Tag Archives: Renee Young

Headlock’d Presents: The Script for the 2013 Supplementary Slammys

Just like the Oscars, sometimes certain Slammys aren’t deemed important enough to make it to television.  Unlike the Oscars, sometimes certain awards aren’t deemed important enough to make it onto WWE.com.  Because we leave no stone unturned, we have decided to bring to light the unsung heroes of the WWE.  These are the Supplementary Slammys!

The Slammy for “overuse of a pop culture phrase”of the year goes to:

Zeb-twerks

Twerkin’

Presented by: Michael Cole

Of course Michael Cole would present this.  It has been very easy to get sick of the phrase “Twerkin”, as it did not take long at all for this to make it into news broadcasts and parent-teacher programs that try to relate to kids.  Like “Word Up”, “Crunk” and “Old School” before it, this word had the coolness sucked dry from it faster than Fandango-ing.  Unlike “Word Up”, “Crunk” and “Old School”, this is an awful, awful, awful thing and deserves to be shot dead.  “Twerkin” is not something new and existed long before Miley was a twinkle in her dad’s achey-breaky eye.  The only difference between what strippers do at work and “Twerkin” is that the twelve year old from the YouTube video posted on your Facebook wall didn’t generate enough hits to monetize their content.  Keep fighting the good fight WWE.

Accepted by:  Anyone member of the roster over the age of forty-five. Seriously, anyone will do.

The Slammy for “WWE staff member of the year” goes to:

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Dr. Michael J. Sampson

Presented by: Zack Ryder with a plate full of food from catering

When I first heard his name I was really disappointed he wasn’t a muscular superhero psychologist with long green hair.  Truth be told, a year ago I barely knew who he was.  If I saw him walking down the street, I wouldn’t recognize him.  One year later and I wouldn’t recognize him unless he was wearing a WWE black polo. I see him retweeted on twitter, being briefly featured in angles, referred to by name and even getting a line of dialogue.  The fact that he has had more screen time on RAW than Yoshi Tatsu means he has truly earned his Slammy….that and saving Jerry’s life.

Accepted by: Sandra the Seamstress, who steals the Slammy saying it is rightfully hers.  This starts a four month feud that culminates at Wrestlemania, bumping the mixed gender tag match off the card.

The Slammy for “The Milford School of Refereeing WWE Official of the year” goes to:

Marc-Harris-Layla

Not Marc Harris

Presented by: Natalya

I don’t care who gets it.  Break it into pieces so that every referee not named Marc Harris gets some (shouldn’t be too hard, it’s probably chocolate on the inside.)  Remember that awkward Natalya/AJ Lee finish a while back?  Where Natalya had to force Marc Harris to raise her hand in victory when the match wasn’t over yet? Maybe Harris made the right call that night, maybe not.  That’s not the issue.  It’s the response of “a Great ref would pick that up & I did” and “A lot of ‘know it alls’ think they know the rules, but they don’t.  That’s why I’m professional cause I’m the best”.  When the world thinks you royally screwed up on TV, being a pompous, super defensive prick may not be the way to go.  Just saying.

Accepted by: Scott Armstrong with a hacksaw

The Slammy for “Meme-Face of the year” goes to:

big-show-aaahhh

Big Show’s “I’ve had it” angry-sad face

Presented by: Sin Cara

Big Show looks like a kabuki performer with no makeup.  Come to think of it, Knucklehead would have been amazing if it was adapted for Kabuki theater.

Accepted by: Big Show. He’s crying.

The Slammy for “Underused performer of the year” goes to:

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JTG

Presented by: Triple H

I defy you to find someone who was used less than this man.  I really like JTG.  He did most of the heavy lifting when it came to in ring work with Cryme Tyme and his work as a singles competitor on NXT Redemption was surprisingly fun.  Hell, I saw the man in the ring with ol’ Michael McGillicutty at Wrestlemania Axxess and he worked the (minimal) crowd to be one of the most over guys in there.  Was he ever going to be a main event player? Probably not, but he at least could’ve had a chance at the mid card in the Zack Ryder position.  However, once the WWE decided they had nothing for him, they stripped him of his street wear and kept him off TV.  They didn’t change his character, they just took it away.  Now seeing JTG wrestle is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster, I know it happens, but it’s near impossible to prove.  At least Yoshi Tatsu shows up backstage now and then.

Accepted by: Triple H, cause they told JTG to stay home that night. Hunter unwraps and eats the chocolate

The Slammy for “Mike Adamle Memorial Commentator/Backstage Interviewer of the Year” goes to:

Renee

Renee Young

Presented by: Alex Riley

Oh, Renee. She is the best interviewer they have, and has quickly put herself right below the Gene Okerlunds of the world as an actual character with value,  AND she’s the first female commentator in WWE history with her work in NXT. All while not trying to be “one of the boys”, which is to say pleasing to listen to and genuinely interested in the product.  She didn’t come off the model assembly line and get randomly stuck in WWE until a better deal comes along, she knows the product from her being a lifelong fan, and her work with Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas on Aftermath makes us appreciate her all the more.  She was robbed by not being nominated for Diva of the Year, but her career is still young and still has to go through the Sami Zayn love story angle that millions of fans have already written about in fan fiction.  In five years time she will have joined the Smackdown Commentary team.

Accepted by: Renee Young.  Alex Riley congratulates and hugs her just a little bit too long to be comfortable

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Watch, Skip or Skim: Spoiler Alert with “Angry” Andy (11/27-11/29)

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Over the course of seven days, there’s a lot of wrestling on TV. But only some of it is actually worth watching. That’s where Spoiler Alert comes in: we break down the spoilers of all of WWE’s pre-taped shows to let you know what you should watch, and which segments and full shows you should skim or skip. This week, WWE lays the groundwork for some questionable storylines, and hopes you can stomach a holiday-themed Smackdown!

Main Event

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 (spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Alberto Del Rio d Dolph Ziggler

I’d be willing to bet this is a pay-per-view quality match.  These are two of the most talented guys on the roster, even if they’re not in the roles they should be.  Del Rio needs someone who can make him look like a vicious killer, and Ziggler sells like a madman… this is good booking.

Damien Sandow d Santino

Reports say this one is a simple squash, which is unfortunate for Santino.  That said, Sandow really needs some wins, and a loss will never hurt Santino.  That said, I’d rather see this match get 10 minutes on Raw, with the same outcome.

TRIPLE FREAKING H makes a rare Main Event appearance.  The King of Kings cuts a promo backstage, saying he wants one WWE Champion, and to unify the belts.  I like this, because it’s something important happening on an “unimportant” show, completely separate from the immediate legitimacy Triple H’s presence already adds to the show.

Kofi Kingston d Fandango

This match can only serve one purpose- to further the feud between Kofi and The Miz.  Hopefully The Miz is on commentary (said no one, ever) so he can help push the feud on the mic.

SKIM this show.  Del Rio-Ziggler should be great.  The Sandow match is totally inconsequential.  Triple H will be a special “A-Show” treat on the C-program, and Kingston-Miz is a solid mid-card feud in the making,

SUPERSTARS

wwe superstars show logo 

(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Hey, remember Superstars?  Apparently, it airs Fridays on Hulu Plus.  This week’s show  was taped before Raw on Long Island, which means the crowd had to be REALLY hot for…

Zack Ryder d Fandango

Long Island loves Zack Ryder.  If he’s not on the show, the crowd chants “We Want Ryder!” all friggin’ night – so WWE got his appearance out of the way early.  If these guys are smart, they went Memphis for this bad boy.  The crowd is going to be hot either way, and it’s early in the show – take it easy and use the crowd to tell your story.

The Usos d The Real Americans

A friend at the show said this match was really good.  Considering who’s involved, I have no problem believing it.  Hopefully the crowd is just as good.

SKIM this show.  Watch or skip the opener, depending on your feelings on the guys involved.  But there’s no excuse to miss The Usos vs Cesaro & Swagger, on a show where they probably spent 15 minutes having an awesome match.

SMACKDOWN

WWE-Smackdown

(Spoilers via LordsofPain.net)

Randy Orton & Renee Young are in the ring, forcing Nick to watch the opening segment. (Editor’s Note: He’s right.) Orton brags about Survivor Series but walks out when asked about TLC.  Apparently, we won’t be talking about that OTHER World Champion.

Vickie Guerrero is hosting a Thanksgiving-themed eating competition backstage.  If this doesn’t end with her wearing a face-full of mashed potatoes, then I just don’t know wrestling anymore.

Mark Henry d Curtis Axel.  Quick match, with Big E Langston and Ryback ringside.  I hope this is leading somewhere.  4-way for the title at TLC?

Titus O’Neil wins the eating competition.  Millions of drumsticks, millions of drumsticks.  For some reason, victory here earns him a match against Antonio Cesaro, later in the broadcast.

Los Matadores & El Torito d The Plymouth Rockers

Get it?  Because it’s Thanksgiving.  Prepare to watch a midget bull take out three dudes dressed as pilgrims.

Tons of Funk d R-Truth & Xavier Woods

Apparently, Brodus Clay was upset that Woods stole his theme song, back-up dancers, and spot on TV.  The only way I’m ok with putting the floundering joke of a babyface tag team over the fresh talent from NXT will be if Clay and Sweet-T are turning heel.  But even then, there’s nowhere for them to go.  They’re not surpassing The Shield, The Wyatt Family, or The Real Americans.  They need to legitimize Woods – not have him squashed by the fat jobber tag team.

Bray Wyatt says Daniel Bryan is safe with him.  He says Bryan entered a man, but will leave a monster.  I’m ok with this.

CM Punk and Renee Young are in the ring.  Nick turns up his TV.  The Punker says he hasn’t heard from Daniel Bryan since he was kidnapped by the Wyatts.  He says he doesn’t know why The Shield attacked him on Raw… but thinks maybe they’re following orders from The Authority.

Antonio Cesaro d Titus O’Neil by DQ, when Darren Young interferes.  Yes, the heel won by DQ when the face tag partner interfered.  After the match, Titus pukes in JBL’s cowboy hat (HE ATE TOO MUCH.  GET IT?), and puts the hat on Michael Cole’s head.  Then he pukes on Zeb.  Little kids go nuts.  Everyone else reaches for the remote.

Goldust & Cody Rhodes d Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns in a tag title match.  The Rhodes boys win by DQ when Dean Ambrose interferes.  Punk comes out to clear house with a chair.  Then Vickie Guerrero comes out, and channels the spirit of Teddy Long.

Goldust, Cody Rhodes & CM Punk vs The Shield ends in a no contest when the lights go out.  The Wyatts are in the ring when they come back on.  The Usos and Rey Mysterio come out to even the odds.  Vickie comes back out once again, Playa, leading to….

Goldust, Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio & The Usos d The Shield & The Wyatt Family.

This cluster-f ends when Mysterio hits the 619 on Erick Rowan, who then eats a GTS from CM Punk.  Crowd goes home happy.

SKIM this show.  The tag team gauntlet of exponential growth sounds fun.  The Tons of Funk-Truth/Woods angle could turn into something.  Same with the IC title picture.  Everything else sounds like painful holiday show filler.  DVR is your friend.

@AndyMillerJMS

NXT Scouting Report, 10/16: “Live” with Regal and Renee

NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Can Mr. Dallas make Sami Zyan a “Bo-Liever”? Also, it’s Nick, filling in for Matthew, who will be in and out for a wee bit. 

The Ascension vs. Adrian Neville/Corey Graves

I may like Ascension more than Matthew does — which is to say “at all” —  but I definitely hate Corey Graves more than anyone else I’ve ever met. I mean that both in the sense that I hate Corey Graves’s character the most out of anyone on the roster and that no one I know hates him more. Dude punches like an idiot, wrestles like he’s in his first ROH match, but looks like an Abercrombie model, so they’ve made him the male equivalent of Eva Marie.

This match, is however, greatly enhanced by the work of everyone else involved in the match, including the lovely William Regal and charming Renee Young on commentary. That  this will also lead to a feud where Adrian Neville goes over Corey Graves is nice. But, the fact that they got there by Graves having to RUN OFF THE ROPES AND INTO NEVILLE AFTER STANDING NEXT TO HIM is the type of stuff that gives me the howling fantods.

Graves: CZW-worthy Ascension: NXT-worthy Neville: Main Event-worthy | Segment: NXT worthy

Tyler Breeze vs. CJ Parker

In case you didn’t know by reading previous reviews, or the headline of this article, or having watching Tyler Breeze work, literally anything he does is worthy of being on the main roster. He is an entirely formed character, while also being a highly enjoyable worker who, as Stroud says “wrestles to character” near perfectly. He is what would happen if Zoolander was a professional wrestler and I am more than happy to watch him beat up uggos like Parker. I’m also pretty sure I would PAY to see him beat up uggos on Raw instead of the Kofi Kingston

And because God (JBL?) loves us, Regal and Young on commentary — even (or maybe especially) when they are (cordially) disagreeing — is as good as any pairing in sports. They helped establish both the silly — Renee selling that the feud is legitimately escalating because Parker stole Breeze’s phone — and the essential — how good of a heel Breeze is — without making it seem like they are trying to “stay on message” the way that Cole/Matthews have a tendency to slip into during matches.

CJ Parker may never amount to much, but this feud is definitely as good as anything Fandango has done and Tyler Breeze is a bonafide star.

CJ Parker: TNA-worthy Tyler Breeze: PPV-worthy | Segment: Smackdown!-Worthy

Paige/Emma vs. Summer Rae/Sasha Banks

If you are judging this match/show solely relative to its main roster equivalent, this is the main event of WrestleMania compared to what happened last week on Raw. Relative to the rest of the show it’s on, it was unequivocally the best single-gender tag team match since the Ascension became champions.

Sasha has potential despite how green she is, especially if she stops shutting off the part of her brain that allows her to react normally to things, but she’s definitely on her way. Emma and Paige are, oddly, too good to be on the main roster right now. When they make it to The Show, they should be able to pick up a badly sagging Diva’s division nearly by themselves.

The commentary on this match was a little more disjointed as the Dynamic Duo ended up ribbing the Dawson brother that still works in the E for most of the time. However, Renee Young is a wonderful change of pace from the sludge that we have to sit through during most Diva’s matches, offering actual insight into what the company is trying to articulate with these feuds from a woman’s perspective.

Please allow her to commentate at least during women’s matches (though it should be all), WWE. Please?

Emma, Paige, Summer: Raw-worthy, Sasha: Main Event worthy | Segment: “Better-than-Raw” worthy

Sami Zyan vs. NXT Champion Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship

When reviewing a situation like NXT, it’s important to look at what will “translate to the next level” and make them stars. However, unlike let’s say, the NFL Combine, NXT allows us to evaluate the performances while “live ammo” is firing. We get to see how the nascent stages of their overall “brand” work, and whether or not it will lead to success at “the next level”.

With the changing of what allows for success at that level in the WWE, from “being big while also able to walk and chew gum at the same time” to “be entertaining”, it means that guys like Sami Zyan and Bo Dallas have potential to be huge stars in years to come. While Zyan is far ahead of Bo in the ring, the way Bo carries himself as a performer is something you “can’t teach”. It’s something you’re born into, and if the work of his brother (Windham Rotunda AKA Bray Wyatt) or his promos are any indication, Bo’s understanding of the subtleties of what makes a performance work is at least at the level of Zyan’s.

This match did, however, have some problems in the booth, with the remaining Dawson brother unable to call a single move properly, much to the exasperation of Regal. A particular lowlight was calling a German suplex a “backdrop”, instead of saying, I don’t know “suplex”, “throw” or even “what a manuever!”. Not saying the “right” name is fine, but actively saying the wrong name for such a well-known move is gross, especially when the pace is as slow as it was at that point during the match.

And Renee Young was engaging, but rooted a *little bit* too hard for Sami. If that’s something they end up building on, I’m more than okay with it, but it kind of made you feel bad for Bo, which is something no one should feel. Ever.

The ending, while well-thought out, suffered from the one major issue with NXT: the camera work. They only really got a shot of the ref taking away the turnbuckle, and while it was supposed to be a surprise on some level, it ended up looking like a botch to the crowd in attendance, and even people who saw Zyan hit his head on the exposed turnbuckle.

All-in-all, though, it proved what everyone already knew — this is going to be a fantastic rivalry between two guys who are just on the brink of being stars in The Show.

Dallas and Zyan: Raw Worthy | Segment: PPV mid-card belt worthy

NXT Scouting Report: A Cool Breeze Blowin’

NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Who will stand out in a huge 8-man Tag main event? 

Sami Zayn vs. Curt Hawkins

One of my favorite running subplots of Sami Zayn matches is how much his impressive background is brought up by the announcing team. When William Regal  gives his impeccable color analysis, he always mentions Zayn’s international resume and 10-year plus career in THIS BUSINESS. Just two weeks ago Bo Dallas cut a promo where he constantly played up his experience over Zayn’s as subtle joke for fans in the know. And of course, the constant barrage of “Ole!” chants when Zayn does awesome Generico-esque stuff in the ring.

Somebody forgot to slip Alex Riley that memo, as he constantly refers to Zayn’s inexperience and “young” career without a hint of Bo Dallas’ winking knowledge. I’m not surprised that Riley doesn’t pay attention to the indies, as he’s probably too busy writing The Miz/Matt Ryan slash fic to pay much attention. Don’t get me wrong, Riley put over Zayn quite a bit during this match. But this “The Natural” moniker he tried to get started is goofy. Zayn’s decade long career prior to NXT has as much to do with how polished his ring skills are – at least as much as his “natural” ability. I don’t expect ROH and Generico shout-outs on NXT – but Riley’s the only guy seemingly not in on the fact that Zayn isn’t exactly green.

As far as the match went, it was pretty standard stuff – which normally would be just fine. But after getting such high quality action during Zayn’s tussles with The Real Americans, Hawkins just wasn’t up to snuff, the first 3rd of the match where Hawkins dominated the ring wasn’t believable. He might be considered “main roster talent,” but the crowd – who’ve been in a constant state of euphoria during the last few Zayn matches – wasn’t buying what Hawkins was selling. The best part of the match was Zayn’s sell of Hawkins’ enziguri – I loved how he collapsed to the mat, weakly grasping for his opponent as he crumpled. He made Hawkins look tough! Zayn will always pull out a solid match- he’s the closest to Daniel Bryan in the regard going in any level of WWE.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

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Aiden English vs. Local Jobber

Man, I am sucker for this kind of crap. Just ridiculous stuff from Aiden English, who’s gimmick is “Daniel Day Lewis as a pro-wrestler” and I am ALL IN. The spotlight, the not-so-great Pirates of Penzance vocal stylings, the gentleman artist ring awareness. It’s got the air of Damien Sandow’s gimmick, just like Tyler Breeze echoes Fandango. Similar but with enough distinction that I they could both work on the main roster. And just like that fantastic time Sandow sang Randy Orton’s theme song – if English can change his lyrics based on his opponent and current feud – that’ll put him over automatically. Who wouldn’t love that? Listen to the pop he receives when he takes an encore performance – that crowd is hype.

It’s goofy and stupid and I love the shit out of it.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

Bo Dallas Interview with Renée Young

Bo Dallas just threw shade at Curt Hawkins and he had a legitimate point! Bo Dallas used the word nifty in a wrestling promo! Bo Dallas almost made the uber-professional Renée Young lose it on camera and start laughing! What I’m trying to say is, Bo Dallas is a treasure right now and I hope this character translates to the big stage because it is glorious.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

The Ascension/Tyler Breeze/Leo Kruger vs. Corey Graves/Xavier Woods/CJ Parker/Adrian Neville – 8-man Tag-Match

It is difficult to tell a coherent story in any kind of wrestling matchup, as the balance between pure wrestling, television promotion priorities, and performers abilities all have to merge into one single purpose. NXT somehow pulled off a nice little story in an 8-man tag match that could’ve been a giant clusterfuck of opposing gimmicks, feuds, and varying levels of competence is impressive. Most of these guys I’m lukewarm on, but thankfully NXT decided to make the entire match about the wrestler head and shoulders above the rest: Tyler Breeze.

Breeze wanted no part of this random grouping of NXT top guys, shrinking up on the ring apron and even shaking his head when a pro-Breeze chant started up in the crowd. When he did finally tag in, the crowd exploded with approval, and Breeze pulled the perfect heel move. The threw a couple of punches and raced back to his corner. The crowd loved it so much it got a “this is awesome” chant – not for the quality of wrestling but Breeze’s pure dedication to character. I love how much the NXT crowd cares about such things, and it goes a long way to help establish the giant personalities WWE is searching for. They appreciate the nuance and Breeze gives it too them.

And to prove the crowd right for focusing on the singular greatness of Tyler Breeze, the match ending was completely  focused on his unwillingness to get his hands dirty. His compadres in evil bounced, leaving him to fend for himself during an onslaught of babyface fire. Parker, Woods, Graves and then Neville took turns landing huge blows on Breeze to humiliated him as much as possible. Breeze was a champ selling their offense, stumbling around the ring like a 3am drunk desperate to find his car keys on the sidewalk. But despite posing over the fallen heel at the conclusion on their onslaught – the focus was clearly on Breeze. While the four faces shared time mugging for the NXT crowd over his disposed body, Breeze captured all the heel heat for himself. Eight supposed future WWE superstars sharing a ring together – but only one advanced his character and made the match about him while still making everyone look good. Impressive stuff from Tyler Breeze.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy. 

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

NXT Scouting Report 9/11: Rest-Hold Theater

NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: Can Leo Kruger establish himself as NXT top heel? 

Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Scott Dawson & Alexander Rusev

What the hell? I wasn’t expecting 20 minutes of heart-pounding action, but five minutes and a funky finish left me with some serious tag-team blue balls. I love almost everyone involved here (I’m coming around on Scott Dawson) and we some nice character beats from each wrestler, but I wanted much more. Enzo spit some verbal Jersey trash and got a nice SAWWWWFT chant going. Rusev went with the double-labeled board for maximum crackin’ action, and Dawson and LeFort continued to be the oddest couple in NXT.

But just when the match starting cooking, with Rusev and Dawson debuting some sweet tandem moves, the rarely enforced five-second rule for tagging in and out was called for some reason. And it suuuucked. The crowd was confused, Tony Dawson was confused, and William Regal, all knowing god of wrestling, could barely explain what had happened. These guys deserve so much better, and if they wanted a bigger, main-event type match between these teams down the line, they could have given us a clearer DQ finish to bring the heat up. Everyone here was solid – but that ending killed the atmosphere.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

Bo Dallas Promo

For all the positive things Oblivious Bo can do, this segment was an example of how easily things can go off the rails. A lot of what he said worked well to continue his character’s evolution, like volunteering to mentor the veteran Zayn, mentioning “this business” like he hangs with Trips, and his amazing smile that never wavers. Problem is, the crowd decided they wanted none of what Bo was selling – and not in the fun “fuck you heel” kind of way. They chanted over and around him, and really didn’t reacted to anything he said. I’m not sure if this was an example of “X-Pac Heat,” but it sure seemed close to it. Any reaction is success for a performer, but when the crowd isn’t’ listening at all that’s might be a sign of trouble. I still endorse the character direction, but this was a step back.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

CJ Parker Interview with Renée Young

Parker explains his feud with Tyler Breeze through hippie mumbo-jumbo while the Renee nods and holds her nose. Breeze then ambushes the interviews by attacking Parker, taking a selfie over Parker’s beaten body. A quick and simple segment, lots of characterization, with a strong heel moment. NXT doing it right.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

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Paige vs Sasha Banks (non-title match)

Paige is not ready for Raw just yet. She’s better then everyone currently on the main roster sans AJ Lee, but that’s just not good enough for what she can accomplish. When she gets called up she needs to be a revelation to that division, not just out-class the E! contingent. To truly be the “Anti-Diva,” we need to see a lot more consistent presence, attitude and execution throughout her performances. She has her moments of pure rage and viciousness, like those brutal knees on the apron, but when she’s not in rage mode she wears this smirk that throws off the illusion. I want the Paige that Regal describes, the lady that will straight eviscerate every woman in her way. We see it briefly in her matches, but it needs to be her whole existence.

Still, this match was better than the stuff we get on them cable shows, so I can’t complain too much. I did get a little curious why Sasha Banks was stuck on the headlock of doom – it seems they wanted her to look strong but she didn’t have much else to give. Hence five minutes of rest-hold headlockin’ that would make Curtis Axel proud. But she did look better than I’d seen her before, and Paige needed a roll-through quick pin to steal the victory. Add a post match sorta-heel turn beat down and it’s an eventful night for the women’s division.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

Summer Rae & Sasha Banks backstage segment

Might want to cool it on these Summer/Sasha segments. Woof. Stella Adler is rolling in her grave.

Verdict: Community theater worthy.

Leo Kruger vs. Xavier Woods

First, I thought Leo Kruger’s work here was great. Any and all limb target for wrestlers with submission finishes will always work for me. His relentless abusing of Woods’ left arm, which Woods did a fine job of selling, did a nice of conveying Kruger’s “hunter” mentality. All good character fun. It’s time for Kruger to shine as the top heel in NXT, and I’ve seen enough to think he’s got what it takes. He’s legit creepy and off-putting, and he’s ring work gets better every week.

I thought this was Woods’ best match in a while, and Regal and Dawson pointed out how much more serious he was coming into this matchup. His arm injury selling was a highlight, I loved the fury of punches he unleashed on Kruger with just his right arm towards the end of the match. But his “Honor Roll” is terrible and needs to flunk out of his repertoire. You thought “Trouble in Paradise” took too long to develop? “Honor Roll” is the Chinese Democracy of signature moves. Poor Kruger had to stand there like a statue waiting for Woods to do a silly roll into a jumping clothesline.

Unfortunately, the real star of this match was Kruger’s endless armbar he employed to wear down Woods throughout the match. Normally I wouldn’t mind too much, as I’ve already praised Kruger’s ring work here targeting the appendage. But after sitting through Sasha Banks’ headlock stuck-on-pause, it was a curious choice to feature so much extended rest-holdin’ in one hour-long episode. I love me some ground game, but it can be a bit much if featured on the two biggest matches of the show.

Verdict: Superstars worthy. 

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

NXT Scouting Report 9/4: The Sami Zayn Show

NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: can Sami Zayn keep his amazin’ match streak alive?

Bayley & Charlotte vs. Alicia Fox & Aksana

A serviceable women’s match the further establishes Bayley and Charlotte as quality fan-favorites in NXT. Bayley completely stole the show as usual, and I’m pretty sure she had the 2nd biggest ovation of the show. Her adorable reaction to getting a fan-made sign was priceless, and her  “hugplex” was devastatingly cute. The quick pinkie shake between her and Charlotte before the match began was adorable and a nice way to show some camaraderie between the two. I also was pleasantly surprised by Bayley’s more subdued reactions during the match. They could easily let her slip into a one-note, fawning idiot, I’m glad she’s playing cute and not brain-dead.

Aksana continues to be terrible and Alicia Fox didn’t do much to impress me, but it was still light-years ahead of that triple-threat garbage WWE put on last Monday night. The finish was a bit of a hot-mess, but overall it was still a fun match. It can only help the “upper” division having Diva’s spend time in Florida with Sara Del Rey and company. I’m impressed with NXT’s commitment to the women’s division, opening the show with a ladies tag-team match is something you’ll never see on Raw.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

Sylvester LeFort, Scott Dawson and Alexander Rusev Promo

And you thought Cesaro hanging out with Swaggs and Colter was weird. Is this the strangest threesome in pro-wrestling history? A gas-station attendant, a Bulgarian Muay Thai fighter, and a French bottle-tan spokesmodel/pro wrestling manager? Well, if anything can bring three random weirdos together, it’s the love of cheap steak and all-you-can-eat shrimp.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

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Rick Victor vs. Corey Graves

I should just link to the greatest album review of all-time and let it speak for me. But I’m a serious wrestling journalist (despite what Cody Rhodes thinks) so I’ll give you fair take on this match.

Corey Graves sucks. If this guy makes it to the main roster I’ll eat my hat. He doesn’t do anything special, and for a guy his size that makes no sense. He needs to bring something unique to the ring to make up for his unimposing look – maybe sell the shit out of everything a la Ziggler or Rollins or learn some sick high-flying moves.The man stomp-punches, shows off his knuckle tattoos, and the announcer sell him as a “submission specialist.” That’s it. How can you tell somebody to “stay down” when they’ve kicked your ass for seven minutes? Yeesh. Side note: As much as it pains me that Los Matadores are siphoning Not-El Generico’s “Ole” chant before he hits the main roster, I love that Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel pepper their CM Punk feud with shouts of “stay down.” Sorry Corey!

I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to stick him in the ring with the ultra bland Rick Victor. Victor’s been serviceable tagging in The Ascension, but left naked here in a singles match we get a jobber with a receding hairline and black eye contacts. I legit laughed that Tony Phillips excused Victor not knowing what the fuck to do in the ring as “being deliberate” and “having no wasted motion.” The man carries zero of his gimmick into the ring, and that’s not going to cut it after what Bray Wyatt gave the NXT universe.

No energy, no urgency, no dice. Fast-forward is your friend.

Verdict: Barely house show worthy.

Summer Rae manipulates Sasha Banks

Thespians, emote! I love Machiavellian Summer Rae antics, waging psychological warfare on Paige through her opponents to remain Queen of NXT. She’s been beaten physically by the Women’s champ, so it makes sense she’d regroup and attack with a different strategy. Depth to women’s feuds, how about that! Bonus points for Summer almost saying “relevance” every time she tried to say “relevant.” Good saves!

It’s too bad Sasha Banks could be out-acted by a piece of plywood. I want to see Summer screw with Bayley’s head. That would be fun television.

Verdict: Superstars worthy.

Renée Young Interviews Paige

A simple “I’m a fucking fight-ehha” promo from Paige. Oh man that accent, sometimes I close my eyes and…

Ahem. This was a short, sweet and necessary mission statement from our Women’s champ to remind us who’s wrecking shop next week. Extremely hard for any segment with Renée and Paige to score anything other than Raw worthy.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

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Mason Ryan vs. Alexander Rusev

If you’re trying to sell me on Mason Ryan being a legit monster strong man, putting him in the ring with Alexander Rusev is a terrible idea.  Rusev is an athletic 300-pounder who moves like a cat, meanwhile Ryan runs like the canvas is covered in marbles, and his muscles might be fake, Giant Gonzalez style. Watch the sequence where Ryan runs the ropes, Rusev ducks a clothesline then lays Ryan out with a spinning heel kick. The contrast in ability is unmistakable, and I’m not sure who can take Ryan seriously after this match.

Rusev looks as good as he can against a stiff like Ryan. What a stark difference from wrestling Dolph Ziggler two weeks ago. But if he can look solid against two entirely different wrestling styles, that bodes well for his long-term future. Teaming up with LeFort and Larry the Cable Wrestler, however,  makes little sense outside of “he needs a mouthpiece,” and I don’t like a guy that talented needing distractions for victories. Let the Bulgarian beast smash.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

Leo Kruger lays out Xavier Woods

I approve of this development. NXT does all the little things right, and in a 30-second segment a new feud is born. Is it really that hard to pull this off on the big shows?

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

Sami Zayn vs. Jack Swagger

I feel guilty how much I love Sami Zayn. Before he arrived in NXT, I only had a passing knowledge of the existence of El Generico. Admittedly, I’m one of those fans who didn’t pay much attention to the independent wrestling scene pre-Pipe Bomb. So now not only do I get these amazing NXT matches, I get to dive into YouTube and Vimeo and binge on the greatest hits of El Generico.. So much awesome at the same time! The only thing I can compare this to is when I discovered Queens of the Stone Age and then found out about this band named Kyuss. Once you get that taste, goddamn it’s insatiable, and having such a rich back catalog is a godsend.

Zayn versus Jack Swagger may not have reached the epic heights of the Cesaro matches, but it was still one of the best NXT bouts of the year. Zayn’s ability to work the crowd into a frothy frenzy is already Raw worthy, and I wonder how long WWE will keep him down in Orlando. If he can pull off Swagger’s best match of the year, what could he do for guys like Ryback?

The highlight of the match (for me) was Zayn’s sick running corner big boot that Swagger ate like a champ. That turnbuckle cam reply shot of Swagger getting smashed was just tremendous; I think I replayed it about eight times. Somebody .gif that shit. I’ve watched enough Generico matches now to know that’s a staple, and it was glorious here. It came right after a brutal Patriot Lock sequence that Zayn sold hard. We’ve seen so many guys tap out in two seconds, it was great to see Sami fight out of it (well, at least the first time) and sell it like a devastating submission finisher. All around an awesome sequence.

My only quibble with the match was the ending. I understand that Swagger is a main roster guy so he can’t stay and feud forever. That means Zayn’s contempt for Bo Dallas needs to ramp up – but distraction finishes suck the air out the room so fast. The match was too good not to have a definitive ending – unless we’re getting Zayn/Swagger II down the line. Begrudgingly, I’ll admit I’m ready to see Zayn whip Bo Dallas badly now, so this booking did work me on a emotional level. You win this time, pro wrestling tropes.

Verdict: PPV worthy.

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

NXT Scouting Report, 8/28: Now I’m A Bo-liever

NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces. But its primary goal is to make future superstars who will one day grace our televisions on Raw. Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week we find out if the show’s gone SAWFFFFFFT after last episode’s Match of the Year main event.

Corey Graves attacked by The Ascension

The Ascension manhandles Corey Graves during a backstage interview with Renée Young in classic, effective wrestling trope to set up this episode’s main event. And, as a special bonus, Graves is injured and unable to compete.

The beatdown was fine, but O’Brian needs to work on his maniacal laughter, as it comes off more Dr. Evil than intimidating. And while Rick Victor’s black contact lenses look cool under the sweet lights during their intro, in the interview segment he just looks blind. Watch this segment again – Victor looks ridiculous trying to stare down Graves. Oof.

Maybe I’m being a much too cynical wrestling fan, but I just don’t think The Ascension can work as serious evil dudes, especially not after what The Wyatt Family accomplished portraying of actual honest-to-God wrestling evil. And after Conor O’Brian’s performance in the main event, I’m not sure what WWE thinks of him either.

Verdict: Superstars worthy.

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CJ Parker vs. Tyler Breeze

Tyler Breeze debuted his bitchy voice on last week’s episode, and this week we’re treated to his “stinkface,” which is just as glorious. His contempt for CJ Parker and his awful hippie lifestyle just oozes through the arena; I especially loved his repeated screams of “you’re disgusting.” Last week I wondered if his character was too close to Fandango’s, at least in execution. Here Breeze was a determined, angry wrestler bent on revenge. He had clear purpose and executed it in character, something Fandango hasn’t done yet.

This is a wonderful combination of silly gimmicks that work so well together, but it spells bad news for the newly minted Phish-Fanatic (Phanatics? I don’t even want to know, to be honest). I’m not sure how he’ll work against another opponent – sort of like how Swagger’s “real American” gimmick was seemingly constructed to go against a babyface Mexican champion in Alberto Del Rio and not much else. After that feud, the Zeb Colter angle , while enjoyable, hasn’t had any teeth. Without Prince Pretty to bounce off, not sure Moonchild has any legs either.

But Breeze can play his iPhone obsessed duckfaced perfection against anyone and it’ll work. I would have liked have seen a longer match here, especially since Breeze’s first couple of bouts were quick squashes, but I’ll never complain about “foreign object” victories for heels. A quick 4G to the forehead was enough to capture the victory for Breeze, and continue a great debut run in NXT.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

Emma interview with Renee Young

This was a nice, quick segment to re-ignite Emma’s beef with Summer Rae, who injured her enough to miss out on a NXT Women’s Championship match with Paige.  Another great example of how NXT sets up clean and easy-to-follow NXT feuds. Even the most inconsequential matchups (outside of jobber squashes) are given enough juice for the viewers to understand who these people are and what they want. If WWE gave the mid-card feuds even a fraction of the attention NXT does, the overall story would be much richer.

Also, putting Emma and Renee together is too much cute at once. I had to watch one of those Sarah McLachlan Animal Abuse commercials just to even things out.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

Emma vs. Summer Rae

Summer Rae targeting Emma’s injured shoulder was fucking great. As I wrote earlier, NXT does the small stuff well. Summer injured that shoulder in her attack three weeks ago, and working it over again gives her in-ring credibility.

I loved how this match evolved into a submission war with Summer’s cool looking leggy full-nelson leading (screaming, “Ask Her!”) to the Dil-Emma in the same sequence. A nice 5-minute match that keeps Emma strong for a future title match, and keeping Summer effective in the ring and ultra heelish with the Bubble Solution blinding after the match. I love it! Two foreign object appearances in one show. NXT is after my heart.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

Scott Dawson/Sylvester Lefort confrontation with  Enzo Amore/Colin Cassidy 

Four insane men in one room making zero sense. SAWFT! I did enjoy Dawson’s sad “ooh” response to Sylvester’s reason why he hadn’t been paid yet. Trying to grade segments like this is impossible, if judging it by main-roster standards. Sure, it’s ridiculous stuff, but it’s so great to see guys who get to be characters and having some fun, which is something severely lacking in WWE beyond guys like Damien Sandow. So it might be stupid at times, but at least they’re not afraid to let loose and give us the goofy.

Verdict: Main Event worthy.

Summer Rae cuts down Sasha Banks

I like how this promo was lite on the normal Diva name-calling and heavy on Summer’s intensity and desire to be a WWE superstar. She correctly touts she’s on the main roster, but claims she doesn’t need to slum it down in NXT. This is complete bullshit, of course, not just because the Women’s wrestling in NXT far surpasses WWE, but also ‘cause Summer has yet to have a match on the main roster. As a heel promo, her intensity and “backbone” angle about kicking Paige’s was a nice complement to AJ’s promo on RAW. If they can keep this strong focus of feuds being about the best women’s wrestler, the division will only get better and better.

SAWFT

Scott Dawson vs. Enzo Amore

Not a lot of great wrestling on this episode of NXT, which I’ll forgive after getting a Match of the Year candidate last week. This match really just set up Alexander Rusev joining Sylvester Lefort’s Legionaries group, which the announcers curiously no-sold as it happened. This was a classic mid-card Raw style clusterfuck of a spot, with the patented distraction finish to round things off.

Scott Dawson’s gas station mechanic gimmick will get him nowhere, I can’t believe there’s somebody backstage that thinks this is great. If the entire hook is “redneck hangs out with sweaty Frenchman” then yikes. Dawson is fine in the ring, and if William Regal compares you to Arn fucking Anderson each week, you can’t suck. Just drop the menial labor schtick and give him anything else to do.

Enzo and Big Cass are supposed to be heels, but “S-A-W-F-T SAWWWWWFFFFTTT is as over as anything in NXT, and The Realest Guys in the Room are a better version of 3MB – hilarious heels that are fun to watch get beat up. I watched this episode three times, and I laughed each time on Enzo’s “zero dimes” line.

Verdict: SmackDown! worthy for Enzo/Big Cass, Main Event (at best) for everyone else.

Sami Zayn Promo

I have to admit, as soon as I realized Renee was interviewing Zayn, my first thought was “I HOPE THEY GET MARRIED ON RAW ONE DAY THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER.” Then Zayn went ahead and called her “a ray of sunshine.” C’mon guys, I’m trying to write a macho wrestling column here, try not to make me feel all squishy inside.

ANYWAY, how great was this segment? Zayn is a bona fide star already, and giving him extended mic time against the Bo Dallas Experience was a great way to highlight him even further. Zayn cut Dallas down without acting like a dickface, and anytime a face does that an angel gets its wings. For anyone worried that he might not work without the El Generico gimmick, it’s clear now that he and WWE felt his natural personality, incredible in-ring skills and charisma would make him a star. You know, just like the two other guys who followed a similar path, Punk and Bryan. Not a bad way to start your WWE career.

Dallas took his cluelessness to another level with a “Boo-Urns” esque lunatic rant about how much the people love him, all while wearing a suit only Harry or Lloyd  could love. He seems to relish his new role stealth-heel role completely, wearing his 100-watt shit-eating grin in the most punchable way possible. I’m actually a little surprised he’s pulling it off so well. Also, his line, “Just because a couple of people on the internet said you had a good match” was a great way to introduce some of the meta-heat Triple H is using on the main roster down in NXT. I’m a Bo-liever, at least this version of his character.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

Adrian Neville vs. Conor O’Brian

This is probably the worst main event on NXT since I’ve been watching. I like Adrian Neville, but as he showed with his match against Dean Ambrose a few weeks ago, he’s not ready to carry a match just yet. His work is fine here, his offense for a high-flyer is stronger than main-roster guys like Kofi and RVD, but he has little to no crowd interaction to really engage the audience. As a tag-team wrestler, he could have been brought up yesterday, but unless he wants to get stuck in Justin Gabriel/Evan Bourne purgatory, he needs a little more seasoning.

And what to make of Conor O’Brian? Considering he should be positioned as the big hulking heel of NXT, he kind of got his ass kicked in this match. The booking isn’t his fault, but I was surprised by how little they let him shine here. Sure, The Ascension got to “stand tall” after the match, further setting up the main NXT tag feud, but O’Brian was weakened in the process. Vulnerability is tough to sell while portraying a cosplaying steampunk psychopath. Getting pinned clean in the middle of the ring doesn’t bode well for how confident management is in your Hoss skills either.

Verdict: Superstars worthy. 

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