Saturday 30 August 2014

NXTweet 28.08.14

A new episode of NXT with a new general manager announced. Tweets about that, plus more, here!

The Ascension v Two random guys who weren’t named

Tweet 1: SmackDown? No. NXT? Yes. Now.
Tweet 2: It feels like The Ascension only ever wrestle in openers these days.
Tweet 3: nWo T-shirt in the crowd there. There's always one...
Tweet 4: Didn't catch the name of these guys The Ascension are demolishing. It doesn't matter.
Tweet 5: The one who has a bit of a Justin Lee Collins look to him has a nice singlet though.
Tweet 6: And... that's that. Didn't last long.
Tweet 7: Viktor's got a microphone. Yikes!
Tweet 8: I remember Konnor talked about having a rat face on the original NXT format. Del Rio was still about then too. #goodtimes

Two grown men roaring.

William Regal is announced as the new NXT GM

Tweet 9: Mild pop and a chant for Regal being announced as the new NXT GM. The building would've fallen apart if that had been announced in Britain.
Tweet 10: If Alexander Rusev and Antonio Cesaro are anything to go by Vince is going to be denying Adrian Neville his first name at some point.
Tweet 11: "Nobody would get their ass kicked by a man called Adrian, dammit!"
Tweet 12: Tyson Kidd wearing his confusing hoodie there.
Tweet 13: Tyson Kidd has a slight lisp. Never noticed it before. It's adorable.

Tyson wears the same clothes every week. Like a tramp.

Tweet 14: "Every single person deserves a title shot ahead of him, including his wife" - Tyler Breeze on Tyson Kidd. I loled.
Tweet 15: Love Neville being the only guy in a suit and everyone else being in their wrestling gear.
Tweet 16: There we are. That was a long way of announcing a main event match. Breeze and Regal having a chat afterwards was the highlight.

William Regal reveals the episode’s main event to Devin Taylor

Tweet 17: Regal doing a backstage interview where he acts like having a tag match involving four-way opponents is a new thing.
Tweet 18:  Teddy Long was pulling that trick years ago. And it was old hat then.

Sasha Banks v Bayley

Tweet 19: What is Sasha Banks's character without the BFFs?
Tweet 20: "Bayley knows she belongs to be here" - Tensai Bloom, talking nonsense
Tweet 21: Whenever Alex Riley is referred to just by his surname I think of Riley Finn from Buffy.
Tweet 22: Renee Young. *swoons*
Tweet 23: What did we learn from that speech? That Bayley is a cat hanging in there.

So, this story's going to end with an accepting handshake before Charlkotte goes all main roster, right?

Tweet 24: Charlotte's woooooo was limp. So was her attempt at using her dad's trick of shouting at the crowd.
Tweet 25: "I don't even WANT hug!" - Bayley
Tweet 26: What did we learn from Charlotte's appearance? Nothing. We already knew she was trying and failing to be her dad.

Angelo Dawkins v Bull Dempsey

Tweet 27: Angelo's energetic dancing is not deemed good enough to be prioritised on TV. Bull promos are more important.
Tweet 28: Bull Dempsey apparently grew up watching the guys like Murdoch. Trevor?
Tweet 29: That was a match.

The Legionnaires talk to Devin Taylor

Tweet 30: Sylvester Lefort rocking a Razor Ramon look there.
Tweet 31: #French

Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn v Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze

Tweet 32: Regal set this tag match up earlier in the show. Who starts a one hour wrestling show without a main event prepared. Poor planning.
Tweet 33: Why doesn't Tyler Breeze have a move called Blue Steel?
Tweet 34: Maybe Nev was wearing a suit so he could avoid wandering about in trunks and a T-shirt. That's Randy Orton's look.

Tyson Kidd doing a kick. Fun stuff.

Tweet 35: Disappointment in Zayn's career? No. Not even in kayfabe terms.
Tweet 36: Cena level spot calling from Nev on that Breeze super kick.
Tweet 37: Can't wait till Sting signs with WWE and joins NXT.
Tweet 38: Alex Riley just called the Michinoku driver a big slam. Get him off the commentary team.
Tweet 39: In fact, just fire him altogether. He offers nothing.
Tweet 40: Breeze dodging that Helluva kick was slick.
Tweet 41: Tyson Kidd pinning the NXT champion makes me think he won't win the title at Takeover 2.
Tweet 42: That was always going to be a good match considering who was involved. Solid final three minutes.
Tweet 43: Zayn staring at the belt like it's not ugly. That takes talent.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Reign of 'The Beast'

So Brock Lesnar's WWE championship reign has begun. I think most of us saw it coming. With Daniel Bryan leaving WrestleMania XXX with the belts and Lesnar ending Undertaker's Streak a showdown between the two seemed natural. Then D-Bry got injured, forcing WWE to shift their focus over to the ever reliable Jonn Felix Anthony Cena. That produced an enjoyable one-sided trouncing that also served as a sequel to their collision at Extreme Rules 2012.

But what's next for 'The Pain'? Who on the current roster is in a position to challenge him for the title and not look out of place? Or out of their depth?

The obvious answer is Cena. Which is what's happening, of course. The pair will have a rematch at Night of Champions. I can't think of a reason for Lesnar not to win that. It likely won't be as dominant a performance as we saw at SummerSlam but switching the title again would serve no purpose. WWE have worked to build Lesnar up as an unstoppable monster, for the purpose of establishing a new star.

Cena is not a new star. He doesn't need to beat Lesnar. He doesn't need to be champion. Their NOC bout will serve as a nice, unplanned, third encounter between the two. Having Lesnar take the deciding match will reinforce his status. Taking the title off him after a month would do more harm than good.

At first I didn't think there was much for Lesnar to do after that. After Cena the list of established names at the top of WWE appears anorexically thin. But there are three other established names Lesnar could work a fresh match with. That’s comforting for anyone expectign his reign to be packed with rematches.

First there’s Randy Orton. Yeah, they’re both technically heels but I’m confident that if the match happened Brock would get cheers even if Randy had been turned face. Getting an audience reaction wouldn’t be a problem. If Orton was having an on night and felt motivated to actually try having a good match I think they could do something compelling together (I’ve mentioned before, several times, that the F5 being reversed into an RKO would be a great spot). Sadly, Orton’s dedication to effort is notoriously spotty.

The match is unlikely to happen anyway. They’re both heels in the minds of the WWE creative department. Plus Orton always comes across as being a bit, well, precious. I can’t imagine him taking well to being placed in a match against the uber-physical Lesnar, or WWE wanting to risk him getting injured.

Next there’s Batista. Lesnar versus Batista would be awful. I know that. You know that. People at the top of WWE know that. But I think the match is likelier than Orton v Lesnar. If ‘The Animal’ returns to WWE before the end of 2014, which he well might, what will there be for him to do besides challenge Lesnar? He could be used to elevate some new names but that goes against the current WWE operating system. They aren’t interested in using people of Batista’s standing to help others get to the top.

A movie star challenging a former MMA champ for WWE's top prize?
Vince McMahon would mark for that.
A Lesnar v Batista match would be a perfectly adequate main event for a WWE pay-per-view, although there would need to be some good, solid wrestling underneath to stop fans reacting badly to it (or more badly than they would anyway). It’s the sort of match WWE likes: two guys who have reached the top of their company and have also achieved things elsewhere. The former UFC champ versus Drax the Destroyer is the kind of thing WWE is all about, whether it should be or not.

There’s Daniel Bryan too, of course. The man who would have faced Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam had he not had to have neck surgery. In a way this has worked out better for WWE. D-Bry’s injury allowed them to do an impromptu three match series with Cena (one that started in 2012 admittedly), although I suspect they’ll ruin it and do a fourth match between the pair at Hell in a Cell. Bryan being on the sidelines means WWE is guaranteed a hot match in Bryan v Lesnar whenever Bryan’s medically cleared to return.

With or without the title that match would be excellent and a fitting PPV topper. But in truth it’s a match that really deserves to be for the championship. There’s a natural story to it. Bryan, the people’s chosen champion and the man who never lost the title, returning to regain the gold from the man who’s dominated the company in his absence and who terminated The Streak. I could imagine some spirited promos from Heyman begging Bryan not to pursue Lesnar for the good of his health. It’s a match I think should happen at the 2015 Royal Rumble. A big return and a big title match for the second biggest WWE card of the year.

I naturally tend to rule out non-former Intercontinental champions because, well, I always like a guy to have held the once prestigious mid-card name-maker before progressing to the world title. But that's not the 2014 WWE model. And when I keep that in mind the options open up considerably.

First of all there's Cesaro. Had ‘The King of Swing’ stayed linked to Paul Heyman a Cesato v Lesnar bout would have made far more sense. It could have come about with Cesaro telling Heyman he wants to challenge Brock and Heyman, as his advisor and friend, trying to talk Cesaro out of it before flat out telling him he wouldn’t stand a chance with the champ. Maybe Cesaro could have interrupted a Lesnar and Heyman promo to set things up: the unruly undercard guy refusing to accept “his place” and insisting on challenging the unbeatable machine.

They could still do this. Even though Cesaro and Heyman were split out of the blue and with no on-screen explanation it’s been established that they’re still pals. It just would have made more sense to have two guys with the same manager (advocate, whatever) facing one another. It’s easy to imagine Cesaro v Lesnar being great, filled with suplexes and uppercuts. With the right story it could enhance Cesaro even in defeat.

An argument could be made for Chris Jericho too. To be honest I’d be perfectly happy if he only came back for one more run culminating in a Hall of Fame induction and a retirement match but most people feel differently. ‘Y2J’ gets very strong reactions and can work a competent match. He botches a lot, but that wouldn’t really be an issue in a Lesnar match: I can’t imagine ‘The Highlight of the Night’ having much offence to botch and if he messed up taking a move Lesnar would soon follow up with something that left no doubt Jericho was in pain.

I think the most interesting rising star Lesnar could face is Bray Wyatt. The crowd reactions alone would be marvellous. The pre-match promos could be great too. Heyman could get Wyatt over as a challenger with minimal effort. For his part Wyatt could revert to his pre-Money in the Bank model and refer to the WWE championship being a talisman of power. As a character he’s expressed an interest in the title before and it would be interesting to see him operating opposite a man who wouldn’t sell intimidation of his mind games shtick.

The match itself is easy to write off as something that wouldn’t be good. I think there are ways Lesnar v Wyatt could work. Involving Luke Harper and Erick Rowan would make the match unlike any Lesnar has wrestled since his return, simply because he hasn’t had to deal with outside interference. Having ‘The Eater of Worlds’ go back to singing mid-match would be something different for Lesnar too. Getting both men to play to their strengths and ignoring who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy could make Lesnar v Wyatt excellent. But, again, this is a match we probably won’t see happen.

The one most people are expecting is Brock Lesnar versus Roman Reigns. It’s a natural collision. Lesnar can hang on to the belt for a while and continue looking like an unstoppable mound of muscle. Reigns can burgeon into the great new babyface WWE are clearly desperate for him to be. Then they can face off at WrestleMania 31, Reigns being the man to finally end Lesnar’s reign with either a Superman punch or a spear… before losing the title to a cashing-in Seth Rollins.

Can his Superman punch defeat Lesnar?
Reigns v Lesnar could probably work now. But doing it this early would be a counterproductive waste. Reigns isn’t ready and fans haven’t been conditioned to want to see him as champion with a tale of adversity and struggle. Holding off gives WWE a solid WrestleMania main event and gives Reigns a much ballyhooed ‘Mania Moment™.

Speaking of next year, it will be interesting to see whether Lesnar makes the now traditional defence of his prize in an Elimination Chamber come February. Anyone on this list could help to put on a compelling Chamber collision with Lesnar as champion, but it’s possible WWE won’t want to burn through Lesnar appearance dates in the run-up to the more important card the following month.

With Lesnar unlikely to work every pay-per-view between now and WM31 (which is when I’m convinced he’ll be losing the title) there are more than enough challengers for WWE to pit against him. I suspect that after Cena the likeliest foe for him is Cesaro. That’s no bad thing. Nor is the prospect of Lesnar facing anybody else on this list. Expect Jericho, obviously.

Monday 25 August 2014

The Lunatic, The Architect and The Empire

“You’re over, Ambrose! You’re over!” screamed Seth Rollins to Dean Ambrose on the August 18 RAW. He wasn’t wrong.

Since The Shield split on June 2 Ambrose has become incredibly, massively, insanely popular. Stick as many hyperbolic adjectives in as you want, it won’t do it justice. Right now Ambrose is the most popular man on WWE television (or he was until he was written to go and make a movie). Which, despite his obvious talent, is something of a surprise.

When ‘The Hounds of Justice’ were together and working as antagonists Dean was the member most effective at getting a crowd to react. That’s part of why he was the member of the trio who got a singles championship. Ambrose could make people boo him. As such he seemed like the natural choice for the member who’d turn. He’d displayed the skills a WWE heel needs, Reigns was always going to move on to become the company’s Great New Hope, and Rollins’s ring style, reliant as it is on crowd pleasing dives and risk taking, made him a natural fit for the face routine.

The vest and taped shoulder look is in this season.
But since the split Ambrose has been a revelation. His work as the wronged babyface seeking retribution on the friend who betrayed him has been excellent. The promo work he’s done has been typically excellent. The aura of unpredictable anarchy he has cultivated with wild run-ins and brawls. The tics he’s consciously developed to let us know that he’s just that little bit too close to genuinely being unstable are effective. It’s all come together to make Ambrose the most captivating protagonist on WWE television. Not bad for a guy seemed destined for an upper mid-card at best slot once The Shield was broken up.

Not to be outdone, Rollins has also upped his game and been routinely enjoyable. He’s perfected an annoying smirk and understands that the key to being unpopular is to adopt a slower, calmer approach to promos. His on-screen link to The Authority has clearly helped, particularly the presentation of him as one of Triple H’s chosen ones, but the overall success is down to him knowing how to make himself dislikeable.

In fact it’s Roman Reigns who’s the doing the least well of the three Shield boys. Yes he’s in a prominent spot, has enjoyed a clean win over a heavily protected member of Club Main Event, and is very obviously being groomed for bigger and better things but that’s all down to the booking. The things he’s in control of haven’t been that impressive. He’s yet to have a standout singles match. His promo abilities have improved a lot since he first showed up , and the trend will likely continue, but he’s still not as good on the stick as Ambrose or even the more realistic target of Rollins. Audiences do react to him, but mostly for his entrance and signature moves and poses. For the most part he still struggles to draw people in beyond those points whilst people are reacting to Ambrose the moment he appears.

As I’ve written before I think Reigns will be sufficiently ready to main event next year’s WrestleMania, which seems to be the plan. But he’s a long way off ready now. Every aspect of his game needs improvement to a greater or lesser degree if he’s to become the star WWE wants (and needs).

As things stand right now it’s Dean Ambrose the “WWE Universe” (a wonderfully lolsome phrase) have warmed to and who is looking like the group’s breakout character. Good for him, and fans. If Reigns wants to succeed he’ll have plenty of chances, and he’ll probably manage it. But he’s going to have to up his game if he wants to outdo ‘The Lunatic Fringe’. Perhaps the competition will help drive him.

Sunday 24 August 2014

NXTweet 21.08.14

Here we are. For the fifth week in a row it’s some tweets about NXT. I might stop doing it soon. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.


Tweet 1: It's NXT tweetin' time.
Tweet 2: That NXT chant from the audience isn't at all forced.

Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore v The Vaudevillains

Tweet 3: Anyone else reckon Road Dogg gave Enzo a heads up on coming up with lengthy spiel?
Tweet 4: Enzo and Big Cass versus The Vaudevillains is about as close as it gets to an NXT dream tag match. This episode's starting strong.
Tweet 5: Enzo's hair.
Tweet 6: Gotch catching Enzo. #powerhouse
Tweet 7: That match was way shorter than I thought it would be. Good for what it was... but it could've been so much more.

Old school heat-garnering.

Tweet 8: Sylvester Lefort shaving Enzo's beard. That's some Memphis heat right there.
Tweet 9:  Enzo's reaction? Clutching at his cheek, looking stunned, and saying "Bro." That's why he's great. Bro.
Tweet 10: I'm cool with The Vaudevillains winning but it would have been nice to see Enzo and Cass face The Ascension.

Triple H in-ring promo announcing Takeover 2

Tweet 11: Ahhhhhh... here's the reason that opener went short. A Triple H promo.
Tweet 12: Maybe he should try milking the crowd a bit more.
Tweet 13: Triple H's eyes are too far apart. I've only just noticed that.
Tweet 14: New GM. As long as it's not Jericho I'll be cool with it.
Tweet 15: Why do a pre-recorded announcement when you can get yourself some ring time, eh?

Tyler Breeze talks to Devin Taylor

Tweet 16: Most gorgeous champion in NXT history.
Tweet 17: Not just a pretty face. Breeze should get that scrawled on his tights.
Tweet 18: "I want GORGEOUS down this side, and I want GORGEOUS down this side!" I miss Mike Awesome.

Tyler Breeze v Tyson Kidd

Tweet 19: I feel it's important to point out that both Kidd and Breeze are Canadian.
Tweet 20: "He's worrying about what his wife's doing..." - Renee Young, as though caring for a spouse is a bad thing
Tweet 21: Count out win for Kidd. That's the first win I can remember him getting in the last month.

Charlotte v Becky Lynch

Tweet 22: It's not really clear whether we're meant to like Charlotte or not.
Tweet 23: Becky Lynch needs to get called up to the main roster and put in a group with Sheamus, Devitt and Hornswoggle. That'd be money.
Tweet 24: It wouldn’t.
Tweet 25: Charlotte trying to nail her dad's mannerisms there. Subpar.

A perfectly satisfactory match this.

Tweet 26: "She's been bred for success" - Byron Saxton on Charlotte
Tweet 27: That was fine. Nothing else to say about it. Charlotte doesn't seem to bother with crowd interaction.

Enzo and Big Cass challenge The Legionnaires to a hair versus hair match

Tweet 28: Enzo's pronunciation of Lefort.
Tweet 29: Hair versus hair, mon frère.
Tweet 30: Renee's a fan of hair versus hair matches. What's to be a fan of?

Mojo Rawley v Steve Cutler, followed by a Mojo Rawley promo

Tweet 31: Mojo Rawley. *rolls eyes*
Tweet 32: I'm pleased to see most people have remained seated for Mojo's overly bouncy entrance.
Tweet 33: Steve Cutler does not look entirely dissimilar to a young John Felix Anthony Cena.
Tweet 34: Mojo's backside-based moves getting lightly booed there.

Reckon Steve Cutler was hyped taking this move?

Tweet 35: Nobody cares about Mojo. It's like CJ Parker all over again. But at least CJ had a character that could be altered. What else can Mojo do?
Tweet 36: "The smile... is gone!" - Mojo Rawley on losing his smile

Sami Zayn and Adam Rose v Sin Cara and Kalisto

Tweet 37: WWE could do far worse than promote Kalisto to the main roster to tag with Sin Cara there. They could do well against the Usos I reckon.
Tweet 38: They should dress up someone in the Exotic entourage like Leo Kruger.
Tweet 39: Sooner or later Kalisto is going to be on the main roster as a singles guy in the old Rey Mysterio significant masked fella role.

Jazz hands.

Tweet 40: That handstand spot from Kalisto.
Tweet 41: I don't think Sin Cara's botched anything yet...
Tweet 42: Ahhhhhh... he messed the headscissors on Zayn up a bit. Good lad.
Tweet 43: So they're doing Sin Cara and Kalisto versus The Vaudevillains. I suspect the luchas may find themselves booed.
Tweet 44: No post-match Code of Honor handshake. Poor form.

Saturday 23 August 2014

The Purpose of Impact

What is TNA’s Impact Wrestling show for? Most weekly wrestling television shows have a reason to exist. They’re there to encourage viewers to spend money on tickets, merchandise and upcoming pay-per-views, achieved through a combination of commentary team plugs, ads, compelling storylines and good matches. From the perspective of the channels they air on they’re there to be cheap to produce content that gets a decent rating.

How many of these criteria does TNA’s flagship programme actually achieve? Tickets to most Impact tapings and pay-per-views over the last few years have been free. That’s what happens when you base yourselves at Universal Studios where you can’t charge admission. TNA runs so few house shows that they can be covered by the announcers in a matter of seconds and they’re generally in venues that seat only a few hundred people. Not exactly a thriving area of business for the Total Nonstop crew. Even when these shows are mentioned, which is infrequently and in a pretty haphazard manner, it’s not like TNA is making money off them.

TNA merchandise is similarly downplayed. In fact I can’t bring to mind a single TNA T-shirt. My overall impression of the company’s clothing output (which is a significant money-maker in wrestling) is that swirls and drab colours with the occasional bit of diamante lobbed in for the covered market look. The sort of thing you might find in River Island.

TNA DVDs are non-existent beyond the bog standard PPV releases. When was the last time they put together a documentary on someone? I know it costs money but if it were done well enough it could actually get them – gasp – a profit. TNA has shown aptitude with video packages in the past and has more than enough former WWE staff who would have knowledge of doc production. They should put their resources to better use. If they stay in business that is.

Tune into Impact and you can see such fresh matches as the Hardy Boyz v Team 3D.
Some people would be adamant that TNA has compelling storylines. I disagree, and would point out that TNA doesn’t get a strong enough viewing figure for their current approach to be deemed a flourishing success. Their plots are either a swift jump onto the latest WWE bandwagon or something overly drawn out and not interesting enough. They’ve got a pretty good roster and could put on good matches most weeks, but don’t do so nearly enough. There’s not a coherent style and approach that sets the company apart. I’ve written this before.

Impact does hit a couple of the criteria. It’s relatively cheap and easy to make (as all wrestling TV shows are compared to dramas and documentaries) and was, before the move to Wednesday nights, attracting a healthy, growing audience. But is this enough of a reason for a wrestling company to exist? Trading week to week just to get a decent TV rating? I don’t think so.

The only companies it's reasonable to compare TNA to, operating as they do in the same country with weekly television shows aimed at the same demographics, are WWE and Ring of Honor. Both of those promotions use their programming for a wider variety of things than does TNA. Both, in their own ways, plug merch, house shows and pay-per-views, with their respective style clear at a glance. People knock WWE for plugging the Network too much and while it can be overbearing that’s exactly what a free to view wrestling TV show is for: to make you aware of products on which you’ll spend money.

Impact doesn’t do this. And that’s part (but only part) of the reason TNA’s never caught on enough to turn a profit. From the outside it comes across as little more than a vanity project run for the fun for those involved at the top. There is no obvious reason for it to exist.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

That RAW Recap 18.08.14

I wrote in my SummerSlam review (read that here) that the show was possibly the best WWE had put on this year. So the following evening’s RAW had a lot to live up to. An average show wasn’t going to cut it. It had to be memorable, building on the successes of the bigger show.

I’m pleased to say it did.

The show began with Daniel Bryan’s music playing. Elated, the audience burst into a “Yes!” chant. They were left disappointed when Stephanie McMahon came out (dressed down in her own Bryan-esque T-shirt and a pair of jeans). She mocked Bryan’s entrance. The crowd booed her at first and then became bored.

After trolling on about the Network and reminding us she’d won a match at SummerSlam Steph brought out Nikki Bella. Nikki  revealed she'd turned on Brie because she was tired of Brie's selfishness. Brie, she claimed, had been jealous of her since they were kids and had raced her to the alter.

Brie came out to refute this and did the betrayed babyface “Why, Nikki, why?” routine. Nikki slapped her to the mat and pouted. Steph laughed. Brie left the ring looking teary-eyed. The whole thing could have been worse but it also could have been significantly better. Nikki’s explanation speech was horribly overacted. It did at least make sense. That was something.

The first match saw the tandem of Mark Henry and Big Show defeat the Wyatt Family. That was disappointing, considering how over the Wyatts are as a team. It’s made worse by the fact that WWE almost certainly have no long term plans for the big lad team.

After that Seth Rollins was attacked by Dean Ambrose backstage. Complaining to Triple H he was told that he’d have a match with Ambrose later in the show, the idea being to get rid of ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ for good. The WWE App hosted a poll to decide the stipulation for Rollins v Ambrose. The choices were no holds barred, falls count anywhere and no disqualification. The commentators did a great job Filing to acknowledge that those gimmicks are all basically the same.

Match two saw Paige pinned by Natalya (non-title, natch). The reason ‘The Anti-Diva’ lost was AJ Lee. She skipped to the ring and distracted the champ. To be honest they should both be used to his sort of thing by now. Paige had said she still loved AJ and was dedicating the match to her before the bell rang. AJ said she loved Paige and was dedicating her life to her. Their rivalry is clearly going to continue.

Hour two opened with The Authority. Stephanie had changed into a dress. She couldn't embarrass Tripper by not being well turned out, could she? 'The Game' said Cena and Lesnar’s SummerSlam match had been an instant classic that represents the future of the company. They then unveiled "the symbol of that future," the new WWE championship belt. It was sat on a table underneath a red cloth. There were scattered boos for it. JBL said "That is a championship belt." I suspect that was some sort of in-joke or rib knowing Layfield.

Not enough wrestlers pose for pictures during promos.
Lesnar was then introduced. He, Heyman and The Authority pair posed with the belt to all four sides of the ring. A photo op for the audience. Generous, no? This was booed at first, then a Lesnar chant broke out. That’s what happens when you give someone a strong push while most of the rest of the roster stagnates: people are drawn to the proven winner.

Triple H and Stephanie headed backstage, leaving Paul Heyman to gloat. Naturally this took the form of talking about Lesnar ending The Streak, winning the championship, and giving Cena such a beating that he couldn't physically be there. Heyman did a tremendous job of putting Cena over, emphasising how long he'd been on top compared to Rock and Austin and reminding us (as if it were needed) that Cena had been a near constant WrestleMania headliner for ten years. The former champ earned his respect by adhering to his slogan and not giving up, to the extent that Heyman said if he had time he'd take Cena on as a client.

Why did he do this? Because it makes ‘The Beast’s’ accomplishment far greater, of course. Heyman also talked up Lesnar and his reign. He's more than a man and anybody stepping into the ring will have to deal with that, basically. Nothing was said about when Lesnar will defend his title, or who he’ll face. My assumption is he’ll work a rematch with Cena at Night of Champions and then work most, not necessarily all, pay-per-views until he loses the championship, which will probably be at WrestleMania.

After that Dolph Ziggler beat The Miz in a rematch from the previous night. It was good stuff. So was Jack Swagger v Cesaro. 'The Swiss Superman' won with a Neutralizer and then Swagger was told to Bo-lieve by Bo Dallas. Rob Van Dam, Sheamus and Roman Reigns v Randy Orton and RybAxel was also enjoyable enough. RVD won that for his team when he pinned Axel after a Five Star frog splash. Reigns wiped ‘The Viper’ out with a spear. Goldust and Stardust then defeated the Usos following a sunset flip. JBL called them the Dust Brusters. WWE needs to get their tag division back on track. They’ve got some popular, talented teams, but they don’t seem interested in penning storylines for them.

A Rusev and Lana promo was interrupted by Mark Henry. ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ said he doesn't usually have a problem with people and their countries but he does have a problem with Rusev. The Russian flag being raised at SummerSlam made him sick so called Rusev boy and announced he was going to induct him into the Hall of Pain. They exchanged punches then Rusev hurt his foot (injured the previous evening) kicking Henners. A World's Strongest Slam and a splash followed. That's Rusev's next conquest sorted then.

Crazy ol' Dean Ambrose.
Jerry Lawler announced that a falls count anywhere stip had won the Ambrose v Rollins vote. The pair quickly brawled through the crowd and up onto the stage where Rollins took a suplex. After the obligatory foray they headed back to the ring where Ambrose brought a chair into the match, body slamming and elbow dropping 'Mr Money in the Bank' with and on it. Seth took control when he ran Ambrose headfirst into a chair then grabbed a cane. When Ambrose eventually got his turn with the cane he really walloped Seth and exhumed Sandman's ECW Singapore cane leg sweep spot.

Ambrose survived a power bomb onto a pile of chairs as Kane showed up at ringside. Rollins set up a table in the ring. His attempt to Curb Stomp Ambrose through a table backfired when Ambrose intercepted him and suplexed him through it. They diverted out to ringside so Ambrose could lay out Kane with a suicide dive, then returned to the ring for a rebound lariat and Dirty Deeds. People were convinced that would be the finish, but Kane pulled Ambrose out of the ring to make sure it wasn't. Deano dropped Kane onto ring steps and back dropped Rollins into the crowd.

An announce desk was cleared and Ambrose went for Dirty Deeds again but Kane intercepted him with a choke slam. The table didn't break. It withstood a Curb Stomp too.

Things got a bit silly at that point. Kane moved a table aside to reveal a stack of cinder blocks. Kane held Ambrose in place as Rollins Curb Stomped his enemy through the blocks. Yes, through them. Because concrete really would crumble against the of mighty bone and flesh. Ambrose did a stretcher job as Kane and Rollins raised their arms and nodded. Meanwhile Jerry Lawler predicted we would never see Dean Ambrose again. Oh, 'King'. Will you never learn?

Overbooked finish aside the main event was very enjoyable. In an ideal world Ambrose would sit out for a month to sell the injury and Rollins would challenge Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental championship at Night of Champions. Ambrose could come back and cost him the gold or, better yet, attack him straight after he’d won it. Involving the IC strap in such a high profile feud would give it a much-needed boost and Ziggler v Rollins on a pay-per-view could be great.

Monday 18 August 2014

SummerSlam 2014 review

August 25, 2002. SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman in his corner, stood across the ring from record-setting seven time WWE champion The Rock. He had been built up as an unstoppable monster and everyone knew he was taking the gold from ‘The Great One’.

August 17, 2014. SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman in his corner, stood across the ring from record-setting twelve time WWE champion John Cena. He had been built up as an unstoppable monster and everyone knew he was taking the gold from ‘The Leader of The CeNation’.

It’s funny how things sometimes work out in WWE. I suspect the original plan for SummerSlam was not Lesnar v Cena but Lesnar v Bryan. The parallels with his first title win twelve years earlier would still have been there but they wouldn’t have been as strong. He’d have been (we can assume) defeating an undeniably popular champion in D-Bry but not a record setter or the face of the company. He also wouldn’t have been facing the only man who’d beaten him who he hadn’t beaten back since his return to WWE in 2012.

WWE was blessed with this main event. But before it came, there was an entire show. We should probably start by talking about that.

Hulk Hogan kicked things off with a hype promo. He didn't go to the ring. Instead he stood at the top of the ramp, letting informed fans know that his presence would be mercifully brief. ‘The Hulkster’ reminded everyone that SummerSlam is important and that the WWE Network costs just $9.99 (though he failed to specify that’s a monthly charge). That was his entire involvement. Good call from WWE. If there’s a star of Hogan’s magnitude available for a packed show they should use them, but only in a very limited role.

A video aired looking at the evening's chief feuds. Stephanie McMahon was referred to as 'The Billionaire Baroness'. That was pretty amusing. The video was, predictably, of a pretty high standard. The WWE team had done a good job putting it together.

The opening match saw The Miz defending the Intercontinental championship against Dolph Ziggler. 'The Awesome One' wittered on about being a legit movie star as he walked to the ring. He's not. He also promised to beat Ziggler. He wouldn’t.

Ziggler threw himself about on offence in the opening moments, which the crowd ate up. Miz took a powder a couple of times before taking control with a rough Irish whip and a kick to the temple. A "You can't wrestle!" chant broke out as he applied a sleeper. Ziggler started a comeback with a fist to the gut as Miz went for axe handle, following up with a neck breaker.

Miz dodged a Fameasser and threw the challenger over the top rope. Dolph skinned the cat back into the ring (which always seems strange outside of a Royal Rumble setting) and went for a super kick. Miz shied away to protect his face so Ziggler school boyed him. Miz kicked out. Dolph countered a figure four and gave Miz a big punch and a super kick for a two count. It was pretty convincing.

Title changes were a theme on this show.
Miz left the ring again, grabbing his belt with his intention clearly being to leave. Dolph caught him with a baseball slide but then found himself in Miz's devastating figure four moments later. It’s so devastating, in fact, that Miz never wins with it. Ziggler escaped after a minute or so and flattened Miz with a Fameasser. The champ no sold it and immediately floored 'The Show Off' with an SCF. The crowd roared approval when Ziggler kicked out. They roared louder moments later when he gave Miz a Zig Zag and pinned him to earn his second Intercontinental title.

It was a great opener. They packed a lot in to their slender run time and the crowd was into both guys. I hope it signals a new beginning for WWE's mid-card, one in which Ziggler and the IC title are the centre of attention and the importance of the white belt is emphasised. But I’ve expressed this sentiment before.

Backstage Brie Bella was interviewed. She said the (storyline) charges she'd be held over earlier in the week were bogus, called Steph a "she-beast" and announced she'd take her out (presumably meaning “of action” as opposed to “for a nice dinner”). She said her actions would be what’s best for business.

Out in the arena Paige skipped out to the ring to get her Divas championship back. The match was preceded by recaps of the two previous title changes between the two (in April and June on post-PPV episodes of RAW) and a handshake... which quickly turned into biting from AJ. They brawled around ringside before Paige took control by dropping AJ first face onto the crowd barrier.

The champ came back when she shoved 'The Anti-Diva' off the top rope to the floor and then followed her down with a cross body block. Moments later they were back in the ring and AJ was kneeing Paige in the face. Paige tried for the Paige Turner. AJ reversed into the Black Widow. Paige reversed that into the Ram-Paige small package DDT. That earned her a three count and her second Divas title. They had the best match they could with not much time. I'm still convinced they could do something special if they had fifteen minutes to play with.

Match three was a flag match, the winner of which would have their nation's flag hung over the ring as a statement of "pride and superiority." So that was something. JBL channelled the Cold War as Rusev and Lana walked to the ring. It's only been over for a few decades, after all. After Lana had called Hollywood a "golden fantasy land" and made a reference to “happy endings” Jack Swagger was marched to the ring by some US army dudes. That got the chant you'd expect and a decent pop for 'The Real American'.

Rusev jumped Swagger before the bell and had the ankle lock slapped on him for his trouble. Lana tried to call the match off claiming Rusev was too hurt. The match took place anyway, Rusev selling his ankle throughout. For his part Swagger sold his ribs, which had been (storyline) injured a few weeks earlier in a comical flag assault by Rusev. The injuries were introduced in part to make Rusev's victory, which he was awarded after Swags passed out in the Accolade, more impressive: 'The Super Athlete' was able to win despite suffering a serious injury seconds before the match began. Very Kurt Angle.

Rusev crushed.
After the match Rusev kicked Zeb Colter. Because you can never get enough cheap heat. The Russian flag was raised above the ring and the country's national anthem was played. The audience wasn't happy. The Rusev push continues.

Match four was Dean Ambrose v Seth Rollins. It was preceded by a lengthy video looking at their history in The Shield and the feud they've had since Rollins turned on his comrades, essentially dissolving the group. I say it was a match, it was more a fight. The two concentrated more on closed fists than arm drags. Which made complete sense considering their history.

I'd expected the lumberjack stip to be something of a hindrance but they made good use of it. First they got over the unhinged nature of Ambrose's character by having him attack lumberjacks whenever he was tossed out of the ring. Then they used them as a human crash mat for diving and apron-to-the-floor suplex spots.

The former teammates eventually spilled out of the ring, passing the lumberjacks as they brawled into the crowd. That brought out Kane, who dispatched the mid-card to retrieve them. Ambrose was carried back to the ring while Rollins tried to make his escape. He got caught by the babyfaces and bodysurfed back to the ring, a lovely target for ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ to leap off the top rope onto. In the ring Seth escaped a Dirty Deeds but got flattened by a Nigel McGuinness-style rebound lariat. Ambrose gave him a Curb Stomp for good measure. The cover was broken up by Kane, which brought Goldust into the ring. He took a punch, which triggered a lumberjack brawl. The confusion allowed Rollins to sneak his Money in the Bank briefcase into the ring. A thump from that put Ambrose down for the three. It was a cracking, wild match, the finish of which kept things alive between the pair for another month without harming either's standing.

Up after that were Bray Wyatt and Chris Jericho. Before going further I'd like to note that Wyatt was wearing his brown leather apron when he entered. They had a solid match, one noticeably better than their Battleground offering. I think I'd probably have enjoyed it more if I were more invested in the 'Y2J' character. But I'm not. He doesn't interest me. If a wrestler can't make you care about them are they really that good? I’d argue they’re not.

The finish saw Wyatt get the advantage with a Samoan Spike and a Sister Abigail into the barricade before rolling him into the ring for a second, more traditional, Sister Abigail. Jericho was certainly protected by that: he only fell after he'd absorbed two finishers. 'The Eater of Worlds' took a microphone and said Jericho had found out what it meant to follow the buzzards. Then he sang.

Then, finally, it was time for the much-anticipated return to the ring of Stephanie McMahon. The former women's champion (because that's what Steph is) wore an outfit not dissimilar to Seth Rollins’, confirming another member of The Authority as a fan of Agents of SHIELD.

Brie threw some arm drags in the early going. Steph sold well but acted like the Hulk when she was on offence. The latter was pretty irritating, partly because Brie's selling didn't match (not should it have done, Stephanie should have acted more realistically). Mrs Bryan tried a suicide dive but took a punch to the face from the boss, followed by an impactful DDT. Brie came back with some kicks and a Thesz Press. She got a two count from a missile drop kick and pummelled Steph afterwards.

At this point Triple H strode out to ringside, followed by Nikki Bella. As Tripes stood on the apron, Nikki swatting ineffectually at his ankles, Steph went for the Pedigree. Brie countered into a Yes Lock, because married female wrestlers can only use their husbands' moves. 'The Game' yanked the ref from the ring before a Steph tap could be witnessed. Brie smacked him with a baseball slide and started a "Yes!" chant. The crowd got into that.

Who saw this swerve coming? Most people, to be honest.
Nikki slipped into the ring, pretending to stop Steph escaping before elbowing Brie in the face and hauling the boss to her feet. A Pedigree later Stephanie's music was playing. The Authority celebrated in the ring, slapping an unconscious Brie about because that's what heels do, as Nikki stood at ringside with a vacant expression on her face. She was probably meant to be emoting something. Remorse that things had to go that way? A feeling of vindication that her selfish sister had received her comeuppance? Who knows? The match, for the record, was exactly as good as it needed to be.

The penultimate bout saw Randy Orton tussle with Roman Reigns. They'd clashed a few times on RAW since WrestleMania and been involved in a ladder match and a four-way dance on the previous two pay-per-views so while this was a first time pay-per-view meeting it did not feel as fresh as it could have done. Still, both men got good reactions and Reigns was sporting some natty blue ring attire. That was nice.

They had a proficient match. It veered far too close to the standard Orton offering to be anything more. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as it could have been. The pace was just too slow, as it tends to be with Orton. The good news was that the crowd responded to Reigns when they needed to. That must have pleased the WWE creative heads.

The closing moments were pretty good, albeit played at the same glacial pace as the rest of the match. Reigns got a Superman punch but his follow up spear attempt was reversed into a power slam. The draping DDT set Reigns up for an RKO but he pushed out of it. A second Superman punch was reversed into an RKO. That got a believable false finish. Orton brought out his rarely seen punt kick but Reigns swiped his foe's foot aside and felled him with a spear. Roman Reigns got a victory in his first one-on-one pay-per-view match.

Lesnar versus Cena predictably had the best video of the night. Cena said he'd beat 'The One' and keep his championship. Lesnar said he'd leave Cena in a puddle of blood and urine and vomit. It was a great tone setter that would have served as an excellent introduction to the characters of both competitors, as well as conveying the significance of the meeting.

Lesnar's entrance was met with a roar of approval. Cena's was met with heavy boos. That trend continued during the in-ring introductions and throughout the match itself.

Champion and challenger started off pummelling one another on the mat. 'The Beast' quickly got the best of that and gave Cena a textbook F5. It was a great decision to through that in within the first minute as it brought the crowd to their feet and emphatically set Lesnar up as having the advantage. From there the match was practically all Lesnar. He mauled Cena around the ring, stomping, kneeing and suplexing him. That went on for several minutes, Cena only mustering a very brief comeback when he rushed Lesnar into a corner a fluttered at him with punches.

After a series of German suplexes Cena managed a sturdier comeback. Lesnar scooped him up to attempt an F5 but Cena escaped and gave him an AA. 'The Pain' kicked out of that, doing The Undertaker's sudden sit up afterwards. He was the first man back to his feet. Cena dashed at him but got taken down and pummelled with heavy rights and lefts. Then there were more German suplexes (in total, we were told, Lesnar landed sixteen German suplexes throughout the match) and shouts of "Die!" from Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar. Four time WWE champion.
Cena swiped Lesnar down to mat to apply the STF. Lesnar rolled out of it and smashed him in the face. Then he scooped him up and drove him into the mat with the second F5 of the match. A three count later and it was over. Brock Lesnar had won his fourth WWE championship.

Men and women in the crowd were shown looking shocked. A kid flickered across our screens, looking close to tears. The commentary team gushed about how impressive and dominant Lesnar had been in the match and reminded us that he's called 'The Conqueror' for a reason. The final shot of the show was Lesnar standing tall with the WWE championship and World Heavyweight championship belts slung across his shoulders.

The match was not a masterpiece. But to expect a masterpiece would have been to miss the point. Lesnar does not produce great wrestling matches. He hurts and dominates people, and that’s exactly what he did here. It was the most one-sided Cena match I can ever remember seeing. For that matter it was the most one-sided WWE championship match (that wasn’t some sort of angle) that I can ever remember seeing. It established Lesnar as unstoppable, a man who can and will obliterate anybody placed in his path.

Taken as a show on its own merits I think SummerSlam was probably the strongest WWE offering of the year so far. There wasn’t a single bad match and every match had a reason for happening and told a story. The first four matches were all very good or better, the McMahon v Bella match was surprisingly enjoyable, and the main event was, if nothing else, a compelling spectacle.

Taken as a show preparing things for the future SummerSlam is even better. There’s no guarantee WWE are going to follow through on the potential Ziggler as IC champion offers or make the AJ and Paige feud compelling, but they could do both and there are things that they will do. Ambrose and Rollins will keep their grudge alive. Something will happen between the Bella sisters, enjoyable or not. Most significantly Reigns’ ascension will continue and Lesnar has been set up as a monster champion. If the last two points don’t intertwine at WrestleMania 31 I’ll buy a hat and eat it.

Sunday 17 August 2014

NXTweet 14.08.14

Comments from Twitter on the most recent episode of NXT, collated here for your ease and-or enjoyment. Please enjoy at your leisure.


Tweet 1: Gonna tweet some NXT, innit...
Tweet 2: Recap of that Zayn v Breeze match from Takeover. Even with the iffy finish it was great.
Tweet 3: Plus, y'know, Regal's commentary.
Tweet 4: Instead of releasing Teddy Long they should've made him a referee in NXT. Only officiating tag matches, naturally.

Mojo Rawley and Bull Dempsey v The Vaudevillains

Tweet 5: Bull Dempsey: yes. Mojo Rawley: no.
Tweet 6: Nojo Rawley.
Tweet 7: I love that The Vaudevillains are so over.

NXT doesn't get much better than this.

Tweet 8: Bull Dempsey is "the last of the old warriors"? That's got to get a lol.
Tweet 9: Renee Young likes everything Bull stands for. Get a room, Renee.
Tweet 10: It couldn't have been more obvious that Bull was going to turn on Mojo there. Still funny though.
Tweet 11: Crowd chanting "Thank you, Bull!"
Tweet 12: What we've learned from this match is that The Vaudevillains are massively over and nobody likes Mojo Rawley. Both good things.

Sasha Banks and Bayley backstage

Tweet 13: "What you should do is go back to Lala Land" - Sasha Banks to Bayley. I mention this as I think Bayley should be announced from Lala Land
Tweet 14: That Slam City advert. Cena keeps the WWE title in a draw and The Rock sounds nothing like The Rock. Tremendous.

Bayley v Sasha Banks

Tweet 15: Bayley is like Emma before she went all thiefy.
Tweet 16: That "Bayley's gonna hug you!" chant.
Tweet 17: That was the slickest mat wrestling pin exchange I can remember seeing in WWE for a long time. Slick stuff yo.
Tweet 18: Suggestion to the WWE seamstress team: make Bayley's tights busier.

If Breeze and Neville hadn't headlined this probs would've been match of the night.

Tweet 19: Tom Phillips calling Sasha cold blooded has made me think of Matt Hardy. That's definitely not your job, Tom.
Tweet 20: I'd enjoy it a lot if WWE re-signed Matt and made him restart in NXT. I'd enjoy him becoming an NXT trainer a lot less.
Tweet 21: Not that I think either's on the cards.
Tweet 22: What was the point of that 'Cold Blooded' nickname he was pushing? If it was to do anything but make people laugh it was a fail.
Tweet 23: Sasha's backstabber into a crossface was beautiful. Nice counter pin finish too. I liked that match a lot.
Tweet 24: Wouldn't be surprised if Bayley won the women's championship to free Charlotte up for a move to the main roster.
Tweet 25: They want something for Flair to do. Managing his daughter is good an idea as any.

Sin Cara and Kalisto v Buddy Murphy and Wesley Blake

Tweet 26: Sin Cara and Kalisto's team name should be Carlisto.
Tweet 27: Kalisto standing on the rope pumping his arms like a madman makes him look like El Torito. Maybe get a minis division going so they can feud.
Tweet 28: Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy. Me neither...
Tweet 29: Murphy looks like a short, young Undertaker. Their tights have a Rockers feel.
Tweet 30: Sin Cara mentoring Kalisto. Because Cara's had so much success and should definitely be mentoring guys. #kayfabe
Tweet 31: Sin Cara just botched a clothesline. Doesn't matter who's under the mask, the character always botches. Just go full JT Smith with it.
Tweet 32: What had Blake and Murphy done to get into that tournament? Guess we'll never know.

Team Carlisto.

The Legionnaires speak at Devin Taylor

Tweet 33: Meanwhile The Legionnaires are pushing a rivalry with Enzo and Big Cass.
Tweet 34: And speaking with French accents that wouldn't be out of place in 'Allo, 'Allo, natch.

NXT championship: Adrian Neville (c) v Tyler Breeze

Tweet 35: Can Mike Dalton become the NXT champion?
Tweet 36: I'm surprised, and pleased, that WWE haven't recycled John Morrison's old parkour gimmick for Adrian Neville.
Tweet 37: #seasonalresidence
Tweet 38: Nobody's ever going to have a seasonal residence in Newcastle.
Tweet 39: Tyson Kidd standing on the desk, there. Because why not, I guess?
Tweet 40: As usual Tyson is plastered in makeup. Not a good-looking man, clearly.
Tweet 41: Pretty sure Kidd is wearing a non-merch hoodie. If so I approve.
Tweet 42: Maybe Nev should invest in some slightly larger trunks. #justsaying

Standing shooting star press from Nev, there.

Tweet 43: "The land of no return!" - Byron Saxton on the top rope
Tweet 44: That tornado DDT and the way Nev sold it is one of the best things I've seen this year.
Tweet 45: Tyson's hoodie has his name written on it so I assume it is merch. Pity.
Tweet 46: Storyline-wise Nev totally brought on that Tyson interference. He super kicked the guy for no reason. Perhaps he didn't have a ticket...
Tweet 47: Kidd, Nev and Breeze having a three-way ruck is "chaos" apparently.
Tweet 48: Zayn makes the save. If this were a SmackDown episode from a few years back Teddy Long would be making a tag match about now.