Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – July 15, 2013

Brian and Steve talk about Sunday’s Money in the Bank PPV including Damien Sandow and Randy Orton each winning the ladder matches, the physicality of the All-Stars ladder match, a really good John Cena vs. Mark Henry match, possibilities now for SummerSlam, the Ultimate Warrior working with the WWE for the new 2K14 video game, last week’s grand opening of the WWE Performance Center and more.

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WWE Smackdown Rundown – July 5th, 2013

smackdown outlineA lot of stuff happened last night on Smackdown.  That’s not to say a lot of important stuff happened – outside of a great Randy Orton v Christian match, and an interesting main event angle, most of the stuff was pretty standard fare. Still, it wasn’t a bad way to spend two hours. Let’s take a look:

The Good:

Opening w/ CM Punk: “If I was John Cena…” was a great opening line. While I thought his attempt at relating Independence Day to his own individual independence was a bit out-of-character, his focus on winning Money in the Bank was strong. Alberto Del Rio interrupted him about halfway through, looking slick in an all-black suit. He claimed that it was “his show,” and proceeded to insulted America, Independence Day, and Dolph Ziggler. This gave CM Punk the chance to look intelligent here, by calling Del Rio out for his phony patriotism earlier in 2013.

It was an obvious a way to set up CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio for the main event, but it worked. Both guys looked game, and it allowed Smackdown to capitalize on the (rare) advertised apperance of CM Punk. By the numbers, but effective.

Punk – Heyman Backstage Segment: Heyman argued that Punk had nothing to gain from this match, being only 9 days from MITB. Punk ended up telling Heyman to just stay out of it. This segment served its purpose of furthering the divide between the two men.

The Usos def. Team Rhodes Scholars: Damien Sandow put over MITB before the match, and argued that Rhodes Scholars is not falling apart, contrary to what some people think. The Usos showed a lot of unity throughout the 25 second match. They hit a double-splash from opposite corners to finally put Damien Sandow away.

The Shield cut a solid promo after the match, putting over their unity, and planting the idea of Dean Ambrose “lurking” around with the Money in the Bank contract.

AJ Lee/Big E Langston Backstage Segment: After running away from Kaitlyn, AJ told Big E to get the car ready. He asked about Dolph Ziggler, to which AJ said she’d text him from the car. The beginning of the end for this power couple? Intriguing.

Randy Orton def. Christian: I really liked the backstage interview beforehand with both men, as it put this match in perspective (from their rivalry back in 2011), while also giving Orton and Christian the chance to state their case for Money in the Bank.

In-ring, these two got off to a slow start. After the commercial break, they amped things up quite a bit. A lot of great reversals by both men, and a good way to play off the fact that they’ve fought each other a number of times. Christian hit a sphere late in the match, and Randy Orton sold it like a champ.”Vintage” Orton psyched up the crowd, and after one reversed RKO, he finally nailed the second one.

If you missed Smackdown, this is THE match to check out. Orton and Christian have incredible in-ring chemistry, and while this didn’t live up to the hype of their great 2011 summer feud, it was the most entertaining match of the evening.

Dolph Ziggler def. Drew McIntyre: Ziggler cut an excellent promo before the match, commenting on how winning the World Heavyweight Championship was the biggest night of his career, and mocking Del Rio for his phony patriotism. Once the match started, McIntyre got a surprising amount of offense. He missed a running knee into the ring pole, which gave Dolph a chance to fight back into the match. Dolph hit the Zig-Zag and scored the win. Match was nothing special, but the overall segment clicked.

CM Punk vs. Alberto Del RIo (with Paul Heyman on commentary) ends in a no-contest:
Heyman, who had been ordered earlier in the night by Teddy Long to provide commentary during the match, added a lot to this segment. Both Punk and Del Rio matched up well inside the ring, and I appreciated all the subtle things both of these veterans added (like Del Rio’s focus on Punks arm, and the way Punk sold the injury).

After things sprawled outside the ring, Heyman getting involved was obvious. However, I did not expect Del Rio to punch Heyman, or Punk to look so incensed. I liked the ending here – Punk helping Heyman makes sense since they’re still friends, and it sets up a great next chapter between the two men. And while Del Rio ended up getting the short end of the stick, I don’t think he loses much for it. Entertaining segment.

The Bad:

Kaitlyn vs Alicia Fox: Solid in-ring work by both of these ladies. Alicia Fox showed a few good holds, and Kaitlyn stepped up the intensity. AJ Interrupted and distracted Kaitlyn, giving Alicia Fox the chance to steal a pin. I guess it works to further the feud, but the segment just felt missable by all accounts. If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a dozen times.

Fandango def. Justin Gabriel: Gabriel was just getting started before Fandango caught him with a kick and scored his patented leg drop from the top rope. It was good to see Fandango in action again, but this match did very little to convince me that Fandango is going to win Money in the Bank. These two could put together an interesting match. As it was, this segment was a complete throwaway.

Zeb Coulter/Jack Swagger/ Antonio Cesaro Video: Another one of the “We The People” videos, with the added bonus of Cesaro in a KGB hat. Coulter said a lot of hogwash about Americans not taking July 4th seriously, blah blah blah. Next, please.

The Ugly:

(none)

WWE Monday Night Raw Rating Down From Last Week

The Monday Night Raw rating came out yesterday and the rating could have been a lot worse.

WWE’s flagship show drew awwe logo 2.9 rating, with an average of 3.98 million viewers watching. That is down from last week’s 3.03, with an average of 4.15 viewers watching.

Monday’s Raw featured promos with John Cena and Mark Henry, who will square off for the WWE championship at Money in the Bank on July 14.

We seen a promo with CM Punk and Paul Heyman after Brock Lesnar returned last week and F5′d Punk.

The main event featured a match between Daniel Bryan defeating Randy Orton by submission.

The WWE should take this rating as a win as the NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 6, which featured the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks drew 8.31 million viewers.

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Between The Ropes | Jason Powell – June 25, 2013

prowrestlingnetBrian talks with Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net about a ton of stuff including the youth movement in the WWE, if this will be a growing trend there, what guys TNA could have possibly had, using The Shield going forward, the Daniel Bryan storyline as we as plenty of non-wrestling stuff including the NHL playoffs and his Bruins losing to Brian’s Blackhawks, the upcoming Anchorman movie, the skywalk and their favorite TV shows.

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Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – June 25, 2013

btrlogoBrian and Steve are back to talk about Raw from Monday night including Daniel Bryan against Randy Orton and the CM Punk – Paul Heyman storyline, the backstage interaction with Bryan and Triple H from the previous week, the upcoming Money in the Bank PPV, the Wyatt Family and how they could possibly be used and a discussion on who is the bigger star between Brock Lesnar and John Cena.

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WWE Smackdown Rundown – May 31st, 2013

wwe smackdown logoVery entertaining edition of WWE Smackdown last night.  Check out the breakdown below.

The Good:

Opening Match – Kane def. Seth Rollins: Great way to kick off the show. Rollins and Kane worked a slow, methodical match pace, and WWE gave them some real time to do what they wanted. Rollins looked smart here for trying to take Kane out at the knees, and Kane really put the younger star over here by selling as well as he did (this is a true veteran).

I liked the ending of the match, where Bryan interfered and allowed Kane to get the chokeslam and pin. This match made Team Hell No look unified (after a few weeks of dissension), and it was fun to see them steal a page from The Shield. Since Rollins looked so strong throughout the match against a former world champion, I don’t think the loss took anything away from him. Similarly, this continues the feud between the two teams in a logical manner by making Kane seem like a credible threat.

Roman Reigns def. Daniel Bryan by DQ (due to Kane’s Interference): Really loved how this match picked up immediately after the last match – tying these two segments together not only makes sense, but it makes for great continuity on the show (where so many times pro wrestling events feel like a stiched-together circus of events). Reigns looked solid here by showing his strength, and Bryan did a great job (as always) of building momentum in the match and getting the fans behind him.

The ending was fun. Bryan rolled a pin attempt into the ‘no-lock,’ and Reigns used his strength to fight his way to the ropes. I loved how Reigns then provoked Kane, who retaliated with a punch, thus causing the DQ. This is a genuine heel tactic, and a great way to put heat on The Shield. I’m also glad the emphasis was put on Kane causing the confusion here instead of Bryan. Short, but fun, match, and great segment overall.

Curtis Axel def. Sin Cara: Let me start off by praising WWE for not making them wrestle under those stupid Sin Cara lights. Paul Heyman did a great job of building up Axel before the match. Seriously, the man could sell a baby kitten as a World Champion. Axel also took the mic and sounded intimidating without turning into a monotone robot (see: Ryback).

Match was quick. Sin Cara got a few botched offensive moves, but Axel quickly shut him down and finished him with the perfect plex. It made him look very strong, and able to quickly adapt. I think this is good for his build. He needs more easy wins like this against lower and mid-card talent, while brushing shoulders with the big boys.

Big E Langston def. Alberto Del Rio: Decent back-and-forth. Big E wins after AJ grabs Del Rio which let Big E throw him into a ring post. The match was only OK (not as good as their other two outings), but does a lot for Big E’s continued momentum.

Ryback dismantled Kofi Kingston: Ryback entered via an ambulance. Is this a thing now? Kofi looked game by attacking Ryback head-on, and not showing any fear. While I question the decision to give Kingston so much offense against Ryback, the ending of this segment sold me on it. Ryback put Kofi through multiple tables, and looked like a monster. The announcers also did a good job by recapping the seriousness of Kingston’s injuries.

Jericho def. Cody Rhodes: Jericho is such a good worker, in great shape, and able to keep up with wrestlers much younger than him. These two put together a fast-paced match. Fun reversals with good near falls. Short but sweet. My favorite match of the night.

Wyatt Family Video: Apparently I missed this Monday night? Kudos to WWE for replaying it here, and for revisiting the promo videos as a way to introduce superstars (I feel like they’ve done a lot less of this in recent years).

Ambrose vs. Randy Orton ends in count-out (The Shield interferes): Ambrose wrestling in the main event is big. He looked like a serious threat here – this is how you build a star (and props to Ambrose for running with the ball). These guys put together an entertaining 10-minute brawl that elevates both men while leaving the possibility open for future encounters.

The Shiled interfered, but then Team Hell No came out to help Orton. I’m hoping this leads to a fruitful Ambrose vs Orton rivalry.

Submission Reversals: I really like the chain wrestling out of submission moves (both the no-lock and cross-armbreaker were broken-up). It’s believable, and creates an air of unpredictability in the match.

Overall Show: While Smackdown has always been the “B show” to Raw (and has become even less important since the brand extension ended), the creative team did a great job here of building an entertaining, wrestling-heavy show. Almost every match had some greater implication behind it, made sense in context of the larger story, and showcased fun in-ring action. No major surprises here, but that’s not always a bad thing.

The Bad:

Damien Sandow “Challenge” Segment: First off, where’d his robe go? I’m not a big fan of the suit. I liked how WWE followed up last week’s segment with another “Ancient Greek Challenge” segment (with a follow-the-ball game), and I thought there were a few really funny lines by both men: Sandow’s “Congratulations – your idiot license is good for another year!” and Sheamus’s “playing with your cup and tiny balls” retort. However, I hate how foolish Sheamus made Sandow look here. Is this a feud? If so, why should we take Sandow seriously?

The Ugly:

Show him your balls chant during the Sandow segment was pretty funny. But, to quote Sheamus, “I don’t think anybody wants to see that.”

Sin Cola: Apparently this trends a lot on Twitter, as a way to both make fun of Sin Cara and confuse the masses (people asking what ‘Sin Cola’ is just keeps it trending). Either way, I approve.

TNA Slammiversary press call with Bully Ray – May 29, 2013

bullyray

TNA World Champion Bully Ray speaks with the media about this Sunday’s Slammiversary PPV where he will face Sting, transitioning from being in a tag-team for so long to a singles wrestler, reinventing himself, which younger guys in the company stand out to him, who he has learned the most from in the wrestling business, the current state of tag-team wrestling, Team 3D Academy, Impact Wrestling going live, if there should still be blook in wrestling and more.

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Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – May 29, 2013

braywyattBrian and Steve discuss the latest in wrestling including the youth movement in the WWE with The Shield, Bray Wyatt and family coming in and others, CM Punk being advertised for his return at the WWE Payback PPV and whether or not he will face Chris Jericho, what to do with Punk once he returns, Curtis Axel and his first two weeks on Raw, the Ryback – John Cena dynamic, the WWE app, TNA Slammiversary (which is actually this Sunday) and more.

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WWE Raw Rundown – May 27th, 2013

rawAfter two solid weeks of programming, WWE takes a few steps back with an overall mediocre show, highlighted by a couple of strong matches and one hugely entertaining segment.

The Good:

Memorial Day Tribute: Say what you will about WWE pandering to it’s fans, at least it has the respect to give back to our troops.

Opening Segment w/Paul Heyman & Curtis Axel: Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel came out after Ryback left to challenge John Cena. I like it, it gave Axel the spotlight again, and showed he was willing to fight. And at least John Cena looked like he takes this challenge seriously. Short but effective segment, and good build for the main event later.

Del Rio def. Big E Langston: Good continuation of last weeks rivalry, and a great way to keep Ziggler spotlighted while he’s on the sidelines. Still wish they would actually put him on the show (does a concussion mean he can’t talk on the mic?). Del Rio wins by smacking Big E into a ringpost. Wasn’t quite as much fun as the match from last week, and feels like a general retread, but I enjoyed seeing Del Rio pick up the win because of AJ’s mistake. Also, Del Rio deserves the win and, because of the fluke, keeps Big E from looking weak. Didn’t like the argument at the end between AJ and Big E Langston – are they setting up a potential breakup? I hope not. It feels too early.

Daniel Bryan and Kane backstage segment: Fun segment. I liked the surprise appearance by Bret Hart, and thought the pep-talk he gave to Bryan was entertaining. Plus, Bryan’s line – “And you? You’re just Kane.”

Dean Ambrose def. Kofi Kingston to retain the IC Championship: Besides the early commercial break, I enjoyed this. These guys match up very well. The crowd seemed reluctant to get into this at first, but the multiple near-falls drew people back in. Anti-climatic ending, with Kofi getting knocked out on the steel steps, but it made Ambrose look DOMINANT. Very good for him, and glad to see him win this one on his own. The brawl afterwards between Team Hell No and The Shield made sense, and was a perfect lead-in to the next segment.

The Shield def. Team Hell No to retain the Tag Team Titles: This rivalry has been a ton of fun. These two teams have a lot of in-ring chemistry, and I love the fact that each one has a “big guy/small guy” dynamic. This match isn’t quite as good as their fight last week, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. The distention at the end between Kane and Bryan, which causes Kane to lose the match, still feels somewhat forced. Also, Daniel Bryan is insanely popular, so I question WWE’s decision to have him be the cause of Team Hell No’s downfall while treating Kane like the sympathetic teammate. On the other hand, I like Bryan a lot more when he’s acting crazy.

Triple H Update: I like how they explained Triple H’s injury last week came from the Sledgehammer to the jaw at Extreme Rules. It really helped sell the intensity of that match. By announcing him for next weeks show, they give us incentive to tune in.

Fandango def. Wade Barrett w/ The Miz as special guest referee: Fine for what it was. Basically, The Miz attacks everybody, and comes out looking like the babyface should. The next logical step in this three-man rivalry.

Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel w/ Paul Heyman: Finally something truly interesting happened on one of these “WWE Talk Show” segments. Probably the highlight of last night’s show. Love that Jericho addressed the CM Punk issue directly, and how it felt unexpected. Paul Heyman did such a great job defending Punk while still acting clueless, and Jericho goading him into a match seemed very believable. Also, reminding everybody that Payback takes place in Punk’s hometown only makes sense. Putting Jericho – Punk on the card will definitely sell some PPVs, and ensure a packed house. Most importantly, this segment is a reminder of how talented speakers can effectively sell a match.

Wade Barrett’s New Music: Maybe it just feels refreshing, but I really dig it.

More title matches: I like this “more title matches, but fewer title changes” concept. It keeps the card interesting without devaluing the championships themselves. It’s also given us some very good matches in the past few weeks.

 

The Bad:

Show Opening w/John Cena: So. Many. Boos. This is exactly what I expected from Cena – more comedy to bury Ryback (yes, we get it, he acts like a caveman), and then an unexpected change to the stipulation of the match. Apparently it’s impossible for the man to come out and legitimately act like he’s still banged up from Extreme Rules, or like he even takes his opponent seriously.

And now, Cena wants this to be a “Three Stages of Hell” match, with stage one being a lumberjack match, stage two being a tables match, and stage three the expected ambulance match. I have so many issues with this. First off, this rivalry hasn’t built up to a “Three Stages of Hell” match, so it feels like adding a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. Plus, lumberjack matches and table matches just feel so boring and inconclusive. So what’s the point here, WWE? The ambulance match gimmick makes sense, and that’s obviously why you saved it for the last fall. What’s the deal with all the fluff? It just seems overbooked.

Tensai, Brodus Clay, and The Great Khali def. 3MB: Match ended in a giant brawl with Slater getting buried. Does this serve a real point? There’s no storyline here, just generic mid-card filler. Superstars like Antonio Cesaro are preempted because of this?

The Bellas def. Natalya and Kaitlyn: This was dumb and a waste of time. Didn’t do much to further the division or any storyline, other than making fun of Natalya.

Curtis Axel – Bret Hart backstage segment: Bret Hart tells Axel to get rid of Heyman. Axel says Heyman is the only one who paid him any attention. While I’m always happy to see Hart, it is what it is.

Randy Orton and Sheamus def. Team Rhodes Scholars: Are these guys a tag-team again, or what? While I love ‘Rhodes Scholars,’ the crowd is mostly dead. Still happy to see these guys get spotlighted with two former world champions. However, the match had a much slower pace, and the ending was never in doubt. Too much time here for what feels like filler. Sheamus brogue kick pins Sandow, and the burial of Sandow and Rhodes continues (can we not get these guys in a real storyline?).

Axel def. John Cena via count-out: Axel looks like such a big deal with Paul Heyman, and being in the ring with John Cena. His intensity is infectious. However, the slow match with “generic Cena wrestling” was dull. I’m glad Axel got the upper-hand against Cena for much of the match, but the crowd wasn’t impressed, as evidenced by the “booring” chants.

When the ambulance drove in, I thought this segment held promise. But Cena losing by count-out (to go attack Ryback in the ambulance?) really made him look dumb. Also, a second flukey win by Axel really isn’t building him up much. I don’t know how to feel about this, exactly.

The brawl between Ryback and Cena was okay, but it honestly didn’t accomplish much. I was glad to see Ryback get the upper hand, which at least sells him as credible competition to Cena’s title (more than Cena did earlier in the night), but still felt total indifference to this segment. We’ve seen them brawl, we’ve seen them argue. I’m bored by this feud.

WWE Fan Voting: Feels too inconsequential to matter anymore.

Three Hours of Raw: Cut out the filler, this could’ve been two strong hours. Instead, by 9:30, I was checking Facebook, flipping the channel, everything. The Heyman-Jericho segment saved hour 3, but otherwise, everything after “The Shield” felt like a snoozefest. I think it’s simply too much on a weekly basis.

 

The Ugly:

Stupid backstage segment involving cake and Hornswaggle. I wish I was making this stuff up.

Natalya’s Birthday: The Great Khali sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. I pray nobody ever has a birthday around Khali again.

Shawn Michael’s Beard: This is what retirement does to you, folks.

WWE Smackdown Rundown – May 24th, 2013

smackdownDecent edition of Smackdown this week.  Show kicked off fun and had a few short, but entertaining, matches. Unfortunately, it felt like it lacked any real star power.

The Good:

Opening Segment – Miz TV w/ Fandango: While I’m not normally a huge fan of the Miz TV segments, I thought this one did a good job of helping build towards the Intercontinental Championship match later.  There were a few great throwaway lines by Miz here – “Your ego is the only thing more annoying than your name” and calling Fandango a “bag of skittles” both stood out.  Furthermore, Wade Barrett coming out and interrupting made sense (because of what happened on Raw), and it seemed like a great way to kick-off an Intercontinental Championship feud. Barrett also got a few cheers for attacking Fandango. Could a possible face turn be in his future? I think it could be refreshing for his career if handled correctly.

Miz vs Wade Barret for the IC Championship ends in DQ when Fandango Interferes: This was a soft “good” for me. While the back-and-forth between Miz and Barrett was fun for the 30 seconds it lasted, Fandango’s dancing just made everything too distracting from the in-ring product. However, I liked it because it furthered the storyline between the three men, and It’s been awhile since we’ve had a good mid-card championship feud.

Daniel Bryan def. Jack Swagger: These two weren’t given much time to work, but they still put together a fun match. I loved the ending here, with Swagger in the “no-lock” almost reaching the ropes and still tapping out. I also thought the announcers did a good job of building up how important this match was to Bryan and regaining his confidence by proving he isn’t the weak-link.

Great ending, with Swagger in the “no-lock” almost reaching the ropes but still tapping out.. Short match, broken up by a commercial break, but I like the story it tells about Bryan. He’s trying to prove himself and build back up his psyche. Nice storytelling here for Bryan. Too bad Swagger is not in a free-fall…again.

Damien Sandow Segment: This guy is money on the mic. He speaks down the audience, and carries that air of superiority better than almost any other heel on the roster. I loved the “Call Washington! I’ve just found the problem in the education system!” directed at Matt Striker and his substitute-teaching background.  Sheamus came out, which was actually a fun surprise. I think he works really well in this “correcting the heel” type-role (as he did with Henry). Is it too much to ask for a feud between these two? Sandow looked smart by escaping the Brogue kick, but looked really dumb afterwards when Striker landed on him.

Jericho def. Big Show via count-out: OK match. Slow, plodding pace at first, but they picked it up towards the end with a good number of reversals. Entertaining with a good small guy vs. big guy dynamic in play. On the other hand, it felt like they left this open for more. Is this a rivalry anybody really wants to see?

The Shield def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, and Kofi Kingston: While this format feels a little old, and the match from Monday night was better, these guys all put out a pretty good effort here. Glad The Shield won again, and I’m always happy to see Kofi Kingston wrestle with the big boys.

 

The Bad:

Team Hell No backstage segment: This one almost ended up as a “good” for me, simply because I like the fact that this backstage segment helped build up a story. However, I fear that WWE is handling this one all wrong. The focus is too much on Bryan being crazy and Kane being the sympathetic one. I still think there’s money to be made with this team and it’s revenge on The Shield.  I also believe Bryan has a lot more to offer as a face, and Kane likewise as a heel, especially if they ever pull the trigger on a rivalry between these two.

Curtis Axel def. Sin Cara: For starters, WHY is Sin Cara still allowed to wrestle with the lights down like that? What makes him special now? This would have been much more impressive had Axel come out and dominated here. Instead, he looks like just another mid-carder here who barely pulls of a win against Sin Cara, a guy we rarely see on TV anymore. Is this what being a “Paul Heyman Guy” does for you? Disappointing.

Dean Ambrose vs. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Championship ends in DQ: This match kicked off with a fun, fast pace. These two work very well together. However, after about three minutes, The Shield came out to interfere (so why did Ambrose tell them to stay back at the beginning?), followed by Orton and Sheamus to save the day.

This didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t Kane and Bryan be interfering? Also, I thought Orton and Sheamus had moved on past their feud with The Shield?  Furthermore, Teddy Long had to come out and make it a “three-on-three” match, as though we haven’t seen enough of those recently.  Actually, he said, “This show isn’t going to end like that!” (in reference to the brawl). Of course it isn’t, Teddy, there’s still about 20 minutes left in the show.  But I guess that’s the new format for Smackdown – let everybody interfere, and make your main even a “surprise” tag-team matchup. It just feels stale.

 

The Ugly:

Fake Audience Noises: The crowd doesn’t go from dead silence, to maximum boo/cheer level, back to dead silence like that.

Fandango on Commentary: Not to knock his skills here, but he sounds like a phone-sex operator.

ECU is Josh Matthews favorite university: As an NC State graduate (known rival of the ECU Pirates), this displeases me greatly.

WWE Raw Rundown – May 20th, 2013

rawSolid night for WWE Raw on Monday. While it didn’t change the landscape of the WWE (or even slightly alter it), the well-paced show gave us a few intriguing segments and some entertaining matches. Let’s dig in.

The Good:

The Opening Segment w/Ryback (first 5 minutes): This segment was a hot way to kick off the show. The ambulance driving into the arena at the opening caught the attention of viewers, and Michael Cole sold the mystery of the whole thing (my wife joked that Del Rio must have brought back the car gimmick). Then Goldberg…er, Ryback came out of the back.

I liked Ryback here at first – he seemed intense, focused. The way he put over his conquering of Cena from Sunday night, while also laying the seeds for an Ambulance match at Payback, created a great wrestling promo. This was the best Ryback has been on the mic. And then he started talking about the audience… (see below)

Sheamus def Titus O Neil: At first, I hated seeing a tag-team split up for singles action. Then, WWE surprisingly made Titus O Neil feel like a legitimate prime-time player.  O’Neil looked big and solid, espeically with another big man like Sheamus, and got a surprising amount of offense against the main-eventer.  In fact, O’Neil dominated Sheamus for most of the match, picking him up and tossing him around like a rag doll.  Is WWE prepping us for an eventual Prime-Time Players split?

Sheamus wins only by fighting his way back into it, but O’Neil looks strong in defeat. Fun, lengthy match.

Paul Heyman’s “New Guy”: With the rumors of RVD and a Ryback switch floating on Twitter shortly before the show, I was disappointed with the eventual reveal of McGillicutty…er, Curtis Axel.  On the flip-side, this gave people at home incentive to watch Raw, to see what happened. I also appreciate the fact that they gave us a reason, and a good one at that, for his new name (too often WWE has selective memory loss).  I also like how Heyman put him over even more by using Lesnar as the example, pointing the finger back and the audience and reminding them how they never took Lesnar seriously at first, either. Also liked how the announcers put his “pedigree” over.

I think this segment finally took off when Triple H came in as an unexpected surprise, though. Love him or hate him, he understands what it takes to sell a moment. His intensity during this face-off was great, and the challenge set up an intriguing main-event later in the night. Anytime Heyman and Hunter share the ring, I’m glued to the TV.

The Shield Gloating Segment: “The Shield brought power back to these titles.”  Ambrose is such a good talker. His swagger, his intensity, it’s infectious.  He has a unique promo style.  You’ll notice that the audience doesn’t “WHAT?” him, they actually boo him.  It’s called talent, folks.  They do, however, “WHAT?” Roman Reigns.

The Shield def Team Hell No & Kingston:  Overall, great match with good tags that shifted the momentum back and forth. One thing I really liked seeing was effective tagging in-and-out, and effective usage of corners. The middle of the match was slow, but it picked back up at the end. These guys all work well together. And good decision on WWE’s part to give the match to the Shield – they needed this win to cement their victory from last night. The frenetic-pace down the stretch made for an entertaining 20 minutes. Better than the Tag Team Championship last night.

Langston def. Alberto Del Rio: Good matchup here of “technique vs strength.”  These guys matched up well, and both played to their individual strength.  Big E was spotlighted in a big way, and the fact that he walks away with the win is both surprising and refreshing (and since it was due to AJ’s interference, it takes nothing away from Del Rio).  Also, this helps make Del Rio’s number one contendership story a lot more interesting.

AJ def. Layla: Michael Cole – “I cannot wait to see the Bellas on Total Divas in July on E! It’s going to be something.”  Yes, it is going to be SOMETHING…  Good athleticism here, but the crowd is dead. The Diva’s division is dead.  This AJ Lee – Caitlyn rivalry needs to pickup to stick some life back in it.  AJ looked very impressive with her submission, and I’m glad they’re giving her some wins towards what looks like an eventual championship match (and run?)

Randy Orton def. Jack Swagger: Little bit of catch-as-catch-can wrestling to start off the match. Nice. These two have some decent in-ring chemistry. Jack Swagger wrestled out of the RKO, and turned it into a Patriot Lock. Fun stuff. But Swagger loses clean, so where does he go from here? He needs a revamp again, or something, I don’t know. However, Orton chasing Ziggler as champion could be fun (yes, I know Del Rio gets a title match first).

Pecking Order: WWE understands something that TNA historically has not – Main Eventers and World Champions should look generally stronger than the rest of the card, without completely burying the other performers. I’m glad Sheamus won, because he’s the more “seasoned” wrestler, but Titus O’Neil still looked great in defeat. Makes sense for the ‘pecking order.’ On the other hand, Del Rio’s loss doesn’t take much away from him – but it does a whole lot for the rising stock of Big E Langston.

PPV Recap: WWE did a good job of recapping the important events from ‘Extreme Rules.’

 

The Bad:

Opening Segment w/Ryback (after the first 5 minutes): WWE needs to learn that with Ryback, less is more. He’s a hulking monster, not Hamlet. His promo on Cena was FANTASTIC. The he started fumbling through something about the audience going to the hospital.  Blah Blah Blah. Booring.

Look, I get it.  WWE wants desperately for the fans to hate him, so they think that having him directly insult the audience will achieve that.  If he had just stopped with the Cena stuff, he likely would have gotten more cheers than boos. Unfortunately, he’s still not a good enough talker to warrant this much mic time. This is why I believe his current heel push came too soon.

Wade Barret’s New Music: Seriously, this man is very talented, but WWE has NO IDEA what to do with him. They try to throw a new shine on him every few weeks and see what sticks.

Jericho and Miz def Wade Barrett and Fandango:  As the first match of the night, the audience was hot.  Too bad this was a giant waste of time for everybody involved. Fandango started dancing in the middle, leaving Wade Barrett to get buried by Miz and Jericho. He got hit with every finisher, and looked bad in defeat.  Way to treat your IC champion. Then, Fandango ran out afterwards. Are we to assume the Fandango – Jericho feud is continuing? I hope not.

Cody Rhoes def. Zack Ryder: Bleh, short match where Ryder loses again. Ryback came out afterwards to put Ryder in an ambulance. The whole segment felt lifeless.

Triple H vs Axel: Nice to see Axel get a little bit of offense in here. Also, putting a young talent in the ring with a veteran is good experience, and helps sell the match. Unfortunately, the Triple H injury was a minor miss for me, and created a weird ending to an otherwise entertaining show. What’s the storyline here? Are we supposed to worry about Triple H’s in-ring future? Like Michael Cole pointed out – this is his first match on Raw in years. What’s the endgame?

Live Audience Interactions: Fandango pushed a fan over on the way out. Audience members are CONSTANTLY touching The Shield. Something needs to change here.

PPV Fallout: While they recapped the events, they didn’t discuss the fallout very much (the Instant Replay comes to mind). Also, John Cena was noticeably absent. Why have him no-sell the injury by refusing an ambulance, just to have him stay off Raw?

 

The Ugly:

Shameless Product Placement: Last week Dominoes, this week Sonic. At least the audience gets free stuff? Michael Cole sold this better than he did any other match of the night.

Jerry ‘Horn Dog” Lawler: This isn’t the attitude era anymore, fellas.  Making a statement about Summer Rae like, “I would like to read her book, and I would prefer the brail edition,” just feels inappropriate.

Kevin Jonas – SOCIAL MEDIA AMBASSADOR: There aren’t enough curse words in the English language to express my disdain over this. Way to be a Twitter whore, WWE.

 

Think I got it all wrong? Give me your opinion on Twitter – follow me @therealwiseman

Report: The Rock Not at Monday Night Raw and Planned Angles Scrapped

the rockDwayne “The Rock” Johnson says he came back to wrestling for the people. Well the man who calls himself. “The People’s Champion” has left the people.

 

According to a report in The Wrestling Observer, without telling anybody Johnson is not at WWE Monday Night Raw as scheduled.

 

The Observer states that the WWE was planning to shoot the main event angle for Wrestlemania 30 tonight with Johnson and Brock Lesnar. There is right now “absolute panic” backstage and rewriting the show as we speak.

 

PWInsider.com is reporting that Johnson was set open tonight’s Raw discussing his WWE Title loss to John Cena last night Wrestlemania 29. Lesnar and then Paul Heyman were going to confront Johnson and lay him out setting up the angle for Wrestlemania 30 on April 6,2014. PWInsider also confirms that Johnson flew to Los Angeles, catching the company by total surprise and generating heat backstage.

 

Update:

 

According to The Wrestling Observer, Johnson suffered an injury last night in the match with Cena. The severity of injury is not known at this current time.

 

That doesn’t seem to be a good reason to skip out on the show as all Johnson would have had to likely do is talk and at the worst take one or two bumps. We will be providing more updates as more comes to us.

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