Category Archives: Reviews

NXT Scouting Report, 12/11: Sami Zayn Needs A Hug

While NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces, its primary goal is to make future superstars with Raw getting the cream of the crop, SmackDown nabs the leftovers and those who would probably better off staying on NXT than finding themselves on Main Event, or worse, Superstars .

Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment from the hourlong show (AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON HULU, SO WATCH IT) and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: How much more of the Kassius Ohno farewell tour can we take? 

The Ascension vs. Hunico y Camacho – NXT Tag-Team Title Match

The WWE likes to trumpet how interactive the product is, mentioning Facebook likes, app downloads, and unique impressions statistics every chance they get. If you watched any of the WrestleMania 31 press conferences from a few days ago you’d swear the main event was already booked as John Cena vs A Hashtag.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting an interactive experience, if it gives fans more chances to consume, enjoy, and spend money on your product then it’s a success.  My problem lies when you use that interactive nature to get lazy with storytelling on screen, and let the extended universe fill in the blanks.

Case in point: The Ascension. I’ve complained for months now that these guys badly need to cut some promos or do something wacky related to their fledging gimmick to make things interesting. Instead, on this week’s NXT, announcer Tom Phillips talks up an article on WWE.com where the team reveals their “power and control over the perception of reality.” I have no idea what the fuck that means, but I like it! Why can’t they just say that on the air? Hardcore fans will surely seek out the article and learn more about these cats, but isn’t the idea to get them over with everyone watching? It’s not so bad on NXT, but the amount that this practice on Raw bums me out.

Okay, on to the match. Nothing terribly great about the action this week, as The Ascension’s title reign hasn’t really produced much excitement beyo-

WAIT I CHANGE MY MIND – LOOK AT THIS PICTURE:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.12.05 PM

How have I never noticed Viktor’s Danzig tattoo? Must’ve been ‘cause I blacked out during all those Corey Graves rest-hold marathons. I demand they change their entrance music to “Dirty Black Summer” immediately.

This belongs on… Main Event.

Alexander Rusev vs. Kassius Ohno

Instead of trying to type with all the tears hitting my keyboard, I’ll just link to David and Thomas‘ pieces about Ohno and Indie wrestling.

Oh, and I went to Raw on Monday (here’s my live report if you missed it) and Alexander Rusev beat the shit out of Zack Ryder in a dark match before the show. Not necessarily a sign he’ll be up any time soon, but they’re giving him a look. I think he’s ready.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Bayley and Natalya Backstage Segment

Bayley is cute enough to make me care about Natalya for 30 seconds. Not bad.

This belongs on… Raw.

William Regal/Antonio Cesaro Match Build

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.25.26 PM

This belongs on… Raw.

Summer Rae & Sasha Banks vs. Bayley & Natalya

Crisp, fast, and stiff looking action from all four women made this my favorite match of the show. I really like how fired up and pissed off Bayley was throughout – she’s getting close to being on the Paige/Emma  level in the ring – and I like her character even more than those two. Sasha Banks seemingly improves every week – her kicks straight to the gut and “Bankrupt” finisher looked outstanding. Bonus points for when Banks hits the finisher, Bayley’s hair braid went flying off screen – a serendipitous storyline moment for those who pay too much attention. When it’s going right, it’s going right.

If NXT keeps producing superior women’s talent that’s better than anyone on the main roster,  we might actually see a Nexus-style invasion to bring them all up at once and wipe out all the dead weight.

This belongs on… Raw.

Leo Kruger Promo

Kruger pitches himself to Zeb Colter for a coveted spot on the Real American Team. There are rumors that Cesaro might turn face because of how over the Cesaro Swing is with the live crowds. Might be a kill two birds with one stone scenario here, where Kruger can take Cesaro’s spot and The Real Americans unorthodox but somehow effective gimmick can continue.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Mojo Rawley vs. Scott Dawson

I know that wrestling shows need dudes like Scott Dawson. Solid performers than can make guys look credible in the ring and keep the show moving. Not quite a jobber, not a comedy performer, just a good average grappler. Sorta like Curtis Axel  or Darren Young do every week on the my t.v. Guys don’t set out to be links in the cog – it just kind of happens. No shame in that, it’s a necessary part of the show.

But instead of Dawson settling for that role now, why not take a chance?  This is NXT, where we can get a little nutty with gimmicks and try some shit out. I guess it’s goofy that he has a Frechman for a manager, but that’s not getting him to Raw. If his destiny is a homeless man’s Arn Anderson, I don’t think that’ll fly unless you’ve got the next Ric Flair hiding somewhere. Time to get creative and see if something can spice things up. He’s good enough to at least get a shot.

This week, Dawson was served up to Mojo Rawley and his ass-first offense. Rawley is going to be a huge star with his infectious deadlifts meets Pixie Sticks persona, and his size and speed combo might be the best in WWE next to Big E. Langston (although Bray Wyatt may have something to say about that.) I’m super HYPED (sorry) that these ex-football players and amateur wrestlers have this wonderful developmental system to go through. Getting the time and training to really hone their craft and characters before being tossed onto Raw is already paying off – the aforementioned Langston and Roman Reigns are already capable Hosses after only a year in the bigs. Rawley should be next.

This belongs on… NXT.

Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn

Much like Bayley earlier in the show, Sami Zayn wrestled pissed off and he probably lost because of it. Much of the joy we get from watching Zayn in the ring is how much fun he’s having performing for us – it’s obvious he loves to do this for a living. Having him get away from that could be give him character some added depth – as long as it’s actual explained on air via some promos.  Since this is NXT, I’m sure we will. I just hope I don’t have to watch it on the app.

This match was a bit shorter than I’d like – of course I’m happy if every Zayn match was ten minutes long, so I’m biased. I’m fine with an encounter between two top stars going short if the ending is something brutal and unexpected for storyline purposes. But in this case I’m not sure Zayn going balls first onto the ring ropes to set up Kruger’s finisher was that. Plus with the unnecessary extra-curricular activities, there could have been two more minutes of match time, which it probably needed. This one felt a little flat too me. I’ve given a Raw worthy rating to every Sami Zayn match so far… but this one didn’t really help either man. So it goes.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Matthew Timmons runs the stat-centric WWE website Kayfabermetrics, and can be harassed on Twitter@matthewtimmons.

Hometown Hero: Raw Regurgitated … LIVE!, 12/09

 

I bought my tickets back on October 9th.  Daniel Bryan had just failed to capture the WWE title at Battleground, but I knew he’d have another shot at the upcoming Hell in a Cell PPV.  By the time Raw rolled up to Seattle on December 9th, I was confident we’d get a championship celebration for our home state wrestling god.  After all the screwjobs and false starts, surely we’d get to greet Aberdeen’s favorite son with championship gold around his waist?  Right?  Riiiiight?

Oh.

Well, since that happened, last night didn’t go down exactly like I envisioned.  What happened might have been even better.

I’m not going to sit here and claim that Seattle just willed Daniel Bryan back into the title picture.  WWE can go ahead and ignore all of this, pass it off as hometown cooking, and keep Bryan fighting the Wyatts until they need him somewhere else on the card.  They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

But if anything, just for one raucous evening, I got to be a part of something truly organic and special.  My ears are still ringing.  I’ve been to Seahawks home games, seen Metallica live in San Francisco at the Fillmore.  This absolutely destroyed any other live event I’ve ever been to.  It was another classic moment in the journey of Daniel Bryan, and I got to be a tiny part of it.

And that’s really the point right?  We can talk about bad booking, and burying and pushes and all that jazz.  We want it all to make sense and look great in a promo package and tie up nice and neatly.  Rarely does that happen  But if we get moments like this, where Daniel Bryan is the best in the world and we let him know as loud as we can go, it sure makes up for it.  If after months and months of wheel spinning, a 90 second all out brawl thrusts Bryan and CM Punk right back into an angle they never should’ve been left out of in the first place, and suddenly creative look like geniuses.  And when John Cena cuts a killer promo, destroying Randy Orton and making everyone else look great, well that completes a trifecta and everybody wins.  I don’t know how it played on television, but it was bliss in the arena.  I’m still a bit woozy.

Woozy, but not delusional.  I’m not confident that WWE can pull this off, or even that they want to.  We’ve been teased and kicked in the dick so many times.  But part of me wants to believe that this is all a wonderful grand plan, that they knew the Seattle crowd would give Bryan the ovation he needed to restart his Authority angle and planned it accordingly.  Daniel Bryan’s hero’s journey to the WWE Championship relaunches, and everyone is happy.

And the entire point of doing the hero’s journey is, well, the journey itself.  Making the man a legend.  I argued that it was the right call to keep Bryan away from the belt because it didn’t add up who he’d feud with.  He still needs a bit more seasoning before he can sell a title feud all by himself yet.  The journey wasn’t over.  The training, the stumbles, the discovery, all the bits and pieces that add up before the victory and resolution.  More to go.

I haven’t been super happy with how things have gone, despite agreeing that Bryan shouldn’t be champ.  The feud with the Wyatts has been great, but it doesn’t make any sense that after chasing the WWE title for months, suddenly Bryan wouldn’t mention a thing about it and just move on.  Cena acknowledging that he should be fighting Bryan instead, and Shawn Michaels getting a running knee both went a long way in erasing months of storyline frustration.  Maybe we’ll make to WrestleMania XXX and finish the journey after all.

And maybe we had a bit more road to travel because once it ends, it ends for good.  Once he’s the man, we don’t get to cheer him like we did tonight anymore.  Sure, he’ll get cheered, but it won’t be, “Daniel Bryan is a guy we love because wrestling is awesome and he’s awesome and why don’t you get it?!?”

Cheers like that come from a special place, a potent mixture of love, anger, spite, and, well, hope.  I have no idea if they’ll ever pull the trigger and acknowledge Bryan is the best wrestler in the WWE.  But while we wait, maybe forever in vain, there’s no harm in telling them what we already know – as loud as we can.  In this world of the scripted spectacle, that’s the realest thing we got.

The +/- #’s: Impact Wrestling, 12/5

In hockey, basketball, and other sports I’m sure I’m forgetting, individual players are held accountable for their team’s performance during their time in the game through the plus/minus statistic. This week, as ever, this Impact review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1; a superior match or well-executed story-building segment), a miss (-1; offensive to the eyes or ears), or a push (+0; wholly acceptable, but nothing memorable) in order to find an overall rating to the show. This week, for the first time, however, Dave’ll be doing his best to explain his reasons behind the score. 

MagnusAngle

Seg 1: Kurt Angle/Magnus Promo Exchange

Thoughts: Kurt Angle’s had so many head injuries in his career that all his promos sound like he just got a head injury.

Magnus needs to stop hedging and turn heel. Talking about having heart and desire in promos isn’t at all consistent with his in-ring actions in what was supposed to be a star-making vehicle against Sting at BFG.

Roode cut a solid heel promo, but the best part was the closing line when he told Magnus he will “never ever be World Heavyweight Champion.” Mangus sold being legitimately insulted, too, which made it even better.

Jeff Hardy starting his own “Hardy” chant was awkward on a lot of levels, most notably: If TNA had booked one of the most over wrestlers of the last 15 years with any competence at all, fans would pop for him on their own. On the other hand, can we already go back to blaming the Orlando crowd for not being into anything?

Score: +0

Reasons: None of these promos were home runs — heck, Roode only hit a double. With that said, Impact opened with a segment that featured wrestlers promoting the two big matches on the card without any authority figure meddling. That’s a good, rare thing these days.

RoodeTable

Seg 2: Jeff Hardy vs. Bobby Roode — Tables Match

Thoughts: A few minutes into the match, Hardy bumped right onto his head on a short-armed clothesline from Roode. It looked really scary, and the announcers threw to a replay, suggesting he took an awkward amount of time live to recover. Things got even worse when Hardy crashed and burned on a Whisper in the Wind attempt on the next spot. If Hardy starts respecting his body more, he’ll be able to make money wrestling for many years. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

Hardy and Roode simultaneously bumping through the table from the apron was very well-timed. If that spot had gone wrong, it would have made for a really awkward decision: call for the bell on the fly, possibly changing the finish, or pretend it looked good. Lucky, it looked great, preventing what could have been a bad situation. Also, it was a nice, logical spot to throw to commercial on, rather than cutting away in the middle of in-ring action.

The finish on this match was great in that the right man won, and he did it in an original way. Hardy had already hit the Swanton and the Twist, so finishing on the mule kick off the apron felt fresher than “here’s my finisher again!”

Score: +1

Reasons: Strong TV match between a great babyface and a great heel. Several good spots throughout with a clean, different finish.

Hebner

Seg 3: Ethan Carter III vs. Earl Hebner (yes, you read that right)

Thoughts: Based on the tight shot of Carter during his promo, it’s safe to say that all his “You suck” heat came out of an extra large can of Goldberg Brand Canned Heat.

This segment was an awful, awful idea, but you know what the worst part of it was? No babyface wrestler came out to stop EC3 from being a gigantic jerk wasting the fans’ time. As I said in my preview, whoever’s booking this angle thinks they’re being “old school” by building Carter on an island separated from any real wrestlers, but that strategy has already cost the character valuable heat. On this trajectory, EC3 will never become a heat magnet, just a channel up button.

Score: -1

Reasons: This whole segment felt like a pre-intermission house show bit, and a bad one at that.

Seg 4: A Collection of Short Promos/Vignettes

Thoughts: The Sam Shaw vignette was really, really good. It successfully made me, a faithful but fairly jaded TNA fan, excited to see more. Shaw actually came across as a decent actor in the segment, and Hemme’s been defined as just a ring announcer for so long that the idea of her actually being involved in an angle seems fresh and intriguing.

Roode’s promo, while short, was a nice touch too. Too often, wrestlers lose an important match and then move onto the next thing with no further thought. It’s good to see TNA actually take care of one of their top characters after a big loss.

The time dedicated to Dixie Carter would have been far better spent as an extra thirty seconds for either Shaw or Roode. Obviously TNA’s writers feel obligated to give their boss X minutes per episode.

Score: +0

Reasons: Cheers to Shaw and Roode. Jeers to Dixie.

IMG_2781

Seg 5: Bad Influence “Expose” Joseph Park

Thoughts: Bad Influence have been one of the most consistent, and consistently strong, acts in TNA since they came together. With that said, being involved with Joseph Park so long has really dragged them down.

After 10 minutes of peeking through my fingers at the TV for fear the awfulness of this segment might blind me like some kind of solar eclipse of shit, I suddenly realized that this whole exchange solved absolutely NOTHING other than set up a match with Eric Young in it.

Score: -1

Reasons: I haven’t cringed so much during a wrestling segment since Claire Lynch. I usually complain when story lines are dropped with no explanation, but this Joseph Park mess was the time to do it. Every time they tease that they’re going to end the angle, I get hopefully optimistic, and every week they just kick the can down the road.

Seg 6: World Tag Team Champions The BroMans vs. GunStorm

Thoughts: The BroMans exist in this existential singularity where I can’t tell if I really hate them or if they’re just good heels.

This match had some solid mid-card action, which was exactly what this episode of Impact was in desperate need of.

The finish of this match was predictably awful. I can never decide if that’s better or worse than an unpredictably awful finish.

Score: +0

Reasons: Watchable midcard match, but nothing special. A solid step down the path for both The BroMans as champions and GunStorm heading toward a breakup.

GailKim

Seg 7: Knockouts Champion Gail Kim vs. Laura Dennis

Thoughts: Gail Kim’s real-life husband, Robert Irvine (of Food Network fame), heeling in Kim’s pre-match promo was fantastic. It’s good to know that heels are married to other heels. This actually felt like a nice “cable-level celebrity” rub for Impact, as Irvine is, in his own way, a very well-established TV character.

Dennis’ offense was mostly punch-kick, but her timing was good, which resulted in the smoothest and most watchable Gail Kim challenge match to date.

ODB’s save looked really good. She came to the ring hot and put together fast-paced offense without looking even slightly blown up. Her clothesline of Tapa over the top rope successfully made her look like a threat to the Kim/Tapa empire.

Score: +1

Reasons: Another watchable match that actually enhanced Gail Kim as champion, and a strong return for ODB. Also, the Robert Irvine heel turn put The Knockouts over the top this week.

RoodeDoode

Seg 8: Magnus vs. Kurt Angle — Last Man Standing Match

Thoughts: This match had some decent action, especially from Magnus, but Kurt Angle’s limitations are getting harder and harder to hide.

Roode’s interference felt like the ultimate copout. This finish will help Roode’s ongoing feud with Angle, but it didn’t do a thing for Magnus who this tournament is supposed to build up as the next main event star in TNA.

This was a good enough match, but it honestly didn’t feel as “main event” as the opener between Hardy and Roode. Angle has a well-established reputation, but I think both matches would have benefitted from this match happening in the first hour and Roode/Hardy main eventing.

Score: +0

Reasons: This match was fine for what it was, but not anything special. A clean win for Magnus would have been a +1, but this match wasn’t good enough to make up for such a bad finish.

OVERALL +/- SCORE FOR 12/3 EDITION OF IMPACT: +0

Final, Final Thoughts: There was about thirty minutes of extremely strong content on this show. Unfortunately, it was a two-hour show.

While Hardy vs. Roode, Sam Shaw’s vignette, and the Knockouts were all positives, ECIII and Joseph Park provided just enough horrifically boring, terribly draggy segments to bring the whole episode back down to earth.

Odds and Ends, Fits and Starts: Raw Regurgitated, 12/2

It’s hard to say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that CM Punk was the person I least enjoyed listening to in a three-way conversation between himself, Kane and Stephanie. At the very least, Corporate Kane has very quickly become my new favorite gimmick remix, replacing long standing champion of my heart, Matt V1. That’s right, I’m a proud MFer.

Stephanie’s a pretty awful actress — which is more than okay considering that she still manages to be better than Dixie Carter and understands how to serve as corporate executive for a business that isn’t the professional wrestling equivalent of a sinking ship on fire — but she plays “awful/detached insanely rich person” like Meryl Streep.

The real problem with the WWE: They won’t let people get over by giving them nearly insurmountable odds against new stars so that they could get over with the crowd by doing the seemingly impossible. If they did that , they could use that narrative dynamic to sell one of the 6-8 PPVs — depending on how one feels about buying the Survivor Series and/or Extreme Rules every year– that don’t sell themselves, while making stars out of everyone involved. If only they did that, things would be so much better.

***

Odds that Dolph Ziggler would face Big E. this early in his IC championship reign for the belt at a PPV: 1,000 to 1. Odds that Damien Sandow beats Langston for the title at TLC: 1,000 to 1. Odds E. loses that belt to Dolph Ziggler at the end of his run: Pick ‘Em. Odds Ziggler faces E. for the Unified Undisputed World War Wrestling Championship Belt Title after Langston wins it: 1,000,000 to 1.

If they are doing “Summer Rae is a female version of Fandango in the ring” with this “dancing while wrestling” thing, it might be the best news in the history of wrestling, because Here Comes the Emmalution. But if they are just having her do this because that’s what they think ladywrestling should be, they might as well just keep the women of NXT down in Florida until they all retire.

Things that are beautiful, but not long for this world: sunsets, a refreshing breeze, #BadNewsBarrett

***

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Man, they should just give Daniel Bryan a shovel, so he can dig his own grave, amirite? Anyone who thinks this Wyatt storyline isn’t fantastic — even with the fits and starts with Daniel Bryan’s whereabouts that 8% of the crowd actually worries about — is a bummer on the level of people who that John Cena has been the most popular performer in the company for the last ten years because of politics. And those people are as depressing as Hulk Hogan being the most popular performer in the world for 20 years because of politics.

And in all this Bray Wyatt “join me” business, while it’s hard to say what’s going to happen, the real interesting dynamic is whether Wyatt is trying to con Bryan, or whether he just wants him to turn heel. The former screams “Hero’s Journey,” while the other leads to a feud with CM Punk — after he nobly dispatches the Shield by himself in a parallel storyline.

This is pretty much the perfect “midcard” feud: it has tons of intrigue and even more stakes, but doesn’t involve a major title, won’t be featured at the end of any show and never be truly resolved, and still serves major purposes in terms of narrative momentum for both characters, marks a fundamental shift in the direction of their careers and, most importantly, will lead to much better things in the future for everyone involved.

Like Andy said last week, this is all highly interesting stuff with huge stakes, and it should be clear that this would be bogged down if the WWE or WHC was involved, especially in the ramp up to the most important “WrestleMania season” ever. They’ve figured out a way, in a manner not unlike Community or Arrested Development, to not just mix meta-commentaries into the product as a nod to those “in on the joke”, but to debate the very notions that the commentaries are pointing at.

Wyatt talking about “taking down the system because they don’t know what they have in you” is the exact same idea as the Bluths complaining about cuts to housing orders that sounded suspiciously similar to the ones made by FOX regarding the number of episodes they wanted to produce.  By making this about existential ideas involved in the modern interpretation of wrestling by its most vocal fanbase — “us vs. them” and shadow politickings — it’s allowed the Reality Era-storytelling to be folded back into the standard tropes of the industry, something that the Attitude Era, like grunge, just never had in it.

What “happens” backstage become, more or less, a new wall of kayfabe, a new layer of storytelling, a new tool to be used to leverage butts into seats. And they are doing so by pushing the fourth wall against every screen they can get their hands on.

That this — the incorporation of formerly radical ideas by the “establishment” — is more often than not what happens after revolutions should not be missed. They — meaning the WWE — are finally calibrating the effect of the internet to a time before Cyber Sunday or even Taboo Tuesday, and that’s a good thing. It coming with more complaining than you can shake a stick at? Something we should be used to by now. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC MILKSHAKE ON YOUR WAY OUT***

WOAH. You can bury Edge and Chris Jericho, hotshot story lines to the top of the card before quickly discarding them in favor of much shinier new toys, and compare yourself to Harley Race and Hulk Hogan, but having Kane be a dick to Daniel Bryan is a bridge too far, Hunter.

***

As someone who has spent an entire life neck deep in white privilege — ICYMI: it’s great, for me anyways, thanks cultural hegemony! — it feels weird to get mildly indignant that a young man working toward his Ph. D is being put into a storyline with two of the most racial caricature-y characters in recent memory in which he’s been accused of stealing the others’ dance routine and companions, seemingly simply because they all happen to share a preponderance of melanin in their skin. But, yeah, this just feels kind of gross, even if it is just entertainment, and the all seem to A) not care about whatever weird racism pangs happen in my head and B) be genuinely enjoying themselves. The only saving grace is the the other guy in the feud (Tensai) was treated just as one-dimensional in Japan, so at least the U.S. isn’t the only one in the “depressing racial stereotypes” game, just the leader in the clubhouse.

Speaking of depressing racial stereotypes, if the WWE believes we are going to be fooled by this Sin Cara/Hunico switch just because it assumes we think all masked wrestler look alike, well … they are probably right.

***

And, finally, we’ve reached an impasse with the Shield six-man tags, as this was one of the first that felt “stale”. While it was a very good match with one or two spectacular moments, watching three guys work over one in the corner makes a lot more sense when it feels like they almost need to do it, not when it’s clear that one of them has beaten entire teams of other people by himself. Roman Reigns’ ascension seems like it will pretty much force the Shield to change how their matches are structured in order to keep the heat as the crowd builds anticipation for Reigns to go into full-blown destroyer mode after well-timed hot tags. Or, they could just keep running train.

The most important part of this match was not the re-dissolution of Kofi and Miz’s team or the solidification Ryback-Axel tag team, but the moment of self-actualization the two man achieved after they, as Jerry Lawler put it, “realized that maybe they weren’t Paul Heyman guys, but Ryback and Curtis Angl-Axel guys”. Namaste, Big Guys.

Ole!

***

Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate.

It’s so much fun to watch Antonio Cesaro to get moments of awesomeness like ending a “house of fire” hot tag with the sweet smell of Swiss Death.

***

I’m one of “those” people. I enjoy silly promos from Randy Orton about being people’s nightmares, I like when John Cena says “yadda yadda yadda, jack”, I even enjoy when he uses that silly finisher of his to put people through the table. And I’ve realized why: I like when the crowd reacts to things. And, when they are on, and put together in the right storyline, there is nothing on earth that the crowd reacts more to than Randy Orton and John Cena.

HAVING SAID THAT, if they do not end this thing with an undisputed champion, or at least one title — and it does not matter how they get there, even if it involves the return of the Yeti — they will have lost sight of what they are, and become what they hate. They’ll be WCW.

Bang for Your Buck PPV Review: Survivor Series 2013

Survivor-Series-2013-Wallpaper-HD_crop_650x440

The WWE celebrated the 27th edition of the Survivor Series  in Boston last night, and well, at least nobody got screwed?

For those who missed the Hell in a Cell review, the criteria for these reviews is simple: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” test of “quality”.

Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches being +1, a just-quite-PPV quality match +/- 0,  and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The higher the number, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):

Review Guide

As always, we’re going to be using what I said during the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to “predicting” what unfolded, and how it stacked up to my beliefs of what they were “trying” to do. Enjoy!

The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston (Kickoff Match)

Best Case Scenario: The inevitable “You Wanna Know Why?” promo is short, the match is long enough to make both guys not look like, well, themselves. Miz  fakes an injury, then leaves  for six months to go shoot the direct-to-video sequel to the ABC Family Original movie The Christmas Bounty.

Although this doesn’t count for the PPV’s overall Buck Bang (I guess?), I’d be remiss to not mention how very solid this match was. Both competitors looked, especially before the commercial break  — yes, I know, but at least it was doing the free part — like the best possible version of himself. That they teased a Kofi heel turn was actually exciting, even if it didn’t make a ton of sense.

Rhodes Brothers, Usos and Rey vs. The Real Shield Americans in a Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Match

What Nick Wants to Happen: A match half as good as the main event from this week’s Raw.

What Will Happen: The heels win, because of dissension from the face team. Rey Mysterio gets speared in half.

While dissension from the face team is always fun, I should have predicted “The heels win, because Roman Reigns” because “future megastar destroys entire group of people” is definitely better than the already super great “The Usos are feuding with the Rhodes boys”. This entire thing was beautiful, and while “the story” itself for the match wasn’t quite to the level of the main event from this week’s Raw, the execution of last night’s story — Roman Reigns is a grown ass man —  was as close to perfect as possible. Everyone got a proper spotlight, and while Reigns finished the match (and maybe the night) looking like the best man, everyone looked good to great, and that’s all you can ask for from anything, and especially a match like this. That it was in-and-of-itself an insanely enjoyable a-move-a-minute-without-being-a-spot fest  for a full 20 minutes before that almost seems unfair.

These are things that only the traditional Survivor Series matches can do, and why, for all the wandering away from the original conceit, they try to come back to it at least once every year and treat it like it’s one their most important shows.

Match +1.0

Big E. Langston (C) vs. Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Championship

Best Case Scenario: Curtis Axel actually looks like he deserved to be Intercontinental Champion for the past few months, but the rising star of Big  E. burns just a little too brightly for Curtis to overcome. Also, Big E. makes the ref count to five. That would be awesome.

Although the crowd was the dribbling shits for this match, the performances were every bit as good as I had hoped. Big E. is a super duper star in the making, even if his post-match “I’m pandering to you” pander promo fell a little flat. Curtis Axel never really looked like he had a chance in this match, but he looked as good — if not better — than he looked the entire time he held the belt. Just being able to stay in the ring with someone like Big E. and not look like a scared little boy as 290 pounds flies all around the ring at you is an underrated skill, one that Curtis Axel did a yeoman’s job of projecting. That he got in most of his offense, and even a Perfectplex, means while they may not think he’s Intercontinental Title material, they definitely think he has a future. Not a masterpiece, but everything it needed to be and a little more.

Match +.4 | PPV 1.4

Total Divas vs. The Non-Total Divas in a “Traditional” 7-on-7 Survivor Series Match

What Nick Wants to Happen: Anything interesting at all the entire match.

This was not a “good” match, but it definitely wasn’t bad, and the “story” of the match was well told/mildly interesting. Which is nice. That they are turning Summer Rae into “girl who just dances”? Not so much. But pick your battles, and all that.

Match +/-0 | PPV 1.4

Ryback v. Mark Henry

My love for both of these performers is well-documented and knows no bounds. As Andy, who I watched the show with, put it: this works way better with Henry as the face. Now, Mark Henry could wrestle Khali and I think I would find it enjoyable, but him getting a solid 10-minute match with a guy that can do things like actually suplex him is pretty much what you want from a return match with him. This isn’t the type of match you show people who don’t like wrestling why it’s so awesome (see: the first match on the card), but as someone who paid for the PPV, it’s still nice to watch two guys Hoss it Out.

Match +.4 | PPV 1.8

 John Cena (C) vs. Alberto del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship

What Will Happen: Cena will overcome impossible odds and beat Alberto del Rio with one arm. The injured one.

There’s a difference between being “predictable” and “easy to predict”. The result of John Cena matches are “predictable”, in the sense that it’s almost always clear when he goes to lose a match, which is almost never. Given the binary option of “win” or “lose”, “predicting” what’s going to happen in a John Cena match is simple. Being “predictable” is fine: Batman and Superman are predictable. But, being “easy to predict” means “I know what’s going to happen in the match, and more importantly, at the end” and that’s where the problems happen. John Cena is a superhero and we should not expect him to shockingly lose, pretty much ever. Him winning the match after power bombing Albert del Rio with his bad arm is not something we should expect to see. When it happens, it should be magical and inspiring, not “oh, of course.” “Oh, of course” is kryptonite for performers on Cena’s level, and it’s something he’s done a very good job of staying away from since he feuded with Punk two years ago. And while this match was totally enjoyable, it had potential to be really great, and more importantly, much less easy to predict.

Match +.4 | PPV 2.2

CM Punk & Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan

What Nick Wants to Happen: The Beard and the Best to take an epic shitkicking, but like Bret Hart and Timex before them, manage to take a licking and keep on ticking.

What Will Happen: Probably something close to what I want to happen. I’m special and Vince McMahon loves me.

Like the 5-on-5 match, this was exactly what it needed to be, and maybe a little more. Erick Rowan, and especially Luke Harper, are special talents and this match was a showcase for that. All four men looked as good as was humanly possible and even the pre-match vignette/Bray Wyatt promo was the type of stuff that makes him one of the most talked about superstars in years despite wrestling only sporadically since his debut/injury. There are teams that can stay together  forever, and while I would love to see Luke or Erick make it to the next level as a singles competitor, the Wyatt boys are definitely a pairing that I would not mind working together for a long long time. And while I’d prefer both of them to get back to singles  competition as soon as possible, this detour through the swamp is exactly what they needed in order to refresh themselves for the ramp up to WrestleMania season.

Match +.7 | PPV 2.9

Randy Orton (C) vs. Big Show for the WWE Title

Best Case Scenario: Randy Orton pulls out all the sto(m)ps as he reverts completely back into his serial killer/Legacy period. Triple H doesn’t come down to ringside, and nobody cheats.

There’s definitely something to be said for what they are doing with Randy Orton right now that I actually like more than almost anything on the show right now: they are making him crazy. Some of it is subtle, like the incompetence of Brad Maddox, Vickie Guerrero and Kane getting Randy Orton into all different types of fights, and some of it is glaringly overt, like the constant challenges from H and Stephanie for Randy to pick his game up.

With the way this match was booked, and the way that Orton played it, they are really building up the “heavy is the head that wears the crown” aspect of his title reign, which is wonderful, at least in the sense that it gives him a purpose beyond “thing the Authority uses to shank you in the prison cafeteria”. It also creates tension between Triple H, Stephanie and all of the members of the administration, including the Shield. But it begs a serious question: Why?

Why aren’t they just having Randy Orton be Murder Death Killer? This isn’t a rhetorical question, either. If the goal of this match/end of PPV angle with Cena was to get us to ask confused questions AND make sure we tune into Raw tonight, they did a GREAT job. But, if the goal was to create excitement beyond confused curiosity? Not so much.

Match +.6

Your Mileage May Vary on the Divas match, but for the most part, this was a very good card that did a lot to move a number of story lines/characters forward, helped establish a few performers — — Big E. and the Wyatts — as formidable competitors, while planting the seeds for Roman Reigns to be made king of the world. If the main event finish didn’t feel so wonky, this could have been the best PPV we reviewed, but because of what could most generously described as an “meh” finish, it’s toward the back of the middle of the pack for  the full card, even if it finds itself much closer to the top of what we’ve reviewed when it comes to a per match basis. While the matches on an individual level were  all PPV-quality, considering the PPV ended essentially 20  minutes short makes me feel like — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — having the Miz vs. Kofi on the actual card would have made me feel like I’d paid for a steal of a card, as opposed to one I just simply wasn’t disappointed in.

PPV 3.5 | Match Avg. .5

NXT Scouting Report, 11/20: Everybody Gets A Cookie!

nxt 11:20:13

While NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces, its primary goal is to make future superstars with Raw getting the cream of the crop, SmackDown nabs the leftovers and those who would probably better off staying on NXT than finding themselves on Main Event, or worse, Superstars .

Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment from the hourlong show (AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON HULU, SO WATCH IT) and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Can a beat-the-clock challenge help our burgeoning sports-entertainers shine? 

Bo Dallas Homecoming

The most interesting thing to watch as Bo Dallas evolves his character over the coming months  is how he handles increasingly hostile crowd. Oblivious Bo is funny, but at some point he needs to learn how to keep that gee-golly shitbird smile going while acknowledging the crowd when they’re ignoring a wordy segment like this week’s slide show. It’s easy when it’s some simple Boo-Urns stuff he can shrug off, but he had to work to get through all his material here. Nothing to worry about necessarily, just something to watch for going forward. Oh, and the two best Dallas lines this week: “There I sports entertained…” and “Did you come here for a cookie?” Oh, and it was nice of Olive Oil to let Bo borrow her shirt.

Overall this was a slam-dunk segment surrounding the championship, it makes the version on Raw seem unnecessarily complicated by comparison. Bo Dallas is the face of NXT, but the fans love Sami Zayn, and Sami wants to title. So JBL’s going to make him work to get there without sacrificing the integrity of the federation. So a beat-the-clock challenge is created to give the rest of the roster a fair shake and not just hand another shot to Zayn. SIDE NOTE: The beat-the-clock challenge is a pretty stupid way to determine a #1 contender because it really doesn’t prove any sort of higher skill level. But it squeezes several matches into one show while simultaneously giving each match urgency, direction and purpose. Tournaments are always preferable, but with NXT’s one hour running time, the story needs to move a bit quicker.

One other big positive form this segment: Zayn came across as a tough babyface without being a dick – “cheeseball” is a great way to get at Dallas without calling him something misogynistic. Hope that character thread continues.

This Belongs on … Raw

Big Cass vs. Alexander Rusev

Even if I’m going to give a beat-the-clock challenge a pass overall, I still need to criticize the wrestlers when they completely ignore logic trying to win the stipulation. Maybe somebody translated the rules into Bulgarian using Google Translate, but what the fuck was Rusev looking at the clock for!?! This was the very first match of the challenge! He had no time to beat! Come on!

Other than that bit of ridiculousness, this was a fine match that made both guys look pretty good. Rusev got to beat up a legit 7-foot dude, and Big Cass got some babyface props for his fighting spirit. His breaking out of Rusev’s first attempt at the Camel Clutch was great, actually looking like a someone ripping and clawing to break a hold. So many times it looks like the guy applying the hold just kind of quits or forgets they are in a wrestling match.

This Belongs On … NXT 

Adrian Neville Interview 

I’d normally hate to celebrate a concussion of a sports entertainer. But in this case…

THANK YOU NEV-ILLE! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP. THANK YOU NEV-ILLE! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP.

This Belongs On … SmackDown

Bayley Interview

The variety of female characters that grace NXT is outstanding. And I’d be hard pressed to choose anyone over Bayley as my favorite right now. How can you not love this girl? There is some serious babyface sympathy here, but without her seeming weak or helpless. Outstanding.

This Belongs On … Raw 

Tyler Breeze vs. Kassius Ohno 

Oh god, no one told me Ohno would still be on these episodes. Does this mean we have to sit through four weeks of Ohno matches and promos knowing his fate? Oy vey. Ohno wasn’t a personal favorite of mine, but I know how much he meant to a lot of independent wrestling fans, and I always appreciated his cerebral, big strike wrestling style. It was on full display here as Ohno only went for quick pins. You know, to try and actually wrestle to the stipulation. Not surprising he’d be one of the only guys who understood the rules and wrestled accordingly.

On the plus side, it was nice to see Breeze straight-up dominate most of this match despite the loss. He looked quick, aggressive, and — despite the goofy section with Ohno lying outside and the count-out possibility ignored – focused. Getting in the ring with some one of Ohno’s caliber showed a bit more of Breeze’s in-ring knowledge and timing. The finale of the match, with reversal after reversal, flowed well and improved Breeze all-around stock even more.

This Belongs On … SmackDown

Hunico/Camacho vs. Jobby Jobbers

squash-yellowcrookneck

This Belongs On … Superstars

Kassius Ohno Interview

:(

Aiden English vs. Adrian Neville 

Okay, so now as the beat-the-clock challenge progresses, I’m starting to even 2nd guess my self whether it has any merit at all. This might just be me whining because it makes my job scouting a bit tougher, but these matches become breakneck and jittery so quick, characterization is mostly lost – and evaluating character is half of my job. Although one could say English’s attempt at a high risk maneuver at the top rope with under 30 seconds shows off his characters lack of ring awareness, we’d have to penalize just about every participant for pulling bonehead shit like that.

But, this match was still strong – both men looked spry and game, with Neville looking especially crisp after wrestling with a “knee injury” the past couple of weeks. Still not sure what kind of character Neville will go with when he finally gets called up – if he wants to stand out past guys like Tyson Kidd or Justin Gabriel he’ll need something more than high-flying skills and an accent. Hasn’t worked for those guys.

This Belongs on … SmackDown 

Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn

Did you see that thumbs up Zayn gave the tie-tied little girl in the front row during his entrance? What a great guy, that Sami Zayn. Can’t find a more naturally like-able wrestler going. I was hoping that we’d get Sami on the big stage around this time, as maybe a surprise Survivor Series participant or teaming up with Punk/Bryan against the Wyatts, but as long as we get solid matches each week on NXT out of him, I can be a patient fan.

We’ve seen these two do battle a few times already, and as Alex Riley pointed out (somehow without mentioning The Miz!) their contrast in styles is a pleasing experience. I had been spoiled that Neville vs. Zayn was happening soon, so I saw the beat-the-clock challenge tie coming a mile away. But seeing the timing and skill it takes to pull of getting that spot juuuuust right was awesome. Kudos to Kruger, Zayn, and ref dude for pulling it off.

Also, big ups for Bo Dallas changing into his trunks to watch this match. Always gotta be ready for a fight.

This Belongs On … Raw

Matthew Timmons runs the stat-centric WWE website Kayfabermetrics, and can be harassed on Twitter @matthewtimmons.

12 Monkey Tag Match in a Barrel: Raw Regurgitated, 11/18

12Monkeys

MR. Brandon Stroud has been on this much longer, but they’ve clearly started to lay the major groundwork for “Randy Orton is not putting up with shit from ‘The Authority’ anymore” storyline. If they can manage to do that and still allow Orton to be a crazy person, I’ll enjoy it. If this means a reversion to “What’s my line, Sheamus?”, I’m going to be PISSED.

Vickie Guerrero’s crowning achievement in her career is either “WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU, VICKIE?!” or her sheepish “excuse me” from the opening segment of Raw. It’s six of one, half-a-dozen of another.

Brad Maddox can’t do much in the ring, but he sells like the World Champion of getting his ass kicked. It’s different that Dolph Ziggler’s “Rubberman” selling or Seth Rollins’ stuntman bumps, but it’s just as valid and wonderful. Remember, nobody took a shit kicking like Bret Hart. And nobody takes getting thrown over the top rope to the outside like Brad Maddox.

***

Either everyone who didn’t see Big E. Langston winning the IC Title after immediately after they realized the E had remixed his entrance music is a dirty mark; or, I watch way too much professional wrestling. I don’t want to think about the latter, so I’ll just assume it’s the former.

And, seriously, if he’s not the next John Cena, I’ll eat whatever stupid trucker hat they make for him.

If this were Spoiler Alert, that music chairs segment would read:

SKIP this segment because … listen, abortion jokes are never funny, so I’m not going to make one here. But, man, was that an abortion.

***

Big Show isn’t the presence that Andre was, but he’s still on the Great side of the ledger as a “wrestler you pay to see”. That’s not to say he’s a great technician, but that there is more to being worthy of paying to see for a sizable portion of the audience than that. Those people are kind of silly for the most part, but, in matches like this, where he gets himself and Ryback over as serious contenders not to be trifled with — a week after The Ryback lost to The R. Truth via rollup — is something that not many people can do, and almost no one has ever been as good at while also being that size.

This felt oddly predictable, not just because whatever the heck it was they were alluding to during commentary, but because this seemed like the worst possible scenario for both Kofi Kingston and The Miz. As a heel, The Miz is a non-Cena WHC-contender (emphasis on the contender part). As a face, he is Kofi Kingston.

This AJ Lee – Vickie “match” just seemed weird, and oddly reminiscent of the type of inside stuff that doesn’t play with the live crowd, especially when that can’t bump like Bobby Heenan. This may have been her worst showing ever in a ring, but at least she took the Black Widow like a champ. Also, Tamina is all of the bad parts of Diesel and like one of the good parts: she has interesting hair.

***

If they make Dolph Ziggler start acting like Jeff Jarrett, we’re going to re-run #JeffJarrettWeek, but add early-to-mid 90’s catchphrases to the article and make the pictures look they were postcards sent from Bayside High so our beloved readers better understand what they have in front of them.

Everyone understands that John Cena didn’t actually need his arm in a sling, right? Is his arm “hurt”? Sure. But it more than seems like the whole point was that the sling was a ruse. One can argue that’s not a particularly good thing for a face to do, but to say that he beat Alberto del Rio “with one arm” means you should pay more attention to the story. This is Inception, folks: they are literally explaining every single part as they go along so no one gets lost.

Serious Question: Will @XavierWoodsPHD cause the E to downplay Damien Sandow’s intelligence or will they just start a feud with the two immediately about “Who’s the smartest man in the WWE?”. Gross either way.

I didn’t mind the Florida Georgia Line performance. I’ve heard the song a bunch of times before, and I don’t mind giving the WWE an occasional variety show vibe every couple of months. Especially for the go-home show before a “Big Four” PPV. Just don’t make a habit of … really? Michael Strahan? Goddamnit.

***

***WARNING YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE***PLEASE KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES*** If you are trying to construct a go-home show, this is a pretty perfect way to do it, especially for Survivor Series. Most of the questions coming into the show — like who was going to be the mystery partner in the “Traditional Survivor Series” match — were answered by the end of this match. And more importantly, they finished it in the hottest way possible, with one of the new rising stars of the company having a extremely hot crowd chanting along with him and seven of his friends. A lot of the things that happened on this show seemed important, and nothing felt more important than the main event. That match, a 12-man tag affair, was something that would have felt impossible a year ago. But in the last year, we’ve seen a revitalized tag team division, the re-introduction of stables of factions, the Wyatt Family, the Authority, two (very short) Daniel Bryan WWE title reigns (and more importantly WWE title match victories), the rise of the Rhodes family & the Usos,  and most importantly, the Shield. There are definitely going to be people out there who didn’t enjoy this show, and I understand why, but I found myself cheering and clapping at all of the odds and ends that helped create the whirlwind ended that you bet sent the crowd home happy, both in the arena and on television. Which is the whole point. ***WARNING YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE***PLEASE ENJOY YOUR SONIC MILKSHAKE ON YOUR WAY OUT***