Thursday 30 April 2015

All Dolled Up

NXT has been praised for its booking of female wrestlers for a while wow. Rightly so. The women's division of the WWE developmental league is significantly better than the Divas division of the main roster, featuring better matches fought between more over performers with better defined characters. But while NXT remains the wrestling TV show of choice for women's wrestling (and wrestling in general, for that matter) TNA have recently tried to steal some of its thunder.

The March 24 episode of Impact was advertised as being built around the Knockouts division. As things turned out this was a lie but only a minor one. The all important opening and closing segments both featured Kurt Angle, Austin Aries and Eric Young and there didn't seem to be any fewer lads matches than normal. But although the KOs didn't receive top billing or get either of the big star slots they were granted plenty of time on the show.

The first of the three women's matches to take place was a four-way between Gail Kim, Madison Rayne, Brooke Nosurnameallowed, and Angelina Love. Although it wasn't as long as it could have been the four made excellent use of what time they had and pumped out a very good match. It was pretty much a case of the writing team slinging some bodies into a match because they had nothing else for them to do but they made it work. If nothing else this match served as a reminder that the Knockouts can have great matches when given the opportunity.

Sadly the debut of the Doll House faction didn't go as smoothly. Considering they were making their first appearance this segment should have had a fair bit of attention paid to it to ensure that members Jade and Marti Bell looked as strong as possible. That Jade lost by disqualification to a woman being presented as a jobber and only got her heat back by bullying Christie Hemme indicates that the writing team's attention was elsewhere.

The spark the Knockout division's been needing? Maybe.
Thankfully there was more planned for the Doll House later in the show which helped them to make the impression they deserved. During a no DQ match for the Knockouts championship Jade and Marti returned to the ring and helped champ Taryn Terrell power bomb challenger Awesome Kong through a table (sort of), allowing her to retain her gold. They celebrated with the champion afterwards as she took a microphone and confirmed that she was a member of the faction.

None of this is the most imaginative wrestling writing ever. But it is a promising sign from the frequently frustrating TNA. Jade, more commonly known as Mia Yim, is a good-looking, talented wrestler, exactly the sort of woman TNA should be signing for their depleted division. I'm less familiar with Marti Bell but from what I've seen she's solid enough in the ring. The heel turn of Taryn was good in that it was unexpected and gives her a chance to do something new, although the downside is that she seemed to be quite liked by TNA fans and worked well as an overmatched babyface. It also leaves the Knockouts division bare on the babyface front, with Gail Kim and Kong being the only performers left not playing baddies.

But these negatives aren't catastrophic or beyond fixing. Terrell can switch to wrestling interference-heavy matches now that she's the head of a stable, disguising her limitations in a different way. One or two women could be turned face to even things up a bit and the already popular Rebel could have her in-ring role increased (although not before she's improved as a wrestler, ideally).

TNA deserves credit for doing something to change up their Knockouts division because it's one of the areas in which they can upstage WWE. If the league did more with its Knockouts and the X Division lads its shows would more readily feel different to those of WWE which would allow TNA to more successfully position itself as the alternative brand it's so desperate to be. The Night of Knockouts may have featured a duff debut but the match quality was strong. Imagine how good the Knockouts division could get if the writers were as good at their job as the wrestlers are at theirs. But then that's true for TNA in general.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

WWE King of the Ring 2015 review

As part of an effort to load up the Network with original programming for a week the decision was made to resurrect the King of the Ring tournament. The reasoning behind creating a "packed" week on the Network was that it would encourage those experiencing a free trial to sign up as full members. Whether or not a live Chris Jericho podcast with Stephanie McMahon and a Mick Foley comedy special are enough to get that done I don't know, but I suspect they are not.

I also suspect that King of the Ring, done in the style it was, was not a subscriptions winner either. The announcement that what was once a fairly prestigious tournament was made on Sunday night. By Tuesday evening the tournament had concluded. This brevity goes a long way towards explaining what was wrong with the approach. What could comfortably have provided the Network with original programming for a month was crammed into two nights, only one of which benefited the Network.

Had the longer course been taken the tournament would have seemed more prestigious and the accomplishment of winning would have seemed greater. More could have been made of the tourney's history and status as a career launcher. That status is admittedly spectacularly hit-and-miss (for every Steve Austin there's a Mabel) but the less impressive winners could have been downplayed or flat out ignored.

Delaying the opening bracket until Tuesday, instead of racing everything through, would have created time for guys to go out on RAW and discuss their desire to be entered into the tournament and win it. The course actually taken left no time for this, which contributed to the overall rushed feel of the thing.

Finally, there were the entrants. For the most part the choices were fine. Ambrose, Ziggler, Sheamus, Harper and Barrett were all perfectly logical additions. Stardust was a mild surprise, given the writing team's disinterest in him since WrestleMania. Neville, the man who sold his first name for a shot on the main roster, was an obvious addition too. As a newcomer he benefited from being put n the same level as other names involved in the tournament.

The only actively bad entrant was R-Truth. The man is on the same level as the likes of Curtis Axel and Heath Slater, losing almost all of his matches and sticking around on the roster as a featured good guy jobber. There's nothing wrong with a guy having this position (someone needs to fill it) but entering such a guy into an eight man tournament is stupid. It dilutes the meaning of the tournament if someone who loses all the time gets entered and it denies younger, more popular guys an opportunity for more screen time. Damien Sandow, Ryback, Cearo, Tyson Kidd, Kalisto, or any member of New Day would have been a better choice than Truth. In fact, the entire thing could probably have been fleshed out to include sixteen men without any difficulty (although that would have necessitated the longer approach WWE seemed to want to avoid).

Two former Dragon Gate lads getting some King of the Ring action.
Three of the four opening round matches on RAW were enjoyable. Ambrose and Sheamus showed that they work well opposite one another. A series between them wouldn't be the worst thing WWE could do. Ziggler v Barrett was good but a tad on the basic side, perhaps due to the fact that the pair have worked with one another before and failed to give us anything new here. Stardust v R-Truth was bad. It was always going to be but it was made worse by 'The Suntan Superman' winning. Neville versus Harper was a truly great match. Although it was disappointing to see Harper lose again he wasn't weakened by the loss because the match was so competitive. And, y'know, wins and losses mean little in WWE anyway.

The King of the Ring show opened with a video package highlighting past kings. In order, we saw Austin, Triple H, Lesnar, Randy Savage, Booker T, Harley Race, Bret Hart, Edge, and Sheamus. This was a solid acknowledgement to the tourney's history but far more could have been done with more time. Jerry Lawler was introduced to cut a promo explaining how a tournament works (yes, really) and cue up a recap of the four matches the night before. It was filler material as much as anything.

Backstage Sheamus cut a promo designed to show that he was looking past Adrian Neville to the finals. It was basic but it did its job. Elsewhere in the building Nev told Renee Young that he intended win the tournament. He was mostly pretty humble about the achievements he'd made in his month on the main roster. It's a shame that he's not allowed to show the arrogant streak he had in NXT but nuance isn't a thing that guys are allowed on the main roster. He did get to reference NXT though, which was something.

Even though they didn't deviate much form the standard TV formula they produced a good match. 'Great White' knocked Neville about. Neville kept coming back for more because he's plucky. Eventually Dolph Ziggler came out and brought up footage of him beating Shaymo at Extreme Rules. This threw Sheamus off, causing him to miss a Brogue kick which allowed Neville to hit him with a roundhouse and the Red Arrow for the victory. The finish was cheap but that's not a surprise. WWE wanted to have Sheamus lose but they weren't prepared to have Neville beat him clean.

After the match Ziggler rushed the ring and attacked Sheamus. They had a bit of a scuffle before being separated by referees. This was all the evidence needed to show that King of the Ring was just a veil to book the usual stuff around.

Backstage again Bad News Barrett said R-Truth should be more worried about him than spiders. This was in response to Truth saying that if he became King he'd banish spiders from WWE. Barrett ended up saying he'd win. But he wouldn't say anything else, would he? The spider talk was quite possibly the reason Truth got added to the tournament. It's the sort of humour Vince loves. You only needed to watch Truth's promo with Saxton to see that. He spent the entire time talking about his dislike of spiders, instead of putting over his opponent or the tournament he was involved in.

The Truth versus Barrett match was better than I'd expected. But then I hadn't expected much so that's not saying a great deal. Bad News got the most predictable win of the tournament with the Bullhammer elbow.

Backstage one again Renee asked Dolph about his accidental assist to Sheamus on RAW (he attacked Sheamus, giving him a win by disqualification). 'The Show Off' called Sheamus a bully and made it clear he was keen on getting another match with him. Barrett and Neville were also interviewed again. They both predicted victories. That was about it.

The King of the Ring finals pitted two Englishmen against each other in a rematch from the Extreme Rules pre-show. That was yet another blow to the tournament's shaky standing: neither man was important enough to appear on the most recent pay-per-view. In fairness having the finals be a rematch of a recent meeting did add something. We knew that Neville could beat Barrett if things went right for him, which made the match seem more predictable than it likely would have been otherwise.

King Bad News I.
But this was not Extreme Rules. It was Barrett's brutality against Neville's speed and well-placed kicks, and the brutality won out. The story of the match was that Neville's inexperience relative to Barrett and the pasting he'd taken form Sheamus combined to create an insurmountable struggle for him. He had a handful of hopes spots and got in some nice moves, including a lovely top rope Asai moonsault and a deadlift German suplex, but ultimately Neville fell to the Bullhammer after missing the Red Arrow. While the match wasn't bad it could have been a lot better, a fitting end to a rushed King of the Ring.

Although I've knocked this King of the Ring a fair bit there were things to enjoy. Barrett winning, for example, is not the worst thing in the world and while none of the matches were all-time classics the match quality was of a high standard. Having Neville advance to the finals was good too, and he wasn't made to look like a pushover in his final defeat. The King of the Ring format is one that could really work well on the Network. I'd like to see it brought back again next year. If it's given more attention and the winner is given a sustained push (somehow I don't think that's going to be the case for King Bad News) it could be turned into the launching pad it was at times in the nineties.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Daniel Bryan's Achilles' Neck

If you watched Extreme Rules you'll know that Daniel Bryan didn't defend the Intercontinental championship as planned. He was officially pulled from his match against Bad News Barrett hours before the show aired because he wasn't medically cleared to compete. The issue was with a concussion, nagging neck issues or a knee problem, depending on your source of choice (personally I think the neck thing seems likeliest). Almost the exact same thing happened to Bryan last year. After winning the WWE championship at WrestleMania XXX he made one pay-per-view defence (against Kane, of all people) before being pulled from action by WWE's medical staff. He eventually vacated the championship and took time off for neck surgery and rehab.

That history has repeated itself, and so soon, will surely prompt WWE to assess the way they use Bryan, which is a shame because he's a dedicated, talented man who worked hard for years to make it to WWE and gain acceptance with their audience (and management team). The more he's afflicted by health problems the more it seems that the wrestling style that initially got him signed is catching up to him. It's a sad, ironic twist worthy of the finest wrestling storyline.

This man has had no luck with
title reigns over the last two years.
Obviously the right thing has been done by Bryan in the short term. He's been taken off TV and will presumably return only when he's healthy. Ultimately though, a long term solution is required to this problem. The fact that Bryan has been having these issues, on and off, for well over a year and that they resurfaced so soon after his return from a lengthy layoff indicates that there's something serious that needs addressing. While part of the problem can probably be taken as Bryan pushing himself too hard and coming back earlier than he probably should have done the issue is very likely something that's going to keep cropping up regardless of how hard Bryan pushes himself.

There are several options open to WWE. They can send Bryan home for months, possibly even years, and not use him as a wrestler again until he's passed the strictest medical tests. They can stop using him as a wrestler and keep him on TV in an authority figure role. They can lighten his schedule, giving him more time off to rest his knackered body. Or they can take the incredibly extreme route and release him from his contract.

The first option would be best for Bryan. He'd be getting paid to get himself healthy. Were he to be released (an extreme option, as I'll discuss below) he'd almost certainly begin taking non-WWE bookings at the first opportunity, which would not help whatever his current medical problems are. But if he remained under WWE contract he wouldn't be able to do this. WWE would benefit from this too, keeping access to a popular performer for their various media efforts and looking like a benevolent outfit. They'd look like scumbags if they released him.

The lengthy layoff doesn't seem likely though, not least because Bryan will apparently be cleared within a few months and is keen to get back. Only the incredibly useless or the incredibly useful get paid to sit at home by WWE. Look no further than JTG for a useless example and Shawn Michaels for a useful one. Bryan is clearly closer to the HBK end of the spectrum but I don't think he's quite useful enough to earn an extended rest break. There's also the fact that he may not want one and request a release if WWE stopped booking him.

Keeping him on TV and recasting him as a commissioner, commentator or manager would encourage Bryan to rest and keep a bigger name on television but it wouldn't play to his strengths. Bryan can handle the occasional lengthy promo but he couldn't spout the plot points needed for an authority role. Plus that scene's flooded with better suited talent at present, most notably Triple H and Steph McMahon.

The idea of Bryan as a manager anywhere in wrestling is ridiculous. He could probably make a good colour commentator for a company like Ring of Honor (especially when you consider his status in that promotion) but he'd be lost in the role in WWE. And again there's the issue of there being no vacancies anyway.

Releasing him would be, as noted, extreme. WWE have released one prominent star in relatively recent memory: Kurt Angle was cut loose in 2006 when he refused to take time off or go to rehab to combat his neck and addiction problems. This is about the closest parallel I can think of but it's still not especially strong. Nothing indicates Bryan has turned down help and he's definitely not coping with the addictions Angle had. There's also the fact that even though his stock had fallen by the late summer of '06 Angle was still probably more highly regarded by the WWE office than D-Bry is now.

The biggest difference in the two situations is WWE itself. In 2006 WWE was only just getting into the swing of drug testing. It was years away from being as coma aware a company as it is now. In other words, it wasn't a company as concerned with presenting itself as caring and considerate as it is now. This may sound cynical and to be honest it probably is but I don't believe the majority of WWE's management team care overly about the health of their in-ring performers because so much of the way the company operates contradicts that claim. But they do care about being seen to care and a by-product of that is that working conditions have improved, for the appearance of the thing as much as anything else.

All of which is a bit of a tangent. The bottom line is that I think it would take some very serious and unpredictable exchanges for WWE to reach the point where they're releasing Daniel Bryan, freeing him up to head to New Japan to get kicked in the head by Shinsuke Nakamura.

Personally I think the best thing WWE could do with Daniel Bryan right now would be to put him in a tag team. This would have several benefits. Firstly it would cut down on his in-ring time without affecting his TV time or house show schedule. It would encourage him to work a safer, or at least less spot-heavy, style. It would give the tag division a boost, which could tie in nicely to the recent great work done by New Day and the Brass Ring Club. Finally teaming with Bryan would be a good way to elevate someone.

I think the ideal candidate for a D-Bry partner is Dolph Ziggler. He wrestles at a similarly swift pace, he's every bit as popular, he could take a beating to set up a hot tag to 'The People's Elixir', and there are entertaining (to me, if nobody else) team names in Team DBZ or The DB-DZ Connection waiting to be used. No, strictly speaking 'The Show Off' doesn't actually need elevating but together I think Bryan and Ziggler could make the tag team championship mean more than it has in years. That, along with the health benefits for Bryan, makes it worth trying, in my opinion.

Monday 27 April 2015

WWE Extreme Rules 2015 review

The Extreme Rules card didn't do much to fill me with positivity in the weeks leading up to the show. There were some odd stipulation choices and a handful of matches that seemed hastily put together to fill up the minutes. The announcement hours before the show that Daniel Bryan would not be defending his Intercontinental title as advertised didn't help matters, although it did at least see the New Day v Cesaro and Tyson Kidd match bumped up from the pre-show to the pay-per-view proper. All four men deserved that and it was nice to see but it wasn't enough to change my feelings on the show.

The replacement pre-show match pitted (don't call him Adrian) Neville against Bad News Barrett. Nev won with the Red Arrow. The PPV got underway with the Dean Ambrose versus Luke Harper street fight. It struck me as an odd choice for the opener but I can't really say why. Both men are established in their respective roles, with Ambrose being particularly popular, and the stipulation allowed for a crowd-pleasing, arena-touring brawl. Part of the reason for the decision became clear around ten minutes into the fight. After using chairs, ring steps, and kendo sticks on one another the pair brawled up the aisle, through the Gorilla Position and into the backstage area where Harper hijacked a car and drove off with 'The Lunatic Fringe' dangling out of the window. The commentary team feigned incredulity and laboriously conjectured that the match would continue because there were no count outs in a street fight. Meanwhile the crowd chanted for CM Punk.

Backstage Triple H asked Kane to go and find Harper and Ambrose. 'The Game' neglected to say how he expected Kane to accomplish this. Not that that matters: Kane didn't interact with Harper, Ambrose or Tripper again on the show. Rollins showed up and bickered with 'The Big Red Machine'. Trips took Seth's side and said he wanted to be able to rely on Kane as "the gatekeeper". Kane said he'd do what was best for business. Basically Kane was set up as a face. Because what 2015 needs is Kane in a world title feud.

Get your roots done, Ziggler mate.
The "Kiss Me Arse" match went on second. Jojo did a wonderful job of butchering the pronunciation. She'll go far. The match was slow in places, the result of a few too many rest spots, but on the whole it was good. Ziggler and Shaymo work well together, their respective super-selling and slobber-knocking offence meshing nicely. In a surprise result it was 'The Show Off' who got the win with a desperation small package, Sheamus having dominated the match.

Sheamus did an amazing job of selling the loss. His facial expressions were perfect. After a great deal of stalling and teasing that he'd go through with it, during which the audience chanted "Pucker up!", Sheamus got down onto his knees and gave Ziggler a low blow and a Brogue kick. He then rubbed the unconscious Ziggler's face against the cheek of his backside and wandered backstage. He got heat for attacking Ziggles but the crowd cooled off a little for the "kissing". Maybe this isn't the guaranteed heat generator it was a decade ago, guys. Try something a bit less ridiculous.

That wasn't followed by a tedious advert for WWE Network programming, including a Jerry Springer show "too hot for TV", a Mick Foley comedy special, Jericho's nauseating podcast, and the return of the King of the Ring tournament. In what must come as a surprise to absolutely nobody JBL, Cole and 'King' were excited by all of this. Sadly, they stopped short of having Lawler talk about he likes things that are too hot for TV.

I'm a big fan of Natty.
Match number three was for the tag team championships. Heat magnets New Day, represented by Big E and Kofi Kingston, challenged Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, accompanied by a fetishwear-clad Natalya. This was the match of the night. With no silly stories or stipulations to work with the four men in the ring, and Natalya and Xavier Woods outside of it, could concentrate on telling a fun story using the fact that New Day are genuinely disliked. This is what WWE's mid-card should be like all the time. It's depressing that they so rarely get it right.

It was great to see Kofi feeling to play heel after he's apparently wanted to try that out for years, while Big E looked more confident than he has since his time as Ziggler's bodyguard. A highlight of the match saw Cesaro catch Big E in mid-air, drop him with a suplex and then give him a firm double stomp. He followed up with a subtle "Heeeeeey!", a treat for the more hardcore fans in the building. Kidd was as proficient as always, making Big E's big spear off the apron look particularly good.

The finish played into New Day's new found willingness to cheat, getting over their characters and giving people another reason to hate on them. Cesaro and Kidd blasted Kingston with the drop kick-Big Swing combo. Woods leapt onto the apron to distract the referee, saving the match for his team, before being pulled down to the floor and slapped by Natalya. Kidd, Big E and Cesaro eliminated one another from proceedings before Kingston finished things off with a roll up and a handful of tights on Cesaro. This was the right result with the right finish. New Day are a hot act and WWE are right to capitalise on that. Cesaro and Kidd should work nicely as the chasing babyfaces.

C-Z-dubb! C-Z-dubb! C-Z-dubb!
As the new champions cut a promo backstage with Renee Young (they were happy, obvs) a car pulled up and Luke Harper tumbled out. New Day gathered round him as Dean Ambrose leapt off the car. Harper ran off and New Day took Ambrose's elbow. The pair headed back into the arena and filled the ring with chairs. Harper power bombed Ambrose onto one. Ambrose kicked out. Harper buried him in chairs then lumbered to the top rope for a splash but Ambrose scrambled to his feet, threw him onto the pile of chairs (well, sort of) then gave him Dirty Deeds (not on a chair) for the win.

The Russian chain match was up after that. The rules were that the chain was legal (clearly) and that the winner would be the first man to touch all four ring posts in succession. To help with the clarity of the ring post-touching lights were installed, lighting up to signify who'd touched what. Rusev's light was red, naturally. Because he's a communist. Good work, creative team!

The match did not match up to Cena and Rusev's previous two PPV encounters. It wasn't drastically worse though. And I enjoyed it more than the awkwardly split street fight. Around five minutes before the match was won the audience started chanting for Lana. She got up onto the apron and waved. This incensed Rusev, who ordered her backstage. Lana, like Sheamus earlier, did a superb job of making the moment work with her facial expressions. She looked genuinely distraught and suitably chastened.

It's the immoveable object versus the immoveable object.
After the pair had run through the Five Knuckle Shuffle routine and Cena had hit an AA, Rusev locked on the Accolade. Cena broke it by powering to his feet and slamming Rusev into two turnbuckles. This led to a teased Rusev victory as the breaks had counted as corner touches. Moments later there would be a similarly forced tease. Ultimately it was Cena who won: he and Rusev touched three corners apiece and had a standoff. Rusev, that foolish, impulsive communist, dashed for the final corner. Cena, that smart, plucky American, pulled him back to the centre of the ring using the chain and flattened him with an AA, allowing him to touch the turnbuckle and win.

In the back Roman Reigns told Renee Young he could get knocked down but couldn't be kept down. It was one of his better promos, which isn't to say it was especially good. Be'lee dat.

Nikki Bella and Naomi had a sloppy but energetic match for the Divas championship. Despite being faces the Bellas cheated to win: Brie gave Naomi a roundhouse kick, allowing Nikki to hoist her up for a Rack Attack. Perhaps the most notable thing about the match was that newly established face-heel dynamic between Nikki and Naomi was accepted. That bodes well for both women, especially when you consider that they were in Chicago, a notoriously awkward town for less appreciated performers like Nikki.

That was followed by a backstage segment in which Rusev screamed at Lana, presumably for being a daring to acknowledge the audience's chants for her instead of standing at ringside and offering him encouragement. He stormed off and Lana went and knocked on The Authority's door. How do I know it was their door? Because not only did it say so, it had a little coat of arms attached to the wall.

This does not keep Roman strong.
Big Show and Roman Reigns' Last Man Standing match was not the brisk, one-sided affair it should have been. That would have done Reigns a lot of good, establishing him as a focused, efficient ass-kicker who can demolish mere mortals who aren't in his league (and we're meant to see Show as beneath Reigns, despite WWE's weird booking choices). What we got instead was a near twenty minute affair that saw the 29-year-old powerhouse Reigns dominated for lengthy stretches by the 43-year-old slouch Big Show. Despite the use of tables and Reigns spearing Show through the crowd barrier the highlight of the match was Show seeing "Big Show needs to lose weight" written on JBL's notepad and shouting at him about it.

The finish was memorable, if fairly ridiculous. Reigns speared Show through the Spanish  announce table then tipped the English announce table on top of him. He then stood on it to stop 'The Giant' from getting up. Apparently this is supposed to encourage people to buy into Reigns as a credible headliner.

The tease of a Kane face turn continued after that. Randy Orton got in his ear, reminding him that he's a monster and that The Authority are just using him to keep the world title on Rollins. It was a nothing segment. I only mention it because it played into the main event.

Before that main event Bo Dallas walked to the ring and cut a spectacular cheap heat promo on Chicago. Ryback came out to save the city's honour. That was risky considering the comments made about 'The Big Guy' by beloved Chicagoan CM Punk but it worked out okay: the audience chanted "Feed me more!" and popped for Ryback's spinebuster. I really wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason this was booked was to show Punk that Chicago could be enticed into cheering for a guy he doesn't personally rate.

The filler continued with Lana informing Rusev that his feud-ending encounter with Cena would come at Payback in an I Quit match. 'The Super Athlete' was very pleased with this. He said that this stipulation will allow him to demonstrate that the USA is a country of quitters. He didn't specify how it would allow him to do this though. My early thoughts on the match are that it could be pretty good but that it's not really necessary. Cena has beaten Rusev in two of their three matches. The feud is, to all intents and purposes, over and Cena's won it.

The Orton v Rollins cage match was not as good as I'd hoped it would be. With a bit of effort this could have been a memorable match. As it was it didn't even get match of the night honours. The pace was closer to the Orton norm than the Rollins norm, meaning it had a lot of stalling and rest holds. This was particularly disappointing given that they were in a cage (traditionally a more wild environment, jarring with the sleeper-fest) and they're both capable of very athletic showings. Plus they were going for pinfalls, something I'm never a fan of in cage matches. It should be win via escape or nothing.

The match was also bogged down with Kane-related foolishness. He first got involved when Noble and Mercury appeared at ringside and asked to be let into the cage. He told them no so they tried climbing in. Orty disposed of them by throwing Rollins into the cage and knocking them to the floor. Next he glared at Orton when Orton went to leave the cage. Orton glared back and turned around to give Rollins a draping DDT and a Pedigree. The latter was one of the nicer touches of the match, both playing into the stipulation that the RKO was banned and Orton's history with on-screen boss and Rollins endorser Triple H.

Orton went for his punt kick but 'The Future' moved and gave him a Pele kick. Kane opened the door when Rollins asked him to but Orton gave him a backbreaker before he could escape. The door was closed, quite politely considering the circumstances, when Orty tried to walk out moments later. Then Rollins ruined everything by diving into the cage door and knocking Kane over. Because if there's one thing a twenty year wrestling veteran doesn't like it's being knocked over while standing at ringside.

Seth wins lol.
Orton and Rollins fought in the doorway as Kane got back up and smashed the door on their heads. 'The Devil's Favourite Demon' got into the ring and loomed over Rollins. J&J tried stopping him but got double choke slammed. Kane then choke slammed Orton and Rollins and pulled Rollins on top of Orton. 'The Viper' kicked out, which seemed to surprise the crowd. Orton got back up, escaped a Tombstone attempt and dropped Kane with an RKO. Then Rollins gave Orton an RKO and rolled out of the cage to retain his title.

The show ended with JBL, Cole and 'King' bickering about whether the RKO was legal. JBL felt that the move was legal for Rollins while Lawler and Maggle felt it had been banned from the match as a whole. This confusion sums up how I feel up Extreme Rules: how did it end up this bad?


Results summary:
Dolph Ziggler defeated Sheamus
New Day defeated Cesaro and Tyson Kidd to win the tag team championship
Dean Ambrose defeated Luke Harper
John Cena defeated Rusev to retain the United States championship
Nikki Bella defeated Naomi to retain the Divas championship
Roman Reigns defeated Big Show
Seth Rollins defeated Randy Orton to retain the WWE championship

Sunday 26 April 2015

John Cena's Mid-Card Excursion

Four weeks ago John Cena won his first United States championship in over ten years, his fourth overall. I initially thought this was WWE's way of keeping him occupied while Seth Rollins enjoyed his inaugural reign as world champ. You know, before the trigger is pulled on Cena's journey to world title number sixteen, the reign which will tie him with Ric Flair for most world championship reigns ever (even though Flair has had a number of secret and unacknowledged reigns that take him above that official tally). 

This hasn't been the case. What I assumed was going to be nothing more than a bit of placeholder action has had meaning and purpose. Instead of running through the usual array of mediocre brawls and contracts signings opposite his rival (in this case the former US champ, Rusev) Cena has taken the weekly open challenge route.

John Cena: doing it for America!
This is a simple thing but it's worked wonders. It's opened Cena up to working with a wider variety of guys than he usually does. What are the chances of Stardust or Bad News Barrett getting to work with Cena if the open challenge wasn't on the books? Slim to none is my opinion. It's also meant we get a Cena match every week. He may not be the greatest wrestler ever, or even amongst the best in WWE, but he's not awful in small doses and his matches always get a reaction, which counts for a lot. Plus it keeps him away from lengthy promo segments. Those are a strength of his but he doesn't really keep them varied.

Basically, what's currently being done with Cena is what should have been done years ago. He's in a position to wrestle competitive matches with fresh opponents and newer names. The opponents get some exposure by working with the top boy and Cena gets to do something new. It's WWE finally doing something to prepare for the future.

No, nobody's beating Cena yet but that's not the purpose of the task. Cena isn't going to start losing every week. He's the company's top babyface. As a rule top babyfaces don't lose that often. They certainly don't lose to mid-carders on TV as a regular thing, even by count out or DQ. It's enough that Cena's in a position to wrestle these guys for now. The time will come where someone does beat him for the United States strap. It could happen on pay-per-view in a feature feud (like tonight against Rusev, although I really, really doubt that will happen) but it would be best if someone less established got an upset victory. It would be unexpected, give someone a huge boost, and contribute to making the US title mean something.

That last point hasn't been accomplished yet. Simply sticking the title on Cena was never going to be enough on its own. But it does mean more than it did on Rusev or Sheamus or Ambrose or anybody else who's held it over the last few years. The process of making the title mean something has been started. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Saturday 25 April 2015

NXTweet 22.04.15

It's not the rematch we wanted, but it's the rematch we deserved: Riley v Owens II. It happened and Riley lost, as he was always going to. More Owens versus Bálor, Zayn or Itami now please.


Tweet 1: It's NXTime.
Tweet 2: Psyched for this Alex Riley match. Lol, not really.

Finn Bálor v Tye Dillinger

Tweet 3: Can't wait to hear on "the dirt sheets" what Vince makes of Bálor's demon mode.
Tweet 4: Finn? Who's gonna get beaten up by a guy called Finn?

Easily WWE's best current entrance. Fact.

Tweet 5: I like Tye Dillinger's leather scarf. He'll go far with that and his haircut and his pseudo-Punisher emblem on his trunks.
Tweet 6: Graves doesn't shy away from highlighting the ridiculous aspects of what he's seeing. I approve. Adds credibility.
Tweet 7: I often wonder how guys like Dillinger, who have been linked to WWE for years on end and aren't especially good, would fair on the indies.
Tweet 8: Look! Look, everyone! It's Tyler!
Tweet 9: Breeze saying he's been dominating. So sexual. So needlessly, enjoyably sexual.
Tweet 10: I could get into Bálor v Breeze.

Dana Brooke talks to Devin Taylor

Tweet 11: Dana Brooke's valley girl voice. My word.
Tweet 12: That wasn't particularly strong verbal work but it wasn't horrendous. She's got time to improve. Charlotte did.

Kevin Owens talks to Devin Taylor

Tweet 13: Owens is about to talk about Alex Riley. Should be gold.
Tweet 14: I enjoyed that. Wasn't as lol as his recent Twitter work but it was never going to be.
Tweet 15: Imagine if it had been though. Imagine Owens going full Twitter mode on Riley on TV.

Number one contender match: Bayley v Becky Lynch v Charlotte

Tweet 16: Apathy reading: 10/10. Yeah, it's Becky Lynch.
Tweet 17: Two babyfaces teaming up against one heel. This won't work, guys...
Tweet 18: At some point I might hunt down a picture of Charlotte from when she debuted and compare it to her now. I bet the difference is massive.
Tweet 19: In my mind it's big. I bet it's bigger. The point I'm so eloquently making here is that Charlotte has changed a lot since signing with WWE.
Tweet 20: Sasha should have been on commentary for this match. Would have spiced up commentary and put over the women in the match as larger threats.
Tweet 21: That inverted figure four from Becky and Natural Selection from Charlotte was good.
Tweet 22: Charlotte just got an unexpected Doomsday Device on Lynch and didn't cover. n00b.
Tweet 23: Love the angle Charlotte gets on the figure four. Looks incredible.

You never saw 'Naitch' doing that, did ya?!

Tweet 24: That finish WWE acceptable in Axel v Miz v Barrett that one time because it didn't expect better.
Tweet 25: Disappointing something so cheap went down on NXT. But that's the point. Becky looks cheap. Charlotte's protected.
Tweet 26: Lynch does nothing for me as number one contender. But she's fresh in the role.
Tweet 27: Charlotte v Banks is played. Bayley can't keep challenging and losing. Too early for Dana and Carmella. Bliss has had a turn.

CJ Parker v Hideo Itami

Tweet 28: Pleased to get another CJ Parker match. Every week I see him I think it's the last.
Tweet 29: I like both guys but Itami v CJP doesn't sound like the best thing ever.
Tweet 30: Hoping CJ invests in better fitted trunks now he's a true independent contractor. The ones he's wearing here are unnecessarily skimpy.

This was about the best thing to happen in this match.

Tweet 31: I was right to be skeptical about this match.
Tweet 32: That could've gone better. The shotgun kick being Hideo's finish doesn't help.
Tweet 33: He needs something a little more dynamic for when he's not busting out the G2S.

Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks snipe at one another in a locker room

Tweet 34: "I'm kind of a big deal" - Becky Burgundy
Tweet 35: "Save it for the ring, Bosco" - Becky Lynch, with what I assume was a putdown
Tweet 36: That backstage exchange perfectly illustrated why I'm not especially interested in Lynch's title shot.

Rhyno v Jesus de Leon

Tweet 37: This lad has a fun look to him. Blatant Gore fodder though.

Those Captain America tights would get him a contract from me.

Tweet 38: The commentary team need to do a better job of putting over Rhyno's thighs.

Enzo, Big Cass and Carmella argue about jewellery backstage

Tweet 39: OMG Carmella's wearing Blake and Murphy's mall necklace gift. What a traitor!

Alex Riley v Kevin Owens


Tweet 41: Alex Riley smacking his hand against the ring steps. You know what that tells me? Riley is a MAN.
Tweet 42: Honestly though, the state of Ragin' Riley.
Tweet 43: Sickened by this crowd's lack of hatred for Riley.
Tweet 44: This match will end with Riley unleashing the power of Rage only to realise it's not enough. Owens will apron bomb and pin him.
Tweet 45: I still can't look at Alex Riley without seeing a textbook mid-90s WCW mid-carder.

Where's your rage now, Riley? Where's your rage now?

Tweet 46: "Look at that!" - Rich Brennan, who can't call the match because Riley's doing random nonsense instead of actual moves
Tweet 47: Lol at Graves saying Riley's calling on the power of RAGE.
Tweet 48: Alright. Riley's been beaten twice now. Can he just be released please. Let him take his natural place as TNA's new colour guy.
Tweet 49: Generico versus Steen: the feud that never ends.

Future WrestleMania main event? Maybe if Triple H gets The Book.

Tweet 50: Referees and young boys out to pull the lads apart and go on crash mat duty. Triple H pulling plays from the Heyman play book.
Tweet 51: Really good show that. Good hustle, everyone.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

WWE Extreme Rules 2015 preview

Last month WWE outdid themselves with WrestleMania 31. Despite a frustratingly mediocre build the show ended up a surprise hit, easily the best 'Mania of the last few years and arguably amongst the best ever. Having rewatched it a few times it's possible it's my second favourite WrestleMania ever, behind only the mighty X7.

Coming out of that show the company was set for success. 'Mania gave them momentum and more good will than they've had in a long time. They had what looked like a long-term plan in place with their three singles titles on three of their most established performers. They had a great story waiting to be told with Roman Reigns seeking retribution after being robbed of his destiny. This is without mentioning the white hot Brock Lesnar, who was (predictably) written out of storylines due to the nature of his contract.

But somehow, less than four weeks later, none of that matters. Extreme Rules looks like a shambles waiting to happen. Aspects of it actually look like a bad parody of a WWE pay-per-view. And the scope isn't there for surprise success as it was with 'Mania. 'The Grandest Stage of Them All' was able to dazzle us with elaborate entrances (Rusev ON A TANK, guys!), popular wrestlers winning, a well-paced show, a main event that wasn't the half hour bore everyone expected, and a Money in the Bank cash-in. Extreme Rules has access to few of these tricks and has a less inspiring card as its starting point.

Nothing highlights the limitations of Extreme Rules better than one of the stipulations placed on the main event. One month after hitting possibly the greatest RKO ever Randy Orton is in a match where the move is banned. The logic is baffling. The RKO is one of the most over moves in wrestling and WWE's giving us a pay-per-view match where we won't get to see it. I understand the effect it will have on match psychology and the story they'll tell but that doesn't stop it being a needless hindrance.

Adding to the peculiarity of this decision is that Orton and WWE champ Rollins will be duking it out in a cage, an environment that would lend itself to some particularly nice RKO opportunities. Of course it could be deployed after the match as a way of sending the punters home happy, which seems like it may be necessary because Orton is almost guaranteed to lose this match, but that will be a hollow effort: people will react more to it if it could win 'The Viper' his ninth WWE championship because it has more meaning in a match.

An alternative RKO scenario that shouldn't be ruled out is Orton hitting the move "on instinct" and getting disqualified. That would be cheap and disappointing but WWE don't care about things like that. They only care that it would protect Orty (always a priority) and play into Rollins' key character trait of being a little weasel who flukes his way to victories rather than earning them.

The only positive about the WWE title match is that everything before the finish and the RKO teases should be very good. Orton and Rollins work well together. Sadly, even they probably can't salvage a good match from the atrocious booking.

As bad as the title match stipulations are they aren't the worst on the show. No, no. That honour goes to Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler's "Kiss me arse!" match. Yes, Sheamus is being booked like 2006 Vince McMahon and demanding people kiss his backside. Ziggler versus Sheamus is a great addition to a wrestling show. 'The Show Off's' wild selling and Shaymo's all-too-convincing offense are a wonderful match. But it's going to be hard to enjoy their match knowing that ridiculous stip (or an angle excusing it) will play out afterwards.

Sheamus will very likely win because it's too early in his heel run for him to start losing. I really hope this doesn't become a regular part of his act. It's turn the channel heat more than it is the right kind of anti-Sheamus heat.

Speaking of the wrong kind of heat we have a Big Show versus Roman Reigns match. You can understand the logic here: the babyface who had the title won in the main event of the biggest show of the year gets rehabilitated by beating a big, bad heel in impressive fashion. The problem is that this is a very 80s approach. And we're not going to see the demolition job that would help Reigns out. Instead they'll have a mostly even match before Reigns snaps and rages out, Alex Riley style, on 'The Giant'.

What would be even better than Reigns making swift work of Show would be the match not happening to begin with. Big Show should not be a PPV regular in 2015. He should be working part time, at most. A mid-card guy could have benefited from being Reigns' rebound feud after 'Mania. Bray Wyatt's the obvious candidate and the likelihood is that he'll appear to set something up after Reigns has finished with Show. But someone else could have had Show's spot. Big E would have been good, especially considering the hatred crowds are showing for him and his New Day brethren. Stardust or Luke Harper could have worked too. These guys may not be as big as Big Show but they're more enjoyable to watch, and they'll be in a position to benefit the company in five years which Show almost certainly won't be.

Speaking of Luke Harper, he'll be in a street fight against Dean Ambrose. It's a feud that's come out of nowhere over the last few weeks with the two guys attacking one another for no real reason. It's sad that Ambrose, who was incredibly popular six months ago, has fallen this far down the priorities list. It's also sad that Luke Harper is just a guy who gets chucked into matches to lose to guys management have no other plans for. The match should be a lot of fun but both men deserve so much better.

Sticking with the theme of alternative Roman Reigns opponents for another paragraph, Big E will team with Kofi Kingston to challenge Cesaro and Tyson Kidd for the tag team championship. This could actually be one of the best matches of the night, so naturally it's been relegated to the pre-show. Cesaro and Kidd make a great team, Big E and Kofi have shown potential as a team, and the whole New Day act is, as touched on above, is really taking off as a heel act. A title change would be interesting to see and would allow Cesaro and Kidd to slip into the role of babyfaces, which I think would work better for them. New Day having the gold would also allow the Lucha Dragons to chase a team with some genuine heat to them.

Naomi versus Nikki Bella is perfectly sound on paper but confusing in terms of storyline. Naomi was a fun-lovin' valet a month ago. Now she's a narcissist who attacks people to steal their title shots. Meanwhile Nikki was Queen Mean Girl. The match has the potential to be fun because Naomi's very good and Nikki, as I seem to always write in previews and reviews, is underrated. I think they're going to suffer from not being quite as established in their flipped roles as they could be though. And I can see the Chicago crowd liking Naomi over Nikki because of the preconceptions linked to both women. A title change wouldn't be surprise me but I don't think it will come quite yet. It seems likelier for a three-way, also involving Paige, at Payback or Money in the Bank.

The final two matches both have something positive to offer. The first is the third instalment in the Cena v Rusev series. Truth be told it mostly looks promising in comparison to the rest of the card but we'll take what we can get at this point. They could do something with the Russian chain match gimmick they've got but it's not a sure thing. Personally, I'd have given Rusev and Cena the Last Man Standing stip and stuck Show and Reigns with the chain. That ways Reigns could have hammered Show at the opening to get his quick win and Cena would have been left to work the type of match he typically excels in.

Predicting a winner is tough, partly because we can't be sure of what the rules are. If there's a way for someone to lose without being pinned then I'd say the match heavily favours Cena as that would allow Rusev to take his second loss without taking another pin. I have an inkling that's what they'll be leaning towards. Cena's open challenges for the US championship have, surprisingly, been about the most consistently good thing on TV since 'Mania. With there being no obvious way for him to transition back into the world title picture just yet the challenge segment is likely to continue. To be fair there are worse uses of Cena, and not having the US title would free Rusev up to be shunted further up the card.

And no, I have no idea what sets a Russian chain match apart from any other kind of chain match. Maybe the chain's been blessed by Putin?

Finally there's the Intercontinental championship match, new champ Daniel Bryan defending against former five time champ Bad News Barrett. Being two good wrestlers unencumbered by poor booking this match should be the best of the night. They'll probably get a good bit of time and they have a good story behind them: BNB feels he has something to prove because Bryan didn't pin him for the strap and D-Bry wants to be a fighting champion who defends against anyone and everyone. If the commentary team do their job and emphasis this the match will be enhanced.

I'm leaning towards a Bryan win. The only reason I think Barrett would get win the title back right now would be is if Bryan is considered too much of a long term health risk, as was the case this time last year. That's possible, given his early return home from the European tour, but WWE are insisting he's fine (while remaining decidedly shady about why he went home early). It feels like this is the niche WWE want him in: holding what is traditionally the workers' title and making it mean something. If he's in a position they approve of I can imagine management being less inclined to send him home. Despite my declaration that Former World Champs Shouldn't Go Back To Mid-Card Belts I can't deny that this feels about right for Bryan. Away from the politics of the world title he can focus on his greatest strength, wrestling great matches, without worrying about being the best promo guy or carrying opening segments. I could really get into it if he hadn't won three world titles already. As it is I remain interested but frustrated.

I'd love to be wrong about Extreme Rules. I'd love it to be the best entry in the series or a contender with 'Mania 31 for best WWE show of the year. But it's not going to happen. This show will have things to enjoy but overall it will be a letdown. Which is annoying considering how promising the WWE landscape looked just a few weeks ago.


Predictions summary:
Seth Rollins to defeat Randy Orton
John Cena to defeat Rusev
Daniel Bryan to defeat Bad News Barrett
The New Day to defeat Cesaro and Tyson Kidd for the tag team championship
Sheamus to defeat Dolph Ziggler
Roman Reigns to defeat Big Show
Dean Ambrose to defeat Luke Harper
Nikki Bella to defeat Naomi

Sunday 19 April 2015

The Total Diva

On the March 18 episode of NXT vignettes started airing for Dana Brooke. In these we were introduced to the woman born Ashley Sebera, a bodybuilder signed by WWE in June 2013. The videos presented her as a confident, bordering on arrogant, fitness fanatic keen to point out that she's worked hard to attain what she views as the perfect body. In other words, she was very clearly meant to be taken as a heel.

Dana Brooke there, looking like a
90's Scott Steiner valet.
The vignettes worked well. It was clear what we were meant to think of Brooke and what her character was all about. We also got to see her demonstrating her fitness background credentials, a good thing considering that is likely to be her defining attribute for the foreseeable future. The only thing that could really be considered negative the introduction was that Brooke's light blonde hair and black-pink colour scheme made her appear very similar to the more established Natalya. Not that looking like Natty is a bad thing, but it would have been better for Brooke to receive a completely fresh start. Long term the look will be changed, unless she gets promoted to the main roster as a massive Natalya mark who wants to become her idol. Which, actually, could be a pretty enjoyable story.

Not that a call-up is going to happen anytime soon. Brooke's first televised match against Leva 'Blue Pants' Bates is probably most kindly described as uninspiring. Aside from stomps and rope chokes Brooke didn't actually do much, although she did pull out a nice Samoan driver to close the match.

It's important to note that while Brooke didn't produce the greatest debut match ever she also avoided embarrassing herself. Things were kept basic there were no major botches. She's easily as good as Trish Stratus was after her first televised match, a comparison worth making because both women entered WWE with no prior wrestling experience from fitness backgrounds.

Stratus went on to become one of WWE's best female wrestlers ever. It would be idiotic to say that Brooke is on that same path after one match, but it's worth noting that it took Stratus to get comfortable and find her form in the ring. Also worth noting is that Brooke will benefit from a better training system than Stratus had access to. The Performance Centre and entire NXT setup is intended for people just like her. It's already taken the entirely green Charlotte and turned her into one of the best prospects the Divas division has had in a decade. There's no reason the same can't be done with 'The Total Diva'.

Time is on Dana Brooke's side. The quality of NXT has become so high that it's easy to forget that one of the objectives of the show is to give less experienced performers a platform to learn and one of the things that needs to be learned is how to wrestle for cameras. The influx of a bunch of great talent at once and a logical approach to booking have helped NXT become wrestling-heavy show. That's great, but we have to bear in mind that it's not the show's sole focus.

Brooke's background and look mean management are going to be keen to add her to the main roster sooner than the majority of her peers. As such she needs to gain experience working in TV setting, and that's what NXT is for. If expectations are kept realistic I think Brooke could end up being NXT's next major success story.

Saturday 18 April 2015

NXTweet 15.04.15

Sami Zayn returns for his first match in two months, facing 'The Man Beast' Rhyno. We also get another match form the enjoyable combo of Fulton and Dawkins, the tag champs handing out flowers, a Blue Pants match, and the final ever CJ Parker match... unless he re-signs in a few years.


Tweet 1: Alright, guys. I'm watching NXT.
Tweet 2: Always pleased to see Orton on the opening credits. That guy doesn't get enough screen time.

Solomon Crowe v CJ Parker

Tweet 3: CJ Parker's in the opener. I'm shedding a tear for him.
Tweet 4: Really can't get past my feeling that they're getting a tonne of stuff wrong with Solly Crowe.
Tweet 5: "Look at the rage there from CJ Parker" - Corey Graves, who must have forgotten that rage is Alex Riley's thing
Tweet 6: This match is making realise how much of a loss CJP is for NXT.
Tweet 7: I'm impressed by the number of merch shirts in the audience.
Tweet 8: Still think Crowe could have been introduced as a caveman Sylvester LeFort discovered frozen in ice.
Tweet 9: That would have been tremendous.

A muffling stretch.

Tweet 10: Stretch Muffler being called the Stretch Muffler there.
Tweet 11: See, the problem is that they're positioning him as a hacker but he doesn't actually hack anything.
Tweet 12: Dana Brooke debuts on this show? Now you're talking.

Baron Corbin v Steve Cutler

Tweet 13: Barry Corbin! Not seen him in a few weeks. In his time off he's traded one wild jacket for another. He's a big fan of wolves.
Tweet 14: Steve Cutler's marine experience is no match for Barry's Wolf Power.
Tweet 15: "All hail the big bad wolf" - Corey Graves, embracing my idea of giving Barry Corbin a bunch of inane gimmicks

Sami Zayn interviewed backstage

Tweet 16: Sami Zayn isn't letting Rhyno fast track his way to the top. He's got an annual performance review planned for him...

Enzo Amore and Big Cass v Sawyer Fulton and Angelo Dawkins

Tweet 17: "And this right here? This is Carmella!" *Audience boos*
Tweet 18: Does nobody in The Office understand that there's totes room for a chatty act on the main roster?
Tweet 19: Angelo Dawkins + Sawyer Fulton = World's Greatest Tag Team 2.0
Tweet 20: I always like teams with an amateur background gimmick. No idea why. #insightfultweet

Carmella being won over by flowers there.

Tweet 21: Loling at Carmella being won over by the old buncha posies routine. What a mark.
Tweet 22: That was a good Outlaws match. Road Dogg got worked over and Billy came in to clean up.
Tweet 23: Eh? Not the Outlaws, you say...?

Alex Riley backstage

Tweet 24: Highlight of the show right here.


Tweet 25: "Did you think Alex Riley was just going to go away?" Honestly? Yes. And I was hoping I was right.
Tweet 26: A-Ry talking about battling for every inch there. Must... resist... obvious... joke...
Tweet 27: "Remember, Kevo! I got nowhere else to go!" - Alex Riley, revealing his tragic but utterly deserved status as a vagrant

Dana Brooke v Blue Pants

Tweet 28: Really enjoying the seventeen poses and a flip Dana Brooke's loaded into her entrance.
Tweet 29: She's a former fitness model. Basically they're hoping for a new Trish Stratus.
Tweet 30: Dana Brooke running through a stomp routine like a grizzled vet here. Puts me in mind of a young Randall 'Bag Violator' Orton.

She'll be doing the Check Up From the Neck Up next.

Tweet 31: Dana Brooke using Alex Shane's One Night Stand for the win there.
Tweet 32: Remember when Shane booked a kayfabe relationship between himself and Nikita? Great days. Great lad.
Tweet 33: Riley v Owens II confirmed for next week. I hope Riley's Twitter name is RageRileyRage by then.

Sami Zayn v Rhyno

Tweet 34: Love the fact that Rhyno's Titantron vid features an actual rhino.
Tweet 35: Just noticed Rhyno's lack of kneepads. I remember him wearing really skimpy pads in ECW. I always enjoyed that. Made his legs look bigger.
Tweet 36: Imagine how much less intimidating the Gore would be if it were called the Lol.
Tweet 37: Is the skull on Rhyno's singlet covered in rags like a mummy?

Well done, Sami. That was textbook.

Tweet 38: This ref's awful. Took him a two count to start counting. Fire him. Bring back Brad Maddox.
Tweet 39: Enjoying Rhyno channelling Marc Mero there. One of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era.
Tweet 40: Well that match happened.
Tweet 41: It wasn't bad but it wasn't anything special. The crowd being tired hurt it. The lack of a proper Gore and kick out definitely did.
Tweet 42: To be fair they're probably saving the Gore kick out for something bigger. I'm down with that.
Tweet 43: Solid episode, everyone. Good hustle.