Cubed Circle Newsletter 172: NJPW on AXS Review, Triple H with Steve Austin, Road to WrestleMania, Volk Han & More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter 172 – NJPW on AXS Reviews, Road to WrestleMania Takes a Detour & HHH Interview with Steve Austin

 

We have another diverse and fun issue for you this week, looking at the first three editions of NJPW on AXS TV, Triple H on the Steve Austin podcast, the change in WrestleMania direction, a long and boring RAW, SmackDown, which may have been less long, but was just as boring, RAW ratings, and the Holy Church of Volk Han! All in this week’s issue.

 

Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter

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Triple H on the Steve Austin Podcast, Largely Hit or Miss

Ryan Clingman

 

 

Much of the discussion subsequent to the broadcast of Steve Austin’s original live video podcast with Vince McMahon on the WWE Network back in October, was centred around Vince’s overtly corporate, and often times safe and predictable responses and tone. Attention was also placed on McMahon’s perhaps dated mindset with a denialist mentality towards the likes of Cesaro, and his ever more apparent complex built from never truly launching, as a startup, a successful business entity outside of wrestling. To say that Triple H isn’t bound to suffer much of the same criticism, or even deserves it, may be an overstatement, however, generally speaking Paul Levesque came across as likable throughout the interview, which spanned over an hour, as not to be outdone, Hunter also ordered for the time allotted to the program to be extended.

 

Some of Austin’s key question trajectories remained unchanged from the Vince interview, with a passing question on CM Punk, the nature of scripted promos, three hour RAWs, and the like. However, a major theme of the interview was a recent happening, that of Daniel Bryan losing the 2015 Royal Rumble and the “controversy” surrounding Reigns’ victory, mostly non-storyline driven, despite Creative’s attempts to transplant that theme into the programming itself. Austin stated outright that he thought the finish to the Rumble, as well as its general booking, could have been done better. Hunter, however, discussed the ways in which the business had changed, stating that “kayfabe is dead”, explaining that they have a very fractured audience, with each sector looking for a different top star. He also took the stance of many an old-timer as of late, arguing that modern hardcore fans are naturally contrarian, and claiming that there exists a large subset of the audience that wants nothing more than to see their direction succeed at that very moment. There may perhaps be some validity to the later argument, although it more than likely comes not from a sense of entitlement, but rather from being let down by the creative process as many times as they have. Of course, the obvious answer to there existing a fractured fanbase, many of whom want Bryan as the top star, others who want Reigns, and so on, is to, rather than look for “THE guy” build a nucleus of stars to appeal to different sectors of the audience, much in the same vein as New Japan. Why they haven’t concluded the same, even following the fall of every one of their top prospects since Cena, is an important question.

 

Hunter’s place in the company, and whether it came as a consequence of his marriage to Stephanie was also broached. Triple H responded with most of what you would expect, saying that he had a deep interest in the production end of the business before he had even met Stephanie, and that may very well be true. What did endear me to Paul Levesque is something that has been fairly common knowledge for quite some time, and that is his passion for the history of pro-wrestling, something that Vince clearly lacks. What did the opposite, however, was his insistence that “indie bad habits” need to be worked out of newly-signed developmental talent, as they know what their fans like and that is why everyone needs to work the same style. Clearly, having an Ishii type star working super stiff with everyone and punishing his body so many times a year wouldn’t work in the WWE, and of course even the best indie talent needs to learn to work for TV. However, to say that the fans of the promotion only accept one style when they have only been given that for years is clearly a flawed argument. In fact, the one man who works a different style, Brock Lesnar, is over at least to some degree because of it. The grimace across Levesque’s face when saying “what [indie wrestlers] do on the indies” wasn’t the most reassuring of signs either.

 

What was positive, however, was that he did mention that NXT is the kind of programming that he himself would like to watch, which could serve as a potential positive for the company going forward, even if Hunter reiterated numerous times, that every final call is made by Vince. Austin asked about whether or not Chyna would appear in the Hall of Fame in the near future, and Hunter issued the most corporate of statements, putting her over for her career, but then coming back to say that he wouldn’t want his 8 year-old looking Chyna up and coming across her adult film work. Of course, what this probably comes down to is whether or not Hunter wants his children discovering his past relationship with Chyna, and perhaps the idea of offending sponsors and the like. Common sense would state that Chyna’s biography is but one click away on Hunter’s Wikipedia profile anyway. He also said he had no issues with Punk, and went onto justify his statement by saying that Punk is very difficult to get to know, and went down the same “lack of communication skills” route as Vince in October. He even went as far as to say that the KEVIN NASH program made Punk “more over”, which, if meant honestly, wouldn’t be the strongest of statements for creative confidence in HHH.

 

My largest bafflement from the entire interview came when Levesque attempted to justify the use of “sports entertainment” in the place of pro-wrestling. You see, sports entertainment “explains to people what it is”, unlike the term pro-wrestling, which does not. Not only is this unsubstantiated by the fact that very few people in the real world use the term “sports entertainment”, but if you were to take to the streets with a survey and ask 1,000 people about “sports entertainment” most probably wouldn’t be able to answer. However, it is a safe bet that at a very strong percentage of those surveyed would know what pro-wrestling or wrestling is — to say otherwise would be a blatant lie, or a sign of a serious mental abnormality.

 

The final big talking point of the interview followed Hunter’s call to extend the show an extra ten minutes, when he not only answered that his single improvement to RAW would be to move back to two hours (ignoring financial implications), but also asserted that he would like to slowly get back to less scripted promos. Throughout the interview Hunter looked to be attempting to pander to everyone, to hardcores, casual fans, the wrestlers, Vince, Stephanie, and Austin, but these statements came across as exceedingly honest. He would also like a stronger focus on the women, which could be deduced from the NXT conference calls and NXT programming as a whole, but was still good to hear.

 

Paul Levesque, Triple H, may have expressed a couple of controversial viewpoints, even in attempting to maintain his image with a wide range of audiences. However, when comparing this interview to Vince’s in October, Triple H seems to have a far more contemporarily relevant perspective than Vince, admitting to some of the faults in the product, and showing a greater passion, perhaps not for the WWE, but certainly for pro-wrestling as a whole. And that is what the pro-wrestling end of the business needs, whether Hunter will be able to, or will even be given the opportunity, to fill Vince’s position in the corporate structure is questionable. However, as far as pro-wrestling goes, an eventual transition to Hunter may very well yield dramatic and much needed improvements.

 

NJPW on AXS TV – A Major Creative Success

Ryan Clingman

 

In 2007 Mauro Ranallo, MMA/boxing commentator and long-time fan and follower of pro-wrestling, called Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama’s 2004 Tokyo Dome classic for the Fight Network in Canada. In certain circles it was hailed as a prime example of how a distinctly Japanese product could be made accessible purely through extraordinary commentary, and is also a reason why many, including myself, were so high on Ranallo as a potential announcer for the English broadcast of the 2015 Tokyo Dome Show, WrestleKingdom 9. Sadly, Ranallo did not take the place of Matt Striker, and had no hand in the 2015 Tokyo Dome show. However, through a deal that NJPW signed with AXS TV (the former HDNet), late last year, not only was Ranallo given the opportunity to call puroresu once more, but was contracted for a 14 episode NJPW television series comprised of some of the promotion’s best matches of the past couple of years – all with former New Japan wrestler, UFC champion, and Pancrase fighter, Josh Barnett at his side.

 

 

John Pollock of Live Audio Wrestling fame, has stated in the past when recounting Ranallo’s call of the 2004 Kobashi/Akiyama match that Ranallo had never seen the bout, despite being familiar with both men, which may have very well added to the substance of his announcing alongside Dan Lovranski for the Fight Network. But, with New Japan more accessible now than it ever has been, certainly more so than Pro-Wrestling NOAH in the mid-2000s, Ranallo had seen most of the major matches he was set to call, and yet despite this he managed to execute, with relative ease, some of the best announcing jobs I have heard in years – at the very least since JR’s final WrestleMania appearances, although Ranallo may have even been better over the past few weeks.

 

Ranallo’s feat becomes even more phenomenal when accounting for the majority of the AXS shows being taped one after another, with Mauro never before, as far as I am aware, calling a New Japan match, and certainly not with the current roster of stars. And yet, like the professional that he his, Ranallo turned matches like Tanahashi/Okada from Invasion Attack 2013, outings that, one would imagine, couldn’t be made any better, into even greater more epic battles. Far more so than JR in his recent appearances, it was Ranallo and Barnett that showcased what modern pro-wrestling commentary should be with regard to tone, inflection, register and broadcast style. To say that the Okada/Goto New Japan Cup final, or even a Suzuki-gun multi-man-tag that appeared on episode two, were called like shoots would be an overstatement. In fact, both men used the terms “heel” and “babyface” in much the same way as “technico” or “rudo” are used in Mexico, as a dynamic that is inherently present in the medium. But, as far as English announcing goes, despite using what may be misconstrued as an insider term, Ranallo and Barnett took already believable matches and made them that much more, which ignites my interest given that Ishii/Shibata will air at some point.

 

The first episode wasn’t without its flaws, with Ranallo rattling NJPW trivia of all sorts off at full-speed, something that he would still do at times even as late as episode three. He was also mistakenly tongue-tied during various points of the first broadcast, referring to the “IWP Heavyweight Championship”, as opposed to the “IWGP Heavyweight Championship”. From the very first moments of the debut episode Ranallo was also not only using terms such as “heel” and “babyface”, which a majority of hardcore American fans would know, but also “puroresu” and “gaijin” – even going as far as to mention lower card wrestlers yet to be introduced such as Captain New Japan. Perhaps, this may have been a negative for the first broadcast, as they have been attempting to market the product as much towards MMA fans as pro-wrestling ones. However, when discussing MMA, it should be noted that during a UFC, Bellator, or Strikeforce (before it closed in 2013), the announcers rarely look to introduce terms such as “guard” and “side control”, nor are the histories of every opponent or prior outing recounted, and so in this sense what Barnett and Ranallo did was very much in line with what some MMA fans would be used to presentation wise.

 

 

By the end of the first episode,which featured Okada/Tanahashi from the 2013 Dome show, if the Dome wasn’t so conspicuous, I may have mistaken it for the third episode screener that had been raved about for weeks prior to their January debut. It was astounding that after the first broadcast, Ranallo would remain seated to call another two matches that he had already seen, before moving onto the third tapings and beyond. But, he and Barnett did, and not only maintained the tapings’ quality, but looked to significantly exceed it.

 

 

The second episode opened, much like the first and third, with a subtitled interview, this time with Kazuchika Okada. Whilst Yottsume and his Twitter account may be a fantastic source for English translations of NJPW in real time, the luxury of watching the promos of Tanahashi, Okada, Ishii, and Suzuki along subtitles was one that was by no means lost on me. Unlike the first and third episodes, however, the first in-ring action of the show was not the opening minutes of a match that would span the entire broadcast but instead a six-man tag from Korakuen Hall with Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, and Lance Archer versus Ishii, Nakamura, and Jado. What would be expected from a match such as this is general comedy, and light story progression, but due mostly to the work of Barnett and Ranallo, an irrelevant trios match from Korakuen was made to feel like an important piece of build for the outstanding KES/Ishii & Nakamura tag that they will most probably air within the next few weeks – perhaps the best NJPW tag match of the last few years, with the exception of Shibata & Goto versus Nagata & Honma from 2014.

 

 

Carrying the bulk of the show’s second half was Goto/Okada from the finals of the 2013 New Japan Cup, a tournament that, as you may have already guessed, was put over strong. Ranallo was also pegged with the difficult task of explaining the “love versus money” Tanahashi/Okada feud, a very Japanese story when given that context, to a primarily non-Japanese audience.

 

Whilst the first two episodes may have been spectacular, and perhaps even the best pieces of pro-wrestling TV over recent years, they inevitably failed to match Okada/Tanahashi from the third in almost anyway – on a pure announcing front, in fact, Ranallo managed to supersede his already stellar call of Kobashi/Akiyama. It took Ranallo and Barnett a good five or so minutes to truly pick up pace, leaving much of the early armwork unidentified with respect to the Rainmaker. Ranallo sold Tanahashi’s limb work – which had taken place close to two years prior to the broadcast, a match that Ranallo and perhaps Barnett had already seen – as if it would shorten the career of Okada, which not only got Okada over as a fighting challenger, but also the championship as something worth risking everything for. I would imagine MMA commentary to be a very difficult job, but to say that this was simply a pro-wrestling match called like an MMA war wouldn’t do the announcing justice, as they far surpassed announcing of that sort. What Ranallo and Barnett did was take an already five-star match, a match of a very high calibre, and make it better, and better by a significant margin.

 

 

This was not simply an extraordinary call, but an example of just how much a great commentator can add to an already outstanding match. Joe/Kobashi in 2005 was well served by a lack of commentary (and I believe Dave Prazak to be one of the world’s best active announcers), and I probably would have argued the same for this match too before seeing it. But the truth is that they improved the match’s quality, and enhance the story and drama; this speaks for Ranallo as a talent – if he continues along this path, his pro-wrestling legacy may very well be that of a great of modern announcing.

 

 

Raw Ramblings – February 2nd 2015

Pepsi Centre: Denver, CO.

Ben Carass.

 

 

One of the many problems of the three hour Raw format is that it is virtually impossible to have a good show. No matter how great a certain segment, match or main event may be there is always going to be an abundance of filler and segments that should have been scraped if they didn’t have three hours to fill. And that’s if you take the booking out of the equation. If we take the downright wretched booking into consideration, sitting through a live three hour Raw feels like an endurance test every Monday night. Well, this week I had enough. Most of you probably know that Raw starts at 1am GMT and I watch the show live every week then sleep-off the effects long into Tuesday afternoon. However, after a 27 MINUTE opening segment that went through a commercial break and BIG SHOW PINNING ROMAN REIGNS after 2:38 of TV time, I was done and took myself off to bed, to dream of a world where the biggest pro-wrestling company isn’t booked by absolute morons. I watched the rest of the show on Tuesday, and there were a couple of good matches and a hot angle after the main event, but still the idea of a “good” three hour Raw is laughable.

 

 

The insufferable 27 minute opening segment involved: MrKayfabe is Dead,” HHH completely brushing over the “controversy” of the Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan & Seth Rollins coming out to stake their claim to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, HHH booking Rollins vs. Bryan with the winner going on to face Reigns at FastLane for the #1 contendership then Big Show coming out for ANOTHER match with Reigns. – I cut a LOT of useless blather out, but you get the point. It was long and tedious, although Reigns’ dialog was kept to a minimum so that was a plus. Like I said, Big Show PINNED Reigns with a chokeslam after Rollins hit him with the briefcase. I could barely believe the idiocy of this decision. Maybe the idea was to beat Reigns to appease the hardcores by saying, “look, we can beat this guy too, just like all your favourites.” If so, they are out of their mind. Beating Reigns isn’t going to change anybody’s mind when it comes to him being the “chosen one” and only hurts the guy who is likely going to main event WrestleMania and beat Brock Lesnar. If that wasn’t bad enough, Reigns looked like an utter fool for being manipulated into putting his title shot on the line, which HHH & Steph pointed out in a backstage skit and chortled at how gullible the two stupid babyfaces, Reigns & Bryan, were. To the surprise of no one, Daniel Bryan & Seth Rollins had a very good main event, which Bryan won at 17:11 with the busaiku knee. They shot an angle that led to the finish, as Reigns came out and speared Big Show at ringside then did the same to Mercury. The ref was distracted and Reigns gave Rollins the superman punch and Bryan hit his flying knee. Reigns actually got over pretty big with the Denver crowd, however it didn’t really do Bryan any favours by having the big bad Reigns helping him win the match. Cole interviewed Bryan in the ring afterwards and he said he would beat Reigns then go on to face Lesnar at Mania, which unbelievably received some boos. So not only is their wretched booking hurting Reigns, they have somehow figured out a way to have the most likeable and talented babyface in the company get booed. Now that is some achievement.

 

 

The top of the second hour had another opening segment-style deal with, you guessed it, MORE TALKING! John Cena was out, sporting a black eye, and yacked about the Authority wanting to get rid of him and Rusev being a roadblock he would go through. Dolph Ziggler, Rowan & Ryback came out and Cena thanked Sting for getting their jobs back. Stephanie appeared on the Tron and booked Ziggler against Bray Wyatt, Rowan against Rusev and Ryback against Luke Harper. So, in kayfabe terms as well as reality, the people in charge of booking Raw are completely incompetent as there were apparently NO big matches booked for the show until HHH booked the main event and Steph booked these three matches an hour into the show. Ryback beat Harper at 5:55 of a surprisingly decent match. Harper being very good and the match being short had a lot to do with it. Rusev jumped Rowan before their match and destroyed him, so I don’t know why he couldn’t just beat him, it’s not like Rowan needs protecting at this point. Lana & Rusev did their promos then the Russian flag failed to deploy correctly, which led to some unintentionally great reactions from Lana & Rusev. This tiny bit of spontaneity was the most enjoyable thing on the entire show to this point. Wyatt downed Ziggler at 15:15 of a good match after no-selling the fameasser and hitting Sister Abigail. It made him look like a monster and it’s not like Dolph ever wins any matches with that move, so I didn’t have as much of a problem with it as some people. Bray cut a promo later on about the Devil being real and hinted that he was the embodiment of Satan and said, “he can’t wait to see you again”. I was sceptical of Undertaker coming back, but I think it is clear now that he obviously is, which to me makes breaking the streak pretty stupid. I was behind the idea if Taker was done, but now it just seems like another one of those “crazy old man” Vince decisions; only this one can never be undone.

 

 

Filler: Curtis Axel came out and told people not to change the channel; said he was never eliminated from the Rumble and was the rightful #1 contender. Dean Ambrose showed up and tossed him over the top. “Now you’re eliminated,” quipped Dean. Ambrose then challenged Bad News Barrett to an IC Championship match, because he wanted his picture on the wall of WWE HQ next to all the other great IC Champs. – Dean Douglas, Santino Marella, Ezekiel Jackson. Axel came back but Ambrose laid him out with his DDT. The Ascension squashed Gold & Stardust at 1:50. Cody got hot and walked out on Goldie then backstage Cody yelled at Goldie for calling him “Cody”. Cesaro w/Tyson Kidd & Natalya beat Jimmy Uso w/Jey & Naomi at 6:25. Match was decent; I imagine Cesaro & Kidd will get a Tag title shot at FastLane. Miz fired Mizdow as his stunt double and told him he was now a PA. Rollins and Triple H talked about Randy Orton in a backstage segment that was blatantly a reminder that Orton is coming back soon. Paige over Alicia Fox in 2:40; the Bellas were on commentary and were absolutely atrocious. Sin Cara beat The Miz in 5:35 when Mizdow got carried away and tried to mimic Miz, despite being fired. Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan met in the locker room. Bryan told Reigns he would be facing him at FastLane. Reigns asked if that was a threat then said he was going to WrestleMania whether the world or Bryan liked it or not. Reigns then told Bryan to get the hell out of his locker room and Bryan obliged like a complete geek. Segment sucked. Reigns came off like a heel and Bryan looked like a chump.

 

RAW Ratings for February 2nd 2015

Ryan Clingman

The February 2nd edition of Monday Night RAW drew a 3.01 rating and 4.28 million viewers, which is decent for a show not coming after the Rumble post-football-season. However, the major news is the breakdown of the three hours, with the first drawing 4.466 million viewers (1.85 million viewers and a 1.46 rating in the 18-49 demo), the second 4.403 million (1.83 million viewers and a 1.44 rating in the 18-49 demo), and the third and final hour with a 13 minute overrun 4.008 million viewers (1.68 million viewers and a 1.32 rating in the 18-49 demo). Analysing the third hour drop-off of a single show isn’t the greatest of ways to evaluate the current creative direction of the product, but seeing as how we have seen a trend develop over months with a strong third hour drop-off, and this show exhibited an even more severe dip, this could simply be a sign that their current direction isn’t working. With Bryan now set to face Roman Reigns at Fast Lane it will be interesting to see if they will be able to reverse the current pattern. Early indicators (the final hour viewership leading into Bryan/Rollins), may show a lack of interest, or the drop may have simply come as a result of an expected failed delivery of the match. Regardless, the next few weeks will be very important for the company moving into the better part of 2015.

As always, thanks to @STD_85 for the 18-49 viewership data.

WWE NXT – February 4th 2015

Full Sail University: Winter Park, FL.

Ben Carass

Carmella w/Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Emma – Carmella won in 2:00. Match was no good. Enzo, Cass and Carmella did their usual shtick and Carmella won with her wacky submission hold. So much for Emma’s comeback; I guess this will eventually lead to some kind of repackaging, which is desperately needed. Carmella looks to be still a step or two behind the top women like Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley.

 

 

#1 Contenders Tournament, Semi-Final: Adrian Neville vs. Baron Corbin – Neville over in 5:40. They worked the traditional big guy/small guy match; it was fine. Neville flipped around and sold for Corbin, who looked like a big stiff in there with the smooth Neville. Bull Dempsey showed up and posted Corbin behind the ref’s back and Neville won with the Red Arrow. – How many times to we see a DQ or a count-out on Raw because they book a match where they don’t want to beat either guy? Yet in NXT, with a little more thought and effort, they found a way for Corbin to get pinned that put the heat on Dempsey. This gets a huge thumbs up from me.

 

An interview with Sami Zayn aired. He talked about Kevin Owens working him and Regal into getting himself a title shot then said he would beat the hell out of Owens.

Bayley vs. Becky Lynch – Bayley over in 4:14. Decent stuff. Lynch worked over Bayley’s “injured” knee and a man after my own heart, Corey Graves buried her for being a phony rock-chick. Sasha Banks showed up. Bayley turned the tide and began to work over Becky’s leg; Lynch rolled to the floor, but Sasha rolled her back inside and Bayley won with her belly-to-belly. Afterwards, Sasha and Becky had a shoving match then Charlotte came out and starred at all three of her challengers. – Good build for the four-way, but I’m a little concerned as to whether the four women involved have enough experience to pull off their match at TakeOver.

 

Kevin Owens pre-tape. Said he got what he wanted in the title match and claimed he would win the belt two months after his debut. There was another Solomon Crowe technical difficulties deal, so maybe he’s coming in as some kind of hacker or something. Devin interviewed Tyler Breeze and he said he would be watching the rest of the tournament very closely.

 

 

#1 Contenders Tournament, Semi-Final: Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami – Balor over in 11:55. Very good match that went through two commercial breaks. Adrian Neville was on commentary. There were, “Both these guys”, “This is awesome” & “We’re not worthy chants” before they even did anything. They did some nice chain wrestling and a huge, “BETTER THAN RAW” chant broke out. Both guys took turns at selling for the other; Itami teased the GTS and Balor teased the reverse Bloody Sunday then he landed a Pele kick for a double-down. Finish saw Balor hit the sling-blade and a shotgun dropkick then he won with a double stomp off the top. They shook hands afterwards and Balor and Neville stared each other down and they also shook hands. – Easily both guys’ best match since arriving in NXT. Itami finally showed that he is capable of having a great match in a WWE setting, sure he was working Balor, but still he hasn’t really done much other than throw some kicks and sell. This was a complete match that made both guys look great. (*** ½ )

 

The show closed with an out of this world video package hyping Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn for TakeOver. It was seriously one of the best hype packages the company has ever done. Forget watching the TakeOver pre-show with the useless babel and scripted lines, just watch this video on repeat for an hour and you’ll be super hyped by the time the show starts.

A very good episode that did a superlative job of making you want to see Zayn/Owens and Balor/Neville. I know we are still about 7 weeks away from WrestleMania, but at the moment I cannot see them doing anything that will get me as excited as I am for this TakeOver show.

 

 

WWE SmackDown – February 5th 2015.

World Arena: Colorado Springs, CO

Ben Carass.

 

SmackDown is usually insignificant, but this week it went way beyond the normal banality and was just an infinitesimal blip on the pro wrestling TV radar. Even iMPACT had more to offer than this show.

Miz TV with Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan was the opening segment. Reigns Superman punched Miz right away then said he would beat Bryan and go on to WrestleMania. There was a lot of crowd sweetening for Reigns. They teased getting into it but Seth Rollins interrupted them and cut his usual promo about being the future. Rollins, per order of the Authority, booked Bryan in a handicap match against himself and J&J Security. Immediately following this, Miz was in the back with Renee and challenged Reigns to a match. Reigns won with the superman punch and spear in 5:45, however not before Miz jumped him before the bell and beat him up for 90% of the match. First losing to Big Show, now selling for the Miz; what’s next, dance-off segments with Fandango? Main event was the handicap match and it was OK for what it was. For the first time since November 18th 2013 there were 3 former ROH World Champions in the same match on WWE TV, the last being a 12 person Tag Team match on Raw featuring CM Punk, Daniel Bryan & Seth Rollins. Yes, SmackDown was that dull that I actually looked that up. Rollins did a couple of Brock Lesnar’s mannerisms and gave Bryan a pair of Germans. Bryan kicked the hell out of the stooges and tapped out Mercury for the win at 10:22 (TV Time). Kane attacked Bryan from behind on the ramp then gave him two chokeslams in the ring. Rollins finished him off with a curb-stomp and Roman Reigns was nowhere to be seen, so that’s another thing he has in common with John Cena; he doesn’t help out other babyfaces who have beef with the same heels as he does. So Kane is back one week after losing the casket match and will no doubt be wrestling Bryan on Raw. It is so depressing that the two top faces in Reigns & Bryan are stuck with 40 year old lumps that have been around forever and overstayed their welcome as top heels at least 5 years ago. They need new top heels and the need them NOW.

 

Airtime Padding: Dolph Ziggler & Ryback were thrown together as a team. Ziggler had a weight belt with, “Lil Guy” written on it and they did an inset promo with both of them pluralising their catchphrases. They beat Gold & Stardust in 6:26 (TV Time). Goldust called out “Cody” as he was reaching for the tag and Stardust tagged him and walked out. The Announcers didn’t bother pointing that out and Ryback pinned Goldie with the shellshock. Speaking of announcers, Jerry Lawler, one of the greatest talkers in history, was atrocious on this show. He sold the 3-on-1 handicap match as a “great” main event, as opposed to getting over the idea that it was completely unfair to Bryan and that he would have to overcome great odds again. Then later, he asked, “what was that?” when Dean Ambrose used his double-arm DDT to pin Curtis Axel in 2:44. Before the match, Axel did his “don’t turn the channel” bit again and asked fans to join the “#AxelMania” movement. Match was completely nothing. Bad News Barrett appeared on the Tron for a “BNZ” (Bad News Zone) report. Barrett said he would not defend the IC title against Ambrose, because Dean was too crazy. The BNZ thing was wacky, but no goofier than his silly old podium gimmick. Fandango w/Rosa beat Adam Rose at 2:05 of a match between two not at all over heels that nobody cared about. The Rosebuds dropped Rose during his trust fall gimmick and he beat a couple of them up. There was a spot where they went all indie-rific, as Rose gave Fandango a belly-to-back suplex on the apron, which one minute later meant absolutely nothing. He must have been watching Roderick Strong tapes. Rusev w/Lana submitted Erick Rowan with the camel-clutch at 2:54 of a non-title match. It was utterly forgettable. Paige over Alicia Fox with the PTO in 2:22. Paige took a needlessly stupid bump, with a sidewalk-slam through the middle rope to the floor. If Paige wants to take bigger bumps than all the other women then fine, but doing it in a 2 minute match against Alicia Fox on SmackDown is pretty stupid. Bray Wyatt cut a promo about being the “Reaper” and told whoever his promos are aimed at to come find him.

 

 

Bits & Pieces

Ryan Clingman

 

I had a hand in creating the new 8chan board /wrestling/ at 8ch.net/wrestling. The project is almost bound to fail, but if you are looking for the ‘Holy Church of Volk Han’, you have found your place at 8ch.net/wrestling.

 

Next Week’s Issue

In next week’s issue we look at the ever-evolving WWE WrestleMania direction, the Wednesday New Beginning show with Tanahashi defending his Heavyweight title opposite AJ Styles, RAW ratings, and more!

 

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Ben Carass’s Twitter: @BenCarass

Bryan Rose’ Twitter: @br26

Ryan Clingman’s Twitter : @RyanClingman

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