Saturday 29 November 2014

NXTweet 27.11.14

The return of Blue Pants, Finn Bálor’s first NXT singles match, and Tyson Kidd Skyping cats. It’s NXT.

Tyler Breeze v Marcus ‘le Monstre’ Louis

Tweet 1: Right then. Let's get NXT watched.
Tweet 2: Look everyone! It's Tyler!!
Tweet 3: Loving this Marcus 'I'm A Monster!' Louis shtick.
Tweet 4: Trunks and a towel. No music. Pure entrance.
Tweet 5: No kneepads.
Tweet 6: "Marcus Louise" - The Bernard Train
Tweet 7: Solid comedy promo from Breeze. Gets his character over, refers to himself as precious, drops an "uggo" for good measure.
Tweet 8: Then Breeze won. Tremendous.
Tweet 9: Then this happened:

Tweet 10: I miss those carefully cultivated tufts of hair on Marcus's head.

Post-break recap of Marcus Louis’ antics

Tweet 11: During the break Louis wandered out of the front door in his trunks.
Tweet 12: Crowd popped for seeing a man walk out into the street in his pants. Don't blame them. #TVgold

Carmella v Blue Pants

Tweet 13: You can't teach being seven feet tall. That's a shoot.
Tweet 14: Does Staten Island have royalty?

These three could be so good on RAW.

Tweet 15: Crowd chanting for the return of Leva Bates as Blue Pants. WWE should really consider signing her.
Tweet 16: That entrance music Big Cass did was better than some of Jim Johnston's work.
Tweet 17: Carmella getting booed because she's not as over as the enhancement talent there.

Finn Bálor interviewed backstage

Tweet 18: Finn Bálor’s backstage taping his fists with a flag jauntily draped over his shoulder.
Tweet 19: He thinks the future is now. Factually inaccurate.

The Lucha Dragons v Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger

Tweet 20: I reckon the real reason Rey Mysterio wants out of WWE is that he knows he'll never be as over as The Lucha Dragons.
Tweet 21: Jordan and Dillinger should use the team name Jordillinger.
Tweet 22: Renee Young thought The Vaudevillains, who are pantomime villains, would be above using midgets to mock opponents. Oh, Renee.
Tweet 23: That "Oh, Renee" in the last tweet was withering. It wasn't a reference to 'Allo, 'Allo.

Work on your boots, lads.

Tweet 24: It's bothering me for more than it should that the Dragons don't have matching boots but do have matching tights.
Tweet 25: Well that match did nothing for Jordillinger. Didn't do that much for Cara and Kalisto either.

Kevin Owens hype video

Tweet 26: Kevin Owens vignette. He fights to provide for his family. He'll fight anyone.
Tweet 27: Looking forward to seeing what WWE do with this Kevin Owens guy. He looks like he might be good...

Bayley promo, featuring Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch

Tweet 28: Bayley's booked herself some in-ring promo time after Charlotte said she wouldn't be around to watch her back. This won't end well.
Tweet 29: Bayley with a B A Star promo there.
Tweet 30: OMG Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks have interrupted her! Whadda shock!

Sasha Banks, looking decidedly non-ratchet.

Tweet 31: Team BAE gave Bayley's knee a tap and some refs broke them up. The overly buff ref was involved.

Tyson Kidd and Natalya interviewed backstage

Tweet 32: How does Natalya feel about her husband's match with Finn Bálor? She's excited. Excited for Tyson's #opportunity
Tweet 33: Natalya just said she's putting Tyson over. Insider term, much? Jim Neidhart will privately disown her over that.
Tweet 34: Natalya should take a Kevin Nash approach with her character. Start taking it easy in the ring and dropping in insider jargon.
Tweet 35: Tyson's off to Skype some cats and cousin Teddy before his match.

Vaudevillains vignette

Tweet 36: Silent black and white movie of The Vaudevillains training. Legit gold.
Tweet 37: Gotch boxing a bear was probably the highlight.

Finn Bálor v Tyson Kidd

Tweet 38: That pose was a bit Jericho. 'Y2Devitt'.

Finn Bálor channelling Chris Jericho.

Tweet 39: Just going to put this out there: I reckon WWE are doing a slow build to a Natalya versus Tyson Kidd match. Probably at 'Mania.
Tweet 40: Kidd pulled Natalya in front of him to stop Bálor doing a tope. If I were Bálor I'd have done it anyway. Natty can bump.

Heel husband.

Tweet 41: "C'mon, ask him! Ask him in Irish!" - Tyson Kidd with an attempt at comedy heat
Tweet 42: The crowd is backing Kidd and booing some of Bálor's moves. I bet Bálor wishes he'd gone to TNA now!
Tweet 43: Sarcasm, obvs. Nobody in NXT wishes they were in TNA.
Tweet 44: Bálor had the match won and got jumped by The Ascension. Because special event hype.
Tweet 45: Some random jobbers joined the referees in trying to restore order. To the surprise of no one it failed.

Friday 28 November 2014

The Man Called Sting

Last Sunday was a significant day in pro wrestling history. After 29 years in the business Steve ‘Sting’ Borden stepped foot in a WWE ring for the first time. Okay, so he’s not worked for a bona fide major league company since 2001 and hasn’t been in anything that resembles a career prime since the 90s. And yes, the camera crew managed to miss Sting actually stepping foot into the ring. But it was a memorable moment nonetheless.

I’m not a big fan of Sting. When I first got into wrestling WCW was dying. It was shunted around very late night slots and as a result was hard to find. That didn’t really make me want to bother watching that often, but I’d record it when I could because I wanted to see as much wrestling as possible. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw Sting was when he was feuding with Vampiro. I’m sure that didn’t represent the man at his best, but it gave a terrible first impression. And that’s stuck with me.

I know I’m in the minority with this. The reaction he got at Survivor Series demonstrates that there are people out there who still care about ‘The Stinger’. That (disappointed) kid dressed as him the night after WrestleMania XXX proves the same thing. Although he’s not been relevant for years and will struggle to put on a worthwhile match it’s clear there are people willing to pay to see him. So it’s silly to argue that bringing him in wasn’t a good idea on WWE’s part.

This is exciting television, apparently.
Setting him up for a future clash with Triple H was a good decision too. ‘The Game’ can still get a passable match out of most guys and they’re big enough names that their meeting can be legitimately billed as a “dream match”. Not that lack of legitimacy would stop WWE, but it helps to have it.

Triple H versus Sting could happen either at Royal Rumble or WrestleMania 31. I imagine it will depend on how many matches Sting’s agreed to wrestle. If it’s one then they’ll clearly hold off until WrestleMania. If it’s more than one then it could happen at the Rumble, leaving Sting free to have that match with The Undertaker so many people want to see for some reason.

Personally I think he’ll wrestle at the Rumble and ‘Mania. It seems just a bit too much to expect the company to draw out his in-ring debut until March. Although that’s what I’d prefer, because I’m not really interested in seeing him wrestle anyone and I’m happy to wait as long as they want or not see it at all.

As good an idea as bringing in Sting is, two things puzzle me about Sting’s debut. The first is why he wasn’t used on the November 24 RAW the night after Survivor Series. He wasn’t announced for the show but considering he’d made his much anticipated first appearance the night before it seemed reasonable to expect him to show up, even if it was just to stand around looking confused. It’s extra strange when you look at how bad the post-Survivor Series RAW turned out: they didn’t even omit him in favour of doing something good.

The other thing is Sting’s storyline reasoning for moving to WWE. Why now, after all this time? Why at all, considering it was the nWo, originally presented as WWF invaders, that tipped happy, smiley, bleach blonde babyface Sting over the edge and sent him up into the rafters to become the brooding Crow rip-off he remains to this day? He was, more than anyone else, the embodiment of WCW. What is it that’s made him think now is the right time to turn up in WWE? Shouldn’t he hate WWE for destroying WCW all those years ago?

Hey, perhaps he does. Sting didn’t actually say anything during his brief appearance. And he did attack a WWE executive. Maybe he’s moved to WWE to try and bring the company down. That he’s waited over a decade to do this, killing most of that time in TNA, is puzzling but maybe he’ll say he was “biding his time.” That would be suitably naff and anticlimactic.

In all honesty this is something WWE is unlikely to touch on, even though they really should. For the sake of their own plot logic if nothing else.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

That RAW Recap 24.11.14

Survivor Series was neither a good advert for the WWE Network or a satisfying experience in its own right. But it did leave me with the impression that good work had been done setting up the next few weeks of TV leading into December’s TLC pay-per-view. 

The main event featured a crowd-pleasing tussle between former teammates Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, saw Big Show betray John Cena when the chips were down, and ended with the debuting Sting playing a role in The Authority being banished forever (until they come back). Elsewhere on the show Miz and Damien Mizdow captured the tag team titles, Brie and Nikki Bella seemed to have reconciled, an assortment of babyface Divas scored a clean sweep over an assortment of heel Divas, and Adam Rose continued to have problems with a man he pays to follow him around in a bunny costume. There was stuff there that could have been built on.

Why has this reunion happened?
After Survivor Series it looked as though Big Show versus John Cena and Luke Harper versus Erick Rowan would join the already confirmed Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt on the TLC card. It also seemed likely that Sting would be installed as the new on-screen authority figure. Show v Cena having yet another televised match didn’t seem appealing but there would have at least been logic behind it. Meanwhile Rowan v Harper, which I was initially sceptical about, actually held a bit of appeal after the response they got from the St Louis crowd.

While I’m not a fan of Sting I understand why he’s been hired. With plenty of WCW programming available via the Network and him being prominently featured in the advertising for the new WWE2K15 Sting’s actually more relevant to the company now than he would have been five years ago. And, for some reason, people still seem willing to pay to see him. At 55 he’s obviously not going to wrestle much so the obvious thing to do is put him in a GM spot that allows him to appear every week (or most weeks) and become involved enough in storylines to set up a match or two, probably for Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.

For some reason all of this was dropped on RAW. Cena seemed perfectly happy to let Show’s attack slide. ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ was confronted by Erick Rowan, while Rowan’s predicted dance partner for TLC clashed with Dean Ambrose. After that match Ambrose had a generic set to with Bray Wyatt, just to remind us that they don’t like each other and that we should all be very much looking forward to their needless Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at TLC.

Cena instead spent his evening teaming with Dolph Ziggler, arguably the standout performer of the previous evening, to face Seth Rollins, Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble. Because why not? In all honesty that match did make sense considering how long Rollins has been the protected, untouchable bad guy for but coming at the end of a show filled with blunders blunted its effectiveness.

And this was emphatically a show of blunders. In addition to the apparent abandonment of Rowan v Harper and Cena loling off Show’s KO punch to the face Kane was demoted from Corporate Kane to Concessions Kane, Nikki and Brie wholly failed to provide a reason as to how their feud (which, let’s not forget, started in the womb) had been settled, nothing noteworthy was done with the most popular undercard performer of the last three pay-per-views, Damien Mizdow, Adam Rose and The Bunny did the same thing they’d done at Survivor Series, nothing happened with the Divas division even though practically all of them had been involved in the same match the night before, and somebody, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to bring back the Anonymous RAW GM gimmick rather than use Sting, who failed to appear at all.

The Concessions Kane gimmick had potential, mostly because ‘The Big Red Machine’ has such a bizarre history that they could have played up to the idea that he has to serve food for a living now without ruining the character. Instead of doing some genuinely amusing stuff with the idea they had Kane interacted with special guest Larry The Cable Guy and Santino in a series of painfully unfunny skits. They culminated with Ryback attacking Kane and Kane running away. That would indicate that we’ll be getting Ryback v Kane at TLC, a disappointment considering they could have been teasing Ryback v Rusev instead.

Proud to be from somewhere other than America? Then you're a heel.
The thing is, Rusev was busy participating in a segment in which he had to swear allegiance to the United States of America, despite being a hero of the Russian Federation. The idea here seemed to be that this was fair punishment for Rusev daring to join Team Authority and attempting to help them win the night before. He’s made a few negative comments about the USA, certainly, but that’s because he’s been getting booed on a weekly basis for nothing more than being a proud Russian (or possibly Bulgarian… it fluctuates). His anti-American feelings are, at this point, completely understandable.

So, yes, Rusev was booked as a babyface. Again. But because he’s committed the crime of not being born in the US he got treated like a heel by the crowd. He was confronted by Jack Swagger and the 66-year-old former Iraqi sympathiser Sergeant Slaughter. We’ve already seen Rusev face Swags on PPV twice. Hopefully this doesn’t mean he’ll be facing Slaughter at TLC.

The GM situation was the worst aspect of the programme.

The show opened with The Authority wandering out. This directly contradicted the stipulation of the Survivor Series main event: if they lost they would be gone forever (unless Cena decided they could return for some reason, which he hadn’t done here). They’d lost so they should have been gone. They certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to go to the ring. But they did anyway, and it once again reminded everyone that stipulations in WWE do not mean anything.

I understand why this was booked. Triple H and Stephanie had to go out and get humiliated one final time by surprise guest Daniel Bryan. Taking the Authority plot as a whole this made complete sense. The group was formed as a response to the popularity of D-Bry. Throughout its fifteen month lifespan he was their main foe. Bryan needed to be there at the faction’s downfall (and even if this doesn’t turn out to be the end of The Authority it was presented as if it were) to tie things together.

Bryan on promo duty is not best for business.
After kicking Tripper and Steph out Bryan spent the evening awkwardly participating in segments that required him to do a lot of talking. Which isn’t his strength. I love me some Bryan ‘Daniel Bryan’ Danielson but I don’t want to see him saying more than a few words. If he has to be used in a non-wrestling role he should appear sparingly. The best thing they could have done here was have Bryan chase off Triple H and Steph and then call it a night with him. Having him booking matches did him no favours. Vinnie Mac could have come out and done that instead.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Bryan being RAW’s special guest GM was a way of trying him out for the role longer term. That would explain why ‘The Stinger’ wasn’t revealed as the new matchmaker. The Anonymous GM could have been written in as one of two endings, the one used if Bryan didn’t perform well enough throughout the show. Unlikely I know, but not an impossibility.

I can’t understand WWE’s logic for this show. It wasn’t just that they seemed to be going in a different direction to the night before, it’s that they didn’t commit to this new direction. Nothing was announced for TLC. We’re now in a situation where they could theoretically pick up the Survivor Series plots next Monday. Whatever they end up doing for TLC they wasted a week here. Post-PPV RAWs typically get higher than average viewing numbers and with Survivor Series available for free there was a good chance that viewing number would be higher still. Putting on a compelling show should have been a priority. A good programme could have encouraged some new viewers (and I’m sure the free Network stunt meant there were some) to watch again next week and made TLC look like a can’t-miss event.

That they didn’t use Sting was probably the most puzzling thing of all. We all know he’s with the company now. We just don’t know why. Finding out isn’t enough to keep me hooked. I can’t imagine it will be for many others.

Monday 24 November 2014

Survivor Series 2014 review

A few years ago Vince McMahon apparently considered dropping Survivor Series as a concept because of poor pay-per-view sales. Only a passionate plea from Triple, centring on the event’s legacy and place in company history, stopped that from happening. Watching this show you’d probably wonder why he made such a big thing of it. It wasn’t a bad show, but nor was it an especially great one. And this show, more than any Survivor Series in years, needed to be a great one, for all the reasons I’ve discussed in the last month (see here for more).

The twenty-eighth annual Survivor Series began, as WWE pay-per-views tend to, with a hype video for the evening’s main event. It focused on the last month of television, with a particular emphasis on the future. Considering we’d see 55-year-old Sting make his first ever WWE appearance at the end of the show, that rung a particular kind of hollow. That said Seth Rollins was most prominently featured, unsubtly reminding us he had been handpicked by The Authority as the company’s next flagship performer.

The show kicked off with a talky segment. Vince McMahon brought The Authority and John Cena to the ring Vince promo. The purpose of this was to fill up the minutes, rather than to do anything productive. Vince did reveal that if The Authority lost they’d be working at WWE HQ but with no influence on the careers of performers, but really that wasn’t enough to justify ten-plus minutes of natter. It’s something that should have been made clear in the build up to the event.

The first match of the show was the four-way tag title match, the Usos (wearing a pair of fetching 1800s train driver neckerchiefs), Miz and Mizdow, and Los Matadores challenging the Dust Brothers. The early minutes were characterised by Mizdow shtick, which the crowd loved. Both Miz and Stardust teased tags to Mizdow as the crowd chanted for him, earning themselves some loud boos when they denied them what they wanted. Beyond that we got tags every few minutes to give every team a turn in the ring.

The crowd went nuts when Mizdow was finally tagged in by Miz. He didn't get to do much though: Goldust immediately tagged himself in and went to work on a matador.

Basically the match was competent but didn’t really pick up until its closing moments, a real shame considering the fifteen minutes they had to play with, the capability of everyone involved and the immense popularity of Mizdow. It’s not unreasonable to think we should have had something better.

This is the most relevant the tag titles have been in a while.
The closing moments saw the Usos clear the ring and fly over the top rope onto their foes. Stardust followed up with The Falling Star (a springboard butt bump) and Los Matadores lobbed El Torito over the top and then jumped off the turnbuckle. Back in the ring the Dusts and Los Matadores did a stacked suplex spot from the corner. Jimmy Uso followed up with a splash and got thrown from the ring by Miz, who then found himself blind tagged by Mizdow, who got the pinfall and the tag team titles for his team. Miz looked shocked before celebrating with both belts. Mizdow celebrated empty-handed. He did get more cheers than 'The Awesome One' though.

Backstage Adam Rose and his bunny had a fight with some WWE toys to settle their differences. Rose reminded the bunny he was working at kids’ parties before he found him and basically told him to lose. Despite this The Bunny won. Then Titus O'Neil and Heath Slater rocked up to save the skit. They did a little bickering and Rose challenged Slater Gator to a tag match later on the show. Then he and his worshippers (so-called because he claims they think of him as a god) left.

Paige, Cameron, Summer Rae and Layla v Natalya (with ‘Mr Charisma’ Tyson kids), Naomi, Emma, and Alicia Fox was match number two. That WWE can't be bothered to get a bubble machine, hardly the most expensive bit of kit, for Emma's entrance says everything you need to know about her standing in the company.

Paige v Natalya is a singles match I'd like on pay-per-view.
This match was rough in places but it did at least get time to tell a story and everyone was trying their best. Paige looked impressive, a good thing considering she was booked to wind up in a four-on-one position after her team had been picked off by Fox’s team. There was an attempted tease at Paige making a comeback and sweeping through her opposition but ultimately it didn’t happen: she lasted a few minutes before falling to a headscissors driver from Naomi. After the match Kidd leapt on to a turnbuckle in front of Nattie. Because douchebag husbands, am I right?

After a recap of the pre-show and perhaps the most inconsequential expert panel segment ever we got a video recapping the Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose beef. Condensed down into a couple of minutes in which Bray’s magical teleporting can be downplayed it didn’t look bad.

The first few minutes of the match was all about Ambrose countering everything Wyatt tried. 'The Eater of Worlds' eventually turned the tables with an uppercut as Ambrose vaulted the top rope. Ambrose went back on offence after a double clothesline on the outside, bulldogging Wyatt, stealing his upside down corner taunt, and hitting him with a leg drop put. Wyatt fired back with a Uranage suplex, with Ambrose kicking out of the pin that followed and performing a top rope elbow on a standing Wyatt. Seconds later Ambrose was flattened by a loud clothesline.

This could have been the match of the night.
On the outside again Wyatt dropped Ambrose on the ring steps. When that didn't get him a three count Wyatt grabbed a microphone to tell Dean they could have ruled the world together because they're special. Then he grabbed a chair from under the ring. Ambrose grabbed it first, leading to a standoff with Bray basically telling Dean to go for it and the referee telling him not to. ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ decided to use the chair, giving Wyatt a tap to the gut and then Dirty Deeds.

After he'd been disqualified Ambrose got a table from beneath the ring and elbow dropped Wyatt through it. He then piled chairs and tables on top of Wyatt and posed on top of it (we’d find out just before the main event that Wyatt and Ambrose would clash in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at TLC). The crowd gave the post-match shenanigans more of a response than the match itself. It’s understandable but it still harmed the actual match a little.

I wasn’t a fan of the finish. DQ finishes are necessary for prolonging feuds sometimes, I get that. But they shouldn't happen on PPV. Certainly not in such an openly lazy fashion. It wasn't clear why Ambrose responded so violently, beyond the fact that everyone seems to do it when Bray tries to recruit them. It just felt like something slapped together to set up the TLC match rather than something designed to satisfy the live and home audiences.

Backstage Triple H and Steph gave Team Authority a pep talk. ‘The Game’ promised them more title matches, money and fame. When Steph spoke she quickly became desperate, wailing that they couldn't lose. Trips quickly shushed her and gave every member of the team a reason to win. It was a good segment with a logical, self-contained story. It did go on a bit though.

Adam Rose and The Bunny versus Slater Gator helped the show chug towards its conclusion after that. They did a decent job. The match benefited from not having a lengthy slot to fill. They told a simple story: Rose got worked over before tagging out to The Bunny, who made short work of Slater and O'Neil before pinning Slater as Rose held out his hand for a tag. The Bunny then got carried backstage by the entourage as Rose looked stunned in the ring.

Roman Reigns was then introduced to speak to the commentary team via satellite. He made some token mention of how he was getting stronger and referenced the main event. The most relevant thing he said was that he’ll be back in a month. We can believe that, apparently.

We were shown Team Cena backstage. Dolph and Ryback spoke about it being a big night as Rowan played about with a Rubik's cube. Cena said he'd do everything he could for the team, all of whom were facing unemployment if they lost (although Cena wasn’t for some reason). Ziggler said he'd do everything he could to make sure he survived, which seemed like it was designed to tease him turning on Cena. Show said they all knew what they signed up for. Ryback said it was feeding time and he was hungry. Cena said there was one thing left to do. Then Rowan stood up and said "win." It was laughably bad stuff, basically. Everyone trotted out stock phrases and swore allegiance to babyfacedom.

But who's side is Brie Bella on?!
The penultimate bout saw Nikki Bella challenge Divas champion AJ Lee for the title. I say bout like they actually wrestled. Which isn’t true. After the opening bell Brie Bella clambered onto the apron holding the Divas title belt. AJ confronted her and Brie kissed her. Then Nikki punched the champ in the back of the head, dropped her with a Rack Attack, and pinned her to win the strap. Brie clapped and joined Nikki in her celebrations, setting up the next stage of the overly long Bella sisters saga for the following evening's RAW.

Everyone in the main event was treated to individual entrances, for no other reason than it fills up the minutes and WWE had minutes to spare. I noticed during Ziggler's entrance that he's no longer doing his hip wiggle. Maybe Nikki Bella complained about him stealing her bit?

This was the match that WWE had concentrated on the most in the weeks before the show, the match that they were counting on to draw people in. While I hadn’t agreed with their decision to not promote a balanced card that could give people numerous reasons to sign up to the Network (if they live in a country where they can, of course) I did at least understand it from a storyline perspective. Creative felt the need to freshen things up and do a big, enticing stipulation that they would allow them to promise a brand new day.

While it wasn’t the best Survivors match I’ve ever seen it also wasn’t the worst. It was given a tonne of time to tell a story and every elimination was made to mean something. It was the best thing on the show and easily as good as it needed to be.

I won’t attempt to cover everything that happened. Instead here are some edited highlights…

Solid booking, this.
Mark Henry was eliminated immediately with a WMD from Big Show. It was a good call, getting someone out of the way early, eliciting a big reaction from the audience, and positioning 'The World's Largest Athlete' as a huge obstacle to overcome. There was a loud reaction for a Rowan and Harper standoff, which was promising. Rollins got enormous heat when he tagged himself in on Harper.

Rusev and Ryback got a loud response when they squared off too. Surprisingly Ryback was booked to get the best of the Bulgarian before a shmoz broke out, culminating in Rollins Curb Stomping Ryback and Rusev pinning him. Ziggler tagged in for the first time shortly after that and spent the next several minutes getting worked over. That culminated with Rusev power bombing him onto a gaggle of match participants at ringside and trying to splash him through the Spanish announce table. Ziggler rolled out of the way and got back into the ring just before the ten count, avoiding a count out elimination. Rusev wasn’t so lucky: he was thrown out from the match when he was unable to return.

Back in the ring Ziggler finally tagged out to Cena, who quickly hit Kane with an AA. Rollins dashed in and Curb Stomped him before he could manage a cover though. Rowan and Harper got their moment in the sun shortly thereafter. The crowd reacted to it again. WWE could do a lot worse than Harper versus Rowan singles match at TLC, a good thing considering that’s probably their plan. Following interference from Kane and a flying knee from Rollins, Harper got a discuss clothesline on his former teammate to send him to the back.

Then the first major shock happened. As Ziggler lay unconscious on the outside Show and Cena squared off with Harper, Kane and Rollins… and Show lamped Cena with his WMD. Rollins immediately went for the cover and got the pin, shockingly eliminating Cena from the match. Yep, Big Show turned again. It’s impossible to be surprised at this point. I wrote before the show that a turn from ‘The World’s Largest Athlete’ wouldn’t be a surprise because his career has been characterised by turns back and forth. We’re at the point here it means nothing.

That said there was at least a reason to it here beyond “Hey, we need some more heels on the roster.” Show saw the tide turning against his team and reasoned that if he laid out Cena and got himself counted out he’d be handing The Authority a victory and they’d waive his firing.

Show’s betrayal (which I really wish Jim Ross had been around to call) left Ziggler alone to face Kane, Harper and Rollins. He was triple teamed for the next few minutes before getting a flash super kick and a Zig Zag on Kane to eliminate him. More punishment came his way at the hands of Luke Harper. ‘The Show Off’ took a suicide dive and a sitdown power bomb before getting a flash rollup for another elimination.

Which left him alone with Seth Rollins. Two counts for Ziggler off a small package and a DDT brought the crowd to their feet, as did a buckle bomb from Rollins. A top tope Curb Stomp missed, allowing Ziggler to get a Fameasser for another rousing two count. Ziggler fought off Mercury and Noble interference and dropped Rollins with a Zig Zag, only for Tripper to yank the referee out of the ring. Ziggler fought off more Noble and Mercury interference, Stephanie fell off the apron onto Triple H, and Rollins got a buckle bomb. A Curb Stomp missed and Ziggler's pin after a Zig Zag was again broken up by 'The King of Kings.

Triple H then got into the ring and gave Ziggler a Pedigree. He dragged Rollins on top of him and then signalled for another new official. Crooked ref Scott Armstrong came out to count the pin but got distracted two thirds of the way through by the entrance of Sting.

‘The Stinger’ sauntered to the ring looking every day of his 55 years then had a staredown with Triple H. It was a long staredown. Like, a really long staredown. Uncomfortably so, in fact. The crowd chanted "This is awesome!" They were wrong. Very wrong. It was tedious.

He's finally signed. And I don't care.
Eventually Triple H threw a punch. Sting ducked it and gave him the Scorpion Death Drop. Then he put Ziggler atop Rollins and a rejuvenated referee that wasn’t Scott Armstrong counted the pin. Rollins didn't kick out, even though he and Ziggler had both been selling for over five minutes. Still, it was great to see Ziggler as the man working the majority of the match for his team and getting the deciding pinfall fifteen minutes after Cena had been eliminated. Cena coming out to hug him afterwards could have been taken as destruction but in this particular instance, with what was on the line and the way Ziggler had been positioned, it made perfect sense.

Once Ziggler and Cena had headed backstage the crowd jeered The Authority as they sold the loss in the ring. Stephanie screamed it wasn't over and then three a fit to take the show off the air. Unfortunately I think she's probably right. WWE have had too much success with the heel authority figure shtick over the years to try something new. We'll get something fresh for a while but they'll return to their comfort zone eventually.

There are two things we need to ask about Survivor Series: was it good enough to convince people they should stick with the WWE Network for at least one more month and was it a satisfying experience in its own right? My answer to the first question would be no. They were clearly hoping the debut of Sting and the post-match antics of Wyatt and Ambrose would be enough to convince people to stick with the Network through TLC but I don’t think that’s enough. Sting won’t wrestle and while I’m sure Wyatt and Ambrose are capable of a strong TLC bout that match alone isn’t sufficient reason to see the show.

The quality of the overall card is what WWE should have focused on. They were hampered by a few injuries but they still could have put on a distinctly average show. They didn't. Is an Adam Rose match really something they feel can help them grow their subscriber numbers? A more balanced card was clearly the way to go. What they lined up and how poorly it turned out proves that.

Taken on its own merits the show was average. The main event was, as already stated, as good as it needed to be. Sting debuting will excite many people. But nothing else on the show was especially memorable, even the Mizdow title win. There have been worse WWE shows, but few with the stakes being so high. This was WWE’s chance to convince people that paying $9.99 a month for a pay-per-view is a great investment, and they failed.

Now let’s see what that plucky young upstart Sting does on RAW, shall we?

Results summary:
The Miz and Damien Mizdow won the tag team championship
Natalya, Naomi, Emma and Alicia Fox defeated Paige, Cameron, Summer Rae and Layla
Bray Wyatt defeated Dean Ambrose via disqualification
Adam Rose and The Bunny defeated Slater Gator
Nikki Bella defeated AJ Lee for the Divas championship
Team Cena defeated Team Authority

Sunday 23 November 2014

Dawn of The New Day

Over the last month we've been introduced to WWE's New Day stable. More accurately we’ve been reintroduced. Two of the three members had previously been established as main roster mid-carders before disappearing a couple of months ago to allow for this repackaging. The other was a low-card guy who’d been called up to do a whole lot of nothing at the end of last year. They'd been loosely affiliated before their disappearance but only now are we getting confirmation that WWE actually knows what they want to do with them as a unit.

Another faction name considered was Guys in Suits.
The first man we were reacquainted with was Xavier Woods. He used to do a 90s pop culture gimmick1. Before disappearing a few weeks ago the only thing he’d done of note since getting called up to the main roster was get The Funkadactyls to go to the ring with him for a while. He didn't really have much of a character at all beyond generic babyface loosely affiliated with R-Truth. So his transformation into an amalgamation of Little Richard and Ernest 'The Cat' Miller in a vignette on the November 3 RAW can probably be classified as an improvement.

Up next was Kofi Kingston. His exquisitely trimmed and incredibly pointy beard remained intact. So did his lack of charisma. That's always been Kofi’s problem. Perhaps being teamed with two guys with more personality will help him bring out his own on camera. Ultimately personality isn't the reason he's in the stable. He’s there because practically everything else that could conceivably get him over has been tried during his seven years on the main roster.

Finally the November 17 RAW featured a vignette in which Big E channelled Martin Luther King. Super relaxed in his jeans and T-shirt combo it was possible to believe he could become a star again. That's not something we've been able to say about him since before his premature split from Dolph Ziggler. If E can be as comfortable in front of an audience as he was in his video he'll go somewhere.

It seems as though the three have touches of a televangelist gimmick to them. They appeared in front of a choir and gave spirited, sermon-flavoured promos about a new day dawning. It was eye-catching and memorable. Alone it’s not enough to help them get anywhere but it was a good start.

It looks like they’re intended as a babyface trio. That’s a positive sign. WWE has had some success with those over the last two years in the form of The Shield and The Wyatt Family. The writers should have a good idea of what to do and what to avoid when it comes to handling a three man faction. Not least because it’s easy to see their interest in this new team waning quickly, something the previous trios didn’t have to contend with. The Shield was comprised of three guys considered future headliners while the Wyatts were built around a future headliner so they were guaranteed attention. New Day features a long term mid-carder and a man who was promoted on a whim. Only Big E has main event potential and he’s been subjected to stop-start booking over the last year.

If The New Day can get half as over as The Shield they'll be doing well.
It’s tough to know what to expect from The New Day. Both the Wyatts and The Shield started out as heels before becoming faces (albeit never officially in the case of the Wyatts) mostly due to the strength of their booking and their dynamic performances. What we’ve seen so far makes it look like New Day are going to begin their time together as faces. Perhaps they’ll go heel over time. That could work in storyline terms but it wouldn’t do much for the three individuals. Kofi and Xavier seem far better suited to the protagonist role and while Big E has appeared proficient at playing both heel and face right now a face run is what’s best for him. It will allow him to show his personality, giving people a reason to warm to him and showing that he’s more than just a body guy.

It seems unlikely the new group will achieve the success the Wyatts and ‘The Hounds of Justice’ did before them. Mostly because archetypal job guy Xavier Woods is involved. But maybe WWE will surprise us and give the team things to do. Like giving the tag division one of its periodic rejuvenations or putting together another trio to oppose them. Unlikely I know. I think the most realistic thing we can hope for is that the group gets something to do on RAW every week for the next six months and Big E gets treated as the man who’ll go on to singles stardom. If it ends up being the thing that launches him up the card it will have been a success.


1 Not as cool as it sounds. Instead of using phrases from 90s TV shows for move names or in promos or putting 90s emblems and motifs on his ring gear he basically said “It’s morphin’ time” sometimes. There’s a load of iconography and phrases to latch on to from the 90s and Woods did a poor job of tapping into it. Our best hope for making use of the 90s gimmick now seems to be Angelo Dawkins. Not because he’s hinted that he might, but because it’s not a million miles away from the backpack-wearing self-aware nerd he’s playing now.

Saturday 22 November 2014

NXTweet 20.11.14

Way more matches than normal. That was something. Unfortunately none of them were anything special and the main event was a promo. If this were a piece of homework and I were a teacher it would be graded a D with “See me after class” written on it.


Tweet 1: It's NXTweetin' time!
Tweet 2: Last week... Sami Zayn danced and mentioned destiny.
Tweet 3: Last week... Adrian Neville retained after a shady rollup.
Tweet 4: Last week... some kid in the audience looked astonished Zayn had lost. Poor little mite.

Bayley v Becky Lynch

Tweet 5: Becky Lynch has changed her plaid for camo. It's an improvement but not much of one.
Tweet 6: "Irish spitfire!" - Alex Riley on Becky Lynch
Tweet 7: Tights grab. Heel.


Tweet 8: Renee saying that Charlotte's job is to keep the women's division together there. Nah, it's to wrestle. But whatevs.

Bayley and Charlotte chat in a locker room

Tweet 9: Charlotte and Bayley teleported backstage to have a chat. And oh noes, Charlotte won't be around to help next week.
Tweet 10: Rare bit of sloppy editing that.

The Vaudevillains v Mini Lucha Dragons

Tweet 11: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 12: The Vaudevillains demand a title shot. Two midgets come out. Classic WWE booking.
Tweet 13: In unrelated news Ed Ferrera works at Full Sail.

This is vintage WWE stuff. Vintage!

Tweet 14: Gotch doing power spots on a midget is funnier than it should be.
Tweet 15: I think it's because his gimmick is "power guy" but he's too small to do it convincingly on most of the roster.
Tweet 16: I say most of the roster like these fake Lucha Dragons are signed. They're not. But after that performance...

Kevin Owens hype video

Tweet 17: Hmmmmmm... That guy in the 11.12.14 (British dating) video looked familiar.

Elias Sampson v Baron Corbin

Tweet 18: Oh good. Baron Corbin. So we're getting a third unremarkable match in a row.
Tweet 19: Elias Sampson is today's Corbin fodder. He didn't last long.
Tweet 20: The audience are chanting "twenty-two" as though Sampson lasted that long. He didn't. They were counting fast.
Tweet 21: And Sampson looks like a bargain bin Enzo.

Bull Dempsey v Steve Cutler

Tweet 22: Bull Dempsey is my boy.
Tweet 23: He's getting booed because he didn't job out his guy in under thirty seconds.

This looks a bit... dirty is probably the best word to use.

Tweet 24: Bull won with Air Canada. Because Benoit references.
Tweet 25: Four matches in. None have gone longer than five minutes. This is not the best week to start watching NXT.

Tyson Kidd v CJ Parker

Tweet 26: And now we've got Tyson Kidd. Because I guess sometimes you've got to put on a deliberately bad episode.
Tweet 27: CJ Parker and his skimpy trunks can't save this show. But bless him for trying.
Tweet 28: The audience doesn't know who to back. Go with CJP. He's wearing white boots do he's the more babyface.

Even Tyson's feeling the pain of this Sharpshooter.

Tweet 29: CJ tapped to the Sharpshooter. That result shouldn't surprise anyone.
Tweet 30: Tyson saying he'll excellently execute Finn Bálor next week. So there we are. That's something.

Enzo Amore, Big Cass and Carmella have a chat backstage

Tweet 31: Carmella, Enzo and Big Cass. Remember that they exist? They gotta match, bro!

Enzo Amore and Big Cass v Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder

Tweet 32: Fascinated by Enzo's modern day Road Dogg shtick.
Tweet 33: The Mechanics! YES!
Tweet 34: They weren't referred to as The Mechanics though. Guessing that name's been dropped. Bad call, booking boys.
Tweet 35: Rock, paper, scissors just confirms that Enzo and Cass are intended as a modern day New Age Outlaws. Which I'm cool with, for the record.

Leopard print is back in.

Tweet 36: If Jim Cornette were with WWE today Dawson and Wilder are the kind of team he'd be managing.
Tweet 37: The Ascension attack both teams after the match. Because why not?
Tweet 38: Viktor's chatting about Bálor too. He's a popular man.
Tweet 39: "The Ascension will rise again!" - Konor, who should have said they'd ascend, because grammar lols

Sami Zayn promo, featuring Adrian Neville and William Regal

Tweet 40: Sami Zayn has wonderful dress sense.
Tweet 41: Another airing for the last week video? That's another questionable bit of editing. Maybe they've got some new students in.
Tweet 42: Adrian Neville is dressed like 1999 Matt Hardy.
Tweet 43: Stick him in a tag team with Michael Hayes.
Tweet 44: "Regaaaaaal!" - Some woman in the audience at the mention of William Regal

Solid promo work from two guys not known as great talkers. Promising.

Tweet 45: Great work from both guys here. Zayn making the title seem important and his motivations clear. Sympathetic character.
Tweet 46: Neville doing good work as the allegedly fightin' champs with ever so slight shades of villainy to him.
Tweet 47: And speaking of villains: William Regal.
Tweet 48: Regal announcing a Takeover event with textspeak in the title to end the show sums this episode up nicely.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Survivor Series 2014 preview

This year’s Survivor Series is a notable WWE pay-per-view for a number of reasons. Unfortunately none of those reasons are to do with the quality of current storylines or a hotly anticipated match. Those are things WWE should be striving to provide, because they’ve put themselves in a position of having to rely heavily on their Network, and the Network is ultimately going to succeed or fail based on giving people reason to invest in the WWE product. And what the sort of people willing to pay for subscriptions to a wrestling-themed streaming service are going to invest in is strong storylines and hot match-ups.

Instead the 2014 Survivor Series is notable for being the first pay-per-view WWE has ever produced that will be available for free (making the already iffy pay-per-view label even stranger). The reason for this offer is to attract subscribers to the Network. It’s a good idea in theory (as I’ve written here). Giving away what is generally thought of as a major event (thanks to the days of the Big Four which actually ended nineteen years ago) for free is a excellent way of enticing people to sign up to the Network, and once they’re signed up they can be persuaded to remain signed up after the show.

But this ploy is only going to work if Survivor Series has a good enough card to encourage the initial sign-ups and the content of the Network is sufficiently enjoyable to keep people hooked. I can’t speak to the latter because WWE and Sky have gone full on heel and halted the release of the Network in Britain and Ireland. But I do know that they haven’t managed the former.

There are two matches announced for Survivor Series that could be considered big. The first is the traditional ten man elimination match. The second is Dean Ambrose versus Bray Wyatt. The tag match has been hyped well (thanks mostly to the sterling November 3 episode of RAW) and has significant storyline implications. But the trouble it has is that nobody really expects it to be much good. It is not hotly anticipated. I mean, how can it be with Mark Henry, Big Show, and Kane involved? Ultimately all the storyline implication means is that we’ll get a hot finishing sequence as we’re kept guessing as to who will win and how.

This match does few favours for the rest of the card. It’s deprived us of a number of logical singles bouts. While the likes of Rusev v Sheamus and Big Show v Mark Henry wouldn’t have been anything particularly amazing they would have at least had meaning to them. Their addition to the main event would have been ideal if WWE programming were brimming with exciting rivalries to fill the undercard.

But it’s not. So we have a top-heavy show with everyone of note piled into one match in the hope that it will appear exciting and momentous enough to encourage people to take advantage of the Network’s free month offer. I’m sure it’ll get some people. I’m just not sure it will be as successful as a more even card would be.

Ignoring how important it is to the Network and the fact that it’s depriving the show of some logical singles matches the ten man tag looks good. If nothing else it will be interesting to see how the thing’s structured, as is usually the case with matches like these. It seems safe to assume that Kane, Henry, and Show will not play major roles and will be amongst the first out, because they’re not as important to current plots or future plans. To a slightly lesser extent the same probably holds true for Luke Harper and too.

What’s interesting when noting that is that three of those four names are on The Authority’s team. Assuming those four are the first out (unlikely, as it’s probable at least one major name will go before all four are gone to help with the pacing, but bear with me) it would leave Cena and his gang with a four on two advantage. That would seem like a natural time for WWE to implement their seemingly inevitable swerve turn (written about in greater detail here).

This is what this year’s Survivor Series main event is about for me. Who’s going to defect from Cena’s team and help The Authority stay in power and, to a lesser extent, what is the finishing sequence going to be? I’m expecting The Authority to win because what sense would it make for them to lose and not be in charge of RAW? Sheamus strikes me as the likeliest man to turn because his character is in desperate need of a change and he seems like a natural choice for a placeholder feud with Cena before he challenges Lesnar for the world championship at Royal Rumble at the end of January.

But he’s not actually a part of the match. It’s still possible he could turn, coming in to replace someone who’s suffered a mid-match injury before shockingly double-crossing Cena and Brogue kicking one of his team mates to help out Team Trips.

Shaymo isn’t the only guy we could see running in on the Survivors main event. Bad News Barrett has been announced for the event but we don’t know what he’ll be doing. Roman Reigns could be closer to recovering from his hernia surgery than we’ve been led to believe, setting him up as some sort of saviour for Team Cena. There’s Randy Orton too. He was written off TV to star in a WWE Studios movie a few weeks ago but a one night return before coming back full time in a few weeks isn’t out of the question. With Survivor Series being held in his hometown of St Louis it would be mad for WWE not to use him in some capacity, even if it’s a post-match run-in.

It would make sense for Seth Rollins to be amongst the surviving members of Team Authority. He’s been set up as the top active heel on the roster and is consistently booked as the man who wangles his way through tough spots, always just managing to come out on top. It wouldn’t need to be clean, but Rollins getting the final and deciding pinfall on Cena, ensuring his mentor stays in control, would be a perfect way to get more heat on him.

As for the other eliminations... well, I’ve already written it’s hard to say what will happen. Rusev and Ryback seem likely to receive the standard Survivor Series trick of a double count out elimination as they brawl to the back. That would keep ‘The Bulgarian Brute’s’ unpinned and unsubmitted streak alive, protect the recently repushed ‘Big Guy’ and  create a reason for Rusev versus Ryback at TLC in December. Ziggler eliminating Harper seems plausible as it would prove ‘The Show Off’ can beat him and didn’t deserve to lose the IC strap on RAW (not that anyone would consider that match fair anyway). Henry and Show seem likely to be tied to one another in the bout. Henners getting eliminated by Show before attacking him unfairly afterwards to set up ‘The Giant’s’ elimination seems simple enough.

Ultimately I think the bulk of the match will revolve around Cena, Ziggler and Rollins. It’s possible another heel will last into the final stretch to make things more even. If so it should be Harper or Rusev to get them some credibility. But it will probably be Mark Henry.

All in all there’s a lot that can be done with the ten man main event so it’s unlikely to be boring. But it’s not looking like an all-time classic match. With the result obviously playing a factor on the opening segment of the following evening’s RAW the promise of an unpredictable but sloppy match likely won’t be enough to convince that many people to check the show out.

The Ambrose v Wyatt match is the second biggest match on the card because of how over the two men are, not because of how it’s been booked. Because it’s been booked pretty poorly. Wyatt has again fallen into the trap of not making it entirely clear what his issue is (as happened with Jericho). I’m fine with his promos being heavy on nonsense, but he should at least try to get across what he wants with the people he’s targeting. Ambrose has done his best to salvage things, but when he’s been booked opposite a man who can magically teleport around an arena there’s only so much he can do. It’s another match hard to describe as hotly anticipated.

That said the match could be excellent. ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ has had some superb matches opposite Seth Rollins this year. ‘The Eater of Worlds’ has been hampered by peculiar booking choices but he didn’t do horrible work opposite John Cena in the spring and he had a belter against Daniel Bryan at the Rumble. They seem like guys who’d have good matches together. Hopefully they do.

I’ll go with Wyatt as a winner via nonsense, because that would be the easier way of keeping the programme alive for another month. It could just as easily be Ambrose though.

The rest of the card is, as already stated, not exactly stellar. The highlight is probably the four-way tag title match in which Goldust and Stardust will defend against the Usos, Los Matadores and The Miz and Damien Mizdow. Yes, another PPV meeting for the dusts and Rikishi’s lads. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff, is it? Los Matadores should spice things up and Mizdow’s involvement should ensure the crowd are hot (although I’m concerned that El Torito being there will mean we get Hornswoggle as MiniMiz again). The tag scene could do with a change and Miz and Mizdow would benefit from getting the straps. It might be wishful thinking but I’ll pick them as winners.

The other two announced matches are Divas matches. First there’s the obligatory time-filling elimination tag bout pitting Team Paige, consisting of Paige, Cameron, Layla and Summer Rae, against Team Fox, consisting of Alicia Fox, Emma, Naomi and Natalya. If it comes down to Paige and Natalya we could be in for a treat, but that’s not likely. Paige should win though, seeing as she’s easily the most heavily pushed of the eight ladies.

The other Divas match will see AJ Lee defend the championship against Nikki Bella. I think if this match gets some time it could be very good. AJ generally gets responses from audiences while Nikki is over as the company’s premier in-ring villainess, and both can turn out solid matches when they’re awarded the time to do so. With the list of matches pretty slender there’s a good chance they’ll get in excess of ten minutes.

It’s tough to pick a winner. There are rumours floating around (but not for the first time) that AJ will be leaving WWE shortly after the show. That would make it sensible for her to lose the gold to Nikki, who could then resume her feud with sister Brie. The trouble with that is that Vince McMahon has apparently decreed that no member of the Total Divas cast is to win the Divas championship, because it creates inconsistencies with the two shows (what with TD being filmed months in advance). The show may not be on the air right now but putting the title onto Nikki would still put WWE in a tough spot regarding Vince’s clause because the only person she could logically drop it to is also a member of the cast.

I’m going to ignore the Total Divas aspect (not least because practically every woman on the roster is on the reality show anyway) and pick Nikki to win. Brie still being her assistant just sets up a very obvious scenario: Nikki forces Brie to help to win the championship, adding another layer to Brie’s quest for revenge once the assistant stip comes to a close.

On the whole Survivor Series looks quite good. All the matches should have something to offer and the main event guarantees at least one major storyline development. While I don’t think it’s the best card to encourage Network sign-ups it certainly won’t actively discourage people from subscribing. With this card it seems as though WWE is moving in the right direction. But it doesn’t seem like they’re doing so quite fast enough.


Predictions summary:
Team Authority to defeat Team Cena for control of the (WWE) universe
Bray Wyatt to defeat Dean Ambrose
The Miz and Damien Mizdow to win the tag team championship
Nikki Bella to defeat AJ Lee for the Divas championship
Paige to be the sole survivor in her Survivor Series match

Team Cena members:
John Cena
Dolph Ziggler
Big Show
Erick Rowan

Team Authority members:
Seth Rollins
Luke Harper
Mark Henry