Sunday 27 September 2015

No Mercy 2002 review

WWE recently announced Brock Lesnar's Go to Hell tour, a month of Network-related content centred around 'The Beast' himself. It culminate with a Lesnar versus Undertaker Hell in a Cell match. Having watched WWE for a while my first thought when this was announced was that it's a repeat of the No Mercy 2002 main event, which saw Bikertaker face 'The Next Big Thing' inside the Cell. I thought I'd give that show a watch in preparation for their rematch almost exactly thirteen years later. Here's what I thought...


Tweet 1: 'Taker versus Lesnar in Hell in a Cell has me so hyped that I'm going to watch No Mercy 2002, the show that featured their first HIAC match.
Tweet 2: Such a powerful opening shot. No better way to start a pay-per-view...

Tweet 3: I know nothing about this show other than it has Undertaker v Lesnar in a HIAC match...
Tweet 4: The intro vid is clearing some things up. Triple H v Kane is happening. It's World title v IC title. And it's the Katie Vick feud.
Tweet 5: Also, Heyman just said HIAC is Taker's signature. You're forgetting the dreaded casket match there, Paul mate.

World tag team championship: Chris Jericho and Christian (c) v Booker T and Goldust

Tweet 6: Opener features Chris Jericho. Seems to be heel Jericho. Timeline feels right for him to tagging with Christian.
Tweet 7: Yeah, nailed it. Christian will save this opener for me.
Tweet 8: Prime Christian.

Tweet 9: This show is thirteen years old and features JR knocking Fozzy.
Tweet 10: The Canadian Lads v Bookdust. Jericho aside this should be good.
Tweet 11: Trying to figure out if Jericho was still good at this point. The crowd are giving him some mad heat. That indicates he was.
Tweet 12: They're crazy into the main man, future royalty Booker T too. Little Rock, Arkansas knows what's up.
Tweet 13: Weird period for Jerry Lawler this. He's still pro-heel but he's happy when faces do their big spots.
Tweet 14: He seems keen to see a Spinneroonie here, for example.
Tweet 15: I miss Shattered Dreams. Possibly the best low blow with theatrics in the entire history of the grapple game.
Tweet 16: "A Spinneroonie, razorback style!" - Jim Ross, prompting a strong you wot, mate?
Tweet 17: Jericho won off a top rope moonsault. You know, the top rope moonsault he was always doing.

Funaki interviews Al Wilson backstage

Tweet 18: YES.

Tweet 19: Getting a recap of Al Wilson's relationship with Dawn Marie. I've stumbled into one of WWE's hottest post-Attitude Era periods.
Tweet 20: This is what wrestling's all about, folks.

Tweet 21: "Why were you wearing your clothes in the shower?" - Funaki to Al Wilson

Dawn Marie v Torrie Wilson

Tweet 22:  Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson are about to do a wrestle. Michael Cole and The Tazz are on commentary. This show just got rough.
Tweet 23: SmackDown was considered the work rate brand at this point wasn't it...?
Tweet 24: "We want puppies!" - The crowd within seconds of this match beginning
Tweet 25: Tazz and Cole analysing the win-loss record of these two against one another in lingerie matches.
Tweet 26: Spot where Dawn and Torrie roll about with the referee there. Dawn had a go at him because she's a heel.
Tweet 27: Face women of this era were fine being felt up apparently.
Tweet 28: Torrie winning off a swinging neck breaker because why not?

Jonathan Coachman interviews Rob Van Dam backstage

Tweet 29: Great chinos on Coach here. Meanwhile RVD sets himself up as a man of the people and parodies Ric Flair. It's poor.

Tweet 30: Not hyped for Flair v Van Dam.
Tweet 31: Who's this Tracey lass? JR says she's a Jezebel. Jerry thinks she's hot. Has she made accusations against 'Mean' Mark? No memory of this.

Ric Flair v Rob Van Dam

Tweet 32: "He is Ric Flair" - Jerry Lawler on Ric Flair
Tweet 33: The opening minute has been far better than I expected tbf.
Tweet 34: Lol at JR saying Flair may have won thousands of matches with the figure four.
Tweet 35: Rob Van Dam can't sell a figure four. Who knew?
Tweet 36: Quite enjoying this match and I'm going to credit that to 'Naitch' because I dislike more of RVD's work than I like outside of ECW.

Big Show chats to Stephanie McMahon backstage until Eric Bischoff turns up and says he owns him

Tweet 37: WE-ELLLLLLLLL it's a Big Show backstage segment. Top notch stuff.
Tweet 38: Yet another highlight here: the Bischoff and Stephanie feuding GMs thing.
Tweet 39: "I'm a giant!" - Big Show
Tweet 40: Show angry that he's not been on PPV since July. He was overweight and lazy. I'm with Bisch on this. Good call, buddy. Keep him off shows.
Tweet 41: Everyone's favourite IC title memory.

Cruiserweight championship match: Jamie Noble (c) v Yoshiro Tajiri

Tweet 42: Tajiri in a cruiserweight title match? I'm down.
Tweet 43: YES.

Tweet 44: Just noticed Brian Hebner is refereeing this match. I'm not going to let it get to me.
Tweet 45: First mention of women being tomatoes from Tazz there.
Tweet 46: Tazz putting over Tajiri and saying he's been in the ring with him. Failing to mention he wasn't happy facing or selling for him.
Tweet 47: Sickened by Michael Cole not talking about educated feet when Tajiri started doing some kicks.
Tweet 48: Nidia's not doing much here. Pretty much sums up her run. I always thought she was good and deserved more than she got. #justsaying
Tweet 49: Nidia helps Noble win. Tajiri forces himself on her to even the score. She smiles about it. This booking though...

Los Guerreros, Kurt Angle and [REDACTED] backstage

Tweet 50: Awks backstage segment.

World Heavyweight championship v Intercontinental championship unification: Triple H (WHC) v Kane (IC)

Tweet 51: Kane being pushed as a top guy by embracing being a "freak". My word.
Tweet 52: Clean shaven Triple H accusing 'The Big Red Machine' of murdering sweet, innocent Katie Vick, the purest girl in all of rasslin'.
Tweet 53: I remember hating this match at the time it happened.
Tweet 54: Jerry Lawler trying to flesh out the Katie Vick story is just ridiculous. Who, other than Vince, thought this story was a good idea?
Tweet 55: Let the record show Kane is wearing his sexy semi-see-through ring gear here.
Tweet 56: Lawler cracking jokes about a kayfabe dead woman. Whadda pro.
Tweet 57: This match would be so much more enjoyable if it featured time-travelled-from-the-future Corporate Kane. In a vest.
Tweet 58: I'd be interested in knowing who thought Triple H v Kane would interest people in 2002.
Tweet 59: Plus side: this is the best period of Triple H's career as far as his hair is concerned.
Tweet 60: Hahahahaha run-in by The Hurricane hahahahaha.
Tweet 61: "Triple H is still alive" - Jerry Lawler, who I fully expected to follow up with "... unlike Katie Vick!"
Tweet 62: Imagine if another human being actually hit another human being in the head with a sledgehammer though.
Tweet 63: Lost count of the number of ref bumps in this match. Genuinely more than I remember from any Attitude Era main event.

Stephanie McMahon chats to Tracey in the office

Tweet 64: Another segment with this Tracey woman who I don't remember. She just called 'Mean' Mark a bastard. #strongwords
Tweet 65: Stephanie and Tracey having a heart-to-heart, just them and the cameras.
Tweet 66: Tracey confiding in Stephanie that she lied and wants 'Taker back. In front of cameras. Also Undertaker WAS STOOD IN THE ROOM.

Tag team championship tournament finals: Kurt Angle and [REDACTED] v Edge and Rey Mysterio

Tweet 67: Should be good.

Tweet 68: By good I mean I'm pretty sure it won some MOTY awards.
Tweet 69: "Kurt Angle in search of the one title that's eluded him" - Michael Cole as Angle entered for a match to crown the first ever champs
Tweet 70: Edge with his poor "Never gonna stop!" Zombie lad entrance music here.
Tweet 71: I'd already recommend this match on the strength of the opening sequence between Mysterio and Angle.
Tweet 72: You'd never get WWE putting some of their best workers and biggest stars in an extended tag feud now. It's a shame.
Tweet 73: This three-way feud shows how effective it can be. I'm sure the strength of his work here helped Edge get over.
Tweet 74: *Waits for Rey to tag in and blow his knee*
Tweet 75: Rey Mysterio doing Bronco Busters... *shakes head*
Tweet 76: 619 to [REDACTED] as he had the [REDACTED] Crossface on is such a great spot.
Tweet 77: That was a career highlight for all four lads. Obviously won't make it onto any compilations because of [REDACTED] but it deserves to.

Undertaker gets something injected into his hand

Tweet 78: What's 'Taker been up to...?

Women's championship: Trish Stratus (c) v Victoria

Tweet 79: Jerry Lawler talking about puppies, JR calling Victoria "chronically pre-menstrual", it could only be a WWE women's match from the early 00s.
Tweet 80: Disappointed Big Stevie Cool isn't paired up with Victoria at this point. That was an under-utilised act.
Tweet 81: Not exactly a classic that. But it was good. Could've done without Dawn v Torrie, splitting the time between this and the cruiser match.

Pre-Hell in a Cell chatter

Tweet 82:

Tweet 83: Pre-match video package establishing that Tracey was with Undertaker in 1995. He looked like this...

WWE championship Hell in a Cell: Undertaker v Brock Lesnar (c)

Tweet 84: The Hell in a Cell main is starting. Think I'm about to watch the best 'Taker-Lesnar HIAC match there will ever be.
Tweet 85: Mat wrestling and a cast plot line. This is how you start Hell in a Cell!
Tweet 86: I'm assuming this ends with Lesnar climbing to the roof and hitting a Shooting Star Press off the roof through a table.
Tweet 87: "The champion seeing his own blood. TASTING his own blood." Get a room, Cole.
Tweet 88: For the record I don't approve of pins or pin attempts outside of the ring in HIAC.
Tweet 89: I wish Tazz would refer to this as a big man extravaganza because that's EXACTLY what it is.
Tweet 90: Undertaker is wrestling in a bandana. I bet his Ministry of Darkness era self would be ashamed to learn of this.
Tweet 91: No Mercy: Battle for the Wank Rag.

Tweet 92: Lesnar and Heyman are both bleeding. If 'Taker doesn't blade it's ridiculous.
Tweet 93: Interesting note: Michael Cole is fully erect throughout this entire match.
Tweet 94: Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar in a Pub Car Park Disagreement match.

Tweet 95: Lol at 'Taker Hulking up here.
Tweet 96: Upset Tazz didn't refer to the choke slam as a goozle.
Tweet 97: This match should end with Brock taking a Tombstone then immediately kipping up to hit an F5.
Tweet 98: Pins on the floor are legal but rope breaks still count. What even are these rules?
Tweet 99: 'Dead Man Inc' fell to a single F5. What a weakling.
Tweet 100: I'll be amazed if they top that at Hell in a Cell.
Tweet 101:

Tweet 102: I liked that match and I liked that show. There was way more to it than I expected.

Saturday 26 September 2015

NXTweet 23.09.15

As episodes of NXT go this was a strange one. It was very heavy of backstage promos and catch-up videos. They've become more common in NXT since it was stretched from forty-five minutes-ish to an hour each week but this is the most we've had in a while. The show was also light on matches. There were only three on offer: Eva Marie v Carmella, Breeze v Dempsey, and a tag title rematch from Takeover: Brooklyn. Of those only the Vaudevillains and BAMF produced anything worthwhile. The other two bouts were both underwhelming, although they did at least serve a purpose in continuing Eva's push, keeping 'Prince Pretty' strong, and giving Dempsey and Carmella some air time.

Future NXT women's champion? My money's on yes.
The main thing this episode is likely to be remembered for is the debut of Kana and her name change to Asuka. Her contract signing ceremony was interrupted by Dana Brooke and Emma. After taking a pop at the new girl they instructed her to leave. Breaking from WWE babyface tradition Asuka did, pausing briefly at the top of the entrance ramp to glance back at NXT's resident mean girls.

This was odd booking for a company that generally doesn't have its good guys back down from a fight under any circumstances. Presumably it will lead to Asuka "finding herself" and possibly a tag partner for a match against Brooke and-or Emma at Takeover: Respect where she'll get her first WW win before she's built up as a challenger for Bayley or Eva Marie in a few months time. At least I hope that's what they go with because this sort of booking, while fine in isolation, will do Asuka no favours if it's the long term plan.


Tweet 1: Early morning NXT watch go!
Tweet 2: Immediate shill for Takeover. Excellent work, Rich.

Eva Marie v Carmella

Tweet 3: 'Red Queen' Eva Marie? Does that mean she's a communist?
Tweet 4: Does Eva having red queen written on blue gear have a hidden meaning?
Tweet 5: Carmella. *puts ear plugs in*
Tweet 6: Carmella being a female Enzo is not cool.
Tweet 7: Running knee Nakamura would be proud of from Eva there...

Such power in that right knee.

Tweet 8: Eva has said "How you doin'?" more times than Carmella. Create your own shtick and use it, luv. It'll pay off.
Tweet 9: WWE teasing a story where a referee has a crush on Eva Marie in 2015. My word.
Tweet 10: Big Match Eva wins again!

Bull Dempsey v Tyler Breeze

Tweet 12: Dempsey v Breeze. If Adam Rose doesn't appear I'll riot.
Tweet 13: Bull Dempsey, the love child of Bam Bam Bigelow and The Taz.
Tweet 14: Lol at some girl screaming during Breeze's entrance.
Tweet 15:  Shades of Kamala from big, bad Bull there. #whataworker

Breeze doing some big bumps to make an undeserving Bull look good.

Tweet 16: This match is a chore. I blame Bull.
Tweet 17: I preferred Bull when he was an ineffective bad ass who couldn't live up to being Taz: The Next Generation.

Recap of NXT's Texas tour

Tweet 18: Texas tour recap, Maggle.
Tweet 19: I remember Finn Bálor. He's that lad who used to wrestle on NXT's weekly show.
Tweet 20: For some reason I'm surprised that Dana Brooke is getting house show title matches. I assumed Trips would save that for a Takeover.

Kana becomes Asuka, signs a WWE developmental contract, and gets scared off by Dana Brooke and Emma

Tweet 21: Regal introduces Kana. Konor from The Ascension comes out. It's awkward.
Tweet 22: Like a Graeme Harper episode of Doctor Who, Asuka is full of pace and energy.
Tweet 23: Emma and Dana Brooke. #feelings

Putting this here for #ratings.

Tweet 24: Tag match at Takeover? Alundra Blayze as Asuka's tag partner.
Tweet 25: So Asuka actually left? Weird.

Tyler Breeze walks along a corridor, Apollo Crews blocks his path

Tweet 26: Apollo Crews openly bullying Tyler Breeze there. Someone needs to smarten that kid up to Being A Star.

Hype Bros promo

Tweet 27: Mojo Rawley cosplaying as Ash Ketchum here for whatever reason.
Tweet 28: Dash and Dawson are my picks to win this tournament. Feels like Tripper's way of building up a team.

NXT tag team championship: The Vaudevillains (c) v BAMF

Tweet 29: I wish Jim Ross was still around so he could call a BAMF entrance. "Look at this pair of yahoos! These two young punks!"
Tweet 30: RIP JR's WWE commentary career.
Tweet 31: Saddest part of Ross's WWE career is that it didn't just end. It died slowly over years, via SmackDown, part time work and Todd Grisham.
Tweet 32: Saddened to see Alexa Bliss leave ringside.

Aiden English casually suplexing two men there.

Tweet 33: Nice to see Blake and Murphy still can't remember who's who and have retained the names on gear gimmick.
Tweet 34: 'Bigtime' Buddy Murphy still looks like a short, young 'Mean' Mark Callous.
Tweet 35: Kicks. Innovative offence apparently.
Tweet 36: "That's it, we're gonna have new tag champs!" - Corey Graves, letting us know the Vaudevillains would retain
Tweet 37: Good match that. I'd have to rewatch both but it was possibly better than their Brooklyn one.

Big Cass and Enzo and Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor promos

Tweet 38: Why end on a match when you could end on promo?
Tweet 39: Enzo and Cass reckon they're beating Joseph Samoa and Finn(lay) Bálor. I don't like their chances tbh.
Tweet 40: Dusty Rhodes was Finn Bálor's mentor. Apparently.
Tweet 41: There's nothing subtle about the Joe v Finn tease.
Tweet 42: Good show. Good hustle.

Friday 25 September 2015

Turning the Paige

On the Monday 21 September episode of Monday Night RAW is WAR, TV's longest running episodic action adventure soap opera (or something), Paige cut a scathing promo. Or, if you prefer, she dropped a pipebomb. Personally I don't prefer, finding the term trite and irritating when applied to anything other than the segment which originated the phrase, CM Punk's show-closing hijacking of RAW on June 27 2011.

Paige cut her promo during the in-ring celebration of new Divas champion Charlotte (let the record show she'd defeated Nikki Bella for the title at Night of Champions the previous evening). After claiming she was the one who'd made the upturn in women's wrestling in the Fed possible, calling the interaction between Charlotte and her pa Ric patronising, and reminding everyone that she'd won the Divas title on her first night on the roster Paige laid into every member of the roster. Alicia Fox was labelled a third wheel. All three members of Team BAD were written off as all flash and no substance1. Natalya was sarcastically referred to as MIA. Charlotte was called a placeholder champ, Lynch irrelevant, and there was heavy implication that storyline Paige believes the Bellas only got to and keep their spots because of who they're romantically linked to2. It was good stuff, believable, relatable and understandable. Charlotte's response was slightly disappointing because she undersold the betrayal she should have been feeling and simply lashed out angrily. But it was at least spiritied.

Paige there, working herself into a shoot.
It's not the specifics that are important here, it's what Paige's words set up. And they set up a lot. There's the obvious Paige versus Charlotte match for the title. It also created issues between Natalya and Paige and Becky Lynch and Paige, the reasons for each being pleasantly different. Natty has been positioned as the old guard whom 'The Anti-Diva' considers irrelevant/past her prime, which Natty will clearly want to prove wrong.

Meanwhile Becky was labelled "the least relevant" woman on the roster by Paige. Since Monday she's taken the initiative (or been ordered to follow up on the verbal assault) and launched a series of pun themed insults at Paige on Twitter. The pun aspect isn't doing anybody any favours but 'The Lasskicker' firing back as opposed to meekly accepting Paige's low blow or waiting until the next TV show to assert herself is absolutely the right thing for everyone involved. It creates an issue between two wrestlers that gives them a reason to have a match that doesn't involve a championship. That's rare in WWE, especially in their women's league.

In a little under a week WWE have set the decidedly non-progressively named Divas up to have an interesting, layered division. Charlotte has a rematch with Nikki to come as well as her fresh issue with Paige to resolve. Paige has matches ready with both Natalya and Becky, which could both be run through before she gets her title shot opposite 'The Nature Girl' (no way Nikki's getting the belt back for a while). Sasha Banks has also been quietly set up for a larger role with TV wins over Paige and the emphasis on her being an established rival of Charlotte from NXT.

Whether the writing team follows through on any of this is something else. History tells us they'll mishandle things and deliver an uninspired sequence of matches revolving around the Divas title. But thanks to Paige's promo and the work that's been put into the division we can dare to get our hopes up that the MSG Network special or the Hell in a Cell PPV could feature Charlotte v Nikki and Paige v Becky, instead of the standard issue lone title match.


1 The only one that could possibly apply to is Naomi, although I think it would be an unfair statement. Tamina has neither flash nor substance while Sasha Banks has both.

2 The irony here is that until a few weeks ago that seemed to be a largely unfair statement. Then rumours started doing the rounds about Big Match John pulling strings to extend Nikki's title reign.

Monday 21 September 2015

WWE Night of Champions 2015 review

Following a standard issue excellent video package WWE's eighth annual Night of Champions pay-per-view kicked off with an Intercontinental title match. Defending champ The Ryback got a mixed reaction from the Houston fans. That didn't deter him from running through his "Wake up!" and "It's feeding time!" shtick. Challenger Kevin Owens got a more positive reaction and started out the match with the crowd behind him.

'The Big Guy' spent the first minute or so of the match knocking Owens down to the mat. Then he gorilla pressed him to the outside and encouraged the fans to cheer him. They did. Owens shrugged off the gorilla press and began targeting Ryback's arm. Ryback absorbed various armbars and takedowns, a Russian leg sweep with his arm pinned behind his back, and a senton onto his arm before finally managing to floor KO with a clothesline. Owens escaped a power bomb but got caught with a spinebuster. The champ went to follow up with a meat hook clothesline but Owens struck him with a super kick instead.

That earned Owens a two count. He tried to put the champ away with a pop-up power bomb but The Ryback ducked out of the way and got his meat hook clothesline. Owens was hoisted up for the Shellshock but was spared the move when Ry' realised his elbow was too hurty to fall backwards. Owens took this opportunity to drop down to the mat and shove Ryback arm first into a ring post.

When that only got Owens a two count he hit an arm takedown and locked in an armbar. Ryback sold that for a moment before powering up to his feet and deciding he was, in fact, strong enough to hit Shellshock after all. But it wasn't to be: Owens raked Ryback's eyes before he could be dropped and slipped out of the move again, schoolboying the champ for a three count and the gold.

Owens as champ is a good thing. The reaction he got here, and the reactions he's been receiving on TV lately, showed that people were ready for the change. It's a nice change of pace and a call back to when the IC strap was used as a signified that wrestlers were destined for big things in WWE. Ryback's reign was fine but he'd had it long enough. I think he'll work better as a babyface chasing a rematch anyway. Owens deserves a meaningful run and I think he'll get it.

An ad aired for Brock Lesnar's Go to Hell tour. Next month he'll wrestle Big Show in MSG, appear on Steve Austin's podcast, and then face Undertaker at Hell in a Cell inside the cage. The highlight of this should be Lesnar's appearance on Austin's podcast. If there's any chance of Austin v Lesnar happening this should make it clear. The match with 'Taker could be fun but we've seen it before, at No Mercy 2002 (Lesnar won), and I imagine we'll get another offbeat finish even though the obvious thing to do is have 'The Beast' win decisively.

Match two was Rusev versus Dolph Ziggler. Before the match 'The Bulgarian Brute' told Rich Brennan he wasn't in the mood to chat, he was in the mood for crushing "the puny American" Ziggler. Grade A lad banter from Rusev, that. They also took the opportunity to establish that Summer Rae, Rusev's girlfriend, was wearing earrings 'The Show Off' had given to her on RAW. Because it's a soap opera feud and needs soap opera trappings.

The match was fine, mostly because both lads rarely have a bad match, although there was very little crowd heat between the start and the finish. To keep the ridiculous soap antics of the feud strong the finish saw Summer get involved, hopping onto the apron, taking a bump and being ordered to the back by the referee. She responded by taking offer her shoe and throwing it into the ring where it hit Rusev in the face. Ziggler snuck in a Zig Zag and won. Rusev left alone. Summer screeched in the aisle. Michael Cole delivered what he probably thought was a zinger about the sequence giving new meaning to the word "heel". Let's never speak of any of this again.

Heat magnets New Day entered first (in some absolutely fabulous new gear) for the tag team title match. They cut an anti-Dudleys, pro-table promo in an attempt to turn the crowd against them. It mostly worked, but they're never going to be completely successful because they're just too entertaining.

The match was fun. Big E and Bubba had some stiff big boy exchanges, Kofi was excellent as a cocky heel, and Xavier was cracking riling up the crowd (highlights included smack-talking Bubba, loudly screaming  "New Day!", and playing the Rocky theme on his trombone). Devon was also there. Bubba was isolated for a while before he made a hot tag. Within two minutes of that they'd hit a 3D. Woods broke the count up in front of the ref to cause a DQ, giving the Duds a win but ensuring New Day retained the belts.

After the match New Day beat down Bubba and Devon then set up a table. They didn't get to use it though. The Dudleys recovered and put Woods through it. Presumably this was done to give the crowd something to cheer after such an unsatisfying ending and to create cause for a tables match between the two teams either at the MSG Network special or at Hell in a Cell.

The Divas championship match was not the scorcher we'd get from an NXT women's title match. It was heavy on delay tactics from Nikki towards the start and had a far slower pace. The champion targeted the challenger's leg and kept her on the mat to work it over. It was a logical story that played on Charlotte's figure eight leg lock finish, the idea being that ikki would do such an effective job that Charlotte wouldn't be able to apply her trademark hold effectively. It succeeded in engaging the crowd and kept them invested in Charlotte. It also played to the pair's respective strengths. 'The Nature Girl' is very convincing when it comes to selling and Nikki works best with a slower, more deliberate pace where she's free to interact with the audience without needing to do try anything overly athletic. 

Charlotte would eventually fire up and give Nikki some chops (accompanied by unenthusiastic wooos from the crowd). Nikki fought back, clambered onto the second rope and launched herself at the challenger. Charlotte caught her with a spear and locked in a figure eight leg lock, despite Nikki having effectively worked over her leg for the entire match. Nikki only managed to hold on for about ten seconds before she tapped out.

Compared to what we've seen from Charlotte in NXT this wasn't that great. Compared to the average Divas title match over the last few years it was. Charlotte and Nikki told a story, played to their strengths and provided the clean finish that was needed. I don't think we could have asked for more. Nikki's reign hasn't been bad and I enjoy her work but I'm pleased we've got a new champion. Charlotte defending against her fellow fresh additions is what the division needs now.

After a brief Kevin Owens promo (he said he's a prize fighter who now has a prize), a check-in with the pre-show panel (they said nothing of interest), a commentary team check-in (they blathered about the following match) and a shot of PCB and Flair backstage (Charlotte botched her pa's limousine-ridin' catchphrase then left to celebrate her win) the Wyatts v Shield rivalry was introduced. Of note during the entrances Michael Cole called Dean Ambrose a dude, Roman Reigns got a babyface reaction, and a guy who looked a bit like New Jack slipped into the ring to stand with Reigns and Ambrose before the third man was introduced. Security quickly removed him and Ambrose and Wyatt, being stone cold pros, played the incident up.

The actual third man was Chris Jericho. Because apparently he has to get himself involved with every hot act or feud he can in an effort to convince people, and himself, that he's still relevant and capable of hanging with younger fellas. He isn't and can't. Despite the involvement of 'Y2J' the match was good. Highlights included; Reigns deadlifting Harper into a sit out power bomb; a Harper suicide dive to Reigns followed by a senton on the floor from Bray; Ambrose turning a Sister Abigail into a(n unsuccessful) schoolboy; Strowman being booked to stay on his feet after two Superman punches; a crazy-good spear from Reigns to Strowman; and Jericho being caught in mid-air as he tried the Codebreaker on Strowman and being muscled up for a backbreaker. The finish saw Jericho, who'd tagged himself in as Reigns seemed poised to polish things off, pass out in Strowman's bear hug.

The match was surprisingly short at thirteen and wasn't a patch on the Shield v Wyatts matches of 2014. But equalling them was an unreasonably high expectation for this match. It was the fun outing it needed to be and it had the right result: Reigns and Ambrose should not be able to beat the Wyatts with anyone other than Seth Rollins (and that match will happen again someday). It also seemed to contribute to the long term plan of having Reigns accepted by the majority of fans by getting him a good opening reaction and sticking him in a good match. Following the finish the Shield boys looked disappointed and checked on Jericho. He heelishly barged passed them and wandered up the aisle, setting up Jericho v Reigns and-or Ambrose. Because, as already stated, Jericho has to get involved with every act that could conceivably be considered hot.

Backstage Triple H and Stephanie McMahon told Seth Rollins they believed in him. He said he was the man, pumped himself up and headed off down a corridor. Sheamus wandered up and hinted at a Money in the Bank cash-in. Trips and Stepher looked concerned. If they were that concerned they wouldn't have booked their boy in back-to-back title defences, but there you go.

Despite being the obvious choice for show-closer (see my preview for why) Cena v Rollins took the semi-main event slot. As predicted they tore the house down (not literally) with the match of the night. Rollins hit Cena with a Blockbuster, a tree of woe double stomp, a sling blade, a tope, and a superplex floated into a falcon arrow, amongst other moves. Cena hit Rollins with his belly-to-back suplex, the Five Knuckle Shuffle, a sunset bomb, a tornado DDT, and the STF. They also reversed a number of one another's usual moves, Rollins kicking Cena in the head on a FKS attempt, landing on his feet off an AA, and turning another AA into a sunset flip, Cena turning a buckle bomb a hurricanrana and weaselling out of a Pedigree at least once.

Cena would win the match with an inverted suplex, his Dangerous Top Leg Drop and an AA, giving him his fifth United States title. It's interesting to note that even though the match was packed with big moments there was only one finishing move (the STF is a hold so doesn't count here) and it brought things to a close. This seemed like a concerted effort to rein in the number of finishers in main events matches in an effort to make them mean more.  

After the match 'The Future' grabbed the WWE strap and tried to leave. Cena cut him off and AAed him in the aisle before throwing him back into the ring. The match that followed was heavy on ringside action and big bumps from Rollins, both designed to hide the physical limitations of 56-year-old Steve 'Sting' Borden. For the most part it worked.

Sting dominated Rollins until he headed to the announce area. Rollins shoved 'The Icon' off the English announce table through the Spanish announce table and Sting (kayfabe) cracked his head on a monitor. In the ring Sting took a sling blade, a falcon arrow, and a buckle bomb. The big man from WCW kicked out of them all. Instead of doing the sensible thing and hitting Sting with a Pedigree, Rollins went to the apron and went for a springboard something or other. Sting recovered and shoved him off the ropes into the crowd barricade below.

Rollins pretty much no-sold that and was back in the ring almost immediately. He was met by an amped up Sting. The champ took some right hands and a pair of Stinger splashes. Then Sting pulled out the big guns and tossed Rollins out of the ring to give him a cross body block from the top rope.

In the ring Sting hit the Scorpion Death Drop. Rollins saved himself with a foot on the ropes. Sting got the Stinger splash again then followed up with a mounted ten punch in the corner. Rollins countered that into a buckle bomb. After that Sting collapsed while running the ropes and the referee called the ringside doctor in to check on him. After a bit of a breather he was cleared to continue (a storyline sequence designed to protect Sting). Rollins immediately went for a Pedigree. Sting turned it into a Scorpion Death Lock. Rollins escaped and tried the Pedigree again. Sting again reversed it onto the Death Lock but Rollins reversed that into a small package to get a three count and retain the world title just shy of the fifteen minute mark.

After a few minutes of celebrating from Rollins, Sheamus rushed the ring and Brogue kicked the world champ. Before he could officially cash-in Kane made the return that literally nobody's been waiting for. He continued the Rollins abuse with a choke slam. Shaymo returned to the ring but he was choke slammed too. 'The Big Red Machine' then ended the show by Tombstoning Rollins, leaving us with the question: whose side is he on?

Night of Champions was a good show. There were no outright bad bouts. The opener, Nikki versus Charlotte, and Cena versus Rollins were all very enjoyable. The main event was far from a classic but it was fun if you like a brawl with clever use of big bumps. The booking of Rollins was disappointing. He's supposed to be an undeserving, cowardly champion but he retained the world title clean and held his own with Big Match John, a feat that not just anyone in WWE can manage. They should have gone all the way with him overcoming the odds and had Sheamus take his briefcase title shot only to lose. Three title matches in one night would have really helped Rollins' character.


Results summary:
Kevin Owens defeated Ryback to win the Intercontinental championship
Dolph Ziggler defeated Rusev
The Dudley Boyz defeated New Day by DQ
Charlotte defeated Nikki Bella to win the Divas championship
The Wyatt Family defeated Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho
John Cena defeated Seth Rollins to win the United States championship
Seth Rollins defeated Sting to retain the WWE championship

Saturday 19 September 2015

NXTweet 16.09.15

When three of NXT's Four Horsewomen got promoted to the main WWE roster in July it seemed as though the developmental league's women's division had taken a big hit. Three of its main performers gone in one fell swoop. Pleasingly that hasn't been the case. All three have made appearances on NXT since their promotions, with Banks remaining a regular and continuing to wrestle for the brand.

The main event segment of this show went to a Banks and Bayley promo, the purpose of which was for the pair to agree to a rematch at the next Takeover event. And not just any rematch, it's to be an Iron (Wo)man match headlining the show. It's a slot that 'The Boss' and Bayley, not to mention the division they represent, fully deserve. They have a long-running feud, they're wrestling for a championship that means something to them and fans, and they outperformed everyone else at the last Takeover in August.

All of which is great but slightly surprising. The booking of the post-match at Takeover: Brooklyn seemed as though it was a goodbye from Charlotte, Becky and Sasha to the NXT audience, and a see-you-on-the-main-roster-soon to 'The Hugster'. The announcement of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Classic on the same night made it seem as though tag teams would become a bigger focus for NXT. Like competitive women's wrestling it's something that's not on offer with WWE's main roster product and it seemed like the obvious thing to fill the void left by the departing trio, rather than expecting Bayley to carry the remnants of a division.

While the Dusty Classic has seen a greater focus on the NXT doubles ranks it's actually come at the expense of time dedicated to the men's main event scene (handily disguising the fact that it's a little thin there once you're past Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor). Dana Brooke and Eva Marie have continued to receive strong booking with Nia Jax's debut also being tightly hyped up. This week's episode showed us that Asuka (formerly Kana) will debut next week. While it's a little surprising that her introduction is not being held off until after Nia Jax has arrived it demonstrates that the NXT writing team (which I'm convinced can't just consist of Triple H and Jimmy Jacobs) are keen not to let the women's division they've worked hard to establish suffer with the departures.


Tweet 1: NXT is rated TV PG. Because it includes violence. NXT is rated TV PG. Because it includes violence.
Tweet 2: If only WWE could get rid of the pesky violent overtones to their wrestling shows they could get the U rating they dream of.

Tyler Breeze, Adam Rose and Bull Dempsey segment

Tweet 3: Such a fan of the Breeze entrance. Such a non-fan of Byron Saxton's return to NXT commentary.
Tweet 4: Adam Rose, sans party people.
Tweet 5: This new party pooper gimmick is my kinda thing. Mid-card in its purest form.
Tweet 6: Not going to get into Bull Fit until Simon Dean returns to manage him.
Tweet 7: Imagine if they'd given Adam Rose a multiple personality gimmick, featuring the much anticipated return of Leo Kruger.

Best facial expression in this picture? The referee.

Tweet 8: "Tubby". Crying.
Tweet 9: What even is this opening segment?
Tweet 10: Hyped for that Rose-Breeze-Bull three-way at the next Takeover. That'll definitely get Breeze prepped for his match with Doug Williams.
Tweet 11: Doug Williams: LEGEND.
Tweet 12: Interesting to Adrian Neville in that UK tour ad.

Tye Dillinger v Danny Burch

Tweet 13: We are witnessing the height of Tye Dillinger's career with this 'Perfect 10' thing. #justsaying
Tweet 14: Dillinger facing one half of the Stixx and Stone tag team, Martin Stone. He's back under the Danny Burch name because why not?

Sticking with the good facial expressions theme...

Tweet 15: I want Dillinger to start cutting pun laden promos. Tendency. Tenacity. Tenable. Tenure. Tenant... Get on this, writers.

Rhyno and Baron Corbin discuss Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa

Tweet 16: Rhyno and Barry respect each other. That makes them a solid tag team, apparently.
Tweet 17: To clarify neither Rhyno nor Barry Corbin are worried by Johnny Gargano or Tommaso Ciampa.

Asuka vignette

Tweet 18: So Kana signs, becomes Asuka, and debuts before Nia Jax? What's the rush? Debut Jax then bring in Asuka. Excite us, Trips.

Solomon Crowe v Apollo Crews

Tweet 19: So tired by Solomon Crowe. I hope he loses and goes nuts after the match.
Tweet 20: Then he can turn up in a few weeks in the suit he should have been wearing all along.
Tweet 21: Kicking away a handshake. Mate, that's SO bad guy behaviour.

Luger could do that too.

Tweet 22: 'The Total Package' Apollo Luger.
Tweet 23: I want the Uhaa Combination renamed the Luger Combination as a nod to Apollo's mentor Lex Luger.

Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa discuss Rhyno and Baron Corbin

Tweet 24: "You get one life and you get one chance" - Johnny Gargano

Dana Brooke and Emma announce they're tired of being overlooked

Tweet 25: Big fan of Dana Brooke doing the Bellas' grizzled vet gimmick.

Sasha Banks arrives at Full Sail

Tweet 26: Shot of Sasha Banks getting out of a car there. Apparently Russo's taken over the booking.
Tweet 27: Actually, had Russo booked that we wouldn't have found out who was in the car until after a break. He's convinced car contents is a hook.

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano v Rhyno and Baron Corbin

Tweet 28: The four spotlights aren't lined up properly. I bet Barry's well annoyed at that.
Tweet 29: Tasty bit of matching gear on Ciampa and Gargano. They're winning. #sarcasm
Tweet 30: Ciampa knows WWE aren't keen on signing overly stiff guys, right?
Tweet 31: "Tommaso Ciampa is my favourite wrestler" - Nobody
Tweet 32: Please note that Barry Corbin is wearing some basic tights from No Mercy on the N64.
Tweet 33: Barry was signed because he's good at life. Credit to Corey Graves for that belter.
Tweet 34: I want a feud based around use of the tag rope.

Naff tights on Corbin here. Shameful.

Tweet 35: Barry pins Gargano, putting himself into contention for the Open the Freedom Gate and EVOLVE championships.
Tweet 36: I hope Jody Kristofferson is one of the EVOLVE lads to get brought in for job duty. That lad is money.

The Vaudevillains discuss their rematch with BAMF next week, then BAMF show up

Tweet 37: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 38: Heel Alexa Bliss. Good. Lord.

Bayley v Sarah Dobson

Tweet 39: That Bayley entrance got me.
Tweet 40: The Izzy heel turn is going to get nuclear heat when it comes...
Tweet 41: Didn't even hear Sarah Dobson announced. That's got to make her crazy.
Tweet 42: Imagine not enjoying Bayley.
Tweet 43: Banks versus Bayley was really good but match of the year is a bit strong.
Tweet 44: Not sure I'd stretch to "best women's match in WWE history" either tbh.

A pair of great characters here.

Tweet 45: Liking Banks and Bayley making this about being the best and winning.
Tweet 46: "I am the best female wrestler in this company" - Sasha Banks, who was doing so well
Tweet 47: #Regalpop
Tweet 48: Eff this crowd for booing Regal's music.
Tweet 49: That segment was flawless.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

WWE Night of Champions 2015 preview

Do you like title defences? If so you'll love Night of Champions. It's the WWE B level pay-per-view where every championship is defended in a match, which somehow sets it apart from all those other WWE pay-per-views where all titles are defended. Plus there are bonus matches that don't even involve titles at all! WWE is truly spoiling us.

With every title being defended double champion Seth Rollins will make two appearances at this event. He'll defend the WWE championship against Sting and the United States championship against John Cena. The US title match is expected to go on last. Considering the respective ability of Sting and Cena I think that's the right call. 'Big Match John' is clearly more capable of delivering a satisfying main while having Rollins face 'The Icon' first will ensure he's fresher, all the better to carry the ageing former WCW headliner to something passable.

I'm fully expecting Cena to regain the US belt. Keeping Rollins a double champ doesn't seem feasible long term and it's tough to envisage Sting wandering out on RAW with the world gold. It's by no means impossible, there's ample time for Rollins to drop the belt to someone and give them a short reign before he regains it and drops it to Reigns. That someone could easily be Sting. Rollins versus Reigns is the obvious big match for WWE to be building to but there's time for them to surprise us before they get there, basically.

There's a way for all three guys to come out of this show looking good. If Sting v Rollins took the semi-main spot then Rollins could cheat to win a fifteen minute match and sell exhaustion as his US defence kicks off. This would keep heat on 'The Future' for cheating in another title defence, protect Sting by not having him lose clean, and make Cena look strong for giving the heel his comeuppance, with Rollins being protected in his second match because he's wrestled back to back defences. Instead of this I suspect Rollins and 'The Stinger' will open the show and that WWE will go with the same story suggested above, though it won't work anywhere near as well with Rollins having a few hours to recuperate between bouts. 

The other gents' single strap will be defended by Ryback against Kevin Owens. It's a match that has the potential to be hossy excellence. It's quality will ultimately be determined by whether or not Ryback's on form. As a character he's always gold, face or heel, but his ring work can vary. Owens will definitely carry his end of things. Expect his usual big match arsenal of fishermanbusters and double jump moonsaults. I'll be surprised if 'The Big Guy' doesn't get to kick out of at least one of Owens' power bomb variants too.

I'm torn on a winner for this match. Ryback is still very much one of the company's projects, a lad they're determined to get over. It's the reason he got the IC strap in the first place. But Owens very clearly has top line potential himself and is a better worker with (seemingly) a more passionate following than big Ry'.

I'm leaning towards an Owens win. I've been predicting Ryback wins since he won the belt on the basis of it not feeling like time for a change. Now it's beginning to. If WWE are serious about wanting their championships to mean more (and the booking of the US title since WrestleMania indicates that they do) then Owens would be a good man to put it on. Of course, successfully defending against Owens could really help to legitimise Ryback's title reign. So there's that.

Over in the tag division New Day will defend the titles against the Dudley Boyz. Given the New Day's table-themed protest against the Dudleys immediately after their return and the lack of gimmick matches on this show it's surprising that this isn't a tables match. I suppose that could change before the event or even on the night. If it does I expect Bubba and Devon will leave as ten time (WWE) doubles champs. If it doesn't then I could see New Day winning in order to set up a rematch for the MSG special or Hell in a Cell in October.

The match will be great. Because New Day. In fact it'll be great because of the Dudleys too. They've been great since their return to the company last month. Bubba has proven he was entirely wasted as Bully Ray in TNA. Not that that's news to anyone.

The evening's other tag match will be a six man. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, the two man Shield, will once again pair up to tangle with the Wyatt Family. It's the stables rivalry that will never end, which, in a way, is part of why it's so special. The guys involved can always slip into a programme based on their allegiances to these groups. It's the sort of thing that works so well in wrestling.

The Wyatts will be represented by Bray, Luke Harper and new boy Braun Strowman. A mystery partner has been teased for Ambrose and Reigns. The list of potential partners seems pretty short. Randy Orton was attacked by Bray and co on the 7 September RAW and was shown talking to Reigns and Ambrose later in the evening so he'd be a logical choice. Erick Rowan had reunited with Luke Harper before he suffered an injury in June but it's possible he could return to oppose them citing jealousy over Braun Strowman bring brought in. That sounds an underwhelming and slightly silly reason for a face turn but WWE have offered far less in the past. Personally I'd like to see Cesaro as the mystery partner. It wouldn't make much sense but he's not booked and he can wrestle his socks off (possibly literally).

I suspect we'll get 'The Viper' as the third man though. Although he's boring a lot of the time he'd be perfectly watchable here. Sharing the ring with five other men would limit his screen time and allow him to hit his key spots without doing much else. That's pretty much ideal for him.

The current incarnation of the feud (which started back at Money in the Bank in June) is tied at one win each. 'The Eater of Worlds' defeated Reigns at Battleground. Reigns and Ambrose picked up a tag win over Wyatt and Harper at SummerSlam. Assuming this is the final match in the series I'm predicting a Reigns, Ambrose and mystery partner victory here. Reigns needs to be kept strong for the WWE title win he's getting sooner or later. That said I'd love to see the Wyatt Family win after interference from a returning Rowan or, better yet, a debuting Sister Abigail.

Also announced for the show are Dolph Ziggler v Rusev and Adrian Neville and the Lucha Dragons v The Cosmic Wasteland. I've got little to say regarding Ziggler, Rusev, Lana and Summer Rae. The story seems to be deliberately emulating a trashy soap plot. This is fine and something wrestling can parody very well. Sadly nobody involved is going as crazy with their material as they need to to make it work. I'll hope Lana swerve turns on 'The Show Off' to reunite with Rusev.

The six man match will be on the pre-show. I don't usually cover those but I love this Cosmic Wasteland thing so much that I just wanted an excuse to mention it. Stardust has been a highlight of WWE since his issue with Stephen Amell became A Thing and casting The Ascension as his henchmen was a stroke genius. They look good together, it gives a previously aimless team something to do, and it helps 'The Prince of Dark Matter' seem that bit more of a threat. No logical analysing here, I want them to win.

Finally there's Nikki Bella's Divas title match with Charlotte. This match originally took place on the September 14 episode of RAW with the story on that night being that Charlotte wanted to win not just to become the Divas champion but to stop Nikki becoming the longest reigning champ in history. We got a Dusty finish. Charlotte was announced as the victor and new champ, Ric Flair nigh on teleported down to ringside to get in some celebrating with his daughter, then it was revealed that Charlotte had pinned Brie. The match was restarted and Nikki got in a pin to retain her title and shatter a record.

The reasoning behind this sequence was beyond reproach. Nikki cheating to win in the manner she did is a long established character trait. Stealing the title from Charlotte's grasp is the perfect way to get heat on a heel. The trouble is that so much leading up to the match had been haphazard. Nikki had flitted back and forth between face and heel. The Divas Revolution story, while entertaining and definitely movement in the right direction, had not produced that many truly memorable or meaningful matches.

The good news is that the NOC rematch has been announced with stipulations that favour a fair fight. Nikki can lose by DQ, ruling out any heelish shenanigans. Things are set up for a Charlotte victory and Sasha Banks has been surreptitiously readied as her first challenger with clean TV wins over former champion Paige and a subtle restructuring of BAD to make it clear that 'The Boss' is... well, the boss. Nikki is unlikely to regain the title after losing it to Charlotte but she can float around near the top of the division as a perennial challenger, her longest reign ever giving her something to crow about and helping portray her as a legitimate contender.

If Charlotte doesn't win at Night of Champions WWE will have to go back to square one with their Divas division. I don't think they want to. I'm confident enough people backstage understand that Sunday needs to be Charlotte's night.


Predictions summary:
John Cena to defeat Seth Rollins to win the United States championship
Seth Rollins to defeat Sting to retain the WWE championship
Kevin Owens to defeat Ryback for the Intercontinental championship
Charlotte to defeat Nikki Bella to win the Divas championship
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and their mystery partner to defeat The Wyatt Family
New Day to defeat the Dudley Boyz to retain the tag team championship
Rusev to defeat Dolph Ziggler
The Cosmic Wasteland to defeat Adrian Neville and the Lucha Dragons