Cubed Circle Newsletter 138: WWE Payback 2014 Review, Shield Break-Up, AJPW Going Down, NXT + More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter 138 – Payback & The Splintering of The Shield & AJPW

 

We have an action-packed edition of the newsletter for you this week covering the WWE Payback pay-per-view from last Sunday, as well as the fallout from that show, including the breakup of the Shield and a Daniel Bryan health update, what seems to be the encroaching destruction of All Japan Pro-Wrestling, RAW from Monday, the ratings, the NXT follow-up to Take Over with Ben Carass, as well as SmackDown and more! I hope everyone enjoys this week’s newsletter and has a great week!

 

Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

FOR A FULL-COLOUR PDF WITH PICTURES CLICK HERE

 

Shield Splits Post Payback, Whilst Bryan Suffers Further Health Issues

 

It was last Sunday, June 1st 2014, that WWE ran its third ever pay-per-view on the Network, ‘Payback’, from a building that has a reputation as being the hottest in the country over recent years — the Allstate in (~) Chicago Illinois. Payback was a strong non-WrestleMania pay-per-view when judged by standards established over the last six-months or so; at the very least a show on par with May’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Acting in favour of Extreme Rules is the first Evolution/Shield trios match, which wasn’t only better than anything on this show, but most probably better than all but a couple of others worked this year. For a multitude of reasons, despite having the advantage of being performed in-front of a Chicago crowd and additional stipulations, this month’s Shield/Evolution match failed to live up to the first worked under the Extreme Rules banner. With this being said, there was nothing of importance on this show even closely approaching the levels of eye-roll seen during the Wyatt/Cena cage match last month. In fact, as surprising an observation as it may have seemed in foresight, Wyatt & Cena at this month’s show came close to delivering, at the very least, a match as energizing as the Shield/Evolution main event. This card was also deprived of a Bryan match due to injury, but given that Bryan was set to face Kane in a buried alive match under normal circumstances, a major angle involving Bryan & Stephanie made up for it on a storyline front, and Sheamus & Cesaro on the work side of things.

 

One of the larger questions that I had previewing the show last week, was that of future direction and where this show would leave us heading into the latter months of 2014. The Wyatt/Cena program seems to have reached its conclusion, after Wyatt lost a last man standing match, which liberates two main event stars for alternative programs – this was expected heading into last Sunday’s show. However, as far as future programs for the Shield, Evolution and Bryan were concerned, post-Payback direction was far more uncertain. For the Shield in particular new opponents were very much limited with the Evolution program unable to continue even if the company was willing, given that Batista will be occupied for the next few months promoting the upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie, in which he plays a semi-major role. This left the Wyatt family as trios candidates, although we had already seen this match-up three times (discounting the RAW match leading to the Evolution reunion that ended in a DQ), all to positive results however – it would have been a viable program considering the length of their original pre-Mania program, but one that couldn’t have spanned more than a couple of pay-per-views. The program could have easily been reignited though, especially given little else to work with in the top picture, with Bryan rendered unable to compete until, optimistically, Money in the Bank. Instead, the company pulled the trigger on an inevitable Shield explosion on this Monday’s edition of RAW.

 

The turn itself was very well executed with Seth Rollins grabbing a couple of chairs, at first sight to backup his comrades against an expected hammer assault from Hunter, but then turned on both men with stiff chair shots to the back, ultimately destroying the chair itself. If WWE Payback 2014they were going to position Rollins as the member of the Shield to turn on Reigns first, or perhaps even exclusively, it couldn’t have been executed much better given the time frame in which they chose to work. Of course, another slow build towards a break-up, such was the pre-Mania booking, would have been ideal, but with a negative ratings pattern beginning to develop over the last few weeks, Bryan out, and the likelihood of meeting Network goals still very uncertain, a set of catalysts, which have caused swift change in the past, were brought into this equation. Still, whilst the segment-by-segment ratings have been extraordinarily difficult to find as of late, from the indications that both the Observer & Torch have given, segments involving the Shield have been the strongest on most editions of RAW over recent months, which may add further credence to this turn being a premature one.

 

With Rollins turning on Reigns and Ambrose there is now a new Evolution stable comprised of Hunter, Orton and Rollins who will be feuding with the remaining members of the former Shield. It’s a program that has some great possibilities, but at the same time feels like far to sudden a turn for a trio that defeated the Shield with no casualties in an elimination trios match at the pay-per-view. Additionally, from a booking perspective they would have perhaps been granted a good one to two months with their guaranteed hottest to second hottest act in the company in a program with the Wyatts, taking few risks and keeping the trio together with the possibility of new programs arising always being present.

 

Regardless of what they could have done, with the Shield now splintered, one of the biggest creative hurdles that is going to need to be negotiated is that of Rollins motives for leaving the Shield. At first glance it seems like quite the challenge, given how dominant the Shield has been as of late, and the only signs of a breakup that we have seen occurred prior to WrestleMania. They could always go with a simple self-centered heel explanation of Rollins being tired of carrying the group, attributing all that the group has accomplished to himself, and at the very least I am quite confident that there will be some element of this in whatever they decide to do with the split. I do believe that Reigns demanding that Evolution believe in him as an individual weeks ago, will play into it.

 

From an in-ring work perspective this does hamper Reigns somewhat, as the team of Rollins and Ambrose was one key component of his fire, which has seen its fare share of problems in singles matches. It is for this reason that I wouldn’t split Reigns off from Ambrose just yet, even if he is the company’s primary focus in the group. Apart from Reigns needing the extra assisted time in order to grow even further as a performer, the idea of Ambrose and Reigns, who earlier this year were somewhat confrontational, standing strong against a former mutual team member is one that I could see the audience engaging with on an emotional level. Cutting the Shield down to two members also means that they will be facing unfair numbers, at least in this program, which is a dynamic that could enhance Ambrose and Reigns as babyfaces even further.

 

There has been a moderate amount of discussion regarding Ambrose’ future considering that he may, in the near future, have no affiliation with Reigns, who will be rising as a top babyface as quickly as the company sees possible, nor one with Rollins, who I could see as a strong main event heel that the company is very much in need at present. But, from the way that they have protected not only the Shield as a unit, but its members as individuals in the past, I can’t see Ambrose being disregarded – especially after how much time has been invested in him. The easy counter argument here would be that Ambrose was simply being protected so that Rollins and Reigns, the later in particular, wouldn’t be paired with a lesser talent. But, if this was the case not only wouldn’t they have taken the US title off of Ambrose in such a protective manner weeks ago, but they would have had one of the members of Evolution pin Ambrose on the eve of the trios’ breakup.

 

Ever since the debut of Ambrose in the then FCW, I have felt that Ambrose was one of the members of the developmental roster that had a large potential to explode as a main event star – perhaps the next top star in the company. Of course the talent situation has changed somewhat since then, Rollins has come into his own, Generico was signed, and Reigns has improved to the extent that the astronomically high expectations that the company has set for him for the past few years don’t feel all too far off, but Ambrose still remains, in my view, as one of the top young stars that the WWE company has under contract with a unique look, promo, and in-ring style.

 

In a few weeks the decision to break up the Shield may seem like an even riskier decision with the Daniel Bryan prognosis possibly being more serious than prior thought. Apparently, Bryan has developed a weakness in one of his arms, a weakness absent before his surgery weeks ago, and one which, according to reports from the Observer, hasn’t improved even with weightlifting. This has resulted in quite the strange situation for the company, as the Daniel Bryan storyline for weeks now has been written with the idea of Bryan being able to return “early” and triumphant from injury in order to keep his title. Weeks ago the situation was worsened still when Bryan stated, in kayfabe, that his condition was worse that many had thought. If it turns out that he does need additional time off, say past Money in the Bank, and they do decide to take the title off of him, the serious “look fans, I am really hurt, this is not an angle” kind of promo isn’t really going to work, and as a result regardless of the manner in which Bryan relinquishes the title, it will come across as profoundly awkward.

 

There is always the possibility that Bryan could work Money in the Bank in a very limited capacity, but a stretcher match with Kane no-less are far from perfect conditions for a carry job. Of course Bryan has worked hurt many times throughout his career, but now that he is older, and has suffered so many injuries, the smart choice will be to let his ailments heel. If creative is willing to get creative, as they were with Austin and his broken neck, then Bryan may come off stronger for it. This title reign was meant to be Bryan’s crowning achievement, and seeing as how he has only held the title for two months and had one title defence against Kane, his reign as champion has barely even begun – subsequent chases for the championship would be much more difficult for the audience to latch onto as a result.

 

It is for these reasons that everything should be done to preserve Bryan as champion, and that doesn’t mean parading him out unfit to compete either. If his current ailment doesn’t require an extended leave of absence (> 3 months, say) or surgery then there should be little impetus, other than creative ineptitude, to not keep the title on Daniel Bryan.

 

WWE Payback June 1st 2014

Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

 

1. United States Championship Match

Sheamus vs. Antonio Cesaro w/ Paul Heyman

 

Heyman proclaimed that he was there to advocate for a Paul Heyman Guy. Obligatory “CM Punk” chants followed. Heyman popped the crowd big saying that Punk was at the United Center — but said that he would be watching the Hawks lose to the Kings later on. The pair kicked things off exchanging a flurries of crisp strikes. Sheamus landed repeated apron chest strikes, went for a slingshot shoulder-block, but was caught with an uppercut to the floor. Sheamus landed repeated knee-drops for two. Sheamus did some impressive rolls. He was then lifted straight up with a pop-up European uppercut. The production crew glossed over a series of slaps from Cesaro whilst airing a replay. Cesaro avoided the brogue kick, landed a German suplex for two, and then rolled directly into a neutralizer, but Sheamus countered with the over the should belly to back neckbreaker. Cesaro averted the cloverleaf, looked for the top rope uppercut, but was caught in the cloverleaf before making it to the ropes. Sheamus kicked out of an Olympic slam. Cesaro then lifted Sheamus backup for a 17 rep giant swing, although the fans reached the high twenties. Sheamus then grabbed a small package for the win. — This was a fantastic match with some very creative spots from two men who have great chemistry, and they were probably still saving some high-level spots for a rematch.

*** 3/4

 

There was a WWE Countdown commercial with a Payback preview clip airing.

 

2. Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. Curtis Axel & Ryback

 

Something major must have occurred during the Black Hawks game, as the crowd was chanting “let’s go Hawks” at the start and during this match. Finally during the heat the “let’s go Hawk” chants led to phonically similar “let’s go Goldust” chants. Goldust landed a very unexpected, to say the least, modified Canadian Destroyer (into a sun set flip not a piledriver) leading to the hot tag. Rhodes wobbled during a moonsault flopping onto both Ryback and Axel. Axel broke up a Rhodes pin on Ryback following the Cross Rhodes. Rhodes tuned up the band for the disaster kick, but was caught in the Shell Shocked for the win. Cody remained in the ring, looking very dejected. He then grabbed the mic saying that Goldust needed a better partner than him. Goldust looked so sad as Rhodes gave an ever so slight smirk walking to the back. — trouble is a brewin.

** 3/4

 

3. Big E. Langston vs. Alexander Rusev w/ Lana

 

Lana did her usual Putin gimmick with the same single Putin graphic as over the last few weeks. Rusev and Langston were both out with flags waving them in the most violent and vigorous manner possible. They exchanged some strikes early with Rusev catching Big E. with a German suplex. There were some “USA” chants, but this led to eventual boredom and “We want Ziggler” chants. Big E landed his spear to the outside, which got a big pop here in Chicago, but is going to end badly very soon, especially when he is performing it on a man as big as Rusev. Langston was sprinting from rope to rope for his splash, but was caught with a super kick and Toyota style nose hook Camel Clutch for the submission. Poor Big E — A decade or two ago a match between men of this size would have been a lumbering, clumsy, boring affair — times change.

** 3/4

 

There was a very strange MITB video narrated by a CGI wad of money with googly eyes. Bryan and Brie were talking in the back.

 

4. Bo Dallas vs. Kofi Kingston

 

The fact that a match such as this was placed on pay-per-view with no build speaks to the quality of their mid-card. Stranger still is that Rose and Swagger, a match built for this show, never took place. Bo cut a more overtly heel promo saying that even if the Black Hawks were bound to lose that evening’s game, the fans wouldn’t be losers, as long as they “Bolieved”. The bell rang, Kane’s music hit, Bo ran for the hills, Kingston attempted to fight him off, but ended up getting destroyed and tombstoned. After the destruction Bo got on the mic and told Kofi that he would get better soon, as long as he and the fans Bolieved. “We Bolieve” chants followed.

N/A

 

There was a recap of the hair vs. mask match from the pre-show with poor Hornswoggle getting his hair shaved.

 

5. Intercontinental Championship Match

Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam

 

We made a mistake last week saying that this match would be for the Linear Title, as Sheamus beat Barrett on SmackDown and retained it on this show, he is in fact the Linear Champion of the World. Barrett said that he would put Old Yeller down and would put RVD on permanent summer vacation — he then did Van Dam’s taught saying “BNB”. There were dueling “Bad News Barrett/RVD” chants, which for whatever reason Lawler and Cole chose to follow along with. RVD landed his spin-kick off the apron to the back of Barrett, which looked like approximately no fun. ECW chants ensued. Van Dam missed the five star frog splash, but ducked the bull hammer for a near fall leg scissors. Van Dam kicked out of the spinning side slam. Barrett missed a bull hammer on the floor connecting with the post and then being caught with a spike DDT back in the ring. Barrett then caught Van Dam with the Barrett for the win.

***

 

There was a well produced video package for the Bryan/Stephanie angle. Stephanie was out next calling down Bryan and Brie, who he really needs to distance himself from at this point. Stephanie asked how Brie and Bryan’s future children would react to his selfish decision. There were some super loud “CM Punk” chants which Stephanie utilized, in quite the sly manner, saying that the people wanted him to quit just like CM Punk. Bryan also got Brie to call Stephanie a “b****”. Stephanie called Bryan a bad choice in a husband. Brie said that they both knew what had to be done. Brie stepped in Bryan’s way and she said that she wouldn’t be a powerless victim. Brie quit, which caused Stephanie to giggle before getting slapped ever so hard and walking to the back. Bryan and Brie then did the yes chants, which seemed kind of strange given that Brie had just quit her job, supposedly unbeknownst to Bryan. There was a Legends House preview.

 

6. Last Man Standing Match

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt w/ Luke Harper & Eric Rowan

 

There were dueling chants before Cena’s entrance, although he was mostly booed upon his arrival. All three men looked to climb into the ring when the Usos’ music hit and they ran down to neutralize Harper & Rowan — “U-so” chants. They did the waltz spot for the third time and very early on. Wyatt went for the Sister Abigail, Cena countered, but was cut off with flying forearm. Cena landed a leg slice with both men up at six. Wyatt caught Cena with the Sister Abigail for an 8. Cena struggled a bit to get Wyatt up for the AA, but did in the end. The referee made it to the count of seven when Wyatt sprang up to the exorcist pose. This led to a brawl amongst the people on the floor, all being laid out with dives and such, including a top rope phoenix splash from one of the Usos! This allowed Wyatt to tee off with some chair shots. Cena did the same. Wyatt was back to his feet at seven allowing Cena to grab a couple of tables, one of which was set up in the ring. Cena was release vertical suplexed through said table. Cena made it back up, but was met with a shot to the head with the steps. Wyatt stepped up onto the steps in the ring conducting the crowd with Cena crawling towards him producing what was a very impactful visual. Wyatt was met with a similar steps shot. Wyatt was then murdered by Cena, who threw the steps from the ring to the floor hitting Wyatt in the head! This stupid production crew missed Wyatt landing Sister Abigail on the floor. Cena was then backdropped onto the steps and was met with a back senton from the steps! Cena landed an AA on the floor. Harper and Rowan ran down to assist Wyatt to his feet and laid Cena out in the ring. They began to setup some tables on the floor. The Usos ran down for what was a very choreographed spot with Harper waiting for quite some time for one Usos to dive in order to throw the table at him. There was a visual ten-count on the floor. Uso did a rolling senton into Harper leaning against a table whilst the other was superplexed through one on the floor! The two main men in the match then exploded through the time keeper’s area. A brawl in the crowd ensued with Cena setting off some pyro. Bray was then AA’d through a wooden container with Cena dropping a second on top of the hole, subsequently standing on it. The idiotic production crew then showed the hole clearly not all the way closed. Ten count ensued.

*** ¾

 

7. Divas Championship Match

Paige vs. Alicia Fox

 

There was some light singing of Rose’s theme. Fox did some fake crying allowing her to drop Paige on the apron. Fox was being generally wacky yelling about her face. Meanwhile this crowd was very much into…the Black Hawks. Fox had locked in a modified surfboard with JBL yelling that the referee wasn’t counting, when Fox’s shoulders were not in fact down. At the same time, the referee wouldn’t have been in position even if the shoulders were. As has been the case for weeks on the main roster Paige got close to no offense in during the heat. As Ben mentioned last week they are now calling the scorpion cross lock the PTL, which is so lame. Regardless, Paige tapped Fox out with it. Nowhere close to as good as their RAW match. Fox then did a crazy run to the back — THE SELLING POINT OF THIS MATCH WAS HER WACKY FREAKOUT.

**

 

They cut to the Pre-show panel for some thoughts. News of the Black Hawks loss must have made it to the building at around this time, because the crowd was pretty down from this point on.

 

8. No Disqualification Elimination Match

The Shield vs. Evolution

 

Batista was wearing dark blue kick pads, baby-blue trunks, baby-blue boots, and dark blue rash-guards — a great man! A brawl broke out immediately. Moronic production crew missed some step spots for generic brawling early. Then in a TNA style move, this NO DQ MATCH broke down into…a standard tag match with all six men respectively settling to their corners. Drives me nuts — TNA used to do it all the time. You can’t have a match like this go full-force 100% the entire time, but they could have still found a work around. The crowd was into the early stages of a Reigns/Hunter face-off. Cole and JBL were insufferable with their arguing during the main event of the evening. Rollins busted out the three amigos, perhaps deciding to adopt the move after watching some Taguchi. Batista was once again the most dynamic heel in this match, garnering the majority of the heat. In what was a legitimately funny hash-tag, #Bluetista was trending. Ambrose killed Hunter with a jawbreaker lariat with the fans warming up some, and making the tag to Reigns. Reigns landed his apron dropkick and superman punch on Batista with Orton breaking it up. The four illegal men brawled on the floor while, much like last month, Batista and Reigns lay comatosed. Hunter took Rollins out with a piece of metal. Reigns prepared the Spanish announce table for destruction, but was taken out by Orton and Hunter who had already dispatched of Ambrose and Rollins. A triple powerbomb on Reigns through the table followed. Evolution did the Shield pose when Ambrose came sprinting off of the announce table, Rollins giro’ing to the outside. Hunter then carried out a destruction with a chair on the ramp with Orton delivered a backbreaker on a set-up chair. Rollins was then pedigreed on a chair. Evolution signaled to take Reigns who ran at Batista, but was planted with a spinebuster. Kendo sticks and the steps were brought into the ring with Reigns being caned hard against the steps. Welts formed all over his back, chair shots followed. Ambrose showed some fire, but was draping DDT’ed off of a piece of the set Rollins then made a save with a splash off of the tron. This crowd finally woke up some from the Black Hawks loss with light “this is awesome” chants. Batista caught Rollins with a spear in mid air and went for the Batista bomb, but was caught with a spear for the elimination. Rollins was drilled with an RKO, but Reigns broke it up. Ambrose then put Orton out with a bulldog DDT on the chair. Hunter went for the pedigree, Reigns ran in with a superman punch, but was caught with a spear from Batista. Orton slid Hunter a sledgehammer. His first victim was Ambrose, but Rollins flew in with a springboard knee and spear for the fall.

*** 3/4

 

Doom for All-Japan Pro-Wrestling Imminent?

 

It was earlier this year on the annual Wrestling Observer prediction show that I called in to proclaim what was my, at least at the time, relatively conservative prediction that All Japan Pro-Wrestling would be dead , or at the very least cease to exist in its current form, by the end of 2014. As the months past however this felt like far more of an uncertainty. All Japan was by no means thriving, or even drawing good numbers, but had risen above the frequent and outlandish Shiraishi utterances that would make it to the media, as well as the quarter-full arenas. But, according to a recent Tokyo Sports article, it may not even be the terrible houses that bring a death to the company, but rather an absence of talent, who seem to be rallying behind Jun Akiyama in much the same way as the majority of All Japan’s roster in 2000 did with Mitsuharu Misawa.

 

Of course there are several flaws in this comparison, the most blatant of which is that whilst Akiyama is looking to form his own promotion, and this is yet another rebellion of All Japan’s talent, this is for all intents and purposes not the same company as it was in 2000 – 1984 JCP and 2001 WCW type differences – and Akiyama isn’t going to be forming a Pro-Wrestling NOAH. This isn’t the second All Japan exodus either, with Keiji Mutoh leading most of the roster who was able to legally quit the company to his Wrestle-1 promotion in June of 2013. It is not entirely clear as to whether or not Akiyama and the entire Burning crew, which included Kotaro Suzuki and Go Shiozaki, who as a performer is perhaps better than he has ever been, could have left with Mutoh and were unwilling, or were unable due to legal restrictions.

 

Regardless, if Akiyama does lead the rest of the roster away from All Japan it will essentially be the death knell for a company established in 1972, but metamorphosized numerous times beginning in 2000 to a point where it has been rendered largely unrecognizable here in 2014. It has been reported numerous times by both American and Japanese publications that Speed Partners, the company that bought 100% of All Japan in 2013, a company that Shiraishi partly owns, does not see All Japan in its current state as a viable property. In fact, in the months leading up to the Wrestle-1 exodus, negotiations were underway for Mutoh to buy the company just a few short months after it had been sold. This would have been a classic swindle job if ever there was one. Mutoh, however, was unable to acquire the funds needed to satisfy the offer, and as a result Speed Partners continued on as owners of the company.

 

Akiyama’s proposition to quit the promotion with the majority of the roster behind him does rely on his ability to start a promotion, which he is looking to do according to what I have read over the week. The personal situation between Akiyama and Mutoh is not public knowledge, although if things are at least amicable between the pair, then logic would dictate that Akiyama and company join, or perhaps affiliate with Wrestle-1 given how saturated the Japanese market is now with smaller promotions. Assuming that Akiyama leaves All Japan with talent that would very likely signal the end for All-Japan as a promotion, especially when it is owned by an IT company so eager to get a pro-wrestling promotion that has been nothing but a nuisance for over a year, off of its back.

 

As strange as it may sound, what may perhaps be the best scenario for the Japanese scene as a whole,would be for Wrestle-1, AJPW or NOAH to be assimilated into another, as non-NJPW talent has been stretched far too thin since the formation of Wrestle-1. Even a basic observer of the Japanese pro-wrestling news could tell you that the best time for the non-NJPW picture was before the Speed Partners purchase. At that time the Burning group had split off from NOAH, which was admittedly tending close to failure at that point, for All Japan who, as a result, had a thriving junior-heavyweight and heavyweight division. Go Shiozaki in particular had garnered new life and was by far the most exciting he had ever been. Mean while, Suzuki, Aoki et al. were putting on some of the best tag matches of the year up against the Junior Stars. But, with the Wrestle-1 split, talent was spread too thinly for either of the three major, non-NJPW, Japanese promotions to garner any significant momentum. AJPW still had the great work, but no one to work in front of.

 

Akiyama has, surprisingly, expressed interest in acquiring the NWA United National Championship, PWF Heavyweight Championship and NWA International Heavyweight Championship, the three belts comprising the original All Japan triple-crown, from Giant Baba’s widow, the “Dragon Lady”, Makoto Baba. As we wrote months ago, Makoto Baba has just recently been handed back the belts when she made a request to Shiraishi, after requesting them back from Mutoh for years. Stranger still is that Akiyama actually requested for Makoto Baba to chair a new company, which is a terribly ironic twist of fate seeing as how Akiyama was one of the major stars to leave in the original All Japan exodus in 2000, along with Misawa, Kobashi, Taue, and 20 other contracted All Japan performers. This is disregarding the fact that Makoto Baba must be approaching her seventies, if she isn’t there already.

 

My hope for All Japan may not be for it to survive as a promotion, although the wrestling history fan in me would be pleased for the name to live on, but for less splintering to occur in an already crowded environment with so many promotions vying for a similar audience. Whilst having everyone who is in All Japan join a new promotion will be a healthy improvement over their current predicament, what I would like to see happen would be for either NOAH or Wrestle-1, with both companies having their fare share of poor governance, to participate in a merger of some kind – that’s what would be best for the Japanese wrestling landscape as a whole at this point.

 

WWE Monday Night RAW June 2nd 2014

Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Apart from the main Shield break-up angle, one that undoubtedly most people have heard of at this point, this week’s edition of RAW didn’t have all that much to offer. The Bryan/Stephanie angle was enjoyable, yet perplexing, Batista’s departure was very entertaining, and the Wyatts/Usos match was also good, but dragged before the closing stretch. This crowd wasn’t too hot for the majority of the show either, and as a result brought down some of the matches, such as the aforementioned Usos/Wyatts match, which could have, under other circumstances, stood out. This was by no means a bad show, but apart from the Shield break-up, didn’t accomplish much.

 

There was a still picture and screen capture Shield/Evolution recap as the opening video. Hunter and Batista in suits, Orton pants-less, walked down to the ring. Hunter had a black eye, possibly worked, looked like the inverse of Cena after a big loss. Hunter professed that this feud with the Shield wasn’t over; he was Triple H, he doesn’t lose. Batista didn’t want another rematch, he wanted the title shot that he was promised — promised in reality in fact. Hunter spoke of his position as a leader, but Batista cared little and wanted his shot tonight. Triple H notified Dave that Bryan was injured. It mattered little, however, as he would have “choked” anyway, noted HHH. Hunter got on the mic and unleashed fire saying that it wasn’t over and Evolution couldn’t give up. Batista then resigned, which led to Hunter screaming about how Batista would fail as a movie star. The fact that two stars have quit in kayfabe over the past week, remaining relatively happy, certainly showcases a change in mentality, with the power games were once expected from WWE not playing as big of a role as of late. Both Batista and Hunter were very believable and engaging in this opening segment.

 

After the break Batista was interviewed by a geek in the back saying that all that he was met with upon his return were empty promises and stormed off. Cesaro did his peacock like strut to the ring as the tag partner of Barrett in a tag match against Sheamus & Van Dam. Heyman was on commentary. Barrett found the heat on Van Dam before a commercial. Some guy at ringside created some utterances that required significant censorship. This crowd was very hot for Sheamus off of the hot tag, which led to Cesaro quitting on Barrett moments later. Van Dam landed the five star frogsplash for the win. This week’s most watched shows on the Network were: 1. Payback, 2. Payback kickoff, 3. NXT Takeover, 4. Legends House, 5. Take over Fallout, 6. Takeover Pre-show, 7. Main Event, 8. RAW Backstage Pass, 9. WrestleMania 30, 10. Extreme Rules 2014. Sandow came out garnering some interesting heat dressed as an Indiana Pacer, saying that he had a lot of time given that his season was over. He sparked some sport related heat and gave a demonstration of the “Pacer’s basketball skills” in front of a Pacers player. Big Show’s music hit, interrupting the display. Sandow challenged Show to shoot while serving as a distraction, of course he just knocked Sandow out and then dunked the ball in, breaking the hoop. Local sports related heat, or heat of any kind relating to a smaller region, in contexts such as this often times come across as disingenuous on a national, or international, scale.

 

Bo Dallas walked down for more sports related heelish antics saying that the Heat Bolieved. His match was with Kofi Kingston, a rematch from the night prior. There were some pathetic attempts to get a “Randy Savage” chant going by a couple of people in the crowd — brief “Bo-ring” chants followed. Lawler put the chants over, which is a long-term mistake. Dallas landed his rope assisted bulldog for the win. Renee young was looking for an interview with Hunter outside of his locker room, but was instead given an unexpected “scoop” from Stephanie — she would be making her way down to the ring in the next segment. Stephanie was in the ring saying that she should have fired Brie on the spot three weeks ago — a woman let down by Bryan who also let down the fans. She announced that the Money in the Bank ladder match would be for the vacant WWE title. This queued Cena’s entrance to a majority positive ovation, which then bled into “Cena sucks” chants. There were dueling chants as Cena spoke. Cena said that the fans deserved a fighting champion, and no one person was bigger than the WWE title, not even a “spoiled egotistical brat” like Stephanie McMahon. Cena stated Stephanie’s reason for wanting to strip Bryan of the title, as simple personal dislike — but he is really good, Cena said. He spoke of his own surgeries, Hunter’s and Stephanie’s; much “oh’ing” ensued. Cena gave her a 0/10 carrier evaluation saying that she sucked. Stephanie would let Bryan hold onto the title only if he could defeat Kane at Money in the Bank in a stretcher match, an opponent that Cena would work opposite in the next segment.

 

The Cena/Kane match didn’t go all too long and ended with everyone’s favourite finish, as Kane was disqualified for landing repeated knees in the corner. An expected beat down ensued. Cena ended up taking Kane out with a step throw. Cena was already at the top of the ramp when Kane sat up began tossing things about. Orton was interviewed in the back saying that he would prove that he was still the face of the company in a match with Roman Reigns later on. 3MB was out with Hornswoggle, wearing an afro after a day’s treatment of hair growth shampoo. Slater & McIntyre were up against Los Matadors. JBL, in reference to Hornswoggle said, “that’s almost a human being you’re speaking about” — an embarrassment. Torito pulled Swoggle’s wig off revealing a terrible haircut leading to a roll-up finish. Another deplorable segment, and I enjoy minis as a general rule. Nikki Bella lost to Alicia Fox and Aksana in an actively bad handicap match. After the match Fox tossed Nikki to the floor with reckless abandon before stomping her on the outside. This led directly to Rowan and Harper Wyatt style video wanting to put Usos down like “craven beasts”. Harper was most certainly charismatic enough to carry this segment, and he did.

 

After the break Colter was in the ring ranting about Rose needing to be deported. Rose came partying down for his match with Swagger, a match meant for the pay-per-view. During the heat the fans actually began to clap and sing Rose’s theme, which I thought was tremendous. Of course “CM Punk” chants soon followed before Rose won with his wacky bulldog. The Usos were interviewed in the back saying that they would take care of the Wyatts and went crazy. This reminded me of your standard Briscoes promo. Harper and Rowan appeared before an empty rocking chair. These two teams got a lot of time and had a good match as a result. Harper went for a clothesline, but was met with a superkick for two. Rowan pinned Uso clean with a chokeslam leading into an expected tag title match down the line presumably — a fun time. Del Rio and Ziggler were booked in a Money in the Bank qualifier, the later of whom the crowd was very much behind. JBL called Mil Mascaras one of the greatest “heavyweights” in Lucha history — not a heavyweight that man, nor the greatest luchadore of all time. Poor Ziggler tapped to the cross armbreaker.

 

Cody Rhodes was shown talking to Goldust in the back with Lawler informing us that Rhodes had handpicked Goldust’s partner for a match with Ryback and Axel. Rhodes had chosen Sin Cara as a partner for Goldust — sabotage. Axel pinned Sin Cara with a spinning neckbreaker — the fact that they are doing something creative that actually isn’t stupid to break up this team works for me. Next was the Alexander Rusev, Russian hero coronation ceremony. Lana said that Americans liked to project an image that they are the heroes of the world and then shushed USA chants. Things then got weird, with a big graphic of Edward Snowden on the screen, which received a very confused reaction. I could see this being a situation similar to that of the Obama caricatures on WWE TV years ago — perhaps they are unable to comprehend that to some people Edward Snowden is a positive figure. Rusev, in a gigantic suit, walked violently down waving the Russian flag. Rusev was standing on a podium to be awarded a golden star by some cheesy fake Russian officials. The Russian anthem was then played as confetti rained, it was long and somewhat awkward and then the segment ended. Bray Wyatt, after his one day hiatus, had his return announced for SmackDown. Reigns, accompanied by Ambrose and Rollins, marched through the crowd for his main event match with Orton. Ambrose cut a promo referring to their domination, Rollins stated that Evolution perished as they were not one like the Shield — they were three strangers not a unit, Rollins said. Reigns said that they were brothers, which I am sure will feature in some break-up videos down the line. Hunter made it down talking about plan B with Rollins taking Ambrose and Reigns out a chair assault from Rollins followed. I am so, so, so very sad at present. Rollins then landed the curb stomp on a chair on Ambrose. The chair was then passed to Orton who too began an assault. Orton then RKO’d Reigns on a chair, as Rollins stood tall with Orton and Hunter to close out the show.

RAW Ratings for June 2nd 2014

By the standards of recent weeks, Monday’s edition of RAW was a ratings success, drawing a 2.92 rating and 4.13 million viewers. However, there was a strong third hour drop-off, which is not what you want from a three hour show. This was the post-Payback show and didn’t have any strong sporting competition – and, luckily for the WWE, all of the Heat/Spurs NBA play-off games will not be played on Monday Nights. The first hour drew 4.03 million viewers (1.715 million viewers and a 1.35 rating in the 18-49 demo), the second 4.48 million viewers (2.038 million viewers and a 1.61 rating in the 18-40 demo) and the third and final hour, with a ten minute overrun, drew 3.93 million viewers (1.905 million viewers and a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demo). The fact that the second hour peaked in the manner that it did would indicate that, at the very least, there weren’t all that many people tuning in at the start of the show as a result of Payback. The big test is going to be next week’s rating following the Shield breakup.

We also have last week’s in-depth 18-49 ratings data courtesy of @STD_85: “A18-49rtgs: 8:00: 1,503,000 viewers (1.19), 9:00: 1,692,000 (1.33), 10:00-11:13: 1,556,000 (1.23)”

WWE NXT – June 5th 2014.

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

Ben Carass

Eden let us all know that the number one contender for the NXT championship, Tyler Breeze, had just entered the building. Mojo Rawley made his over caffeinated entrance and did an inset promo about staying hyped even though Rusev annihilated him at Takeover. Because staying hyped did him so much good when Rusev was treating him like Barry Horowitz’s red headed stepchild, what a geek. Aiden English showed up and sang about Mojo “failing” the USA.

 

Mojo Rawley vs. Aiden English

 

Mojo had some awful fluorescent green gear and as usual began selling a couple of seconds into the match. Same thing as every week; Mojo made a quick comeback and won with the John Tenta memorial splash. – Mojo Rawley defeated Aiden English via pinfall, at 2:50.Two green guys having a green guy match. The announcers tried to claim that Mojo had redeemed himself with this win. He didn’t. Bill Demott needs to be issued with one of those strongly worded letters of reprimand from Stephanie for not teaching Mojo anything other than basic selling and a two-spot comeback.

 

They showed Tyson Kidd walking off the post-show panel after Takeover then Natalya joined Devin in the back. Nattie said she was proud of Tyson and would always have his back.

 

Non-Title Match: Charlotte (NXT Women’s Champion) w/Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

 

Bayley had her wacky arm flailing inflatable tube men and gave some headbands to some Special Olympians in the crowd. Bayley got a few shine spots in then Charlotte cut her off with a clothesline to start the heat and worked a figure-four headlock. Bayley threw some terrible punches and flying axe-handles for her comeback then nailed Sasha on the floor after she tried to get involved. Summer Rae showed up and hugged Sasha at ringside; Charlotte was distracted, but kicked out of a backslide and hit her flipping Ace-crusher for the finish. – Charlotte defeated Bayley via pinfall, at 4:15. Summer hugged Charlotte and the BFF’s put the boots to Bayley after the match; Paige and Emma ran down for the save and the heels scarpered. – So Charlotte’s babyface celebration was a one off and she is now back to being full heel. Perhaps it will all make sense when she is split off from the heel group, as the NXT crowd would easily identify with her as a babyface champion. Summer seems to have returned only to take part in the BFFs’ breakup, which is good continuity I guess.

 

Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger were involved in an embarrassment of a backstage promo. They both tried to fit their names into the song “Boom Boom Boom” by the Outhere Brothers, which was a number one UK single in 1995 when I was eight years old!

 

Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger vs. Stuart Cumberland & Phillip Gouljar

 

Jordan and Dillinger dominated then a regular tag match broke out as the jobbers got a little heat on Dillinger, which didn’t do anybody any good. Jordan made the comeback and dropped Gouljar on his head off a flapjack. Jordan pinned Gouljar with an Olympic-slam, which Tom Phillips called “the Jordan-slam.” Original. CJ Parker appeared in the crowd with a sign that read, “May the forest be with you.” – Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger defeated Stuart Cumberland & Phillip Gouljar via pinfall, at 5:55. Jordan & Dillinger were far more impressive in their debut a couple of weeks ago. Here they came off like two guys thrown together to make up the numbers in the dying Tag Team division, which is a shame. I’d love to know where this thing with CJ Parker is going; he seems to indiscriminately show up randomly without any rhyme or reason.

 

Tyler Breeze came down for a promo. He talked about beating Sami Zayn and said he was in control because he could demand his NXT Championship shot whenever he wanted. Breeze debuted his, “3 time MTV Euro award winning” music video, which was dedicated to all his fans…even the uggos. It was basically a montage of Breeze recording the vocals for his entrance theme and a bunch of wacky clips of him posing and such. At the end of the video they did the gag of having Breeze credited for every aspect of production, like the old ‘Cause Stone Cold Said So VHS. Breeze was almost moved to tears and applauded his masterpiece. – Breeze had the best showing of his career at Takeover and it helped him become more than a goofy male model gimmick. This was a little too wacky for me and the music video wasn’t all that funny honestly

 

Non-Title Match: Adrian Neville (NXT Champion) vs. Justin Gabriel

 

After a slow start consisting of mostly holds, they had a nice little sequence which ended up in Neville low-bridging Gabriel over the top and hitting a cannonball off the apron. Gabriel was in control briefly after the break but Neville started his comeback and got a near-fall with a dropkick off the second rope. Gabriel landed a northern-lights then countered a quebrada with a dropkick for a near-fall. Finish saw Neville avoid the 450, land a running dropkick in the corner and come off the top with the Red Arrow. – Adrian Neville defeated Justin Gabriel via pinfall, at 6:20 (TV Time). Tyson Kidd hit the ring and apologised to Neville for not shaking his hand after their match at Takeover. The crowd chanted, “FACT” after every sentence, which I seriously hope does not become the new, “What?” Kidd said that Neville beat him at Takeover, “FACT”, however if they had a rematch then he would beat Neville, “FACT!” Neville offered Kidd another shot at the title and the two shook hands; Tom Phillips hyped the rematch as the show closed. – Main event was basic, but fine. It was good to see Gabriel back, as he’s always fun to watch in the ring, although it still appears like they have no plans for him. The interaction between Neville and Kidd wasn’t terrific and it is clear that Tyson’s one weakness is his talking ability. Still, they should have a fun TV match and it will be interesting to see where Kidd’s charter goes.

 

No week of TV is going to feel as hot as the live specials, but we got a decent show that set up a bunch of things to come in the following weeks. Bayley’s long standing feud with the BFFs was reignited and given that the heel group is not long for this world, it would make a lot of sense for Bayley & co. to put the final nail in their coffin. The Tyler Breeze stuff was admirable, but a little wide of the mark; Tyson Kidd getting another shot at the title on the other hand gets a big thumbs up. NXT can’t help but be booked logically and consistently due to the taping multiple episodes in one night model, however it isn’t just as easy as all that. There is another company that runs TV shows on Thursdays which they tape weeks in advance and that company couldn’t book themselves a lap dance in a strip club.

WWE SmackDown – June 6th 2014.

U.S. Bank Arena: Cincinnati, OH

Ben Carass.

 

A recap of this year’s big summer angle opened the show, with Seth Rollins turning on the Shield and seemingly replacing Batista in Evolution. Triple H and Seth Rollins were out for a promo; they came out to Triple H’s “King of Kings” song and Rollins was still in his Shield garb. Trips laughed at “you sold out chants” then said they were there to answer all the questions about Rollins and he put Seth over as the guy that was responsible for the success of the Shield. Rollins stood stoically while Hunter put him over then got on the mic and said the only person that knew why he turned on the Shield and the only person he owed anything to was himself. Trips patted Seth on the back then Dolph Ziggler inexplicably came out and told Rollins he was a “traitor” for turning his back on his brothers. Dolph noted that Triple H would probably push him further down the card for speaking up, but he didn’t care and labeled Rollins a sell-out. Trips informed Dolph that Rollins indeed sold out, that is he sold out arenas night after night, something Ziggler would never do then he booked Dolph in a match against Rollins. – If it wasn’t blatantly obvious from the angle on Raw then this segment made it crystal clear with the old, “I’m not telling you” excuse, that turning Rollins was a last minute decision made on Monday probably because Vince freaked out over the weekly ratings decline.

 

Seth Rollins w/Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler

 

Rollins worked full blown heel: raking eyes, pulling hair etc. Dolph got a few hope spots in and Rollins stalled on the floor with Triple H. Rollins commenced a heel stomp down then worked a chinlock. Triple H told JBL that Rollins was a “machine” and that he could “adapt to anything.” Ziggler scored with a DDT for a double-down then made his comeback and landed a dropkick on the outside. Dolph got some near-falls with a fameasser a facebuster off the top. Finish saw Rollins counter the Zig-zag and hit a gamengiri then he pounded the hell out of Dolph, hit a buckle-bomb and finally the curb stomp to get the pin. – Seth Rollins defeated Dolph Ziggler via pinfall, at 9:20 (TV Time). Triple H raised Rollins’ hand and Cole reminded everyone that they had no explanation for him turning on the Shield. – Decent match, Rollins is a good heel and he seemed to have some decent heat here; it is usually pretty clear when they tamper with the sound but they didn’t have to resort to that crowd sweetening button for this one. I didn’t like the Russo-style swerve and to me they left some money on the table by not running with the Shield as faces for longer, however at least we’re going to get some fresh matches. It will be interesting to see what they come up with as a reason why Rollins would join a losing team that he was involved in a heated feud with only 24 hours before. My guess is either the old power trip deal or Rollins will claim he felt overlooked in the Shield and was really the leader of the group.

 

Bad News Barrett was with Renee in the back. He noted that defending his title in a three-way was unfair then claimed that Cesaro and RVD were not in his league. The bad news was that there would only be one winner in the tripe-threat, “BNB.” Rollins and Triple H were walking through the back and the came across Randy Orton, who welcomed Seth to the darkside. Big Show confronted them and called Rollins a piece of trash for selling his soul then challenged him to try and do what he did to Ziggler. Instead, Triple H booked Show against Orton.

 

Non-Title Match: The Usos (WWE Tag Team Champions) vs. Rybaxel

 

Rybaxel got the heat immediately. Axel cut off a short flurry from Jey and went up top but Jey caught him in mid-air with a superkick then made the tag to Jimmy, who delivered the Superfly splash for the finish. –The Usos defeated Rybaxel via pinfall, at 3:10. – One of those strange babyface showcases where the heel(s) take 90% of the match and the babyface(s) win with one or two quick moves. It was fine for what it was.

 

Rusev w/Lana vs. Xavier Woods

 

Lana put Gorbachev and Tchaikovsky’s likeness on the screen which for some reason wasn’t as funny as Putin. They showed the non-angle from Raw with Rusev being awarded his medal, which he wore down to the ring. Woods had found his Consequences Creed gear and played the part of Apollo Creed. Unlike Rocky IV, Creed’s life was not actually ended, although it might as well have been as Rusev won immediately with a superkick and the camel-clutch. – Rusev defeated Xavier Woods via submission, at 0:35. Lana put Rusev’s medal back around his neck then the deployed a giant Russian flag from the rafters like Mexican America did in TNA. – Anything that can make Rusev seem more of a big deal is fine with me. Hopefully they keep it up and don’t give up on him like so many others or even worse, feed him to Cena too soon because that would certainly cut his legs off.

 

IC Championship Match: Bad News Barrett (C) vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro w/Paul Heyman

 

Heyman said he had the best seat in the house to see Lesnar break the streak then introduced Cesaro and sat in on commentary. Van Dam shone early and hit rolling thunder on both guys then hit Barrett with a split-leg moonsault but Cesaro pulled him off the cover to the outside. Cesaro cut off a dive from Van Dam with a European uppercut then dropped Barrett across the barricade. RVD took out Cesaro with a moonsault off the apron and delivered his guillotine legdrop to Barrett. They hit each other with some more MOVES and traded near-falls; finish saw Van Dam land the five-star on Cesaro then Barrett drilled RVD with the bullhammer. – Bad News Barrett defeated RVD & Cesaro to retain the IC title, at 6:20 (TV Time). Heyman glared angrily at Cole afterwards and Barrett celebrated with his belt. – This was basically an exhibition of moves, however it was still pretty fun. Logically Cesaro would replace RVD as the IC title challenger, but since he just lost to Sheamus and the heel vs. heel dynamic with Barrett doesn’t quite seem to fit they should probably split all three guys off in different directions.

 

A promo from Bray Wyatt aired. He talked about his memories haunting him when Cena trapped him inside a box then he rambled about Sister Abigail foreseeing the future and telling him he would become out leader. Bray said he had been “reborn” and told us all to join him. – It wasn’t clear where they are going with Bray next, buy hopefully his mess of a feud with Cena is done.

 

Natalya vs. Alicia Fox

 

Nattie was stopped in her tracks by some screaming. Alicia offered a handshake, so Nattie gave her an arm –ringer into the mat (what a babyface) then slapped Alicia a couple of times. Fox eventually cut Nattie off but she went for a tilt-o-whirl and Natalya reversed into a lateral press and got the fall. – Natalya defeated Alicia Fox via pinfall, at 3:20. Alicia did her usual post-match freak out and intimidated poor Lilian Garcia; some chivalrous guy in the crowd politely asked Alicia to leave Lilian alone, which I found amusing, then Fox rang the bell a few times before they played her music as her cue to leave. – This was a family sized bucket load of meh. I’m already sick of Fox’s goofy antics. You know what would do the women’s division a whole lot of good? Natalya vs. Paige in a WRESTLING match for the title; they don’t even need to go that long. Just give them 8 minutes on Raw in front of the right crowd and I guarantee that they will break the mould of the girls being in the “midgets on the card” spot. Don’t hold your breath though, as I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from Alicia and her “kooky” shenanigans.

 

They showed Brie quitting and slapping Stephanie then hyped an update on Daniel Bryan for Raw. I’m begging them to give Bryan a big babyface angle or promo, thus far he has been presented like a weak little sap hiding behind his injury. Remember that this is the company that made Steve Austin a mega star when he was out with a neck injury. Heyman also turned Taz into a killer in 95 when he broke his neck, so it is possible to protect injured guys.

 

Bo Dallas vs. Santino Marella w/Emma

 

Cole asked if JBL had spoken to Bo to get some inspiration for his charity cricket match in Bermuda; I can’t say I’m into cricket but the chance to see JBL take to the wicket against some 11 year-olds sounds hilarious. If he’s anything like the English cricket team he’ll get just get drunk and bowled out for a duck (zero). Bo told us to Bo-lieve then won a short nothing match with the tornado Bo-dog. – Bo Dallas defeated Santino via pinfall, at 1:55. Bo declared that he was 5-0 and did his Bo-lieve line again. – More of the same from “Positively” Bo. Comparing him to DDP’s post-stalker WWF character may not be fair, after all Page was a much better promo for a start.

 

Renee was with the Big Show. He called Evolution a bunch of bullies then cut a completely unrealistic promo about being bullied when he was younger. Wasn’t Show like 6ft 2 and 200lbs when he was 11? Byron Saxton interviewed Orton in the locker room. Orton said anything could happen out there and told Saxton to just ask Ambrose and Reigns.

 

Big Show vs. Randy Orton w/Triple H

 

Orton stalled on the floor a couple of times then Triple H distracted Show and Orton sent him into the ring post for a short heat segment. Orton landed his hangman DDT and Show came back with a spear. Triple H got on the apron and Show grabbed him and Orton by the throat but Rollins hit Show with a flying knee for the DQ. – Big Show defeated Randy Orton via disqualification, at 4:10 (TV Time). Orton delivered an RKO then Rollins gave Show two curb stomps onto a chair. The show closed with Triple H raising Rollins and Orton’s hands. – Complete nothing main event. I guess we could get some six-mans with Show teaming with the Shield against the new Evolution, or a rematch on Raw, neither of which sound all that great honestly.

 

If you tuned in to see if they followed up with the Rollins story then you may have been a little disappointed. Personally I didn’t expect any big developments on the story since SmackDown is pretty much useless when it comes to forwarding the big angles, but most of all they just didn’t have the time to come up with a good explanation after Vince’s trigger happy decision to turn him on Raw. At least they have given themselves a week to think of something. We got a couple of entertaining matches; Rollins/Ziggler was fun and it seemed like Triple H’s presence at ringside prevented Dolph from going 100mph and the IC Title 3-way was an enjoyable 6 minutes of guys hitting a bunch of moves. Fast forward past all the guff on your DVR and you’ll probably get done with this show in half an hour or so.

 

Bits & Pieces

 

I noticed something at Payback and later on RAW that went surprisingly unmentioned across the internet, with the WWE changing their ring apron to one featuring the Network logo, and the Network logo exclusively. Whether or not this means that they are getting ready to change the logo within the next couple of months, I do not know.

 

The NXT Take Over show was on my watch list for this week, which I surprisingly got through. As Ben last week stated, it was a very good show. The Tyler Breeze/Zayn match was impressive with Breeze showing far more in-ring than what we usually get to see from him. The gimmick is still incredibly one dimensional and feels far too similar to that of Rose, Ziggler and others, which could cause problems for him when migrating to the main roster – from where I was sitting it was a good *** ½ match. The largest talking point heading out of the show was of course Charlotte/Natalya, which, was in fact, the best WWE women’s match that I have seen in years. Months ago when so many were raving about AJ/Natalya, I was critical, and while I do feel that some are undoubtedly overselling the match as one of the greatest American women’s matches ever, it was still very good. There has been some serious pressure placed on Charlotte over the last week or so with many poising her to be one of the greatest American women’s wrestlers of all time, and whilst that may very well be the case, from what we have seen from Charlotte so far it does sound very premature. Sure, she is improving at a dramatic rate, has the athletic ability and pedigree, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she is going to be brought up to the main roster and revolutionize the women’s division. Bret Hart and Ric Flair added a great deal at ringside, particularly Flair, who was very emotional given the death of his son, Reid, and what Charlotte has so far accomplished. My favourite spot saw Charlotte attempt the figure four, shift her gaze to Hart, and lock-in the sharp shooter, which was simply tremendous. The nod to Shibata/Goto with the slaps in the figure four also helped earn them a strong thumbs up – ****. Tyson Kidd and Adrian Neville worked a very good main event, although as I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated, it was not the best match on the show – *** ½. If you for whatever reason missed last week’s issue and want to read more about the show, Ben did a great job of covering the show and in fact follows NXT far more closely than I.

 

Also on my viewing list for this week was KENTA’s final ever match in Pro-Wrestling NOAH, from May 17th at Korakuen Hall, where he teamed one last time with Marufuji to take on the team of Takashi Sugiura & Katsuhiko Nakajima. KENTA surprisingly made it out first and not to his usual theme song that he has had for years, but instead to the T.I ‘What You Know’ instrumental (thanks Wikipedia), and received a great reaction. As one would expect going in, everyone here worked super hard and super stiff with KENTA and Sugiura in particular trading some brutal elbows, as did Nakajima. The sequence that the match will be remembered for however, was an incredibly heated slap war between Sugiura and KENTA towards the later stages of the match, one so heated in fact that this Korakuen crowd rumbled like an All Japan Budokan crowd in the 1990s, if only for a moment. Nakajima was pinned with the GTS, which I can understand giving the extraordinarily good terms that KENTA is leaving on, but at the very least Nakajima could have kicked out of one GTS – a spot such as that would have brought this match to another level in my estimation. Regardless, after the match KENTA shook hands with Marufuji and Sugiura, but when walking over to Nakajima received a good-bye slap to the face, which was simply tremendous. Hanging from the rafters, written in English, was a banner reading “Thank you KENTA…and your dream is our dream”. KENTA’s usual theme played, as he bowed to, roughly, the four corners of the ring, before exiting Korakuen Hall for what may be his last time as a worker. In the crowd were Kobashi and Shibata who were shown during a couple of heated sequences. There were a couple of things lacking here that could have made the match an all-time classic, but even without them it is still a match that you need to go out of your way to see. **** ½

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

In next week’s issue we look at the follow-up to the breakup of the Shield, any news on All Japan, the finals of the BOSJ, preview Dominion, look at the RAW ratings with possible extra insights, as well as RAW, SmackDown, NXT and more!

 

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