Cubed Circle Newsletter 165: CM Punk Signs with UFC, World Tag League Review, Vince McMahon Being Crazy, Great NXT Special, Tokyo Sports Awards & More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter 165 – CM Punk Signs with UFC

 

We have an action-packed issue for you this week covering major news in UFC’s signing of CM Punk, how he will fair, Bryan Rose on VKM lunacy, Tokyo Sports Awards 2014, the finals of the World Tag League, in what may have been NJPW’s worst major show of the year, the RAW ratings, and Ben Carass on the NXT special, NXT spoilers, a terrible RAW, and SmackDown!

 

Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

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CM Punk in the News Once-more a UFC First

Ryan Clingman

 

CM Punk is once again a hot topic of discussion, this time in both pro-wrestling and MMA circles, with his UFC signing officially announced on UFC 181 Saturday. The move, whilst rumoured since the Punk’s original interview with Colt Cabana weeks ago, was still quite the surprising announcement for many, including myself, with Punk not only lacking in MMA experience, but also any professional or amateur sports background all together. And perhaps what is just as big of a story as Punk’s signing, is the manner in which the signing was presented by the UFC, with Punk being presented as a major talent acquisition appearing on the UFC 181 PPV broadcast, and standing as one of the lead features of the media-scrum following the show.

 CM Punk Signs to UFC

The story could very well, as expected, be a far larger story for the trajectory of the UFC and MMA than for pro-wrestling, but to say that it is a story completely devoid of relevance to pro-wrestling would be astoundingly naïve. Punk, a pro-wrestling star after all, has done something that no non-combat sports athlete has managed to do, and that is enter the promotion with play as a main event level star. The reasons for this are numerous, not the least of which being the fact that UFC now has major competition, at least in the short term, in the form of Bellator – and it was made clear that both sides were interested in signing him. Most would have expected Bellator to be the one to ultimately sign Punk, as a result of their heavy emphasis on showmanship – if anything, Bellator was the PRIDE of 2014, and will be heading into 2015. But, with this move, whilst certainly not to the same extent as Bellator, UFC is certainly showing that they are willing to “play the game” so to speak. Whether the UFC is the right place for Punk, however, is another debate.

 

It has been made clear by Dana White that Punk will be fighting a 1-0, 1-1, 0-1 or 0-0 opponent, someone with a similar experience level as himself. Still, as someone with no strong shoot reputation, one would expect Punk to be the underdog regardless, however, in doing this you would probably be selling him short, at least to some extent. After all, Punk, whilst possessing no apparent fighting credentials, lives on a generally small budget, which means that he, and this has been implied with the “I made millions, but should have made tens of millions” comment, that he has a lot of money. And, when you have that kind of money, as well as relatively large name value, chances are that you will be able to get the best coaches, train with the best people, and in the best possible fashion, something that may not be possible for someone with a 1-1 or 0-1 record. Combine this with Punk’s seemingly infallible will and determination, and he may very well succeed to a much greater degree than some expect.

 

On the other hand, what concerns me even more than Punk’s lack of fighting credentials is the injuries that he has sustained as a wrestler, the concussions in particular. If what Colt Cabana has mentioned on the Art of Wrestling is accurate, Punk has sustained over a dozen concussions over the span of less than a decade, and as we have seen with the likes of Christian, Ziggler, and Fandango in pro-wrestling, the more concussions a person suffers, the easier it is to get another one. Punk is an intelligent man, however, and I doubt that he would take the risks necessary to get a head injury in training. However, when he gets in the octagon, his history could very well add to his susceptibility to knock out, which ignoring all other consequences, could have severely negative consequences on the man’s health.

 

He has also suffered a variety of other injuries, such as those to the hip, knee, and elbow, which are the ones that pose a bigger problem to an MMA training camp, although are far less worrisome than a history of concussions, even if they may hinder his training.

 

From statements Punk has made to various sources, such as his willingness to move apartments to another state with his wife, AJ Lee, in order to bring him closer to major training centres, or the speed with which he made his decision after going on the Cabana podcast, makes me believe that Punk is as all-in as he says he is, which means more for Punk than many others given his iron will. Still, he has many a detractor this time around, the amount of criticism I have read is not close to the levels I have expected, but then again the only true exposure I have to MMA purists is second hand. There has however, been a greater backlash towards Punk than there was against Lesnar, which is to be expected given Punk’s lack of an athletic background, and the stigma tied to “fake pro-wrestlers”, even those with immense legitimate credentials like Brock Lesnar. And, I could see the argument, if the UFC roster was filled with celebrity fighters and was dropping in skill level year on year, but the complete opposite is transpiring: there are no celebrity fighters on the roster other than Punk, who is very much devoted to the sport, and the skill level of talent rises with each passing year. With that in mind, this signing does very little to impact the reputation of the UFC.

 

The irony, however, of Punk joining the UFC with no experience and most probably being pushed into a semi-main event role in his first bout has not been lost, given Punk’s vocal opposition to the return of the Rock and Brock Lesnar in main event spots. However, if anything this situation may in fact be more severe, as Punk has yet to compete in his first MMA bout, something that cannot be said for the Rock. Still,returning stars, or even celebrities of the correct ilk in pro-wrestling in moderation are the correct vector for business in many cases, and the same statement can definitely be said for the Punk situation; most every other stance would simply be missing the primary objective for either the WWE or UFC, and that is to draw, and draw well.

 

Punk has stated his desire to fight at either welter-weight or middle-weight and will be performing a test weight cut in the coming months, although I would expect a middle-weight debut. There have been a number of challenges issued to Punk over the course of the last week or so, with the most zany coming from the Green Power Ranger himself, Tommy Oliver, who is 41, and surprisingly has a 1-0 record. It would be shear lunacy to book a fight like that, however, as not only would there be little upside, as if Punk won he would have beaten the Green Power Ranger, and worse, if Punk lost he would have lost, in his MMA debut, to the Green Power Ranger. Additionally, putting a fight such as that on a FOX Sports, or probably more cleverly on PPV, would not only make UFC Pride 2015, but also HUSTLE MMA.

 

Seeing as how Punk is far from a naturally gifted athlete, the road to a successful multi-fight run will be a tough one, especially seeing as how the era of non-physically extraordinary guys willing their ways through has long since passed, and was already over towards the dying days of PRIDE. However, given Punk’s position, a man passionate about MMA for years, one who has trained jui-jitsu for quite some time, and has done kempo, he may surprise people, especially when he has a chance to train and learn from the best. And, even in a worse case scenario, if he has just one or two UFC fights, it may very well up his standings as a potential announcer or spokesman, a role that he will most assuredly succeed in. As CM Punk has alluded to when saying that the responsibility is in his hands, and if he puts a given percent in he will get the same out, this is a shoot for better or for worse when it comes to Punk. However, just because someone puts their all and given everything during a training camp doesn’t mean that they are going to get 100% back and end up winning a championship. But, I don’t believe this is what Punk was alluding to, and instead was inferring that if he puts everything he has into this, which I am quite certain he will, he will get the most that he is capable of out, barring unforeseen injury. And, despite what some may say, proclaiming that this spells certain doom for CM Punk is a gross overstatement, he has everything to gain from this venture, not only athletically, but perhaps more importantly as a UFC representative, and very little to lose – perhaps he will end up in the role Chael was bound for until his drug test failure.

 

Bryan Rose gets MAD at “the loony old coot” Vince McMahon

 

I heard his words on the Steve Austin podcast. I watched RAW this Monday for the first time in weeks. And I have just finished watching the NXT special. And after thinking about it for the last week or so, my conclusion is clear as far as the creative process goes in WWE.

 

It’s going to get worse under Vince McMahon’s watch. He is his own promotion’s worst enemy.

 

These are dramatic words. They’re also words people have been probably echoing for years every time something they didn’t want to happen did. They probably said it when he had a fake Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump go at it to a scathing reaction on television. People probably said it when the whole Invasion angle flopped. I officially thought something was wrong when he brought out someone impersonating an NBA owner guy no one outside of the NBA knew to tear him a new one for taking an arena date under the WWE’s nose, then had a ten man tag with guys wearing jerseys because he was MAD AT STAN KROENKE. Hell, there have been so many instances where people can point at one aspect of the television that they didn’t like – most who follow wrestling to this degree probably have thought it at one point or another over the last 14 years. But these few weeks it’s never been more apparent, not only through his words but through his actions.

 

The Steve Austin podcast has kind of become infamous in the last few weeks. On the surface, Vince McMahon came off as likeable. He wants to be the guy talking to the bartender, and not be the stuffy suit! But when you look between the lines, he’s kind of weird. He didn’t say it in these words, but he alluded to how he likes catching people off guard, pushing them into pools and whatnot. Ribbing, in other words. I guess when stuff happens backstage, and it happens between the boys, it’s fine. Guys are on the roads for weeks with little breaks and obviously they have to do something to keep their sanity. But Vince McMahon loves his on-air ribbing. He loves to make guys look like fools on television. All the vomit jokes, all the poop jokes, the weird dance situations, the burials in hometowns, and don’t even get me started on Jim Ross jokes. His “fun” ribbing has been a part of television for I don’t know how long, and it’s borderline creepy the way he gets off on it.

 

But that’s not the only thing I took away from it. He went on about the MILLENNIALS. How they feel that they are entitled to the brass ring, which has become the new meme within WWE programming, when talent need to work to deserve a push – what a self-fulfilling warped kind of logic. You want these guys to work hard and be stars. There have been PLENTY of guys who have tried to get themselves over, only for WWE to do their fantastic booking where somehow people become cold weeks after they start getting over. Do the names of Cesaro, Zack Ryder, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, and a host of others ring a bell to you? All of them have been over at one point. The only one that still is happens to be Daniel Bryan, who despite WWE’s best efforts to squash any momentum he had, somehow remains a top guy. And that’s probably because he got injured and spent half the year on the shelf.

 

If anyone tries to argue about this fun way of booking, they’re shut down quickly and punished. Even when Steve Austin brought up on the podcast how the wrestlers are afraid to speak out and get people angry, Vince McMahon had some advice for them: don’t get people angry. That had to be sobering.

 

I watched Raw on Monday and, lo and behold, it was terrible. Not the worst of all time, but still bad. Everything was just so bland, and when things were not bland they were amazing, and not in a good way. Everyone knows the big one. Charlotte made her TV debut to face Natalya to hype up the NXT special on Thursday. One would think that she would win to build momentum for the special. After all, they’ve really done nothing with Natalya in recent weeks on TV and had no real feud or angle to speak of. But instead of doing the logical thing, of course WWE does the complete opposite. She lost in two minutes via roll up, clean in the middle.

 

There’s only one guy who approved this at the end of the day, and it’s Vince McMahon. I can already hear him thinking about how this millennial had to be humble and be appreciative of what she’s being given, so she’ll do the job and like it. Great line of thinking for someone who actually has star potential and SHOULD BE TREATED AS A STAR. Yes, she wasn’t being called up. And yes, I get that mentality that people need to be humble or else they’ll develop an ego. But this “paying dues” crap isn’t going to get anyone over. Stars should be allowed to be stars because if this system were in action 20 years ago Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Steve Austin and the Rock would have never gotten over. When you beat people over and over and over and over, they are no longer stars. They are people who fill time on a 3 hour and 5 minute show. That was what Raw was. Another time wasting show where the crowd sat on their hands for 3 hours where people spouted generic lines, had generic matches, the real big time stars, all in their late thirties, were in matches that had horrible finishes and angles that made zero sense to even the most clueless fan who at least has a modicum of storytelling intellect.

 

Then I watched the NXT special. And it was there where I remembered that wrestling could be fun if given the chance. Not everything was off the walls excellent, but everything was solid. The commentary was annoying at times, but not as grating as it can be on Raw. No one was harassing me about the app. No one was talking over people. No one was spouting corporate BS. The thing I gauged most from the show are people were allowed to be real, and it was there a sense of realism could be obtained from the show, making it feel special. When Sami Zayn won the title and hugged Kevin Owens, that was such a nice moment because you KNEW they were friends forever, way before WWE, and you knew that moment was real. That element has always been a great thing in professional wrestling, but it’s completely lost in today’s WWE, where corporate people speak akin to George Orwell’s 1984 is prevalent, and I can’t buy anyone’s story if they sold it to me for free. It was never more apparent then when Roman Regins did a 2 minute promo sounding like the most scripted, robotic human being on planet Earth. Keep in mind this is the guy they’re putting the belt on at Wrestlemania. If creative continues the way it is, it’s probably not going to be fun times for him once he wins the championship.

 

But creative will stay this way for the foreseeable future until one guy changes his mind. And guess who that is! People will say there are too many people in creative; and they’re right. But at the same time, there can be 100 people on the writing staff and it wouldn’t matter because at the end of the day there is one person who approves the Raw and Smackdown scripts for the air as a presented product, and that is Vince McMahon. The writing team, really, is a farce. He makes all the final decisions. He’s the one who “doesn’t get” Cesaro (he seriously blamed it on him being Swiss in that famous interview) and he’s the one who more than likely had Charlotte lose in two minutes in her home state.

 

Triple H is becoming the internet darling because of how great NXT has been the past year. Hard to believe, but yes, it’s all true. I do like what he’s doing in NXT. Will he be the same in WWE management? I don’t know. We won’t know until it happens, because WWE is a completely different beast than NXT. He might falter. He might make the product great. But the one thing I do know is that he can’t be as bad as the writing and creative is right now. Vince McMahon is his own worst enemy, and unless a complete change in outlook occurs it’s going to be the same for a long, long time, and could possibly get worse, if one can imagine that. It will be at the cost of the fans and wrestlers alike, as all most of them really want is to like professional wrestling, something Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment continually is at odds with.

 

 

Bryan Rose

 

Tokyo Sports Awards 2014: Pretty Wacky

Ryan Clingman

 

The Tokyo Sports awards are arguably the largest mainstream pro-wrestling awards in the world, with Tokyo Sports possessing an incomparable amount of traction as opposed to the WWE Slammys, and what is presumably a far larger readership than e the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and certainly Pro-Wrestling Illustrated. The awards also vary a great deal from the manner in which those mentioned above are decided, as unlike the WON and WWE awards, these awards are decided by a panel of journalist with no direct fan or reader input. The Tokyo Sports Awards are still very much steeped in tradition however, with the pro-wrestling bout of the year almost always, except when there are exceptional circumstances at play (such as the caliber of the Suzuki/Tanahashi match at King of Pro-Wrestling 2011), awarded to the best major match with a great deal of emphasis placed not only on work, but also grandeur and overall significance to pro-wrestling in Japan that year – it was but a few years ago that a Team Hell No tag match at a Sumo Hall house show received a few votes for example. Additionally, when someone is seen as a deserving performer, but undeserving of the MVP award due to a lack of drawing power, or perhaps the fact that they weren’t a champion of a major promotion, they are given one of several consolation prizes such as the ‘Fighting Spirit’ Award. However, what may be the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to the Tokyo Sports Awards is that generally, no matter how poorly one of the “major” Japanese promotions like NOAH or AJPW performed, the awards are almost always fairly evenly distributed

 

This year’s set of award winners is a perfect sample award set, to demonstrate many of the above ideas when it comes to the Tokyo Sports Awards. Hiroshi Tanahashi won the MVP (most valuable player) award, which should come as no surprise, as even though he was very likely out performed by Shinsuke Nakamura on a drawing front, he is the current ace of the biggest promotion, and IWGP Heavyweight Champion, which makes him a prime candidate for the award. Obviously, one cannot contrast this with the Thesz/Flair award for 2014 in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, as the awards deadline has yet to even close, but often times, at least when it comes to Japanese candidates, this award tends to mimic the voting patterns of puro-centric WON awards voters; although I truly believe that of anyone in Japan, or indeed the world, this year, Nakamura should be the one to take home the Thesz/Flair award, although, as far as the Tokyo Sports awards go, this was as good a choice as any.

 

Best Tag Team Award went to the interpromotional team of Dangan Yankees, Takashi Sugiura (Pro-Wrestling NOAH) and Masato Tanaka (home promotion, Zero-1), the current GHC Tag Team champions. I honestly haven’t seen too much of the team this year, although, much like last year (last year KENTA won the ‘Distinguished Service’ award and Shane Haste & Mikey Nichols the Tag Team of the year), this was the main NOAH faculty awarded this year, apart from Lifetime Achievement, which went to Akira Taue – last year’s winner was Kenta Kobashi.

 

Winning what is, from my understanding, the Tokyo Sports “thank you” of sorts to great wrestlers who are still actively good, but have been working for a fairly long time, and for whatever reason didn’t win the MVP award, the “Distinguished Service Award” went to a very deserving candidate in Tomohiro Ishii. Even if you take this award as “the person who gave the most to the business award” you would be hard pressed to find a major name who gave more than Ishii this year. And, of course, when I look at my match of the year candidate list, few have appeared more often than Ishii, who was outstanding in 2014.

 

In what was clearly a pure political or ceremonial move, 57 year-old icon Atsushi Onita won the Fighting Spirit Award, conveniently on the 40th anniversary year of his pro-wrestling debut. This award is usually somewhat of a consolation for those like Ishii, or Daisuke Sekimoto, who aren’t major aces, but are stiff, hard-workers who deserve some kind of recognition. The only major Onita happening that I recall this year was a nutty match with Akebono, but he has been by no-means prolific, even by current puroresu exposure standards.

 

Strangely, BxB Hulk of Dragon Gate won the Technical Award, I find this strange given that there are many stars, even within Dragon Gate, who I would consider better technically than BxB Hulk. Last year’s winner, Masato Yoshino, for example, or even a Yamato or Shingo Takagi. Outside of Dragon Gate there is of course Zack Sabre Jr., however NOAH had already won a couple of awards this year, and ZSJ is a gaijin who is by no means a major star. NJPW had won three awards already, but slapping the “Best Technical” prize on Shinsuke Nakamura would have also been a good call. This award felt fairly misplaced.

 

Rookie of the Year went to Saki Akai of Oscar Promotion, which I know virtually nothing about. What is more noteworthy here, is that amongst the runners up is listed El Desperado, Kyosuke Mikami who is 30 years old and debuted in 2010! Sadly, no Joshi Award was given this year, as, whilst Io Shirai of Stardom drew the most votes of any joshi, 6 to Syuri’s 3, the majority vote went to “blank” with 12 votes. This should stand as an indictment of the current fractured joshi scene, one that I wish would someday recover.

 

NJPW World Tag League Finals 2014s December 7th 2014

Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Aichi

Ryan Clingman

 

1. Sho Tanaka vs. Yohei Komatsu

 

Tanaka locked in a Boston crab on Komatsu early, giving Komatsu a chance to showcase some of his good, albeit at times overly dramatic, selling. Komatsu locked in a crab of his own with Tanaka powering out, which got the first strong reaction of the match. Komatsu grabbed a cradle and small package, both for two. Tanaka then landed a strange leg lock slam that I’ve never seen before, transitioning into a single leg Boston crab, and then a cloverleaf for the submission win. These two have matured since i last saw them, although due to a less than enthusiastic crowd, at least for this opener, and in comparison to a Korakuen or Osaka, this match was by no means their best.

*** 1/4

 

2. Taichi & El Desperado vs. BUSHI & Tiger Mask IV

 

Desparado forced poor Tiger Mask into a handshake in the first spot of the match. What followed was the standard, tried Suzuki-gun work on the outside. Tiger Mask landed a Tiger Bomb, but lamely lay back, unable to take the pin. The tags were made to the far more capable, in this context, BUSHI and Desperado, with both BUSHI and Tiger landing topes soon after. There was an unneeded ref bump with Desperado landing a low blow and the Guitarra de Angel for the win.

** 1/4

 

3. Killer Elite Squad vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi

 

Nagata and Smith did disappointingly little mat-wrestling given Nagata’s amateur background, and Smith’s catch training. KES worked on Nagata some before Nagata made the tag to Nakanishi off of a backdrop. Nakanishi lifted Nagata up in the torture rack throwing him at both Smith and Archer for a cross-body. There was the obligatory Demon Armbar x Torture Rack double submission spot. Archer pinned Nakanishi following a killer bomb.

** 1/4

 

4. Jushin Thunder Liger & Captain New Japan vs. Michael Bennett & Matt Taven w/ Maria Kanellis

 

The manner in which Maria was filmed this time around went beyond shameless — “dynamite body”, “sexy Diva”, “Diva Maria Kannelis” were mentioned on commentary, very little was said about either Taven or Bennett, and I am sure if anything was said it was in relation to Maria; at least during the entrances anyway. She was also wearing cat ears, which probably sent many an otaku over the edge. I take back what I wrote earlier, the Maria commentary obsession continued on commentary throughout the match. The crowd was generally pretty into the match, despite much of the work being average, as Liger, at least most of the time, tends to elicit sizeable reactions. Bennett kicked out of the chokeslam. The captain charged for the Caribbean death grip, but was distracted, and was in fact punched by Kanellis of all people. Liger was the next to be distracted after berating the Captain. Maria rubbed Liger against her chest sending him out to the floor with a nosebleed. Bennett pinned the Captain following a tandem missile dropkick piledriver.

** 1/2

 

5. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Rob Conway & Jax Dane

 

Dane and Conway had the heat on Tenzan, and by “heat” I mean “ice-cold” boredom. The tag was made to Kojima who ran wild and sized up Dane. TenKoji double suplexed Dane, Conway signaled for his finish on Tenzan, but was dropped with a Bernard driver, and submitted to the anaconda vice.

**

 

During intermission there was a NJPW ‘World’ commercial.

 

6. Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku & Takeshi Iizuka vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, Gedo & Toru Yano

 

Yano and Iizuka did their usual schtick on the outside allowing Suzuki and Sakuraba to face off in-ring for a good ten seconds before engaging in some very fun mat exchanges — the first truly good thing on the show! Gedo and Michinoku, two of the most underrated (and by “underated” I mean by the fanbase, as Gedo is the booker and all) juniors on the entire roster, went at it until, in usual undercard CHAOS/Suzuki-gun fashion, a brawl broke out. Suzuki spotted someone in a Sakuraba mask and went after him with great camera work, of course Sakuraba went after Suzuki in turn, leading to some brawling on the floor. This was smart, as by having Suzuki and Sakuraba work mostly on the outside they weren’t giving all too much away for their January 4th match, which will be UWFi rules. Gedo and Taka went at it once more, before Suzuki and Sakuraba had a slap exchange. Sakuraba stomped Suzuki repeatedly in the corner to the point where the referee pulled him off. There was a slap-induced double down. Yano removed the turnbuckle cover, but was met with a Suzuki sleeper. What followed was an exceedingly choreographed sequence with Iizuka missing the iron fingers shot on Yano and Michinoku getting pinned with a Yano roll-up.

***

 

7. Testuya Naito, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. AJ Styles, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi w/ Tama Tonga

 

The fans were calling for Honma before the match even began, holding up yellow Honma signs. Based on chants alone, he was easily the most over guy on the show up until this point, which has me questioning whether or not the losing streak has actually been effective, or he is simply a super over talent that hasn’t been given a fair shot. Taguchi unloaded on Takahashi with a barrage of backside thrusts. Yujiro also has also either gotten a tattoo, or decided to apply fake ones, over the past weeks. More brawling on the outside! Bullet Club had the heat on Taguchi for ages until the hot tag was finally made to Naito, who ran wild on Styles. Honma fought and fought before finally dropping Fale, landing the running Kokeshi. Fale killed Honma with a lariat, and Taguchi broke up a pin. Naito and Styles had a tremendous exchange before Styles did the Cactus Jack close-line to the floor. Honma countered the Tokyo Pimps into a brainbuster and took Fale out with a running Kokeshi. Honma looked to land the Kokeshi from the top, but Omega ran in pushing Honma off the top rope onto his head, which was an horrendously rough-looking bump, allowing Yujiro to pick up the victory. A post-match beat down ensued on the babyface team, but unlike in WWE the babyfaces have friends, and TenKoji made the save clearig house. Naito and Styles faced off on the floor after the match.

*** 1/4

 

8. Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe & La Sombra

 

Sombr has dropped quite a bit of weight and regained speed. Tanahashi and Okada had a brief athletic exchange before Ibushi and Nakamura were given a chance to do the same. Sombra landed a dive to the floor on HASHI following a trios dropkick from Ibushi, Tanahashi, and Makabe (!). Nakamura executed the strangest Boma Ye I have seen in quite some time, pulling Ibushi up and landing it at incredibly close range like a standard kick to the chest. Ishii and Makabe had an outrageously long elbow battle, taking it to the point where the crowd popped, went silent, and then popped again. Ishii landed a delayed vertical suplex, leading to a double down and another heated Tanahhashi/Okada battle. Tanahashi blocked the tombstone, took a dropkick, but then landed a slingblade for the double down. HASHI was tagged in, so of course the finish was at hand. However, for whatever reason, the crowd managed to suspend their disbelief and pop for Tanahashi kicking out of a YOSHI-HASHI powerbomb. Ibushi took Nakamura out with a top rope moonsault and Sombra did the same with Okada. Moments later Tanahashi landed a slingblade and high-fly-flow for the win.

 

Makabe and Ishii failed to seperate after the match and Okada and Tanahashi faced off. There was then a crazy angle where Okada ran after Tanahashi at full-speed and took Tanahashi out with a tombstone, which led to a stretcher job — I sincerely hope that this doesn’t lead to a full-blown Okada turn, and that Okada becomes more like a Choshu to Tanahashi’s Fujinami, as this company already has enough heels.

*** 1/2

 

9. World Tag League 2014 Final: Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows

 

New Japan World Tag League 2014

Gallows looked to work Shibata over, but was soon caught in a figure four leglock. The rest of the Bullett Club showed up, including Omega, leading to Goto taking a powerbomb on the apron, and general boredom – the World Tag League is just no good. There was a period of around eight minutes or so with no interference where Shibata was laying into Anderson, which was fairly entertaining. Doc and Shibata had a double down. Shibata grabbed Anderson in a sleeper, but Goto missed a lariat colliding with Shibata on the apron. Goto kicked out of a backbreaker/elbow combo. Doc & Gallows went for their finish, but Shibata ran in. Anderson countered a lariat with an uppercut and kicked out of a fireman’s carry over the knee neckbreaker for a great pop. Shibata held Anderson in place again, this time successfully landing the lariat. Shibata then landed the PK and dropkicked Gallows to death. Goto landed the Shouten Kai for the win. Hopefully Goto and Shibata win the titles at the Dome and reinvigorate the division.

*** 3/4

 

Raw Ramblings Stupidity – December 8st 2014

Bon Secours Wellness Arena: Greenville, SC.

Ben Carass.

 

Raw has been so bad for so many weeks now that it is becoming tiresome to recap the show. I try my best to make it interesting for you the reader, but also for myself by throwing in a completely random esoteric reference every now and then. This week, the show was a gigantic waste of three hours of all our lives, but also was apparently an experiment from the WWE to see how many instances of incompetence they could fit into the show. With that in mind, we’ve got a different type of review for you this week; one that points out the senseless, the idiotic and the downright incredulous.

 

Mind Boggling Idiocy:

  1. Not Advertising Brock Lesnar for next week’s show. – The WWE Champion has not been on Raw since September and initially was supposed to appear on the Slammy edition of the show. Thankfully, someone realised that wasting one of Brock’s dates on a throwaway show would have been moronic, almost as moronic as not advertising him at all for next week’s show which he will be on. Paul Heyman didn’t even mention that Brock would show up. It’s like they are actively trying to drive viewers away from the product.
  2. Rusev cutting a promo on the Rock during the Pre-Show. – With HHH/Sting pencilled in for WrestleMania, Rock facing Rusev is certainly a possibility and apparently has been discussed internally. Rock won the Slammy for Best Insult when he made a surprise return and made fun of Rusev in October, which started the talk of Rock vs. Rusev at Mania. Whether you think the match is a good idea is irrelevant at this point, but the fact that they had Rusev come out to accept Rock’s Slammy then cut a promo on him saying he would “crush” Rock on the Pre-Show, in front of far less people, seemed pointless.
  3. Charlotte losing to Natalya in 2:30. – That’s right, in her main roster debut they buried Ric Flair’s daughter in South Carolina. Forget that she was defending her NXT Women’s title at Takeover and the match she had with Nattie in NXT was a genuine **** classic and arguably the best women’s match in WWE history, Vince McMahon apparently needs to teach these damn Millennial kids about stupid booking and losing for no reason. It’s all the worker’s fault you know, not the writer’s or Vince himself. HHH said on the NXT conference call that he would not have made the call to beat Charlotte, as NXT is his baby and even the King of Burials knows better than that. So, once again the blame for this egregious display of buffoonery falls at the feet of Vincent K McMahon.
  4. Dean Ambrose showing up in a smoke filled Ambulance after suffering a “crushed trachea” on SmackDown. – This was even more ridiculous than beating Charlotte. A crushed trachea is a serious life-threatening condition and Ambrose showed up after 2 days of kayfabe time, completely unharmed and cleared to wrestle at TLC. How is anybody supposed to take any major injury angle seriously ever again after they established that this is all phony B.S? To make things worse, Ambrose drove into the arena in the back of an Ambulance that had smoke bellowing out of the back of it. “Fake”, “Hokey” “Embarrassing” – all words that get thrown at pro wrestling and after this disaster of a segment, it is hard to argue against such epithets.
  5. Booking Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan with ZERO build. – A Tag Team is together for a significant period of time. They shoot a big break up angle, casting one guy as the heel and the other as the face. They follow up with weeks of promos and subsequent angles. Finally the first match is booked, preferably on a PPV and a winner is determined on which way you want the story to go. – WWE did none of that. Harper & Rowan were together for 2 years with Wyatt; there was no explanation why they broke up and they have barely had any interaction with each other at all, besides a few spots in the Survivor Series match. So, for no reason, they threw this match out cold on a throwaway Raw and to make things worse, it went to a DQ in 2 minutes because, you see, the match was actually meant to set each guy up for their separate gimmick matches at TLC with Ziggler and Big Show. Does anyone in this company know how to book anymore?
  6. John Cena vs. Big Show in the Main Event. – If there’s one match, even more so than Cena/Orton or Cena/Kane, that I dread more than any other, it’s Cena/Big Show. And judging by the ratings, about 300,000 people agree with me and didn’t stick around for the third hour. Show KO’d Cena at Survivor Series in order to feud with Rowan. Cena didn’t mention it at all and all of a sudden we were supposed to care about seeing the two fight. They even did a DQ finish with the usual run-ins, because God knows the epic Cena/Big Show feud needs to be left open.
  7. Run-ins-A-Mania. – Last week the opening segment felt like a go-home angle, with everyone involved in a gimmick match at TLC storming the ring and hitting a move. I said at the time that I was ready to turn the show off then and there because they could do nothing else of interest to build up the PPV. Well, they did the exact same angle to close Raw this week, with Rollins attacking Cena during the match with Show. Then Ziggler, Harper, Rowan, Ryback and Kane all ran down and hit their finishes. They even went off the air with Rollins, Noble & Mercury giving Cena the triple powerbomb through a table, just like the finish to last week’s opening segment. It’s getting to the point now where I think they just replace the name of the city on the script and used the same one every week.
  8. Jack Swagger getting another PPV Match with Rusev. – The only person willing to stand up for the Good Old US of A is a guy that has already lost two matches to Rusev on PPV this year? Not only is it lazy booking, but it makes the rest of the American babyfaces look like scared little wimps that don’t dare stand up for their country. And what happens when Rusev wins again? Swagger will have no Zeb to cut his promos for him and will be 3-0 in big matches against the dreaded Russian. USA! USA!
  9. Ryback pinning one half of the Tag Team Champions. – This is nothing new. Main eventers beat mid-card champions all the time and never get, nor want, a shot at their title. However, just because it is a regular occurrence doesn’t make it right and even dumber was the fact that the Usos were in the very same six-man. Why didn’t one of the Usos get the pin since they are actually going to be wrestling the champs at TLC?
  10. Slammy Award Speeches. – Roman Reigns suspiciously “won” Superstar of the Year; he said it wasn’t a “brass ring”, but it was still “pretty cool.” Reigns is not the greatest talker at the best of times, but him acting happy about “winning” a kayfabe award and brushing off Vince’s burial of the entire roster made him look spineless. He didn’t even get that good of a reaction, aside from a few squeals from the woman, and they have already made him look like a goof with all those terrible” via satellite” promos. Dolph Ziggler accepted the award for match of the year which went to Team Cena vs. Team Authority. Ziggler said people’s jobs were on the line and he tried his hardest to, “ENTERTAIN” all the fans because matches are fake and don’t matter. This was another level of dumb from Mr. ActsLikeAToolOnTwitter. During her acceptance speech for Diva of the year, AJ Lee said she hopes next year the award goes to, Bayley, Emma, Charlotte, Sasha or Paige – her hated rival whom she has been embroiled in a blood feud with since April.

 

Misc Filler: Seth Rollins downed Dolph Ziggler in 7:25 of a decent match. Ziggler is right back to where he was before Survivor Series, so what was the point of booking him so strongly if they had no intention of following up on it? Kofi Kingston beat Stardust in 3 minutes and still nobody cared about the New Day. Paul Heyman approached Rollins in the back and essentially told him to make sure he takes out Cena at TLC. Naomi told Jimmy Uso she was going to Hollywood to meet Miz’s agent and Jimmy said he was going with her. You would think this will lead to some vignettes, but after they did nothing for the Bellas’ feud, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do nothing. AJ Lee beat Summer Rae in 2:25. YAWN. Rob Van Dam presented the “Extreme Moment” Slammy and Ricky Steamboat awarded the MOTY trophy. John Cena did a terrible promo about Rollins not being man enough to pin or submit him, however he might slip on a banana peel and go through a table.

 

Slammy Winners:

Fan Participation Award: “You Sold Out” chants at Seth Rollins.

Double-Cross of the Year: Rollins turns on the Shield.

Animal of the Year: The Bunny.

Best Actor: The Rock.

Insult of the Year: The Rock insulting Rusev and Lana.

Tag Team of the Year: The Usos over the Rhodes Bros., Slater Gator, and The Miz & Damien Sandow.

Breakout Star of the Year: Dean Ambrose over Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Rusev, and Paige.

The hashtag of the year went to #RKOOuttaNowhere for Randy Orton vines.

“This is Awesome” Moment of the Year: Sting debuting at Survivor Series.

Surprise Return of the Year: Ultimate Warrior.

OMG Shocker of the Year: Brock breaking The Streak.

Diva of the Year: A.J. Lee. over Paige, Brie, and Nikki.

LOL Moment: Sandow as Miz’s stunt double.

Match of the Year: Team Cena vs. Team Authority.

Extreme Moment of the Year: Jericho jumping off the cage onto Bray Wyatt.

Superstar of the Year: Roman Reigns over John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt and Brock Lesnar.

 

Oh yeah, there is a PPV this Sunday. I don’t care, you don’t care and it seems like Vince McMahon doesn’t care. The wrestling will likely be decent/very good. Ambrose and Wyatt TLC should be match of the night; that is if they don’t do some kind of idiotic, supernatural finish. Ziggler/Harper in the ladder match will no doubt be fun and Rollins will certainly work hard to make the lame tables match with Cena at least passable. Everything else is just kind of there. I can’t decide which match will stink the joint out the most, Ryback/Kane in the chairs match or Big Show/Rowan in the stairs match. Both will likely be slow, plodding affairs but for whatever reason, I have more faith in Big Show to get a decent match out of Rowan then I do Kane with Ryback. There is also the chance that Randy Orton shows up, as his movie has wrapped up filming so keep an eye out for him during Cena/Rollins. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but a fresh babyface Orton might actually do these horrendous Raws some good. That is, until the novelty has worn off for the fans and Randy himself, and he is politicking to be turned back heel within a couple of months.

 

RAW Ratings for December 8th 2014

Ryan Clingman

 

This week’s RAW ratings were very significant, as the Slammys, as a gimmick, generally draw fairly well during Football season. However, this week RAW drew a 2.65 and 3.68 million viewers, down significantly even from last week’s program. This was the weakest NFL season RAW of the year thus far, telling, given that most years the Slammys do one of the best if not the very best rating of the football season. The first hour drew 3.700 million viewers (a 1.27 rating in the 18-49 demo), the second hour 3.81 million viewers (a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demo), and the third and final hour dropped mightily to 3.53 million viewers (1.17 rating in the 18-49 demo) with a 15 minute overrun. The ratings over the past few weeks are as strong of an indictment as any of the current creative direction. It went up against a Packers/Falcons NFL game, which drew approximately 13.5 million viewers.

 

Thanks as always to STD_85 on Twitter for the 18-49 data.

NXT Takeover: R–Evolution – December 11th 2014.

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

Ben Carass

Pre-Show Notes.

Renee Young, Jason Albert and Alex Riley were on the panel; they engaged in the usual mindless WWE blather about the upcoming matches. Corey Graves showed up and announced his in-ring retirement, citing injuries and numerous concussions. Hilariously, Graves said WWE had “WORLD CLASS doctors and medical staff” – I had a good chuckle at that one. Graves said the good news was that he had been given a job as an announcer and would be making his debut on the show later on. He was fine, but was just there. Maybe he’ll grow into it.

Main Show.

 

Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker – Owens over in 3:15. Good debut and showcase for Owens. Crowd was super into Owens, who came out to some generic metal music wearing his usual t-shirt and shorts. Fans chanted, “Fight, Owens, Fight.” Owens smashed CJ with two clotheslines then hit his cannonball and landed a summersault plancha over the top to elicit the first “This is Awesome” chant of the night. CJ cut Owens off briefly and got a near-fall with a palm strike which busted open Owen’s nose. Of all people, Drake Younger was the ref and pulled out the rubber gloves; you don’t get that in CZW, that’s for sure. Finish saw Owens hit the Steen Breaker and a pop-up powerbomb for the pin. – Owens looked great and the blood actually helped him come across like a true fighting badass. He sold a little too much for my liking, but his debut still had a lot of impact. (** ¾ )

 

They showed Adrian Neville warming up in the back and showed him talking to Michael Cole about defending his title against Sami Zayn. A Lucha Dragons hype package aired.

 

NXT Tag Team Championship: The Lucha Dragons (C) vs. The Vaudevillains.– Dragons retained in 6:40. Dragons hit some double team moves during their shine then Sin Cara sold for the heat. Fans didn’t really care about Cara and chanted for the ‘Villains. The Dragons are good at coming up with different ways to make the hot tag and Cara flipped over English then rolled to tag Kalisto, who made the comeback with his flips and kicks. Finish was a double plancha onto English then Kalisto pinned Gotch with the shiranui. – Basic tag affair, but there was nothing wrong with it at all. Vaudevillains looked better than they do in their TV matches. (** ¾ )

 

Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger – Squash for Corbin in 0:40. Crowd counted along as usual and Corbin won with his flat-liner move. Corey Graves put Corbin over for essentially having the same gimmick that he used, only they are giving Corbin a real push. Bull Dempsey showed up in the crowd and had an intense stare-down with Corbin.

 

Sami Zayn was in the locker room; Enzo Amore and Big Cass wished him luck then he and Kevin Owens exchanged glances, however we didn’t hear any dialog because they aired Sami’s interview with Cole in an in-set. – Considering the angle coming up after the main event, they really should have made a bigger deal over Sami and Owens staring at each other.

 

Hideo Itami & Finn Bálor vs. The Ascension – Itami & Bálor over in 11:39. Bálor had an awesome new entrance and was painted up like he would do for the big New Japan shows. Fans chanted, “Holy S**t.” Hot start with a brawl before the bell and Itami & Bálor hit double running corner dropkicks. Match started and the faces controlled with a bunch of kicks and chops. Ascension cut off Itami and worked him over for the heat. Heel Alex Riley said neither Itami nor Bálor could speak English; what a moron. There was a small, “We want KENTA” chant but it was booed down by most of the crowd. Tons of cut off spots; Itami finally made the hot tag and Bálor ran wild; he took Viktor down with a slingblade then landed a big tope-con-giro on both heels and got a near-fall with a reverse Bloody Sunday. Itami went for the GTS and the people exploded, but Konnor saved Viktor and the people booed like crazy. For the finish, Itami & Bálor prevented the fall of man; Itami hit Konnor with the busaiku knee and Bálor drilled Viktor with the Pele. Then, Itami & Bálor landed simultaneous double stomps off the top to get the pin. – Good, solid match; probably the best outing for the Ascension, who sure as hell aren’t going to be working with guys as talented as Bálor & Itami on the main roster. They clearly view Itami as the weak link of the team, as he sold forever and didn’t get to make much of a comeback or get in any impressive spots. I guess Bálor’s thing we’ve never seen before was his body paint, which I have seen before. Still it was pretty cool. (*** ¼ )

 

Roman Reigns was with Renee in the back. He got a mixed reaction and put over the main event then said he wanted to be the first NXT alumni to win the WWE World title. Charlotte was getting ready for her title defence in makeup – yes, she was in the makeup area, not actually warming up. Ric Flair showed up and gave her a hug; that was his only appearance on the show.

 

NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte (C) vs. Sasha Banks – Charlotte retained in 12:10. Back and forth early; Sasha landed a chop, but Charlotte came back with a bunch of her own. Sasha sent Charlotte into the steps for the heat spot; she did the Flair strut and hit a lung-blower into a neck-tie then used Charlotte’s figure-four headlock. Charlotte used the electric chair for a double-down then made her comeback. Sasha did a tope that took Charlotte down on the ramp; they had a strike battle then Charlotte hit a spear. Sasha got a bunch of near-falls, with a roll-up counter to the figure-four and a straightjacket neckbreaker. Charlotte missed a moonsault but landed on her feet then hit a senton; there was a great sequence just before the finish which ended upwithCharlotte countering a superplex then hitting the Natural Selection off the top to get the win. – Best match on the card up to this point. The women are treated so much better in NXT than on the main roster it isn’t even funny. Both girls looked great and could easily replace any of the useless hacks like Cameron, Eva or Rosa. As they already showed on Raw, they can screw Charlotte up if they want to, and Vince’s decision to beat her in two minutes looks even stupider after this performance. The women are never going to get this much time in their matches, but at least the next generation of Divas will have a clue of how to work a match that isn’t absolutely dreadful. (*** ¾ )

 

NXT Championship: Adrian Neville (C) vs. Sami Zayn – Sami won the belt at 23:18 of a fantastic match. Crowd was behind Sami all the way and booed Neville. Story early was Neville having Sami’s number and Zayn struggling to hang in the big match. Sami scored with his springboard moonsault to the floor for the first big highspot, but Neville slowed it down and kept Sami grounded. Sami made a comeback then hit a big tope-con-giro; this time the highspot paid off as Sami took over to get a couple of near-falls with a high-cross and a big blue thunder-bomb. Neville came close with a German and a Liger-bomb; Sami fired up and they had a strike battle then Neville avoided the Yakuza-kick and went for the Red Arrow. Sami got his knees up and slapped on the Koji-clutch but Neville got to the ropes. There was a ref bump when Sami kicked out of a rollup and Neville landed on the ref. Sami went to check on the ref, despite the crowd imploring him not to, giving NXT ArrivalNeville the chance to land a superkick and a reverse rana for a great near-fall that the fans went nuts for. Sami hit two rolling Germans then a release half-nelson suplex and Neville escaped to the floor again, so Sami took him out with his ring post dive DDT. Neville pulled the referee in front of Sami’s Yakuza kick for ref bump #2 and grabbed the NXT title. Sami landed a boot and Neville dropped the belt; Zayn picked it up and teased hitting Neville with it, but he eventually thought better of it. He also dropped some “F” bombs that were edited out. Neville rolled him up for another near-fall then they went to the finish. Sami set up for his Yakuza-kick and displayed amazing emotion with his facials then took Neville’s head off with the kick and made the cover to get the win. The people went absolutely bat s**t crazy, dancing, singing and hugging each other. The locker room emptied to celebrate with Zayn; Sami offered Neville a handshake, but he kicked his hand away and instead embraced him with a hug. As the ring cleared Sami was left on his own and Kevin Owens came back to give him a hug. Suddenly, Owens shoved Sami to the floor then gave him a powerbomb on the apron which drew shrieks from the crowd. Owens walked off and William Regal came out to check on Sami. The show closed with Regal and a bunch of refs checking on Sami, who was selling on the floor. – My goodness, was this fantastic. The storytelling, the emotion, the performances were all virtually perfect. I could have done without the second ref bump, but that is nit-picking. Everybody should see this match just to see that two men inside a WWE ring can still elicit real emotion from a crowd in 2014. I had a suspicion a few weeks ago that they might turn Owens on Zayn after he won the title and I’m all for it. It gets Owens in the mix with the top guys right away and gives us a fresh main event program going forward. (**** ½ )

 

Another stellar NXT Live special; the show puts everything WWE has done since SummerSlam to shame, and honestly there were only a handful of PPVs all year that could top this. The writers, head writers, agents and Vince McMahon himself should all be embarrassed that Triple H’s developmental territory not only consistently puts on better TV than them, but also produce blow-away Network specials that actually serve a purpose and get people invested in the product. Every match meant something and the show built at an enjoyable pace to the top three matches, each of which was better than the last. Go out of your way to see this show, especially if you are sick of the garbage being rammed down your throat every Monday night.

NXT TV Tapings – December 12th 2014.

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

 

After the top-notch Takeover III show, we’ve got the fallout from that event with the tapings that will take us into 2015. It is unclear whether they will air shows on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, but the next set of tapings is booked for January 15th so chances are there will be no first run shows for those two weeks.

 

Dark match

Solomon Crowe beat Brian Kendrick. Kendrick was a guest coach at the Performance Centre.

 

Taped for December 18th

Adrian Neville came out for a promo and talked about what Kevin Owens did to Sami Zayn. Owens showed up and said he was in NXT to get to the top and challenged Neville to a fight. Becky Lynch downed Bayley. Bull Dempsey squashed indie worker Mr 450 then Baron Corbin came out and squashed another geek in 14 seconds. The Ascension over Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore – The Ascension said the war with Finn Balor & Hideo Itami was far from over. Dammit. Adrian Neville vs. Kevin Owens went to a double count-out. Owens power bombed Neville on the apron after the match.

 

Second show

Charlotte submitted Sasha Banks to retain the women’s title. Ric Flair was in her corner and introduced her before the match. Lucha Dragons over Jason Jordan & Tye Dillinger. The Vaudevillains attacked the Dragons after the match to keep their program going – Oh goodie. Blue Pants (Leva Bates) downed Carmella when Enzo Amore distracted her. Carmella attacked Enzo afterwards. Baron Corbin beat C.J. Parker then challenged Bull Dempsey. Corbin & Dempsey had a pull-apart. Charlotte did a promo about beating everyone in NXT; Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch came out to attack her but Natalya made the save. Finn Balor & Hideo Itami over The Ascension – Balor didn’t wear the body paint this time and Itami teased the GTS again.

 

Third show

Sami Zayn came out for his title celebration and thanked all the fans. Adrian Neville showed up and said Sami was the better man. Zayn said he’d give Neville a rematch and William Regal booked the match for the next show. Sasha Banks downed Alexa Bliss. Tyler Breeze pinned Chad Gable. Gable is former Olympian, Chas Betts and apparently looked good in his debut. Lucha Dragons retained the tag titles over the Vaudevillains. Hideo Itami beat Curtis Axel.

 

Fourth show

Finn Balor pinned Tyson Kidd. Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch beat Charlotte & Natalya when Sasha pinned Charlotte. Baron Corbin over Bull Dempsey in about 3 minutes. Sami Zayn retained the NXT title over Adrian Neville in another good match. Kevin Owens laid out Zayn after the match and kicked the belt into his head.

 

WWE SmackDown – December 12th 2014.

Columbus Civic Centre, Columbus, GA

Ben Carass.

 

Show opened with Cena hitting the ring. Seth Rollins quickly interrupted him and showed up on the stage with Noble and Mercury. Rollins buried Cena for cutting the same go-home promo for 10 years and said Cena’s time was up and his time was now. Seth reiterated that he didn’t need to pin or submit Cena and stated all he had to do was put him through a table. Cena told Rollins that he wasn’t ready to be in the main event with him and stated that there has never been a safer bet on a Sunday night than John Cena. Rollins noted that Cena was overlooking the future and said that when he puts Cena through a table it would mark the beginning of the end for Cena. Cena closed by saying that the WWE was his life and blah blah blah.– Good promo from Rollins and the same old stuff from Cena.

An Ascension vignette aired. They had face paint and shoulder pads, just so everybody knows that they are a Road Warriors rip-off.

 

The Usos vs. Tyson Kidd w/Natalya & Cesaro. – Usos over in 8:17 (TV Time). Miz & Mizdow were on commentary and they showed an inset promo from Cesaro & Kidd. Cesaro brought up Vince on Austin’s podcast and Kidd said they were just the team to grab the brass ring. Naomi was watching in the back and Miz said her screen test went well, so I guess we’re not getting any vignettes. Lazy. Miz got a phone call from his agent and went to the back to talk to Naomi. Match was fine. Jimmy took out Cesaro with a dive then the heels worked him over for the heat. Cesaro did the giant swing and Kidd landed a dropkick for a nice double-team spot. Comeback from Jey. Superkick and Superfly splash from Jimmy on Cesaro for the finish. Miz approached Naomi backstage and she accused him of using her to mess with Jimmy. Miz told her that his agent was thinking of cancelling her deal because of the drama involving Jimmy. – Decent work from all four guys. I hope Kidd & Cesaro stay together, however clearly they have no plans for them.

 

Backstage, Naomi told Jimmy that he was acting whack and said she was a strong woman who could make her own decisions. Jey told Jimmy to focus on the tag title match and not the drama with his wife. – Good Lord. You know the writers are scraping the barrel when we get three segments involving the Miz/Naomi/Uso angle.

 

Meandering pre-tape from Bray Wyatt: Gist of it was that Dean Ambrose deserved everything coming his way at TLC.

 

Non-Title Match: Nikki Bella (Divas Champion) w/Brie vs. Alicia Fox – Nikki via pinfall with the rack attack at 4:12. AJ was on commentary; said she wanted to be the first 4-time Divas champ. Match was a huge steaming pile of nothing. These are two of the women that would do well to take note of that Charlotte/Sasha match. Nikki gave Fox another booby attack after the match. JBL claimed Nikki vs. AJ at TLC was going to be “excellent.” I’m willing to wager that it is not.

 

Big E w/Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston vs. Goldust w/Stardust – Big E over in 2:15. Usual shuckin’ and jivin’ from the not at all racist stereotypes. Standard wacky inset promo from the Dusts; Cody put JBL’s hat on, because he is wacky. Short match. E sold from the start then made a swift comeback. E went for his spear through the ropes and Goldie cut him off, but E recovered and won with the big ending. – You have to feel for the Dusts. Ever since losing the belts they have become super jobbers that lose in 2 minutes on every show. I still don’t care one bit about the New Day and judging from the crowd reactions, I’m not the only one.

 

Jack Swagger vs. Titus O’Neil – Swagger via submission at 2:25. Stupid reverse squash match, with the American Hero selling for the uber jobber, because WWE booking. “USA, USA!” Swagger won with the ankle lock out of nowhere. The Russian flag dropped and Rusev came out with Lana for a staredown; nothing happened. “MIND GAMES” stated Cole, which should become a new drinking game: Every time the announcers use the ridiculous “mind games” phrase, take a shot of the strongest thing you can find. – Stupid, stupid, stupid. There is no reason why Swagger shouldn’t have been smashed over Titus here…not one.

 

Dean Ambrose cut a pre-take promo in the back with a ladder. He said Wyatt talked like they were two Viking Gods fighting in the clouds while the Earth burned, which could easily be the lyrics to an Amon Amarth song. Dean said he was just a dog that liked a brutal, take no prisoners fight and stated that he would crush Bray’s world in his hands.

 

John Cena was with Ryback, Ziggler and Rowan in the back with a piece of paper that had “GAME PLAN” hilariously scribbled on it. I imagine it said something like, “throw a bunch of fake looking kicks and punches, take awkward bumps on your hips as much as possible and if there is a 3-on-1 beat down going on, never under any circumstances help out your teammates.

 

Ryback, Dolph Ziggler & Erick Rowan vs. Big Show, Kane & Luke Harper (IC Champion) – Ryback, Ziggler & Harper over in 10:23 (TV Time). There were tables, ladders, chairs and, yes, stairs set up in the aisle. This was long and went through two commercial breaks. Show posted Rowan for the heat spot and the heels worked him over. Ziggler ran wild on Kane, but was soon cut off with a big boot for the second heat segment. Show gave Ziggler a chokeslam for a near-fall – wasn’t that his finish for like 15 years? Zig-zag for the double-down and Ryback made the comeback off the hot tag. Rowan sent Kane into the rail then Show took him out with a spear. Ryback pinned the IC champion, Harper with the meat-hook and the shellshock. Kane worked Ryback over with a chair then Ziggler hit Kane with a superkick. Ryback nailed Kane with the chair then Ziggler and Rowan hit Kane and Harper with a ladder. Ziggler dove off the ladder onto all three heels on the floor and the faces stood tall to close the show. – IC Champion, pinned like a geek again. Match was hardly enthralling and the weapons stuff afterwards felt like a half-hearted attempt at getting the TLC gimmick matches over.

 

What a waste of time this SmackDown was. Filler and video packages galore. Unlike the NXT Special, where every segment meant something, not a damn thing on this show mattered. I keep hearing they are going to make SmackDown into the second “A” show, well I suspect that will last about two weeks and we’ll be right back to the same old throwaway tripe on Thursdays that we have been getting on Fridays for years and years. DUD of a show.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

In next week’s issue we look at WWE’s 2014 TLC pay-per-view, the fallout, ROH Final Battle 2014, the road to the Tokyo Dome, news, RAW ratings, and more!

 

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