Tag Archives: The Wyatt Family

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

 

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

Oh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Andy’s Angry: The Rise and Supposed Fall of Daniel Bryan

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it:  WWE has been clicking on almost all cylinders lately.  It’s like the writers and the roster got into “Wrestlemania Mode” much earlier than usual.  And while it’s not all perfect, everyone seems to have a role they can play to near-perfection.  I’d go so far as to say it’s the best utilization of the main roster since the Attitude Era.

If you can ignored the ever-half-assed booking of the divas, and a few things that haven’t been given time to flesh out (like the Tons of Funk v Truth/Woods story kicking off tonight on Smackdown), it’s pretty clear that everything is happening for a reason.  Every match, every promo, everything is building toward an endgame.  WWE is doing its best to build its shows now, while building its next big stars.  WWE needs to find its next Cena, Sheamus, Punk, and Batista.

That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear fans complain about the treatment of Daniel Bryan.

bryan harper

The soon-to-be Mr. Brie Bella has a lot going his way.  He main evented a couple of pay-per-views. And even though they were disappointingly-short, he has two WWE title reigns under his belt.  He’ll always be a former WWE Champion.  And, perhaps more importantly, he’ll always be a man who beat John Cena, clean, in the middle of the ring, to win the WWE title.

Lots of fans seem to have forgotten that Daniel Bryan was at the top of the card.  All they see now is that Bryan is teaming up with Punk to take on “the new guys.”

Those guys – The Wyatt Family – just so happen to be the hottest new thing in wrestling, but that gets ignored.  “WWE is treating Daniel Bryan like a jobber!”

Except no, they absolutely are not.  WWE knows Daniel Bryan is a star.  That’s why they’re teaming him up with the guy with the 434-day title reign, who calls himself  “The best in the world.”  That’s why they went over in their pay-per-view title match.  That’s why he’s trusted to take two talented-but-unknown wrestlers, and make them stars.

WWE fans see Daniel Bryan as legitimate.  Some saw it when he made his NXT debut, and his return against the Nexus.  Others knew it when he won the World Heavyweight title, and more caught on as his reign went on.  Those who didn’t know learned real quick when The American Dragon pinned Cena at Summerslam.

Like it or not, though, WWE fans see Orton as legitimate, too.  Listen to the fans react to him over the last few weeks on Raw.  He’s over as a crazy heel, and he deserves to be WWE Champion.  Along with Cena, he’s one of the two biggest stars in the last decade.  It’s why they’re the two guys in the title unification angle.  He’s a legitimate superstar, who deserves his spot.

So is Bryan, and WWE is acknowledging that.  He’s treated like a world-class wrestler.   The announcers acknowledge the crowd’s adoration.  The fans flock to the merch table. WWE responded with what some see as a burial, but what may actually be the most important role on the roster.

bryan rape

Legitimizing future stars.

Erick Rowan is okay, but Luke Harper is an absolute beast in the ring.  He’s a physical monster who can actually wrestle a solid match.  His matches with Punk and Bryan have proven it.  And you may not have noticed it, but Bryan has gone over in most of those matches, making Harper look like a beast in the process.  Everyone gets over.  Everyone looks good.

Some burial.

Back in the territory days, the traveling NWA champion would come into each territory, and defend the strap against the local promotion’s top guy.  He rarely lost.  But the local name would take the champ to the limit, and either slip on the proverbial banana peel, or fall to heel tactics.  The champ keeps his spot, and the local name keeps his heat.

Bryan may not have the belt, but in this scenario, he’s the NWA Champion.  Luke Harper is the local territory’s guy, getting the rub from a big star.  Bryan won’t suffer from it, and can go wrestle Sting or Harley or whoever next week, and still be a top draw.  He’s not being buried.  He’s building the next top draw.

Nobody seems to mind CM Punk doing the same thing for The Shield, but I digress.

punk is dead

For a decade, people have bitched and moaned at the “LOL Cena wins” trope.  Yeah, we get it, he overcomes the odds and never sells anything.  Yeah, we get it, he’s the top guy and nobody ever poses a challenge.  You’re getting the exact opposite here.

Bryan, a top guy, is taking some lumps to get an awesome mid-card stable to the next level.  It’s the way wrestling is supposed to work.  And like it or not, it’s the best way to get talent over.

Keep one thing in mind.  WWE is finally giving us (the internet wrestling fans) what we’ve been begging for.  Fresh new acts helping establish other fresh acts, developing the next batch of legitimate superstars.  Unless you want another 20 years of “LOL Cena wins,” you might want to learn to enjoy getting exactly what you asked for.

@AndyMillerJMS

Bang for Your Buck PPV Review: Survivor Series 2013

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

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

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

Review Guide

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

The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston (Kickoff Match)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match +1.0

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

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

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

Match +.4 | PPV 1.4

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

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

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

Match +/-0 | PPV 1.4

Ryback v. Mark Henry

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

Match +.4 | PPV 1.8

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

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

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

Match +.4 | PPV 2.2

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

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

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

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

Match +.7 | PPV 2.9

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

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

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

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

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

Match +.6

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

PPV 3.5 | Match Avg. .5

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: Survivor Series 2013

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It’s Survivor Series Sunday, which means it’s time for us to ask: “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”.  And, because we love you, you’ll also be getting a PPV Predictions episode of Headlock’d fresh from the oven this afternoon. All of this (for free!) before we drop our world famous Bang for Your Buck PPV review in your lap on Monday morning.

To make sure you don’t miss anything, follow us (or me) on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Now that we’ve gotten the shameless plugs out of the way, let’s figure out What’s the Worst That Could Happen tonight in Boston:

The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston (Kickoff Match)

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

Worst Case Scenario: The E uses the Miz’s heel turn as an excuse to show literally dozens of clips from the ABC Family Original movie The Christmas Bounty during Miz TV, with a victory in this match as the starting off point of the “push”.

What Nick Wants to Happen: Not to be impossibly bored/angry I spent time watching something I didn’t pay  for that’s supposed  to be an advertisement for the something I did pay  for.

What Will Happen: Impossible boredom and anger.

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

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

Worst Case Scenario: Big E. or Curtis Axel get hurt. Any other scenario is fundamentally okay. Even Curtis getting the belt back.

What Nick Wants to Happen: Less Ultimate Warrior vs. Honky Tonk Man, more Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage.

What Will Happen: Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude

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

Best Case Scenario: The heels sweep, Kaitlyn stabs AJ. All of this happens in under five minutes. 

Worst Case Scenario: The faces win decisively in a half-hour match consisting entirely of butts-to-the-face and poorly executed snapmares.

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

What Will Happen: Nothing interesting. At all. The entire match.

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

Best Case Scenario: All the members of both teams each get a spotlight in the match, which eats up the middle hour of the show, Usos turn heel on Rhodes Brothers, starting the second best feud ever. The Real Americans  turn on the Shield, starting the best feud ever.

Worst Case Scenario: Rey Mysterio wrestles the entire match, not tagging anyone in the entire time, 619’s the entire heel team at once before pinning them all simultaneously.

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

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

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

Best Case Scenario: The crowd  in Boston actually gets into a match with their “hometown” hero, John Cena. Alberto del Rio cleanly beats Cena, but after knocking out the referee as part of getting Cena in the position to lose, is then given an AA so powerful it A) looks like it might actually hurt instead of feeling like your being thrown around in a pool and B) allows Ricardo to come out and “take advantage” of del Rio, setting up an AWESOME match next month at TLC.

Worst Case Scenario: Del Rio is given an AA so powerful it A) looks like it might actually hurt and B) finishes the match in five minutes, followed by John Cena giving a 20-minute speech to the crowd where he changes his voice to sound like he’s from Southie.

What Nick Wants to Happen: A main event quality match, even if it’s going to be a Raw-quality finish.

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

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

Best Case Scenario: Mega Power seeds are planted between Bryan and Punk, who narrowly defeat the Dueling Banjos Band after a miscommunication nearly costs them the match.

Worst Case Scenario: This match gets shortened because the Diva’s Match ran long.

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

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

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

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

Worst Case Scenario: Everyone cheats.

What Nick Wants to Happen: A match with a clean finish where Randy Orton wins, since the storyline implications in this match otherwise are either silly or super depressing, depending on how you look at it.

What Will Happen: Orton retains. Probably with help from Kane and Brad Maddox.

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.

WATCH, SKIM, OR SKIP: SPOILER ALERT W/ “ANGRY” ANDY, 11/4-11/8

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There’s a lot of wrestling on TV every week, but only some of it is actually worth watching.  That’s where I come in: every week, I’ll 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, the Divas division actually starts to make sense … but does that mean it’ll be worth watching? (Spoiler alert: meh) 

MAIN EVENT

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(Spoilers via PWInsider.com)

The Usos d Hunico & Camacho

Hey, Hunico’s back!  Remember him?  He was the fake Sin Cara (you know, the good one).  After he lost the mask, he arbitrarily teamed up with Camacho.  It was pretty easy at the time to see which teammate had the talent, and which was Camacho.  Hunico went out with an injury, and both have been gone… seemingly forever.

Before I complain that their “comeback” match is a job to the Usos, I’ll wait and see the match.  Main Event typically opens with a strong match, given a good amount of time.  Hopefully this will be no different, and Hunico & Camacho can make their way back to the midcard.  WWE DESPERATELY needs solid heel tag teams.

All that said, this should be decent to good.  The Usos are always solid.  Hunico can work, as long as he’s not too rusty.  Camacho is Camacho.

Nikki Bella d Alicia Fox

I don’t see this being anything more than a 4-minute plug for Total Divas, that happens to air during a supposed wrestling match.

Take this match to enjoy the fact WWE has separated the Bellas from AJ and Tamina.  More on that in the Smackdown spoilers.

The Wyatt Family d The Prime Time Players

Wyatts are on their way up.  They’re feuding with two beloved former WWE Champions.  They’re feuding with THE GUYS at the top of the show.  They NEED to win matches like this, and decisively.  Expect Darren Young to bump like a madman, and for Titus to put them over as the beasts who can annihilate the big man.

WATCH (the beginning and end of) this show.  (When you hear “YOU CAN LOOK BUT YOU CAN’T TOUCH,” go heat up a Hot Pocket.)

SMACKDOWN!

WWE-Smackdown

(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

CM Punk d Curtis Axel

Punk wanted a representative from the Wyatt Family, but he got one from the Hennig family instead.  Thousands in attendance, and millions watching around the world at home, feel the same disappoint Curt felt for years.  Oh well.  As long as Axel doesn’t try to cut a promo or pull a hip flexor, this should be good.

AJ Lee & Tamina d Cameron & Naomi

AJ makes Cameron tap to the Black Widow.  The best part of this match is it features clear-cut heels facing off against legitimately likeable babyfaces.  When AJ feuded with the Bellas, the fans didn’t care.  The Bellas acted like the cast of Mean Girls Gone Wild, and were supposed to be the faces.  AJ called them a bunch of untalented broads who don’t deserve to be in the ring with an actual wrestler, and was supposed to be the heel.

This match rights a big wrong.  You put CM Punk’s next ex-girlfriend and her Lady-Diesel enforcer/tag team partner against a team the crowd LOVES.  Their gimmick is fun.  Their personalities are over the top babyface, like Kofi Kingston (except Cameron & Naomi occasionally win).  And while far from perfect, Naomi is pretty decent in the ring, and highly athletic.

This match may be short, but it’s the most logically-booked WWE women’s match in recent memory.

John Cena & Alberto Del Rio want to fight TONIGHT, FOR THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE.

Vickie says no, because that’s not best for business.  Fans hate title matches.

Alberto Del Rio d The Great Khali

Same match Del Rio always has, except he’s wrestling a 7-foot, 350-pound cardboard cutout.  Hopefully this match is a couple of kicks, a dropkick, and a cross armbreaker.  Anything else only serves to make everyone involved look really, really bad.  Khali is best served, at this point, in a tag team.  In India.

R-Truth & The Usos d 3MB

Truth is in his hometown for this show, which makes his victory surprising.  6 talented guys here, but don’t expect much.  This will be solid for what it is, but won’t get the time it needs to develop into anything amazing.

Daniel Bryan d Luke Harper

DQ finish when the rest of the family gets involved.  CM Punk makes the save.  Bryan’s bumps SHOULD make the former Brodie Lee look like an unstoppable killing machine.

John Cena d Ryback

Del Rio gets involved after the match, and goes after Cena’s arm.  Cena chases him off, because he’s Cena.  I wouldn’t mind if Del Rio actually gets to look like a threat against Cena.  It would only make sense, considering Del Rio’s finish is an ARMBAR and Cena just got back from ARM SURGERY.  Nope.  Super Cena stands tall.

SKIM this show.  The work on this show will be solid.  But if you’re not into the characters involved, you might get bored, fast.

They’re Already Here – Raw Regurgitated, 7/8

Vicki mentions three guys who made their legacy in ladder matches, and names two guys in one match and her boss. I feel like this entire thing may just be a giant metaphor about something involving the difficulty of career advancement.

I hate using the phrase “say what you will” when writing, speaking out loud, or just not actively trying to embarrass myself, but “say what you will” about Vicki Guerrero, but she is a Bobby Heenan-esque heat magnet.

Excuse me if I blacked out, but I think that was an entire segment with Vicki without someone calling her fat.

The real star of the Rob Van Dam comeback video is definitely the chubby guy in the Steelers jersey doing the “R!V!D!” thumbs in perfect unison with him at the end.

***

Daniel Bryan has an equal chance to win this match with Sheamus. That’s one of the strangest thing to happen in the last 10 years of professional wrestling. Not that no one DB’s size has ever been at his level, but no one his size has had a chance against Triple H in a singles match.

Sheamus has seventy signature moves. Why is the “clubbing a dude a bunch of times” the only one without a name that somewhat relates to his whiteness/Irishness/Celtic Warrior-ness? And wouldn’t Emerald Fusion (what that scoop backdrop thing is actually called) be just as good a name as White Noise?

Last week’s show wasn’t that wonderful, but this Baltimore crowd tells you all you need to know about why WWE only goes to Iowa once a year.

***

Jason Hervey has pissed that the E his “let’s make every backstage seg look like the guy holding the camera forgot he had it in his hand” for these “let’s find where the Wyatts” vignettes.

***

Not only has Tons of Fun’s entrance been taken off TV, but they have matching outfits. Matt Bloom has to miss the gimmick where he tried to pierce other dudes’ dicks at this point.

With a veteran/newcomer tag team like ToF, there has to be a sinking feeling for both members when the newcomer’s ceiling is “veteran in a veteran/newcomer tag team”.

Did The Shield draw straws to determine who would wear what undershirt?

***

Mark Henry is the best wrestler of all time.

If Mark Henry beats the clever out of John Cena and kills the “What?” chant permanently, can he get his own wing in the Hall of Fame?

Mark Henry: Best Wrestler of All Time.

***

With the WWE’s disregard for how expensive it is to turn the lights on and off like that for these entrances, you have to assume they probably leave the front door open when the air conditioning is on, too.

Given that Mr. Perfect’s version of it was only broken once (by Bret Hart at SummerSlam) is the implication that Curtis Axel isn’t applying the PerfectPlex correctly or that his dad was magic?

***WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A SERIOUS WRESTLING DISCUSSION*** We aren’t really supposed to talk about it, but Curtis Axel is a pretty good professional wrestler with a TON of potential. They did a great job picking him for this, inasmuch as it was their best option out of a not-that-great selection of people good enough to warrant the rub but not well-known enough for it to feel like a desperate ploy to get someone over. He’s going baldish, so that’s an issue, but outside of that, he’s good enough on the mic, has a good enough look and is VERY good in the ring when given a chance to “explore the studio space”. I’ve liked the pick from the beginning, but with this IC title run he has the potential to set himself up to reach heights his father never did because of politics and injuries. ***YOU ARE NOW LEAVING A SERIOUS WRESTLING DISCUSSION. ENJOY THE DICK JOKES***

***

An all-heel Money in the Bank Ladder match is the best idea they have ever had. That and everything involving Mark Henry.

***

Pardon my Spanish but, HOW THE FUCK DOES ALBERTO DEL RIO GET STUCK WRESTLING UNDER THESE LIGHTS AGAINST SIN CARA. HE’S THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION!

Having said that, nobody looks better against guys that know how to work with him than Sin Cara. Sin Cara is the WWE’s equivalent of a 1st-round bust who teams keep on picking up in hopes that he’ll live up to his potential or that he’ll fit into their system, and it’s almost entirely because of matches against guys who have wrestled in places that aren’t WWE developmental.

God, that Ziggler intro bit was ball cancer of the AIDS (sorry people with ball cancer/AIDS). This match will be great, but they can literally never mention or show that again. That was an abortion (sorry people who were abortions).

***

“Please welcome Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H…McMahon”

I really hope this whole thing is an allegory for the problems in Congress and not for what’s actually happening backstage. Because I mean, look forward to 20 years of reverse battle royales from TNA if that’s the case.

Listen, Vicki, at least you aren’t being thrown in a garbage truck like Eric Bischoff. And this company killed your husband, so you’ll always have a job.

Vince McMahon is articulating the value of Vicki BRILLIANTLY. If all the segments for this feud are this good, I’m ALL-IN. Also, if Brad Maddox becomes General Manager of RAW at the end of every one of these, I’m buying WWE stock. That’s ratings gold.

***

Wow. This is all kind of amazing. I’m happy with all of this. Brad Maddox for President 2016. (Sorry, Big E.)

***

The only difference between Heel/Face Christian is the clapping. It’s official.

It’s weird that Edge is on the Canadian “no-mention” list along with Chris Benoit.

There was a lot of nervousness at JMS HQ RE: whether the Wyatt family would be able to survive their entrance, or if the anticipation of their arrival would lead them to Ultimo Dragon the shit out of themselves. But they somehow managed to get a Shield-level entrance just by walking down the ramp with an electric lantern. When you’re as good at your job as Windham Rotunda is, sometimes it’s that easy.

***

If Ryback has “rules”, I hope  “consoling your boss after she is unceremoniously fired” is one of them.

Speaking of “rules”, as new GM, can Brad Maddox make one that permanently bars the Bellas from ringside, including their own matches?

***

Randy Orton and CM Punk have a very weird rivalry. They are top-shelf main eventers who have an egregious amount of really interesting/compelling history, but I don’t think anyone has paid a dime to see those two wrestle. At least anyone not named Nick Bond and Daron “Action” Jackson.

And does anyone else remember the days when they weren’t the same shade of tattoo’d orange?

Is this a battle of “who can get the crowd more excited through convoluted pandering”? If so, I have money on CM Punk. That dude could get Yankees fans to cheer Kevin Youkilis.

That’s the go-home moment? The guy that everyone assumes is going to win the match comes in and attacks the guy that absolutely no one thinks is going to win after he won a match against a guy nobody cares about whether they win or not. Kind of a bummer, guys.

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