Cubed Circle Newsletter 113: World Tag League Final Review, Tokyo Sports Awards, Taue Retirment, TLC Go-Home + MORE!

Cubed Circle Newsletter – World Tag League Complete Dome Time

 

This week we cover the finals of the New Japan World Tag League, the results of the Tokyo Dome poll and an extra match added to the Tokyo Dome, the Tokyo Sports awards, Akira Taue’s retirement show, we preview TLC, review the go-home show, look at the ratings, and Ben Carass takes a look at NXT and SmackDown for this week.

New Japan World Tag League Final

I would also like to remind everyone that the newest survey is up until the end of the year and can be found here. As I said last week it would be appreciated if you could take a minute or two out of your day to fill it out – it will certainly help make this newsletter the best that it can be. And with that out of the way I hope that you enjoy the newsletter and have a great week.

 

– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

FOR A FULL COLOUR PDF WITH PICTURES CLICK HERE

News

 

Tokyo Dome Main Event Set – And it Isn’t for the IWGP Heavyweight Title

 

Following the completion of the ten day long final stepping stone heading into the January 4th Tokyo Dome show, the World Tag League, New Japan revealed the results for its unique internet poll hosted on the TV Asahi website to decide the main event of the company’s biggest show of the year. The decision was a powerful one, as fans chose between the most prestigious title in the world, the IWGP Heavyweight title and the history that comes with it, and the Hiroshi Tanahashi/Shinsuke Nakamura Intercontinental match driven on star power. In the end it was the IC title match that won the poll 63% to 37%.

 

The announcement of the poll was made following the Power Struggle show back in the beginning of November at the Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum, one of the hottest buildings in the business. The main issue was that when making his way down to the ring, after clearing his last hurdle on the way to the Dome in the form of Masato Tanaka, Naito received little positive response when facing off against Kazuchika Okada. And even the negative response that he received during the face off was alarmingly low for a Tokyo Dome main eventer. This was a situation that lay in stark contrast to last year’s super hot main event attraction in Okada/Tanahashi III.

 

Even when witnessing the subsequent negative or underwhelming reactions that Naito has received over the last month, I still view this poll as a net negative for the Tokyo Dome show. Whilst the G1 Climax tournament and IWGP title are too strong to be degraded by a single move like this, as is Kazuchika Okada, you have to wonder what it means for Tetsuya Naito’s stature as a main event star heading into the New Year.

 

Naito’s career has experienced two major setbacks over the past year and a half, the first is clearly the injury that killed a lot of the moment that he had mid-way through last year. It also inhibited many of his later matches, as he worked hurt before taking time off for surgery. The second is that his first peak came at the wrong time. While Okada and Tanahashi were battling over the IWGP title heading into Dominion last year, Naito was shining in multi-man matches with Hiroshi Tanahashi; so much so in fact that he seemed to have a far larger upside than Okada at the time. It has been stated to a hyperbolic degree at this point, but the Best of the Super Juniors Heavyweight multi-man tags of 2012 showcased some of the best psychology and build to a match (Tanahashi/Naito) of that entire year. The only problem was, that the match in question, Naito/Tanahashi never happened.

 

This is by no means a death knell for Naito as a top star, but it makes it even more important for he and Okada to tear the house down second from the top come January 4th. It could lead to a positive direction for Naito, as a silent crowd in the top spot at the Dome following Tanahashi/Nakamura may have set his career back quite some time.

 

It is a unique situation historically, as the IWGP Heavyweight title, has been pushed (and in all likely hood will continue to be pushed), as the top prize in the company for so long that it feels strange to have another title match be booked above it. I am sure that many people see this as a positive for the secondary title. However, New Japan need to be careful not to trend the line between secondary title and a WWE brand split like title structure. As for Nakamura and Tanahashi, there is no question in my mind that they will tear the house down at Wrestle Kingdom, but from a personal perspective that match seems like a bigger deal going on second from the top. We talked more about Tanahashi/Okada in issue 109.

 

The only newly announced match that we haven’t already looked at is the Toro Yano & Mystery Partner vs. Suzuki & Benjamin match that was announced following a brawl between Yano and Suzuki at the Finals of the World Tag League. This match looks to be a waste, as the Yano/Suzuki feud has run its course, and they have already gone to the well once too often. If they were going to stick with rematches for the show, they should have paired Suzuki and Ishii together, a pair that have put on a great match in the past, and would perform well together on a Tokyo Dome stage.

 

One of the strangest things about this entire Tokyo Dome card, is that with the amount of possible fresh matches to choose from particularly involving Shibata, Goto and Okada, it’s strange that they chose to go with so much repetition on this card. There is certainly a need to save big matches like Shibata/Nakamura, Shibata/Suzuki, Shibata/Tanahashi, Shibata/Okada, Nagata/Shibata, Shibata/Naito, Okada/Nakamura, Goto/Nagata and so on for down the line, particularly the Okada/Nakamura match which should main event next year’s Dome show. It seems silly to sacrifice the card that you have in place of giving away some of those matches. Ibushi also has a wealth of possible opponents for the future, although he is in the right spot this year, to take the title off Devitt.

 

What is stranger still is that some people are claiming that the product is stale when there are so many possible matches to make and programs to set up, for whatever reason they just decided not to place any of those matches on the Dome show.

 

WWE TLC This Weekend: True Title Unification Likely

 

This Sunday WWE runs its final PPV of 2013, TLC, from the Toyota Center in Houston Texas. It is for all intents and purposes a one match show, headlined by a World Title/WWE title unification match between John Cena and Randy Orton in a TLC match. Given that this is a B-show and probably won’t be doing too well buy-rate wise, it doesn’t make much sense to unify the titles now, especially when we are heading into the slow December season. However, with the current creative issues that is the least of our problems.

 

Back in 2009 Orton and Cena continued what was at the time a very prolonged and drawn out program that they had already delved into in 2007. Leading into the Bragging Rights show they had what was to built to be their “final match”, a no DQ iron man, which Cena won. Of course the “final match” stipulation has been completely ignored, which is annoying to a degree even if it was four years ago, and there are no final matches in pro-wrestling.

 

When this match was originally built as a unification match, following Cena’s challenge to Randy Orton at the end of the Survivor Series pay-per-view last month, the majority opinion was that we were going to be presented with yet another farce. However, once creative had changed their mind numerous times ducking in and out of calling the match a “unification” match on TV, they have said out right that we will have a unified champion by the end of the show. If this was another time and there wasn’t as great a degree of discontent over previous dirty finishes, I wouldn’t believe them, but in the current climate it would be beyond idiotic to go back on this vow.

 

Title unification is the correct moving going forward with both the WWE and World Heavyweight titles holding little value over the past few months, and with no inherent purpose for two main titles following the disbandment of the brand split. It truly should be something to get excited about, but with the two men involved it has been difficult for me to get invested in this match. Whilst Monday’s edition of RAW showcased one of the finer closing segments of the last few months, it did anything but put the main emphasis on unification match. Instead, the main focus was places on Triple H, all of his possible matches, Daniel Bryan and a possible match with Shawn Michaels. Even without the main angle, the Seattle crowd, and the majority of fans in general, are so invested in Daniel Bryan as a performer that this match feels more like a distraction than the “largest title match in history”, as it has been pushed.

 

During the aforementioned segment of RAW, Cena did mention that if he wins the title he will give Bryan the first shot at the title. You could take this as a sign that Cena is winning both titles on Sunday, but with the current state of the WWE creative and the unique situation involving the Seattle crowd, it could have been improvised, or their plans could change by Sunday. If they are going with an Authority/Vince McMahon angle leading into Mania I would think that they would need a heel champion, in which case they would keep the title on Orton. However, they have been producing tension between Orton and the McMahons for some time now, culminating in a pedigree on Orton on RAW. Therefore they could splinter off into an Orton/Hunter program for Mania, and leave Cena to defend the title against Bryan at the Rumble. Still, the main issue with predicting their future directions is that their creative process has been so erratic, and there are quite a few differing branching paths to head down that makes this finish difficult to predict. I predict Cena, but I could very well be wrong.

 

The rest of the card speaks to the lack of concrete creative direction that the company has seen as of late, as there are very few matches on the card that weren’t booked with less than a week’s build, and with the exception of the main event, none of them are stipulation matches! Now, I certainly wouldn’t be the first person to get upset about the dumping of the ladders, tables and chairs matches from the show, but I see this as less of a situation of shared sentiments, and more of a situation where creative weren’t being so creative.

 

There are two other notable matches on this show, with Daniel Bryan taking on the Wyatts in a 3-on-1 handicap match, and CM Punk taking on the Shield in a…3-on-1 handicap match. Of the two matches I am expecting Punk’s to be the most noteworthy, as further Shield strife is very much expected. Hopefully, they don’t push the concept to an extent where we have a situation where Punk defeats the Shield single-handedly. When it comes to the Bryan match, I am not all too partial in terms of what they do, as long as it doesn’t involve Bryan turning heel and keeps him looking strong. Leading into the Royal Rumble I would like the Wyatt/Bryan program to be over, but I am expecting one last match in the form of Bray Wyatt/Bryan for that show.

 

Other matches on the show include an intercontinental championship match with Big E. defending against Damien Sandow, AJ Lee defending her Diva’s title against Natalya, and a fatal four-way match for the Tag Team titles, which has witnessed no build whatsoever. The tag match involves the Rhodes Brothers up against the Real Americans, The Usos and Ryback & Curtis Axel. From the multi-man tags that we have seen over the past few weeks there is very little reason for this match to have been made, other than they decided to book it at the last minute on SmackDown.

 

As far as WWE shows over the past few months go, sadly this show looks like it will be prolonging the string of weak shows. The quality of creative will probably pick up in the New Year though.

 

Tokyo Sports Awards 2013: Okada Placed in Very Elite Class

 

The Tokyo Sports awards are the largest main stream pro-wrestling awards in the world. They are far from the Observer Awards or similar awards when it comes to objectivity, but they are still a good gauge of the general Japanese business perception in a given year. The major story coming out of this year’s awards is that IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, won the MVP award for a second consecutive year, putting him in an elite class with Genichiro Tenryu, Jumbo Tsuruta and Antonio Inoki as the only four men to ever win the award in two straight years or greater. It is certainly an incredible accomplishment, although it would be unfair to compare the Japanese business in 2013 to that of the late 80s or 70s. None of Okada’s contemporaries, including Tanahashi, have managed to pull it off though, which should say something about Okada, especially considering that the man is only 26 years old. Tanahashi at a similar age became U-30 champion and began his ascent to stardom, but Okada at this point in his career is years ahead of Tanahashi at the same point. When looking at how his selling alone has sky-rocketed in quality of the last year, let alone his charisma, presence and general ability, this may only be the beginning for Okada. Okada won with seven votes over KENTA(Okada had 11 votes whilst KENTA had 4, Ibushi 2, Akebono 2, Sekimoto 2 and Nagata 1), who was very impressive this year as a star to carry NOAH, even if it was on a small scale.

 

The way that the Tokyo Sports awards usually work is that the majority of the awards apart from MVP are given to some of the top stars from other companies, whilst the match of the year award is given to either the biggest match, or a feel good match, as was the case in 2011 for the All Together show. However, last year the Suzuki/Tanahashi match won, which wasn’t at all depatable. However, this year with so many strong match-ups in Japan, particularly from New Japan, I expected the Final Burning multi-man tag match to win the award, as a feel good match from a neutral show; that didn’t happen. Instead, Kobashi took home the “Life Time Achievement” award, and Nakamura & Ibushi from the 4th night of the G1, the best show of the entire year, took home match of the year honours. It is a match that placed in my top ten for the year, but was not in my top five. However, I could certainly see the argument. Looking at it from a different perspective it was also an award for DDT’s top star, and Shinsuke Nakamura.

 

NOAH’s Mikey Nichols and Shane Haste took home the “Tag Team of the Year” award, which was well deserved, as they were NOAH’s top team this year, with the only real competition being KES from New Japan and the Junior Stars or Burning from All Japan. KENTA brought NOAH another prize with the “Most Distinguished” award with his GHC title reign closing in on the one year mark placing him in the shadows of only Misawa, Morishima, Sugiura and of course Kobashi as longest reigning champion. Since he didn’t win MVP it was expected that he would take home a secondary prize such as this.

 

Diasuke Sekimoto representing Big Japan mostly won the “Fighting Spirit” award, a prize often awarded to the death match wrestlers like Abdullah Kobayashi, but it went to BJPW regardless. Tomohiro Ishii came in second with 8 votes to Sekimoto’s 13. Yoshino won the “Most Technical” award from Dragon Gate. Konosuke Takeshita won DDT’s only exclusive award in the “Rookie of the Year” award, and when it comes to rookies it is usually difficult to pick a solid winner. Meiko Satomura of Sendai won the joshi award, unfortunately I haven’t been following Joshi as much this year than in year’s past, so I can’t really give fare commentary on that award. Although, from what I have heard from people that followed joshi far more than I, it was quite deserved.

 

One of the most interesting things to note is the All Japan didn’t take home a single prize. This could mean one of a few things. It could mean that All Japan has just slipped into the realm of the Zero-1’s of the world (no offence to Zero-1), or they are being looked down upon by those in the Japanese business.

 

Akira Taue Officially Retires

 

Much like Bull Nakano last year, although to a less exaggerated degree, Akira Taue (52), former AJPW and NOAH star, had his retirement ceremony last week, after being effectively retired for quite some time. The match was held at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo for one of NOAH’s biggest shows of the past few months. Surprisingly the match itself wasn’t placed at the top of the card, but instead all four GHC title matches were placed after it. From what I can ascertain this retirement was built as the final match of one of big four All Japan stars of the 1990s, even though Taue was clearly behind Kawada, Kobashi and Misawa in terms of star power he would be number four.

 

Unfortunately the retirement ceremony hasn’t surfaced yet, although from the pictures it seemed to have been a very sentimental and symbolic affair, as puro retirements usually are. Of course there was the scene with the lights turned off in the arena and the spotlight on Taue, which is a moment always guaranteed to produce spectacular imagery, as my Bull Nakano and Jumbo Tsuruta retirement profile pictures across the internet can attest. They also did something unique, having Kawada, Kobashi, Taue and a framed photograph of Mitsuharu Misawa in the ring at the same time representing the four top stars of All Japan in the 1990s.

 

In the match itself Taue teamed in a multi man tag with Takeshi Morishima, Takashi Sugiura and Genba Hirayanagi to defeated Tenryu, Fujinami, Masao Inoue and Kentaro Shiga. It was clearly a different kind of match from the one that Kobashi had at Budokan Hall earlier this year, as Team Taue was generally younger than the opposing team, which is actually pretty scary. They only went around ten minutes as opposed to the thirty plus of Kobashi and company. It is difficult to compare the two though, as Kobashi was multiple times larger a cultural icon than Taue, to which the building and fan fare can attest.

 

Taue pinned Inoue with the nodowa, before Kobashi, Kawada and eventually the entire roster made it down to show their respect to the NOAH president. They also threw him in the air a few times, which resulted in some fantastic photos.

 

Later on in the night KENTA put Nagata away in his ninth successful title defence in a near half hour long match. I clearly haven’t seen the match, but it will be interesting to see how it turns out. KENTA’s title matches as of late have been going too long, especially considering the crowds that NOAH draws, and would be greatly improved by going shorter on average. As his recent match with Diasuke Sekimoto can attest, often times you don’t need to go thirty minutes and attempt to replicate a big time All Japan main event in order for these title matches to feel important. However, they did a great job of building this match up, and they drew a healthy attendance (nowhere close to a sell out, around 6,500 fans in an arena that holds close to double that amount). It will be fun to see if KENTA was able to capture that big match air that has been alluding him for the last couple of months.

 

Reports

 

New Japan Pro-Wrestling World Tag League Final December 8th 2013

Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Aichi

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This was most likely the weakest of any of the major New Japan iPPVs since last year’s World Tag League final. It wasn’t that the show was bad, even if it harboured some bad matches, it was a mediocre show. However, that was certainly the general consensus going in. One of the major negatives of the show was the number of matches. It’s one thing when you have the usual New Japan cards that have decent undercards and phenomenal sets of final matches, but when it comes to shows such as this where there were no stand out matches or anything of real importance, it does begin to drag somewhat. On the positive end, most of the matches didn’t overstay their welcomes, and all but one match, that match being the mainevent, were sub-15 minute. Plus there TenCozy didn’t win the tournament – yay! If you are a die-hard New Japan fan chances are that you have already seen the show, but if you haven’t, watch the final two matches and skip the rest of the show. As for everyone else, there probably isn’t all that much in here to warrant sitting through 10 matches.

 

1. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yohei Komatsu

 

Komatsu started off by slapping Shibata and engaging with some strikes; not a good idea. Shibata toyed with him from the onset with some stiff abuse. Komatsu fought back with a flurry of elbows, a dropkick and even managed to take Shibata down with a lariat. Komatsu landed a chop and was promptly slapped in the face, kicked in the gut, and submitted with a Boston crab before Shibata walked swiftly up the apron without even breaking a sweat. This was a fun young lion exhibition for the three or so minutes that it lasted.

** ½

 

2. TAKA Michinoku & Taichi vs. KUSHIDA & BUSHI

 

Michinoku comedy sold early before KUSHIDA landed a tope con giro on Taichi and BUSHI a tope on Michinoku. Taichi took KUSHIDA down to the floor for the usual heel antics before working him over in the ring along with TAKA. KUSHIDA landed a seated senton before making the hot tag to BUSHI. He ran wild for a couple of minutes, but TAKA and Taichi soon regained control and landed their assisted sit-down neckbreaker for the win.

** ½

 

3. Muscle Orchestra vs. Rob Conway & Jax Dane

 

I seem to say this every time, but Strong Man seems to grow bigger every time I see him — he could have grown during the match for all I know. The heels got the heat on Strong Man after some stalling. It was a rather terrible few minutes. The tag was made to Nakanishi and he ran (okay, poor choice of words) wild on Conway. Muscle Orchestra landed their double lariat, but Conway kicked out. Nakanishi locked in the torture rack, Conway made his way out, Dane landed the spear and Conway landed his rope assisted neckbreaker for the win. Conway and Dane couldn’t have been expected to carry this immobile pair.

*

 

4. World Tag League B Block Semi-Finals

Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows vs. Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe

 

Anderson and Gallows had a hold on Honma from the onset. Makabe was tagged in following a lariat from Honma on Anderson; this formula was repeated with heat on Makabe. Honma missed his diving headbutt while Anderson took Makabe out to the floor where his Tokyo Dome opponent, Bad Luck Fale, got some shots in. The fans were into the final few nearfalls before Honma was pinned with a double team swinging neckbreaker. After the match Fale strangled Makabe with his own chain in the ring; this got some heat with the Aichi crowd. Makabe and Honma had to be helped to the back.

** 3/4

 

5. World Tag League A Block Semi-Finals

Killer Elite Squad vs. TenCozy

 

We have seen this match so many times at this point that it was pretty easy to see how it was going to go from the very beginning. Still, while the performance on TenCozy’s end may have dipped a little due to G1 wear and tear, conversely KES have really improved over the last few months. Smith landed a fantastic looking Tiger suplex on Kojima before being caught with a cutter. Smith went for a piledriver, but was caught with a flying mule kick from Tenzan, and an exposed elbow pad lariat from Kojima before Tenzan landed his moonsault for the win.

** ¾

 

Hirooki Goto, who has been out since mid-way through the G1 when he suffered a broken jaw, was out to comment on his Tokyo Dome opponent Katsuyori Shibata.

 

6. Prince Devitt & Bad Luck Fale vs. Kota Ibushi & Captain New Japan

 

Devitt asphyxiated New Japan with a bag, as he and Fale continued to work the Captain. Finally the hot tag was made to Ibushi who ran wild briefly before being killed with a lariat from Fale. Ibushi and Devitt proceeded to deliver the best moments of the match with some good short athletic exchanges. Ibushi missed a splash and was caught with a lariat for a double down. Of course, Ibushi ignored the golden rule of New Japan tag matches, and paid for it — don’t tag in the Captain towards the closing stretches of a match! This led to their demise. After all it was a rule that drove Devitt to a heel turn in the first place. Ibushi landed a great looking moonsault onto Devitt out on the floor, but New Japan was killed with a border toss regardless. Once again it was a KO finish, which is something unique to help get Fale over.

** ¾

 

7. Yuji Nagata & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI

 

Iizuka ripped off poor Nogami’s shirt and spray painted his face black. Sadly, there was no Doraemon Nogami this week. As if the Iizuka/Nagata singles encounter from a few months ago wasn’t bad enough, they decided to not only throw HASHI in there, but Sakuraba as well. Iizuka brawled with Nagata deep into the crowd, while HASHI strangled Sakuraba with his Dragon Ball pole. The teams decided to switch as HASHI went after Nagata, as Iizuka tackled Sakuraba, but Sakuraba was quickly dealt with in the crowd leaving Nagata to suffer at the hand of the usual Iizuka heel tactics. Sakuraba, MMA legend and national hero, made a brief save with what I believed to be Nogami’s belt of all things. He ran wild with strikes on HASHI before, the camera man for whatever reason found the feet of Sakuraba & Nagata more enticing than some of the action. He missed some spots, but regardless Nagata submitted Iizuka with a demo armbar.

**

 

8. Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano

 

Ishii and Benjamin had some fun athletic exchanges before recent rivals, Suzuki & Yano, brawled into the crowd. Minutes later Benjamin and Suzuki had Yano trapped in their corner, so once again following his G1 babyface stint, Yano was back playing the face in peril. Yano finally out heeled Benjamin by sending him face first into an exposed turnbuckle, and made the tag to Ishii leading to an elbow battle between he and Benjamin. Obviously Ishii got the better of the exchange, but Suzuki was tagged in regardless before being powerslammed by Ishii. Suzuki grabbed an armbar on Yano, but Ishii was in to break it up. Suzuki grabbed a sleeper, but Yano held onto the referee, spat water in Suzuki’s face and sneaked in a low blow before pouring water onto Suzuki’s head. He then proceeded to beat Suzuki with a bottle giving Suzuki provoking Suzuki like some sort of demonic caged beast. Suzuki duck taped himslef and Yano together and cackled at Yano’s frantic terror. Eventually the match was stopped due to Suzuki ground and pound and well over five men were needed to pull them apart, there were taped together after all. Yano then cut a promo challenging Suzuki to a Dome match I believe. There are so many things that they can do with Suzuki, why do they want to put him in there with Yano for the umpteenth time? Suzuki assaulted a bunch of young lions after the match, probably at the thought of facing Yano once again.

** ¾

 

9. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, Tetsuya Naito & La Sombra vs. Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Masato Tanaka, Yujiro Takahashi & Gedo

 

Liger and Gedo were the first pair in. Tanaka took Tiger Mask to the floor, as CHAOS dropped the entire babyface side to the outside. Tiger Mask was in there for quite some time until the tag was made to Tanahashi who went at it with Nakamura. Naito and Okada battled next with a fiery elbow exchange. Okada was on the losing end of the exchange but managed to land the belly to back over the shoulder over the knee neckbreaker before landing his elbow and attempting the rainmaker. Naito made it out and was caught with a dropkick, but responded with a heel kick. The Tokyo Dome opponents tagged to Gedo and Sombra, but Tanaka & Yujiro ran interfere laying out Sombra. Everyone was laying everyone else out with Nakamura taking out Tanahashi with a leaping Boma Ye, Naito removed Okada, Gedo attacked Naito and Sombra finished the sequence by rolling up Gedo in a great closing stretch.

*** ¼

 

10. World Tag League Final

Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows /w Bad Luck Fale & Prince Devitt vs. TenCozy

 

Gallows laid into Kojima in the corner with some realistic striking. TenCozy teed off on Anderson, however, a few minutes later due to some nefarious double teaming Anderson & Gallows had the ring cut off with Kojima in their corner. Kojima landed a massive flurry of machine gun chops on Anderson who was lying on the turn buckle instead of up against it. Anderson was able to grab a powerbomb before elbowing Tenzan off of the apron and pounding the mat like Randy Orton for the gun stun, which as you know if kind of like the RKO, I found this funny. Kojima lariated Gallows over the top rope and they landed the 3D on Anderon. Kojima caught Anderson with a lariat, but thankfully Devitt pulled the referee to the outside. This allowed for a 3-on-1 assault on Kojima. Still, Tenzan managed to make his way back in with a diving headbutt on Anderson. He locked in the anaconda vice, landing the anaconda vice slam. Still Doc broke it up. Gallows was sent out to the floor with a brainbuster, Kojima went out to restrain him, but Tenzan missed the moonsault and was left open for a big boot and fireman’s carry gun stun for two. Anderson and Gallows landed a combination of splashes and elbow drops, but still Tenzn kicked out. They went for their tag team finish, but Kojima was in to break it up. He was laid out with a gun stun. Tenzan kicked out of another gun stun, but with Devitt restraining Kojima they landed their twisting neckbreaker for the win. So thankfully your 2013 World Tag League winners are not TenKoji.

*** ¼

 

After the match Devitt cut a promo saying that they got what they wanted. Anderson mentioned in Japanese his World Tag League wins with Giant Bernard, Goto, and now Doc.

 

Bits & Pieces

 

I would like to make a trivial note on the WWE unification match this Sunday. One of the aspects that has me the most intrigued going into the match is the aspect of the title belt itself. I can’t see them having multiple belts floating about like in All Japan. What I expect is for the new unified title to adopt the design of the current WWE championship, as they worked hard to establish it earlier in the year, and merchandise has already been produced. However, what I would like to see happen would either be for the Big Gold belt to remain as the main title of the company, something that I in no way see happening, or that they bring back/create a new belt similar to the unified WWE title of the mid-2000s. As honestly speaking that is perhaps my favourite WWE belt of all time.

 

For those that enjoyed the by the numbers column last week, for now it is bi-weekly, simply to see how people respond. It may very well become a weekly feature.

 

WWE Monday Night RAW Slammy Awards December 9th 2013

KeyArena, Seattle, Washington

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

There’s no question that this week’s edition of Monday Night Raw, the official go-home show for TLC, was the best edition of the show in weeks, if not months. It built for the future, had a hot crowd, and as three hour RAWs go, witnessed minimal drag. However, as a go-home show for this Sunday’s TLC alone, I don’t know how good of a job it did. Sure, the mainevent segment did a better job than anything they have done up until this point at building to a match that should be a far bigger deal than it at present. But still, what they actually built towards were multiple branching directions for future angles, which is something that they desperately needed at this point. So, while they put Sunday’s mainevent in second place, they did what was right in the long run, and that was make the fans excited for something, anything for the future. The Seattle crowd was also a decisive factor in making this show what it was, as they had the voice of a New Jersey or Manchester crowd, only without the narcissism. They also helped spark what may indeed be a second career awakening for Daniel Bryan with their impassioned chants during a segment that Bryan was barely involved in during the mainevent.

 

In the opening package amongst the expected names listed for the show, there was also Bret Hart, the New Age Outlaws, Eve Torres & Mick Foley. Surprising as it may seem the show opened up with a pro-wrestling match between Daniel Bryan & Fandango. This Seattle crowd was white hot for Bryan, whether it was due to him being in his home state, or simply being super over is hard to ascertain. Regardless, everything that this man did resulted in a ebullient eruption. Fandango missed his leg drop, before being caught with a head-butt and baisaku kick for the win to the joy of this home town crowd. The arena went dark and Wyatt appeared on the tron. Wyatt spoke about hurting Bryan and wanting to prove that he is a monster, still wanting Bryan to join their stable. This resulted in arena wide “no” chants — don’t turn this man heel, please. Lawler and Booker T were brought out as the hosts for the Slammys. The first award was the “Laugh out Loud Moment of the Year” with the New Age Outlaws out in brightly coloured tuxedos possibly stolen off of the backs of Daniels & Kazarian. There were “welcome back” chants that seemed to disrupt things. The nominees were Vickie getting fired and throwing a fit, the Titus ‘O Neal throw-up segment, the Cobra snake charming segment and Rock singing to Vickie Guerrero. Nothing on this list elicited a light chuckle, let alone full-blown laughter. Santino came down for a match against Damien Sandow. Rock won the award. Vickie accepted the award on behalf of the Rock. Big E. was on commentary. Santino went for the cobra, but was leg-sweeped, landed right on his face, and was caught with a full-nelson slam or the win. Big E. then slid into the ring to lift the belt above his head. Yay, no interaction with Big. E during the match.

 

Then THE SHIELD made it down using the entrance ramp IN SUITS to present “Double Cross of the Year”. This was way too goofey. They talked about crossing the Shield, and how they would never be nominees for this award — this was a stupid idea. The nominees were Mark Henry’s retirement segment, Michaels superkicking Bryan in the Cell, Heyman double-crossing Punk at Money in the Bank, and Hunter double-crossing Bryan at Summer Slam. Kingston was out for a match against the Miz, before the Shield announced Shawn Michaels as the winner of the award. The fact that Henry didn’t win this award made me very sad. Michaels talked comically about double-crossing everyone for ages, but only winning at this point to a half-hearted “you sold out” chant. There was a clear trend with people in the ring and the awards being presented tonight. Miz won with a handful of trunks; no one cared. After the match Kingston laid Miz out with a Trouble in Paradise. Eve Torres was brought out to present “Diva (one person) of the Year”. The options were “The Bellas” (two people), The Funkadactyles (two people), Kaitlyn, Natalya, Eva Marie (a rib) and AJ. The Rhodes Brothers, Big Show & Rey Mysterio were in the ring for a match against The Real Americans, Ryback & Curtis Axel. The Diva of the year is the Bella Twins and they were booed heavily by this Seattle crowd. The Bellas said nothing of importance. At first I thought that this tag match was set to be the first of many multi-man matches to not turn out so well, but put six or more men in a tag match in WWE and it will be good. Goldust was fantastic as the babyface in peril, and so was Big Show at destroying Cesaro, Swagger and Ryback with spears allowing for Cody to land the disaster kick and Mysterio to land the 619 for the win. There was a Google Play app installation tutorial; wrestling fans are dumb I guess.

 

Jerry Lawler & Booker T welcomed HBK out to present the Superstar of the Year award nominees. He recommended that the award be renamed the “HBshizzle award” to “HBshizzle chants”. The nominees were Lesnar, Punk, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and John Cena. Sin Cara was down for a rematch against Alberto Del Rio. Michaels announced Daniel Bryan as the winner. It was played up as a big upset, but this had to have been expected going in. Bryan said that if it wasn’t for Michaels he wouldn’t be there, but if it wasn’t for Michaels he would be champion too. He thanked the fans and got a Sea Hawks chant going. The fans were more interested in the Sea Hawks than ADR or Sin Cara. There were a ton of strangely placed spots here with Del Rio seemingly out of place for a top rope move towards the finally moments of the match. Sin Cara killed Del Rio with a sunset flip concussing him in the process (!), before landing his senton bomb for the win. I can’t see this new Sin Cara push lasting much longer. The Prime Time Players were brought out to present the “Fan Participation Award”. They managed to get a “millions of dollars” chant going. The nominees were “Fandango-ing”, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks”, and “What’s Up”. The “Yes” chant won. Sweet T was down with Brodus for a squash match against Xavier Woods, which really makes you wonder why they booked this angle in the first place. Clay attacked Xavier after the match before T and Truth broke it up leaving Clay walking off on his own.

 

Miz was down to present the “Insult of the Year” award. The nominees were AJ’s promo on the Total Divas, Zeb Colter’s promos in general, Heyman’s promo on Punk, and Stephanie McMahon cutting a promo on Big Show — they left out the “Giants die young comment”. Punk made it down for a match with Dean Ambrose, with the Shield at ringside, a rematch from SmackDown. A 50 years of WWE trailer aired. Miz announced verbatim “… and the winner is Stephanie McMahon degrades Big Show on RAW”! Indeed, there is something wrong with this company. A moderate portion of the match was based off of work around Punk’s ribs, which will hopefully play into Sunday’s match. There were a couple of very good nearfalls towards the end of the match with a quick rollup from Ambrose and a high kick from Punk. After a face-off on the outside with Rollins and Reigns over interference on Punk, they walked out on Ambrose, leaving Punk to land the GTS for the win. Rollins looked to be getting in ring, turned back, and allowed Reigns to nail Punk with the spear from behind.

 

There was a phenomenal video package pushing the world and WWE titles as the most important prizes in the world. Booker T & Lawler welcomed Mick Foley to present the “Extreme Moment of the Year” award. The nominees were the Shield laying out Taker, Ryback sending Cena through the stage, CM Punk beating Heyman on top of the cell and the Wyatt Family in the inferno match. Not a great year for ‘extreme moments” it seems. The Usos were out for a match against the Wyatt Family. Punk won the Slammy. Harper killed Uso with a lariat for the win after yet another very good tag match this week. The Wyatts disappeared into the darkness after the match. Booker & Lawler brought Bret Hart down who called the match of the year award his greatest honour, I doubt this. The candidates were Punk vs. Undertaker, The Rhodes Brothers vs. The Shield, Triple H vs. Lesnar at Extreme Rules and Rock vs. Cena. No Punk/Lesnar, Punk/Jericho or Cena/Bryan. Natalya came down for a match against Tamina. Cena and Rock won, which if you are really petty you could get upset about as it wasn’t even the best match on that show, but it’s the Slammys and it was a big match so I really don’t mind. Still, it was a big surprise. Cena walked out and made a very short speech thanking everyone. Natalya won via submission leading into Sunday’s title match.

 

Thy were strongly pushing the main event “Ascension Ceremony” as the final time that we would see the WWE and World titles as separate titles. The idea behind the segment was to get all of the former World and WWE champions that are relatively frequent fixtures in the ring at the same time. Hunter gave a speech about how they had etched their names in history meanwhile the entire crowd chanted for “Daniel Bryan”, which was apropos as Hunter spoke of a “game changing moment”. Furious “yes” chants followed by “what” chants ensued. Orton and Cena were brought down. The “Daniel Bryan” chants didn’t stop as the two titles were lifted up into the air. Orton remarked that Cena no longer had ruthless aggression. “Boring” and “yes” chants – poor Randy. Orton talked of how he shortened Foley’s career and life, he embarrassed Michaels, and there wouldn’t have needed to have been a screw job in Montreal if he was in there with Bret. Cena pointed out the word “work” and grabbed Daniel Bryan, patting him on the shoulder. He asked for Bryan to tell everyone his name, where he was from, if he had a parent in the business, with the conclusion that Bryan had worked for everything he has, unlike Orton who had been given everything from the start. Cena called this the biggest title match IN HISTORY. Cena did a great job of reeling this crowd back in and showed tremendous instincts. Cena is a strange character as he often times seems to be miss find details, but perhaps just as often is able to pull something like this off. Cena looked forward to a rematch with Bryan, which really got the crowd behind him. He offered Orton a handshake and Orton accepted as the titles were lifted above their heads. A brawl broke out, which resulted in a pull apart. Orton pie-faced Punk, Punk went after Orton, Hunter pulled Punk by his hair, which led to Punk laying Hunter out, Michaels super kicked Punk, resulting in Bryan kneeing Michaels to death and Orton inadvertently knocking Steph down when going after Bryan, and Hunter pedigreeing Orton. The closing scene was rather unique heading into the PPV, as you had Triple H, Cena and Kane standing over Stephanie with Orton looking on from the mat.

 

RAW Ratings for December 9th 2013

 

The RAW ratings for this week were up by a relatively large margin compared to last week’s show, which pulled one of the lowest ratings of the last 15 years. They were going up against strong competition in the Cubs/Cowboys football game, which drew 16.19 million viewers. They followed what has now become a regular pattern with the overall viewership tapering off leading into the 2nd and 3rd hours whilst the 18-49 viewership peaked in the final hour. The first hour drew 4.22 million viewers (a 1.49 rating and 1.896 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, 6th for the day on cable behind ‘Fast ‘n Loud’). The second hour drew 4.18 million viewers (a 1.49 rating and 1.894 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, 7th for the day behind the first hour). The third and final hour, which ran from 22:00 to 23:18, drew 4.06 million viewers (a 1.56 rating and 1.984 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, 4th for the day behind, ‘Love 7 Hip-Hop’, ‘Sportscenter’ and the football game. The rating ended up as a 2.7.

WWE NXT – December 11th 2013.

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

Ben Carass.

 

Hunico and Camacho showed up to challenge the Ascension for the NXT tag straps in this week’s opener.

 

NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Hunico & Camacho vs. The Ascension (C)

 

Camacho kicked off the shine with some brawling and a few power spots then Hunico came in and worked a camel-clutch. Victor hit what looked to be a busaiku knee to turn the tide and the heels got the heat on Hunico. The Ascension must have studied some Randy Orton matches, because both O’Brian and Victor slapped on Randy’s trusty chinlock in order to cut off Hunico’s hope spots. Camacho ran wild on O’Brian after the hot tag then the finish saw Victor pull Hunico off the apron to prevent the tag and the Ascension delivered their version of the total elimination to get the pin. – The Ascension retained the NXT Tag Titles over Hunico & Camacho via pinfall, at 8:45 (TV Time). – Typical dull Ascension match, complete with plenty of lumbering offense and way too many rest holds. I literally can’t think of one redeeming feature of O’Brian & Victor’s act. The two can barely pass as half-decent workers, their matches are dismal and often follow a very ridged formula, they cut the same “we are dark and scary” promo every time they speak and even the super responsive NXT crowd doesn’t buy into their phony underworld routine. I guess their entrances is ok, that is if you are impressed by knock off ultraviolet lights and stock music that appears to have been lifted from the cutting-room floor of Peter Jackson’s latest palaverous movie.

 

Kassius Ohno vs. Alexander Rusev w/ Lana

 

Since this was Ohno’s last match on NXT, I’ll keep this one short. Lana did her usual introduction and Rusev worked over Ohno’s back. Ohno made a small comeback that consisted of three spots then Rusev cut him off and applied the camel-clutch. – Alexander Rusev defeated Kassius Ohno via submission, at3:03. – Maybe someone will be smart enough to let Rusev start billing himself as the man that “ended Kassius Ohno’s WWE career”, but I doubt that will happen. It looked like they had planned to keep the Ohno/Rusev feud running, as Rusev would not release the camel-clutch and some refs ran down to pull him off Ohno. Either the call to cut Ohno came from on high and the NXT writers had no idea about it and were booking to keep the feud going or everybody was in the know and sent Ohno out the door by putting Rusev over big. Both scenarios seem plausible to me, however I still remain dumbfounded about that decision. I’ve said enough on the subject in recent weeks, so I will encourage all of you to search out Chris Hero vs. Johnny Gargano from DGUSA’s Freedom Fight last month and leave it at that.

 

Natalya and Bayley were in the back; Nattie turned out to be Bayley’s mystery partner and she tried to calm the socially awkward diva down before their match.

 

They recapped Antonio Cesaro bullying Byron Saxton last week then they cut to the announce table and Regal stated in a deadpan manner that if Cesaro had a problem with him, he didn’t have to take it out on Saxton. – Regal was so understatedly awesome here; he had a quiet psychopath/thousand yard stare thing going on and got the impression that he is NOT somebody to mess with over in just one sentence. Why Bill DeMott is the head trainer when there is a master worker and psychologist being wasted on commentary is beyond my comprehension.

 

Bayley & Natalya vs. The BFFs (Summer Rae & Sasha Banks)

 

Bayley fired up early on Sasha, but was soon cut off and the BFFs started to get the heat. Bayley countered Sasha’s lucha armdrag and Nattie made the comeback off the hot tag. Finish saw Summer Rae break up the sharpshooter then Bayley dropped her off the apron; Sasha stole Damien Sandow’s old finish and hit Bayley with a straightjacket neckbreaker. – The BFFs defeated Natalya & Bayley via pinfall, at 3:27. – Not much to this one. More heat on the mean girls, so expect more from Bayley’s fight against the BFFs.

 

Leo Kruger cut a promo in the back about taking out Sami Zayn in order to become a Real American. – I know it would take some planning, so you can already throw this idea out the window, but if they wanted to push Cesaro as a face on the main roster then I’m all for putting Leo in with Zeb & Swagger as the converted foreigner. Although, like I said they would have to organise everything around the NXT taping schedule and furthermore I don’t see them doing another high profile face turn before Mania now that the Roman Reigns story has begun.

 

Mojo Rawley vs. Scott Dawson w/ Sylvester LeFort

 

Mojo got the house show steam machine and ran around like a goof before the bell. In order to cover up Mojo’s greenness, Dawson got the heat almost immediately. The transition to the comeback was awkward: Dawson missed a corner splash, however Mojo just stood there so Dawson nailed him with a forearm and whipped him into the opposite corner. Mojo reversed, hit a corner splash of his own then started his comeback and delivered the Earthquake splash for the finish. – Mojo Rawley defeated Scott Dawson via pinfall, at2:51. LeFort distracted Mojo after the match and Dawson attacked him from behind. – This was one of those stupid squash matches were one guy takes the whole match, until the other guy hits a couple of moves and wins; no good. I’m not sold on Mojo, he needs a lot of work in almost every department except the size, which is most likely the only reason he is has been thrust on to TV this early.

 

Next week is the 200th episode of NXT and the hyped an open challenge from the Ascension; talk about prestige. Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville for the title and an appearance from Triple H were also advertised for episode 200.

 

Sami Zayn vs. Leo Kruger

 

Sami started out hot with a double leg and some mounted punches, however Leo soon cut him off with a spinebuster for an early near-fall. They brawled on the outside and Leo sent Sami into the apron; Sami showed some fight, but Leo delivered a slam on the floor. Sami fought out of a cravate to land a dropkick then got a near-fall off a crossbody from the top. For the finish Sami went for his lucha DDT out of the corner, Leo crotched him and followed up with his open hand lariat to get the fall. – Leo Kruger defeated Sami Zayn via pinfall,at4:07. Afterwards, Leo went for his finish again; Sami countered then clotheslined Kruger over the top and took him out with a big plancha. Some refs ran out to separate the two and the show went off the air. – Not your typical great Sami Zayn match, but they told a good story here to keep Sami occupied before he goes back after Bo Dallas. Sami was so concerned with beating Leo’s ass that he forgot all about wrestling and turned the match into a fist fight right from the bell. Leo capitalised on Sami’s desire for revenge and hit a big move that turned the match in his favour and “injured” Sami from that point on. Some people may have a problem with Sami losing in 4 minutes, and granted it is not an ideal scenario, but it wasn’t a squash by any means and if you paid attention to the story they told, you shouldn’t be too alarmed.

 

Nothing remarkable from developmental this week; with the exception of Rusev/Ohno, all of the matches were passible affairs with finishes that were designed to keep the respective feuds running and honestly, if Ohno had not been cut then his match would probably have fallen into the same category. The 200th episode next week looks like a stacked show for NXT standards, including the debut of Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards as the American Pitbulls, Zayn/Kidd vs. Cesaro/Kruger & Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville in a lumberjack match for the title. With a million shows to choose from this weekend, WWE TLC, ROH Final Battle, CZW Cage of Death, UFC on Fox 9 and Shine 15, you might as well spend your time watching something else and check back in for next week’s show.

 

WWE SmackDown – December 13th 2013.

Moda Centre: Portland, OR.

Ben Carass.

 

A recap of the brilliant closing segment from Raw kicked off our TLC go-home show; they made sure to replay Randy Orton taking the pedigree three times just to be certain you know where the main focus is. Both the WWE and World title belts were still hanging above the ring; I guess we were supposed to believe they had remained there since Monday despite magically travelling 173 miles down the road to Portland. There was also a bunch of tables, ladders and chairs strung about the arena. Daniel Bryan came out for the opener with one of his many Slammy awards then Erick Rowan got the full Wyatt Family entrance to face the “Superstar of the Year”.

 

Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan w/ Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper

 

Rowan controlled from the start with his size and power. Bryan threw his series of kicks for a little comeback; Harper got on the apron, so Bryan nailed him with a dropkick then followed up with a hell of a tope. Rowan went over the top after a low-bridge then Bryan set up for another tope, but Bray tripped him from the floor for DQ finish. – Daniel Bryan defeated Erick Rowan via disqualification, at 3:07. Harper and Rowan tried a two-on-one attack while Bray sat back in his chair; Bryan outmanoeuvred the big men, slid out of the ring and knocked Bray right out of his chair with the busaiku knee. Bryan escaped up the ramp and did his “Yes” chant. – For a go-home angle, this was actually pretty great. Bryan looked like a real scrappy underdog fighting off the two huge heels and the finish/post match angle were very well done. I still don’t see this or the handicap match with Punk as money matches for TLC, which is puzzling when you consider how over Bryan is at the minute and the fact that CM Punk can sell just about anything with his tremendous talking ability.

 

Non-Title Match: Cody Rhodes & Goldust (Tag Team Champions) vs. The Real Americans w/ Zeb Colter

 

Zeb cut a pre-match promo about a homeless Santa Claus and said “Senior Claus” had snuck across the border from the North Pole. Cesaro and Swagger got some false heat on Cody; Goldust made the early comeback, but Cesaro cut him off and dropped him with a clothesline on the outside. Americans got the heat in their half of the ring; Swagger landed a belly-to-belly then Goldie fought out of the heels’ corner and made the hot tag after the traditional double-down. Cody ran wild on Cesaro and got a near-fall with the Alabama-slam then we got the rapid fire spot sequence: Goldie prevented the giant swing on his brother but was sent to the outside, Cody hit Cesaro with the disaster kick then dumped Swagger over the top and nailed both of them with a springboard plancha. Finish saw Cody go up top and fight off Swagger, however Cesaro pulled him off right into a big European uppercut to get the pin. – The Real Americans defeated The Rhodes Brothers via pinfall, at 6:19. – Good effort all round here. It is a shame that they have to set up a multi-person Tag Title match at TLC by having all the contenders beat the Rhodes, but since they left it to the last minute I guess that is all they can do at this point other than just throwing the match together

 

Unfortunately, Bad New Barrett was back. The bad news was that all the people that voted for the Slammy winners were in fact losers. It was completely pointless.

 

Mark Henry vs. Damien Sandow

 

Big E was on commentary again; he did the usual babyface champion’s promo about keeping his belt at TLC. Sandow took a big boot, rolled outside and got counted out. – Mark Henry defeated Damien Sandow via count-out, at 1:21. Big E threw Sandow back inside and Henry hit him with a clothesline. What happened next was baffling, Big E tried to get in the ring, but Henry threw Sandow into the ropes and E took a bump to the floor. Sandow escaped up the ramp and E chased him to the back. – I may be giving creative too much credit here, but this could have been the first hint at tension between Big E & Henry. If not then they just made both of them look like real goofs. My bet is that Big E rolls over Sandow then Henry turns for a shot at the IC Title.

 

The Bellas vs. AJ (Diva’s Champion) & Tamina Snuka

 

Natalya joined JBL and Cole; she tried to make her title shot at TLC seem important. Tamina started the heat on Nikki with a Samoan-drop; AJ missed a corner splash for the transition to the hot tag and Brie ran wild. Finish came when AJ shove Brie into Nikki, who bumped through the ropes, then she applied the black widow and Brie tapped-out. – AJ & Tamina Snuka defeated The Bellas via submission, at2:43. – It’s probably due to Tamina providing a solid foundation, but Nikki seemed a lot better than usual and pulled off a tilt-o-whirl headscissors without a hitch. I’m certain nobody cares, which is sad because Nattie did a fine job of selling the idea that she was getting her first title shot in 3 years and would make a better champion than AJ.

 

Cena showed up for an in-ring promo. He said “for the first time in history” the World and WWE titles were willingly surrendered by both parties on Raw: what about Benoit giving up the WCW title to go to the WWF or when Russo vacated the title because he was not a wrestler or for that matter when Andre handed over the WWF title to DiBiase after beating Hogan? Somebody call Kevin Sullivan and Jack Tunney to clear this thing up. Cena mentioned his twelve year history with Randy Orton and put him over as the “Apex Predator” then buried Randy for essentially being injury prone and not liking to work a stiff style; because Cena is a regular Katsuyori Shibata. Cena sold the TLC gimmick by talking about all the things he would do to Orton with the weapons then declared that he would be the only champion after Sunday. – Decent last ditch attempt to sell the PPV; at least Cena was serious and didn’t have to recite any atrocious comedy. He was far better on Raw, I would even go as far to say he was superb, but with all the craziness that happened on Monday it was a good move to try make people forget about all the superkicks, flying knees and pedigrees in order to make the unification match the centre of attention; for two days at least.

 

The Usos vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns

 

The revolving door of guest commentators continued, as Ambrose sat in on the call; just like last time he put everyone else, including JBL and Cole, to shame with his greatness. The Usos shone with some double team spots on Rollins then they dumped both Shield members over the top for the lead-in to the commercial break; when we came back the Shield had the heat on Jimmy, who got in a couple of hope spots but was shut down by Reigns. Rollins missed a clothesline and spilled to the outside then Jimmy planted Reigns with a DDT for the double-down. Jey ran wild off the hot tag and hit Rollins with a pop-up Samoan-drop for a near-fall then got rid of Reigns before he came off the top with a crossbody onto Rollins on the outside. Reigns delivered a spear to Jimmy on the floor then Rollins sent Jey into the ring post; they teased a count-out, but Jey got back in at nine. The actual finish saw Rollins do CM Punk’s GTS signal then he hoisted Jey up into Punk’s finish and Reigns delivered a spear out of the GTS. – Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns defeated The Usos via pinfall, at 8:58 (TV Time). Ambrose got in the ring to join his buddies then Punk appeared on the Tron. He taped up his fists while cutting a promo about how he had exposed the Shield’s weaknesses in recent weeks. Punk closed with, “believe in the best in the world”. – Solid action here; these two teams always have good matches and this was no exception. The finish was nicely done and Rollins using Punk’s stuff was a great heel move, plus the promo from Punk afterwards served its purpose heading into Sunday. The two go-home angles for the handicap matches at TLC were very good, however this may be a case of the final stop on the journey being better than the destination.

 

Big Show w/ Rey Mysterio vs. Ryback w/ Curtis Axel

 

Cole said Vickie Guerrero had booked a four-way for the PPV, with the Rhodes defending against Big Show & Rey, Ryback & Axel, plus the Real Americans. Show shone with his overhand chops then Ryback landed a spinebuster and set up for the meat-hook; Show countered with a chokeslam for the finish. – Big Show defeated Ryback via pinfall, at 1:43. Axel took the 619 and the KO punch after the match. – Why this was the main event match when the Usos & the Shield were on before is a complete mystery. I find it highly insulting that Big Show took the deadly punt to the head then was just moved out of the WWE title picture and thrown into a tag team without another word on the matter; he didn’t even miss one TV after being kicked in the skull. Oh well, the four way should be a decent match then in the New Year we can look forward to the inevitable Cody/Goldust split. Although, they will have to get a team ready to take the straps from the Rhodes when they kick into Mania mode.

 

A pre-tape from Bray Wyatt rolled; he freaked out about what Bryan did earlier then sang a lullaby which he claimed to sing to all his pets before he put them down.

 

Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio

 

Match never got started, because Miz laid out Kofi before the bell. – I’m sure you are all aware Del Rio suffered a concussion on Raw, so they just sent him out there for some deception and to set up a sneak attack angle for a feud that nobody cares about.

 

Cole did his weekly recap of the sit-down interview with Triple H; Trips said he would evaluate Randy Orton’s apology to see if he was sincere.

 

Orton came out for the “public apology” segment. Randy called out Triple H to apologise face-to-face; Hunter came down and Orton showed footage of the bump Stephanie took in order to prove his innocence. Randy said he was sorry, but Trips told him he had already seen the footage multiple times then refused to apologise for the pedigree, because the authority “never apologises for anything”. Hunter eventually accepted Randy’s apology then Orton asked about the closing scene from Raw with Cena standing next to the Authority and demanded to know if he still had their faith as the face of the company. Trips told him that the Authority knew exactly where their faith was and he walked away; the show went off the air with a shot of the two belts hanging above the ring. – This was a weak main event angle that attempted to make us believe that Triple H & Steph have given up on Orton as their chosen champion, which is a dead giveaway that Randy is walking out with both titles. This could have opened the show and they could have gone off the air with Cena’s segment, which would have been a better end to a pretty good show overall. I have predicted in recent weeks that they would not unify the belts, but after seeing how desperate they are at trying to convince people to buy the show for the “biggest, most historic match ever”, I have to believe they will actually deliver on their promise this time. They can’t possibly be stupid enough to do another screwjob with Cena in the main event, given that he will most likely raise the buyrate above anything they have done since SummerSlam.

 

SmackDown was not only a decent show this week, but I thought they did a good job with the majority of their go-home angles. Other than the Orton apology, all the major stuff leading into TLC was executed well and on top of that we got some solid wrestling thrown in too. Usos/Shield & the Rhodes vs. the Americans were fine outings, plus Bryan/Rowan while being not a stellar match, was in fact a quality final angle before the PPV. Don’t hold your breath, but it looks like maybe, just maybe, that the WWE have finally started to slowly crawl their way out of the pit of atrocious booking they willingly buried themselves in after SummerSlam.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

We have another diverse issue coming up for you next week, as we cover WWE’s TLC PPV, the aftermath, RAW from Monday, the ratings, hopefully the Akira Taue retirement show, the Network, New Japan news, possibly ROH’s Final Battle and more!

 

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