Cubed Circle Newsletter 135: ROH Global Wars Review, Daniel Bryan Neck Surgery, TV Rights Deal + More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter 135 – Daniel Bryan Injury & ROH Global Wars

 

We are back this week, albeit following a few delays due to a week spent assembling and setting up my new computer, with another diverse issue covering Ring of Honor’s Global Wars show, Daniel Bryan’s neck injury, the WWE TV deal, two weeks worth of RAW ratings and as always Ben Carass looks at NXT and SmackDown. I hope everyone enjoys this week’s issue and has a great week!

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Daniel Bryan Neck Surgery & TV Rights Deal – Bad News for WWE This Week

 

On the May 12th edition of Monday Night RAW in Greensville South Carolina, Daniel Bryan, the second biggest star in the current WWE , announced that he would in fact be undergoing neck surgery on Thursday the 15th of May. He was met with a lesser reaction by the fans in Greensville than in weeks prior, which was certainly due to the nature of his appearance, and could in fact been exasperated by his current deconstructive program with Kane – one that has descended into the abyss of bad horror movie territory as of late. These are likely not the only root causes for his lackluster reaction on Monday, with his ever-present association with Brie, as well as references to storyline elements in what was supposed to essentially be a non-fictional promo, playing their part.

 

The minimally invasive cervical faraminotomy performed by long-time neurosurgeon to WWE talent Dr. Joseph Maroon, the doctor who performed the majority of Bruno Sammartino’s back surgeries, was, from all the information that we have at press-time, which is a WWE.com article and a heap of speculation, a success. The original “worst case scenario” time frame, disregarding unforeseen complications, was 4-6 weeks, a time frame far removed from all WWE media sources, and given that the source of the issue was in fact an inflamed nerve root, I think that it would be safe to assume that Bryan will be back in the next 1-2 months. WWE did publicize, in somewhat of an indirect manner, that they were going to wait for the upcoming RAW tapings in London to make an official statement on Bryan’s prognosis, as well as whether or not he is going to drop the title.

 

Logic would dictate that, if Bryan is going to be out for 1-2 months at a time when PPV business is at an all-time low in terms of overall business significance, they would want to keep the title on him. I could see the idea of yet another chase from the bottom popping into the minds of some, but with that story already reaching its culmination in a near-perfect manner at this year’s WrestleMania, they would be gaining very little, and perhaps losing a lot, if they were to strip him of the championship. Another reason for keeping information on the injury as concealed to this extent may very well be that they are going to give an inflated recovery time for Bryan’s recovery, or perhaps none at all, and then have him return valiantly a few weeks later.

 

From a storyline perspective this injury may serve to erase some of the short term damage that Bryan’s current program with Kane has caused to his aura as a top star. A surprise Daniel Bryan return weeks removed from any appearance on WWE television seems to be prime opportunity to distance Bryan from this current Kane debacle. Still, I do believe there to be a fairly strong possibility that they will return to what was their current plan for a Kane buried-alive match for Payback upon Bryan’s return — such is their current situation as it pertains to star power, as well as the kayfabe explanation for the surgery.

Global Wars 135

What is a more important long-term question for Bryan relates to the chances of his current high-impact in-ring style exasperating this current neck injury, as well as his general physical health. I would like to believe that with Bryan being the intelligent person that he is that if his current style does pose moderate risks to the injury that he will look to change it somewhat, as he has done so many times in the past. Adaption, if it does become necessary for Bryan over the coming months and years, shouldn’t be too much a problem for him on a technical front, especially if it helps to maintain his long-term health, not only as an active performer, but in life after wrestling.

 

On a financial front the WWE was also dealt a blow in the announcement of its new TV rights deal with NBC Universal. For the last year, if not longer, both the Network and TV rights deals, have been pushed by the company to investors as the two catalysts for unprecedented future financial growth. Vince McMahon at one point was so adamant of, at the very least, a doubling of television rights fees in 2014 that he offered to be put in a hammer lock if that minimum value was not met. And in comparison with the predictions of some analysts these, seemingly optimistic projections, were highly conservative. Indeed, with recent long term rights deals with NASCAR, Major League Soccer, amongst others, some analysts were predicting tripling of rights fees and above. However, these projections, perhaps not on the part of Vince McMahon, but certainly of respected analysts, were flawed — in a similar manner to the eventual eight-million subscriber number for the Network floating about.

 

When comparing advertising revenue of a top network show with others of comparable viewership in either sports or entertainment, an important factor becomes clear — advertisers simply don’t value pro-wrestling programming, and the audience that it attracts, to nearly the same extent of equitable shows. There are many reasons for this, a possible contributor it is the lower average income of the standard RAW viewer, or that they are, on average, lesser educated than your standard UFC viewer — maybe wrestling simply has a specific cultural stigma. But, for whatever reason pro-wrestling programming is viewed as less valuable than most equatable programming, which may have meant a fewer number of bids for RAW and SmackDown, and hence a lesser incentive for NBC Universal to raise the rights fees more than they have done.

 

Domestic rights fees are expected to fall in the 155-165 million dollar range, which would mean roughly a 50% increase from their prior deal. Stock prices have dropped by more than 50% at press time — a drop, probably not of this magnitude but of a good 20%, was realistically inevitable unless they drew in triple their original rights deal, which realistically wasn’t going to happen. Little else is known about the deal, other than NBC Universal has picked up both RAW & SmackDown as expected — we should have more information on the specifics of the deal in coming weeks.

 

ROH & New Japan Global Wars – Exciting Success Heading into War of the Worlds

 

On May 10th at a sold out Ted Reeve Arena Toronto Canada, ROH and New Japan ran what most probably won’t be the best pure wrestling show of the year, but a show that will be in the running strong in the feel good category. The crowd of 1500, in a building that had been sold out for months in advance and that saw 100 fans turned away at its entrance, were what most company’s would want for an event of this sort. A respectful, enthusiastic, receptive full house that at no point attempted to get themselves over.

 

It was a unique environment with both the Ring of Honor, and New Japan wrestlers, the latter whom were far removed from their target audience, were treated like big-time stars. Most of the wrestling on the show was by no means spectacular, although at the same time there was not a single bad match, or even a match that didn’t get at least a moderate reaction, on the entire show. What was surprising was that despite getting very similar levels of exposure in the United States, Shinsuke Nakamura & Hiroshi Tanahashi were not nearly as over as Kazuchika Okada, with the later being established for a fraction of that of Tanahashi & Nakamura. Jushin Thunder Liger, one of the most consistently active international stars on the New Japan roster, was over on an equitable scale to Okada, despite being nothing more than a lower card act for years in Japan. Local stars like Kevin Steen, performing in his home country, and AJ Styles were also met with superstar reactions.

 

One complaint that I did have with the show was the commentary of Corino & Kelly, which at points didn’t seem to match what we were seeing in terms of tone. It could be heard that Kelly & Corino were attempting to call this show to the best of their ability, and they definitely are a very likeable pairing, but, as we saw at times at the table, the addition of a Nigel McGuiness would have served to greatly enhance the product, and truthfully would have made the overall announce team more coherent and cohesive. I have never understood why the company doesn’t use Nigel more actively on commentary, I can’t see the accent being as big of a problem as some have suggested in the past. His commentary of both the Steen/Elgin and Elgin/Richards matches of 2012 granted those matches an extra layer of depth that the majority of major announce teams haven’t been able to do for me in a very long time. Still, for a TV product, Kelly & Corino feel very warm, which is what you would want out of an announce team for that medium at least.

 

The show opened with a Mike Bennett/ACH match following a dark match, which saw Tadrius Thomas defeat Romatic Touch (Rhett Titus). There were less moves here from ACH than I am used to, which is a good thing. There was a strange spot towards the latter stages of the match with ACH pointing awkwardly for a long while at Maria on the apron, setting up an inadvertent spear from her husband. Bennett landed the dominator for the win, with not one crude chant from the crowd directed at Maria during the entire match — a plus. (** 3/4)

 

Takaaki Watanabe, a man that I haven’t seen footage of since he left NJPW on this current excursion, was the first NJPW wrestler to work the show, opposite Michael Elgin. For anyone that hasn’t seen photos of Watanabe from his NWA run, he has gained a lot of mass, similar in body type to a younger Kensuke Sasaki – very thick. Additionally he has opted to drop the fauxhawk, which he sported as a young lion. We didn’t get to see enough from Watanabe to where we could really judge his progress, but from what I have seen of him as a young lion I am pretty confident that he will, at the very least, be a solid member of the NJPW roster — the three others to watch will be Takahashi, Tanaka and Komatsu. Elgin won, as expected, with a buckle bomb and sit-out powerbomb leading into his IWGP Heavyweight title match at War of the Worlds. (** 3/4)

 

BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs, reDragon and the Briscoe Brothers had a three-way tag match for a future tag team title opportunity. The stipulation didn’t make much sense given that reDragon are already number one contenders for the titles at War of the Worlds — this could have just as easily been a regular tag match. Jimmy Jacobs also landed an apron spear on Mark Briscoe, a spot that we had just seen in the opener. The Briscoes got the win with the doomsday device on Jacobs, who took a great flip bump. (** 3/4)

 

Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander, who have been locked in a feud that has escalated from Alexander’s use of Strong’s backbreakers, were up next. Alexander is getting the young babyface “he is going to be a future star” treatment, which seems to be working for him, but has worked very few times historically. Strong got the heat after Alexander had caught his knee in the ropes, but things really began to pick up when Strong slapped a kneeling Alexander, Alexander spat back and Strong fury ensued. Strong rolled to the ropes off of an Alexander backbreaker after already kicking out of a springboard enzuigiri. Strong went for a backbreaker of his own, but was met with a small package in a good closing stretch. After the match Whitmer and Thomas stormed the ring, delivering a beat down and setting up a backbreaker on a chair bridge to Alexander. (*** 1/2)

 

There was another three-way tag match, this time for the IWGP Junior Tag Team titles with the Young Bucks defending against the Time Splitters and the Forever Hooligans. All three entrances were very over with chants of “New Japan” and “welcome back” — these three teams meant more here than they ever have in New Japan. There were the typical comedy spots, such as the Kazatzka kicks, Bucks related handshake humour and do-si-do lariats. What followed were many many moves, but ones that the crowd was incredibly into. There were also many superkicks, as was to be expected, although they were spaced out a little better than usual. The Bucks also busted out a new obstruction corkscrew tope. The crowd popped big for standard moves such as the springboard tombstone – the Bucks retained with More Bang for Your Buck on Koslov. This was indeed a spotfest, but a well executed one none the less. (**** 1/4)

 

Following intermission, RD Evanss made it down with Ramon, who I believe to be Prince Nana, carrying his 104-0 sign, which, believe it or not, has a metric conversion of 213.7 – 0! The segment was kept short with Evans getting ring announcer Bobby Cruise to read off of a card that has his own name on it. A quick roll-up finish ensued with Ramon revealing a referee shirt. This got over, went about as long as it needed to, was well executed and didn’t take itself to seriously – for what it needed to be it was perfect. No rating required.

 

The team of Shinsuke Nakamura & Jado were out to face Jushin Thunder Liger & Tanahashi. For whatever reason, with NJPW and ROH broadcasting their iPPVs on the same platform, ROH was willing to play Liger’s original theme from the anime in full, without a care for any repercussions, imaginary or otherwise. Liger was by far the most over man in this match. Nigel was on commentary for parts of this match. According to this week’s Wrestling Observer, Nakamura was the only member of the New Japan locker room that could be considered anti-social, and Steve Corino brought up that exact point on commentary. Kelly made a comparison between John Cena and Tanahashi, which came across as quite strange on a Ring of Honor iPPV. This crowd erupted for everything that Liger did, which makes it even more strange that the finish came with Tanahashi, who Jado & Nakamura had had the heat on for quite some time, made his comeback and landed the high fly flow on Jado without making the logical hot-tag to Liger. (*** 1/4)

 

There was another multi-man title match with Silus Young, who I was really impressed by, challenging Jay Lethal (accompanied by Truth Martini) for the ROH TV title alongside Matt Taven and Tommaso Ciampa. One of the crazier spots of the match saw Young land a superplex off of the barricade to the floor. Taven looked sloppy at points. Young landed a moonsault to the floor. Taven went after Martini, but was caught with a Lethal Injection from behind for the win. (***)

 

Kazuchika Okada & Gedo were up against Karl Anderson & AJ Styles. Michael Elgin was on commentary for the entire match, and was, for the most part, uncharismatic to the point of absurdity. Kelly at one point asked Elgin “so how does [Styles winning the title] change things”, to which Elgin replied in the driest manner possible “you know this really doesn’t change anything”. Every man in this match was over like a mega-star, and as a result of both that and the lack of interference, this match came across better than it would have in New Japan, unless in front of a super hot Osaka. The Bullet Club still worked as traditional cheating Western heels, but toning it down to this extent rendered everything that they did far more effective. Anderson roughed Gedo up some, eventually forming a red mark on his forehead. Upon the hot tag to Okada, he and Styles went through a main event style reversal sequence, with the fans even booing Styles. Gedo was pinned following a pele, gun stun, Bloody Sunday and Styles Clash. The finish made sense, as whilst Okada is the challenger in Japan, the primary focus will be on Styles next week, especially for this audience. Elgin, Styles and Okada had a three-way face off after the match leading to a “please come back” chant. (*** 1/2)

 

Placed in its rightful main event position was the ROH World Heavyweight title defence of Adam Cole against Kevin Steen who made it out with a Canadian flag. Both men worked very hard, and the crowd was hot for everything, although I would have liked to have seen more serious work early beyond four consecutive ring-post crotchings from Steen on Cole and some sign humour. Cole worked over Steen’s leg and Steen decided to powerbomb Cole on every side of the ring apron when making his comeback, with no count from Todd Sinclair. Steen landed a fisherman’s buster from the top rope for a nearfall to kick the final stretch off. Steen locked in a couple of sharp shooters each to tremendous reactions. Bennett ran in with a low-blow on Steen, leading to a straight jacket German and nearfall. Cole at one point landed an enzuigiri from the outside, but upon re-entry was met with a brain bustaaaaahhhhh for two! Steen went for the package piledriver, but had it countered into a superkick for the win (huh, Cole should let the Bucks in on his secrets to super kick efficiency). Fans booed, and some threw garbage into the ring to close out the show. (*** ¾)

 

WWE Monday Night RAW May 12th 2014

Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greensville, South Carolina

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

There was nothing bad on this show, but as a result of a pretty dead crowd and a line-up that dragged for excessive amounts of time this was, on the whole, but a mediocre RAW. Still, once again the Shield & Evolution stole the show with one of the best angles in weeks to close of the show, as well as a strong presence throughout the show — they are what’s keeping the current product at good to mediocre levels at the moment, and with Bryan gone for the next several weeks at the very least, they are going to be even more instrumental in that regard.

 

The Shield were in the ring to open the show. Ambrose cut a fiery promo saying that they wanted Evolution again. Rollins said that they would run straight through Evolution wanting a rematch. A pacing Reigns was handed the mic and asked if “that” was all that Evolution had then they had a serious problem. Reigns would teach them to believe in the Shield and to “believe in [him]”. Evolution’s limo pulled up in the parking lot, which sent the Shield sprinting to the back. Hunter, Orton and Batista were dressed formally, leaving the wacky t-shirts at home, were calm and signing contracts when the Shield ran by laying all three men out before being pulled away by officials. RVD was out before the break. Coming back Colter & Swagger were in the ring with their deportation list, now including Adam Rose, the “English Man” — this made me sad. I would expect most English fans to see through the accent, but then again I am a South African. The bell hadn’t rung when Rose and his party express marched out parading around ringside. Swagger took a swing at Rose on the apron, but he fell back onto his crowd of followers — unfortunately this people cared very little for Adam Rose. Moments later Van Dam pinned Swagger with a frogsplash. There was a very short interview and highlight reel spot for Paige and another Bolieve vignette. Booked to face Paige in the next segment was Alicia Fox sadly. Alicia Fox cut a promo on Paige saying that she didn’t belong — go-away heat for me. She then jumped Paige before the match not giving her any pre-match offence. Alicia Fox has improved a lot, working less rigid and landing a beautiful Northern Lights suplex — Paige’s selling helped move things along a lot. A modified surfboard followed, with Paige landing a quick Paige Turner for her only moment of offence and the win. I don’t see Paige getting over with fluke win after fluke win. After the match Fox wrecked the announce table, bullying sound guys and announcers before walking off with JBL’s hat. I could have done without the post-match, as could the announcer apparently, who were not informed of that segment.

 

They cut to a recap of last week’s deplorable Bryan/Kane angle with Cole calling it a “real life horror story” — this I can confirm. Daniel Bryan, who has suffered a legitimate neck injury requiring surgery, was out with the championship. He talked about it being an uphill battle as champion, steeper than he had thought – “no” chants followed to which Bryan responded, “so that’s what it’s like to be John Cena”. He spoke of getting the worst beating of his life returning from his honeymoon, which I do in fact believe, although not for the reasons given. He spoke of needing neck surgery, saying that he didn’t know when he would be back, but that he would be. There was no mention of the exceedingly rough ETA of 4-6 weeks here, nor was there any mention of the title situation. I got the impression from this segment that a large portion of the crowd did not believe this to be legitimate. There was a recap of the Cena/Wyatt program since Extreme Rules. Cena & the Usos were booked opposite the Wyatts in the next segment. Cena was shown as the martial for the Susan G Koman parade gimmick. It is notable that the Wyatts have annexed the city name from their “we’re here” gimmick. It was later mentioned that there was “no time table” for Bryan’s return; the safest announcement most certainly. They had a good trios match, but nothing spectacular, with Cena pinning Rowan with the AA. Cena was already at the stage when Bray arose and thanked John, for he knew now what he must do.

 

After the break an enraged Evolution walked down. Batista and Orton in particular wanted the Shield finished. Hunter accepted the Shield’s challenge, saying that they would pick the Shield apart piece by peace from Ambrose, to Rollins and then Reigns – making an example of the later – perhaps they are opting for an elimination match. Hunter was ready to say that Reigns would perish, but then collapsed as a result of a knee clip from Rollins as the Shield cleaned house. Batista then got on the mic from the ramp challenging Reigns for a match later on. The cast of Total Divas was at ringside for a match between Natalya & Nikki Bella in a match set up by a clip from Total Divas where Nikki didn’t like a painting of Natalya’s. Meanwhile the rest of the cast was holding up score cards inexplicably for every move performed in the match. Nikkie pinned Natalya with a roll-up. Rejoicing with the cast on the outside, causing Natalya to rip up Cameron’s sign. Bad segment’s bad. Ryback and Axel were attempting to decide amongst themselves who would face Sheamus, they flipped a coin, and Axel won. Sheamus submitted Axel with a cloverleaf, Ryback attacked Sheamus from behind, which led to a Sheamus/Ryback match after the break! Ryback lost even after Sheamus had wrestled another match and with interference from Axel following a brogue kick.

 

Stephanie McMahon made it down proclaiming Bryan’s neck injury as evidence that Bryan is not in fact an A+ player. She called Daniel Bryan out having something that she needed to tell him face-to-face. Kane’s music hit instead with Kane dragging Bryan by the arm, which led to yet another stretcher job. Bryan was stretchered off to “Daniel Bryan” chants. After the break Stephanie was pleading for forgiveness, as Bryan was pushed into the ambulance. She and Brie had a face-off when Brie pushed her telling her to stay away, which led to a very long close-up on Stephanie’s face, I was waiting for a smirk, but never got it. Ziggler and Fandango were down for a match. JBL was tremendous on commentary explaining that Fandango was attempting to let Summer Rae down easy by breaking up with her on twitter – serious emotional trauma would have resulted from a face-to-face incident. Fandango landed a leg lariat off of a Layla distraction, Layla fiddled some with the apron, distracting Fandango, and allowing Ziggler to land the zig zag for the win. Fandango after the match told Layla that she had won something more important than the match, his heart, and that he loved her and they kissed again. They listed their top ten shows on the Network for this week as: 1. Extreme Rules, 2. Legends’ House: Viva Las Vegas, 3. Raw Pre-Show, 4. WrestleMania Rewind, 5, WWE Countdown: Greatest Villains, 6. WWE Extreme Rules Fallout, 7. WWE Main Event, 8. ECW Hardcore TV, 9. WWE NXT, 10. WrestleMania XXX.

 

Hacksaw Jim Duggan was out to plug Legends House as if he had just finished filming, but before he could say much out walked Lana who informed all of us that China had surpassed the USA as the world’s largest economy. This is why Ruse was proud to be Russian. Because, Russia was once communist you see, as is China – at least that’s what was implied. Hagsaw got a USA chant going when Rusev made it down. Rusev broke the 2×4 over his knee and was given the crush command, but out came Big E. for the save — who was superkicked to death! Rusev looked impressive here, but this can’t mean good things for Big E. Sandow walked out referencing the pre-show and barley had any chance to say anything when Cody Rhodes & Goldust made their entrance. The night of half-scripts this was. Neither the fans nor the announcers cared one bit about this match. Rhodes pinned Sandow with the disaster kick following a rake to the eyes — perhaps the Rhodes Brothers will be turning heel together. There was yet another new Bolieve vignette. Wyatt, Rowan and Harper were standing in the darkness — he asked how far Cena would go and sang.

 

Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose stormed through the crowd for Reigns’ main event with Batista. There were some “Boo-tista” chants early, but for the most part, like so many of Reigns’ singles matches, the crowd wasn’t all too hot. Hunter & Orton served as an obstruction for the apron dropkick, but were removed by duel topes. Reigns went for the superman punch, but was pulled out for an attempted pedigree when Rollins ran in for the save and the DQ. The Shield looked to beat Evolution down, but Stephanie emptied the locker room of geeks in large enough numbers to take down the Shield. Reigns burst forth with a spear on Hunter and so too did the crowd, just then Ambrose and Rollins cleaned house with chairs. Things got so chaotic that the announcers actually called the curb stomp as just that. Ryback was the one to take the triple powerbomb and spear to close off the show.

 

RAW Ratings for May 5th 2014

Last week’s show, for the second consecutive week showcased a positive ratings pattern building from the first to third hours. At the same time it was one of the lowest rated shows of the year, and had a very week first hour. It went up against a strong NBA game, as well as the season premier of Love & Hip-Hop and 24 – the former usually effects the 18-49 demo somewhat. The show was coming off of Extreme Rules, so it would have been expected to have done slightly better in terms of raw numbers. The show drew a 3.02 rating and 4.29 million viewers. The first hour was exceptionally low, 3.96 million viewers (1.19 rating and 1.636 million viewers in the 18-49 demo), the second drew 4.41 million viewers (a 1.51 rating and 1.921 million viewers in the 18-49 demo) and the third and final hour peaked with 4.45 million viewers (1.55 rating and a 1.963 million viewers in the 18-49 demo). It was the fourth lowest rated show of the year as of this week.

RAW Ratings for May 12th 2014

This week’s edition of Monday Night RAW was the lowest rated of the year drawing a 2.87 and only 4.00 million viewers over three hours! It was a show that did not in fact showcase a positive first to third hour build, which inevitably, along with overall weakness across the three hours, led to the drop-off. They were going up against strong competition for this time of year with a Brooklyn Nets/Miami Heat play-off gamewhichdrew 5.54 million viewers, as well as Love & Hip-Hop, which is usually pretty strong in the 18-49 demo. The first hour drew 3.81 million viewers (1.765 million viewers and a 1.39 rating in the 18-49 demo), the second 4.25 (1.955 million viewers and a 1.54 rating in the 18-49 demo) and the the the third dropped off steeply with 3.96 million viewers (1.796 million viewers and a 1.42 rating in the 18-49 demo).

As always thanks to @StD_85 for the 18-49 data.

WWE NXT – May 15th 2014.

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

Ben Carass

 

Show opened to the pumping riffs of the Ascension’s theme music; they were of course fed two geeks that have not been on TV before.

 

Non-Title Match: The Ascension (NXT Tag Team Champions) vs. Buddy Murphy & Elias Sampson

 

Ascension pinned Murphy with the fall of man, as always the other geek didn’t get any ring time. – The Ascension defeated Buddy Murphy & Elias Sampson via pinfall, at 1:31. Konnor got on the mic after the match and said they had laid waste to the NXT universe and demanded someone new to destroy. El

Locale and Kalisto came out; Local accepted their challenged then Kalisto waved his arms in the air while repeating, “lucha, lucha”. – Finally, they are doing something with the Ascension. Hearing Konnor speak was a little surprising given that the monster growling he does during matches is the most over part of the act to the live crowd. Locale & Kalisto have not been pushed long enough to be perceived as a threat to the monster heel champs, but at least we don’t have to see another ineffective squash match for a while.

 

Sami Zayn was with the new backstage interview girl, Veronica. He said winning the three-way would avenge his losses to Cesaro and Bo Dallas last year then put over Kidd and Breeze as tough opponents. Basic babyface stuff.

 

NXT Women’s Championship Tournament, Semi Final: Charlotte w/Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss

 

Alexa used the rollup she used to beat Alicia Fox, but Charlotte awkwardly kicked out then got the heat. Charlotte worked on the mid-section with some abdominal stretches and landed a pair of backbreakers then hit her gymnast cutter to get the squeaky-clean win. – Charlotte defeated Alexa Bliss via pinfall, at 4:59. – Charlotte virtually took the whole thing. Maybe Alexa has only learnt how to sell and to do a couple of rollups, because all she did in her first match was in fact, sell and use a rollup. Oh I forgot, she can also do some tumbling. Yee-Haw. I know she looks good and all, but she is greener than Willie Nelson’s greenhouse and probably doesn’t need to be on TV yet.

 

Tyler Breeze did a promo in the back. He was holding his own camera and said you need to have the looks to win. He scoffed at Kidd and called Zayn boring then said they prove that Canadians can’t be good-looking

 

Mojo Rawley vs. Aiden English

 

Mojo yelled at some children in the front row during his hyper entrance; the novelty of English’s singing wore off a long time ago and he is just another guy on the roster. Like all Mojo matches, it was a very basic, barebones affair; Earthquake splash for the finish. – Mojo Rawley defeated Aiden English via pinfall, at 3:30. – Mojo is another guy who appears to be just spinning his wheels and doing the exact same thing every week. This is clearly a case of WWE hammering their style home until it becomes second nature, however a little bit of variety would not only be nice for us the viewers, it would almost certainly help the talent to become more well-rounded workers.

 

Backstage, Tyson Kidd was taping up his fists and spoke with the anonymous roving reporter. Kidd said he believed in hard work and vowed to become the NXT champion.

 

Colin Cassady vs. Angelo Dawkins

 

Big Cass took way too much time to beat the super geek, Dawkins. CJ Parker walked through the crowd with a sign that read: “No Xtra Toxins” and “This Sign is Recyclable.” After several minutes of boring action, Cassady won with a swinging sit-out, side slam. – Colin Cassady defeated Angelo Dawkins via pinfall, at 3:22. – A total snorer. At least Mojo didn’t fall for the distraction and get beat.

Bo Dallas approached JBL backstage. He had a bunch of letters from his Bo-lievers that all wanted him to get another NXT title shot. JBL was not impressed with the letters or the Bo Dallas hotline and booked him in a match with, as Bradshaw stated, “some real STIPS!” If Bo can beat Big E then he will get another shot at the title, but if he loses then he will have to leave NXT forever. Bo was overly enthusiastic and claimed he would have no problem with Big E then thanked JBL for the match. – It’s too bad this wasn’t shown to the live crowd, because they would have popped big for the loser leaves stip. It should also be noted that JBL got in a Michael Wallstreet reference; I’m not quite sure how, but he did.

 

Number One Contenders Triple Threat: Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd

 

Breeze caught Sami with his spinning heel kick early, but Kidd broke up the pin. There was a commercial break, during which a good chunk of the match was cut and we came back to see a three-way suplex spot: Kidd gave Sami a German while he had Breeze trapped in a high cradle and everyone sold for a triple-down. Sami and Kidd were left alone in the ring and had an exchange then Kidd locked on the sharpshooter. Breeze hit Kidd with a superkick to save the match and another three-way down. Kidd was dumped outside and Sami got a near-fall on Breeze with an exploder into the buckle. Finish saw Breeze crotch Kidd on the top, however Sami nailed Breeze with his Yakuza-kick. Kidd tossed Sami over the top then took advantage with a top rope elbow to Breeze. – Tyson Kidd pinned Tyler Breeze to become the number one contender, at 6:22(International TV Time). The show closed with Kidd selling/celebrating and the announcers hyping him as the number one contender for Takeover. – Match was good, however it was hurt a lot by the commercial break which caused the entire middle portion to be cut. It is my understanding that the Network version of the show contains more of the action that was cut for the international TV shows, so if you want the whole thing then seek out the Network edition of the show. While the win was a clean one for Kidd, the story of the finish was that Sami had the match won, continuing his “so close yet so far” saga concerning the NXT title.

A very mediocre NXT this week. The matches were all completely passible, other than the main event which you can only see in its entirety if you have the WWE Network. On the plus side, we finally got some challengers for the Ascension and with any luck the big monster heels will not just roll over them in a one-and-done type deal. The women’s tourney has hardly been enthralling, but one half of the final is set with Charlotte, who they made look very strong here and I can’t see Natalya beating her in the final, so I have to imagine Charlotte is the next Women’s champ. Definitely one to skip if you have a million other shows to watch like us here at Cubed Circle.

WWE SmackDown – May 16th 2014.

Greensboro Coliseum: Greensboro, NC

Ben Carass.

 

A recap of Daniel Bryan announcing his neck surgery and the stretcher job with Kane and Steph got things rolling. Cole hyped that an update on Bryan’s condition was coming up. John Cena hit the ring for his usual promo. They showed Bray challenging Cena to a Last Man Standing match on Raw then Cena wished Bryan a speedy recovery. Cena explained the concept of a Last Man Standing match and put over the idea that only tough guys can survive a match like that. Cena undid all his good work by talking about Bray’s testicles then insinuated that Wyatt had “no pearls in his pants” in song form. He also issued an open challenge to any member of the Wyatt Family and said Bray could make the decision. The Wyatts appeared on the Tron; Bray ranted and raved then thanked Cena for showing him the cure to Cena’s plague, however he didn’t explain what that actually was. He finished with “the whole world in his hands.” – This was a horrible segment. It was fine until Cena did his 5 year-old humour and sang his song; it is this kind of stuff that reminds me what I and thousands of other fans detest about the man. It’s not his passable ring work, because he does have very good matches, or his goofy merchandise that nobody over the age of 8 could possible want to wear. It is his complete lack of a wrestling IQ and that everything is just one big joke to him; except when confronted by a fat kid with a gimmicked microphone, THEN Cena shows some weakness and sells. This feud has become indescribably bad, which is a shame because I had high hopes before WrestleMania.

 

Non-Title Match: The Usos (Tag Team Champions) vs. Cody Rhodes & Goldust

 

Goldie and Jey had a babyface exchange with some armdrags then each team took a turn at getting a little heat. The Usos used some double teams spots to work over Cody then the Rhodes Brothers got some heat on Jey after Cody nailed him with a cheap shot from the apron. Jey fought from underneath, but Cody became very aggressive and stomped Uso down in a heelish manner. Jimmy got the hot tag and ran wild on Cody and got a near-fall with a corkscrew moonsault. Jimmy superkicked Goldust off the apron then turned into a disaster kick from Cody. Jey pulled Cody outside to break up the pin then Cody ate a superkick and a SuperFly splash from Jimmy for the finish. – The Usos defeated the Rhodes Brothers via pinfall, at 8:58 (TV time). Cody was unhappy afterwards and left on his own. – Solid match. Cody showed a few heel tendencies throughout, so I guess his turn is still coming eventually. Although I don’t think many people will care at this point.

 

They showed a tweet from Dolph Ziggler bashing Batista then Cole said the two had been booed in a match.

 

El Torito w/Los Matadores vs. Heath Slater w/3MB

 

Picture this match in your mind and you won’t be far off. There was a bunch of comedy, such as an actual matador spot with a cape and the obligatory gore to the ass. Hornswoggle got in the ring but ended up goring Slater in the nads then Torito won with a springboard moonsault. – El Torito defeated Heath Slater via pinfall, at 2:20. – I’m not going to complain about Torito getting the pin, because it’s Heath Slater. Still, this feud has run its course and needs to end now…so get ready for more of the same next week, yay!

 

They recapped the Shield/Evolution story from Raw and Cole hyped the rematch for Payback.

 

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya w/ Special Referee, Eva Marie

 

Nobody explained why we needed to see this match again, or why Eva was the referee. Cole and JBL made jokes about her not being able to count to three, which if you watch Total Divas isn’t that much of a stretch honestly. She screwed up the finish, as Nattie had Nikki in the surfboard and both women’s shoulder’s ended up on the mat for at least four seconds. Eva didn’t count at all then Nikki hooked Nattie’s legs and Eva made counting to three look harder than anyone else could have possibly managed. – Nikki Bella defeated Natalya via pinfall, at 2:29. – Typical WWE formula: someone gets a win then they do a rematch and the same person wins again. It was utterly pointless.

Dolph Ziggler joined Renee in the back. He talked about Batista flopping upon his return then claimed the show-off would show Big Dave up.

 

Dolph Ziggler vs. Batista

 

Big Dave got the heat right away and sent Ziggler into the barricade, the apron and the steps. Dolph went for a DDT, but Dave planted him with a spinebuster then went for the Batista-bomb. Ziggler fought out and hit his DDT for the double-down; there was a needless ring post spot that saw Dave miss a spear and hit the post. Dolph did his way too fast ten punch deal in the corner, but Dave low-blowed him to cause the DQ. – Dolph Ziggler defeated Batista via disqualification, at 5:01. Batista destroyed Ziggler afterwards and delivered the demon-bomb in the ring then gave Dolph a second onto the barricade. – Another week that saw Batista kill a guy after a screwy finish. I guess they don’t want to give him a bunch of wins on his way out, but if that is the case then the post-match beat-downs are totally unnecessary. Either give him the win or have him actually put guys over.

 

Non-Title Match: Sheamus (US Champion) vs. Titus O’Neil

 

At this point in the show, I would just like to point out there was 30 minutes of air-time left and 4 matches still to go, which should give you an idea of how little any of this stuff actually meant. Sheamus did an inset promo about wanting to fight then Titus did an in-ring and said Sheamus should not be the US champ because he was not an American. Sheamus hit the brogue-kick and pinned him. – Sheamus defeated Titus O’Neil via pinfall, at 0:18. – Another 18 second win for Sheamus, I don’t think this one will cause the internet to explode like the last one.

 

Bryon Saxton was outside next to the Exotic Express bus. There were of course a bunch of geeks partying. Rose pointed out his “Cheeseburger”, who is nowhere near as awesome as ROH’s Cheeseburger. Rose said he had no issue with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, he just wanted them to join the party because they were boring. Cheeseburger put a wacky rainbow wig on Saxton and he climbed aboard the Exotic Express with all the other wackos. A Bo-Lieve vignette rolled.

 

Santino w/Emma vs. Damien Sandow

 

Apparently Sandow had issued an open challenge, I don’t really know why. Santino won with the cobra. – Santino defeated Damien Sandow via pinfall, at 0:38. Sandow did a promo afterwards about being a “good solider” then they cut his mic like he was CM Punk. – More filler. You’ve got to feel for Sandow, I don’t know what he has done, probably nothing, but boy is he getting buried BIG time. The promo afterwards was very strange, maybe they will give Sandow a gimmick where he speaks “the truth” and gets buried like a geek to prove a point to a certain someone.

 

Cesaro w/Paul Heyman vs. R-Truth

 

Paul did a promo beforehand and told Truth that being a Heyman guy was the most prestigious spot in the business because his client, Brock Lesnar conquered the Undertaker’s streak then he put over Cesaro like a million bucks. They showed Cesaro getting DQ’ed against RVD on Raw from two weeks ago. Truth took the whole thing, until Cesaro landed a European uppercut and the neutraliser. – Cesaro defeated R-Truth via pinfall, at 1:10. – Complete nothing match. One of those weird reverse squashes where the geek gets way too much offence in then loses instantly.

 

The “update” on Daniel Bryan was that the Authority would address the WWE World Heavyweight Championship situation on Raw.

 

John Cena w/The Usos vs. Erick Rowan w/The Wyatt Family

 

The Wyatts made their entrance and surrounded Cena, who was in the ring. The Usos ran down to even the odds then Bray sent Rowan into battle. Cena sold for the heat immediately and Rowan whipped him into the steps. Cena landed a dropkick for a hope spot, but was cut off by a big boot. Rowan delivered a pump-handle backbreaker then shut down Cena a couple more times with a clothesline and a big tackle. Rowan worked a bear-hug and hit a big side-slam then Cena used the Proto-bomb only to be cut off again. Cena caught Rowan in the STF, but Harper ran in to try break it up; there was no DQ, as the Usos took out Harper them nailed him with a double tope. Rowan face-palmed Cena to the mat for a near-fall then Cena escaped another pump-handle and scored with the AA for the finish. – John Cena defeated Erick Rowan via pinfall, at 8:55 (TV Time). The Usos prevented Bray from entering the ring then the show closed with Cena standing tall and with Cole pushing the Last Man Standing match. – Say what you want about Cena, but he always gives guys a lot when he is going over. Rowan looked good constantly shutting down Cena’s comebacks, although getting pinned after one move probably wasn’t the best finish; having the Usos intervene as backup was a great move that WWE should do more often. That is, having other babyfaces run out to help the top face in peril.

 

I say this so many times that my fingers automatically find the keys on their own, but SmackDown was an average two hours of TV that meant absolutely nothing in terms of the big picture. The Usos vs. the Rhodes is worth sitting through if you just happen to be near a TV, but for a match we’ve seen a hundred times there probably isn’t much point. The number is usually slightly higher when Cena is on the show, but do not be deceived, this show was utterly useless.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

In next week’s issue we will be covering Ring of Honor’s War of the World show, where that leaves the IWGP title, RAW on the road to Payback, the Daniel Bryan prognosis, Ben Carass covers NXT and SmackDown and more!

 

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