Cubed Circle Newsletter 166 – WWE TLC 2014 Review
This week we cover WWE’s disaster of a show in TLC 2014, the RAW and SmackDown follow-ups with Ben Carass, viewing methods of the 2015 Tokyo Dome show with Bryan Rose, ROH Final Battle 2014, and how it was so much better than TLC, the NXT follow-up to TakeOver III, ratings and more!
This week’s issue is also our last regular issue of 2015, with next week’s issue, which is scheduled for 10 or so days time, being our 2014 year-book, and almost certainly our biggest issue of all-time. And whilst there may be an extra issue before the year-book, it will be my lone meanderings on the week and not much else, with RAW, SmackDown, and NXT scheduled to be far from note-worthy. It was this week that I hoped to announce some of the writers for the year-book, but it will probably be best to keep most of them a surprise, although two major contributors will be Alan4L and Dean Knickerbocker, who of course provided the impetus for such a year-book, with their superb annuals of 2011/2!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
WWE TLC 2014 – Company’s Worst Show of 2014
The build to last Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view was clearly far from inspiring with not a single match on the entire card offering anything even remotely enticing storyline wise. However, like many WWE cards over the past year, it did seem, at first glance, to be the type of card that would produce, if nothing else, a fun show, with matches such as the Ziggler/Harper ladder match, Ambrose/Wyatt, and Cena/Rollins. It also had a number of gimmick matches including preposterous stairs match, which may have covered some of the flaws in match-ups such as those of Big Show and Erick Rowan, or Kane and Ryback. However, in actuality this was far from the case, as the majority of the matches on the card underwhelmed, leading to a plodding, drawn-out, and very much overbooked affair, one that stands amongst the very worst shows that the company has produced in 2014, and perhaps even over the last couple of years.
The crowd was largely unresponsive for large portions of the show, although this came less as a consequence of the crowd simply being withdrawn, and rather as a reaction to the product they witnessed on the night, and perhaps over the last few months. After-all, the opening ladder match between Dolf Ziggler and Luke Harper for the Intercontinental Championship garnered a healthy reaction, even considering the fact that the show was held in Ziggler’s hometown. Damien Mizdow, a pure comedy act, was also fairly over after all, far more than than Miz in his own home state. John Cena and Seth Rollins in their horrifically overbooked tables match even received a decent reaction until a combination of the Russo-esque booking, burn-out, and the match’s sizable 23 minute length brought the crowd down. The gimmicks largely fell flat with the crowd too, with Ambrose and Wyatt working a match that featured a great deal of big TLC orientated high spots, but lacked the direction of say a, by no means revolutionary, match such as Adam Cole/Jay Briscoe, which, whilst featuring some questionable spots, was worked smart and hard.
Of course, the poor reactions in the Ambrose/Wyatt main event may have also been attributed to the booking leading up to the show, which has been far from stellar, and at times highly counter-productive. The same could be said for the Rollins/Ambrose Hell in a Cell match from a few months ago, which also suffered from an underwhelming crowd reaction. The two matches actually have even more in common, as they both took place due to the presence of stipulation pay-per-views, rather than as a result of a climax to an important feud. I believe this to be a large problem for most of the matches on the TLC show, with none of them possessing any true reason for their stipulations other than it being the month of December, and this is what they book in December. Matches like the Show/Rowan stairs match would have been awful regardless of placement in the program, especially given the somewhat comedic stipulation idea. The number of Big Show turns over the past decade was also a detriment – I had honestly forgotten the heel turn completely until moments into the match when I realised that Big Show had the heat; this is too an indictment of the current state of WWE announcing. Rowan was also booked with little direction over the past months, and therefore didn’t stand out anymore as a babyface than Big Show did a heel.
A distressing reality of the Ambrose/Rollins and Ambrose/Wyatts main events is that Ambrose may be seen as a main event failure, working two pay-per-view main events over the past couple of months, utilizing large high spots to underwhelming reactions. Logically speaking, given how over Ambrose was but a month or so ago, and still standing as one of the most over stars on the roster, had he been booked in a solid program with Wyatt or Rollins, chances are, particularly with Rollins, that it would have gotten over. Ambrose “under performing” in this role isn’t all too much of a problem now, as the promotion is short on talent for main programs. However, come Mania season with possible major returns, it is a worry that Ambrose will get lost in the shuffle, especially considering creative’s total control on talent’s mic work, apart from the very top of the main and part-time rosters.
In all likelihood creative should pick up in time for WrestleMania season, although the weeks leading to the Royal Rumble will be most probably be consumed largely by build to the Cena/Lesnar match, which, despite Heyman’s phenomenal interview presence, has very little potential for compelling content generation in my view. It will be their third encounter of the year, with the first ending as conclusively as conceivably possible – a one-sided destruction on the part of Lesnar at SummerSlam– and the second, which should have never been booked in the first place, ending on a disqualification. The one element of intrigue heading into the match will come from outside of the ring, with what will most probably be a three-way bidding war for Lesnar set to begin in the coming months between Bellator, UFC, and WWE, with each side having a lot to prove and gain in the process. The Royal Rumble itself is also always cause for excitement as a pay-per-view attraction, although last year’s build to the Rumble itself was sub-par, and I have no reason to expect anything more from this year’s build.
What concerns me primarily about the current creative direction, or lack thereof, as it pertains to the Road to WrestleMania, is that the current creative decline began in the weeks following this year’s WrestleMania with the Bryan/Kane program, and only worsened in the proceeding months. Whilst I am by no means down on what is likely to be an entertaining Mania direction, this observation does make one of wrestling’s constants over recent years, quality content on the Road to WrestleMania, a fair bit more uncertain.
Bryan Rose on ways to watch the 2014 Tokyo Dome Show
Seems like the one show on everyone’s mind is the 15/1/4 New Japan Tokyo Dome event. News reached this week that the Tokyo Dome is doing 50% better than it was doing last year in sales. There have been even hints that the Dome might sell out, something no wrestling company has been able to do since NOAH in 2005. The show is bound to be one of the most successful shows of the year, right behind WrestleMania. But for those who are watching it overseas in the United States, we have two options. One will bring the most comfort to us at home, while the other might bring more eyeballs to the promotion, but at the possible cost of quality.
The first option is the one that was announced a few months ago. Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling is bringing the Tokyo Dome to PPV, complete with American broadcasters as well as airing late at night AND with Japanese commentary as an SAP option. The other option is New Japan’s new online streaming service, New Japan World. Both have their positives and negatives.
A good thing about traditional PPV is that one doesn’t have to worry about terrible internet. One can just buy the show and enjoy with with zero lag and a nice, clearer look than on the internet. American broadcasters Jim Ross and Matt Striker will also add to commentary. Those who have been wanting English commentary for so long will finally get it on this show. Matt Striker’s addition has been a very controversial one. I get why people don’t like him, because his delivery is not really beneficial to some aspects of commentary. But hey, at least he cares about the product, which I can’t say is true for those who call Monday Night Raw.
New Japan World has it’s benefits as well. For one, the show is only 999 yen, or about $8.40. That is way, way cheaper than what the PPV is going for, which is around $35. You don’t have to worry about Matt Striker “marking out”. There’s also a pre-show battle royal that you won’t find on the PPV show. The downside is that it’s not known how many people will end up buying the show and watching it online, and that might compromise the stream quality. As of this writing, New Japan World has done two live shows on their stream. Both ran excellent and looked crystal clear, no problems. That’s a pretty positive sign, at the very least. But the number of people who watched the Korakuen Hall show on 12/19 is minuscule compared to the number that will be wanting to watch the Tokyo Dome show.
As for me…I don’t know. I want to see New Japan succeed in the United States. I want them to be viable competition, even if the current television scene wants nothing to do with wrestling. I look at WWE and see how complacent they are with doing the bare minimum to sustain their audience’s interest creatively. New Japan does everything better than WWE creative, and is better presentation wise at the Tokyo Dome, so seeing them live on PPV might beneficial in getting them a door into at least the PPV market. But New Japan World is cheaper, and might not annoy me as much on commentary. And if New Japan doesn’t get into the PPV market here and their AXS show is a bust (which might be feasible considering they’re airing it on Fridays), at least I’ll be able to have the option of watching everything live with little to no problems. It would be great if New Japan can get momentum running in the United States, but it isn’t pivotal to their survival.
At the end of the day, people have options, both with positive and negative connotations. I think if you are new to New Japan and want to watch this show as a introduction, the pricer PPV might still be the way to go. Jim Ross is studying hard with New Japan and will be able to provide insight into all the wrestlers. Striker, as pretentious as he can be at times, will also be knowledgeable and help out those who don’t know specific wrestlers, moves or angles. For the hardcore fan, the New Japan World show will probably be better. It’s cheaper, and there’s no American commentary that could possibly (and that’s the key word here) drag the show down. Everyone will have an option on January 4th, but it will be interesting to see who takes what option.
ROH Final Battle December 7th 2014
Terminal 5, New York, New York
Whilst not at the level of a major New Japan show from this year, ROH’s Final Battle 2014, was up there as one of the best major Ring of Honor shows of 2014 that I have seen, and quite easily a top five choice as far as best ROH shows of the last few years go. Like many ROH shows over recent months, there was no strong match of the year calibre performance on the show, however, what the show did offer was a great deal of diversity in its three best matches, a Young Bucks six-man, reDragon/Time Splitters match, and the main event, which was the most deliberately violent match I have seen from a major promotion in quite some time. In some instances there was an over use of interference or ref bumps, but when considering how well the show flowed, and how easy it was to sit through as a result of good pacing, those issues may be ignored. On a presentation front, the show’s production people did an outstanding job at explaining to the PPV audience, or perhaps first time viewers, the company’s programs and what was transpiring in context at all times. On the other hand, the show’s production from an aesthetic point of view was a major step down from PPVs at the Manhattan Center or Hammerstein Ballroom, with the majority of the sell-out crowd obscured by blue lighting, and the arena looking fairly low rent due to poor lighting. The commentary was, at times, also somewhat of an issue, with Nigel McGuiness, easily the best announcer the company has had since Dave Prazak, was only on commentary for the first few matches, and even at that time didn’t play any kind of major role. Steve Corino, always comes across as very likeable, however, many of his cliches seem counterproductive, such as asking Kevin Kelly what the crowd is saying when they are audibly chanting something profane, or yelling “crash and burn” after every highspot. Kevin Kelly is also good in his role, although Nigel, before he was removed from the position by Sinclair due to his accent, was the one to elevate matches purely through his announcing and natural timing. Overall, whilst featuring no match of the year level performances, the ROH Final Battle show was incredibly fun, and is well worth your time and money.
1. Four Corner Survival
Jimmy Jacobs w/ BJ Whitmer vs. Caprice Coleman vs. Mark Briscoe vs. Hanson
Hanson, for those who haven’t seen him, is very much Rusev-esque in body-type, with a gigantic manly beard. A Mark Briscoe/Hanson face-off got a healthy reaction. There was a bevy of dives, and big high spots on the floor, including a Coleman tigerkick through the ringpost. Mark was able to take Hanson down with a lariat, before being speared by Jacobs who did the same to Coleman. Jacobs, however, was caught in midair by Hanson and slammed to the mat. Hanson, a huge man, did a cartwheel into a lariat for a great reaction. Coleman dropped Hanson sloppily to the mat, and sent Hanson to the floor with a spear. Caprice then followed with an Asai moonsault, and was then moments later spin-kicked to death by Hanson for the win. As was expected, a fun opener, with the right guy going over in attempts to build for the future.
2. Roderick Strong vs. Adam Page w/ BJ Whitmer
Jimmy Jacobs, in a pre-match promo, brought up the new buzzword “brass ring”, with Whitmer saying that Page would become a fully-fledged member of ‘The Decade’ in moments. Both men, starting out in the ring, ended up brawling briefly into the crowd. Page and Strong went back and forth in the ring. Whitmer looked to interfere, but was caught with a Strong baseball slide. Page kicked out of a backbreaker on the apron and Olympic slam. Page was bleeding some from the mouth. The pair exchanged superkicks. Page kicked out of a couple of backbreakers. Strong locked in a high angle double leg Boston crab, which Page passed out in. After the match there was a briefing shoving battle between Jacobs and Corino, which the fans were very much into.
3. Michael Elgin vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Elgin and Ciampa went straight at it with forearms to the face. I am no lighting or production expert, but it occurred to me during this match that their black canvas may be contributing to ROH’s litany of television lighting issues. A table was set up on the outside, the ring count entirely ignored, and Ciampa landed a belly-to-back over the shoulder piledriver on the apron. Ciampa kicked out of the powerbomb, Elgin out of the Project Ciampa. They teased another bump into the table, with Elgin landing a top rope belly to belly suplex. Elgin landed a bucklebomb, resulting in Ciampa accidentally lariating the referee, which brought Nigel to his feet, as there was a zero tolerance non-wrestler employee assault stipulation in place. Elgin then pinned Ciampa with a suspended double underhook DDT. This was far from the best I have seen from these two — their match at BOLA this year was quite the ways better.
4. Christopher Daniels, Kazarian & Cedric Alexander vs. Young Bucks & ACH
Nigel hadn’t returned to commentary at this point. ACH came out with a Bullet Club t-shirt. The Young Bucks were the most over members of the roster thus far, and by a wide margin. “This is awesome” chants began before the match even got underway. Alexander hit a tope con giro on Matt, resulting in the ever over done “crash and burn” yell from Corino. The springboards into the back-rake on Daniels got a “holy s**t” chant. Daniels & Kazarian landed a double backbreaker on ACH on the floor — more “this is awesome” chants. They landed tandem moonsaults to the floor and stereo tope con giros. ACH went for his usual middle rope springboard tope con giro, but ended up coming up short in terms of height and distance, resulting in a long fall to the floor. Everyone hit their moves on everyone else resulting in a sextuple down, and an outstanding reaction. There were super kicks everywhere. Alexander landed running dropkicks on everyone, before being caught with the Meltzer driver and 450 splash from ACH for the win. This was a spot-fest, but a great spot-fest nonetheless.
5. Moose w/ Stokely Hathaway & Prince Nana vs. RD Evans
Evans was offered a handshake, and handed out a slap in response. Veda Scott walked down and looked very distressed as Moose beat Evans down. Evans slipped when attempting a springboard, and then slipped crashing into Moose awkwardly. The mean fans chanted mean things at poor RD as a result. Evans locked in a cloverleaf, Hathaway attempted to slide a chair in, but the ref saw it and ejected Nana and Hathaway from ringside. Scott jumped in the way of RD and Moose, before low-blowing Evans setting up the Moose spear and victory.
6. ROH Television Championship Match
Matt Sydal vs. Jay Lethal w/ Jay Diesel & Truth Martini
Bobby Cruise was forced to address Lethal as the “greatest first generation wrestler ever”. Sydal side-stepped the Lethal Injection. Jay Diesel obscured Lethal from a dive to the floor. Martini slid the Book of Truth in, but Sydal ducked Lethal’s attempted kick from behind. The House of Truth distracted Sydal out on the floor, opening Sydal up for two topes. Sydal looked to spark a comeback with a standing double stomp and knee to the face. The crowd chanted “Randy Savage”, as Lethal went to the top. Sydal, got the boot up, but Lethal came off again, this time connecting. Sydal avoided the Lethal Injection and hit a meteora and shooting star press, but Martini pulled Sinclair to the outside. Sydal kicked the Book of Truth into Martini’s face, and went for the shooting star press on Martini, but he was caught in mid air with the Lethal Injection onto Martini for the win. This was the most disappointing match on the show.
7. ROH Tag Team Championship Match
reDragon (Bobby Fish & Kyle ‘O Reilly) vs. The Time Splitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley)
“Everybody” chants. ‘O Reilly and KUSHIDA did some super smooth mat work early. Shelly and KUSHIDA tagged in and out working over the arm. ‘O Reilly reciprocated targeting Shelly’s arm. reDragon worked as heels, with ‘O Reilly pulling KUSHIDA off of the apron during the heat on Shelly. KUSHIDA ran wild setting up an ‘O Connor roll into a northern lights suplex in a double pin attempt. ‘O Reilly went for his dropkick into the chair, but was met with a superkick from Shelly setting up a top rope senton onto both men from KUSHIDA from the top rope to the floor. ‘O Reilly kicked out of the missile dropkick doomsday. ‘O Reilly locked in his guillotine on KUSHIDA, who powered out. Time Splitters landed their powerbomb/sliced bread doomsday, but ‘O Reilly broke up the pin. ‘O Reilly caught KUSHIDA mid-moonsault in an triangle, Fish came in with a headbutt, ‘O Reilly transitioned to an armbar, but Shelly came in with a dive of his own to break it up — quadruple down. reDragon hit their kneedrop guillotine for another quadruple down. ‘O Reilly and KUSHIDA traded strikes and kicks, and KUSHIDA kicked the mouth piece out of ‘O Reilly’s mouth. Fish shot out with a senton on Shelly on the floor. ‘O Reilly took a pele and came back with a jawbreaker lariat for two. They then landed chasing the dragon for two. ‘O Reilly then locked in the cross armbreaker for the win. Had the crowd been more into this it could have easily been ‘**** 1/2’ — the work was most certainly there — match of the night.
8. ROH World Championship Match
Jay Briscoe vs. Adam Cole
Cole gave Briscoe a double middle finger, resulting in a Jay Driller but a few moments in, which Cole kicked out of. Briscoe then landed a brutal double stomp through a table. Cole gave Jay a huge chair shot to the head here in December 2014. Cole grabbed the “reserved for Mr Briscoe” and “reserved for Mrs Briscoe” signs and stapled them to the head of Briscoe’s head, which resulted in many a disgusted grown. Briscoe slid a table into the ring and strangled Cole in the corner. Cole set up a chair bridge, but was Falcon Arrowed through it. Jay grabbed a kendo stick, but was whipped with it in turn. Jay called for a shot to the head, and Cole obliged. Cole had his head driven into the ring post when attempting to lock a figure four in around the post. Cole bladed under the ring, and was caned in the head, so much for no blood or chairshots to the head in this company. The “athletic commission” came down to stop the fight to a chorus of boos, but Briscoe dropped some of the guards and medical personal too. The blood had been wiped off by the “doctors”, but it looked like he may have gigged again. Cole superkicked Briscoe from the top rope through a table on the outside. Cole caught Briscoe with a belt shot. Briscoe kicked out of the Florida Key to duelling chants. Cole was Death Valley Driver’d through a table, and Jay brought out a bag of rainbow coloured tacks. Cole proceeded to shove the tacks into Briscoe’s mouth and superkicked him for two! Cole was then big back bodydropped onto the tacs and took the Jay Driller for two! Cole looked up at Briscoe and took a Jay Driller onto the belt and rolled into tacks for the pin.
After the show aired a trailer for March’s 13th Anniversary show in Las Vegas, which will be the company’s third traditional pay-per-view.
WWE TLC December 14th 2014
Quickens Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
1. Intercontinental Championship Match
Luke Harper vs. Dolf Ziggler
Ziggler came out in a CM Punk-esque hoody. Dolf went for a superkick, but Harper blocked it. Harper threw Ziggler into some ladders on the floor and over the barricade. Harper landed a spinning sideslam on the floor. Dolf was rammed into the side of a ladder, before having it dropped onto is head. Ziggler was cut off numerous times before throwing a ladder at the head of Harper mid-tope, sending Harper crashing shoulder first onto another ladder placed flat on the outside. The landing opened a small cut under Harper’s arm. Ziggler was busted open hardway along his hair line following a catapult under a ladder. The doctor went to check on Ziggler, which is of course not what you want in a ladder match, given that the other guy has to look like a fool climbing incredibly slowly. The good news is that once Harper’s climbing was bordering on unbelievable, Ziggler shot up and pulled him down. Harper’s gash had opened up by a great deal following several ladder bumps. Ziggler superkicked Harper off of a ladder and grabbed the IC title for the victory in the match of the night.
WWE has new ‘Strikers’ action figures, with a ring accessory that bares a striking resemblance to TNA’s Ultimate X structure.
2. WWE Tag Team Title Title Match
Damien Mizdow & The Miz vs. The Usos
Naomi was watching on in the back. They worked the match the right way teasing the Sandow tag throughout the match, although there is a very strange dichotomy between the tag champions with Miz playing a clear heel and Mizdow the opposite. Whilst it is highly entertaining, the fact that Mizdow’s stunt selling is exactly the same as his normal selling is somewhat disheartening. Misdow took Miz’ tope, before Miz clocked Uso with a Slammy for the DQ.
Watching with a casual fan was pretty enlightening. He was fairly amused by Mizdow, but by no means overjoyed, and “hated” Byron Saxton, who interviewed Seth Rollins — he felt the same for the new ring announcer. Rollins mentioned Sting, and spoke of Cena’s impending doom. It went thrice as long as necessary. There was an “anatomy of the stairs” video, which had to be a rib on the viewer.
3. Stairs Match
Big Show vs. Erick Rowan
Show threw Rowan over the barricade and grabbed some STAIRS in this STAIRS match. Show placed STAIRS on the announce table. Rowan was rammed, well, with more STAIRS. Rowan cut open his knuckles; as exciting as it got. Show was slammed on the STAIRS. Rowan went for a STAIRS smash from the top rope onto Big Show, Big Show was meant to move, but the STAIRS caught his side, which must have been no fun. Show landed a chokeslam on the STAIRS before landing the KO punch and placed the STAIRS on top of Rowan for the win. This was somehow worse than I had imagined.
4. Tables Match
John Cena vs. Seth Rollins w/ Jamie Noble & Joey Mercury with Paul Heyman at Ringside
Mercury and Noble pulled a table out from under the ring. Mercury and Noble stormed the ring and assaulted Cena following a tug of war with the table. Cena fought off all three men with a guardrail, suplexing Noble onto it. They broke a table across the ring-post, with Cena avoiding a shot with another table and delivering an AA on Noble over the barricade. Cena landed an AA to the outside. Rollins landed shot after shot with the briefcase. Rollins and Cena did some really interesting counters over a table, with Cena landing a top rope AA through a table. The Clingman household celebrated, as an end to plodding boredom, but no, the referee was in fact incapacitated — this match continued! Cena landed a double AA on Noble and Mercury through a table. Cena and Rollins both went flying off of the apron through another table, holding tightly onto one another resulting in a tie. They did the old Royal Rumble 2005 disputed finish with the referees. The match was restarted — another grown. Cena landed an AA on Rollins on the announce table, but the table survived — on it goes! Cena grabbed another table (!), and Big Show walked down. Reigns returned, all was well, casual fan was very happy (has in slightly less apathetic), with Reigns landing a spear through the table. Reigns then landed a superman punch on Rollins, allowing Cena to land the AA through the table for the win. This match stooped to Russo TNA levels of overbooked gimmickry, and was not even perversely entertaining.
Renee Young, Booker T, and Alex Riley said nothing in three minutes. Nikki Bella and Brie Bella said that blood was thicker than water to Byron Saxton.
5. Divas Championship Match
AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella w/ Brie Bella
Nikki had the heat for a very very long time, AJ Lee made a brief comeback, and then got pinned with the Rack Attack.
Roman Reigns was backstage with generic interview guy and said that he was back and that his 2014 year would be nothing compared to 2015.
6. Chairs Match
Kane vs. Ryback
Ryback went for a splash onto Kane, who had a CHAIR draped across his chest, but Kane got the knees up beginning the heat. Kane threw some CHAIRS into the ring, before being powerbomb onto an open CHAIR, which was an horrendously rough bump. Ryback went nuts with CHAIRshots to the back and went for the big clothesline, but had a CHAIR thrown at his face. Ryback kicked out of a chokeslam. Ryback then landed his lariat and the shellshock for the win. An unexpectedly not horrific match this was.
7. United States Championship Match
Alexander Rusev w/ Lana vs. Jack Swagger
Swagger escaped the camel clutch early. Swagger fought out of the camel clutch and locked in the ankle. Swagger submitted to the patriot lock moments later.
8. TLC Match
Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt
Ambrose threw a ladder at Wyatt and landed a tope before brawling into the crowd. Wyatt offered himself to a cane-wielding Ambrose who caned Wyatt right in the head, before landing shot after shot on the shoulders. Wyatt wedged a cane in the buckle, whipping Ambrose into it. Ambrose landed a legdrop on Wyatt on a chair. The crowd was fairly lukewarm through all of this. The sad part is that this match came not only after a poor build, but also following an incredibly draining show — odds are however that Ambrose and Wyatt will be blamed for the poor reactions. Ambrose dropped an elbow on Wyatt through a table on the entrance ramp. He then did the exact same thing from a bigger ladder. Wyatt popped up in the middle of the ring and spiked Ambose with Sister Abigail. Casual fan didn’t care about this, I will have you know, but he instead commented that the new logo “sucks”. Ambrose then grabbed a live streaming monitor from under the ring — Cole’s explanation was that it was used by the audio/visual guys, to which JBL quipped “they live under the ring?”. Ambrose grabbed another very big ladder, and set it up next to the soon to be cleared Spanish announce table. Ambrose then landed his third elbow off a ladder of the night, this time through the announce table. Ambrose went for a shot with a monitor, but the cable snapped and burst in Ambrose’ face blinding him (?) allowing Wyatt to hit the Sister Abigail. A flat finish to a show with very few peaks.
Raw Ramblings – December 15th 2014
Joe Louis Arena: Detroit, MI.
If we’re grading on a curve, this Raw was pretty decent compared to the pure garbage we have been subjected to over the past few months. However in reality it was only the last half-hour of the show that was any good, while the other 150 minutes was mostly comprised of the usual tiresome drivel. Actually, that’s not entirely true, as Paul Heyman had an amazing line about putting the “Jew” in Jiu Jitsu, which is the only legitimately funny thing to have occurred in years on this show and I refused to believe that any of the hack writes came up with that. It had to have been Paul.
Chris Jericho was the guest GM and he kicked off the show in the now customary never-ending opening promo segment. Paul Heyman interrupted him and they bantered about $200 that Heyman supposedly owed Jericho from 1995. Seth Rollins and J&J Security showed up and got in Heyman’s face, because Paul said he could have become the next Heyman guy but failed against John Cena, who also came out. Ugh. Cena was his usual android self and said Rollins had no testicles. Needlessly long and boring story short, Jericho booked Rollins/Cena in a Cage match then booked himself against Heyman and said the fans could vote on the App to pick the stip. 23 minutes of mindless blather just to set up two matches. So, the fans chose a Street Fight for Jericho vs. Heyman. Before the match, Paul begged for his life and offered to write Jericho a cheque for $200. Cole scoffed at the idea of this, because you see, in 2014, Paul Heyman is still a crooked promoter with no money to pay the boys. It didn’t matter, as Paul called out Brock Lesnar and he returned to lay Jericho out with an F5. Brock’s return was a high point brought some much need life to the dying middle portion of the show. The main event was a good, enjoyable cage match (by 2014 standards that is) and Rollins won the thing at 23:25 when Lesnar showed up again and destroyed Cena with 3 Germans and an F5. Rollins acted scared of Brock and backed off, but Heyman offered Rollins a handshake, which he accepted. Rollins hit the curb-stomp and inexplicably walked out of the cage instead of pinning the #1 contender for the WWE title. I like the idea of Rollins becoming the new Heyman guy, as if they change their mind about giving Roman Reigns the belt at WrestleMania they have a readymade angle with the MITB and Paul turning on Brock on his way out the door. Reigns clearly isn’t ready to cut main event promos, so having Rollins as a backup make a lot of sense to me.
The number two story, I guess by default, was the beginning of a Roman Reigns/Big Show program which seems dumb since they left the Cena/Show story open, however I am beyond overjoyed that we don’t have to endure that continuing for a while at least. Reigns showed up and destroyed Fandango, who started cutting an in-ring promo which was a dead giveaway someone was coming out to kill him. They made a good decision by not letting Reigns cut a real promo, as Big Show interrupted him. Reigns told Show he would punch him in the mouth if he got in the ring, so Show tried to get in the ring and got punched in the face. Show fell off the apron, but stayed on his feet then teased getting back in the ring before backing off. I know the deal is to get Reigns over as the badass giant slayer, but beating Big Show means less than ever at this point. They even did Show & Luke Harper vs. Rowan & Dolph Ziggler and gave Show the clean pin over poor Rowan, who is absolutely dead now, but I still don’t see beating Show as enough to get Reigns back over as the incumbent top babyface. I suppose it’s too early to tell and no doubt he will run through everybody in the Royal Rumble; it will be interesting to pay attention to the reaction he gets when they light the rocket underneath him in January.
Before being Lesnarized, Jericho had Rusev and Lana on the Highlight Reel and spouted a bunch of lame innuendos about the two having a thing for each other. With this and the opening segment nonsense he churned out, Jericho did not have one of his better nights on the stick. Ryback ended up coming out for a stare-down with Rusev and set up a program between the two, presumably for the US title.
Assorted Banality: The New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods) beat Gold & Stardust in 13:25. NOBODY cared at all. There were chants for CM Punk and NXT; the ever luckless Kofi Kingston had to do commentary and act all happy that his act was over like a fart in church. The Bella Twins over Natalya & Alicia Fox in 2 minutes; afterwards Tyson Kidd checked on Nikki and Nattie got mad. Kane murdered Adam Rose in 1:27 in a match that he apparently booked himself; finish saw Kane double chokeslam Rose and the Bunny then he gave the rabbit a tombstone which didn’t keep the resilient rodent off TV for any days. Jimmy Jacobs, Scarlet Bordeaux and Taeler Hendrix were part of the Rosebuds. Jimmy Usos beat the Miz in 6:20. Later, Miz met with Naomi and invited her onto Miz TV on Main Event, however he told her not to tell Jimmy despite doing so on an international live TV show. STUPID. They aired another shouty Ascension vignette, who are now officially a worse Legion of Powers of Demolition Pain Warriors than the Devastation Corporation in Chikara. They plugged a Stephanie McMahon workout DVD, I guess so you too can have the body of a 38 year old mother of three with fake breasts and whatever “supplements” she and her not at all suspiciously large 45 year old husband take. Also, Hulk Ho-Ho-Hogan will be next week’s GM and if it’s anything like Santa with Muscles, I think I’d rather watch the Stephanie workout DVD, honestly.
RAW Ratings for December 15th 2014
Monday’s edition of RAW drew the second lowest rating of the year, and more importantly, the lowest overall viewership of any RAW show since a Christmas edition of the show in 2012, with not even some of the disastrous lows of fall 2013 hitting lows of this kind – 2.66 rating and 3.522 million viewers. It was going up against football competition, albeit of a sub-par sort, in the form of the Saints/Bears game, which drew 11.07 million viewers. Factoring in that this show came after a pay-per-view, and featured Lesnar, a proven ratings draw, albeit unadvertised, this week’s rating must be a major blow. The first hour drew 3.703 million viewers (1.17 18-49 rating), the second 3.477 million (1.18 18-49 rating), and the third with a 12 minute overrun3.385 (1.1 rating)! Given the drop in ratings, viewership, and live attendance over recent months, coupled with the terrible Network numbers, key metrics are beginning to show the signs of months of incompetent creative.
Thanks as always to @STD_85 on twitter for much of this data!
WWE NXT – December 18th 2014.
Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.
Adrian Neville was out to start the show with a promo; he talked about having the best match of his career against Sami Zayn at Takeover and said the better man won and that Sami deserved to be the NXT champion. Neville said he wanted to bring Sami out to celebrate but couldn’t because of what Kevin Owens did to him. Owens showed up and Neville told him he should be ashamed of what he did to Sami. Owens declared he was in NXT to get to the top and challenged Neville to a fight then walked away. – Neville delivered his lines well and didn’t seem quite as awkward as usual. Owen’s kept it short, but naturally his delivery was completely believable.
Devin interviewed Becky Lynch in the back. Becky said that Sasha taught her that getting cheered meant nothing if she wasn’t winning matches and stated she would end Bayley’s career for good.
Bayley vs. Becky Lynch w/Sasha Banks – Becky over in 3:48 Bayley’s knee was taped up, selling the injury angle. Becky had some new horrendous generic music. Bayley took the entire match and had a bunch of counters every time Becky went after her knee. For the finish, Becky applied a modified kneebar and Bayley tapped out almost instantly. – Match wasn’t much, but it had great storytelling that is all too rare in pro wrestling these days.
The Vaudevillains were in William Regal’s office and they played him the finish of their match with the Lucha Dragons at Takeover. It turned out it wasn’t the legal man that got pinned, so Regal booked them in a rematch. The Villains wanted the shot tonight, but Regal said the show was fully booked and they would have to wait.
Bull Dempsey vs. Mr 450, Hammett – Squash for Dempsey in 1:11. Bull won with his diving headbutt then Baron Corbin came out for his match and stared down Dempsey on his way to the ring.
Baron Corbin vs. Jobber – Squash for Corbin in 0:14. Corbin won with his move then went and stared at Dempsey some more. Bull shoved Corbin then heelishly ran away. – I don’t even want the match to happen; I would be happy with Corbin and Dempsey just killing geeks every week.
The Ascension vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady w/Carmella – Ascension at 1:10. The Yankees did a wacky version of 12 Days of Christmas before the match. Cass was doing well for himself then Enzo tagged himself in and Viktor pinned him with an STO. The Ascension did a promo afterwards; Viktor said the war with Itami and Balor was not over then Konnor got his usual, “we will rise” line in. – Enzo looked like a complete fool, so maybe Big Cass will eventually get sick of his tomfoolery and turn on him. The Ascension promo was dire and if the higher-ups think having them shout a lot when they get to the main roster is going to make any difference then they are sadly mistaken.
Adrian Neville vs. Kevin Owens – Double count-out at 10:25 (TV Time). Owens did the heel stalling on the floor bit a bunch of times then landed a lariat to the back of Neville’s head to start the heat. Owens didn’t do any flashy moves and just beat the hell out of Neville while badmouthing him. Neville blew through his comeback and got a near-fall with a springboard dropkick then Owens got one of his own with a gutbuster and his back senton. Owens cut off the Red Arrow and planted him with a hangman DDT for a close near-fall that drew “this is awesome” chants. Neville hit a nice German then landed his corkscrew plancha. The ref started his count and at “seven”, Owens posted Neville and both men were counted-out. Owens powerbomed Neville onto the apron like he did to Zayn and the doctors brought a stretcher out for Neville as the show closed. – Decent match and the non-finish was far more agreeable than the overdone DQ’s on the main roster because: A: they actually have a plan and it fits in with the direction of the story and B: they don’t often do DQs/count-outs in NXT, so one every now and then is perfectly acceptable.
Not the most spectacular follow up to the great Takeover special, but the show was all about getting Owens over as a top heel and he did a good job of slotting into the role. Everything else was kind of bland, but fans of Owens should be pleased to see him already being established as a top guy in NXT.
WWE SmackDown – December 16th 2014.
Van Andel Arena: Grand Rapids, MI
Roman Reigns vs. Fandango. – Reigns over in 4:45. This should have been superman punch and done, however they had a “competitive” match, with Reigns selling for a good chunk of it. Fandango sat in a chinlock of death that would have made Orton jealous. Reigns made a comeback, hit the superman punch then won with the spear. – I despair. Let’s have our choice for the new John Cena go nearly 5 minutes with Fandango and it has to be a 50/50 match because we’re the WWE and are completely unable to get our chosen guys over. They can’t even get the basics right anymore.
Dean Ambrose cut an in-ring promo. He talked about loving the TLC match with Wyatt and claimed he lost because of a “freak accident, bad karma or an act of God.” Ambrose said the fight would continue in a boot camp match at Tribute for the Troops then Bray appeared on the Tron. I don’t really know what his point was; he just talked about not stopping until all the heroes fall.
The Usos & Erick Rowan vs. The Miz & Mizdow (Tag Team Champions) & Luke Harper – Uso & Rowan over at 7:52 (TV Time). They did the customary comedy with Mizdow then Harper put an end to the buffoonery by kicking Jimmy Uso’s face off to start the heat. Miz got mad at Mizdow for mimicking Harper’s gator-roll, but like the audience, JBL & Cole weren’t paying any attention and completely missed it. Rowan made the comeback; superkicks all round from the Usos and they hit Harper with a double tope. Finish saw Rowan pin Miz with a splash off the top. – In 72 hours, Rowan was pinned by Big Show (twice) and Kane then he pinned one of the tag champs. At least it’s not even-Steven, and I know Miz & Mizdow are jokes, but it still annoys me that the mid-card titles now mean less than a Slammy award.
Naomi was warming up for her Divas title match that they never bothered advertising. Jimmy Uso showed up and said he wanted to be at ringside to support her. Naomi told him she wanted to go it alone. This pleased righteous feminist, Michael Cole, who said “do it on your own, sweetheart”.
Seth Rollins w/Noble & Mercury vs. Ryback – Match never took place, because making Rollins work Ryback after a tables and cage match against Cena would have been ridiculously cruel, even for the WWE. Rollins, who had his ribs taped, was out first but Rusev attacked Ryback while he was making his entrance and superkicked him off the stage. Lana held up the US title, before she and Rusev headed backstage. Rollins said it was another example of the WWE being a madhouse without the Authority then said Roman Reigns robbed him at TLC and stated he “valiantly” defeated John Cena in the cage match. Rollins said he was willing to fight Ryback even with bruised ribs then said he deserved a night off and told Joey to, “get the limo ready.” Dolph Ziggler interrupted him. He told Rollins he beat him at Survivor Series to get rid of the Authority then challenged Seth to a match. Rollins accepted and declared he would curb-stomp Ziggler’s face off. – Rollins was good here and taking credit for beating Cena all by himself was a great heel line. Ziggler was fine; at least he didn’t tell everyone that the matches are fake again.
Ascension vignette. They shouted. “The doctors are in and it’s time to take your medicine.” Actual dialog.
Divas’ Championship: Nikki Bella (C) w/Brie vs. Naomi – Nikki retained in 4:15. Story was that Miz’s “people” politicked Naomi into a title match. Maybe Miz’s people are Hall and Nash. Match was no good. Miz came down to cheer on Naomi, so Jimmy Uso showed up and punched him a couple of times. Apparently, Naomi was distracted and Nikki rolled her up for the pin.
Kane vs. Adam Rose – Kane in 1:20. The Bunny’s ears were bent and he had a neckbrace on. Comedy everybody. Although he was being consoled by Scarlet Bordeaux and Taeler Hendrix, so it’s not all bad! Jimmy Jacobs was there again too. Kane squashed Rose with a chokeslam. Scarlet and Taeler were sad. Kane tombstoned the Bunny again. – Not only can they not stick to their own injury angles, (Ambrose’s “crushed trachea”) they are now making jokes about serious neck injuries, and how did they write Daniel Bryan off TV for his serious neck injury? Yep, tombstones.
Goofy pre-tape from the Dusts about hating Christmas. Renee interviewed Rollins and asked him about shaking hands with Paul Heyman because she is the only person who pays any attention to anything. He said if he has to work with Heyman and Lesnar to get Cena to bring the Authority back then that what he would do. Rollins vowed that the Authority would return and he would make everybody’s life miserable until they did.
Non-Title Match: Dolph Ziggler (IC Champion) vs. Seth Rollins w/Noble & Mercury – Ziggler over in 15:15. Good TV main event. Slow pace early, with Rollins in control. J&J got some cheap shots in before the break then Ziggler sold for the heat. Ziggler sent Rollins taped up ribs into the announce table and the steps; there was a double-down for the reset then Ziggler made his comeback. Dolph got a near-fall with a DDT and Rollins got one with an enzuigiri. Ziggler came close with a facebuster off the top then backdropped Rollins over the top onto Noble and Mercury. Rollins kicked out of the fameasser, but Noble prevented the Zig-zag with another cheap shot. Finish saw the referee throw J&J out and Ziggler got the pin with the Zig-zag. Noble and Mercury hit the ring but Dolph escaped and celebrated on the ramp with the IC title.
The only positive thing I have to say about this waste of time show is that Seth Rollins seemed to be the one guy on the main roster that upped his game to match the work ethic shown on last week’s NXT Takeover. Rollins worked his ass off at TLC, as did Ziggler to be fair, but he also put in an overtime shift with Cena in the cage on Raw and here Seth didn’t slow down one bit. Ziggler was good too, but I’ve not seen a better run of performances over 72 hours (outside of the G1) for a long time.
Bits & Pieces
Airing this week on Irish TV, was the underhyped Prince Devitt documentary, Smack ’em Up Reality Bites’, which looked into Devitt’s final tour for NJPW, as well as his last appearances on the UK independents. It ran 50 or so minutes without commercials, and for the time it ran was definitely worth the time. Devitt, alongside Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Bad Luck Fale all came across as incredibly likable, and were heavily featured. It’s rare to get even the briefest of backstage glimpses into the puroreso scene, and in that way the documentary was refreshing. It was also presented well, with no sign of any patronizing or dumbed down narration, in fact, from what I could tell, the narration was entirely accurate apart from a spot about three quarters of the way in, when the Tokyo Dome was referred to as a big sumo venue, and billed as Devitt’s final venue in Japan. Both of these statements were clearly incorrect, with Invasion Attack occurring at Sumo Hall, and the Tokyo Dome not being home to sumo. Devitt was most certainly a unique character throughout the film and was consistent with his appearance on the Art of Wrestling podcast with Colt Cabana last year. In some ways he was similar to Daniel Bryan in outlook, in that he wrestles for the sake of wrestling with very few ulterior motives, a trait that came off as wholly genuine throughout the piece. He was also very noncommittal about his then upcoming WWE signing and run, not wanting to talk about the future. The documentary, apart from one or two inaccuracies gets a major thumbs up, although, be forewarned, the piece is, at times, very much not safe for work audibly throughout , and in one brief, non-Devitt related minute or so scene, visually too – a lighthearted, entertaining, informative and sincere 50 odd minutes.
Ryan’s Star Ratings:
NXT Takeover R-Evolution 2014/12/11:
Kevin Owens vs. CJ Parker ** ¾
Lucha Dragons vs. Vaudevillians ** ½
Baron Corbin vs. Tye Dillinger N/A
Hideo Itami & Finn Balor vs. The Ascension ***
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks *** ½
Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn **** ¼
Next Week’s Issue
Next week things are going to get a tad bit confusing, with a quick bonus issue next Sunday previewing the Tokyo Dome show, and covering whatever else comes to mind, before the mid-week release of the 2014 CCN year-book, what may in fact be our biggest issue ever.
General Questions/Feedback/Suggestions: Ryan@cubedcirclewrestling.com
Ben Carass’s Twitter: @BenCarass
Bryan Rose’ Twitter: @br26
Ryan Clingman’s Twitter : @RyanClingman