Cubed Circle Newsletter Issue #75: New Japan Cup Finals, New Japan Cup Night 1, Lackluster RAW, Great Impact, NXT + Much More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter

 

This week we cover night one of the New Japan Cup, the New Japan Cup finals from Korakuen Hall, All Japan insanity, a lackluster edition of RAW, Karl Anderson on Mania weekend, RAW ratings, Ben Carass covers a really good edition of NXT, a great edition of Impact from Thursday, and Ben Carass also covers SmackDown from Friday. Also on a side note this is the penultimate regular newsletter before Mania weekend, as both the newsletter of Mania Sunday and the issue proceeding that are going to be huge. As we noted a couple of weeks ago, you may want to look out for the new survey, which will be released some time during or after Mania weekend. With all of that being said I hope you enjoy this week’s newsletter and have a great week ahead.

 

– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

For a full-colour PDF Click here 

 

News

 

New Japan Cup Finals – Live on Internet-Pay-Per-View

 

This Saturday, live from Korukeun Hall in Tokyo, New Japan ran the finals of its 2013 edition of the New Japan Cup, live on Internet-pay-per-view. It was in many ways your typical New Japan tournament, wrought with upsets and of course some very good matches. However, at the end of the day we landed up at one of two expected points, with the two favorites of the tournament Kazuchika Okada and Hirooki Goto meeting in the finals with Okada coming out the victor. He is now set to face Hiroshi Tanahashi in what will be there fourth IWGP Heavyweight tile encounter.

 

The first round of the tournament saw the majority of the people that you would expect going through, apart from Shinsuke Nakamura who was defeated by Davey Boy Smith Jr. to set up an intercontinental championship match down the line. Tomohiro Ishii, one of if not the most underrated wrestler in the entire company, stole the show on that same card with a win over Satoshi Kojima in a match that was very reminiscent of Kojima’s glory years in the early 2000s.

 

The biggest upset of the entire tournament came on the second night, when Minoru Suzuki, a man that wasn’t expected to win the tournament, but was expected by many people to meet Kazuchika Okada in the next round, was defeated by Toru Yano with red mist. In hindsight it was the right move, as New Japan are running a feud between the two top heel groups of the promotion, Suzuki-gun and CHOAS, and the big payoff will presumably be Okada beating Suzuki after numerous failures; something that wouldn’t have had anywhere near the amount of impact if it had happened on this show.

 

Davey Boy Smith, who had already had a strong run during the tournament beating Nakamura, also defeated Yujiro Takahashi on the second night progressing to the semi finals. Ishii delivered another stellar performance alongside Hirooki Goto losing and sending Goto to the semi finals, although one would hope that some kind of push must be in Ishii’s future, even if that push isn’t a big one. He isn’t the type of person to be an IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but he could be on the same level as some of the upper tier people in the company like Nakamura, and if not that high maybe in a similar slot to a Goto or Makabe. Okada obviously moved on beating Anderson in another great match.

 

That brought us to the internet-pay-per-view from Korakuen Hall that I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to see yet due to the fact that it was so close to press time. However, like most expected going into the show, Goto bested Smith to move onto the finals and Okada beat Yano in a match that couldn’t have gone any other way. This led to what was reportedly a great mainevent with Okada pinning Goto with the rainmaker to earn himself a shot at Hiroshi Tanahashi at New Japan’s next Internet-pay-per-view ‘Invasion Attack’ on WrestleMania weekend.

 

It will be interesting to see just what they do with Okada in the match, as with the Suzuki-gun/CHAOS angle going on right now I assumed that they were going to keep Okada busy with something else for a while. There is nothing wrong with going back to the match so soon, but they could have waited a few months for the current program to cool down a bit, because the current direction with Okada and Suzuki has been really good.

 

Of course, what they could do is weave Suzuki into the title picture pretty easily by having Suzuki challenge Okada after what I assume will be Okada’s victory at ‘Invasion Attack’. I would personally like to see Okada with another run with the title, but on this occasion for an extended period of time, as his first reign felt more like a test for Okada than anything else, and at this point his his more than ready for a long reign.

 

Suwama Wins Triple Crown & Kobashi Reunited With All Japan At Sumo Hall

 

Suwama reclaimed the Triple Crown this week at All Japan’s biggest show of the year so far at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. This makes Suwama the 46th champion and puts him in an elite class of men who have held the championship on three occasions, all of whom are Wrestling Observer Hall of Famers, these men are Mitsuharu Misawa (5), Toshiaki Kawada (5), Stan Hansen (4), Genichiro Tenryu (3), Jumbo Tsuruta (3), Kenta Kobashi (3) and Keiji Mutoh (3); granted, however, that the Triple Crown means far less than it once did, as it was at one time the most important title in pro-wrestling. The match was apparently good, but dragged in the middle as they did a match that went over a half an hour when they apparently shouldn’t have.

 

Other news coming out of the show is that Kenta Kobashi has finally rejoined the company, obviously not as an active wrestler because he is retiring soon, but rather as the chairman of the PWF. Basically it is more of a figure head role, the PWF president is normally the person to read proclamations on scrolls before big matches, people along the lines of Hiroshi Hase, who Kobashi is set to replace, Stan Hansen and Lord James Bears who held the job for years.

 

The one thing that everyone seems to be talking about in regard to All Japan right now is how completely off the wall the new president of the promotion, Nobou Shiraishi, is. Believe it or not he is now feuding with KENSO, or so it seems. Shiraishi has been saying for a couple of weeks that he should fire KENSO, as he is not a very good wrestler, something that is in actuality very true. At the start of the Sumo Hall show they got into it, and then once the show was finished and all but a couple of stragglers had left the building, Shiraishi and KENSO got into a heated argument. Things got even more bizarre when Hikaru Sato tackled Shiraishi with a wrestling takedown! Regardless of whether this is a work or a shoot the entire situation is extremely bizarre.

 

Shiraishi has continued to sprout off the wall ideas the entire week, which has been the case since he became president. He has said that when he grew up wrestling was real (keep in mind he grew up during the glory days of All Japan, RINGS and the UWF/UWFi.) and he wants it to be “real again”. This sounds like a work to me, and it will probably start the whole “my promotion is real and your promotion is fake.” deal, which honestly never works. Originally when All Japan was purchased I called it a major positive for the company, but I am not so sure about that any more, sure Kidani is naive and luckily has proper guidance from top people in New Japan, but I don’t sense that as being the case with Shiraishi, which is a problem. When you have a company that is the size of All Japan things could go sour very quickly if people are not careful, but I guess we will have to take a wait and see approach to the entire situation.

 

Other Shiriashi highlights include this gem “I want to get rid of Match-fixing. I hate Match-fixing in pro-wrestling. Wrestlers in NJPW, AJPW, and NOAH are not bad. All bad thing is executives who forces them to do Match-fixing” and the fact that he buried the Sumo Hall show to the live crowd after the event complaining that he was disappointed with the house. Now, it’s all fine and well to be disappointed with a house, but telling people how bad it is isn’t going to help a soul.

 

Karl Anderson to ROH Mania Weekend

 

Karl Anderson is wrestling his first match in ROH since 2007 on WrestleMania weekend on the Supercard of Honour pay-per-view and the tapings the next day. The deal was apparently made a while ago, but they weren’t able to make an announcement due to an agreement with New Japan not to announce anything regarding Anderson until he was eliminated from the New Japan Cup. He is going up against Roderick Strong in what should be a very good match, and possibly the best match on the entire ROH run that weekend. I would also presume that he won’t be on the big ‘Invasion Attack’ show, because although he could make it, it would be awfully difficult. It has been great to see New Japan talent appear on ROH shows, as seeing international stars used to be a real treat.

 

Speaking of international talent, ROH have apparently made a deal with NOAH too. Naomichi Marufuji and Taiji Ishimori are both headed to Toronto for ROH’s Border Wars pay-per-view on May 4th. Marufuji has been a fixture with ROH in the past, but mainly during the time when they had a very strong and active relationship with a thriving NOAH; things are far different now. As a whole I would see this as a big positive for ROH as a whole going forward, because while the addition of foreign talent won’t help curve their current talent problem, it will help ease the burden, and make many of the shows more enjoyable to watch.

 

New Japan Pro Wrestling New Japan Cup Round One March 11th 2013

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Going into this show I wasn’t expecting much considering that the opening rounds of tournaments in Japan are generally quite withdrawn to leave spots open for the following stages, and while that was certainly so for this show, New Japan still put on a very fun show here. Most of the matches on the show didn’t go all that long, and there were two or three upsets along the way. The opening match between Tomohiro Ishii and Satoshi Kojima was a surprisingly great match with Kojima showcasing a lot of what made him great during the early 2000’s. The six-man tag with Team Devitt vs. Team Tanahashi was also very good, and it was followed by a Nagata/Suzuki match that wasn’t as good as their prior matches, but was still very fun. The top two matches on the card pitting CHAOS tag team partners Kazuchika Okada and Nakamura against Killer Elite Squad teammates Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr., were also two very fun matches with the mainevent between Nakamura/Smith producing one of the biggest upsets of the show with Smith pinning Nakamura clean. In terms of what you should watch, watching the entire show certainly wouldn’t be a waste of time as it was fun, but when it comes to must see content you can’t go wrong with the opener and six-man tag match.

 

1. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Satoshi Kojima

 

I don’t know what it was about this match and Satoshi Kojima, but I am tempted to say that he showed more than a simple flicker of his former self putting on a really good match with Ishii that probably exceeded everyone’s expectations. The majority of the early portion of the match consisted of Kojima and Ishii engaging in very physical, and extremely intense strike exchanges. One of the most memorable instances was when the couple was standing on the outside and began to trade strikes almost leading to a double count out. There were points where both men were throwing too many strikes, but each run of strikes led to a turning point in the match, and helped summon a sense of struggle that the style is built around. It wasn’t as if that was the only element showcased in this match, as Kojima even busted out a hurricanrana at one point. At one point Kojima went for a lariat, Ishii attempted to land an enzuigiri after blocking, but he was blocked by a Kojima forearm, which led to a huge lariat exchange. Ishii finally pinned Kojima with a brainbuster in 13:37. If it wasn’t clear before this point it certainly is now – Ishii deserves to be elevated.

****

 

2. Hirooki Goto vs. Tama Tonga

 

This match may not have been a blow-away match like the one that came before it, but it really was fun, especially for a match where it would have been very difficult to convince the crowd of an upset. Tonga is showing many signs of improvement and he is in his early thirties so still has time. He is also a very good natural athlete so has that going for him; plus he certainly has the charisma. Goto pinned Tonga in 09:37 with the Shouten Kai. Goto has won ever single New Japan cup in the past.

***

 

3. Manabu Nakanishi vs. Toru Yano

 

Believe it or not Nakanishi after what seemed like a lot of deliberation executed a plancha on Yano; and no, it did not work out well. They had in many ways a Iizuka/Yano tag match (sans Iizuka of course), and with Nakanishi being such a prominent fixture in matches in that position on the card everyone should have been aware of what to expect going in. Nakanishi at this point is a tin man, which is why it made sense for Yano to beat him here. That isn’t to say that I don’t like seeing him, because I do, but he really wouldn’t have been a good addition to the later stages of the cup. After landing chair shots and removing turnbuckles right in front of the referee, Yano landed a low blow behind the referee’s back for the win, which I can never wrap my head around.

* 1/2

 

4. Karl Anderson vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan

 

Looking back at the G1 tournament a couple of years ago Tenzan was able to rekindle a fire that he hadn’t had for a very long time, and while there certainly wasn’t rekindling of any sort going on here Tenzan and Anderson had a fun first round New Japan Cup match here. Tenzan set up for the moonsault on Anderson, but Anderson moved and shot straight up and landed the gun stun for the win in 08:42 progressing to the next round.

** 1/2

 

5. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA vs. Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan

 

From the way that they have booked the Devitt/Tanahashi program up until this point I would assume that they will be coming back to it some time in the coming months. Devitt and Shelley had a phenomenal chain wrestling exchange that lasted around a minute and a half at the start of the match, which the crowd was really super into. Taguchi was tagged in and Devitt and Captain New Japan both fought over for the tag, the tag was made to New Japan much to the dismay of Devitt. Devitt was tagged in a couple of minutes later and frequent tags ensued. Team Tanahashi were playing the subtle heels for some of the match. Devitt and KUSHIDA did some more great tag wrestling and in came Taguchi and Shelley. The Time Splitters exchanged some big moves with Taguchi, which led to New Japan pushing Devitt off of the apron. However, Devitt did shoot in too break up a super high angle clover leaf. New Japan landed his headbutt, but Tanahashi landed the sling blade and high fly flow for the win in 12:09 soon after. After the match Devitt tossed New Japan out of the ring and yelled at everyone before storming out of the ring – it’s amazing that without really understanding the language I can still fully grasp everything that is going on all of the time – wrestling is supposed to be this simple a lot of the time everybody.

*** 1/2

 

6. Togi Makabe vs. Yujiro Takahashi

 

Takahashi attacked Makabe before the bell, but that didn’t stop Makabe for a very long as he soon threw Takahashi out to the floor. What proceeded was very much like the other matches that they have had in the past and that really isn’t to say that it was bad, but like the Yano match it was pretty much what you would have expected. The referee took a bump off of a clothesline, which wasn’t terrible in the context of the match; however, it was something that New Japan didn’t do very often in the past, but have now used multiple times in the last few months, and that unnerves me. Takahashi went for a chain shot while the referee was down, Makabe countered and went for one of his own, but Takahashi landed a low blow and chain clothesline before helping the referee back into the ring for him to pin Makabe in 10:45. with a dead lift German suplex.

** 1/2

 

7. Minoru Suzuki w/ Taichi vs. Yuji Nagata

 

Both men wasted no time going right into the elbow exchange with Suzuki grabbing a knee bar in the ropes and taking Nagata to the floor. I know it is the shtick and everything, but Taichi landed some shots on Nagata on the outside before BUSHI who was at ringside caught the crutch, which led to a pull apart. I personally think that they should spaced the interference spots out better, but if this leads to a BUSHI/Taichi program I will be happy. Both men went back and forth until landing up back where they were a few months ago; in a slap exchange. Nagata grabbed his armbar, but Suzuki made it out, which led to Nagata planting Suzuki with a big release German suplex. Suzuki landed a million slaps, Nagata faded, but went for a shot. However, Suzuki grabbed his sleeper, Nagata faded and Suzuki landed the Gotch piledriver for the win in 10:24. This effectively continued the Suzuki/Nagata never ending feud and trade of wins and losses – and you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.

*** 1/2

 

8. Kazuchika Okada vs. Lance Archer

 

Both men went straight at it playing up the ongoing CHAOS/Suzuki-gun feud. Archer sent Okada to the floor and rammed his head against the barricade and threw him back into the ring for the advantage. Okada was finally able to make a brief comeback after Archer missed a moonsault. Okada went for the belly to back over the knee over the shoulder neckbreaker, but Archer blocked it and landed a big throw followed by a big splash in the corner. Archer signaled for the crucifix bomb, but Okada was able to counter it and land aforementioned over the shoulder belly to back over the knee neckbreaker. Okada went for the rainmaker, Archer blocked, Okada went for the tombstone, but once again Archer blocked. This led to a series of counters with both men repeatedly going for their big moves before Okada grabbed a small package for two. Archer landed his chokeslam, but Okada kicked out and landed a dropkick. This led to him locking in his new finisher, Red Ink, a modified camel clutch for the win in 10:14. The closing stretch of this match was really fun, and it really served to get Okada’s new finisher over as Archer was able to counter all of his moves up until that point.

*** 1/4

 

9. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. w/ Taka Michinoku

 

In the same vein as the Okada match, Nakamura was sent out to the floor where he was thrown arm first into the barricade, which led to Smith working over Nakamura’s arm. Nakamura shot back with some strikes, but Smith landed some of the best looking armbreakers that I have seen in years, literally pulling Nakamura off of the ground. Nakamura landed his big knee in the corner for a two count and began to land kicks to the chest. Smith fired back with a big flying knee, which led to a strike exchange. Smith got the better of it with a powerslam, Nakamura landed a running knee, but Smith sat back up and landed a tiger suplex for two. Smith grabbed a sharpshooter and pulled Nakamura to the center of the ring, but Smith broke the hold to land a powerbomb for the win in 13:06. I wasn’t a big fan of the finish, in that having Smith breaking the hold made no sense considering that Nakamura was in the middle of the ring. Still, this was one of the best single’s matches that I have seen Smith in and probably one of his biggest wins. After the match Suzuki-gun came out with a beatdown on Nakamura, CHOAS made it out, but Suzuki choked Okada out and threw him to the floor. Suzuki then cut a promo to close out the show.

*** 1/4

 

WWE Monday Night RAW March 18th 2013

Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Saying that the WWE dropped the ball on the Mania build during this show would be somewhat of an overstatement, but there’s simply no denying the fact that the build to this year’s WrestleMania show has been lacking somewhat. Whether it is the absence of a strong build to the Punk/Undertaker match, or the lack of the Rock over the past few weeks, the time of year that normally bares the teeth has lost its edge this year, or so it seems. The fact that Rock hasn’t been apart of the show is definitely part of it, but there is more too it than that. One of the really big things is that they started the build off for the show extremely late, which is a problem considering that the Mania show is almost always the most solid period angle wise all year long, because the main programs have so much time to sink in and build. In the case of Rock/Cena it definitely is a positive that they had less time than last year, but the opportunity for a strong, concise and passionate build means nothing when they have Cena doing bad comedy with the Prime Time Players to build up one of the biggest matches in company history. The Triple H/Lesnar segment was the highlight of the show and the added stipulation certainly helps it, but right now that is the strongest thing build wise that they have done for the show. They also went way too far with the Punk/Taker angle, which is quite obvious. It would have been one thing if exploiting the death of Bearer would have led to a very hot angle (even then it probably wouldn’t have been okay), but Punk juggling urns that are supposed to house an actual dead person isn’t the way to do that. Last week they used Bearer’s death as a part of an angle, and that was fine, because it is pro-wrestling and it was a fitting ode to Bearer – what they did here was something completely different, and really, it was tasteless. You have to remember that it is 2013, the majority of their viewing audience in the United States know to varying degrees what’s going on, and this doesn’t get heat on the heel, but rather it serves to get heat on the company and that isn’t what you want…ever. All these problems aren’t to say that Mania won’t still do a great number, because it will (even if it doesn’t they will draw one of the best gates that they have ever done.), but that isn’t to say that it will be remembered in the same from a creative and artistic standpoint.

 

After a couple of weeks of pretty good introductions we were back to TNA soap-opera guy opening up the show. Cena came out and delivered his “your time is up, our time is now” line, which didn’t come off as good as it did a few weeks ago. He basically said that he was ready for Mania when of all people the Prime Time Players came out with ‘O Neal wearing an afro and seventies glasses. ‘O Neal called himself Rufas ‘Pancake’ Patterson (a character that he plays on his YouTube show), Titus’ old uncle. Cena got a couple of cheap pops and ‘O Neal attempted to do his millions of dollars dance and pulled out his hip. ‘O Neal said that they deserved to be in the mainevent of WrestleMania in the place of Cena. Cena suddenly got serious and called both men into the ring to show them what it would be like to be ready for Mania. Young was the one to get in the ring with Cena. They cut to the break with Cena finishing Young off pretty quickly once they came back. This was a pretty bizarre way to build to what will probably be one of the biggest matches in the history of pro-wrestling. The whole gimmick was that Cena was ready for Mania, but beating Darren Young of all people doesn’t really prove anything. I wouldn’t say that it made me angry, but I was frustrated by the fact that they only have a limited amount of time and they squandered it to the nth degree here. They aired a recap of the Ryback/Henry match from last week, and Ryback made his way down to the ring for a match with David Otunga. As expected Ryback killed Otunga in a minute or two. Ryback then cut a promo saying that he, Sheamus and Orton would destroy the Shield at Mania and he and Henry’s paths would cross again before Mania. This led to Henry walking down to the ring with Vickie and Long coming down to set up a match between the two at Mania. Ryback responded to that by killing Otunga a second time. I was fine with this, although Ryback challenging the Shield was a tad weird considering that a point was made that they weren’t facing at Mania.

 

There was another Fandango vignette, and out he came through a streamer filled entrance way and when he finally made it into the ring a giant silhouette of Fandango lit up. Out came Khali and Fandango began to flirt with Natalia and she said “Fan-DANG-Khali go get him right now” this led to Fandango walking off. Wait a minute, wasn’t Fandango forced to have his debut this week? Regardless, this gimmick will not work. R-Truth made his way down to the ring and was followed by Sandow. They did some poetry comedy. Truth landed the scissors kick, but Sandow walked away for the count out, which was basically his old gimmick. The Bella Twins were backstage fawning over Rhodes’ mustache. Kaitlyn came by and basically dumped Rhodes.

 

The Undertaker now comes out with an animated smoke graphic displaying his name instead of the regular one used to display the names of everyone else. He said that Punk had now made it personal and his date was sealed. Punk then mimicked Bearer’s voice acting like Paul Bearer was speaking to him from the urn. Punk said that Undertaker answered to a higher power, but he was in fact the higher power. Punk was playing around with the urn throwing it around, and of course dropped it saying that he meant no disrespect. Once again you don’t build a money match this way. Kane and Bryan came out for a match with Primo and Epico. They wrestled a pretty basic match, and it was basically what you would have expected until AJ of all people came skipping down to the ring. Kane pinned Epico in spite of the distraction, which led to AJ staring the two of them down and skipping off. Jericho was backstage talking about his IC title match, when Fandango came by and Jericho made fun of his name. Fandango said that he would learn to pronounce his name and walked off. Well, it looks like they actually may be going with Jericho vs. Fandango, as weird of an idea as that may be. They showed clips of Alicia Fox and Natalia in Rwanda. Del Rio came out to a new theme song, which sounds like a very cheap version of his old theme. The reason that the crowds are so into Del Rio’s entrance is because Ricardo comes out before the break to say that they are having a competition to see how long they can hold it for, which is smart. Rhodes was in the ring ready to face Del Rio. They had a surprisingly competitive match with poor Cody taking another really rough bump with a front superplex landing on his face. Del Rio went for the cross arm-breaker, but Rhodes landed a moonsault, which led to light USA chants. Del Rio then landed a back cracker and cross arm-breaker for the win. Out ran Jack Swagger. Ricardo attempted to make the save, but he was thrown out to the floor, which led to Del Rio going after Swagger and both men tumbling through the ropes. Coulter was at ringside and Swagger was thrown into the barricade, Del Rio turned his attention to Coulter, but Swagger attacked him from behind and threw Del Rio into the steps and over the announce table Swagger then landed a clothesline on Ricardo and locked in an ankle lock, and they did an angle with Swagger breaking the ankle and Ricardo screaming in pain. It didn’t really get over to a large extent, but this was the best thing that they have done so far with the Rhodes/Del Rio match also being very good. Plus, Ricardo was really great at selling the ankle.

 

They aired a video package for Booker T’s induction into the Hall of Fame. I have no complaints with that, but I would have thought that they would have inducted Paul Bearer before Booker. Still this was a great video package going through Booker’s entire career. Sheamus and Orton came out for a match with 3MB (Slater and McIntyre). 3MB got the heat for what felt like a long time before Orton landed a draping DDT on Slater and Sheamus took McIntyre and Mahal out with a brogue kick before Orton landed the RKO on Slater for the win. This led to the Shield coming out, it was about to be three on two, which led to Big Show’s music hitting, which got a big reaction. The Shield of course backed down from this, which means that almost all of the Mania matches are now in place. Once again it was the return of RAW is Trailers with a trailer for G.I. Joe 2. Kofi Kingston made it out for a match with Ziggler, with of course Langston and AJ at ringside. AJ distracted the referee, Kingston went for a dive off of the ramp on Ziggler, but Langston dived in with a push, which was really spectacular. This led to Ziggler grabbing the Zig Zag for the win, that closing spot was really something and at least Ziggler got the win, which isn’t what you can say most of the time. Kane and Bryan came out, Bryan microphone in hand. They then challenged Langston and Ziggler to a match and AJ accepted on their behalf if the tag team titles were on the line at WrestleMania. Bryan said that he would think about it, the fans chanted yes and he did the same. So I guess we have it just about every single match is in place for Mania at this point, although a few weeks late. There was the same great video package that they aired for Rock/Cena last year. Believe it or not this did a far better job at building up a big mainevent match than the Prime Time Players segment.

 

Next was a triple threat match between Miz, Barrett and Jericho for the IC title. Jericho went for the lionsault on Barrett, but was pulled to the floor by Miz. Barrett caught Miz with a spinout sideslam, but Miz kicked out. Miz locked in a figure four, but Jericho ran in with a lionsault for two. Jericho grabbed a rollup and went for the walls, Barrett attempted to run in, but he was thrown into the barricade. Jericho landed a few chops and Miz had a really fun little exchange until Miz landed the skull crushing finale on Miz and grabbed a rollup on Miz for the win. More on RAW is Trailers – a preview of the Call. They aired some tOuts for possible stipulations – no MMA rules match. Then in the final segment of the show Triple H and Paul Heyman made their way out for a contract signing. Heyman was guarded by three security guards. Heyman said that Lesnar was fearless, but he was simply an advocate. Heyman called Triple H frustrated and that’s why he had security. Triple H demanded the contract, but Heyman opted to draw the process out. He said that they had been watching one piece of footage over and over again – and they didn’t air the Vince McMahon F5 like expected, but rather the scene from three weeks ago where Lesnar was thrown into the post by Triple H. He basically stated that they could have had Triple blindfolded, but Lesnar wanted Triple H to look him in the eye. He proceeded to move on to a stipulation where Triple H’s arms were to be tied behind his back and his legs shackled, but Lesnar wanted Triple H to have no excuses. Heyman said that the winner would get Stephanie, but that would be more apt for the loser, which led to Triple H diving over the desk, clearing away the security and draping Heyman over the desk. He called for Brock, but Triple H said that Lesnar would only come out once he had signed the contract. Hunter proceeded to slap Heyman’s chest, and Heyman was bleeding a bit hardway. The whole thing seemed a bit much given that Heyman only made a small joke. Triple H signed the contract over Heyman’s chest and proceeded to stab him with the pen. Heyman was then thrown to the floor, where Triple H threw a chair out of the ring onto his leg, which looked like it was no fun. Out came Lesnar swinging a steel chair like a mad man and Triple H pulled a sledgehammer out from under the desk. Lesnar threw the chair in the ring and smiled. After walking back up the ramp Heyman announced that it would be a no holds barred match with Triple H’s career on the line. Realistically this is probably the best possible stipulation given that an MMA rules match probably wouldn’t have worked all that well in this context. Given how great the brawl was a few weeks ago this should be a great match.

 

Monday Night RAW Ratings for March 18th

 

RAW on Monday was once again down from the previous week in what must be the second or third week consecutive week. It isn’t to say that the show drew a bad rating, because it did not, three-hour RAW ratings average far worse during the non-Mania season, but they were on the upswing and it seems like they no longer are in terms of ratings. Monday’s show drew 4.25 million viewers and a 3.08 rating, down from last week’s show, which drew a 3.34 and 4.79 million viewers. However, the show was going up against an NBA season regular season game, but realistically that didn’t make much of a difference as it only drew 3.79 million viewers (it was the number one show for the night in the 18-49 demo however), and they probably faced stiffer competition last week.

 

The opening segment with John Cena and Darren Young coupled with the Ryback/Otunga match lost 36,000 viewers, not good considering that it was early on in the show and Cena was in one of the segments; however, there is normally a drop-off at that point anyway. Fandango and Khali lost a further 104,000 viewers, and Damien Sandow vs. R-Truth that followed lost 128,000 viewers – people aren’t fans of men running away, who knew. The Undertaker/Punk segment and Kane/Bryan tag match gained a decent 111,000 viewers to a 3.27 quarter and the highpoint of the show.

 

The 20:00 to 21:00 hour drew 4.25 million viewers (1,901,000 viewers and a 1.50 rating in the 18-49 demo, third for the night on cable)

 

In the post 21:00 segment Alberto Del Rio versus Cody Rhodes lost 184,000 viewers, around what you would expect for that segment. The Booker T Hall of Fame announcement lost 124,000 viewers, which is a shame, but those video packages tend to lose each week. Sheamus & Orton vs. Slater and McIntyre gained 58,000 viewers at 22:00 to a 3.09 quarter, which is certainly low for that segment, as it usually averages around 100,000 viewers easily.

 

The 21:00 to 22:00 hour drew 4.42 million viewers (1,954,000 viewers and a 1.54 rating in the 18-49 demo, making it the second highest rated show in the 18-49 demo on cable for the night).

 

In the post 22:00 segment the Ziggler/Kingston match lost 302,000 viewers and the IC title three-way lost a further 54,000 viewers. Finally the Lesnar/Heyman/Triple H segment gained 494,000 viewers, the largest of the night, to a 3.19 overrun.

 

The 22:00 to 23:17 hour drew 4.11 million viewers (1,862,000 viewers and a 1.47 rating in the 18-49 demo, which means that it was the number four show for the night on cable). The show drew a 2.5 rating in the male 18-49 demo, a 2.0 in male teens, a 1.2 in female teens and a 1.1 in females 18-49.

 

WWE –NXT

March 20th 2013 – Full Sail University, Florida.

Ben Carass.

 

 

A very effective video package recapped the feud between Oliver Grey and Adrian Neville and The Wyatt Family then a graphic hyped Neville vs. Harper as the main event.

 

Justin Gabriel came out for the opener then Leo Kruger, whom has my new favourite entrance in the business, hit the ring. Regal talked about how both guys were trained by Danie Brits; according to my South African pro wrestling source (the Cubed Circle editor Ryan Clingman), this is likely to be true. However both guys were in fact trained by Gabriel’s father Paul Lloyd Sr., whom I cannot ever recall being mentioned on WWE TV.

 

Justin Gabriel vs. Leo Kruger

 

They started out slow; Leo controlled with a side headlock and a handful of hair, however the babyface Gabriel took over then gave the heel a taste of his own medicine with a couple of Beils by the hair. Leo landed a shot to the throat for a delightfully simple heat spot and went to work on the arm. Gabriel showed some fight and got to his feet, but Leo held onto a hammerlock by appearing to fishhook the babyface back to the mat. Gabriel fought up once again and ducked a clothesline, which led to both men’s heads colliding for the double down transition. Both guys traded an assortment of shots: headbutts, punches, knees, kicks, forearms, chops, until the face gained the upper hand, however Kruger managed to hit a spinebuster for a near fall. Gabriel countered the London Dungeon with a backdrop then scored with a superkick for a two count, before getting a couple of more near falls off a series of kicks and a blue thunder bomb, to which Dawson incompetently remarked, “look at that move!” The finish saw Leo roll to the apron to avoid the 450 splash and deliver a thumb to the eye; Kruger then hung Gabriel’s arm up on the top rope, before hitting a wacky clothesline to the back and applying the London Dungeon. Gabriel made it to the ropes, however Leo landed a modified shoulder breaker then applied the hold again for the tap out.

 

Leo Kruger defeated Justin Gabriel via submission, at 8:58.

 

This was a hell of a match; the story they told was solid and everything made sense. All the major aspects were tremendously simple; the opening, the heat spot, the double down, the strikes trade-off and the finish, but all were so effective. Kruger is developing nicely as a worker and a character, however I wish they would make up their mind on whether he was a big game hunter or a member of the South African militia. Much like his injured tag partner Tyson Kidd, Gabriel continues to produce excellent performances, but remains at the bottom of WWE’s pecking order.

 

Audrey Marie joined Renee Young in the back; Renee talked about the love notes she sent to Sasha Banks and losing in the Six Diva tag two weeks ago then asked why she hadn’t been heard from since. Audrey said, “It’s always calmest before the storm” and Sasha knew she was coming, but could do nothing about it.

 

William Regal was in the ring after a commercial break; he said his emotions got the better of him last week and he had let everybody down. Regal stated he always tried to be “a great professional” then claimed to owe somebody an apology, before he asked Kassius Ohno to come down to the ring. Ohno obliged and Regal apologised then told Kassius he didn’t want to be like Regal, who at 45 years old, lays awake at night thinking about all the “liberties” he took with guys in the ring. Regal offered a handshake, but Ohno launched into a promo about how he had idolised the old villain and travelled across the country with CM Punk to spend a week “under the learning tree” with Regal. Ohno said he had spent time in England, Europe and in the Dojos in Japan, but stayed in contact with Regal and even claimed Regal “made sure the right people” saw tapes of his work, which resulted in Ohno becoming a WWE Superstar. Regal declared he brought Ohno to the WWE and wanted him to succeed because he deserved it; Ohno said he was on the way up, while Regal was in the twilight of his career then emphatically stated: “I don’t need your advice; I don’t want your career.” Ohno asked after 30 years in the business, what Regal’s legacy was since he once took pride in destroying people, but now he is just content to sit back and laugh with the people. Ohno then told Regal the people were laughing at him because he was a joke and claimed after 30 years, the only thing anyone would remember is the time he got on his knees to kiss Vince’s ass. Regal dropped Ohno with one swing of his trusty left hand; just like last week, Ohno looked shocked and Regal hung his head in regret.

 

Even though there has been little mention of Regal and Ohno’s pre WWE relationship on NXT, this was an awesome segment. Both men were exceptional in their performances and everything seemed realistic thanks to the angle being based on real life events. The master vs. student storyline is always an easy story to tell and with these two guys, this should prove to be the standout feud on NXT in the coming weeks.

 

Davina Rose was in the ring for her NXT debut under the name, “Bayley”; Paige appeared as her opponent.

 

Paige vs. Bayley

 

Bayley gained the advantage by using Paige’s hair to send her to the mat then worked an armbar. Paige scored a kick to the gut, which Dawson ludicrously referred to as a “stunning reversal” then fired up with some stomps in the corner. For the finish, Paige countered a big boot in the corner and locked in a modified cloverleaf for the tap-out.

 

Paige defeated Bayley via submission, at 2:20.

 

After the match, Summer Rae ran down to ringside, however she soon backed off when Paige starred down the heel Diva.

 

Not much to the match really and we didn’t get a good look at what Bayley can do. On the other hand, Paige got a quick win and looked strong, plus the little appearance by Summer at the end all helped continue the feud admirably.

 

Adrian Neville was out for the main event and Regal called him, “the pride of Britain at the moment”.

 

Forget all those athletes that captured Olympic gold last year and placed the UK third on the medal table; we’ve got PAC!

 

Bray Wyatt led out The Family and Luke Harper was introduced by Byron Saxton.

 

Adrian Neville (NXT Tag Champ) vs. Luke Harper w/ Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan

 

Neville started out fast with a dropkick then was meant to duck under a shot, however Harper caught him right in the head, which led to an awkward moment before Neville went back to his aggressive shine. Harper cut him off with a hotshot then hit a belly-to-back to start the heat. Neville showed some fight, but the big bully of a heel used his brawling style and some power moves to cut off the valiant babyface. Neville started his comeback with some forearms then was dumped on the apron, yet managed to land a kick to the head and followed up with a springboard dropkick for a two count. Neville took out Rowan with a plancha, before catching Harper with a top rope Asai moonsault; back in the ring, Neville delivered a DDT then set up for the British Airways. Bray Wyatt distracted the referee and Rowan went after Neville, only to eat a boot from the Tag Champ; this allowed Harper to snapmare Neville off the top and hit his discus lariat for the finish.

 

Luke Harper defeated Adrian Neville via pinfall, at 7:30.

 

After the match, The Family began to hoist Neville up for another beating when Oliver Grey ran down for the save. The Family’s numbers overwhelmed Grey, however Bo Dallas made a run-in and went after Wyatt. Harper and Wyatt fled at the prospect of a fair fight then the Tag Champs got rid of Rowan with a double clothesline over the top.

 

The main event was a pretty solid outing from both guys; Harper looked like a big rugged brawler and Neville thrilled the Full Sail crowd with some high spots, plus his selling got the people behind him towards the end. The post-match stuff was also good and undoubtedly will lead to a six-man, however it may have had more impact if Dallas didn’t beat Wyatt last week.

 

This show was an excellent edition of NXT; the opener was great and the main event was good. The Paige/Summer feud continued and the Regal/Ohno segment maybe one of the best things since the start of the new NXT.

 

There was a monster set of tapings on March 21st, with 5 episodes recorded; some of the highlights included: Big E. retaining the NXT title over Conor O’Brian, The Shield appeared to win a 6 man over some geeks and Rollins defeated Corey Graves in a Lumberjack match, Regal pinned Ohno in what was described as a hell of a match, Chris Jericho was at the tapings and went over Bray Wyatt, also they taped a special NXT “Clash of Champions”, with every match being for a title. Cesaro successfully defended the US title against Neville, Kaitlyn beat AJ to hold on to the Diva’s strap, Big E. squashed Brad Maddox in an NXT title match and Wade Barrett went over Bo Dallas in an IC title bout.

We’ll have to see how this all plays out obviously, however I’m begging somebody to take the title from Big E. The guy is hardly featured anymore and some other talent could benefit from holding the belt for a while. With Page going over Summer Rae and Regal getting the win on Ohno, I hope they can continue these feuds, despite giving the faces the victories here. At least we should be in store for some entertaining shows in the coming weeks and months.

 

TNA Impact March 21st 2013

Sears Centre Arena, Chicago, Illinois

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This was another really solid TNA show from Chicago with the two key things being that they set up the next big title match and at least attempted to clear up all of the logical inconsistencies that has befallen the Aces & Eights angle over the months. The crowd was still hot for everything on the taped portion of the show and the mainevent four-way was far better than it would have been because of it. As a whole this was a strong show that, for the most part, was able to stay logically consistent and progress most of the main angles that they are running right now. This was a thumbs up show

 

Segment by Segment:

 

Instead of the usual soap opera style opening they had Ray open with a commercial style studio promo saying that he pulled off the biggest swerve in the history the business, and like a magician he pulled the wool over the eyes of everybody. I liked that they went through Ray’s failures throughout the time running through all of his plans over the Aces and Eights run. It was definitely a promo centered around Hogan, which is all fine and good, but all logic would dictate that they won’t be able to go with that match, despite what Hogan says, so why do it? Hogan came down to the ring to open up the second part of the Chicago taping. He got a big reaction as he almost always does. He called the situation a war of survival, and the men that made the save last week (and were destroyed) were his warriors. He brought out Joe, Magnus, Angle and Hardy. This was really weird, as they were brought out as if they had just won the Survivor Series or were being revealed for Lethal Lockdown. Hogan was back to putting Hardy over as the man to bring TNA forward, even more bizarre since he said the complete opposite at Lockdown. Hardy then suggested a number one contender’s four way for a title shot and Hogan made it official.

 

They cut to the first of many video packages that ran throughout the show. Ray basically ran down the first few weeks of the angle with Storm and Roode being set up as the leaders of the Aces & Eights. They stopped at the addition of Brooke. They then. Had the Tag Title match that they failed to have last week with Chavo and Hernandez challenging Roode and Aries, once again wearing their ‘Dirty Heels’ shirts, which they should just stop doing. Hernandez landed a cheap shot on Roode behind the referee’s back, which made no sense given the fact they were supposed to be the face team. Hernandez was worked over by Aries and Roode for a while, before the break the tag was made to Chavo and they had the advantage, but Aries and Roode were back in control after the break. Hernandez made his way in running from the top of the apron and into the ring with his usual dive, which was a unique and visually appealing spot. Aries went for the brain buster with the ‘Viva la Raza’ taunt, but Chavo countered onto the three amigos, which the crowd was so super into. The finish came when Kazarian and Daniels ran out for the distraction on Chavo for the roll up. They beat on Roode and Aries after the match, which means that the feud must continue. There was a trailer for the an X Division title three-way next. There was a queer little segment with King plugging five hour energy after complaining that he would have to defend his title in a three-way.

 

Zema Ion and Sonjay Dutt of all people were in the ring awaiting King in their three way. Dutt was pushed from the top rope onto the ramp, which did not look fun. King then killed Ion with a huge kick. Dutt shot to the floor for a springboard Asai Moonsault. Dutt then landed his crazy Moonsault foot stomp on Ion, but King shot in with his springboard neck breaker for the win. This was a fun spot fest type match, which was better than the three way at the PPV. Brooke was shown walking into the building, and said she was just there for Knockout’s business. It was time for another Bully Ray video with Ray recapping his loss to Hardy in the BFG series, Devon reveal and Brooke situation. Ray is just phenomenal. Sting was shown attempting to make it into Hogan’s office. They cut to the office after the break. Hogan was still angry with Sting saying that he wanted Sting to stop speaking and disappear again. There was a Kim/Terrell video with the Terrell/Kim situation being explained. Terrell came out to accept the consequences for her actions when Kim made her way out. She called herself the greatest female wrestler or all time – no. There would be no division without her and she called Brooke out to fire Terrell. Brooke terminated Terrell as a referee, Kim proclaimed her joy at this announcement, but Brooke also announced that Terrell was now a signed wrestler. This led to Taryn getting a big pop and spearing Kim and chasing her to the back. The matches probably won’t be very good, but this is the best thing that either TNA or WWE have done for women’s wrestling in quite a while. Ray ran by while Brooke was distracted and showed her the ring, which led to Brooke running off.

 

There was another Ray video package with him going through Bischoff, Anderson and Briscoe as members of the Aces & Eights. I was really happy with the fact that they explained some things that really felt like logical inconsistencies at the time. He went through everything until the title change. Angle was backstage explaining why he had to regain the title. Morgan made it out for his match with Joe Park. Morgan toyed around with Park for the whole match. Morgan hung himself up off of a Carbon Footprint attempt, Park shook the ropes following an epiphany. This led to Parking running wild, but he missed his splash and was caught with the Carbon Footprint for the win. This was a fine match for what it was. Hardy was asked what the title shot meant to him, and he gave a standard baby face response. AJ Styles, the man that is certainly playing the Sting role here, was brought out by Tenay. Tenay asked Styles what was going on, he asked him about drug and alcohol abuse. However, Taz interrupted and offered AJ a beginner’s jacket. Styles glared at him and Storm made his way out. He said that the new Styles was fine with him, but he was still the old James Storm and he warned Styles about sucker punching him again. The fans changed hug it out, but Styles simply backed off and walked away. I am enjoying this new Styles character as it has been said for years that Styles needed something fresh, and we certainly have it here.

 

There was a video with Ray talking about his relationship with Hogan. He said that he didn’t reveal his leadership there, because he had to earn Hogan’s trust. He cleared up the biggest plot hole saying that they had to take a beating to follow the plan through. He said in passing that people thought that he was hit with a pillar, but wasn’t really, which was rather strange given that they were trying to get over how big the beat downs were. He closed off saying that he had pulled off the biggest con in pro-wrestling history and no one would take his title. These videos as a whole really helped the angle, and they were a good idea. Joe, Hardy, Magnus and Angle made it out for the main event four-way to determine the number one contender for the world title. Hardy and Magnus picked Angle apart on the floor, the crowd chanted for Joe and he landed a big elbow suicida onto all three men getting a big pop. While Magnus and Hardy were going at it there were thunderous chants for Joe and Angle. Hardy landed twists of fate on all three men and went to the top rope, but Angle shot up for a belly to belly suplex, Angle was pushed off, but Hardy was pushed down onto the apron by Magnus. Angle grabbed an ankle lock on Joe, but Hardy shot in with a Swanton bomb for the win and he celebrated to close the show off

 

WWE SmackDown – March 22nd 2013.

U.S Bank Arena: Cincinnati, OH.

Ben Carass.

 

A recap of Jack Swagger taking out Del Rio and breaking Ricardo’s ankle got us started this week then they showed The Shield backing off from Sheamus, Randy Orton and Big Show, as the narrator asked if Show would team with them at WrestleMania.

 

Miz TV was our opening segment; Sheamus and Orton stood in the ring with the host. Miz said their world had been “turned upside down”, because Vickie took Ryback out of the match with The Shield then asked them who they wanted to take the empty spot in the six-man. Orton stated he wanted the same man that came down to help when The Shield showed up on Raw: The Big Show; Miz asked Sheamus if he agreed with Randy’s choice. Sheamus claimed he didn’t trust Show and Orton added that he didn’t trust anyone, however at WrestleMania he wanted the big angry giant on his side. Miz then brought out The Big Show and he too professed not to trust the giant, due to him ending ShoMiz with a KO punch. Big Show told Miz that his opinion was irrelevant then claimed to have “dated women bigger” than him. Show informed Sheamus and Orton that he did what nobody else had ever done by knocking out a member of The Shield, before declaring that if the three of them worked together not even The Shield could stop them. Sheamus reminded everyone that he and Show had been to war many times; Big Show replied with the horrendously outdated phrase, “true that”, like it was 1999. Sheamus called Show one of the most devious guys he’d ever faced and wanted to know that Show wouldn’t desert them when the going got tough. Big Show stated he wouldn’t have beaten Sheamus for the World title if all he did was run away from a fight; Orton stepped in and told the bickering pair they needed to get along. Sheamus said, “this is not going to work” then Show began, “this will work if you pull your head out of…” Luckily, Booker T showed up in time to prevent any children hearing a naughty word. The soon to be Hall of Fame GM said he needed to know if the three could work together and booked a six-man tag as the main event, however neglected to mention the opponents.

 

For a Miz TV segment, this wasn’t too bad at all. I like how the issue was between Sheamus and Show, while Orton tried to be the peace maker; it seemed much more effective than just having Show argue with both of them. While the “dated bigger women” than the Miz line made me chuckle, I’m not sure if it was a good idea to say that to a floundering babyface who people already have a hard time taking seriously. Perhaps Show went into business for himself ever so briefly and deviated from the script; I find it hard to believe anyone would ok a line like that. I wonder who Booker will choose to put in the six-man; whoever it is, I’m sure they will provide a real challenge for Sheamus, Orton and Show.

 

Mark Henry came out to spilt Zack Ryder’s wig then a graphic hyped Henry vs. Ryback at WrestleMania; JBL was back with Cole and Josh at the booth this week.

 

Zack Ryder vs. Mark Henry

 

Henry tossed around Ryder, who got precisely no offence in then delivered the World’s strongest slam for the victory.

 

Mark Henry defeated Zack Ryder via pinfall, at 0:52.

 

Henry planted Ryder with two more World’s strongest slams then Ryback marched down to the ring; the two monsters squared off and Henry yelled, “you ain’t nothing; I’ll destroy you”, before charging at Ryback, who floored the World’s strongest man with a meat hoot clothesline. Henry rolled to the outside and Ryback did his “feed me more” gimmick in the ring.

 

This was fantastic; the match at Mania may not be a classic, but this was defiantly a great old fashioned, Monster vs. Monster set up. Neither man backed down, Henry looked like a complete insane badass and Ryback got the better a fair one-on-one encounter. Surprisingly, I actually found myself looking forward to these two colliding after this segment, so I suppose everybody involved in booking did their job perfectly.

 

Teddy Long entered Booker T’s office and told the GM that he booked Ryback vs. Henry after “consulting” with Vickie Guerrero. Book said he liked the match, but didn’t appreciate how Teddy handled his business then stated, “you work for me, not Vickie Guerrero”. Teddy replied, “Work for you? I thought I worked with you.”

 

I have no idea where the tension between Teddy and Booker is going, however Book has made several disparaging remarks towards Teddy for weeks now, so I don’t blame Teddy for going behind his back.

 

The Booker T Hall of Fame package was “comin’ for YOU” once again; Cole, Josh and JBL gave the video a standing ovation after it rolled. Dolph Ziggler came out with Big E. and AJ; Josh hyped the Tag Title match at Mania then AJ joined the announce team at the desk. Kofi Kingston appeared for a rematch from Raw, for what must have been the 800th time these two have wrestled.

 

Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler w/ Big E. Langston & AJ

 

Kofi started off fast with strikes, but Dolph hit a swinging neckbreaker; Kofi did his comeback routine and hit the boomdrop then set up for trouble in paradise. Big E. caused a distraction, which led Dolph to hit a dropkick for a two count. After the break, Ziggler cut Kofi off on the top rope then shut down a comeback with another dropkick. AJ said the fact that she had dated 75% of the guys in the Tag Title match at Mania was irrelevant and said she wakes up in a cold sweat every night, because she nearly married Daniel Bryan’s beard. Kofi fought up from a chinlock then Dolph took a ring post spot for the transition; Kofi did his comeback once again and went for a springboard legdrop, however Dolph got his knees up. Ziggler avoided the trouble in paradise and applied the sleeper; Kofi fought out to hit the SOS for a two count. Kofi went for a tope, but Big E. stepped in the way of Dolph; AJ said, “that’s what we pay him for”; Kofi then came off the top and took out Big E. with a high cross, to which AJ remarked, “that’s not what we pay you for E”. Ziggler hit Kofi with the rockerdropper on the floor; AJ stated, “I’m going to have that man’s babies and they will have great hair and abs like a Greek God”. Ziggler finished off Kofi with the ZigZag and AJ shrieked then said, “later nerds”, as she took off the headset.

 

Dolph Ziggler defeated Kofi Kingston via pinfall, at 9:32.

 

Big E. drilled Kofi with his inverted front powerslam after the match and JBL stated if he did that at WrestleMania then there would be new Tag Champs.

 

This was good stuff all round; the match was decent as is usually the case with Kofi and Dolph, AJ was actually entertaining on commentary, Big E. got his move in and even JBL, Cole and Josh did a nice job of talking up the Tag Title match. That’s three segments in a row that have built to Mania and they all were done well in my opinion.

 

Footage of the Fandango/Jericho interaction on Raw rolled then they hyped Jericho vs. Swagger for later on. A recap of the Punk/Undertaker segment from Raw aired; I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but here in the UK, Punk’s “S” bomb was not edited out during the live broadcast.

 

The Big Show and Sheamus were squabbling in the locker room; Orton stood between the two and told them if they didn’t get along they would be sitting ducks for The Shield. JBL and Cole talked about the unlikeliness of Randy being the peacekeeper, which surely will set up his long awaited heel turn then footage of Swagger attacking Ricardo Rodriguez on Raw aired. Cole said X-rays had shown Ricardo had suffered a broken ankle and that Del Rio was at home tending to his friend.

 

This wouldn’t have been my choice, since Del Rio needs all the help he can get to actually get himself over, but I suppose he can always get his revenge on Raw. Or at least try and Swagger can run away like the heel he is; that way the payoff is saved until WrestleMania.

 

Swagger was accompanied to the ring by Zeb Colter. Swagger welcomed everyone to his America then Zeb said what happened to Ricardo was nothing compared to what will happen to Del Rio at Mania and claimed it should serve as a wakeup call to anybody that disagrees with the intolerant pair, including Chris Jericho. Swagger did his, “We the people” catchphrase then Jericho made his entrance.

 

Chris Jericho vs. Jack Swagger w/ Zeb Colter

 

Swagger went to the floor to escape the fired up Jericho, only to be sent into the barricade by a dropkick; Jericho was briefly distracted by Zeb, and Swagger delivered a chop block in the ring. Jericho landed a dropkick, but Swagger took over again and went for a superplex; Jericho fought out to connect with a crossbody off the top for a two count. Swagger rolled to the floor again and Jericho took him out with a slingshot dive over the top. After the break, Swagger scored with a boot to the face and worked over Jericho’s arm for the heat; Jericho started a comeback then went for the trust ten punch spot in the corner. Swagger tried for a powerbomb and Jericho attempted to counter into a hurricanrana, however Swagger held on to apply the Patriot lock. Jericho rolled through and connected with his springboard dropkick, which again sent Swagger into the barricade. At this point, Fandango’s music hit and he came out with his dancer to the stage; I would have loved to be in the arena and seen the stage hands setting up the big gold curtain during the match. Swagger hit a big double leg for a two count after the distraction; Jericho tried for the Walls, but had to settle for a slingshot, which looked atrocious then went for the lionsault. Zeb jumped on the apron and Fandango hit Jericho with a kick; Swagger capitalised and got the victory with a Vaderbomb.

 

Jack Swagger defeated Chris Jericho via pinfall, at 12:03.

 

Fandango attacked Jericho after the bell and delivered a Tennessee Jam from the top then got on the mic. He stood over Jericho and uttered, “Its Fan-dan-go”.

 

The match was fine; Jericho looked strong in there and it was clear he had no problem taking care of Swagger, but the interference cost him the match. That is all well and good, but it didn’t do Swagger any favours leading into his match with Del Rio. Sure he got the win, but he didn’t come across as threatening or a legit World Title contender. At least Fandango actually did something this week and it is clear his first match will be with Jericho, however I don’t know where he goes after a big win like that. Maybe into the IC or US Title picture, however Fandango is on my list of guys I expect to be over like The Sandman at an A.A meeting in MetLife Stadium and I don’t know if even Jericho can get his already tiresome act over.

 

Big Show was with Matt Striker in the back; Show said Orton was right and their team had to get along; Big Show claimed he would put his whole heart into the match then stated Orton and Sheamus would be able to trust him as much as they trusted each other.

 

Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bellas were in the ring; Cody announced they had a special gift for the people then Sandow said he and his best friend were proud to present the only Divas with enough class to accompany them: The Bellas. Brodus Clay, Tensai and The Funkadactyls danced themselves down to the ring.

 

Brodus Clay & Tensai w/ The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars w/ The Bellas

 

Brodus took care of both heels then hit Cody with a corner splash; one of The Bellas jumped on the apron, which led to all the women rolling around with each other one the outside. Clay and “Sweet T” tried to break up the melee, but ended up brawling with the Rhodes Scholars. Charles Robinson counted both teams out and called for the bell.

 

Team Rhodes Scholars and Brodus Clay & Tensai fought to a double count-out, at 1:08.

 

Both tag teams had to restrain their respective women then the babyfaces danced in the ring, as the heels fled.

 

Even though Swagger vs. Jericho could have been handled better, up until this point everything on the show had built towards WrestleMania admirably. Unless we are getting an 8 person mixed tag on April 7th then this was pretty pointless; they had the women fight last week, so it is not beyond logic that they will get 2-3 minutes at Mania. However, with talent like Cesaro and Barrett not yet booked, surely they deserve a spot on the biggest show just as much, if not more than these two teams.

 

Sheamus and Orton joined Matt Striker in the back; Striker asked them if their team was on the same page. Sheamus replied that he and Orton trusted each other and the both of them trusted Big Show as much as he trusted them.

 

Antonio Cesaro was introduced in the ring and Wade Barrett joined the announce team; Barrett talked about the win he got in the three-way on Raw then the attack on Main Event. Miz showed up to face Cesaro.

 

Non-Title Match: The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro (US Champ)

 

Cesaro got the upper hand after a knee to the face then took Miz over with a gutwrench suplex. Miz fought up from a cravat and started a comeback then scored a boot to the knee and locked in the figure four for the victory.

 

Miz defeated Antonio Cesaro via submission, at 2:12.

 

Miz and Barrett stared each other down after the bell and Miz applied the figue four again; Barrett said, “is this supposed to be a message for the Barrett barrage?” and held his title in the air.

 

Miz beating Cesaro in 2 minutes is never going to seem like a good idea; I assume Miz and Barrett are getting the pre-show spot at WrestleMania, however burying one of the best all round workers on the roster that actually was picking up some steam was just the most idiotic booking decision. I know Mania season is all about the big matches, but a little protection of a guy that is undoubtedly going to be a player sooner or later isn’t too much to ask for is it?

 

Randy Orton was out for the main event first then was joined by Sheamus and The Big Show. It was time to find out who Booker T picked as the first challenge for the fledgling trio and you could hear remote controls changing the channel all across the globe as 3MB appeared to wrestle in the main event of a show.

 

Randy Orton, Sheamus & The Big Show vs. 3MB

 

Orton took it to Mahal early then Sheamus came in to continue the assault and landed a Finlayroll; Sheamus stole Show’s overhand chop in the corner spot then Show came in and hit McIntyre with the Sheamus clubbing forearms. Orton drilled Slater with a powerslam then went for the hangman DDT; Mahal caused a distraction and Slater hung Orton up on the top rope then hit a back heel kick for a two count. 3MB got some brief heat on Orton in their corner with some quick tags, however Orton caught Slater coming off the top with a dropkick and made the hot tag to Big Show. Show ran wild on Mahal, but ate a boot from McIntyre; Sheamus tagged himself in, as Show hit Drew with the KO punch and drilled Mahal with the Brogue kick for the victory.

 

Randy Orton, Sheamus & Big Show defeated 3MB via pinfall, at 5:52.

 

Show was not happy at Sheamus for making the blind tag and picking up the fall, however The Shield’s music hit and the bickering stopped. Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns came through the crowd, while Show and Sheamus got into a tussle in the ring. Orton, Sheamus and Show soon got on the same page to stand their ground and The Shield backed off at the thought of a three-on-three encounter.

 

3MB in the main event of a show? I’ll avoid ranting about how this was slightly ridiculous and just say that given everything else they did on the show, they didn’t have anyone else to put in the match with Orton, Sheamus & Big Show. The post-match deal was a nice touch, as it displayed The Shield’s awareness of the threat they face when their opponents are on the same page and I hope they keep up Orton’s role as the voice of reason between Show and Sheamus.

 

This show was actually a very good edition of SmackDown; almost every segment played into WrestleMania and during the first half of the show, the angles were handled excellently. Things took a down turn with the Rhodes Scholars segment; I could have done without Swagger looking so weak and Miz going over Cesaro in 2 minutes was egregiously short sighted, but I can’t complain too much as the episode on the whole was more entertaining than most weeks.

 

Bits and Pieces

 

The official cause of death of William Moody (Paul Bearer/Percy Pringle III) was announced this week by TMZ this week by way of Moody’s son. The cause of death was basically a heart attack brought on by a dangerously high heart rate, or more accurately a heart attack brought on by supraventricular techycardia (SVT), which is actually a manageable heart condition making the death even more tragic. According to the family, Moody didn’t address his health issues immediately, as he didn’t deem them life threatening. The problem with SVT is that many of its symptoms are very close to benign issues such as heartburn, or anxiety.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

Next week we cover both night two and night three of the New Japan Cup, plus we look at more on the Road to WrestleMania, the next live Impact, the news, ratings, All Japan shows and so much more! For more head over to cubedcirclewrestling.com.

 

Contact

 

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Ben Carass’s Twitter Account: @BenDosCarass

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