Sunday 20 December 2015

NXT Takeover: London review

Three days after WWE had presented a decidedly mediocre show in TLC its developmental crew were dispatched to London for a show of their own. Imaginatively titled Takeover: London the show was the culmination of NXT's first tour outside of the United States and its biggest show to date that hasn't piggybacked off the success of a major WWE card. Held in front of 10,079 at a sold out Wembley Arena this was the latest piece of evidence that the NXT name is a force to be reckoned with.

NXT shows, Takeovers in particular, tend to get better as they go feature the better matches in the semi-main r main event slots. Takeover: London uncharacteristically saw the first two matches be the best of the evening.

Asuka and Brock Lesnar are neighbours.
The first was the grudge match between Asuka and Emma. They kept things even for the majority of the match. Which was smart: Emma is the longest tenured women in NXT at this point, has been used on the main roster, and world make a credible challenger to Bayley or a future women's champion. Having her look competitive against Asuka was absolutely the right thing to do because in NXT terms she was the newcomer's toughest opposition to date.

Naturally Asuka won. She was always going to. After Dana Brooke interfered and got sent backstage by the ref Emma tried to sneak in a cheap win by smacking Asuka with... something (it looked like a knee brace). Asuka ducked that and floored Emma with a roundhouse kick. A few minor miscues and wobbles aside this was an ideal opener.

The second was the tag team championship match, champions Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder defending against Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Bumped from the traditional second-from-the-top slot it's possible these lads felt they had something to prove being so low down the card (although there were only five matches on the show and every one of them had been built to very nicely). They had the match of the night, not something you'd expect to be said of a Realest Guys match usually but they worked their socks off here.

The match featured the usual Enzo and Cass routine of Enzo being worked over and working towards a hot tag to Cass. Dash and Dawson were perfect opponents for this approach as they're entire act is about them being a precise team who know how to isolate an opponent and target a body part. What was different here was that when Cass tagged in he found himself getting worked over. Dash and Dawson being so in tune with one another that they can break down a big man like Cass gave their credibility a healthy boost.

This would not get the Realest Lads the belts.
The match was built around Enzo and Cass constantly working towards tags and getting and escaping from near falls. The finishing sequence was tremendous. Cass got a desperation rollup on Wilder who got kicked out and then walloped back down by a Cass boot. Enzo was tagged in and hit his assisted top rope splash for what the audience knew would be the three count. And it would have been had Dawson not pulled Enzo from the ring. After trying to use Carmella as a human shield (in a nice touch Carmella showed she didn't need her lads to save her by elbowing Dawson in the face herself) Dawson threw Cass into the ring post and the champions hit Enzo with a Shatter Machine from the second rope to successfully retain their belts.

The build to and pre-match video for this bout made it seem as though we'd be getting a title change. That Dash and Dawson managed to retain through craftiness makes them a legitimate threat and gets the right kind of heat on them. It also keeps Enzo and Cass in the chasing babyfaces role they seem best suited to right now, and keeps long term NXT fans hungry for their eventual title win. At this point Dash and Dawson's team name should be The Dream Killers.

Speaking of the right kind of heat (yes, I did just mention it, check back a few paragraphs) Baron Corbin was on fine form on this show. He isn't a man looking to be the cool anti-hero or the edgy bad guy. He wants people to dislike him because he's a heel and heels are supposed to be disliked. More wrestlers should take that approach. He has some of the most real heat in WWE today.

What made him so good here was his ridiculous attempts at trash-talking. He did everything from claiming Crews was in "his house" to shouting at Apollo that he should have "stayed in Ring of Honor." Crews has never worked there (the closest he came was a string of PCW shows co-promoted with ROH) and this was the kind of crowd that was going to know that. He was unintentionally hilarious, which only helped to up the already strong jeers from the crowd.

Big Match Barry Corbin.
The match itself, while nothing special, was good. They set a brisk pace and worked competently, avoiding any major slip ups, and did some ringside brawling (surely the style Corbin will become most known for). They were never going to have a workrate spectacular but they had the best match they were going to.

Corbin won, clean as a sheet, with End of Days. It was the right win. Corbin has been built up as a guy who loses rarely. It's part of what makes him so effective as a heel. This was a logical first loss for Crews to take. And it positions Corbin for a title shot soon, also a logical move.

Bayley versus Nia Jax was preceded by the crowd singing to Bayley. There were lots of examples of fun and amusing chants from this crowd but this song for Bayley was my personal highlight. It was clever and fit perfectly with Bayley's popularity-based character.

Jax dominated the bulk of the match
but it wouldn't get her the title.
The match itself was not the sort of exchange we've become accustomed to from the women's divisions. It was not Sasha Banks versus Charlotte but the pair played to their strengths. After an opening flurry in which the more experienced champion tried to put her challenger away quickly and decisively Jax took control and unleashed a terrifying onslaught of offence against 'The Hugster'. The story they told was all about Jax doing everything in her power to destroy Bayley as she has every jobber she's run up against so far and Bayley weathering the storm with her usual resilience and determination. The finish played into this, Jax making one mistake, putting herself into a foolish position because of inexperience, and Bayley capitalising on that to lock in a front face lock and body scissors for the submission win.

This match was easily the best work we've seen from Jax to date. It was also more confirmation that Bayley doesn't need the other three of the Four Horsewomen to have gripping matches. Which is important if she's to earn herself the larger main roster role she clearly deserves.

The show closed with Samoa Joe versus Finn Bálor for the latter's NXT championship. Of course this match was good. It wasn't going to be anything less with two very experienced lads involved. They did everything we'd expect: all their usual spots, kick outs from big moves, topes, ringside brawling, and reversals of finishers. But it never seemed to quite hit the heights it could have. Perhaps this is a side effect NXT being such a good product, it's more noticeable when a main event doesn't live up to the standards of a strong undercard. If so I know it's an unfair complaint. But the fact remains that Finn and Joe weren't in the best match of the evening and Enzo Amore was.

Takeover: London was a fine show. It was not the best Taleover card we've had but I think we've reached a point now where that's not just understandable but it's too be expected. The roster could not keep on topping exceptional shows. This was good, just not the best we've had. It was markedly better than the main roster though, and for a team branded " developmental" that should always be the goal, because if they can better the main crew the NXT regulars know that sooner or later they'll get moved up to join them.


Results summary:
Asuka defeated Emma
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass to retain the tag team championship
Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews
Bayley defeated Nia Jax to retain the women's championship
Finn Bálor defeated Samoa Joe to retain the NXT championship

Saturday 19 December 2015

That RAW Recap 14.12.15

In hindsight TLC was a setup show for the following evening's RAW. It's never really made sense to me to use pay-per-views, which people pay to watch (clue's in the name), to set up free TV shows. It goes against what makes the PPV model work. But at least it's less of a problem now than it used to be, what with PPVs being less about being a money spinner for WWE and more a selling point of the Network.

Not that this is a big deal or anything. It's simply interesting to note how the "uses" of pay-per-views has changed over the years.

Roman wins the big one.
This RAW will go down in history as The One Where Roman Reigns Won The Big One. He'd claimed his first world title at Survivor Series a month earlier of course, but that first run had been cut short at five minutes and fifteen seconds by Sheamus (hence the T-shirt). His second win feels like it's the beginning of something far more significant.

With Roman pegged as the next leading man for WWE the start of his first title reign of significance, not to mention the culmination of the lengthy storyline in which he's been held down and kept from winning the strap, this RAW is obviously more significant than most. It's the show on which WWE finally pulled the trigger on Roman becoming The Guy, something they've been building towards since Royal Rumble in January and preparing for for even longer.

The show as a whole wasn't bad but really nothing but the stuff involving Reigns and the championship mattered. Thankfully everything involving Reigns and the championship was on point. The evening kicked off with a promo Stephanie McMahon in which she teased firing Roman Reigns before calling him a coward, a failure and a disgrac. When Roman responded by telling her her family was a disgrace she slapped him half a dozen times and revealed that Vinnie Mac was on his way to the building.

The scene played out as yet another tedious Authority scene. Steph and Roman were both fine but they didn't do anything we've not seen them do before. But in conjunction with the second segment of the evening in which Reigns was in the ring with a McMahon an interesting story was told.

Roman versus Vince in his prime would probably have been really good.
When Vince rocked up at the arena he told Roman to apologise. Roman refused. He also refused to apologise on his hands and knees, and he smirked when Vince threatened to beat an apology from him. As the boss readied himself for a fight Sheamus came out and challenged Roman to a match, stating that he was so confident he could beat him he'd put the title on the line.

Vince said there was no chance in hell that match would happen. Roman snatched the microphone from Vince's hands and called him an old man and insulted his legendary "grapefruits"1. Vince responded as he was always going to: rising to the bait and making the match, though he added a stipulation that Roman had to win or he'd be fired. He then kicked the challenger in the privates and strode up the ramp to pose with Shaymo.

The story told across these two segments was Reigns playing the McMahon family. He no-sold Steph's slapped and insulted Vince's manhood. The approach made perfect sense. They've been regulars on TV for over fifteen years. Every wrestler on the roster should know how to push their kayfabe buttons but nobody ever gets to because the McMahons are too well protected (obviously because they're the ones writing the show). Roman got to because someone involved in the scripting process was savvy enough to realise how satisfying it would be to see the McMahons get outplayed and that it would help solidify Roman's standing.

The show was rounded off with a world title match. It wasn't as great as their encounter under tables, ladders and chairs rules the night before but it was still very enjoyable. They had Vince (along with Rusev and Alberto Del Rio) on interference duty and Roman got to bleed, so it was a memorable match in its own right. After very convincing false finishes from a White Noise and the Brogue kick Reigns finally managed to drop Sheamus with a spear to win the WWE world title, for keeps, with a spear.

Michael Cole brought up a very good point as Reigns hugged the title belt to him: they were in the same arena in which Reigns had won the Royal Rumble in January. He was booed out of the building on that night, despite an endorsement from the ever-popular Rock. Eleven months later he heard nothing but cheers. That's both an endorsement for the WWE writing team and Reigns himself. The hardcore who were against him for so long were firmly won over. Now Reigns can get down to the serious business of preparing to take over from Cena.


1 New to WWE? That's not an exaggeration. There was a time where we'd got twenty promos from Vince about his sexual prowess.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

WWE TLC 2015 review

TLC is a funny show. It's always held at a time when WWE is in some sort of holding pattern between whatever their big summer angles were and the beginning of 'Mania Season at the Royal Rumble. Sometimes this can result in desperation plots that catch on and become great. Other times it can result in an uninspired show that can't be taken as anything other than the filler it is. Sadly, this year's show fell firmly into the latter camp.

The lads.
It started well though. The three-way tag title ladder match was exactly the kind of opener a WWE pay-per-view needs. New Day headed out first, talking about the Lucha Booties and "Uso" sounding like a disease and their desire to become the faces of the division. They also reminded everyone they were heels by having Xavier say he hadn't done anything special with his hair because he wouldn't waste the effort on Boston.

Being a tag ladder match there was no shortage of memorable spots. They included: stereo moonsaults to the outside by the dragons on New Day; stereo topes onto a ladder by the Usos on everyone; a belly-to-belly suplex onto a ladder from Big E to an Uso;a hilariously unspectacular belly flop from the top rope onto Kofi by Sin Cara, followed seconds later by a tope into a Swanton bomb on ladder-covered Usos; Big E bench pressing a ladder off himself with both Dragons still on top, Kalisto leaping off with a cross body block on Jimmy and Jey; the Usos smacking Kofi with a ladder as he was trapped in a tree of woe; Sin Cara monkey flipping Kalisto onto a ladder atop an Uso; Xavier Woods talking about stamina bars on commentary; Kalisto headscissoring Kofi into a ladder; Soledo del Sol from the top of one ladder onto another; and a Jimmy Uso splash off the top rope onto Big E, who was under a ladder (obvs). New Day retained after Woods threw his trombone at Kalisto, stunning him and allowing Kofi to pull him off the ladder and climb up to retrieve the belts.

Knowing they couldn't top that match WWE wisely decided to follow up with Ryback versus Rusev. If there was an official big lads championship in WWE it would have been on the line here. These are two of the company's premier hosses and it showed in a match that should have satisfied anyone who likes this kind of thing. A Lana distraction eventually led to a Rusev victory via Accolade. While dull, it did at least work as a way of re-establishing Rusev and Lana.

Chairs matches are bad. This was no exception.
After a stilted, unnatural conversation between Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose (Reigns really, really shouldn't speak) we got match three. That was a chairs match for the United States championship, Alberto Del Rio defending against Jack Swagger. They kicked off with a duelling chairs spot and then had a basic encounter featuring basic weapons spots. I imagine I'd have been more interested in this bout if I weren't bored by ADR. But I am so I didn't. 'The Essence of Excellence' won with a double stomp onto a pile of chairs.

That was followed by the Wyatt Family v the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match. Trash cans (dustbins) and kendo stocks were brought in immediately, seemingly so Strowman could no-sell them and look powerful. He was briefly teamed up on by Team ECW but was saved by Erick Rowan. He was put through a table, eliminated, for his trouble.

Harper and Wyatt took over after that. At one point Harper hit a Michinoku driver and Michael Cole called it correctly. That was surprising. Rhyno was their first victim, getting booted through a table by Harper. The Dudleys slipped back in to hit Harper with a Doomsday Device. Bubba got distracted targeting Strowman (possibly a shoot considering his reputation), leaving Devon to set up a table. He was immediately thrown through it by Wyatt.

E-C-dub, E-C- ahhh, I can't be bothered.
That left Tommy Dreamer and Bubby Ray against the three remaining Wyatts. Which was a really odd call. Dreamer didn't last long though: he got eliminated after a tope through a table by Harper. Bubba responded to being left alone by dousing a table in lighter fluid. Because that clearly wouldn't have been PG it came to nothing. Strowman wandered in and choke slammed Bubba through the table to get the win for his team.

The match was better than I'd expected but was by no means good. That the Wyatts weren't permitted a clean sweep was the biggest weakness. It really would have helped their standing as a faction had they not lost anyone. Maybe something will come of Rowan being eliminated. I hope not, frankly. He already has one failed singles push to his name. We don't need another.

The Intercontinental championship match was preceded by a promo from Kevin Owens. He laid into Bostonians living vicariously through their (presumably) successful sports teams before turning his attention to Dean Ambrose. Naturally enough he said Ambrose and the Boston fans had plenty in common.

A disinterested referee watches Ambrose risk his neck.
They had one of the night's better bouts, an indy-styled altercation built around familiar spots and near falls. This is the sort of thing that both men (though Owens in particular) excel at. It was nice to see them given the chance to do their thing here after an ever-so-slightly disappointing meeting at Survivor Series, although they still didn't get that long. 'The Lunatic Fringe' got the surprise win, playing into the false finish theme by reversing a pop-up power bomb that felt like a definite match-ender and getting the pin and the title. It's a bit of a shame that Owens' reign is over so soon but at least he lost to someone with some name value. I'm interested to see whether WWE get it right with Deano now.

The Divas title match between Charlotte and Paige took the semi-main event slot. That's been the traditional slot for female wrestlers over the last decade. One aspect of that tradition has been giving the matches little time and less reason to happen. That's something that has, pleasantly, been dropped from the women's division since the Divas Revolution over the summer. The story itself largely failed at everything except introducing new names to the roster but it's nice that's it's had a more positive long term effect.

The story going into the match was that Charlotte had become increasingly like her father, bragging about her abilities and cheating to win. This included her sneaking an unfair victory out of supposed friend Becky Lynch. It doesn't matter that aping her massively charismatic father doesn't play to her strengths, this has been a step in the right direction for Charley. She's a more natural heel than face at this point in her career and this is good for her.

Time for a new title belt, I reckon.
That said it did make the match peculiar. Charlotte has clearly been cast as a heel and Paige has spent months in that role too. The crowd decided 'The Nature Girl' was the default heel and threw their lot in with 'The Anti-Diva'. The action was most notable for Charlotte honing her Ric Flair tribute act, although she did get a (ropey) cross body from the top and a big boot that he'd never have hit. She retained after slinging Paige face first into an exposed turnbuckle, which she'd set up as her dad distracted Paige and the referee.

Which left only the main event: Roman Reigns challenging Sheamus for the WWE championship. They set the tone from the opening seconds of the match when Reigns raced across the ring and lamped Sheamus square in the mouth with a right hand. It was a "snug" encounter ful of the prerequisite ladder and tables bumps, neither man putting a foot wrong. Both wrestled like they had something to prove. Let's face it, they did. Reigns needed to prove he warranted his position as the anointed one and John Cena's heir. Sheamus needed to show people he's worth more than an interim run as world champion and that he should have had this spot on his own merit.

"Bah gawd, look at the physicality! Look at the carnage!"
What this was was a fitting main event that saved the pay-per-view from utter mediocrity. What this was not was Roman Reigns' night. After Superman punching 'The Celtic Warrior' off the top of a ladder just as he laid his hand on the title belt Reigns seemed to have the match won. He steamed up the ladder as Michael Cole screeched that this was his chance. But it wasn't. Rusev and 'Dirty' Berty Del Rio, Shaymo's League of Nations stablemates, hit the ring and assaulted Reigns.

They teased Reigns overcoming the odds as long as they could. ADR helped Sheamus recover as Rusev trapped Reigns in the Accolade. Reigns broke free, clobbered the interference runners, and yanked Sheamus off the ladder. That earned him a Brogue kick which sent him sailing out of the ring. Obvious Sheamus victory right? Well, yes, but not before Reigns had puled himself back into the ring and over to the base of the ladder, prompting a look of stunned disbelief from Sheamus and a hurried unbuckling of the title belt.

After the match Reigns destroyed everyone. He speared Del Rio and Rusev as they hoisted Sheamus up on their shoulders. Then he hit all three with a chair. A lot. Triple H and Stephanie showed up at ringside. Reigns continued his assault, sporting the expression of a man who'd had enough of having obstacles thrown and had finally snapped.

Roman Reigns losing his mind there.
'The Game' got into the ring to help Sheamus and ended up taking a beating too. Reigns gave him a Superman punch and seven chair shots before power bombing him onto the Spanish announce table. I say onto because it didn't break. Not to be denied a memorable visual Reigns leapt off the English announce table and hit the COO with an elbow drop. Then, just for good measure, Reigns speared Trips as he was being helped to hobble backstage.

This sequence ensured the show ended on a strong note. It was Reigns snapping, taking his frustrations out on the people who have held him down in storyline and bored viewers in real life. It was the perfect way to win the crowd over and get them firmly on Reigns' side. The show went off the air with the fans going crazy for the chosen one.

And it set the stage for a heck of a RAW...

Results summary:
New Day defeated the Usos and the Lucha Dragons to retain the tag team championship
Rusev defeated Ryback
Alberto Del Rio defeated Jack Swagger to retain the United States championship
The Wyatt Family defeated the Dudley Boyz, Rhyno and Tommy Dreamer
Dean Ambrose defeated Kevin Owens to win the Intercontinental championship
Charlotte defeated Paige to retain the Divas championship
Sheamus defeated Roman Reigns to retain the WWE championship

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Women's Division's Hulk Hogan

Since the last Takeover show a pattern has emerged with the booking of NXT women's champion Bayley. She's presented in a way not dissimilar to Hulk Hogan. No, she doesn't scream and shout her way through manic promos or mention prayers, vitamins and milk but she does get confronted a fair bit. That's very much in the 80's Hogan mould.

A woman under constant threat... from other women.
The episode following Takeover: Respect, a show Bayley headlined with Sasha Banks in an iron woman match, successfully defeating the former champ three falls to two, Bayley was confronted by Alexa Bliss. The BAMF leader put over Bayley as the rightful centrepiece of the women's division before cruelly snatching her championship belt away and switching tones, saying that she, not Bayley, would lead the division into the future. It was a clear setup for a match, just not one that was held off for two months for the next Takeover event.

Bliss was a natural adversary for 'The Hugster'. Her mean girl act is a perfect foil for the socially awkward underdog Bayley portrays. Their feud could easily have been stretched out to Takeover: London in December but instead it was resolved with a singles match on the November 18 episode. Bayley won clean.

She was then confronted by Eva Marie. 'The Red Queen', to astonishingly loud heat (seriously, what has the woman done to offend the Full Sail regulars this much?), informed Bayley they'd wrestle the following week. Eva was presented by the commentary team as a tougher foe than Bliss had been. Which was fair. Eva Marie has wrestled more matches than Bliss recently and has won them all. If you want to go on wins and losses Marie is a more credible challenger.

Nia Jax and the new Bobby Heenan.
Bayley again won, this time overcoming the odds in a match that had a distinctly Vince Russo vibe to it thanks to a crooked official, ref bumps, and outside interference from Nia Jax. Following the match Jax attacked Bayley, making her intention to be the next big challenger clear. There was a repeat performance in a backstage segment, in which the champ was thrown through a prop door, just to emphasise that Jax really does mean business.

That match hasn't been rushed into. Instead Jax will be Bayley's challenger at Takeover: London. In a nice touch her partnership with Eva Marie seems to have been retained. I we want to stick with the Hogan analogy I started that possibly makes Eva the NXT women's division's answer to Bobby Heenan.

I like this approach. It worked for Hogan because he needed a constant stream of dudes to beat to show that he was the best. It's just as good for Bayley, although the reason why is different Instead of needing challengers to crush every other week Bayley needs to be shown to be a target, helping to maintain her underdog act. This approach is another example of what makes NXT work: things are kept simple there.

NXTweet 09.12.15

One week until Takeover: London. This was all about final bits of build for the key matches. And reminding North American Network subscribers that it's not the end of the world that they can't watch a show live in the evening for once.


Tweet 1: It's NXTime.
Tweet 2: These emotionally manipulative ads for JEWELLERY on the Network though.
Tweet 3: "Bull Dempsey deserves to be in the opening credits," said nobody ever.

Corey Hollis and John Skyler v Enzo Amore and Big Cass

Tweet 4: Little Enzo and Colin Nash have engaged Serious Mode.
Tweet 5: Corey Hollis and John Skyler are rocking the ECW jobbers look. Good for them.
Tweet 6: Cass been hitting the spray tan, hasn't he? Probs part of his knee rehab.
Tweet 7: Liking Carmella's hair this week FTR.

Fresh knee pads on Li'l 'zo.

Tweet 8: Cena-esque drop kick from Enzo there.
Tweet 9: Story of this match is Cass and Enzo have beaten this jobber team far easier than the tag champs did. Commentary have missed that.
Tweet 10: Food on tables promo here from Enzo. Great stuff.
Tweet 11: Such a fan of Cass waiting awkwardly to hit his catchphrase once Enzo decides he's done.
Tweet 12: "We WILL walk out the NXT tag team champions" - Big Cass, who's probably wrong

Dana Brooke and Emma talk to Tom Philips

Tweet 13: Dana Brooke in a white top? #twothumbsup
Tweet 14: NXT > Japan, says Emma.
Tweet 15: I could believe Emma is a heavy smoker.
Tweet 16: "Scrunch down" - Dana Brooke, with another line I'd be a fan of hearing IRL

Deonna Purrazzo v Asuka

Tweet 17: The Asuka versus Dana and Emma feud isn't the best thing ever but I do like their issue being independent of the women's title.
Tweet 18: I don't like Deonna's chances for this match...
Tweet 19: Not least because she's wearing massive knee pads.

Ask her!

Tweet 20: Going to make the bold prediction that Asuka will debut new ring gear at Takeover: London.
Tweet 21: Oh no! Dana and Emma are standing on the ramp and Asuka is distrac- oh, wait, everything's fine. She just KOed that job girl.

Hype Bros promo

Tweet 22: Imagine Mojo thinking 90s references will get him over with Vince McMahon.
Tweet 23: Things would be very different for them if Russo was still around.

BAMF promo

Tweet 24: 'Fashionplate' Wesley Blake.

Tweet 25: That's a singles run waiting to happen. Give it time...
Tweet 26: Anyone done any fanfic about Alexa's Goa'uld hand thing yet? Asking for a friend.

Hype Bros v BAMF

Tweet 27: Mojo and Ryder are a good fit as partners but you still have to feel for Ryder. Got himself over and this is his reward.
Tweet 28: Liking the Dennis the Menace colour scheme on BAMF.


Tweet 29: The physiques on Mojo and Blake though.
Tweet 30: Really enjoying the heel shenanigans of BAMF. Shocking display as Alexa gets lifted up by Blake to kick Ryder in the head.

At least Zack's safe from her rough moonsault.

Tweet 31: Mojo Rawley is a sweaty lad.
Tweet 32: Hoping Blake and Murphy win this. Feel like the Hype Bros will though.
Tweet 33: They won immediately after I pressed send FFS. I get it. Heel tag champs need fave challengers. Still, BAMF deserve better.

Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin promo

Tweet 34: Joe and Barry having a chat here.
Tweet 35: "I don't like where you come from and I don't like what you represent" - Barry Corbin on Apollo Crews
Tweet 36: Barry's gimmick of calling indy guys rookies: tremendous.

Peyton Royce v Bayley

Tweet 37: Peyton Royce getting a featured intro here. Has she won a TV match yet?
Tweet 38: I retract that question as it no longer matters when she's doing Billy Gunn's draped-in-the-ropes pose. Hilarious.
Tweet 39: Billy did it better though. More erotic, for starters...
Tweet 40: Going by boot colours Bayley is the heel and Peyton is the face.
Tweet 41: Bayley doing the Jericho style bulldog always makes me sad.

Peyton loses. Again.

Tweet 42: This Nia Jax and Eva Marie pairing being a lasting thing is a great decision. This heat is manager heat.
Tweet 43: Standing at ringside to get booed. That's how to book Eva Marie.

Apollo Crews and Finn Bálor chat backstage

Tweet 44: Casual chat between Apollo and Finn in front of a camera here.
Tweet 45: #unfinishedbusiness
Tweet 46: I want Finn Bálor to be booked as an increasingly paranoid champion, like Austin in 2001. Doing backstage skits where he sings and that.

Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe v Finn Bálor and Apollo Crews

Tweet 47: Barry and Joe tagging out against their rivals and it being framed as tremendous use of mind games is hilarious.
Tweet 48: Crews v Joe will be a good thing for NXT when it rolls around.
Tweet 49: Barry, you're not even taping your wrists, mate. What have you become?
Tweet 50: If this match ends with Joe choking out Finn then Finn retains next Wednesday.
Tweet 51: Could see Apollo or Barry taking the pin though TBH.
Tweet 52: Barry Corbin should get a new gimmick where he makes reference to being a werewolf every so often.
Tweet 53: Bálor falls to the Coquina clutch. So he'll retain the title. Because that's how WWE works. And NXT, despite what it gets right, is WWE.

The hossiest hoss.

Tweet 54: Joe posing with another man's belt to close the show. #heel
Tweet 55: Good show. Good hustle. Strong stuff.

Friday 11 December 2015

WWE TLC 2015 preview

There are two things I want to more at the start of this preview. The first is that the show is sponsored by Toys 'R' Us. This is an example of why WWE went PG. They never would have got such a sponsor (and say what you want about Toys 'R' Us but they're a big retailer who pop the kids) without that rating on their product.

The second is that the show is to be held in Boston, Massachusetts. That's (pretty much) John Cena's hometown. That he's currently on a sabbatical filming a reality fitness show or getting married or finding himself or something was already a problem for the injury-heavy roster. Big Match John missing a PPV in Boston is doubling disappointing. There's always the potential to do something memorable with him there.

But let's not focus on what's missing. Let's focus on what we have. The hot new feud in WWE since November's Survivor Series? Roman Reigns versus Sheamus. No, it's not the most exciting-sounding programme WWE could have put together but it has avoided being actively bad. Shaymo comes as close to having genuine heat as anyone in WWE these days and works fine as a generic heel for the valiant Reigns to chase. It would be nice if we were getting something different to the tried and tested cowardly-paper-champion routine, especially as Sheamus could convincingly portray a bruising bully, but it's better than nothing. Marginally.

Reigns and 'Great White' have decent enough chemistry too. And while I'm not the biggest fan of Sheamus he does at least bring some variety to pay-per-view main events. It's nice to get a break from the seemingly never ending cycle of established headline names exchanging victories.

Pleasingly, it's found a use for Bad News Barrett and 'Don't Call Me Alexander' Rusev, teaming them up with world champ Sheamus as the League of Nations. The stable has a whiff of the mid-card about it but considering it's comprised of mud-carders that's both understandable and okay. I'm all for guys being given things to do.

The specifics of this feud are largely uninteresting. The only part that matters is that Sheamus is the man who "robbed" Reigns of his first WWE title and has been bragging about it since, even going so far as to slap a slogan on a T-shirt (the audacity!). Of course, Sheamus didn't rob Reigns. He used a contract that he'd won fairly in the manner in which it was intended. But this is WWE so they have to frame Reigns as the wronged party.

The match will benefit from a strong layout. We know that because keeping Reigns strong is still the company's priority. I'll be amazed if Barrett and Rusev don't interfere to give Reigns some fodder to blast through. That seems to be the sole reason the League of Nations was formed. Sheamus will almost certainly escape with the belt via shady tactics, setting up a rematch at Royal Rumble where Reigns can finally get a lengthy run as champ on the go.

The undercard is mostly comprised of decent-sounding but unspectacular matches. Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze was rumoured and would have made sense but has been omitted from the card. Because WWE loves it's "everything remains even" booking, part of the reason so many members of the roster find it hard to build any momentum and generate a connection with the crowd, the likelihood would have been a win for 'The Show Off' because 'Prince Pretty' went over in their first PPV encounter.

But that match isn't happening so I'll note that the "evening out" logic also applies to Kevin Owens v Dean Ambrose. 'The Lunatic Fringe' pinned KO at Survivor Series. Owens' title wasn't up for grabs there, instead it was a spot in the finals of a world championship tourney. The standard practice of feuding wrestlers swapping PPV victories indicates a win for Owens, as does the fact that he's only had the title three months. It feels like he's die a long run as the IC champion, partly because he's got so much star potential and partly because I suspect that factions backstage want to rehabilitate that belt. Ambrose could win it here but I think he's more likely to get it in a rematch. Or possibly not at all, at least not from Owens.

The logic will probably not apply to Charlotte versus Paige. The reason for that is that 'The Nature Girl' is in the process of turning heel (following in the footsteps of Paige, who herself turned only a couple of months back). She's had an unspectacular face run and the chances are high that she's going to keep hold of the belt to see if she can improve her standing when she switches to the dark side fully.

I think she will. Charlotte got over in NXT largely because of strong booking and benefiting from working with superior wrestlers. She's got neither on the main roster and has found it tougher to connect because of it. Going bad will mean her slightly stand-offish nature is a strength and not a hindrance. It will also help her character make sense: boasts of genetic superiority do not a babyface make.

Paige v Charlotte could be good fun if they're given long enough and there's some interesting booking thrown in to play up Charlotte's new attitude. Paige is easily a good enough wrestler to get a good match out of Ms Flair.

Alberto Del Rio v Jack Swagger is mostly interesting because of the mess of a storyline it represents. ADR returned in October and was paired with J-Swag's former manager, light-hearted racist Zeb Colter. The two spent two months telling people they're all about MexAmerica (whatever that's meant to be) with Swagger popping up every so often to try to convince Colter to go back to his fun-lovin' racist ways. The really confusing part isn't that this got aired (this is WWE, far weirder stuff than this has been okayed over the years) but that Swagger was presented as the good guy despite being, essentially, pro-racism.

Either guy could win the match. I'll be bored to tears whoever goes over because Del Rio does nothing for me. I'll pick 'The All American American' to win because that'll free the reportedly highly paid Del Rio up for bigger and better things. Winning after interference from Uncle Zeb would help: ADR wouldn't suffer the indignity of a clean loss that way.

In a similar vein the Wyatt Family versus ECW Originals match is one that's hard to care about. Despite being one of the strongest characters in the company Wyatt is routinely placed into dreary programmes (not that this is big news or anything). His two feuds with The Undertaker this year have both been badly and this has been little better. 'The Eater of Worlds' has taken a dislike to the Dudleys for whatever reason and they've called in Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno for assistance. Which, for anyone familiar with the history of Dreamer and the Duds in ECW is jarring. For that matter Rhyno had little to do with either of his three teammates here. They're being held together by the love of a promotion that went out of business fourteen years ago.

This is a match that has powerful train wreck potential. In a perverse way I'll enjoy it the worse it is, because it's not something we can expect to be good by any reasonable criteria. The right result would be the Wyatt clan going over because they have more to offer the company in the future and Bray still has the glimmer of main event potential to him, but who the hell knows if we'll get that. They lost to 'Taker and Kane last month, and they have a combined age of 98.

The highlight of the line-up is the tag team championship match, New Day defending against the Usos and the Lucha Dragons. Iffy psychology aside (faces shouldn't outnumber heels in a triple threat unless under exceptional circumstances) this match should be fun. New Day are great, Kalisto is an ultra talented dude that deserves better than being half of a bit part tag team, and the Usos have now been around long enough to be acceptable as the veteran doubles squad that are a constant threat to whoever has the belts.

It feels like a change is due in the tag scene. Brief Prime Time Players reign aside New Day have had the gold since SummerSlam in August. There would be nothing wrong with them retaining but it feels like a good time for a switch up, if only for a while. While the Usos winning would prove them to be the constant threats I've said I feel they can be I think a win for the Lucha Dragons would be a better move. Getting a title onto Kalisto should be a priority. Having him as a former tag champ would make any eventual singles push that bit more meaningful of done right.

Ryback versus Rusev will also happen. If there's a less appealing bout WWE could add t this pay-per-view I'd love to hear it.


Predictions summary:
Sheamus to defeat Roman Reigns to retain the WWE championship
Kevin Owens to defeat Dean Ambrose to retain the Intercontinental championship
Lucha Dragons to defeat New Day and the Usos to win the tag team championship
The Wyatt Family to defeat the Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno
Charlotte to defeat Paige to retain the Divas championship
Jack Swagger to defeat Alberto Del Rio to win the United States championship
Rusev to defeat Ryback

Saturday 5 December 2015

NXTweet 02.12.15

This week's episode of NXT was all about solidifying the spots of the main players ahead of Takeover: London.

Nia Jax got to win a squash match and calmly confront Bayley backstage. 'The Hugster' got to show she was intimidated by her new challenger (always important for a fightin' babyface) and officially accept the unspoken challenge. Then she was thrown through a door, which got over Nia's power and made her ruthlessness clear while putting Bayley at an even larger disadvantage than she was before. Because she's now not just facing a larger opponent, she's doing so after being thrown through some specially constructed collapsible furniture. 

The tag title competitors didn't get as much air time but chances are they'll get spotlighted next week. Here we were shown champs Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson bragging about having already injured Big Cass's leg, a nice change of pace from the kind of heels presented on the main WWE roster. It's a basic thing but not something anyone on the more high profile WWE shows would get to do. What's more, Dash and Dawson are good at it. It plays to their strengths.

The more interesting news from the tag division came after the Vaudevillains versus Jason Jordan and Chad Gable match. English and Gotch lost and were offered a handshake. Despite having shaken backstage beforehand they refused. The bad sportsmen shtick signals a heel turn for the pair which, while not exactly needed because they're so popular, is still welcome because the pair were in danger of becoming stale, having faced most teams available to them and having been champs. It'll be interesting to see how bad guy hipsters are portrayed in NXT.

While NXT champion Finn Bálor remained unseen his next opponent, Samoa Joe, got to headline the show. He had a stiff (or, as Steve Austin would likely say, snug) match with Tommaso Ciampa. It was wonderfully hossy and a credit to both men. Joe won with the Coquina clutch, a move that's been built up as inescapable and a sure-fire match-ender for months. Were he heading into a match with John Cena we'd obviously get a spot where Cena powers out of the hold. In NXT against Bálor that's not going to happen, but the champion could escape the hold.

As things stand now I'm expecting a Joe victory at Takeover: London. A Bálor promotion to the main roster seems like it could happen on any given Monday night. There's no more obvious candidate to replace him than Samoa Joe. He could work with Apollo Crews before turning face and doing something with Baron Corbin, should he be in NXT for long enough.

There's also the Sami Zayn return to factor in. He could come back and challenge Bálor. They'd have very good matches but it doesn't quite feel like the direction in which NXT would go. What seems far likelier (to me at least) is a Joe win over Bálor at Takeover, only to be confronted by a returning Zayn as the show closes. For now, that's what I think we're going to get.


Tweet 1: It's NXTime. I've done that one before and I don't care.
Tweet 2: James Storm shown in the still for this episode. It's already quite the show.
Tweet 3: To be clear, I do not rate Jim Storm. Can't even enjoy him ironically.

Baron Corbin v Tye Dillinger

Tweet 4: But someone I CAN enjoy ironically is 'The Big Wolf' Barry Corbin.
Tweet 5: Had Barry been around in the early 90s he definitely would have gotten work in Smoky Mountain.
Tweet 6: I want a pre-match promo from Barry in which he claims to eat tens for breakfast.
Tweet 7: Wish Jim Ross was still alive to gush about Barry's football background and stud-like appearance.
Tweet 8: Sadly Jim Ross of NXT 1610 died in a company-wide crossover event.
Tweet 9: If Dillinger had a finisher to hit he probably could have won that.

The state of this move.

Tweet 10: Still think the End of Days is a daft-looking move. Good name though.

Apollo Crews interviewed backstage

Tweet 11: Apollo Crews is concerned for Barry Corbin's safety. He's even laughing about how concerned he is.

Tommaso Ciampa interviewed backstage

Tweet 12: Tommaso Ciampa looking decidedly like a hipster here.
Tweet 13: Ciampa is convinced he's winning. His loss will trigger a breakdown which leads to the return of the Tommy Penmanship character.

Nia Jax v Blue Pants

Tweet 14: Surprising lack of heat for Nia Jax considering she attacked Top Girl Bayley last week.
Tweet 15: Book Nia like 911 and use her to destroy jobbers making their last appearance.

Blue Pants: the natural first opponent for a new heel in NXT.

Tweet 16: Nia working "snug" here...
Tweet 17: Nia should switch to Gangrel style elbow drops.
Tweet 18: Big fan of Nia almost going for her usual style of pin before remembering she'd been told to do the cocky foot on the chest routine.

Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder talk to Tom Philips backstage

Tweet 19: Dash and Dawson sitdown interview. Tears.
Tweet 20: They're really good to be fair. Getting themselves over as a couple of lads who don't care about hurting people.
Tweet 21: "... carry-on item Enzo Amore..." - Scott Dawson

Adam Rose v James Storm

Tweet 22: Adam Rose entering wearing glasses with no music? Yes.
Tweet 23: Why does Rose have to be sacrificed to 'Big' Jim Storm?

Former TNA champ there...

Tweet 24: These striped shin guards on Rose though.
Tweet 25: Heel Adam Rose is worthy of so much more attention from Creative™.
Tweet 26: Honestly no idea what people see in Storm. Only thing he had going for him in TNA was that he could be presented as "their" guy.

The Vaudevillains interviewed backstage, featuring Jason Jordan and Chad Gable

Tweet 27: #Vaudevillainspop
Tweet 28: "Tonight we will win" - Simon Gotch, who's probably wrong

Sami Zayn vignette

Tweet 29: Reminder of Adrian Neville being a smug prick in his rivalry with Samuel Zayn Esq. here.
Tweet 30: I remember this R: Evolution main. It was good, weren't it?

Jason Jordan and Chad Gable v The Vaudevillains

Tweet 31: Hyped for this match.
Tweet 32: Looking forward to Kurt Angle suggesting he return as Gable and Jordan's manager, cementing himself as the new Ric Flair.
Tweet 33: That's if he hasn't already.

Dlicious drop kick from Jordan there.

Tweet 34: The Vaudevillains would probably benefit from being given a regular second that isn't Blue Pants. Someone new who fits their gimmick.
Tweet 35: Solid match that.
Tweet 36: The 'villains splitting without shaking hands and Gable loling about it is world class stuff.

Emma v Liv Morgan

Tweet 37: The point of that Emma and Dana segment? No idea beyond extending their thing with Asuka.
Tweet 38: Emma wears glove because of all those flips and springboards she does.
Tweet 39: It will eventually be revealed that Liv Morgan's origin story is that she's an Alexa Bliss clone.
Tweet 40: NXT: Clone Wars, coming summer 2016.
Tweet 41: Culminates with a clean shaven Reigns clone being introduced to feud with the original Reigns.

No, that's not Alexa Bliss.

Tweet 42: On the women's division: either Dana and Emma or Asuka are Bayley's feud after Nia Jax.
Tweet 43: Either would be good. I'd prefer Emma and Dana. They've been around NXT longer and deserve the spot more.
Tweet 44: Then again maybe Nia will beat Bayley and then be challenged by Asuka.
Tweet 45: This is why NXT's so good. Mostly logically booked but very few things are obvious when it counts.
Tweet 46: That said Emma was always going to beat Jersey Alexa.

Bayley interviewed backstage, featuring Nia Jax

Tweet 47: Bayley doing great work as a top babyface champ here.
Tweet 48: Crying at Nia throwing Bayley through a stunt door.

Tommaso Ciampa v Samoa Joe

Tweet 49: Thomas the Champ Engine versus 'Mr TNA' Samoa Joe. This'll be "snug"...
Tweet 50: "Samoa Joe introduced Tomasso Ciampa to his eventual wife." I need details on this...
Tweet 51: Joe punching Ciampa into the ropes. Great stuff.
Tweet 52: That slap exchange.
Tweet 53: "Submission specialist" - This means he knows a submission hold in WWE
Tweet 54: Really enjoying this match. Hoss levels are off the charts.

Nice teeth.

Tweet 55: Yeah, that was great fun. Proof predictable outcomes don't ruin wrestling.
Tweet 56: "Báloooooor!" - Samoa Joe
Tweet 57: Great episode. Great hustle, loyalty, respect.