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.

Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – May 21, 2013

hhhaxelBrian and Steve are back to talk about the WWE Extreme Rules PPV from over the weekend, what wrestlers can learn from Brock Lesnar, Raw from Monday night, the debut of Curtis Axel, more young guys getting involved in WWE and where they could be going with them, The Shield and their current run, Ryback’s promo to start the show, the Triple H storyline and how much he may be wrestling going forward and more.

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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

WWE Extreme Rules 2013 Rundown


wwe-extreme-rules-2013
Although the build was terrible heading into ‘Extreme Rules,’ WWE put together an entertaining three-hours last night. While no match was an instant classic, the intensity throughout the last hour of the Pay Per View plus a few stand-out performances created a solid pro wrestling event.

The Good:

Chris Jericho def. Fandango: This rivalry was decent, and took a turn at Wrestlemania with Fandango’s surprising victory. The back-and-forth in this match was exciting. Chris Jericho does more to put over young superstars than anybody else in the WWE, but I’m happy to see him win here. Plus, his Codebraker from the top rope looked sweet.

Dean Ambrose def. Kofi Kingston for the U.S. Title: Really liked that Ambrose sent his “hounds of justice” away so he could win this one on his own. These guys put on a fun, fast-paced match, and the crowd was solidly behind Kofi. No doubt this is good for Ambrose.

Sheamus def. Mark Henry in a Strap Match: While this match slowed down the pace of the PPV, I liked the placement on the card (after two exciting matches), and thought Henry and Sheamus used the gimmick surprisingly well. Going around the outside of the ring was creative, as was Henry picking Sheamus up (and having Sheamus tag the corners without Henry knowing). Overall, while I always hate seeing ‘the world’s strongest man’ lose, I’m glad they ended it the match in a direct fashion – Sheamus brogue-kicking Henry and tagging the last turnbuckle gave the fans something to cheer about.

The Shield: After languishing as main-event filler for the last few weeks (months?), it’s good to see them with forward momentum again. This felt like a logical next-step for this unstoppable team, and I think it opens up a world of possibilities as far as title-defenses and new matchups are concerned. Let’s just hope this turns out better than The Nexus…or Nexus 2.0… or The Corre…

Randy Orton def. The Big Show: Started off a little slow, but really picked up towards the end. Had a good, attitude-era “hardcore” feel to it. I liked seeing Big Show break two different Kendo sticks to really emphasise his power, and was happy to see the return of Randy Orton’s punt (even if it is a heel move). He really played to his hometown crowd here, and the fans went nuts with the win. I would be happy to see him step up into the main-event picture.

John Cena vs Ryback ends in no-contest: I was happy to see a little more offense from Ryback, even though it was mostly more power slam variations. He seems a lot more confident in the ring, and his presence is growing. I still argue he isn’t ready for this heel persona being pushed down our throats, but he and Cena turned a lackluster build into a fun match. This is the kind of brawl these two thrive in.

Now, about that finish – I really liked the visual of seeing them plow through the stage, and the surprise of it all. However, doesn’t this (yet again) completely undermine the gimmick? I’m pretty sure I saw Ryback walk away, so shouldn’t he win? On the positive side, I guess it keeps Ryback looking strong without moving the championship. But, when Cena comes out tomorrow night and delivers his preacher-man speech, and eventually pins Ryback next month at Payback, this will all be for naught.

Brock Lesnar def. HHH in a Steel-Cage Match: Let me get this out of the way: I love the new steel cage. The previous one looked outdated, and compared to the size of TNA’s, looked really small. This one looks major league.

Triple H surprising Brock Lesnar from behind was a fun way to start the match, and I thought both of these guys brought an intensity that’s hard to find in WWE these days. Brock Lesnar sold an early knee injury, and it allowed them to tell an interesting story in the ring. Really liked the hidden sledgehammer. And although Paul Heyman interfering undermines the gimmick, it made for a great moment in the match with the pedigree. Glad to see Lesnar get the win via pinfall, and feel like this was a great way to end the feud.

While I’m not normally a fan of WWE Championship matches coming before a different main event, I think this match deserved to go on last. It had the best build, the best intensity, and truly felt like the final chapter in a 10-month long feud.

The Bad:

The Miz def. Cody Rhodes: This isn’t here because of the quality of the match (which, because of the technical issues, I can’t comment on). Instead, the fact that Cody Rhodes and The Miz have been delegated to what is essentially “Superstars” duty drives me crazy. Two years ago, these guys both had major wins at Wrestlemania 27 – and now WWE can’t give them a real storyline, much less get them on a minor PPV card? Groan.

Alberto Del Rio def. Jack Swagger to become Number One Contender: This match really wasn’t that bad – however, it came in the middle of the card, and seemed to lack that intensity all the other matches had. It felt kind of slow, and put the crowd to sleep. I think the “I Quit” gimmick hurt it, because the ref intervening every little bit really slowed down the pace. And while I liked the Coulter swerve of throwing in Del Rios towel, I think it was better played for laughs than as a legitimate means of ending the match, After all, isn’t saying “I Quit” the whole point of the match? I would have enjoyed this match a lot more on Raw or Smackdown.

The Shield def. Team Hell No for the Tag Team Championship: This is not about the OUTCOME (see above) as much as is it the match itself. I’m never crazy about a Tornado match, because it evokes the same chaos of bad triple-threat for fatal-four-way matches. Also, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns botched their finisher. This one felt hard to follow, and took me out of the moment.

The Use of Instant-Replay: I know this was included to capitalize on the recent baseball controversy, but it sets a bad precedent for WWE. Not that I expect them to follow up with this again, but for fans who watched the match, we now know WWE monitors everything. Why would they EVER let somebody cheat again? Seems false in a business where lying, cheating, and stealing are the norm.

Mid-card Title Situation: Both titles have changed hands TWICE since the Wrestlemania pre-show. It made sense to have two titles when there were two brands, but now they feel even cheaper than TV championships. Where’s the prestige?

The Ugly:

Jack Swagger on the Mic: Imagine you’re a professional wrestler, whose job it is to speak intensely and sell matches, and you’re given a manager because you fumble around on the mic and people don’t find you interesting. Now, imagine the only thing you’re ever allowed to say is, “We, the people.” Welcome to Jack Swagger’s world.

Kaitlyn’s Secret Admirer: It’s probably The Great Khali or Hornswaggle. Painful either way.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think! Follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman

 

Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – May 16, 2013

btr1200Brian and Steve talk at length about Raw from this past Monday and this weekend’s Extreme Rules PPV including the build for the show, predictions on who will win and possible plans going forward after the show.  Plus, they talk about Dolph Ziggler and how his concussion was handled, the Austin Aries – Christy Hemme situation in TNA and more.

 

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WWE Raw Rundown – May 13, 2013

rawSolid, if unspectacular, edition of ‘Raw’ last night.  There was too much time between ‘Wrestlemania’ and what is essentially ‘Wrestlemania: The Rematches,’ which made for some dull weeks of television.  The creative team has been stuck in neutral for a month or so, and it was good to see things pick back up a little heading in Extreme Rulez.

The Good:

Intro Video Package recapping Kane and Ryback from last week on Raw, and the Lesnar-Heyman invasion angle. Not enough good things can be said about the creative team behind these WWE video packages.  They kick-off the show well, and make the storylines seem urgent.  There might be a lot of filler on Raw these days, but these packages cut through the garbage and focus on the essentials.

Jericho – Fandango Dance Competition:  This is a soft “good” for me.  I’m never really crazy about dance competitions on Raw (and when Jerry Lawler asked the audience to judge strictly “on their ability and their dance moves,” I about spit out my Pepsi. Yeah, because the WWE Universe is such an impartial party.)  I also wasn’t too fond of Fandango during this segment (more on that below), or the fact that they never danced.  Why build up having a celebrity dancer on Raw if the intention is to never actually dance?

However, I liked the fact that this rivalry was spotlighted in such a big way.  These two had a lot going for them coming out of Wrestlemania, and it seemed like WWE creative honestly forgot about them for a few weeks.  They needed this segment, and the brawl in lieu of dancing put a little more heat on Fandango.

Chris Jericho: Chris Jericho is so good on the mic.  While I’ve been sick of his stupid “Fandango name-game” promos, he stepped up the intensity last night.  His backstage segment, promising to wipe the floor with Fandango on Sunday, drew me in. This match has potential, and I think Jericho walks away with the win on Sunday.

Prime Time Players def. Tons of Funk: This is probably on the “good” side only because I love Prime Time Players.  They’re funny, athletic, and unlike most of the WWE’s odd-couple pairings, they’ve been a team from the get-go.  The match itself wasn’t much to write about, but I liked the fact that PTP wins with a decidedly heel-like tactic.

Kofi Kingston def. Damien Sandow: Good, quick match. Commentary was awful (“snells vs snails”?), but Kingston and Sandown gave it their all in a fast-paced back-and-forth bout. While I hate to see Sandow lose, Kofi is the champion and should be getting the mid-card wins. However, (beating a dead horse here), both of these guys deserve a bigger share of the spotlight.

Mark Henry “Hall of Pain” Induction: Solid segment.  I really liked the flashback to JBL vs Eddie Guerrero from the 2004 Great American Bash – it was a great way to introduce the stipulation. Also, I appreciate that WWE continues to build up Mark Henry as being the “World’s Strongest Man.”  It makes him seem more like a monster.  Henry is so fantastic in this role, and even though it goes against everything the “Be A Star” campaign stands for, his heel run since late 2011 has been the best work of his career.  Sheamus gets the upper hand tonight, but I’m predicting a Mark Henry victor on Sunday.

Also, this segment had one of my favorite lines of the night – “Sheamus knows where his bread is buttered.” Funny.

Team Hell No and John Cena vs The Shield ends in count out: So, according to WWE magainze, John Cena is the ‘King of Hardcore’?  Guess somebody forgot to tell Sabu/Terry Funk/Mick Foley that…

Otherwise, this was a decent match, and a good way to get everybody on the card.  The match was lengthy and seemed to have greater implications, and the crowd was really into it.  Team Hell No was eliminated first, but they looked strong in defeat (Kane eliminating himself made him look like a monster).  Also, it keeps heat on The Shield, and makes them a credible threat to the WWE Tag Team Championship this Sunday.

While I’m not a big fan of Cena pretty much wiping out the entire Shield in a matter of minutes, I understand that he is the WWE Champion and he needs to look strong.  However, the fact that Ambrose never tapped out – and that The Shield decimated him afterwards – made this, as Lawler said, “a hollow victory.”  Good booking decision for all parties involved.

My only gripe was with the post-match segment.  Ryback comes out to attack Cena’s ankle.  This would be great if I thought Cena had any chance at losing come Sunday.  However, WWE always makes this storyline about “Cena overcoming the odds to retain his championship,” and because Ryback has been made to look like a fool in recent weeks, this whole attack came off rather lame.  This is probably more of an issue with the Cena character than the segment itself, though.

HHH/Brock Lesnar Face-Off:  WWE saved the best segment of the night for last.  The Triple H/Brock Lesnar feud has had moments of greatness and moments of insanity.  However, I think this match has had the best build the last few weeks.  These guys seem intense, focused, and ready to beat the crap out of each other.  Although I’m not a huge HHH fan, when he brings it on the mic, the younger guys should take notes.  He sells his intensity.

The other part of this feud is the genius of Paul Heyman.  He does so well as the mouthpiece for Brock Lesnar, and unlike certain other managers, manages to keep the focus on his client.  But, I thought having Triple H call out Brock Lesnar was a smart move.  It reminds everybody that the focus is on these two men, and their battle inside the steel cage.  While I’m usually not a big fan of two superstars getting their hands on one-another the final show before a match, especially within the confines of their stipulation, I think it was served well here.  It reminded everybody that these two bring an intense presence to the ring, and their war on Sunday should fit the moniker of ‘Extreme Rules.’

My only gripe here is that, yet again, WWE’s best matches are centered around part-time guys.  Every PPV main event of 2013 has included a guy who doesn’t show up on Raw every week.  This makes a certain amount of sense for The Rock, because he’s such a huge star outside the business, but less so here.  What happens after Sunday?  Will either competitor being on the show Monday to gloat?  Are either of these guys going to be chasing down Cena (or Ryback) for the gold?  Doubtful.

The Bad:

Ryback def. Zack Ryder: For starters, why is Zack Ryder the “jobber to the stars” now?  He has talent, charisma, and a loyal following.  WWE politics aside, my biggest issue is the fact that this match doesn’t accomplish anything.  Ryback looked like a monster in his defeat of Kane last week – how does beating Zack Ryder (a guy who loses to Antonio Cesaro on a weekly basis) really build him up any more? This felt like a step back.  On the positive side, at least Ryback didn’t speak…

Teddy Long announces Dolph Ziggler will NOT be stripped of the title, and the match at ‘Extreme Rules’ has been changed to Swagger vs Del Rio in an ‘I Quit’ match.  This was a terrible announcement.  I know that Ziggler being hurt put the creative team in a tough spot, but why change the entire dynamic of the match? People love ladder matches, and could care less about ‘I Quit’ matches (like my wife pointed out, what if he gets knocked out?). Also, with the ankle-lock and cross-armbreaker in play, why not just make it a submission match?

I’m also not happy they’re only fighting for a number one contendership now.  Shouldn’t Del Rio get a rematch either way, since he was the previous champion?  I wish WWE would have taken a cue from UFC in this case: If the champion is injured, crown an interim champion. Then, let the two “champions” fight it out at a later date.  They could have kept the ladder match stipulation, and made the match feel more important.

My other issue is with the build.  People simply don’t care about seeing these two fight. Ricardo Rodriguez is the most over of anybody involved with this rivalry, and Zeb Coulter has the most heat.  That’s a bad sign.

Randy Orton def Antonio Cesaro: Seriously, how many times are we going to see these guys fight?  Randy Orton wins again, Cesaro loses again, and it doesn’t do much for either wrestler.  Also, there was no build towards Sunday’s match (other than having Orton on the card). And the match was too short to be interesting. Waste of a segment.

Miz def Heath Slater: Miz looked solid in the ring, and it’s good to have him back.  On the other hand, the match felt like a WWE Main Event burn-off.  Bring Cody Rhodes out and have them build towards their pre-show (ugh) match on Sunday.  Otherwise, this felt inconsequential.

Jack Swagger def. Big E Langston via count out: While I’m glad to see Big E get more screen time, there’s already been too much focus on the managers in recent weeks.  Plus, the crowd was dead throughout the entire match.

Unfortunately, Swagger doesn’t even win here by a legitimate means.  A count-out victory just makes him look even weaker, and incapable of beating a guy who has only been on the main roster for half a year.  How, again, is he a real threat?  Expect him to lose on Sunday, and be relegated to midcard duty shortly thereafter.

WWE App:  The fact that they now have interviews during matches is a nonsense. I know “wrestling” is a bad word, but this is a ridiculous way to push the app.  WWE is the only one who feels like it has too much content to fill a three-hour Raw.

Fandango: His gimmick is dancing.  Yet he loses to The Great Khali in a dance competition (you know, they guy they make fun of for being unable to walk or talk on a weekly basis), and the next week refuses to dance at all. Bad marketing.

The Ugly

Fandango’s Outfit: Seriously, it looked like a rainbow ate a zebra, and vomited afterwards.

Ryback’s Right Nipple: Will somebody please buy Ryback a singlet that fits? Or at least tell him to start wearing something that leaves his entire chest open. That one nipple feels like the eye from Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart.”

Teddy Long’s Suit – Of course.

The Bellas on Commentary – With such great insights as, “The slap that should be heard around the world” and “Here comes the boring best friends fight,” I can see why McMahon wants them as the face of the division on E! network.

Michael A. Wiseman – follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman