Saturday 31 October 2015

NXTweet 28.10.15

An episode of NXT which saw Hallowe'en (note the apostrophe) mentioned a few times. Sadly there was nothing as monumental as John Cena debuting a rapper gimmick and saving his career. There was some nifty rasslin' though. Swings and roundabouts...

Intro

Tweet 1: Watching NXT... NOW.
Tweet 2: Didn't we get Dash and Dawson v Enzo and Cass last week? Maybe I'm misremembering...

Emma v Shazza

Tweet 3: Emma. #heelsweargloves
Tweet 4: Shazza bears a resemblance to Alexa Bliss when she debuted and was buffer than she is now.
Tweet 5: Feel kind of sad for Emma. She was in the women's division when it was first getting good then got called up and paired with Santino.
Tweet 6: When she got dropped back to NXT a bunch of other women had grabbed the top spots. She has really bad timing.

Alexa Bliss 2.0 tapped.

Tweet 7: Emma > Mutoh

Tom Phillips interviews James Storm

Tweet 8: Recapping James Storm's debut as a big deal. Good lord.
Tweet 9: Backstage interview for James Storm here. NXT suddenly has the stink of Impact to it.
Tweet 10: I enjoyed Tom Phillips acting like a giddy mark for Storm there.

Jason Jordan and Chad Gable v Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa

Tweet 11: Jordan. Gable. #toplads
Tweet 12: Tommaso Ciampa should make use of his initials and start referring to himself as 'Topcat'.
Tweet 13: Astounded by Gable's ability. Deserves those Angle-esque chants. The lad's a natural.
Tweet 14: I can see elements of Angle, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in Gable. No idea if anyone would agree. Don't really care either tbh.

Big fan of Gable. Indifferent to Ciampa.

Tweet 15: Johnny Gargano's spear still needs to be dropped.
Tweet 16: Jason Jordan's one weakness is that he wrestles in sneakers.
Tweet 17: He throws a way better spear than Gargano though.
Tweet 18: When Gargano signs a full contract he'll change his name to Gary Garygano.
Tweet 19: "Man they are fun to watch!" - Corey Graves, stealing one from the JBL playbook

Devin Taylor interviews Bayley

Tweet 20: "Bayley, what's your opinion of Alexa Bliss hating you?"
Tweet 21: Bayley here, branding herself an inspiration. The heel turn is on the horizon.

Eva Marie live from Paris

Tweet 22: EMNN update: she's still on holiday in Paris.

Nia Jax v Kay Lee Ray

Tweet 23: Nia Kong with her second TV match here. Probably won't last long.
Tweet 24: At one minute this has already lasted longer than I expected.

Power, apparently.

Tweet 25: Nia Jax no-selling drop kicks. That works against NXT enhancement but she couldn't pull a stunt like that against The Nikki Bella.

Big Cass and Enzo Amore v Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder

Tweet 26: Last week: Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder gave Enzo and Cass a kicking.
Tweet 27: Surprised Enzo's shtick being interrupted didn't get more heat tbh.

The Brainbusters v Kevin Nash and Road Dogg: the feud we thought we'd never see!

Tweet 28: Big Cass Nash selling like a champ here. His dad Kev would be appalled.
Tweet 29: I'm a fan of Scott Dawson's jelly baby physique.

Tom Phillips interviews Alexa Bliss, featuring Blake and Murphy

Tweet 30: I'd pay good money to be called a human mic stand by Alexa Bliss. #justsaying
Tweet 31: 'The Hollywood Fashion Plate' Wesley Blake.

Samoa Joe v Tyler Breeze

Tweet 32: Oh, hey. It's Tyler.
Tweet 33: Remember when Tyler Breeze hooked up with Summer Rae and appeared on SmackDown? Rich Brennan sure does!
Tweet 34: Samoa Joseph doing the flies there. That's how you know this is a main event.
Tweet 35: Lol at Breeze doing a lungblower type move and the commentary lads putting over his strength. He's just falling.
Tweet 36: A few women in the audience with a "Breeze is gorgeous!" chant there. Going to assume it's a hen party.
Tweet 37: Do they even have "hen parties" in the colonies?

Not even tassels can overcome the power of big Joe.

Tweet 38: If Joe stays in NXT forever and never makes the main roster, as seems entirely possible, will he make it into the Hall of Fame?
Tweet 39: Sad that Joe choked out Breeze but it was a fun match and a not at all surprising outcome.
Tweet 40: At least Breeze is getting to work with Ziggler. Those should be good matches.
Tweet 41: Still hoping for Breeze v Doug Williams at Takeover: London.

Finn Bálor promo

Tweet 42: Another backstage finish here. Weird.
Tweet 43: Big Match Finn putting over Apollo Crews. Good lad.
Tweet 44: Good show that. Good hustle.

Monday 26 October 2015

WWE Hell in a Cell 2015 review

Hell in a Cell was always going to struggle to be a fully satisfying show. The reliance on rematches made it seem a very familiar card. And if there's one thing that hinders a wrestling card more than anything else it's bouts feeling overly familiar. The main event was actually something first seen thirteen years ago, for example. There was no way to disguise it and so WWE didn't bother, they simply didn't acknowledge it. Which was the smartest thing they could do in the circumstances but longer term it may be nice if they could maybe plan ahead and change things up a little to avoid something like this happening again.

The opening segment saw John Cena stride out and issue his Open Challenge. He didn't spend too much time getting to it and it was accepted by... Zeb Colter. Yes, really. Zeb Colter in John Laurinaitis's scooter. He cut a promo about people with differing views and from different countries coming together before introducing his new client: reigning AAA mega champion Alberto Del Rio. Guess they came to terms after ADR realised he was burning through bridges too quickly outside of WWE.

Another former world champion taking a backwards step in terms of titles.
 'Mexico's Greatest Export' was given a hero's welcome by the LA crowd, getting chants of "Si!" and "Welcome back!" as Michael Cole hyped him up to remind viewers why they should care about him being Cena's challenger. Sadly the crowd died down early in the eight minute match and didn't seem interested in waking back up, despite some good work from Cena and Del Rio, before the finish. That saw ADR slip out of an AA to hit Cena with a backstabber and a super kick, pinning Cena clean.

The pairing of ADR and Zeb Colter is peculiar but there's time for it to be fleshed out and given context. Del Rio doesn't do a huge amount for me as a wrestler but it's nice to see someone being added to the roster who can freshen things up a bit. WWE's improved considerably over the last year but additions are always welcome in a company so keen on recycling. He was introduced in a strong fashion too: not just anybody gets to pin Cena clean. Notably not even WWE champ Seth Rollins has been permitted that honour.

We were then treated (and I use that term loosely) to a backstage segment with The Authority. Rollins hyped himself up and Triple H and Steph mentioned his match with Kane. The Director of Operations then showed up, showed us his marvellous take on a multiple personality gimmick, and was dismissed by Trips. It was boring.

The long-running rivalry between Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt was settled after that in the night's first Hell in a Cell match. Don't let the fact that they've only had two singles matches on pay-per-view fool you, these two have been at odds for a while. Specifically since June when 'The Eater of Worlds' returned from a TV absence and cost Reigns the briefcase. After a few weeks of awkward but well-produced segments revolving around Reigns' daughter (awkward mostly because of how clearly uncomfortable Reigns was with the situation) the pair settled into a more natural take n the family feud, specifically the revival of their Shield versus Wyatt Family dynamic. Wyatt brought Luke Harper back into the fold and debuted Braun Strowman while Reigns called on his bessie mate Dean Ambrose and a string of ragtag helpers to wage his war.

The long-running Wyatt v Reigns spat is finally over. Breathe a sigh of relief.
Basically this HIAC match had to pay off a fair bit of story, the vast majority of which had been underwhelming, in addition to the standard requirement of keeping Roman looking strong and giving him a hot match. Pleasingly, it accomplished both. This was all down to the keenness of both men to make the match good. This wasn't the best Cell match ever, nor did it break the years-long trend of these matches being a bit pointless, but it was engaging and accomplished everything it needed to. They used chairs, tables and kendo sticks to make an impact en route to Reigns going over with a spear.

The awkward post-Cell lull spot was handed to the Dudley Boyz and New Day. Big E and Kofi cut a typically entertaining pre-match promo about Xavier Woods being injured. They also danced. Then the Dudleys came out and we were subjected to another subpar match between the two teams (the highlight of which was a spectacular inverted Rocker Dropper botch by the Duds). New Day won after E hit Bubba with a broken trombone and Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise.

I like both of these teams but this feud has been uninventive after an initially good week or two and we've yet to see any good matches come out of it. It may be time to accept they don't have especially good chemistry, switch the belts in a tables match, and do something new. Continuing like this will achieve nothing.

Nikki bella got her Divas title rematch against Charlotte after that. All seconds were banned from ringside to ensure a fair match. The storyline reason was that this created a fair playing field. I suspect the real life reason may have been some sort of test to see how Charlotte did in a singles pay-per-view match with just her, an opponent and a referee.

Nikki telling a story there. Great stuff.
If it was a test she did fine, but Nikki handled the bulk of the work. She was on offence for the majority of the match, with Charlotte only firing up and hitting certain moves at select points. Anyone doubting Niki's ability to lead and construct a good match should really just pay attention to this. She was very, very good and told a different story to their previous matches. I'd like to see what she could do in a pay-per-view match with someone more talented than 'The Nature Girl', like Sasha Banks for example. Charlotte overcame Nikki's targeting of her back and managed to apply the figure eight long enough to get the submission victory.

That was followed by a scene in which Dean Ambrose congratulated Roman Reigns on his Hell in a Cell victory. They said they'd celebrate and also referred to knowing where they had to go next. They said that would be discussed on RAW. It seemed like the weirdest teaser WWE's done for TV in  while.

Kane challenging Seth Rollins for the WWE world championship came next. Kane dominated at the opening before Seth slowly turned things around, starting with an opportunistic attack as 'The Big Red Machine' lumbered onto the top rope. They did the standard issue ringside brawling, including a table spot, before Rollins went over with two top rope knees, two super kicks, a frog splash and a Pedigree (because Kane must be kept strong for whatever reason). It was the best Kane match I can remember seeing in ages but Rollins is capable of, deserves and needs, if he is to be the valuale asset he so clearly can be, so much better.

The semi-main event spot went to Ryback and Kevin Owens. They had a fun enough match but it was too short to amount to much more. KO went over with a pop-up power bomb on 'The Big Guy'.
 
One last time.
Finally we had the evening's main event: the Final Ever Confrontation™ between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. Within minutes Lesnar had found a suplex attempt blocked and been busted open. A foray to the outside of the ring was controlled by 'Taker, with 'The Beast' taking over with a chair back in the ring. 'Taker regained control and used the chair himself, placing it against Lesnar's throat and sending him down into the mat.

Lesnar sold for maybe a minute before bouncing out of a corner and nailing a German suplex. Then he hit another. And another. Then an F5. 'Taker kicked out. Another F5. Another kick out. Lesnar used ring steps to Undie's head. He kicked out again. Lesnar tried caving his foe's head. Undertaker moved.

Undertaker kicked up at Lesnar, sending him falling backwards with the steps landing on top of him. A desperation Hell's Gate was applied. Lesnar forced his way out and clubbed away at 'The Last Outlaw' with left and right hands. With his foe subdued Lesnar ripped up the mat covering only for 'Taker to sit up and choke slam him onto bare wooden boards. Brock kicked out so 'Taker hit him with a Tombstone.

Lesnar kicked out. Undertaker sold utter disbelief and struggled back to his feet. He signalled for another Tombstone but Lesnar low blowed him, paying Undertaker back for SummerSlam. Following up with an F5 Lesnar got the pin, winning his feud and, in Michael Cole's words, cemented his legacy as 'The Conqueror'. It was a slow starter but once they started breaking into the finishers this was a good match.

After the match Lesnar walked up the aisle and 'Taker gave him a knowing look before lying back in the ring and accepting his defeat. After a few attempts 'The Dead Man' did his bolt upright sit up spot. He just looked like a knackered old bloke but I think we were meant to see it as his magic failing him. The crowd played along and chanted "Thank you, Taker!" as he staggered up to his feet.

Newest recruit or next opponent? Next opponent, obvs.
Sinking down to his knee, UT went for his signature pose. But he was interrupted by the Wyatt Family. Harper, Rowan and Strowman swarmed him and took him down to the mat. Then they held him up for Wyatt to give him a few punches and carried him out of the arena. Going completely overboard JBL bellowed about honour and Undertaker being a warrior as the show went off the air.

Despite the number of rematches I thought Hell in a Cell was a worthwhile watch. It's not something that will make any show of the year polls but it had some memorable moments and only one out-and-out dud bout (the tag title match). It was a basic PPV offering form the Fed, but sometimes that's okay. It helps you appreciate the better stuff that little bit more.

***

Results summary:
Alberto Del Rio defeated John Cena to win the United States championship
Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt
New Day defeated the Dudley Boyz to retain the tag team championship
Charotte defeated Nikki Bella to retain the Divas championship
Seth Rollins defeated Kane to retain the WWE championship
Kevin Owens defeated Ryback to retain the Intercontinental championship
Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker

Sunday 25 October 2015

The Cosmic Rivalry

So the current hot gossip is that John Cena is about to take time off to film some sort of fitness reality show. This puts his fifth and current reign as United States champion in jeopardy. Because time off while still being champ would go against established characteristics and, more to the point, the last several months of enjoyable Open Challenges.

Say goodbye (for now) to that belt, John.
I've no idea how WWE will write Cena out of storylines. It seems likely that we'll find out at Hell in a Cell this evening or on tomorrow's edition of RAW. The typical WWE approach would be for a heel to defeat Cena via shenanigans and then go on a tear while he's away before dropping the belt back to him upon his return.

I think Cena's departure could be better than that. It's a chance to give someone a boost and use the Open Challenge for what it was always designed for: giving someone lower down the card a rub. My pick would be Stardust.

In Stardust WWE has an incredible villain. Not only is he different to everyone other heel on the roster but he works in part because of the PG environment. His panto villain-slash-Adam West Batman adversary shtick is perfect for WWE's current product and in casting himself as a mad, scheming supervillain Stardust is the perfect foil for the archetypal true blue WWE babyface. And they don't come any truer or bluer than Cena.

That he has henchmen is a help. And henchmen is the ideal term for Konnor and Viktor because it invokes the 60s Batman vibe that Stardust plays to. Outnumbering Cena is a big deal as it provides an easy way for Stardust to get the win and the championship without Cena being made to look weak (Cena, like Roman Reigns, must be kept strong). And the group is something that can be fleshed out.

Stardust and his money-loving lead henchman.
Bad News King Wade Barrett I, despite having had a falling out with 'The Prince of Dark Matter', would make an excellent lead goon. Yeah, he's probably talented enough to warrant an upper mid-card spot on his own merits but nobody in WWE seems interested in giving it to him. He and Stardust (under different monikers) used to have good chemistry as a double act on The JBL and Cole Show. It would be nice to see that revived for the main roster. I think Barrett would work well as a guy who's agreed to be Stardust's lackey just for money, deadpanning his way through backstage skits in which The Ascension clearly believe in Stardust's mental outer space chat. 'The Cosmic Centurion' has a nice ring to it.

I also think Paige would be a good addition to The Cosmic Wasteland. Yeah she's busy with the confusing disintegration of PCB and developing personal beef with Natalya right now but that won't last forever. Her character could do with a tweak or two to refresh it. Being put with The Cosmic Wasteland would fit with her recent slightly unhinged nature and also allow for an interesting switch-up. Less punk chick and more space valkyrie maybe.

These are additions that could be made while Cena was off doing his filming. Four people being stationed at ringside for rematches would help the feud stretch for a while, giving Cena something to do against a character well-suited to being his foe, boosting Stardust's standing, helping Paige stay fresh, and giving The Ascension and Barrett larger roles than they're likely to get doing anything else.

This is what I'd do. Let's see what WWE does.

Friday 23 October 2015

NXTweet 21.10.15

The most memorable thing about this week's episode of NXT? The debut of James Storm. No, that doesn't sound promising but it turned out okay thanks to strong performances from Asuka, Alexa Bliss and promos from Tyler Breeze and Samoa Joe. The less said about the flat main event the better...

Intro

Tweet 1: Going to watch NXT. Immediately excited by this recap of a generic battle royal from last week.
Tweet 2: Remember when Breeze heelishly eliminated Samoa Joe even though he was already out of the match and the crowd cheered him for it? #goodtimes

Asuka v Billie Kay

Tweet 3: So bored of this company-name-as-chant trope.
Tweet 4: Not bored of Asuka though.
Tweet 5: Billie Kay isn't smiling or waving and is bragging about having long legs. In WWE that passes for heel.
Tweet 6: Big fan of a lone child in the audience chanting for Asuka.

I'm a fan of Asuka.

Tweet 7: "Submission specialist" - Rich Brennan on an armbar
Tweet 8: Asuka wins via Bob Backlund tribute.
Tweet 9: Bob Backlund being Asuka's manager would be the greatest thing to ever hit the NXT's women's division.

Baron Corbin vignette

Tweet 10: "Let's take a very special look at Baron Corbin!" Alright, Corey mate.
Tweet 11: And it's written and pronounced Barry.

Tyler Breeze promo

Tweet 12: Tyler Breeze here, giving us a hilariously peculiar promo.
Tweet 13: Talking about slicing bacon. What the hell, Tyler?

Enzo Amore and Big Cass v Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder

Tweet 14: How many people look at Big Cass and Enzo at an airport? Probably quite a few. That's how Cass's dad Kevin Nash measures success.
Tweet 15: Halloween promo. Big Match John's route to the top.
Tweet 16: Hope Dawson uses his devastating chop block as a finish from now on.
Tweet 17: Enzo and Cass winning is surprising. Doing it via a cheap rollup by 'zo is excellent though.

#beatdown

Tweet 18: Anyone else feel this interaction between Cass and Dawson be Triple H's way of paying homage to Arn Anderson and Sid?

Eva Marie live in Paris

Tweet 19: EMNN update.
Tweet 20: I'd accept Eva Marie as a present. I wonder if that was a genuine offer she just extended to me through a laptop screen.

James Storm v Danny Burch

Tweet 21: Danny Burch is from Kent. Not London.

The state of this.

Tweet 22: Disgusted by these people marking out for TNA veteran James Storm.
Tweet 23: Interesting to note the commentary lads have referred to him being signed.
Tweet 24: I'd be interested in a rebranded Beer Money in NXT. Storm solo? No thanks.
Tweet 25: Which TNA megastar will turn up next? Rockstar Spud? Abyss? Gunner?!

Alexa Bliss v Peyton Royce

Tweet 26: Oh? Heel Alexa Bliss? Pffffft... That's fine. Whatevs. I'll sit through this I GUESS.
Tweet 27: Don't understand why exactly Bliss is a heel.

Alexa Bliss: red hot heel.

Tweet 28: Peyton Royce walked out with a flower in her hair. It's gone now and I didn't see her take it out.
Tweet 29: I like Buddy 'The Boy' Murphy selling more than Alexa on every mode she takes.
Tweet 30: Devastating sparkle splash there. You're not seeing alleged super worker Big Match Hiroshi doing that are you?
Tweet 31: Earrings on Blake though. Worthy of Batista.

Baron Corbin v Rhyno

Tweet 32: Wolf versus rhino here. If this happened in the wild the wolf wouldn't stand a chance.
Tweet 33: Barry's obviously going to win this so I hope they take us on a #journey
Tweet 34: "Like a monster truck colliding with a bulldozer" - Corey Graves on Rhyno v Barry Corbin
Tweet 35: Crowd doesn't seem bothered by this. Surprised considering how over Rhyno usually is.
Tweet 36: Let's not forget that Barry Corbin has a tattoo of a phone.

The best picture on offer for this match. No idea who's doing what.

Tweet 37: Guy in the crowd checking his phone there. Sums up this reaction.
Tweet 38: Graves comparing Barry Corbin to Mike Tyson there.
Tweet 39: Spinebuster. Textbook big lad move.
Tweet 40: Corbin kicks out of the Gore and in doing so guarantees that he will one day ascend to main event status.
Tweet 41: Gore into the End of Days, while shakily done, was a good finish.

Samoa Joe promo

Tweet 42: Backstage Samoa Joe's going to pontificate us off air. Maaaaaate...
Tweet 43: Is it audacious of Breeze to call out 'Mr TNA' Samoa Joe? I don't think so. It's wrestling, Joe. Toughen up.
Tweet 44: I liked him channeling Chris Jericho at the end there though. Hilariously naff.
Tweet 45: Good show. Good hustle. Goodnight, everybody!

Thursday 22 October 2015

WWE Hell in a Cell 2015 preview


Last month's WWE pay-per-view was called Night of Champions. Judging by the card we have here this month's could easily be marketed as Night of Rematches (holds for laughter, gets silence). All but one of these matches is something we've seen before in one form or another. While rematches are a part of wrestling and some shows are going to be heavier on them than others this seems a particularly bad instance of RematchMania.

Ryback v Kevin Owens and Charlotte v Nikki Bella are both straight-up rematches from Night of Champions. On that show Owens and Charlotte defeated their foes for the Intercontinental and Divas championships respectively. Both matches should be good but I can't see any reason we should expect a title change. The new champions would only be weakened by dropping the gold so soon after winning it.

Despite these fun little conspiracy theories floating around about there being a cabal of influential people within WWE desperate to bring about Owens' downfall (hey, there's a Reality Era storyline waiting to happen) I don't think it will manifest itself (not that I think it's true) in a loss for him here. Meanwhile Charlotte seems to be the chosen one for the new look Divas division. She'll hold onto the strap to work that defence that's so clearly been set up against Paige. In fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if something happened to further that programme here.

An even more chronic rematch example is New Day versus the Dudley Boyz. The two teams didn't just face off at Night of Champions, they also clashed at the MSG special. Annoyingly it was the same combo of New Day wrestlers each time (Kofi Kingston and Big E). Had they been permitted to switch in Xavier Woods we would have one fresh combination to run through here before the inevitable table match stip gets wheeled out.

I expect New Day to win here. They won't lose the titles until that tables match happens. That is the natural time for Bubba and Devon to get their much ballyhooed tenth (WWE) tag title win. Hopefully we get an altered finish here though. I don't want to sit through the NOC and MSG bout for a third time.

Reigns versus Wyatt is yet another rematch although it does have the fact that we've never seen the pair in a Hell in a Cell match going in its favour. Last month I incorrectly predicted a win for Roman in his tag match because I assumed that would be the end of the feud. I foolishly didn't think to consult my WWE PPV calendar before writing that. Had I done I'd have remembered HIAC was coming and would have known that Wyatt v Reigns was the obvious match to go with.

I expect this match to be good. Reigns hasn't had a bad pay-per-view match this year. He's had a couple with dull portions though and while one of those came against 'The Eater of Worlds' (at Battleground, Wyatt won) I think the cage gimmick here, not to mention interference from the Family (they're fenced out but that won' sop 'em), will be enough for them to keep viewers engrossed for the duration. I'm interested in the layout of this match because Reigns matches have been getting a tonne of attention from creative since 'Mania and it's his first Cell match, a big deal in WWE. Plus, y'know, make look strong and all that.

There's the US Open Challenge tarring John Cena too. While we don't know who'll answer that the chances are that it will be someone who we've seen face Cena before, because Cena's worked with everyone. Ziggler is a contender for the spot given his recent determination to answer the call and defeat Cena. The member of Ne Day that doesn't wrestle the tag match is a possibility too as they all recently took a crack at the challenge. Dean Ambrose and Wyatt's henchmen are all candidates too what with their matches being cancelled due to a Randy Orton injury.

Hard to say who'll win without knowing who the challenger is. But I'll go with Cena retaining and losing the belt on RAW. There's so much talk of him taking time off that it seems impossible he'll be the champ this time next week. But I think he'll drop the gold on Monday rather than on PPV. Which would make sense as that's been the home of his Open Challenge since it started.

The only other match that's not a PPV rerun is WWE world champion Seth Rollins versus... Demon Kane. Yes, Demon Kane. Because that's how we're referring to him now. That character's mad and fragmented nature has finally reached the point where WWE have embraced it and decided to run with a multiple personality storyline for him. I personally think they should go further with it and retcon Isaac Yankem, the Christmas Creature and Fake Diesel to be more of Kane's personalities. It'd be a laugh if nothing else.

You have to feel bad for Seth, really. Since winning the title he's gotten to work with Ambrose, Reigns, Orton, Lesnar and Cena on pay-per-view and a bunch of talented lads on TV, and now he's come up against the problem that seemingly every world champion in WWE faces sooner or later: proving themselves against Glenn Jacobs. As a character in a wrestling environment Kane is tremendous. There are very few things that can't be done with him at this point because he has such a ridiculous history, backstory and gimmick. But that doesn't mean he should be wrestling for the WWE title in 2015 at the age of 48.

Rollins will win. He'll be booked to show far too much weakness for 'The Devil's Favourite Demon'. The best way this match could be handled now that it's been announced is Rollins making short work of Kane, pinning him clean with a Pedigree before sauntering backstage and cutting a promo to Renee Young about how he's the best champion ever and he's retired Kane. Which, for the record, is a thing in this match: if Kane loses he's kayfabe fired as the kayfabe Director of Kayfabe Operations. It's entirely possible this will be his last match with the company. Though it probably won't be.

Last but not least there's the evening's second Hell in a Cell match between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. The pair have met in this match before. Okay it was thirteen years ago but it still happened. And on top of this exact bout having happened before (I believe the only time ever that two guys have had a one-on-one Cell match more than once) 'Taker and 'The Beast' headlined SummerSlam two months ago. These two facts taken together make this match seem very familiar despite the part-time schedules of the men involved.

I'd originally assumed this programme would stretch until WrestleMania 32. I'm pleased that it isn't. By the time that show rolls around it will have been two years since Lesnar ended The Streak. While there's a natural story to tell between the two on the 'Mania platform it's not necessarily one worth telling. Even if 'The Last Outlaw' avenged his loss at WrestleMania XXX he'd still be without his Streak. There are better uses for Lesnar both at WM32 and leading up to that show. Doing a couple of rematches with 'Taker makes sense but keeping it running for that long would have been dull.

I'm leaning towards a victory for 'The Pain'. Both lads were protected by the "controversial" (read "massively unsatisfying") ending to their SummerSlam bout, telling the crowd that they're each as good as each other and either can take a win here. This shouldn't be the case. Lesnar should win. He has the longer future in the company and is worth more to them at this point. As he no longer has The Streak there's nothing to be gained from having 'The Phenom' get his win back. He retains his veteran allure and character mystique no matter what. Lesnar losing tarnishes the monster reputation that's been built up over the last several years. Lesnar losing is absolutely not what's best for business.

***

Predictions summary:
Brock Lesnar to defeat The Undertaker
Roman Reigns to defeat Bray Wyatt
Seth Rollins to defeat Kane to retain the WWE championship
The Dudley Boyz to defeat New Day by disqualification 
Charlotte to defeat Nikki Bella to retain the Divas championship
Kevin Owens to defeat Ryback to retain the Intercontinental championship
John Cena to retain the United States championship

Wednesday 21 October 2015

That RAW Recap 19.10.15

This week's RAW featured a few key moments.

You just had to know where to look for them. Here's a hint: they weren't in the Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox v Naomi and Sasha Banks match, or the throwaway Bad News Barrett, Sheamus and Rusev versus Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro and Adrian Neville six man. Nor were they in Kevin Owens versus ark Henry. Although, for the record all three good for what they were. Nikki over as the serious title contender she should be considering her tenure and status as longest reigning Divas champ ever. The six man was a fun match which got some over lads on the show and gave them time to do their thing. And Owens v Henry featured Owens hitting his pop-up power bomb on 'The World's Strongest Man', establishing that he's strong enough to hit Ryback (his HIAC opponent) with it should the opportunity arise.

But, as I say, these things weren't anything noteworthy. The big segments from this week's RAW were the Undertaker and Lesnar confrontation, a dressing down of WWE champ Seth Rollins by Shawn Michaels, and an impromptu Shield reunion and match opposite their old foes the Wyatt Family.

This was fun to see but what an unbelievable waste.
The Shield reunion wasn't. It was Rollins agreeing to team up with Ambrose and Reigns to demonstrate to Shawn Michaels that he could "stop the show" then turning on them at the end of the match. Because the whole point of Rollins' character is that he's a dick who deserves a slap. In theory this worked but in practice it was incredibly wasteful. The first teaming of 'The Hounds of Justice' since their split in the summer of last year should have been a huge deal.

Instead it was a transparent attempt to increase ratings and it didn't even get that right. The least WWE should have done if this was their plan was to announce the match a week in advance and plug it non-stop to get people watching next week. Okay, that may have made some people think it was a full-time reunion but the answer to that would have been simple: have Rollins give a promo about not needing Ambrose and Reigns and Ambrose and Reigns say they don't trust Rollins but need him for this one match. It would have made time for word to spread and people to get excited about the match, increasing the chance of a larger viewing figure.

But it was more than that. The Shield shouldn't be something tossed out as a ratings grab. It will devalue their inevitable full-time (until the equally inevitable second split at least) reunion whenever it comes. The three men, though particularly Rollins and Reigns, are all clearly going to be big parts of the WWE landscape for years. They should be protected. And that means planning things like a reunion far in advance, working towards it and getting it right when it happens, not giving it away on free TV with only an hour's build-up.

On top of that things just felt off. Erick Rowan returning to the fold is fine. It actually helps get across Wyatt's cult leader deal because he slotted in with new lad Braun Strowman beautifuly. But Luke Harper not being involved was wrong. He and Wyatt are more over than Rowan and Strowman by a significant margin. He clearly should have been in the match yet he wasn't even at ringside. Rowan and 'The Black Sheep' are both very good in their roles but they can't hold a candle to Harper's ring skills and compelling weirdness.

Strong mic work from HBShizzle here.
HBK dressing down Rollins worked. The gist of Michaels' argument was that 'The Future' is content with the accolade of being the new Shawn Michaels when he should be concentrating on making his own name mean more and creating a legacy for himself. Which is hard to argue against (although it's worth noting that comparisons between Rollins and Michaels haven't been as frequent as this segment would suggest). Not to say that Rollins' doesn't have name value of his own, he clearly does, but he seems content to accept mediocre booking in exchange for getting to be world champ. Stories of 'The Heartbreak Kid' from the 90s make it hard to imagine him standing for this sort of booking.

Of course WWE now is different to the WWF then. And, perhaps more importantly, Vince McMahon has some bizarre attitudes towards the "millennials" that make up the bulk of his roster. That he was about as close to a Michaels mark as he could be in the 90s is a factor here too. Vince was less inclined to knock 'The Heartbreak Kid' than he is his current stars. But these political undertones, Michaels acting as Vince's mouthpiece, just added another layer of enjoyment to the situation.

It worked on the intended level of a respected veteran returning and condemning the current champion and as an insight into the backstage manoeuvrings of the promotion. Michaels and Rollins were both excellent. Particularly 'The Showstopper'. The only bad thing about it is that it made people (by which I mean me) want a Rollins v Michaels match that will never happen.

The showdown between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar was good because of how everything was slotted together. Despite having basically become a guy obsessed with avenging the loss of his WrestleMania Streak and being willing to make cheap shots to do it 'The Dead Man' was presented as the face here. The reason for that is that he was introduced by 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin (hey, he was there anyway, I've been saying since the podcast specials started that I think it makes sense to put him on RAW) and they were in Texas. Despite being announced from Death Valley he's a Texan and this audience was not going to boo him.

In Your House: Mind Games.
'Taker was basically there to remind anyone who's forgotten what is motivation is and to react to Brock Lesnar's advocate Paul Heyman. He gave 'The Last Outlaw' plenty to react to, explaining the story of the rivalry one final time, making clear what both men stand to gain from a win, and, of course, hammering home that his client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Streak. 'Taker tried goading Lesnar into leaving the ramp and getting into the ring to fight. Hothead Lesnar was ready to accept this challenge before being convinced to hold off by Heyman. This framed 'The Beast' as a coward to the live crowd but the wider point was that Heyman knew 'Taker was trying to get inside Lesnar's head to gain an advantage going into their match, another cheap move by 'The Phenom' (although not one out of character, to be fair). The segment worked as a hype job for the Hell in a Cell main event and left the two men ready to take their correct roles: Lesnar the monster face and 'Taker the subtle heel desired desperate to win at any cost.

It wasn't the most exciting episode of RAW ever. But it was memorable and significant because of and for these segments. With such a clear unwillingness from WWE to formulate a long term creative plan, alter the way they present their performers, or do something different to what they've been doing for the last fifteen years, that's the most that we can realistically hope for on a Monday night.

Saturday 17 October 2015

NXTweet 14.10.15

Coming off a Takeover this episode of NXT had to set things up for the next couple of months. And it did so very well. Bayley was confronted by Alexa Bliss, making it clear that's the champ's next programme. Bliss is a good choice. She's massively over as a heel and hasn't been in the title scene for quite a while. Plus Blake and Murphy should give her matches a different feel to the other women's title matches we've been having lately (not that the trend has been bad).

The New Brainbusters combo of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder made it clear they want another match for the NXT tag straps because they hold a non-title win over The Vaudevillains. It wasn't made clear that they'd get the match they're after but chances are they will. As heels they strike me as a good pair to take the belts from Gotch and English before dropping them to Gable and Jordan.

Finally Apollo Crews won a battle royal to earn a future match with Finn Bálor. The match was booked well, with Joe and Coribn both looking strong and lasting until the end. Interestingly Joe got some boos. That, coupled with his heelish outburst with Regal earlier in the show, could lead to him becoming a lead bad guy for the brand should Apollo win defeat Bálor. Or if Bálor retains for that matter.

Intro

Tweet 1: Need to keep myself busy today. What better way to do that than by tweeting about NXT?
Tweet 2: Hey, remember when there was a Takeover show last week? This video package does.
Tweet 3: Eva Marie, in her robe, being in the opening credits. Kinda lol, mate.

Promo Bayley, featuring BAMF

Tweet 4: Bayley better not come out with any hot garbage about first ever women's main event or anything here.
Tweet 5: Lita and Steph were main eventing RAW a decade and a half ago, bruv.
Tweet 6: Bayley putting over the roster and the women's division. Guessing this is leading to a heel wandering out.
Tweet 7: Crying at Blake and Murphy joining Alexa for this interruption.

Takeover: London semi-main event? I'd be down.

Tweet 8: Idiot scumbag tag teams don't come much finer than Wesley and Buddy.
Tweet 9: Heart-eyes emoji for heel Alexa.

Samoa Joe challenges Finn Bálor to an NXT championship match

Tweet 10: Big Finn and Joseph From Samoa posing with a trophy and chatting with Big Billy Regal here. Great stuff.
Tweet 11: Joe slapping the title belt like a #lad there.
Tweet 12: Joe getting heely here over his undefeated record. Should've brought Tazz in with him. That combo was UNSTOPPABLE.

Tye Dilinger, Apollo Crews and Rhyno cut promos about the battle royal

Tweet 13: What's with these nicks all over Tye Dillinger's head?
Tweet 14: Apollo Crews, big fan of hand gestures.
Tweet 15: Rhyyyyyyyyyyyno! "I was the last ECW world heavyweight champion!" - Last ECW world heavyweight champion, Rhinoceros 'Rhyno' Rhinington

The Vaudevillains v Angelo Dawkins and Sawyer Fulton

Tweet 16: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 17: Big fan of The Vaudevillains but they've been tag champions two months now and their reign's not been that memorable.
Tweet 18: Not that that's their fault.

New look for Fulton and Dawkins. Dawkins' is basically just a headband though.

Tweet 19: This LOD type look on Sawyer Fulton though.
Tweet 20: Sickened that this allegedly smart crowd didn't chant "Where's your hair gone?" at 'The Drama King'.
Tweet 21: Sawyer Fulton kayfabe wrestles with thumbtacks sticking into his soles? Lolwut? What a weird gimmick.
Tweet 22: Who are the next tag contenders though? I think we all know it SHOULD be Gable and Jordan.

Devin Taylor interviews the Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder

Tweet 23: Oh, but what do we have here? Brainbusters 2.0.
Tweet 24: The Ring Jacket Lads doing a damn fine job of getting over their characters and their motivations here. Strong stuff.

Evie v Nia Jax

Tweet 25: Evie wrestling in a Divas match here. Remember when they embraced it being the women's division? Guessing that's gone.
Tweet 26: Oh. Nia Jax. Finally. Looking forward to her being presented as Triple H's version of Awesome Kong.

Amazing Jax.

Tweet 27: Wondering if Jax will pay tribute to her proud Samoan heritage by using the Samoan Stinkface.
Tweet 28: Jax won? I was expecting big things from that Evie gyal.

Recap of Sasha Banks v Bayley from Takeover

Tweet 29: Becky Lynch going full hyperbole and saying they changed "the world".
Tweet 30: Rein it in, Becky.

Baron Corbin and Tyler Breeze cut promos about the battle royal

Tweet 31: Baron Corbin cutting promos from a car park to get himself ready for a hot run in WWE And Paul Levesque Present EVOLVE.
Tweet 32: Breeze shoot deserves an NXT title match.

Eva Marie vignette

Tweet 33: Eva Marie live from Paris there. I'd watch that as a Network special. Eva wandering around Paris being conceited and that, yup.
Tweet 34: Looking forward to Eva getting some RNN style injury updates at some point.

Battle royal for an NXT championship match

Tweet 35: Danny Burch-slash-Martin Stone being in this match is excellent. He went from jobber with a contract to jobber without a contract to this.
Tweet 36: Might as well bring in Trent Question Mark.

The lads.

Tweet 37: Most over man in this match right now? Johnny 'Probably Has No Contract' Gargano.
Tweet 38: Heat on Terry Creed for eliminating Johnny Gargano there. This crowd is weird.
Tweet 39: The number of tag teams involved in this match highlights how few singles lads of substance NXT has right now.
Tweet 40: I wish Lucky Cannon was around for this current incarnation of NXT.
Tweet 41: Lots of people still in this match. Hoping Rhyno goes on a Gore spree.
Tweet 42: Respect for this sequence of the super over mid-card lads eliminating one another.
Tweet 43: Lol at it ending with Barry Corbin.
Tweet 44: Rhyno yet to hit a Gore ffs.
Tweet 45: Murphy spamming skinning the cat like a champ here.
Tweet 46: Strong final four of Breeze, Crews, Joe, and Barry.
Tweet 47: Crowd were most into Breeze. Joe eliminated him, natch.
Tweet 48: Breeze eliminating Joe and the audience thanking him. Mate, a Joe heel turn would WORK. #justsaying
Tweet 49: Liking Crews and Barry just having a match to end this. Good call.

He can win a battle royal, but he can he beat a man with a demon living inside him?

Tweet 50: Crews won. Pfffffft should've been Danny Burch...
Tweet 51: Only one match of substance but that was a good show. Clear where they're going with the singles belts. Good hustle, everyone.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Potential Reign of the Wolf Shaman

I think we can all agree that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was a success. It gave the profile of NXT's tag division a boost. It gave us some very enjoyable to matches (as well as some highlight packages of skipped matches that looked fun). And it gave us some surprises.

There was the involvement of returning stars the Lucha Dragons, Adrian Neville and The Ascension. Dawson and Wilder upsetting The Vaudevillains was nice. Enzo and Cass not making it to the semi-finals after missing the last two Takeovers was a less welcome surprise, but they did at least go down to the eventual winners. Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor not coming to blows? That probably counts as a surprise considering their booking in backstage segments throughout the tournament.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was that the tournament was ultimately used to enhance the standing of Baron Corbin. While Corbin had obviously been in a team for this tourney, pairing up with former rival Rhyno, he's generally more known as a singles wrestler. So his treatment here came as a surprise, though that's not to say it didn't make sense. Because it did.

Top lad Big Barry Corbin.
This tournament allowed the two booking approaches Corbin's been subjected to so far to be utilised. His matches against Breeze and Dempsey and Ciampa and Gargano were both relatively one-sided, showing that he's a super competent ass-kicker who can shut down guys below a certain level with ease. Meanwhile his semi-final match with Chad Gable and Jason Jordan and his final match against Finn and Joe allowed him to work a lengthier, more competitive bout. The first showed that he knows how to beat people the right way, making Gable and Jordan look incredibly before just pulling out a victory with an almost flukey End of Days. The second demonstrates that he knows how to lose in a similar fashion, looking strong before taking a loss.

But Corbin most benefited from simply sharing a ring with NXT main eventers. He'd shown that he could keep up with Joe at Takeover: Brooklyn. Here he showed that wasn't an accident and that he could work just as well with NXT champion Bálor. From a more kayfabe standpoint it got us used to seeing him in a main event setting (this was the highest Corbin's ever made it on a Takeover card) and laid some ground work for a Corbin versus Bálor singles match at some point.

I could see that coming during next year's WrestleMania season. By the time 'Mania 32 has been and gone I'd expect Bálor to be on the main roster or be getting the vignette treatment to set up for it. He's costing WWE too much month for him to stay in NXT beyond that (he has to be, he would have been getting some tasty cheques from New Japan, whom WWE wooed him away from). 'The Wolf Shaman' seems like a strong candidate to end Bálor's reign. He's been slowly built up as a force within NXT, he's over, and he's being moved towards the main event now, meaning it wouldn't be a shock to see him there in a few months.

Bálor's recently announced defence against Apollo Crews strikes me as a way to give Bálor a quality title match before losing it and Crews a meaningful and memorable first loss. Corbin fits the bill as a replacement. He's different and would benefit from the exposure of the position. And a Takeover the night before the Rumble (setting up a Finn debut in the thirty man extravaganza) or WrestleMania (freeing Finn up for the post-WM RAW or some vignette treatment) would be excellent timing.

Monday 12 October 2015

ADR: The Potential Return

So the current #hotrumour is that WWE is interested in re-signing Alberto Del Rio. If you've lost track he's the guy who was released from his contract in August of last year (feels like a lot longer ago) for assaulting a member of the production crew backstage after they'd allegedly made racially derogatory comments about him. A response which, honestly, seems pretty just.

Yeah, he looks fetch but ADR didn't fit in too well in LU.
Since being released Del Rio has changed his name to Alberto El Patron, capitalising on WWE's baffling decision not to trademark the 'El Patron' nickname he used during his time in the company. His most prominent appearances have come in Lucha Underground, ROH and AAA. Truth be told he actually seemed a little out of place in LU, both in terms of character and wrestling style. In ROH he wrestled a handful of very good matches in early 2015. Then he stopped being booked for whatever reason (it's likely that his work with the other promotions mentioned here were behind that), a pity as 'The Essence of Excellence' felt like a good fit in the Land of Honor. His AAA work has seemed to go down better though. The promotion is clearly happy to have him as they put their top title, the mega championship, on him in December 2014 and he's still got it now.

You may be wandering why WWE would want to rehire someone they released for attacking a co-worker less than eighteen months ago. The answer here is simple: they have also lost Rey Mysterio and haven't managed to build up a new star to market to their Latin American fans. They need the star power.

Which is odd because they have the perfect guy on the roster. Kalisto is young, talented, wrestles the style, is the nationality required, and wears a mask. He's a significantly better worker now than a guy like Rey Mysterio is. He may not be as breathtaking or revolutionary as Mysterio in his prime but nobody will ever be that good (or at least that significant) again. The aerial antics of 90s Mysterio have been replicated, standardised and exaggerated upon too much for that. But Kalisto would still be a good choice for WWE to push if they want to have marketable Hispanic star.

Push this man.
That nothing much has been done with Kalisto is odd. He received a call-up to the main roster the night after WrestleMania 31 and... that's it really. He and Sin Cara, as the Lucha Dragons, have been booked as just another team. They've only wrestled on two pay-per-views, Elimination Chamber and SummerSlam (and Chamber technically wasn't even a PPV). They've not been protected or presented as anything special, nor has the team been booked to make it clear that Kalisto is a singles star in waiting. Had they been given more to do Kalisto would probably be in a good place to wrestle in prominent singles matches on the company's upcoming Mexico tour and act as a draw for the Fed.

It may be WWE's own fault they haven't replaced ADR and Mysterio but that is ultimately irrelevant. All that matters is that they haven't been replaced. Bringing back Del Rio is a good enough answer in the short term. He's an established name and could fill the top Latin star role as well as giving the top of the card a welcome fresh name to play with. If he were willing to go back, and chances are he would be for the right money (and one thing WWE isn't short of is money) and some form of resolution regarding his initial release, he could help WWE. But if he does they should also help themselves and build up Kalisto anyway. Because he's the guy with the long in-ring future who could be selling merch in ten years.

Sunday 11 October 2015

The VaudeHipsters

I like The Vaudevillains. They're talented guys who play well off one another and work well as a pairing. But their current gimmick is markedly different to the ones they had when they made their debuts and that's worth reflecting on. And it's one that may ultimately keep them as NXT guys, as opposed to WWE main roster guys.

The excellent 'Drama King' phase.
Aiden English first became a featured NXT performer in the latter half of 2013. He was a singer. Specifically a music hall singer (although he didn't actually sing in music halls what with being a wrestler ad all), emphatically not the sort of pseudo rock star wrestling has had an abundance of over the years (Chris Jericho, I'm looking your way, pal). And he actually could and did sing. He also had an entrance of above average flamboyance: he'd sing his way to the ring and be thrown roses after winning.

Aside from a rambling, hard to engage with rivalry against Big Cass there wasn't a great deal going on for English at this point. He clearly wasn't going to progress as a singles act. He lacked the physique, gripping promo skills or indy rep it takes to stand out in NXT as a lone star. Which is why someone made the smart decision to pair him up with someone as a tag guy.

That someone was, obviously, Simon Gotch. After a period of inactivity on the televised show English returned to Full Sail with Gotch and announced that they were The Vaudevillains, a clever name that acknowledged the music hall influences of 'The Drama King's' singles run and the Edwardian tropes of Gotch, who was sporting a waxed-up moustache and doing a circus strongman mixed with silent movie star routine. NXT has since become a show that has a healthy number of characters on it but at the time this level of detail for guys not at the top of the show stood out. It was engaging and helped them stand out. Which is the point, of course.

The pair were initially presented as bad guys. This worked for a while, mostly due to the strength of English's previous solo run. In terms of heelishness Gotch did very little for the tandem. His mute performance gave him an air of innocence and charm, not exactly the most intimidating, villainous traits a wrestler can have. The Full Sail crowd took to him even while they were still booing English.

The hipster lads.
Gradually they warmed to English too. Their various backstage skits aping the style of silent movies during their feud with the Lucha Dragons played a role in that opinion shift. Their music was a big part of it too. Catchy and carefree it encouraged people to clap along and engage with the entrance. Basically the two were never going to stay heels because pretty much everything they were given, from the above to feuding with the technically proficient and flashy but devoid of personality Lucha boys, was something that drew viewers in in a positive manner.

After their unsuccessful challenges against Sin Cara and Kalisto the 'villains were given a brief hiatus from NXT. They returned in June, fully embracing the babyface role and launching into a slow-building, eventually really very good series of matches with tag champs (Wesley) Blake and (Buddy) Murphy. There's a chance it could flare up again but that seems unlikely. The programme peaked at Takeover: Brooklyn on August 22 where English and Gotch dethroned BAMF for the NXT tag straps.

It was at that Takeover show that they were defined as hipsters for the first time. Which had been glaringly obvious for a while it just needed someone to verbalise it. They've got the joviality and facial hair generally associated with that subculture. It's not a bad move but it is a shame. A hipster tag team makes a great deal of sense but is it more than a music hall singer and a circus strongman teaming up to enjoy sepia entrances and a spot of wrestling? I don't think so.