Friday 27 November 2015

NXTweet 25.11.15

A rarity on NXT this week: a match that was built around outside interference and ref bumps. Honestly, that change was welcome. When used sparingly it's a fun approach that can effectively get heat and build up new acts.


Tweet 1: Watching the NXTs innit.
Tweet 2: Feels like the intro video changes every week. I remember when I first watched RAW and the video was the same for about a year.

Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor contract signing, hosted by Michael Cole

Tweet 4: "Email from Corporate" is such a Michael Cole thing to say.
Tweet 5: Suit and a gimmick T-shirt. The hell you thinking, Finn?
Tweet 6: *Bálor gets in the ring, gives Cole Bloody Sunday*
Tweet 7: Finn Bálor here, declaring war on trust and friendship.
Tweet 8: Enjoying the communist Russia vibe from Joe's entrance lighting and video.
Tweet 9: Arrive. Sign contract. Leave. Get that on a T-shirt.
Tweet 10: Only one man is walking out of this contract signing... and his name is MAGGLE COLE.

"Are you there, Finn? It's me. Joe."

Tweet 11: Building up Joe's clutch here. I assume that means Bálor will survive or counter it at Takeover.
Tweet 12: Genuinely hyped for Bayley versus Eva Marie. Has potential to be either fun or a ridiculous mess. Either way I'd be happy.

NXT tag team championship: The Vaudevillains v Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder (c)

Tweet 13: #Vaudevilainspop
Tweet 14: Really enjoying The Ring Jacket Express lately. Good lads. I'm a fan of them just being a pair of rasslers.
Tweet 15: Excellent facial hair all round in this match.
Tweet 16: Throwing about the falsies here, aren't they?

Such a fan of this move.

Tweet 17: Dawson and Wilder win, because they were always going to. One day we'll get a feud where titles switch back and forth a bit.
Tweet 18: Is it not being called the Shatter Machine anymore? That name was, and is, great.
Tweet 19: Enzo and Cass v The Super Shatter Bros has potential. It'll definitely get the crowd hot.

Eva Marie talks to Tom Philips

Tweet 20: Eva Marie with some slick mic skills here.
Tweet 21: "I'm the hottest literally prospect in a long time" - Eva Marie
Tweet 22: Wut?
Tweet 23: Nia and Eva coming together to form the New Mega Powers and dominate the women's division (which sadly has no tag belts).

Elias Samson vignette

Tweet 24: Loving how daft Elias Samson's 'Drifter' shtick is.
Tweet 25: Give him Bull's push.

Asuka v Dana Brooke... doesn't happen because of an attack by Emma

Tweet 26: Asuka versus Dana Brooke is the definition of Something for the Dads™.
Tweet 27: Dana 'Panto Villain' Brooke there.

Maybe Emma could be revealed as Sister Abigail.
Got the hoodie and she can go upside down like Bray.

Tweet 28: Emma's borrowed Luke Harper's hoodie from Battleground.
Tweet 29: Dana's taunting needs work.

Bayley talks to Tom Philips

Tweet 30: "To some people Eva Marie is the perfect champion" - Bayley
Tweet 31: Bayley is the latest person to mention WWE Corporate. Is that a thing now? Is this what Regal will be crediting for heel decisions?
Tweet 32: WWE Corporate, feat. Jack Tunney.

Sami Zayn vignette

Tweet 33: Sami Zayn is coming back. But more importantly they included a shot of El Local in his return video.
Tweet 34: Samuel Zayn Esq. presumably returning at the post-Takeover tapings.

Apollo Crews v Jesse Sorensen

Tweet 35: Can't wait until Apollo Crews debuts a move and Rich Brennan informs us it's called Crews Control.
Tweet 36: Making out that Jesse Sorensen is a big deal is a step too far. Dilutes the Big Name Free Agent card they've been (over)playing lately.

Apollo's new finish. Save that combo for special occasions, yeah?

Tweet 37: You know who I'd REALLY like to see in NXT? Akira Tozawa.
Tweet 38:  They made the right call keeping that short and not having Sorensen do much.
Tweet 39: "Baron Corbin..." *boos*

Baron Corbin promo

Tweet 40: Barry Corbin with a wildly passionate promo here.
Tweet 41: Sad we didn't get his sign off from last week.

NXT women's championship: Eva Marie v Bayley (c)

Tweet 42: Li'l 'Naitch' pop.
Tweet 43: Corporate have flown Charles Robinson in to "ensure a clean finish." They should have brought in Earl Hebner for this spot.

Old lion Charles Robinson watches on.

Tweet 44: This heat on Eva though. It's because she's wearing gold gear despite her "all red everything" gimmick.
Tweet 45: Nia Jax is wearing more red than Eva.
Tweet 46: Charles Robinson subtly concealing an erection there.
Tweet 47: Potential for Attitude Era level shenanigans here. I'm already a fan of this one.
Tweet 48: To clarify: I hate constant interference. When it's used sparingly and on special occasions it can work wonders.
Tweet 49: Eva being talked about as undeserving. Why, exactly? She's won more matches than Bliss has lately, and Bliss got a title shot.
Tweet 50: Textbook lockup. Who says Eva can't work?
Tweet 51: Eva taking some air guitar from the Tanahashi playbook there.
Tweet 52: Shot of Charles Robinson nodding sagely. Tremendous.
Tweet 53: Loling at the nonsense of this Nia interference.
Tweet 54: Brad should have gotten to do this refereeing. One last hurrah.
Tweet 55: Sliced Red getting such a hot response. Tears.
Tweet 56: Ref bump. Nobody does it better than Charles.
Tweet 57: Good booking. That was a fun bit of nonsense.

The next, and perhaps ultimate, obstacle for Bayley to overcome.

Tweet 58: Nia Jax attacking Bayley because next challenger and why not?
Tweet 59: The Hogan pattern continues.
Tweet 60: Good show that. It was a laugh.

Monday 23 November 2015

Survivor Series 2015 review

Let's start off with some honesty. Survivor Series was not a great show. When the longest match of the evening takes place on the pre-show you know you're in for a rough night. It's too early to attempt a redemptive reading of this card (not that redemptive readings of pay-per-views should even be a thing because it's massively pretentious but whatevs) but even if it weren't I don't think much could be done. There were good matches but not where it counted. And the ending of the show, a bigger deal here than normal because a new world champion was to be crowned, was a spectacular misfire. There's not really a way for a wrestling show constructed so heavily around its main event to come back from that.

Reigns figuratively Superman punching rebelling fans in the face.
The official opener saw tourney favourite Roman Reigns take on Alberto Del Rio. The reasoning of making this match was sound enough, it was intended to keep the crowd on side on stop them revealing against Roman. It achieved its goal because ADR is massively boring and has a confusing gimmick to boot (he's pro-multiculturalism but we're meant to dislike him for an unspecified reason). But having your show begin with a man who's main method of getting heat is being tedious to watch is a bad idea for very obvious reasons. Reigns went over clean and will show no interest in the United States title in the foreseeable future.

Things improved with the other semi-final match. That saw Dean Ambrose defeat IC kingpin Kevin Owens in exactly the kind of gripping affair everyone expected from them. Even though an Ambrose win seemed likely they managed to cast doubt on the outcome until it rolled around, in which Ambrose reversed the pop-up power bomb into a hurricanrana and then hit Dirty Deeds for the pin.

That was followed by a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, the only one on the show (although that pre-show bout I mentioned was one). Rybsck, the Usos and the Lucha Dragons took on King Wade Bad News Barrett I, Sheamus and New Day. There was fun to be found because New Day are the best act in WWE. They hit the right mix of fun and threatening which is exactly right with them portraying heels. Also, Xavier Woods had a new haircut!

Unfortunately the match wasn't good. There were moments of delight to be had but there were too many bodies in the ring to avoid blown spots and sloppiness. The wrong team survived too. This was the perfect chance for New Day to be established as unstoppable when they're at full strength (it would have given us another heel victory on the show, which could have been a help). Instead they were treated as generic heels and, bafflingly, walked out on the match together after Big E was eliminated. It's not that that went against character, it's that it was a stupid idea that did nothing to put them over as an effective trio. 

This weird team though...
The tag team champions, the King of the Ring (remember when that tournament was treated like it meant something?), and the man who would leave end the night as WWE world champ were outlasted by Ryback, Kalisto and Jey Uso. Yes, Jey Uso. It's worth noting that Ryback got the pin on Shaymo. That's a potential world title feud. Harrowing to think about, I know.

Paige's challenge for Charlotte's Divas championship followed that. This card being relatively light on matches ensured that they got plenty of time, a shade under fifteen minutes. The match wasn't bad but they weren't lively enough to hold attention for that amount of time. Too many rest holds made this somewhat of a chore to sit through. The by-the-numbers ringside excursion did nothing. Charlotte won with the figure eight.

Tyler Breeze and Dolph Ziggler were only given enough time to have a match slightly better than what they'd have had on RAW. They made up for it by having two of the best outfits of the evening. 'Prince Pretty' looked good, as he should have done in his PPV debut, but the match was nothing special. He got the win too, again as he should have done. Interestingly he did so with the move Christian once called the Unprettier. Apt.

Expert selling from Harper there.
Undertaker's twenty-fifth anniversary match took the semi-main event spot. As I wrote in the preview this was a wasted opportunity. 'Taker tagging with Kane against Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt just didn't feel like a big enough deal for such a significant milestone in the man's career and the character's history. More should ahve been done in advance to build towards this. I understand that WWE has been hit by an unfortunate spate of injuries but nothing across the last month or two of television indicates that anything of any greater worth was originally planned for 'The Dead Man' at Survivor Series. The company knew this anniversary was coming up and could have made it a far bigger deal had they wished. We're left to assume that they didn't want to, which begs the question of why they made even this token attempt.

The match itself was okay. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper were wisely picked as the representatives of their Family and got to look reasonably competitive against the Brothers of Destruction before they took the loss. That said they were also shown to rely heavily on interference and still couldn't win, even against a 'Phenom' who was very visibly off his game, quite possibly feeling the pressure of the moment. Or maybe he was feeling his age. Harper was pinned by Undi' following a Tombstone. No other pinning combo was an option: 'Taker had to get the win and Bray couldn't take a loss.

Which left only the main event (although in actuality it didn't). Notable omission of a handshake at the start aside, odd because of the brother versus brother narrative WWE was going with and their well-established on-screen friendship, the two had an entirely believable and completely natural face versus face match. Neither was too aggressive, both got in an abundance of their signature moves and high spots. They packed in plenty of near falls too, although it's possible too many of them relied on finishers. With only ten minutes to play with it did feel a very busy match at points.

No heel turn here.
Then Reigns hit a spear and just like that it was over. Reigns got his moment to celebrate as JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler gushed about his achievement and the legacy he comes from. He and Ambrose shared a hug before the loser gracefully exited the ring and Reigns was flooded by confetti. This was, of course, designed to make Reigns' subsequent fall all the harsher.

Triple H hit the ring. He applauded Reigns and raised his hand before offering a handshake. Reigns responded with a weak spear. Sheamus then showed up, Brogue kicked Reigns, and officially cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. Even when losing to a surprise cash-in Reigns was kept strong, kicking out of the move (which not let forget has been well protected over the years) before falling to a second.

There's more to Ireland... dan dis!
And here's why this show was a failure. The main event, despite being pretty good in and of itself did nothing to play up to the situation. There was no corrupt boss, no Survivor Series '97 callback, no swerve heel turn. None of these things were necessary but with the circumstances as they were it was reasonable to expect some of these aspects to come into play. The decision not to use them was a bold one and something that could have worked had the writing team had the courage of their convictions and given the main event the time to be the classic encounter they intended it to be.

Instead we got yet another sneaky heel champion aligned with The Authority and Michael Cole bleating about history being stolen. This is not the stuff that memorable pay-per-views are made of.


Results summary:
Roman Reigns defeated Alberto Del Rio
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens
Ryback, the Usos and the Lucha Dragons defeated Bad News Barrett, Sheamus and New Day
Charlotte defeated Paige to retain the Divas championship
Tyler Breeze defeated Dolph Ziggler
The Undertaker and Kane defeated Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper
Roman Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose to win the WWE championship
Sheamus defeated Roman Reigns to win the WWE championship

Saturday 21 November 2015

NXTweet 18.11.15

Another week, another episode of NXT that blends squashes and lengthier competitive matches. Both the Jordan and Gable versus The Ascension tag match and the women's title main event are top stuff. Plus we got the reveal that Bayley is basically being afforded the 80s Hulk Hogan booking pattern. It's hard not to enjoy that.


Tweet 1: N. X. Tweet.
Tweet 2: I like the shot of Sheamus in his jaunty cap in the signature. Never mentioned that before.

Carmella v Nia Jax

Tweet 3: Big fan of Carmella's moonwalk basically being her walking backwards.
Tweet 4: "Hottest chick in the ring!" - Carmella, who was the only chick in the ring
Tweet 5: Carmella versus Awesome Jax.

Jax unwittingly teasing a Styles Clash there.

Tweet 6: Kind of surprised Triple H hasn't re-signed Kong for NXT. This feels like where she'd thrive in WWE.
Tweet 7: Devastating hip attack from Nia Jax there.
Tweet 8: This is not a good match.
Tweet 9: Jax should be given Michael Elgin's move set.

Alexa Bliss promo, featuring 'Fashionplate' Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy

Tweet 10: Alexa Bliss wearing that Goa'uld mind control device again. What? No, YOU'RE a pervert.
Tweet 11: I liked Blake's subtle transformation into Chris Hero in that scene.
Tweet 12: Let him go singles and give him a hip hop loving elbow thrower gimmick.

The Ascension v Jason Jordan and Chad Gable

Tweet 13: Absolutely insane pop for The Ascension here. Disappointed Stardust can't cross over to the NXT timestream.
Tweet 14: Fancy new gear on the NCAA lads here. Got their initials on them and everything.
Tweet 15: I'm hyped for this match. Always nice to see Konnor and Viktor treated like a big deal.
Tweet 16: That northern lights suplex. That toe point.
Tweet 17: I wouldn't be against The Ascension winning after a spotlight with a big star on it distracts Jordan and Gable.

Solid tag finisher this.

Tweet 18: Konnor and Viktor should get Road Warriors style interlocking haircuts.
Tweet 19: That was a strong match. Jordan and Gable deserve to be built up for a title win at WrestleMania weekend.

Tom Philips interviews Bayley

Tweet 20: Bayley not even looking at Tom Philips as she speaks here. Good. That's the level of respect he warrants.
Tweet 21: Good call having Bayley say the other three Horsewomen left and she stayed because she's the champ.
Tweet 22: Makes it clear it's her choice. Rather than that she's been left behind or that she's not good enough.

Emma v Mary Kate

Tweet 23: This old lad perving on Evil Emma from the front row though.
Tweet 25: "Mary Kate's" being a little tryhard here.
Tweet 26: Mary Kate though. Srsly?

Emma's feud with the Premier Athlete Brand starts here.

Tweet 27: I like Emma's uncoordinated heel shtick.

Baron Corbin promo

Tweet 28: Loving this reminder that Barry Corbin is the most hated man in NXT and it's largely because he's booked as himself.
Tweet 29: Corbin promo. Comically bad.
Tweet 30: "... courtesy of 'The Lone Wolf'" - Barry Corbin, who needs more mic time so that he can drop that hot sign-off more often

Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder v Corey Hollis and John Skyler

Tweet 31: These job lads though...
Tweet 32: Really wish Dash 'n' Dawson had a better team name.
Tweet 33:  Little reference to the new champs changing the landscape of the tag division there. I like that.
Tweet 34: Good way of keeping the division fresh. I like booking that changes everything up when a title change happens.
Tweet 35: Gives everyone on the show something new to play off. Which is obviously good.

Another very good tag finisher here.

Tweet 36: Gimmick idea: have Dawson refer to his non-existent sculpted abs in promos.
Tweet 37: That was decent. Big fan of Dash 'B' Dawson just being brawl-lovin' lads.

Tom Philips interviews Asuka, Dana Brooke shows up

Tweet 38: Asuka in this mask. Tears.
Tweet 39: "NXT TV."
Tweet 40: "It's time for you to go" - Dana Brooke
Tweet 41: #feelings
Tweet 42: Oh look. Dana and Emma have a plan. Who would have guessed.

Samoa Joe cuts 90s Taz style promo from the car park

Tweet 43: Samoa Joe there with his top button done up. What happened to you, Joe?
Tweet 44: Hyping a contract signing FFS.

NXT women's championship: Bayley (c) v Alexa Bliss

Tweet 45: Speaking of #feelings... Alexa Bliss.
Tweet 46: I like women who turn heel in NXT getting remixed entrance themes.
Tweet 47: Imagine a Dark Bayley theme. It'd be the sound of gunfire and children screaming.
Tweet 48: Third week in a row we're getting the dropped lights for ring intros. Strong stuff.
Tweet 49: These people really like Bayley, eh?
Tweet 50: This match is slick so far.
Tweet 51: Bayley doing the corner knee. She should start doing the crotch chop and deliberate stride before she hits it.

Getting a big Jericho vibe form this picture. That's never a good sign.

Tweet 52: Alexa is definitely not ratchet. These people need to pipe down.
Tweet 53: Bayley solidifying her spot as the female John Cena by loudly and obviously calling spots there.
Tweet 54: Alexa's botch moonsault having become a move though...
Tweet 55: Imagine if Bayley just randomly adopted the look and mannerisms of Davey Boy Smith, SummerSlam '92 roid monster edition.
Tweet 56: That match was shorter than I expected. There are five minutes left. Still really strong though. Bayley and Bliss are both great.
Tweet 57: Eva Marie here, once again shamelessly straying from her all red theme.
Tweet 58: Let's take a moment to appreciate that Bayley is being booked like Hogan. Beat someone, be faced with a bigger challenge, beat them.

You can actually see the pity in Bayley's eyes.

Tweet 59: "Okay, now be quiet, you little dorks" - Heat magnet Eva Marie
Tweet 60: If Eva told me to be quiet I would be. #justsaying
Tweet 61: Eva is a better promo than Barry Corbin. She just had to contend with a nuclear crowd.
Tweet 62: Strong NXT episode that. Nice work.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Survivor Series 2015 preview

Back in late 1998 I started watching wrestling. The first major pay-per-view that came up was Survivor Series. I didn't watch it at the time, I didn't realise it was available on Sky Sports, for free (remember those days?). Instead I bought it on VHS months later.

I knew what happened at the show though, thanks to recaps and whatnot. A tournament was held to crown a new world champion, the title having been vacated two months earlier after Undertaker and Kane had pinned reigning champ Steve Austin at the same time. It was a long, convoluted series of matches that should have been cut down and had some opening round matches moved to RAW but that was never going to happen under Vince 'More is More' Russo. The show ended with 'People's Champion' The Rock aligning himself with Vince McMahon to form The Corporation.

Seventeen years later history has, somewhat, repeated itself. A real life injury to Seth Rollins has forced a vacation of the WWE championship. A tournament has been held across two weeks of TV shows and will culminate with the semi-finals and final matches at the PPV. The man most people expect to make the finals is Roman Reigns, who was originally going to challenge 'The Future' for the gold before the injury occurred.

Reigns is The Rock's cousin. That, the fact that Survivor Series is playing host to a tournament final, and the fact that the show will forever be synonymous with The Montreal Screwjob, mean we are almost guaranteed a swerve finish to the evening's final match. And that it will feature Roman Reigns.

Of the two semis one seems painfully obvious while the other is a closer call. The obvious one is Roman Reigns versus United States champion Alberto Del Rio. I'll be amazed if we see ADR in the final. It seems safe to say he's made it this far to give Reigns a safe match where the crowd dong revolt against him. That's the same reason his quarter final victory over Cesaro was tucked away on RAW.

The other semi is Dean Ambrose versus Kevin Owens. Ambrose winning and having a showdown with his best bud and former Shield teammate seems like the obvious thing to do, and WWE isn't a company that likes to shy away from the obvious. The only wrinkle is that KO has been doing sterling work lately and his advancement to the final would surprise without seeming innocuous. Were this tournament taking place this time next year or had Owens debuted a year earlier I'd argue in favour of him getting the win over Ambrose and facing Reigns in the final. As it is he's not been around long enough to be a truly convincing finalist against a Chosen One like Reigns.

Which leaves me predicting a Reigns v Ambrose final. With the talent WWE had available for the tournament this is probably the most natural final they could have gone with. Yeah, it would be nice to see Cesaro there but it would have been too much to ask. A slow build is what's required for Cesaro at this point, he's not been built up as credible enough for a pay-per-view main event in which he may win the world title.

The prediction I'm happiest making is that we'll see some sort of shmoz finish, very likely playing on Survivor Series '98 or the Montreal Screwjob. Or both. An Ambrose heel turn, victory and alignment with The Authority isn't impossible but a Reigns victory seems likelier. I'm convinced one will turn on the other (a huge waste of a previously wonderfully solid wrestling friendship) but I don't know which. Which makes me think WWE has slightly mishandled this tournament because I should be getting excited about seeing who makes it to the final to crow a new champion.

I'll settle on Reigns winning and Ambrose going heel because of jealousy. Because Reigns is the clear favourite and Ambrose is so over that it would be stupid to try and turn him. Which means WWE will.

Outside of the tournament Survivor Series is looking unspectacular. The Paige v Charlotte Divas title match has been overshadowed by Paige's (entirely scripted yet still) controversial comments about Reid Flair, Charlotte's dead brother, being a quitter. 'The Nature Girl' will almost certainly overcome these terrible, terrible (entirely scripted) comments and retain her championship. Because she needs another strong defence if she is to be the star the company wants her to be.

Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze will finally have a match after around a month of teasing. I can't imagine either guy having a bad match so it should be good. The trouble is that it's been left to simmer too long and their issue (basically summed up as "Summer Rae") and it feels like they're just killing time here. Which is a shame. 'Prince Pretty' being the new boy who's only beaten R-Truth so far means he should win. Plenty of time for 'The Show Off' to get wins later in the feud.

The final match (other than a traditional Series match with no wrestlers confirmed for it) is The Undertaker and Kane versus two members of the Wyatt Family. Which doesn't seem particularly interesting considering the event marks 'Taker's twenty-fifth anniversary in WWE. I understand this match has probably been rejigged because of injuries and the necessary tournament but it's pretty rough that this was the best WWE could come up with to begin with. Could 'The Dead Man' not have had one last solid non-'Mania singles outing against someone like Cesaro or Ambrose or Owens or Ziggler? A storyline for that would have been easy enough t come up with: a face like Cesaro or whoever wants the honour of facing Undertaker on his anniversary, a heel like Owens wants to embarrass and humiliate him on it by defeating him.

A singles match letting someone underutilised shine would have been better than pairing him with Kane against unadvertised opponents. Speaking of which my view is that if the Wyatts are represented by anyone other than Luke Harper and 'The Eater of Worlds' someone somewhere in the company doesn't have their priorities straight. Wyatt is the star of his act and Harper has tonnes of potential should a decent mid-card ever happen. They are the best two wrestlers of the faction too.

I'm usually all for younger wrestlers beating older wrestlers because WWE needs to get new stars established. I'm not going to argue in favour of that here. After twenty-five years in the company Undertaker winning this match (by which I mean the one WWE have booked him in) is the right call. That said a Wyatts win would be fairly unexpected and could actually give Bray the credibility shot he needs.

All in all Survivor Series will be memorable because of the tournament finals. But there's little else on offer outside of that right now. New stars are needed. And soon.


Predictions summary:
Roman Reigns to defeat Dean Ambrose to win the WWE championship
Roman Reigns to defeat Alberto Del Rio
Dean Ambrose to defeat Kevin Owens
Undertaker and Kane to defeat the Wyatt Family
Charlotte to defeat Paige to retain the Divas championship
Tyler Breeze to defeat Dolph Ziggler

Saturday 14 November 2015

NXTweet 11.11.15

Why did Samoa Joe turn on his bestest friend Finn Bálor? Find out here!


Tweet 1: Anyway, NXT now.
Tweet 2: Last week: Rich Brennan and Corey Graves talked about Apollo Crews and Finn Bálor. Byron Saxton was also present.
Tweet 3: Then Barry Corbin rocked up.
Tweet 4: Then Samoa Joe turned heel.

Tye Dillinger v Baron Corbin

Tweet 5: Tye Dillinger here, experiencing the height of his career by saying "Ten!" a lot.
Tweet 6: Rare Barry Corbin versus featured performer match here. My prediction is that Barry will win via motorbikes and wolf magic.
Tweet 7: Apollo Crews breaking up what I'm sure would have been a classic of a match.
Tweet 8: Barry's run off. Heading backstage to wet his hair and stare longingly at bikes.

Bayley and the Hype Bros v BAMF

Tweet 9: Hype Bros still getting a smattering of boos. I approve.
Tweet 10: "Stack Ryder" - Eden Stiles
Tweet 11: The state of these lime green boots on Mojo though. This is the sort of thing that will reflect poorly on Bayley.
Tweet 12: Heel Alexa Bliss. Good lord.

Alexa. Yes.

Tweet 13: Mojo needs to tighten up that physique if he wants to impress Vinnie Mac.
Tweet 14: Looking forward to Mojo's release and subsequent shoot promo flavoured debut in a TNA that's still somehow clinging to life.
Tweet 15: 'Wild' Wesley Blake has grown on me. He knows how ridiculous he is and he plays to it. Top lad.
Tweet 16: Why aren't commentary talking about how impressive it is that BAMF are controlling the match against grizzled vet Stack Ryder? Oh yeah...

'Fashionplate' Wesley Blake.

Tweet 17: Mojo looks like he's cosplaying as a member of the CHIKARA roster.
Tweet 18: Based on the little bits we've seen here so far I think Bayley v Bliss could be very good.
Tweet 19: Tears at Bayley giving Murphy a belly-to-Bayley.
Tweet 20: Murphy took that like a pro. I'm a fan of the BAMF boys now. They're loveable idiots.

The Ascension cut a promo

Tweet 21: "Challenge accepteeeeeeeeed!" - Konnor
Tweet 22: That promo. Those contact lenses. Only way that could have been more entertaining would have been getting Stardust involved.
Tweet 23: That wasn't going to happen. In the NXT timeline he remains Cody Rhodes, proud son of Dusty Rhodes.

Eva Marie and Nia Jax go into a locker room, presumably to talk

Tweet 24:  Nia Jax and Eva Marie pairing being teased here. That's interesting (it isn't).

Apollo Crews talks about Baron Corbin

Tweet 25: Apollo Crews is too happy a man to convince me he's angry at Barry.
Tweet 26: No way I'm not assuming they're great mates who enjoy sipping protein shakes and sharing diet tips.

Nia Jax v Deonna

Tweet 27: Byron Saxton had never seen a woman as strong as Nia Jax.
Tweet 28: In unrelated news I remain unimpressed by Byron's insipid commentary.
Tweet 29: Deonna is a good looking girl though. Shame she's going to have to play the waiting game for a spot.

Smiles when she wins because Triple H tells her to.

Tweet 30: Nia wins with a leg drop. I'm taking that as a shot at 'The Hulkster'.

Bayley chases Alexa Bliss backstage, Nia Jax gets involved

Tweet 31: Disappointed that Bayley, Alexa and Nia sequence didn't lead to a story where a title belt is constantly being stolen.
Tweet 32: Would've been the perfect in for R-Truth.

NXT tag team championship: The Vaudevillains (c) v Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder

Tweet 33: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 34: Dimmed lighting again. Still a fan.
Tweet 35: Dawson's comedy selling of Vaudevillains' punches is an early contender for moment of the match.

Arn and Tully 2.0.

Tweet 36: Disgusted by Aiden English, a man who shouts "Manly!" all the time, entering the ring between the bottom and middle ropes.
Tweet 37: Waiting for Scotty Dawson to bust out a rotating spinebuster here.
Tweet 38: Corey name dropping Arn and Ole Anderson. No love for CW?
Tweet 39: Scott Dawson should grow in his chest hair. #justsaying
Tweet 40: Harrowing scenes as the New Brainbusters leg lock Pillmanise Aiden English.

Big fan of the NXT tag titles getting slung on random teams every so often.

Tweet 41: I liked that finish. Different kind of story for WWE. Keeps the 'villains strong and builds up Dash 'n' Dawson.
Tweet 42: Samoa Joe's up next. That tag title match should have been the main event.

Samoa Joe promo (Samoa Joemo)

Tweet 43: I said this last week but I'll repeat it here for clarity...
Tweet 44: Joe turned on Bálor because Bálor had refused to sign with TNA and help Joe turn things around.
Tweet 45: Joe here, going full on mad heel, doing revisionist history and channelling Hulk Hogan.
Tweet 46: So Joe turned because Billy Regal booked him in a battle royal. Thibk you're better than Andre do you, mate?
Tweet 47: "I'm Samoa Joe" - Samoa Joe
Tweet 48: Three guys holding back Bálor, two holding back Joe. No comment.

Boo this man. For reasons.

Tweet 49: You know that ending was real because the commentary shut up. #eyeroll
Tweet 50: Good show that. Good hustle.

Monday 9 November 2015

Fantasy Booker: Survivor Series 2015

On November 4 WWE world heavyweight champion Seth Rollins tore ligaments and a meniscus in his knee during a house show match with Kane. You've probably heard this, because Rollins is a pretty important figure in the world's biggest wrestling company. You've also probably heard that WWE vacated the title on November 5 (remember that date) and announced that a new champion would be crowned at Survivor Series.

Naturally this made many people, me included, recall the Deadly Game tournament. That was a fourteen man tournament held at the 1998 Survivor Series (Undertaker and Kane got a bye to the second round), also held to crown a new champion, which famously ended with an homage to the Montreal Screwjob™, then only a year in the past.

I've got a soft spot for Survivor Series '98. It was the first major show to take place after I started watching wrestling and it had a catchy theme tune. It was also the pinnacle of the Russo booking approach, allowing him to utilise all of his strengths and disguise his many, many (many) weaknesses (you can read more on that here). All of which means that this fantasy booking piece (and let's not kid ourselves, I was always going to do a fantasy booking piece on this) has some similarities to the Deadly Game tournament.

Let's start with the November 9 RAW. I'd like to acknowledge the fact that the show would be taking place exactly eighteen years after the Montreal Screwjob took place. But I wouldn't because that would be too on the nose. Instead I'd simply have The Authority announce four qualifying-slash-first round matches for the show and another four for the November 12 SmackDown. The men chosen would be hyped up as amongst the best wrestlers in the company, nay the world (true for some, not others).

The reason I'd be booking qualifying matches is to fill TV time. Without the originally planned Rollins and Reigns programme there'd be little to build to at the pay-per-view beyond the Wyatts eight man tag against Undertaker and Kane. With no main event to promote the sensible thing would be to focus on the tournament, and the best way of doing that would be to include more matches and spread them out on TV. It also has the benefit of making it seem like the guys who make it to the final have achieved more, going through one more round.

This match feels overdue.
The four RAW matches would be Dolph Ziggler v Tyler Breeze, Dean Ambrose v Kevin Owens, Bray Wyatt v Ryback, and Roman Reigns v Sheamus. Ziggler and Breeze's first match seems overdue and it couldn't hurt 'Prince Pretty' to debut in a world title tournament. They'd have the longest match of the four, allowing Breeze to look competitive in defeat. Owens and Ambrose feels like another suitably big first round match and one that people couldn't be absolutely certain of a winner for. It would also tie into their burgeoning rivalry and be a natural main event for RAW. KO would go over via some sort of shady tactics leading to a pop-up power bomb.

Wyatt and Ryback would be kept short because I don't think they'd work particularly well together and they'd have a storyline finish to protect 'The Eater of Worlds'. Some crazy lighting effects would distract him and allow Ryback to get a Shellshock for the victory. These lighting effects would obviously be attributed to 'Taker and 'The Big Red Machine' and their magical powers, keeping that rivalry relevant and adding another reason for their Survivors match.

Reigns versus Sheamus would be the shortest of the bunch. Sheamus would wrestle for a bit before grabbing his Money in the Bank briefcase and walloping Reigns with it. The commentary team would hypothesise that 'The Celtic Warrior' was deliberately disqualified to hurt Reigns, the favourite, and because he has his guaranteed title match thanks to the 'case, making his participation in the tourney redundant. Shaymo would gloat about exactly this in an interview later in the evening.

The four SmackDown bouts would be Big E v Mark Henry, Adrian Neville v Kalisto, Alberto Del Rio v The Miz, and Cesaro v Stardust. These guys all feel like SmackDown regulars, meaning it's not an unrealistic batch of guys to book in these matches. Big E v Henry would be a standard short match. E would win with interference from Woods and Kingston. Neville v Kalisto would be the second longest of the evening and be designed to showcase the skills of both lads. Kalisto would get the win. This would be intended as a surprise although I don't know if it would be that big a deal. It's not like Nev has been built up since his main roster debut.

Del Rio and Miz would be an awkward heel versus heel match but those are okay occasionally. And, for the record, there's no real reason ADR should be considered a heel right now. All he's done is come back, beat Cena, and show pride in being Mexican. What's bad any f that? So he could play face in this match before switching back to his aggressive heel ways for the pay-per-view matches. Cesaro v Stardust would be the SmackDown main event. Cesaro could pummel Konnor and Viktor on his way to a decisive win, playing off whatever the Cosmic Wasteland watching Cesaro from the crowd over the last few weeks was meant to lead to.

The November 16 RAW would feature the predictable Survivor Series elimination match featuring the eight quarter finalists: Ziggler, Cesaro, Reigns and Kalisto v Owens, Del Rio, Ryback and Big E. Ryback aside this would be heels versus faces, and I'd want to position 'The Big Guy' as a subtle heel for the PPV itself (more on that below). Reigns and Cesaro would be the sole survivors for their teams and the commentary lads would hype up that the brackets are laid out in such a way that Cesaro v Reigns could be the final match. Also on this episode of RAW Ambrose would have a backstage segment discussing Owens and Sheamus, the purpose of which would be to keep that issue alive and tease Ambrose interfering at in Owens' tourney matches and watching out for a Sheamus cash-in after he attacked Ambrose great buddy Roman.

I'd want the Survivor Series show to reuse the old Deadly Game theme. I doubt that's possible because WWE probably signs deals that prevent using anything except the generic theme songs that are the norm now, but I'd like it to happen.

Push this man.
The show would open with Ziggler falling to Owens in five or six minutes. It wouldn't be overly long because 'Mr Wrestling' would need to look dominant for the night ahead. Match two would see Del Rio defeat Kalisto. Their match would be all about Kalisto constantly trying to get flash wins and ADR trying to slow him down and create some distance. He'd win with the cross armbreaker. Losing to such an established move shouldn't hurt li'l Kally. That would be followed by Cesaro pinning Big E. He could again be booked to look like a beast by overcoming a pair of seconds at ringside, this time Kofi and Xavier.

Match four would be Reigns v Ryback. The idea with making this match would be to put Reigns against one of the few guys his detractors likely want to see as world champion even less than him. Having Ryback leave his face mannerisms in the dressing room for the evening would help with that. It's not a guarantee that the crowd would side with Reigns but I think there's a strong chance they would. Reigns would get worked over for a bit before making a comeback and winning with the spear and Superman punch (because this layout seems to have worked well for Reigns this year).

That would cue up the first non-tournament match. Not that it's important to the pupose of wat I'm writing about here but I'd have that be the Charlotte v Paige Divas championship match. I like the idea of having a tag team tables match between New Day and the Dudley Boyz too but that would probably go on the pre-show. The Duds would finally get their big win over New Day. That's overdue. The feud needs to end.

The first semi-final match would be Kevin Owens v Cesaro. The idea here would be to enhance the standing of both men by having them progress this far. They'd add to that with an even match. Owens would win, the idea being to encourage people to boo him because he'd have eliminated a genuine fave in 'The Swiss Superman'. Meanwhile the logic behind going with Reigns v Del Rio would be to have Reigns beat another guy that people wouldn't actually want to see win. The crowd and viewers would be encouraged to back Reigns because he'd be knocking off "boring" tournament entrants.

Those matches would be followed by the Wyatt Family v Kane and Undertaker match (no idea who'd be partnering with the Brothers of Destruction, it wouldn't really be a priority). 'Taker would really have to be the sole survivor for his team, wouldn't he? Because it's his twenty-fifth anniversary in the company and he's a face. But I'd overlook that and have the match come down to 'The Dead Man' and Wyatt then have Wyatt win. Because Wyatt is more important to the future of WWE than 'The Phenom'. Plus Wyatt winning and spoiling the anniversary should get him some solid heat.

Which just leaves the main event. There's a lot I'd want to include in this and I'm aware it will probably read as overbooking (it probably would be overbooking if it happened). But I think that's okay occasionally. It certainly sounds more appealing than yet another main event in which Seth Rollins wins by being flukey. So here's what I'd do...

Reigns v Owens feels like a good tournament final to me.
The match would be announced as a no DQ affair with the declaration that "there must be a winner." Triple H and Stephanie would walk to ringside before the start of the match, prompting Michael Cole to rattle off Survivor Series Screwjob info, reminding us that 'The Cerebral Assassin' was in on the original Montreal happenings. I'd want to have at least fifteen minutes for the match itself when the bell rang at the beginning of Owens v Reigns. They'd have a straight match for ten minutes, trading the advantage and trying to keep people guessing on who'd win.

Owens would go for the Sharpshooter at around the ten minute mark, which should be a reliable reaction-getter considering the circmstances. Reigns would counter that into a roll-up for a two count. At which point Sheamus would stride to the ring. We'd get a reaction shot of The Authority looking concerned and Sheamus would get into the ring and Brogue kick Reigns. 'Great White' would then hand in his briefcase, making the match a three-way in a call back to the WrestleMania main event. He'd turn around into a pummelling from a recently arrived Ambrose. Owens would recover and save Sheamus from 'The Lunatic Fringe'.

The heels would give Ambrose a kicking. By this point Triple H would be up on the apron shouting and trying to get some order over the situation. Reigns would return to his feet from the Brogue kick and drop Reigns with a spear. Owens would hit Reigns with a pop-up power bomb. Reigns would kick out. Owens would sell disbelief and stagger towards the ropes, where Helmsley would clamber into the ring and give him a Pedigree.

Reigns would then return to his feet and, after a stare off with 'The Game', apply the Sharpshooter. Trips would immediately signal for the bell to be rung and hand the title belt to Reigns. Steph would join them in the ring. Shaymo would walk up the aisle looking angry at having wasted his magical briefcase. Owens would lay on the mat selling. Ambrose would confront Roman and be dropped with a Superman punch. The show would go off the air with Reigns, Triple H and Stephanie recreating the famous shot of The Rock (Roman's cousin remember) celebrating with Vince and Shane at Survivor Series 1998.

Yes, it's convoluted and a bit messy. It would hopefully get tidied up a bit before the night. But this would be the gist of what I'd go for because it makes use of all the things people would expect the finals to play on: the corrupt bosses at ringside, a Money in the Bank cash-in, Ambrose interference (his mere presence would get people suspicious that he'd cost Reigns the match), a WrestleMania 31 reference, and, of course, the Sharpshooter finish. It would set up Sheamus, Owens and Ambrose as challengers for Reigns and position Owens for a babyface run, something I think he's well suited for right now. The tournament as a whole would also have helped raise the profile of Cesaro and Kalisto, two guys who WWE could and should be doing more with.

Most importantly in turning Reigns heel fans would be encouraged to vent any frustration they may have over him and his largely failed babyface run(s). When he turned babyface again the animosity should be gone and he should be more actively embraced. People need to see him in a new role and be given reason to back him. There's no light Reigns is better role right now that big, mean asskicker. Giving Reigns time as the top, corrupt heel, especially if he were booked to trounce everyone who challenged him, would actually get him over in the long term as a face. That's the character he should play and this is the way to introduce it.


First round RAW matches:
Dolph Ziggler defeats Tyler Breeze
Roman Reigns defeats Sheamus via disqualification
Ryback defeats Bray Wyatt
Kevin Owens defeats Dean Ambrose

First round SmackDown matches:
Big E defeats Mark Henry
Alberto Del Rio defeats The Miz
Kalisto defeats Adrian Neville
Cesaro defeats Stardust

Second round matches:
Kevin Owens defeats Dolph Ziggler
Alberto Del Rio defeats Kalisto
Roman Reigns defeats Ryback
Cesaro defeats Big E

Semi-final matches:
Roman Reigns defeats Alberto Del Rio
Kevin Owens defeats Cesaro

Final match:
Roman Reigns defeats Kevin Owens and Sheamus

Sunday 8 November 2015


The last week of WWE TV made it fairly clear that Dean Ambrose is being shunted in the direction of Kevin Owens. They were presumably  pencilled in to wrestle for KO's Intercontinental gold at Survivor Series before Seth Rollins got injured and a tournament was announced They still may face off but it's less clear now that WWE has an emergency booking solution to conjure up. If Owens v Ambrose does happen I'm sure they'll do something fun. But that's not what I'm interested in here. What I'm interested in is what WWE originally seemed to be setting up for Survivor Series.

That's a Dean Ambrose heel turn.

The night after Hell in a Cell Ambrose told Reigns that he was almost within reach of achieving his dream of becoming WWE world champion. This was the same night Roman defeated Kofi Kingston to qualify for a number one contenders match in which he beat Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio and big Kev Owens. The message of those matches was clear: Reigns was earning a world title match by winning, and winning good matches to boot.

The timing of Ambrose's words of inspiration and affirmation would have raised eyebrows with anyone familiar with the standard tropes of WWE's interpretation of wrestling (sports entertainment). 'The Lunatic Fringe' was suppressing jealousy over Reigns' spot. Reigns, the trusting good guy, couldn't bring himself to see this.

The lads.
It's a story that WWE viewers have seen before and although it seems to have been dropped for now it's one we we'll almost certainly see Reigns and Ambrose go through a split at some point. And that will be both a shame and one of the best takes on the plot ever. Because not only do Reigns and Ambrose have years of on-screen friendship to play off but they've also done a stellar job of making it far more genuine and affectionate than the vast majority of on-screen friendships ever seen in wrestling.

The standard play, especially in WWE, is to present guys aligned on the same sides of the heel-face divide as mates no matter what. Which is problematic because it leads to situations where guys are tagging with people they've had intense feuds with months earlier or who have beaten the for championships (y'know, those things we're supposed to believe every wrestler wants to win and keep hold of?). When this is how it's presented the concept of friendship really doesn't mean much, which limits possibilities when it comes to storytelling and lessens any "friend turns on friend" spots we're meant to care about.

The Ambrose and Reigns relationship is different. It's easy to believe they're mates, quite possibly because they really are. We've had jokes about how Dean knows what beer Roman likes. We've had Roman supporting Dean in his quest to take the world title from Rollins earlier this year. We've seen Dean come to Roman's aid in his battle with the Wyatt Family. Perhaps best of all, dating all the way back to their time in The Shield, we've seen Dean consistently display the ability to make Roman break character and laugh during promos. Those genuine moments not only helped to humanise an all too wooden Reigns, they showed that the pair do genuinely get on and have a rapport.

They will come to blows at some point. Friendships in wrestling sadly only tend to exist either in tag team divisions or to set up rivalries. It would be nice if the Reigns and Ambrose friendship could be exempt from this and be a wrestling relationship that transcends the trope. But it won't be. At least we can take solace in the fact that, because they're so believable together, the inevitable Ambrose versus Reigns feud should be near impossible to mess up.