the kickout.

Stomps to the gut in the corner, but Bayley responds in kind. Charlotte slaps her, then drops the shin over the neck. Not quite a choke, and it’ll set up the finisher well. It’s not a Flair match without a chop exchange, and we get it. Back to the figure four headlock, and the champ rolls around to add some impact to the hold. Charlotte throws in some strikes to the head, but Bayley isn’t ready to submit just yet. Charlotte hooks the legs for 2, then Bayley with a rollup. Another rollup blocked, and the champ goes for the figure four leglock, but Bayley rolls her up again. Dropkick from the champion, and we’ll take a breather after a quick exchange.

ANOTHER Bayley rollup at 6:45, then Charlotte goes with a knee to the gut. Cover to no avail as the Bayley chants get louder. She’s taunting the challenger, which only means Bayley will respond … with a whole lot of forearms and a shoulder charge in the corner. Charlotte turns the tables, tosses Bayley’s legs through the ropes and yanks her head down. Now she’s up top … ? Not quite. Bayley with some punches and forearms, maybe a slap, and she hits the hurricanrana from the top at 9:00.

Slow cover, and a strong, urgent kickout. Belly-to-belly blocked into a creative rollup for 2, and Charlotte seems to go into another rollup, only she rolls Bayley’s head right into the bottom buckle. Damn. Charlotte goes up and does the moonsault  — a little too well, since she landed perfectly without making contact — but Bayley kicks out.

NXT Takeover2 Bayley 3

She won’t kick out of Natural Selection, which may be the best finisher name in NXT.

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte 2

Time: 10:40

Technical Merit: A much different match than the last NXT special, but this one worked. Bayley did what you’d expect from an underdog, getting some spurts of momentum and going for numerous quick rollups. Charlotte’s just better, and she showed it. Bayley’s time will come.

Artistic Impression: From the video package to the start of the match to the end, you pulled for Bayley. Not just because they set it up that way, but because Bayley made you believe she could pull it off. The drive to win was there throughout, and it made for a fun, emotional match that was possible to get behind.

TOTAL SCORE: ***

Wait a second … Sasha Banks is in the house for a bit of bullying. Needless to say, the champ’s making the save here.

NXT Takeover2 Charlotte 4 NXT Takeover2 Sasha Banks

Seems like a decent code of conduct: Keep the beatings between the bells. Plus, Bayley earned a sliver of respect this evening.

•••

The point of Sami Zayn‘s video package: He hasn’t been able to win the big one, but he doesn’t think about that. It’s his time.

Oh, another thing: Hideo’s in the ring next week.

NXT Takeover2 Hideo Itami KENTA 7

I’m tuning in. You’re tuning in. We’re all tuning in.

•••

It’s main event time, which means they’ll get almost 30 for this. Apparently the gorgeous one picked the blue gear for the occasion.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze 2

The arguably best man in the match, and the one with undoubtedly the worst music, is next. If I didn’t think he’d be an asset on the main roster like yesterday, I’d give him the belt.

NXT Takeover2 Sami Zayn

Tyson Kidd has honed in on an actual character, which we’ve never really seen from him. He looks the guy whose butt you want to kick, and whose butt you possibly could … until he locks you in something and you cry like a bitch.

NXT Takeover2 Tyson Kidd 2

Random fun fact from Neville’s video to start: He’s undefeated in 2014. Bonus fun fact: He’s very confident, almost cocky. We’ll see whether that means anything as the match progresses.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville

The men in this match are 205, 197, 200 and 194 pounds. Chew on that for a second. In Vince McMahon‘s company, a “pay-per-view” main event averages 199 pounds per man. This is the future. Also, 1996 Eric Bischoff is VERY aroused right now.

ADRIAN NEVILLE (c) vs. TYLER BREEZE vs. TYSON KIDD vs. SAMI ZAYN, Fatal 4-Way Match, NXT Championship

It doesn’t take long for all four men to move out of the ring. We tease a Zayn-Neville moment, but the heels break that up. All four move back out for another round. At 3:00, Zayn finds Breeze’s phone and uses it in two ways — a weapon, and a selfie.

NXT Takeover2 Sami Zayn 3

Kidd finally kills the pair-off routine by attacking Zayn, but Zayn goes reverse STO into a Koji clutch in the ring, and Breeze breaks it up. Neville takes Breeze up the ramp, which doesn’t seem smart … and Kidd chop blocks the knee from behind. All four go to the ramp, and Kidd and Breeze hit a tandem vertical suplex on Neville on the stage. The problem? All three men feel it. Breeze goes for a suplex on that ramp, but Zayn blocks. Kidd and Breeze hit ANOTHER tandem suplex, this time to Zayn on that steel grate ramp. Kidd seizes the opportunity and gets Sami in the ring, and Breeze joins him as we continue the classic “heels team up” portion of the program. Kidd rams Zayn into Neville, who falls from the apron to the floor, and the double-team continues.

“Nattie’s better!” chant at 7:00. Neville again attempts to enter, to no avail. Tyson hauls off in the corner, then Tyler pulls him out for some double-team work. Breeze covers, much to Kidd’s chagrin. One Kidd kick later, the heel alliance ends at 8:00. Neckbreaker and cover for 2. Neville AGAIN tries to get in, but Kidd kicks him off the apron. Headlock time as Zayn gets the crowd behind him and hits a jawbreaker. Lariat from Kidd.

Holy crap, Neville gets in! But not for long. Kidd throws him right back out. This is my favorite part of the match.

Kidd keeps striking Zayn repeatedly, then the guillotine legdrop with Sami hanging between the ropes and a cover. Tree of Woe at 10:30. Neville’s next attempt is thwarted, and Kidd goes to the apron to hit a HUGE kick. Zayn looks punchy, which means he’s about to get a head of steam? Nope, just some more knees to the dome in the corner. Snapmare into a chinlock. Meanwhile, Breeze has been selling that kick for about 4 minutes. He’s my new favorite to win.

NEVILLE MAKES IT IN at 12:30, goes back out, then FINALLY gets some offense. Breeze decides it’s his turn, only for Zayn to knock him back outside. Neville does the outside dive version of a cockblock, cutting Sami off and hitting a springboard moonsault onto the heels.

At 14:00 we’ll finally get Zayn-Neville. The champ gets the early advantage and goes for a handspring move, but Zayn clumsily blocks it. That looked a little botchy. Or a lot. Cover, and Kidd breaks it up. Kidd and Neville up top, and Zayn goes for Kidd, but Kidd launches him into Neville, who is dumped outside. Tyson tosses Breeze, then a hell of a swinging neckbreaker for 2. The snap on that was fantastic. Kidd goes for the Sharpshooter, but Zayn blocks. Rolling sequence and another attempt, but no dice. Enziguiri on the apron connects, but Zayn blocks the springboard elbow with his knees. Breeze comes in with a Beauty Shot on Zayn, a superkick on Kidd and a dropkick on Neville, who came in from the top rope. Damn. Covers on Neville and Kidd for 2 apiece.

We reset at 17:00, and Breeze is first up. He takes Neville up. Kidd joins Breeze.  Zayn makes it a quartet, and adds a powerbomb to the double superplex … and Kidd still kicks out.

“This is wrestling” indeed.

Zayn gets revenge on Kidd for the entire first half of the match, then runs right into Neville’s boot. Could be Red Arrow time, but Kidd stalls. Basic moonsault on Zayn … but Breeze pulls him out and covers Zayn!

… for 2.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze 5

Rest break at the 20-minute mark. Breeze gets up and goes for the Beauty Shot on Zayn, but Zayn ducks and Kidd blocks … into the Sharpshooter.

NXT Takeover2 Tyler Breeze Tyson Kidd

Breeze goes for the rope, but Kidd pulls him back to the middle. Neville grabs the arm so Breeze literally can’t tap out, and Zayn finally breaks the hold.

The stage is set for the babyfaces at 22:00, and they trade staggering blows. Back kick from Neville, but on the next charge, Zayn back bodydrops him out, then hits the exploder suplex on Kidd into the buckle. Instead of following up on Kidd, he dives and puts Neville into the front row.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville 3

Zayn dives through the ropes in the corner and hits the DDT on Breeze. Helluva kicks Kidd back in the ring. 1 … 2 …

And NEVILLE pulls the ref out.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville 4

Hey, it’s within the rules, of which there are none. You protect the belt by all means. Zayn tries to do something about it, but eats a superkick. Neville runs up top, hits the Red Arrow, hooks the legs and retains.

NXT Takeover2 Adrian Neville Sami Zayn Tyson Kidd

Time: 24:10

Technical Merit: This is what we expected. Each had chances to show their stuff, and there were all kinds of moves to advance the narrative — finishers, submissions, crazy combinations, a four-man superplex spot, even some unsavory tactics from a babyface champion. Even had some false finishes that have ended 3- and 4-way matches for years. Great match.

Artistic Impression: This had it all. Unsavory tactics. Brief alliances. Several WTF moments. Sami Zayn getting angry. Tyson Kidd dominating the first half. Tyler Breeze damn near winning multiple times. Zayn getting robbed. And Adrian Neville doing absolutely anything to keep the gold around his waist. You legitimately didn’t know how it would go, and had I not kept track of the time, I would’ve thought the match was over maybe a half-dozen times beforehand. All four men came in with distinct, well-built personas, and most importantly, they brought it in the ring.

TOTAL SCORE: *****

Can I change my scale? As emotional and great as Zayn vs. Cesaro was to kick off ArRIVAL, this just had so much more depth from a creative and competitive standpoint.

Better yet, can we just do this again? Like … now? I’ll grab the popcorn. And the rum. Cheers, my friends.

What did you think of the show? What do you think of NXT’s direction? How will these guys translate on the main roster? Something something something NXT related? Comment below, or follow The Champ on Twitter @jpetrie18.

WWE Midcard Report (Sept. 9-11): Rollins vs. Swagger, plus Cesaro and The Ascension

If you’re as disenchanted with the WWE product every week as I am — and judging by Twitter, you are — it gets better than RAW. No, I’m not just talking about NXT Takeover, which will get a thorough (and likely glowing) review from the champ later this evening.

Main Event is consistently better than RAW. You get three or four matches, only one of which is usually a dud, and you don’t have to deal with the Bella Twins or John Cena or anything that seems to drag on and give the “same old stuff” feel. Cena showed up that one time, but it doesn’t happen often.

Not only was Main Event better, but if you skipped through the RAW recaps … Superstars was better. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but there was a good match hidden in there this week that made it worthwhile for at least a few minutes.

These shows are why the Midcard Report exists: To shine a light on the competitors and matches that don’t get seen too often, as well as to remind people it gets better than what you’re seeing. If you don’t like it, then just go watch Nitro. Hell, I’d rather watch that than RAW anyway. #nWo4Life

•••

We kick off the midweek with “breaking news” in the form of two Night of Champions matches:

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins Roman Reigns Main Event 090914 Randy Orton Chris Jericho

Gotta say I like both of those, especially the second one. Randy Orton has been somewhat handcuffed by facing Roman Reigns in the recent past; now he gets someone who has chemistry with him AND ability. Chris Jericho may not be the best in the world at what he does anymore, but he’s still damn near.

Anyway, it’s promo time with the other new NOC combatant, Seth Rollins. Apparently it’s a new episode of “Where Are They Now?” with The Shield.

Main Event 090914 The Shield
All images are screenshots from WWE programming.

They were dominant, and they put WWE on notice. But where’s Dean Ambrose, the unstable, unrelenting one? Well, he made a fatal error by going head-to-head with Rollins and getting curbstomped twice. Excellent use of college dormitory furniture!

Main Event 090914 Dean Ambrose

Rollins brings up a valid point: Ambrose himself probably doesn’t know where he is. Another one, to me anyway: Who cares?

Moving right along to Reigns, and a jealous moment from Rollins. All he heard is Roman this, Roman that, Roman is the future of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. That’s all caps because you don’t hear it in WWE anymore. Frankly, Roman is all we hear about now. I guess it’s Seth’s fault, because he’s taking credit for creating him and leading him to success. But his future is obsolete, and Seth will destroy what he created.

RAW 090814 Roman Reigns 2

You know, if he can avoid being impaled by steel cage spikes.

Oh yeah, there’s one more segment to this promo, which is just verbal masturbation. He says he’s the future, and he’s the future World Heavyweight Champion.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 2

Apparently Jack Swagger (?!?!) has had enough. Zeb Colter rationalizes this bit by saying Rollins isn’t a great strategist, but rather someone who wants to talk about his enemies from far away and is too scared to do anything about it.

Main Event 090914 Zeb Colter Jack Swagger

Zeb’s more than willing to see, through Swagger, whether Rollins is a coward, or a Real American. I guess it works for the latest round of “Seth Rollins needs someone to wrestle.”

Main Event 090914 Jack Swagger

SETH ROLLINS vs. JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter)

Rollins is hot out of the gate, with his right hand, educated feet and quick moves giving him an advantage for about 15 seconds. Swagger’s shoulder deals a pair of crushing blows as Rollins regroups.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

We’re back at about 2:10, and Rollins is back outside. This time, Swagger joins him and uses his power edge to introduce Seth to numerous hard objects. Rollins speeds up and outsmarts Swagger, and he gets a chance to stomp and choke away in the corner. Nice lariat from a man with about a 50-pound disadvantage, then he uses Swagger’s own arm as a weardown weapon. He tosses Swagger into the corner, charges into him with the elbow and waits for Swagger to rise. Maybe he shouldn’t have, though, because Jack catches Seth from the second rope and hits the belly-to-belly. Pair of shoulders from the Big Show/Erick Rowan collection, then the big boot and the Swaggerbomb. Takedown and cover for 2. Jack tries to gain some ride time, but Seth escapes and scores with a kick. Now the elementary, yet effective, fists to the back of the head. Enough of those will neutralize someone, right? Nope. Swagger is unfazed, and with some persistence, slaps on the Patriot Lock. Rollins squirms around and finally finds the ropes. He tries to leap over, but Jack just catches him, deposits him in the corner and goes for Kurt Angle‘s traditional toss from the second rope, but no dice. Seth hits the knee to the head, then the curbstomp. He’ll sell the ankle a bit, but he will do so victoriously.

Main Event 090914 Seth Rollins 3

Time: 8:59

Technical Merit: Both men can work, and they work pretty well together for this being a one-off.

Artistic Impression: Seth is an interesting case. He’s a great wrestler, and he has the Money In The Bank briefcase, but he looks vulnerable in every single match, no matter the opponent. It seems like it would help everyone look good, but it’s at a risk of making himself look bad when he needs to be built up really strong.

TOTAL SCORE: **1/4

•••

Be very, very quiet. Slatergator are hunting wabbits! No, seriously.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil Heath Slater

Apparently Titus O’Neil wants to catch Adam Rose‘s bunny in an attempt to enhance his chances of winning matches. Sound strategy, I think! After all, Bugs Bunny ruined a LOT of Elmer Fudd‘s plans.

After the next match, Slatergator tries to catch the bunny, to no avail. Titus catches Heath instead.

Main Event 090914 Heath Slater

So without the rabbit neutralized, Titus must march on against Rose. Yay.

TITUS O’NEIL (w/Heath Slater) vs. ADAM ROSE (w/The Rosebuds)

Titus is squashing Rose for the first 1:15, but then the bunny runs in … or hops in. Slater opts for a sneak tactic, climbing under the ring and trying to catch the rabbit, who hits an enziguiri?! His workrate is better than Rose’s! Anyway, Rose pushes Titus into Slater and gets the rollup to help this mercifully end. I’m so FREAKING sick of Adam Rose.

Main Event 090914 Titus O'Neil 2

Time: 2:01

•••

Main Event 090914 Cesaro

Who wouldn’t buy one of those Cesaro towels? Are they for sale? I need to look this up. I’d use a set.

Oh my … we’re about to feel REALLY sorry for Zack Ryder. Nice brotee, though.

Main Event 090914 Zack Ryder

CESARO vs. ZACK RYDER

Cesaro shoulder block, but Ryder gets back up, and gets the early advantage with a flapjack AND a dropkick. But that’s shortlived. Cesaro trips Ryder up on the apron, and the left knee pays for it. Stomp on the chest, then a spinning toehold when we’re back inside, but he misses a short dropkick in the corner intended for the knee. Ryder hits the Broski Boot and a splash to the outside, but the left knee is still hurting. He goes for something off the top rope, but Cesaro hits the swing and turns it into a SICK submission hold, a modified clover leaf.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Zack Ryder

It’s academic.

Time: 2:22

Main Event 090914 Cesaro Renee Young

Now it’s promo time, and Cesaro calls out Renee Young for sounding surprised he beat Ryder. Young then says she’s not, and Cesaro makes The Champ lose it for about a solid minute.

“Zack Ryder is a former United States Champion. Who are you to doubt Zack Ryder?

That’s right. Cesaro gave him the El Dandy treatment. Considering Bret Hart‘s classic promo had to do with the U.S. Title, which Ryder held and Cesaro is pursuing, that’s absolute gold.

I’m just bummed Cesaro didn’t call him a jam-up guy. Cesaro declares himself just better than Sheamus. More educated, more interesting, “WAY” better looking, and most importantly, better in the ring. Everyone knows it. The man’s rightHe won’t just be the King of Swing; he’ll be the King of Wrestling. I can get on board with that. So can a lot of people.

Main Event 090914 Cesaro 3

CESARO PROMO: ***

We got to see Cesaro be funny, drop in a WCW Easter Egg and state facts. His in-ring work overshadows his wit, but the latter is totally there, and we’re witnessing it now.

•••

Now THIS is a Main Event main event!

Main Event 090914 The Ascension

The NXT Takeover hype machine rolls on, this time with the Tag Team Champions. Considering it’s the main roster, it’ll be nice to actually know who’s getting squashed this time around. Well, have a 50-50 chance, anyway.

NXT Tag Team Champions THE ASCENSION (Konnor & Viktor) vs. LOS MATADORES (Diego & Fernando)

That entrance was AWESOME. Great new video, and the strobe lights actually have that strobe effect in the larger arena. Viktor starts against … who cares which one? Double shoulder dive after the tag, but Konnor actually takes a drop toehold, a slide while on the ropes and a senton from the apron. He kicks out at 1, carries the other Matador into the ring and tags to Viktor, who just destroys the jobber’s upper body. More double-team work, and a weardown hold ensues. It’s weird hearing Michael Cole talking about NXT wrestlers. Matador wants a tag, but he gets a lariat instead. Tag back to Viktor, and we’re basically just waiting for the Fall of Man at this point. Hot tag for the matadors, but he misses a dive from the corner. Tag to Konnor, and we get what we’ve waited for.

Main Event 090914 The Ascension 2

Time: 3:59

These guys might be the best tag team in WWE. They’re a 180 from The Usos, who I wouldn’t mind seeing take on The Ascension in a 2-on-2 setting for the sheer contrast of high-flying flash vs. straight-up ass-kicking. They’ve squared off once before in a 6-man tag, and Konnor and Viktor looked great when they actually had a challenge.

•••

First time seeing this Superstars intro, which includes a LOT of John Cena, Reigns, Orton and Sheamus.

Then we start the night with … Naomi.

Superstars 091114 Naomi

That seems like false advertising.

I’m surprised Summer Rae and Layla didn’t come out with a little person dressed like an animal. Is that still a thing or no?

NAOMI vs. SUMMER RAE (w/Layla)

Naomi’s in control until … Layla’s dancing distracts her while on the apron? Well then. I mean, Layla can be a distraction, but …

Superstars 091114 Layla

Anyway, whole lot of dancing around at 1:30, then a whip and the leg choke in the corner. Weardown hold from Summer, via pulling Naomi’s left arm in front of her mouth, and Summer “lets” her escape with some hair pulling. More conventional headlock this time and some spot calling, and it’s time for the babyface comeback? Nope, the slowest and worst set-up heelkick ever. Summer’s back to the headlock like she’s Randy Orton or something. Naomi gets out and it’s two dropkicks, back suplex, face into the mat and cover. Layla goes for the distraction again, only Naomi slips out and Summer has to hit the brakes. Bridge pin from the “veteran” Naomi, and we’re out.

Superstars 091114 Naomi Summer Rae Layla

Time: 4:33

I’ve started a 5-minute rule … gotta go 5 to be rated. This match should breathe a sigh of relief, because that sucked. Summer doesn’t really work as a heel, because she can’t believably control a wrestling match, especially against someone with actual talent. Had the roles been reversed, it would’ve had a better chance of working.

Superstars 091114 Naomi 2

•••

On Superstars, this is something to be hyped about.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara

Get two small guys in WCW, they actually get some time (and take advantage of the time) to make it worthwhile. My faith is fleeting in this situation.

Also, this passes for a scintillating SmackDown tease.

Superstars 091114 Mark Henry Rusev Lana

Yeah, might skip that show this week. Again.

Anyway, after a bunch of RAW recaps, we get the luchador against the World British Super Duper Championship Motocross Wrestling Champion. That’s what I’m assuming, since he has the whole motocross/wrestling crossover thing going.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 2

JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SIN CARA

I forgot about the mood lighting until it came back on. Sin Cara wins the first minute and works Gabriel’s arm until he gets to the rope. Once free, Gabriel is more interested in using his forearms and pulling on Cara’s mask than actually trying to prove the “best high flyer” claim the announcers are discussing. Sin Cara pleads his case with an armdrag from the top, a dropkick, and a springboard moonsault onto a standing Gabriel from the apron. He tries to springboard back in, but Gabriel pushes him down, then hits a corkscrew splash onto the floor.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Back at 3:40, and Gabriel has a hammerlock applied and is trying to tee off on Cara. A release German will help him as well, and he covers for 2. Russian legsweep follows …. then a submission? Maybe he learned something from Tyson Kidd after all!

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel Sin Cara 3

Since it’s not Tyson Kidd applying it, Sin Cara escapes, only to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut some more. Then the spine. Then the spine again. Gabriel goes for the German, but Cara reverses and hits his own release suplex, flipping Gabriel on his face. Cara picks up the pace, hits the headscissors and flips into Gabriel in the corner. He goes up top, but no dice. Gabriel hits the Frankensteiner, then a springboard moonsault for 2. Gabriel? He’s not very pleased. Cara? He’s not very awake.

Superstars 091114 Sin Cara

Now Gabriel sets up for the … spear? Not sure, but Sin Cara goes for the rollup. Nope, a roll-through into a powerbomb. Not bad!

Gabriel hits a DDT at 8:10, then climbs the ropes, but Sin Cara hits the enziguiri. Frankensteiner blocked, and Gabriel gathers himself and hits the 450 for the win.

Superstars 091114 Justin Gabriel

Time: 8:49

Technical Merit: A different side of Gabriel in a rare situation as the bigger guy, and it actually worked. He’s believable as a vicious, striking technician when in the ring with other cruiserweights. Sin Cara was Sin Cara … nothing mesmerizing, nothing terrible. Just some dude who hits a couple high spots.

Artistic Impression: Gabriel showed some negative emotions, which is good. He’s working heel. He’s supposed to be frustrated if he doesn’t get the pin. It came off well, and it put into doubt whether he could actually win the rematch. This match was considerably better than I expected.

TOTAL SCORE: **

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

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

And he decides on a lumberjack match.

Let me try that again.

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SETH ROLLINS

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 10:47

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: **1/2

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

DEAN AMBROSE vs. RANDY ORTON

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

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

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

Hulu Time: 9:13

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

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

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

•••

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

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

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

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

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

SmackDown 080814 Big Show Mark Henry

Time: 3:18

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Damien Sandow

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

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

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

Time: 1:52

SmackDown 080814 Sin Cara

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

•••

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

SmackDown 080814 Natalya

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

NATALYA vs. PAIGE

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

SmackDown 080814 Paige

Time: 2:11

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

•••

Rusev udrea! Rusev machka!

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

BIG E. vs. RUSEV (w/Lana)

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

SmackDown 080814 Rusev Big E

Time: 1:52

•••

SmackDown 080814 Chris Jericho

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

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

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

•••

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

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

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

WWE Main Event 04/08 review: The Shield and The Wyatt Family again? You have my attention.

I don’t go out of my way to watch WWE Main Event. I already have enough wrestling on my plate. But there were three good reasons to flip to the WWE Network for some on-demand action:

  • I needed something to help me forget about The Ultimate Warrior‘s unexpected death. (A post on that is coming soon.)
  • I just cracked open a tall boy of domestic ice beer and needed something to pass the time.
  • The #WWEFamily on Twitter was all over The Shield and The Wyatt Family in Round 3.

ME 040814 ShieldWyatts

If you put some of the sport’s hottest stars on your show, no matter when or what it is, you’ll have my attention.

THE SHIELD vs. THE WYATT FAMILY (7:43)

Dean Ambrose and a masked Erick Rowan start off. Well, until the U.S. Champ knocks it off his face. Hell of a submission hold from Seth Rollins at the 2-minute mark, torquing Rowan’s neck until he finally escapes about 30 seconds later. All six men in before the break.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK FOR LEGENDS HOUSE PROMO*

Rollins and Bray Wyatt back from break, and the heel with his innovative offense. Tag to Rowan, who continues to carry the bulk of the load? Nice back suplex, but he’s the least intriguing of the trio. He tags to Harper, who’s talented while being just plain nutso. Rollins flips out of the corner and finally with the hot tag to Roman Reigns just after 6:00. Tag to Ambrose, and a somewhat sloppy back suplex/neckbreaker combo ensues. Harper’s big boot was not sloppy. Quick tags from the heels, and Rowan is back in, trying to squish Ambrose’s head like a grape. Ambrose escapes, but right into a backbreaker and a cover. Ambrose playing the babyface in peril quite well! He trades slaps with Harper until Harper simply deposits him into the corner. He breaks out of a Rowan rest hold near 10:00, but Rowan dumps him outside before the next break.

*COMMERCIAL BREAK FOR THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR DVD SET … R.I.P.*

Ambrose is STILL in the ring, and the heels are passing him around. Ambrose gets away from Harper with a jawbreaker, but gets his face planted when Harper blocks a kick. Think about that one for a sec … Harper swung Ambrose’s leg so hard, he fell forward and faceplanted. Bray doing minimal work in this one. He tags to Rowan AGAIN, who slaps on a bear hug at 13:00. Ambrose counters his way into a sleeper, but Rowan just falls back and slams him into the mat. When the hell was Ambrose’s last tag? Nice clothesline, but Harper recovers enough to tag to Wyatt. Ambrose boots out of a corner charge and goes up top, but Wyatt cuts him off at the pass and tries to superplex. Ambrose blocks that and headbutts him off the top rope. Goes for the axe handle, but jumps right into an urinagi. Rollins breaks it up, and chaos in the ring. HARPER WITH A SUICIDE DIVE. Wyatt sets his sights on Ambrose, who hasn’t tagged in more than 10 minutes. Sister Abigail is countered into a rollup, then Ambrose snaps off a DDT. Hot tag to Rollins at 17:15. Dropkicks all around, then a suicide dive on one end, and a flip dive on the other. Rollins ducks Wyatt on the apron and fends him off. Gut kick and his signature move, but Harper breaks up the count. Harper goes for a powerbomb, but Ambrose starts wailing on him. Wyatt hits a running elbow, then Reigns a Superman punch. Rowan dumps Reigns, Rollins kicks Rowan and Harper, then Reigns hits the apron dropkick on Harper. Ambrose gets the tag and hits a dropkick, then Rollins hits a springboard kneelift. Ambrose with his Dirty Deeds faceplant finisher, and this match ends too soon.

TIME: 19:22

TECHNICAL MERIT: Slow start, but very sound.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Loved the back-and-forth chaos at the end.

TOTAL SCORE: ****

These six men could compete every week, and I don’t think many would mind. Hell, the replay took about a minute. This match sold me on Rowan even; ALL SIX MEN CAN WORK. Promo time with The Shield and Renee Young afterward was fantastic, especially when Reigns took the mic.

Renee, do I look like I’m faceless, baby? Cajundome … Do I have a name? *YES!* What’s my name? *ROMAN REIGNS!* Triple H, my name is Roman Reigns, and I’m the guy that speared you Monday night. And I’m standing right here. ****

ME 040814 Reigns

Sidenote: When did The Shield become, like, heartthrobs and stuff? The women LOVE them some Shield. Twitter showed this a bit, and this show — of which half was devoted completely to them — proved it. SO many higher-pitched chants for Ambrose and Reigns … those used to be reserved for Randy Orton. I guess the ladies like some fresh faces, too.

Hey, remember when Jack Swagger became World Heavyweight Champion like right after WrestleMania? Remember when Dolph Ziggler did the same thing? One was four years ago. The other was just one. Both feel like an eternity. I’m far more upset about the latter than the former. Anyway, they’ll go at it next.

JACK SWAGGER (w/Zeb Colter) vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER (43:02)

Ziggler’s apparently up to 223. That’s dangerously close to the limit for The Champ’s theoretical cruiserweight division! This match hot out of the gate, with a nice dropkick at the bell and a Swagger Bomb in the first 30 seconds. Swagger looks clunky even when he takes a bump. Ziggler is on point in this one. Well, until Swagger takes out the left knee with a cut block. Swagger Bomb blocked. Ziggler gets a rollup, but Swagger slaps on the Patriot Lock. Fame Asser at 3:20, but a kickout. Zig Zag blocked, then a big boot from the big guy. Swagger’s credentials are played up, because they need to be. Meanwhile, he gets a DDT. Play THAT up. Ziggler counters a potential electric chair into a victory roll. Swagger tosses Ziggler into the air, then gets the Patriot Lock for … a win? Damn.

ME 040814 Swagger

TIME: 4:09

TECHNICAL MERIT: Nice pace throughout.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: No real story.

TOTAL SCORE: *3/4

We finish with the good Sin Cara … and Lana‘s legs. I mean Alexander Rusev!

SIN CARA vs. ALEXANDER RUSEV (52:35)

Looking at the time, this one will be quick. The luchador with the early offense, but a big kick from the Muay Thai expert. Pick up, spinning Rock Bottom variation, Accolade, done.

ME 040814 Rusev

TIME: 0:49

Quick is good, but this matchup didn’t find a way to make me care. Swagger needs a reboot … badly.

State of Pro Wrestling: What if the cruiserweights came back to WWE?

Every once in a while, the Real World Champ will discuss subjects that don’t exactly fit into a current show or hot topic, but generally are worth discussing in the world of professional wrestling. It’s called the State of Pro Wrestling, and this is the second installment. The first is here.

The best part of the WWE Network is accessing its vault of prior events, especially pay-per-views from WWF/WWE, ECW and my personal favorite, World Championship Wrestling. WCW set the biggest boom period of professional wrestling in motion with the New World Order in 1996, but the company had to find ways to appeal to not only those drawn to star power, but also hardcore fans who wanted to see some of the best technical wrestling in the world.

Enter the cruiserweights.

ECW introduced a bit of the lucha libre and Japanese styles to the U.S., using the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris JerichoDean MalenkoRey Misterio Jr. and, yes, Chris Benoit. All were smaller than the WWF template of the mid-1990s, and they put on technical masterpieces. These men didn’t stay long in ECW before Eric Bischoff saw them as a way to lead off WCW Monday Nitro.

When I got back into wrestling in the spring and summer of 1998, I came to WCW for the marquee stars of my childhood and the nWo. I stayed for the little guys — some of whom flew around like superheroes in the lucha libre style, and others who could stretch you every which way until you couldn’t take it anymore.

This topic came up on Twitter (major props to @NewAgeInsiders and new follower @JAMIEGotDatBOMB for the inspiration), and the names flying around brought back some of my fondest memories. There were the aforementioned. There was Billy Kidman, the greasy worker of Raven’s Flock who made the Shooting Star Press one of my favorite finishers. There was Juventud Guerrera, who could knock you out with the Juvi Driver or mesmerize you with the 450. There was Ultimo Dragon, with the cool mask and that vicious Dragon Sleeper. There were other smaller Americans like Lenny Lane and Sean Waltman, who had Cruiserweight and U.S. Championship runs as Syxx. There were some more, shall we say, unorthodox guys like Disco Inferno and Alex Wright. There even were jobbers like Kaz Hayashi, and there were plenty more luchadors like PsicosisEl Dandy and the Chairman of WCW, La Parka.

Toward the end, there were these guys.

3count

Oh, like I was going to get through a WCW post without mentioning 3 Count. Please.

Anyway, I watched these guys for the wrestling, the main-event guys for the promos, and I has a happy viewer for 3 hours every Monday night. All this nostalgia begged one question …

What if WWE revived the cruiserweight division?

SmackDown carried cruiserweights for a decent amount of the 2000s, after it acquired WCW and its younger, somewhat smaller talent, and it thrived until, for some reason, Hornswoggle won the championship in 2007. It’s been retired since.

In that time frame, there weren’t many credible wrestlers on the main roster who were under 225 pounds, since many of those who fit the criteria were phased out. But we’ve moved from a stage where guys like Edge and Randy Orton are on the small end of average at 240 to one where a 218-pound C.M. Punk was WWE Champion for 434 days, and 210 (if that)-pound Daniel Bryan likely will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion at 10:45 p.m. EDT on April 6. Guys like Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston, who don’t seem all that small, easily would be cruiserweights.

In fact, here’s all the eligible talent via WWE.com as of April 5, besides Christian (likely to retire), Punk (likely retired) and Los Matadores (no weights listed), from lightest to heaviest.

  • Evan Bourne, 165 pounds
  • Rey Mysterio, 175
  • Tyson Kidd, 195
  • Hunico/Sin Cara, 205
  • Xavier Woods, 205
  • Daniel Bryan, 210
  • Yoshi Tatsu, 211
  • Kofi Kingston, 212
  • Dolph Ziggler, 213
  • Justin Gabriel, 213
  • Zack Ryder, 214
  • Heath Slater, 216
  • Seth Rollins, 217
  • Cody Rhodes, 220
  • The Miz, 220
  • R-Truth, 220
  • Jinder Mahal, 222
  • Curt Hawkins, 223
  • Dean Ambrose, 225

That’s a 19-man division ranging from main-event-caliber talent to low- to midcard guys, with enough contrasting styles to make it interesting. Some guys, like Slater and Mahal seem to be as part of 3MB, are likely destined in the current WWE construct to be jobbers. But they theoretically could be contenders in this division. Ryder, Miz and Truth could get new life with something to actually compete for. Imagine the high-flying action of Bourne, Kidd and Gabriel. Imagine WWE taking the kid gloves off Bryan (on a brief sabbatical from the main event in this case) and Rollins for 20 minutes. Imagine guys like Ziggler, Rhodes and Ambrose getting fresh in-ring chances to show off their workrate. This could work, and this could be fun.

The Intercontinental and United States championships aren’t being used anyway. Hell, why not just have Ambrose show up with a different belt when The Shield finishes doing its thing and start a seamless transition?

Let me guess, you don’t like the roster. Too many jobbers and stale guys, not enough freshness and excitement. Well you know who else is under 225? ALMOST EVERYBODY RELEVANT ON NXT.

  • Adam Rose, 221
  • NXT Champion Adrian Neville, 194
  • Aiden English, 215
  • C.J. Parker, 220
  • Corey Graves, 208
  • Sami Zayn, 192
  • Tyler Breeze, 195
  • NXT Tag Team Champion Viktor, 219

And those are just the guys who have competed on the show since the Network launched.

At least seven of those eight men have either the talent or persona deserving of a spot at the highest level. (I’m not sold on Parker.) Neville, Zayn and Graves are three of NXT’s best, and even with Bryan on the verge of being the company’s top man, they’re probably “too small to make an impact”. Why not give them a great chance of succeeding in a transition from NXT to the main roster?

Can you seriously say Sami Zayn and Corey Graves’ main event this week couldn’t be on the first hour of SmackDown? Are you telling me Neville and Ambrose, or Neville and Rollins, or Neville and Rhodes, couldn’t tear down the house? Like fans wouldn’t mark the hell out for Neville’s Red Arrow or the inward 450?

GIF from properlypromoted.com
GIF from properlypromoted.com

Like they wouldn’t be thoroughly entertained by a Tyler Breeze-Dashing Cody Rhodes “Not The Face” Match? Come on.

Triple H is developing these fresh faces for something, and they certainly don’t fit the 6-foot-4, 255-pound mold his chiseled physique once made. Why not ease the transition, give them a niche, and let them do something besides “pay their dues” jobbing for Alberto Del Rio or Sheamus in boring 5-minute filler bouts?

I miss the cruiserweights. Here’s a great way to bring them back in full force.

What do you think? Comment below, or drop me a line on Twitter. Enjoy WrestleMania Eve.