Tag Archives: Summer Rae

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:

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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

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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.

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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.

Andy’s Angry: Wasted Talent & Musical Chairs

There’s a lot to like right now in WWE.  It’s not perfect, by any means.  There will always be talented and popular guys waiting in the midcard, for a push that never comes.

That said, there seem to be a lot more hits than misses these days.  In 2013, Big Show feels hot and fresh.  THAT’s telling.  CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are making the Wyatts look amazing.  The Shield is still awesome, while slowly building a handful of storylines.  Big E Langston just became a star. The Usos are moving up.  Even 3MB have been refreshed.

Like it or not, the midcard hasn’t been so good since the Attitude Era.  Same goes for title credibility.  Don’t believe me?  Go back and listen to the pop when Big E Langston beat Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Title.  Go back and listen to the pop when the Rhodes boys beat The Shield for the tag straps.  Fast forward to the next US, World, or WWE title change.  More of the same.

Then there’s the Divas division.

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I don’t know that I’ve ever had less respect for women’s wrestling, or pro wrestling in general, than I did this Monday.  AJ Lee versus Vickie Guerrero in a 5 minute segment that was four-and-a-half minutes too long, and a dozen girls playing musical chairs.

MUSICAL CHAIRS.  ON LIVE TV.  ON A LIVE PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING SHOW.

Abysmal.  Even JBL spoke up, declaring the segment “the worst thing we’ve ever done.”  I’d be hard-pressed to disagree.

Keep in mind, this televised abortion was supposed to convince you to do two things: watch Total Divas, and pay to watch Survivor Series.  You know, that’s the show where Natalya, Cameron, Naomi, The Bellas, JoJo and Eva Maria will take on AJ Lee, Tamina Snuka, Kaitlyn, Rosa, Summer Rae, Aksana and Alicia Fox.

Yes, AJ and Kaitlyn are on the same team.  And yes, Eva Maria is wrestling on pay-per-view, despite having wrestled in a grand total of THREE matches.  JoJo just had her first match.  Rosa Mendez has been around for years and STILL looks totally helpless whenever she gets anywhere near a wrestling ring.

The division is a mess.  Only half the women (at best) can wrestle a respectable match.  The characters have zero continuity, at least when the women are lucky enough to HAVE characters.  With the exception of AJ Lee, the division as a whole is a total channel-changer.

MEANWHILE, IN ORLANDO….

As is mentioned once a week by my fellow Juice Make Sugar fanboys, NXT is probably WWE’s number 2 show.  Unintentionally, of course, but it’s fantastic.  Hungry young talents.  Bold, vibrant characters.  Matches that let these young guys and girls show off, and try to make a name for themselves.

All with WWE’s top-of-the-line production.

Watch any episode of NXT on Hulu.  In fact, watch every episode of NXT on Hulu.  When you do, DON’T skip the women’s match.  You’d regret it—because of both the action, and the characters.

Emma is money.  Dig up her match teaming with Santino against Fandango and Summer Rae.  She’s GOLD.  When she said that WWE stands for “World Wrestling Emmatainment,” I was sold.  I need this girl on my TV, and so do you.

Summer Rae is everything Kelly Kelly should have been.  Beautiful, talented, and charismatic as hell.  JBL calls her Mrs. Fandango, but I call her the future Mrs. Angry Andy.

Bayley is fun.  To put it simply, she’s a female fan-boy.  Oh, and she can SELL.  Most of the main-roster divas don’t know what that means.

Paige can be a star.

Sasha Banks is a great Layla to Summer’s Michelle McCool.  Needs work in the ring, but there’s potential.

Charlotte is still new, but she’s already showing some serious athletic potential, and glimpses of her dad’s natural charisma.  She’s already better than her brother, David Flair could have ever dreamt to be.

Not to mention the woman training these future divas, Sara Del Rey, is a world-class wrestler in her own right.

There is incredible talent on the roster, it’s just not being utilized.  And that begs one very serious question.

If this kind of talent exists, and is just waiting to be used, why does WWE give us MUSICAL CHAIRS instead?

The short answer isn’t very satisfying, but it is pretty simple.  WWE doesn’t care about good wrestling, at least when it comes to the girls.  WWE cares about marketing and making money.  For whatever reason, Vince & Co think that a bunch of untalented women playing musical chairs is best for business.  It doesn’t matter where you see talent.  All that matters is where Vince and Co. see dollar signs.

So how do we get good quality women’s wrestling, without sacrificing production quality?

Number one, watch on Hulu.  Make your friends watch, too.  Rewatch good episodes.  Show WWE that there is a market for this brand of wrestling.  Without an audience, and a way to monetize the product, there’s no reason to build it any bigger than it is now.

Number two, Tweet.  Tweet a lot.  WWE cares about social media more than it should.  It judges its TV shows not by Nielsen ratings, but by social media scores.  Tweet Emma, or Paige, or Bayley, or Summer.  Don’t be creepy, but show your support, and let it be known that you want what these girls have to offer.  In WWE, trending is profit.  Use it to your advantage.

Fight for the brand of wrestling you actually want to watch.  It got us CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in the main event.  It got us Antonio Cesaro.  Pretty soon, it will get us guys like Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn and Solomon Crowe.  The same strategy could bring us Emma, Paige and Bayley.

Unless, of course, you’d prefer musical chairs to talented women wrestling.  If the most mediocre of women’s wrestlers failing to improve is your thing, enjoy Raw.

I’ll hold out hope for the future…. But I won’t hold my breath.

@AndyMillerJMS

NXT Scouting Report 11/7: The Unwashed Mass Cometh

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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 Kassius Ohno get some sweet Wyatt Family revenge? 

Alexander Rusev vs. Sylvester LeFort

A quick squash match to end Alexander Rusev and Sylvester LeFort’s tenuous business relationships. They’ve decided that a hot Russian(?) blonde is a better choice for Rusev’s ascent to the top of NXT, but I’m not sure if that’s the best choice. Aligning the Bulgarian bruiser with a Eastern Bloc accent in high heels fits his surface0level character, but I quite enjoy the sheer goofiness of LeFort’s performance. Him trying to buy off both the ref and Rusev highlight his clear monetary pro wrestling intentions, which works for me. Sometimes the simple story is the best, and LeFort backing Rusev because he’s a beast and will make him cash money works despite the oddness of the character pairing.

Now, as I said last week, an attractive blonde woman never hurt anyone’s standing, but I have a feeling it’s to play up the Bulgarian angle and cater to the more xenophobic wresting fans. If it moves Rusev’s character emphasis from shoot-fighter with an unorthodox style to a cliche ’80’s foreigner then it’s a missed opportunity. It’s hampered Del Rio on the main roster, and the E should avoid making the same mistake again. Rusev’s skill and athleticism will get him far, but I’d love to see a neat, nuanced character develop to go with it. We shall see.

Verdict: Main Event worthy 

Bayley/Charlotte & Summer Rae/Sasha Banks Segment 

The Mean Girls successfully drove a wedge between Paige and Emma, and now they’re going after Bailey and Charlotte. Nobody’s winning an Academy Award for this segment, but NXT’s dedication to putting the time in for these feuds makes the subsequent matches a lot richer, and they’re doing it in only one hour! Later in the show we got a quick backstage confrontation between Emma and Paige, so all six of our main female wrestlers got air time on tonight’s show. A combined Raw + Smackdown is five entire hours per week, but only about 10 minutes are dedicated to women’s action, and rarely any of it story. When these ladies all find their way up, that has to change.

Verdict: Raw worthy

Leo Kruger vs. El Local 

A short, effective outing for Kruger as he got in all his offense against his plump luchador opponent. After a couple of high profile matches with Sami Zayn and Antonio Cesaro, this was sold as the return of a refocused and game Kruger to establish dominance in the ring. All his moves looked crisp and strong, and our announcing team did a nice job of selling Kruger as a force going forward. His snap suplex into a double hook submission was killer – I’m a sucker for anybody chaining moves together and not preening in-between (all character-based of course, Breeze can preen all he wants.) If Kruger can pair tight technical wrestling with his crazy-eyed hunter gimmick, cable television is right around the corner.

Verdict: Smackdown worthy 

The Ascension vs. These Guys

Another squash match from our tag-team champs? I guess there aren’t any babyface tag teams to challenge for the belts, so we are stuck running in place with The Ascension for now. How about letting them cut some weirdo promo after the victory about ancient bullshit and mystic power? Give me a reason to boo these dudes. We don’t know anything about them, and I’d like to hear what they have to say. Time to make sense of this gimmick and see if its got wings. Also, if you’re going to do sweet tandem finishing moves, it’s best to remember which one of you is the legal man and needs to wrap up the three-count. Oof.

Verdict: Superstars worthy

Mojo Rawley vs. Some Dude 

I really like how they’ve worked Mojo so far. Instead of presenting him as a jobber killer in his first couple matches, they’ve let him get hit in the mouth a few times and actually have to sweat a bit to win his matches. Portraying him as raw and unpolished, and letting him work with some of that sweet, sweet babyface comeback heat is a great idea, and an underused tactic for new dudes. The guy is a lovable ball of pure unbridled athletic energy, and it’s going to get him into trouble in the ring occasionally. NXT’s ability to tell coherent and character building stories inside the ring is spot on.

Verdict: Main Event worthy 

Kassius Ohno vs. Luke Harper 

Goddamn Luke Harper is fucking great. Fantastic synergy by the WWE – he gets another showcase solo match in NXT the same week he hung with CM Punk on Raw (losing in a roll-up after missing with his brutal lariat) and gets da gawd Daniel Bryan on Smackdown this Friday. No surprise for those familiar with the former Brodie Lee, but after this week I wonder if his standing (at least with the non-NXT watching WWE fans) will exceed that of his leader Bray Wyatt.

Harper looked fantastic tangling with the agile Ohno, a perfect match to his “farm boy” strength, as Renee Young put it. Harper’s animal-like ring psychology was on full display here, and he’s slowly proving that he’s not just going to be an empty wife-beater with a meathook. The gator-rolls, the taunting with his dead eyes before a devastating big-boot, and his stiff-looking style makes him a naturally brutal big man that works so well with underdog super-sellers like Ohno. His match with Bryan on Smackdown will be a must watch. Side note: Alex Riley seemed a tad preoccupied with Harper’s hygiene and showering habits, but it did give me the inspiration for a killer nickname for him, The Unwashed Mass.

And speaking of Ohno, any fans who were worried about his standing – despite losing again to Harper – should pay close attention to the commentary team. They not only mentioned his physique looking more impressive than usual, but they reinforced many of Ohno’s character traits like his striking ability and home-run in-ring style, which Ohno obliged by hitting a vicious rolling elbow that almost secured the victory. If they’re putting in the effort to sell him to the NXT audience, that can only mean good things going forward.

Also, play-by-play man Tom Phillips even referenced Ohno’s past run-ins with Punk, Rollins, Bryan and Cesaro. I’m not saying it guarantees an Ohno call up as Punk/Bryan’s third man in their burgeoning Wyatt Family feud, but holy shit it’s never going to be easier to get him to the main roster storyline-wise. Regardless the fact the seeds were planted mixing Ohno in with established stars is a good sign. Make it happen, Triple H!

Verdict: Raw worthy

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

NXT Scouting Report 10/31: Shooting the Breeze One More Time

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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 yet another Breeze/Parker matchup cut the mustard? 

Enzo Amore & Cass Cassidy vs. Alexander Rusev & Sylvester LeFort 

The entire purpose of this tag-matchup was to further Alexander Rusev progress as the big hoss of NXT, and on that level it worked just fine. After last week’s vicious destruction of the walking hacky-sack, I figured Rusev’s was moving to bigger and better things. Hanging out with Scott Dawson’s white trash ass wasn’t doing anything for him, and rarely has a hot mysterious blonde not improved a man’s situation. All good developments from a talent that just needs some seasoning before he’s ready for big things. The execution on his “turn” on LeFort was a bit sloppy jalopy, it would have been more effective if he’d attacked Dawson (who was no where to be found without explanation from the booth.) But we got the point – Rusev is a giant slab of hurt-the-fuck-outta-you, and NXT is on notice.

I was a bit disappointed when play-by-play man Byron Saxton asked Renee and Regal if they’d ever seen a big man as athletic as Rusev and somehow they blanked on FORMER NXT CHAMP and all around wrestling god Big E. Langston. Just thinking about those two facing off gives me the biggest fucking grin. Big dudes who can move are the best, and that match-up would be off the charts.

And despite practically jobbing in this situation, Enzo and Cass still got their full intro, which is a good sign. It’s by far the best thing about them, and as long as the wrestling is passable they’ll be stars. Being “fun” heels as a tag-team is an important part of a three-hour TV show, as 3MB has proved time and time again. And these guys are even more fun, and the gimmick makes more sense. SAWFT would be over in one segment. Whenever you’re ready WWE.

Verdict: Smackdown worthy 

Aiden English vs. Jason Jordan 

Well, at least this week’s Aiden English squash match with his opponent actually named check by the commentary team. He even got trunks with his name on the ass! Still, same bit we’ve seen three or four times from the resident artist of NXT. Outside of a not-so-hot encounter with RVD a couple of weeks back, this was stock stuff.  Time for a proper feud to see if his “method” will work with a real NXT competition. Also: I really wish on Raw JBL would sell guys as much as Regal does here. His enthusiasm for English was infectious.

Verdict: Superstars worthy 

Adrian Neville Interview

Poor Adrain Neville having to explain his beef with Corey Graves. Get this man somebody not awful to wrestle and maybe we’d get some fire and conviction in his promos.  You can tell Neville knows outside of injuring Graves into an early retirement he gets nothing from this feud. When’s his old tag-team partner coming back?

Verdict: Superstars worthy 

Paige vs. Summer Rae (non-title match) 

It’s fun to see Summer Rae compete in the minor leagues during a breakout week for her in WWE. She scored the pin in a mixed-tag match at Hell in a Cell and looked great in her solo Raw debut despite losing to Natalya. Anyone that watches NXT knows how much better the women’s wrestling is, something I’ve harped on in the column to the point of exhaustion. But it’s even more apparent after watching Summer stretch those legs against some of the stale WWE competition and come back and square off against women more her speed.

The match itself was just ok – we’ve seen this tilt before several times. The real progression here was the further set-up of a Mega-Powers style clash between Paige and Emma down the road, as this was the 2nd straight week Emma’s accidentally knocked Paige around. Best vs. the best is always welcome, and if they can do it without turning either wrestler heel and stay true to character arcs it should be a fantastic  set of matches. Their NXT championship match in July was awesome, and with a little more heat in the feud it could be even better. I know a lot of people are clamoring for these ladies to make their Raw debuts, but I think it would be smart to wait until the Total Divas clout runs out completely so they don’t have to get pinned by Eva Marie on some random Smackdown.

Verdict: Smackdown worthy  

Luke Harper Vignette 

Luke Harper getting a singles spotlight run in NXT is a fantastic idea. The man is prepped to tangle with Punk and Bryan on the big stage soon, so his stock is going to skyrocket in the next coming weeks. Getting some work in with skilled Kassius Ohno without the looming presence of Bray Wyatt should help us get to know his individual character even more. Ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya.

Verdict: Raw worthy 

Tyler Breeze vs. CJ Parker (Part 1000) 

Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been that many times, but it sure feels like it. When these two first tangled back in July, I was worried their gimmicks were a little to perfect for each other, and finding follow-up feuds might be difficult. Which seems to be the case so far. This is a slight guess, but the reason we keep getting these matches is the crowd response is exactly the opposite of the normal heel-face dynamic, and NXT hasn’t adjusted and keeps trying for the result they want.

Normally the blow-off match of a feud features our hero finally vanquishing their foe and standing tall in the center of the ring. But for some odd reason despite the crowd loving every move Breeze makes in the ring, and booing the shit outta Parker, they still book this like Parker was the normal crowd favorite. So even though the “face” got sweet revenge on the heel, this feels oddly empty without Breeze getting his deserved clean victory.

One nice thing we did see was a full display of Breeze’s aggressive offensive in the second half of the match. He laid out Parker with some vicious knee drops to the face, mixed in some submission maneuvers, and overall put together his best offensive sequence since debuting in NXT. I surprised it didn’t lead to a win – but as strange a booking decision this was, Breeze is still the clear star out of these two. Time for him to move along.

Oh, and one more quick quibble: “Shooting the Breeze” is not a catch-phrase Breeze should use for himself. Just saying.

Verdict: Main Event worthy 

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

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 10/2: It’s BO Time!

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 enter the first ever Bo Dallas Invitational?

Fandango & Summer Rae vs. Santino & Emma

One thing that really bummed me out about the final episodes of Breaking Bad was all the chatter about “good fans” and “watching the show the right way.” Anytime anyone tries to tell fans how they should enjoy or perceive any kind of art is just plain wrong and reeks of elitism. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy or despise any kind of consumable product. That of course goes for wrestling as well, and maybe it’s even more crucial when storylines and characters can become so divisive.

So when I say I feel bad for people that don’t enjoy matches like this one, I don’t mean it in any sort of “you’re watching wrestling wrong” kind of way. If one wants all hardcore ECW matches because that’s what they like about the medium, then more power to ’em. There’s enough variety that something should work for just about everyone.

I feel bad because it’s so much fun, and I want everyone to enjoy this as much as I do. Good lord was this segment magical and I’m still smiling just thinking about it. Santino and Emma combining their entrances, the tag in hi-five gaffes, and all the ridiculous Cobra swapping was as fun as anything I’ve seen in NXT. They had great natural chemistry together and I’ll be sad every time Santino pops up on Raw without Emma close behind. A big reason why this worked is they let the segment breathe – on Raw this would have been three minutes and each spot rushed through. Also huge props to Fandango for his amazing sell of the Cobra Strike – I think his gum flew about 50 ft in the air.

Verdict: Raw worthy. 

Ascension Promo

Okay, I know this was just a quick promo to give The Ascension some sinister vibes heading into their huge tag-team championship matchup, but I got ask: where is this “home” O’Brian and Victor grunt about? Is it some sort of alternate time or dimension? What are these dudes? Are they futuristic? Ancient? Highlander dudes without sweet swords? Until they get some direction beyond mysterious and growly, the main roster has no place for these weirdos. I’d also recommend canning the “hero” talk – too close to the Wyatt Family and Shield action plans. Get a distinct agenda and maybe we’ll talk.

Verdict: TNA worthy.

Kassius Ohno vs. Luke Harper

Promised myself this wouldn’t be a breakdown of the returning Kassius Ohno’s physique because I try my damnedest to stay away from the dirt sheets. But Ohno’s extended absence probably has roots in some sort of backstage shenanigans, considering he was gone for “four months” with no reported injury – so I can’t help but let it color my thinking heading into this matchup. Quick take: he looks fine, so hopefully if that was a problem it’s in the past. Now, as far as Ohno’s journey to the main roster, not sure what this match tells us. Luke Harper dominated the proceedings, which he should have as a conquering beast returning to NXT.

I was surprised, however, by the shortness, and — outside of a few flurries — how little Ohno got to do. For his big return to the ring, Ohno not only didn’t get to win, he didn’t even get something akin to Sami Zayn’s matches with Cesaro/Swagger – a loss that feels like a win because of the awesome. This didn’t feel like a new chapter in a storied rivalry – no after match kerfuffles to keep the narrative going – just a decisive, impressive victory for Harper. I don’t think this means that ‘management’ is still down on Ohno. There is no reason to bring him back if they didn’t think he had it. My guess is this was a way to ease him back into action, give him some frustrating losses, and push forward a storyline where Ohno can turn heel again and start an epic feud with Zayn.

Verdict: Smackdown! worthy.

Enzo Amore y Big Cass Promo

Just do yourself a favor and watch it, it’s pure gold.

TROAT. BIG MUSH. NO SHOES. SAWWWWWFT TACOS.

Verdict: Raw worthy.

Mojo Rawley Vignette

Ummmm… So this cat’s entire gimmick is he’s super hyped all day every day? I have no idea if this could work, but if we can somehow get a recreation of this scene with Rawley and Enzo Amore I’ll be a happy camper.

Verdict: Superstars worthy.

The Ascension vs. Corey Graves & Adrian Neville

I’m not into three out of four wrestlers involved in this match, and I’m afraid it’s leading me to incorrectly evaluate Adrian Neville. I get so jazzed when gets the hot tag I’m not sure if it’s because he’s performing great or I’m shell-shocked after another installment Rick Victor/Corey Graves rest-hold theatre.

In my notes it says that this was the best I’ve seen Neville since he’s teamed up with Hot Topic. His hot-tag offense late in the match was glorious, dare I say even D. Bry-eque. He mixed even more back-flip evasive maneuvers, and his offense seemed crisper, quicker, and a bit stronger. Hopefully this improvement wasn’t comparison camouflage and Neville is ready to fly high on Raw.

Putting the tag-team titles on The Ascension means somebody in NXT-land thinks these guys are ready to rule over Orlando. This is not necessarily a bad thing, regardless of how I feel. I’m reviewing based on what I think will play on Raw or Smackdown – and clearly I don’t think this team is ready. But I am interested in seeing what they can do now that they’re clearly positioned as the big bads of NXT. Hopefully that’ll jump start some interesting character development from these guys that makes them work.

Corey Graves still sucks.

Verdict: NXT worthy.

The Bo Dallas Invitational

In the normal heel handbook, this type of segment usually consists of the conceited bad guy cutting a promo about how unstoppable he’s become and there’s no one in the locker room that measures up. It’s a classic trope and works well to incite some serious babyface heat for anyone who takes on the challenge.

This could have been the moment this iteration of Bo Dallas’ amazing character starting slipping into traditional heel type stuff, but once again Dallas pulled off an amazing performance, twisting this segment into something that let him shine in his oblivious dick role. His genuine excitement giving some fresh-faced scrub a shot at the champ was adorable, and I loved how he showed concern for his random jobber opponent after the match. He could have easily acted cruel and dismissive, but he stayed true to the narrative and I love him for it. Almost as much as I loved his bizarre line-reading of “NXT CHAMPIONSHIP!!!” I have no clue what that was all about, but it made me laugh every time he did it.

The Leo Kruger and Antonio Cesaro part was clearly done just to set up a match/feud with each other, and it’s a great idea. Cesaro is a de facto wrestling instructor out there – clearly WWE brass like him in NXT for his ability to generate great matches out of anyone. Kruger intrigues me, I like his overall vibe but I’m not super sold on his ring work just yet. A few matches with Cesaro should tell us a lot.

Okay, I know I’m burying the lede with this almost-El Generico business at the end of The Bo Dallas Invitational, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. This is something I knew WWE would always have in their back pocket, but deploying it so half-assed I’m just kinda stumped why they bothered. Storyline wise it makes sense, as Dallas decreed that Zayn was banned from his Invitational despite being a strong contender for the NXT championship. Zayn needed a way in, and donning a mask is a great tradition in wrestling when you need to get around the rules.

But with so much weight behind this particular wrestler wearing a mask, it just left me emotionally bent. I’m sure the fans who know nothing of Generico enjoyed the segment, but I can’t help but wonder if they blew a real opportunity to resurrect the legend of The Generic One down the road. Overall the segment was awesome and Zayn played it great, so I’m not going to downgrade it just because I couldn’t help but engage in some fantasy booking.

Verdict: Raw worthy. 

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