Cubed Circle Newsletter – 155 WWE’s Hellacious Train to Hell in a Cell Chugs On
This week Ben Carass and Bryan Rose are back, looking at yet another week of WWE programming, in a torturous series of many, as part of their, most often times, uninspired, and excruciatingly drab, Fall season. Then, on the positive end, Bryan Rose returns as a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame voter to discuss Sting’s candidacy, and, Ben Carass takes a look at an expectedly good edition of NXT.
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
Raw Ramblings – September 29th 2014
Allstate Arena: Chicago, IL.
I’m running out of ways to say that Monday Night Raw was a bad TV show. For well over a month, we all have been banging our heads against a brick wall of insufferable dialogue, bad/atrocious matches, lazy booking, overdone finishes and juvenile skits. This week they were in Chicago and had a pretty decent crowd; obviously there were a few “CM Punk” chants, however other than Stephanie, who did a promo about the fans cheering for “quitters and thieves”, everyone just ignored the chants and tried to talk over them. I did actually enjoy the first hour. Well, I say “the first hour”, it was more like the first half-hour. The opening segment was a LONG in-ring deal with the Authority, Paul Heyman, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and John Cena. They basically skimmed over Rollins trying to cash in on Lesnar and quickly moved on as Heyman shook Seth’s hand then was run off by big bad Triple H. Ambrose appeared on the tron with the briefcase and told Rollins to come and get it, which would set up our story arc for the night. Cena came out and got his hands on Rollins, but Seth managed to escape. It wasn’t great or anything, but after they did absolutely nothing for the main event program last week it was at least a step in the right direction and everybody played their part well. They would of course screw it up later on, when Triple H deployed the new Stooges of Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury to retrieve the briefcase from Ambrose. They couldn’t find him and Stephanie yelled at Noble for eating a hotdog because he had mustard on his face; I guess that’s what happens when you get over doing run-ins. Ambrose hit the ring with a bunch of merchandise and said he was at the concession stands then had a great line about Triple H sending the “cruiserweight division” out to get him. Ambrose said he would sell t-shirts for $1 but ended up throwing everything into the crowd for free. Rollins showed up with some security and Ambrose backed off, leaving the briefcase on his makeshift gimmick table in the ring. Rollins opened the case and got blasted in the face with green slime; JBL said, “Who’s in there, Kabuki?” It got over with the fans, but the renegade Dean Ambrose should not be resorting to 90’s kids show tactics and I couldn’t help but think of that campy angle they did last year with Del Rio pouring paint over Big Show’s head. Steve Austin had cement trucks, Zambonis, beer trucks, monster trucks; Undertaker threw lightening blots; hell, even the Brood had the blood bath. Ambrose got slime. To be fair, Rollins cracked me up after he had been slimed with the line, “I look like a JERK!” This led to Cena/Ambrose vs. Kane/Orton in the main event; it was fine, but of course Rollins ran in for the DQ again. The heels left the faces lying with RKOs, chokeslams and curbstomps to close the show. That’s right, the heels got heat by using their finishes and the cool, hot new babyface used a little bit of slime.
The first match was a three-way for the IC title with Miz, Cesaro and Ziggler. Granted, having IC title matches on 4 shows in 8 days is way too much, however the match was a lot of fun since they worked it in a different way to most WWE three/four-ways and didn’t do the deal of constantly rotating one guy out. Ziggler retained by pinning the Miz, essentially eliminating him from the title picture and leaving Cesaro/Dolph as the program going forward. Boy did things go downhill quickly after this. They topped themselves by having THREE horrible women’s matches on the show; Rosa and Layla may have been the worst match I have ever seen. Nattie and Tyson Kidd were at ringside and they played off their Total Divas angle of having “marital problems.” At least we may now get to see Kidd’s awesome heel NXT character on Raw. Brie Bella beat Eva Marie and Cameron in a dire handicap match and AJ lost to Alicia Fox when Paige distracted her. Bo Dallas continued his gimmick of feuding with guys that lose to Rusev when he beat Mark Henry in under 2 minutes. They went all Kaiju Big Battel and had Hornswoggle dress up in an alligator costume for SlaterGator vs. the Matadores. Slater and Titus won then Hornswoggle proceeded to gator-roll Torito. Adam Rose and the Bunny got involved too, but even that couldn’t bring the segment down to the depths of the stuff they had the women do.
On Tuesday, WWE issued an “apology” for an angle that saw Big Show pull down Rusev and Lana’s giant Russian flag. This doesn’t smell right to me and seems like an angle, as I find it hard to believe that anybody in Russia cared at all about a phony pro wrestling angle given what else is going on over there. Sheamus beat Damien Sandow in a nothing match. They wound up Hogan and sent him out to plug the Susan G Coleman stuff. The only other thing worth noting is that they aired a couple of Wyatt Family vignettes which were entirely focused on Luke Harper. During the second one Bray said he was going to “set him free,” so presumable Harper is going to be pushed as a single. I don’t know what that means for Rowan, but it doesn’t look good for him at the moment. There is talk of bringing up the Ascension to be Bray’s new followers, which would not be great for Wyatt, but the bland big-man NXT tag team certainly need someone to do their talking for them on the big stage.
They still didn’t announce any matches for Hell in a Cell. Although the plan is apparently to have two Cell matches, with Cena and Ambrose fighting it out to see who gets Seth Rollins, while the loser gets Randy Orton. First of all, not announcing a definite main event for a PPV has historically not been the best idea, although with the Network I guess it doesn’t really matter. Secondly, it looks like we will be getting ANOTHER Cena/Orton Cell match as clearly Ambrose/Rollins is the right main event to go with. Why do they need two Cell matches? It won’t help the buyrate or add any more subscribers and will certainly hurt the appeal of what should be the blow-off of Ambrose/Rollins by having a nothing match with two stale guys fighting for no reason at all. And how does Randy Orton benefit from facing the loser of a match? The whole thing just seems like a giant mess. Would it be so bad to just book Ambrose/Rollins and sell that as the main event?
Bryan Rose on Sting’s Candidacy as a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame
As the topic suggests, my article this week pertains to the question if I feel Sting should be in the hall of fame.
Why isn’t Sting in the Hall of Fame?
No, not the WWE Hall of Fame. That seems to be a given, maybe as early as next year. I’m talking about the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, you see. No political ramifications here- retired and current wrestlers, as well as journalists from all spectrums are sent ballots each year choosing the people they feel are the most deserving of induction. Sure, there are those who vote for friends and so on, but when someone gets inducted into the WON Hall of Fame, it gives them an extra boost in reputation, so to speak. It’s very easy to get into the WWE Hall of Fame if you have the right connections, or if you were ever a name in WWE’s history. It’s a million times harder to get into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.
Sting was one of the most popular wrestlers in the world at his peak. He was the poster child for WCW during the late eighties and most of the nineties. He and Hulk Hogan had one of the biggest matches in WCW history at Starrcade 1997, a show that drew a gigantic audience. It seems logical that eventually he’d get voted into the Hall of Fame, right? I mean, I have a ballot this year – yes, me of all people. When I got my ballot I started to really think about the people that I’m going to vote for. Sting, of course, crossed my mind. I’ve thought about it for a while until coming to a conclusion a few days ago when I sent my ballot in. So the question is…am I going to vote for the Stinger?
On a superficial level, it’s easy to see Sting’s success and assume he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame, despite being on the ballot for years and never getting that benchmark percentage to go in. He was a top guy in WCW for years. But, there’s a difference between being the top guy and the top drawing guy. He didn’t draw as world champion in the early nineties. He had great matches with the likes of Vader and Cactus Jack but he never sustained that momentum long enough to be a draw. When Hogan came along in 1994, he was sent downward on the card, no longer the top babyface in the promotion and for years was still considered near the top, but never at THE top of the WCW food chain. He was a name, but not the top name.
You can say he was the top babyface in 1997 during the nWo angle. But he never wrestled, and therefore never drew. When he did wrestle at Starrcade, he drew huge against Hogan. But again, that didn’t sustain. It wasn’t his fault; if Death of WCW taught us anything, it’s that the company dropped the ball on the finish of this storyline (that was built up for a YEAR) because they didn’t give him the clean win in the middle like everyone wanted. Hogan got his way and as a result Sting was nowhere near being a top guy even by the middle of 1998. Again, he was at the top, but not at the very top. And while business was still huge for WCW at that time, you can attribute that to the nWo angle being hot, than just being hot in general. By the time the company folded in 2001, he was probably a top guy still, but no one was hot and the company was, well, dead.
Oh, and TNA. He went there for a while.
So Sting, I feel, was never a proven top draw. But what about other qualifications? Was he a good wrestler? Eh. I guess that’s up to opinion. He was never terrible, but sometimes he was just there. He had a ton of good matches in the early to mid 90s, but those were against guys that were far better workers. Looking through the Gordy list, he was valuable in WCW during dark times as he was a guy who mattered, and maybe drew, but never drew big numbers. Memorable feuds? Again, Vader and Cactus Jack were highlights for me. Sting/Ric Flair was a genuine classic feud that went on for years, three decades really. But that was his big one. You can argue him and Hogan, and that build was great, but we know the result of that one. So there’s something there in that regard, at least. He played his role well, and at times he was a pretty great babyface when need be. But does this equal a hall of fame vote? I guess there’s enough to warrant a discussion, but at the end of the day…no. Not on my end, anyway. A very memorable part of the 90s, but not Hall of Fame material.
But there will always be the discussion about Sting in the Hall of Fame, just like the discussion about Big Daddy, Ken Patera and other favorites that have been on the ballot for years but, for some reason, never get inducted – but maybe there’s a good reason for that. If someone has been on the ballot for years, and this is their last year, well,maybe there’s a reason why they haven’t been inducted yet.
For even more on Sting’s candidacy as a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame candidate, Dave and Dylan of the Wrestling Culture Podcast were joined by Andy to talk that very topic here.
WWE NXT – October 2nd 2014.
Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.
NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte (C) vs. Bayley – Charlotte retained in 9:52 (TV Time). Another good effort from the NXT girls. JoJo made the fancy ring intros and she thankfully toned down her wretched shrieking. Bayley controlled and landed some armdrags early; Charlotte made them look good but they also looked very contrived. Charlotte worked over the leg for the heat and wrapped the knee around the ring post. She applied the figure four and did an insane bridge, but Bayley reversed then they rolled to the ropes. Bayley made her comeback; Charlotte cut her off with a neckbreaker then hit her finish to get the pin. Charlotte hugged Bayley afterwards and they shook hands. – The finish at TakeOver was far superior, but the match was just as good, if not a little bit better and the psychology was on point. You would think the women consistently having better matches in developmental than the train wrecks we’ve seen on Raw would set off alarm bells, but clearly nobody cares.
Hideo Itami vs. Viktor w/Konnor – Match never got started because the Ascension jumped Itami before the bell. Alex Riley, who for some reason was a heel announcer all of a sudden, claimed Itami deserved the beating for costing them the tag titles. A bunch of referees ran down but they just stood by like goofs and let the Ascension hit a double team suplex/elbow off the top. – Decent angle and they didn’t wrestle forever before the beat-down, so that was a giant plus. This was the first of many beat-downs for Itami until the Devitt debut, which should pay off big and hopefully Itami won’t look too much of a chump in the meantime.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass were in the ring at the performance centre with Carmella. Enzo taught her a collar-and-elbow but kept on smelling her hair. Carmella got mad and dropkicked Enzo out of the ring. Enzo was embarrassed and asked Big Cass not to post the video.
Baron Corbin vs. Troy McClain – Corbin squashed McClain in 1:01. After just two squash matches, Corbin was super over and the fans chanted, “Baron’s gonna kill you.” He won with his swinging downward spiral, which Brennan called “the end of days.”
The Legionnaires cut a promo backstage. Lefort challenged Enzo and Big Cass for next week then handed Louis a different wig for him to try on. Louis simply said, “revenge” to close.
The Vaudevillains vs. Jason Jordan & Tye Dillenger – Vaudevillains over in 4:25. Somebody finally figured it out and the Villains happy ragtime music was gone. Although they still did some double team spots that got them over as babyfaces and English even sold for a little heat. Gotch then made a comeback and they won with their Finlay-roll/senton combo. – Match wasn’t much. They need to figure out if the Vaudevillains are heels or faces, because there are way too many mixed signals at the minute.
Titus O’Neil took a ringside seat for the main event then they cut to Hideo Itami getting iced down in the trainer’s room. Funaki showed up and congratulated him on his debut then told him he had his back against the Ascension. Bayley was with Devin in the back and Sasha Banks jumped her from behind. Sasha said Bayley wasted her opportunities and claimed she would show everyone who the boss of NXT was.
NXT Championship: Adrian Neville (C) vs. Tyson Kidd.– Neville retained in 12:18 (TV Time). More in-ring intros from JoJo; Neville got a mixed reaction, so clearly the storyline is working. The gimmick was that this was Kidd’s last shot at the title while Neville is the champion. Back and forth early. Neville took over with a kick to the face off the apron then delivered a code blue. Neville landed a running corner dropkick then a huge Liger-bomb to start the near-falls. Kidd got the sharpshooter but Neville got to the ropes; Kidd went for a tope and Neville cut him off with a gamengiri from the floor. Titus drilled Neville from behind the rail then Sami Zayn showed up and smashed Titus with a Yakuza-kick. Finish saw Neville counter a superplex and hit the red arrow. Sami saluted Neville and pointed at Titus to say that he helped him retain the title. The show closed with Kidd sat with his head in his hands and JoJo announced that he had no more NXT title opportunities. – Very good TV main event that could easily have slotted in nicely on any of the main shows. They did a great job again with the Zayn/Neville story and managed to set up Titus as a roadblock for both of them to overcome.
NXT was back on form this week. The bookended title matches delivered solid performances from everyone, they set up angles with Itami and Bayley getting laid out and the storytelling in the main event was quality. There was some filler, like the tag match and the Enzo/Big Cass video, but as far as filler goes it was perfectly fine. Generally speaking, you will have a hard time finding a better hour of wrestling anywhere on TV. The ROH TV show is also usually a very fun show, however when it comes to weekly storyline progression, it isn’t even close.
WWE SmackDown – October 3rd 2014.
BMO Harris Bradley Centre: Milwaukee, WI
Cena was out to open the show with his usual sucking up to the crowd routine. He talked about Lesnar destroying him at SummerSlam then blamed Seth Rollins for costing him the world title at Night of Champions. Cena challenged Rollins to a match, but Dean Ambrose came out instead. Ambrose and Cena discussed their hatred for Rollins then decided they weren’t too fond of each other; Cena called for a “truce” but Rollins, Kane and Orton appeared on the tron. Orton made fun of the “bromance” going on in the ring then Kane booked himself and Randy against Ambrose and Cena in a Raw rematch for the main event. Kane asked Rollins if he had anything to say and Seth responded by looking mean and breathing heavily. – This opening segment was basically a microcosm for the entire show: it was dull, nothing happened and we had seen it all before.
Sheamus (US Champion) & Dolph Ziggler (IC Champion) vs. The Miz & Damien Sandow – Sheamus & Ziggler over in 4:55 (TV Time). Sheamus shone then took out the Mizes with a dive off the top to the floor; he then sold for the heat. Ziggler ran wild and DDT’d Sandow for a near-fall. Sheamus sent Miz into the barricade, but Miz came back and hit him with a chair to the gut. Dolph pinned Sandow with the Zig-zag. After the match, Sheamus chased Miz off then gave Sandow a very safe chair shot. – Formulaic tag match. It looks like Sheamus and Dolph have swapped programs and now Miz will be going after the US title. The only positive I can think of, besides Cesaro getting Dolph to slow down, is that we get to see Sheamus beat the hell out of the Miz.
Paige w/ Alicia Fox vs. Naomi. – Paige won with the scorpion cross-lock at 1:55. Match got off to a rough start when Paige landed a horrible looking kick. Naomi took out Fox with a plancha then Paige tapped Naomi out with her hold. AJ showed up afterwards and Paige ran away, so AJ nailed Alicia then threw her outside. Paige hid behind JBL and for some reason put his hat on. – This feud continues to be atrocious and women in the WWE continue to either act crazy, bitchy or use their sexuality to get what they want…even if it involves another woman.
Big Show came out in a suit and apologised to the Russian people for desecrating their flag on Raw. He was completely unbelievable and stuttered over his words a couple of times, plus the people booed him for saying sorry. Lana and Rusev interrupted him. Lana was not appeased by the phony apology and wanted Show to personally apologise to them. Show said he would never be sorry to them and stated he disrespected them on purpose. Rusev spoke in English again and told Show he and America “sucked” then attacked him with the Russian flag. Big Show fired up and got to his feet so the heels scarpered; Show was so angry he took his shirt off and yelled at the Russians. – I don’t know what the idea was with this worked “apology”, but it certainly didn’t get Big Show over and his insincere blathering completely killed this angle. Show firing up at the end was good, everything that preceded was terrible.
The Usos vs. Slater Gator w/Hornswoggle – Usos won at 1:44. The Bunny came out and went after the Gator, which distracted Slater and O’Neil and the Usos hit a pair of superkicks. Finish saw The Bunny roll the Gator into the ring then he and the Usos hit a simultaneous triple Superfly splash on Slater Gator and their mascot. Adam Rose and his party nerds came out and the Usos were forced to dance like goofs. – How do you make the Usos look like the biggest geeks ever? Have the Bunny help them win a match against some uber jobbers. This was terrible.
Ambrose was with Renee in the back. He said embarrassing Rollins was fun but would not erase the memory of being stomped onto the cinderblock then declared he would go through everybody to get to Rollins.
Cesaro vs. R-Truth. – Cesaro over in 2:05. Truth was back to his plain old self. They cut to a backstage deal between the two earlier. Cesaro made some terrible jokes about Ziggler then Truth showed up to defend his buddy. Truth said, “A HANDFUL of people like you”, which I guess was WWE’s weekly jab at the internet. Match was nothing; Cesaro won with the neutraliser. – The only thing I took from this was that Cesaro’s new sure-to-fail gimmick is a comedian. Here’s an idea, why not just let him be a badass wrestler?
Lilian pointed out Bob Uecker in the crowd and he showed off his Hall of Fame ring. Gold and Stardust were involved in another goofy backstage skit. It was the same as every other one.
John Cena & Dean Ambrose vs. Kane & Randy Orton – Cena & Ambrose via DQ at 9:42 (TV Time). You know the gimmick by now: faces shone, heels cut one of them off for the heat – it was Ambrose if anybody actually cares. Seth Rollins tried to run in again but Cena chased him to the back, leaving Ambrose all alone. Ambrose made his own comeback and was about to hit Orton with his finish but Kane gave him a big boot and the ref called for the bell. The heels left Ambrose lying again with their finishes then Cena ran back down to scare them off. Rollins joined Kane and Orton on the stage and they all gloated to close the show. – I’m so sick of seeing Cena wrestle Orton and Kane, plus they have absolutely killed the DQ finish recently. Cena looked stupid and careless for ditching Ambrose and going after Rollins, although I guess it gives Ambrose another reason not to like him. A lacklustre end to a worthless show.
19:01. – That is the amount of actual wrestling we got on this wretched show. Five matches, including the main event which accounts for over half of the time, and they can’t even give us 20 minutes of wrestling. There was more in-ring action on NXT, which is crazy if you think about it. What was the other hour of TV time filled with you ask? Useless promos, a million recaps from Raw and Main Event, because you know that show is so important, and a lot of stalling with entrances, shots of the announcers etc. This SmackDown was even more useless than usual and I advise everybody not to watch it.
Next Week’s Issue:
In next week’s issue Bryan Rose and Ben Carass return for more on the ever-masochistic – for the viewer at least, I’m not on the writing team, thankfully – road to Hell in a Cell.
General Questions/Feedback/Suggestions: Ryan@cubedcirclewrestling.com
Ben Carass’s Twitter: @BenDosCarass
Bryan Rose’ Twitter: @br26
Ryan Clingman’s Twitter : @RyanClingman