The Shield’s Loss is a Loss for WWE

The ShieldJust to catch up: If you missed Friday Night Smackdown this past week, then you also missed a pretty big development for one of WWE’s hottest acts. The Shield, who have seemed unstoppable since their debut last November, finally saw defeat.

Re-read that first paragraph. Summary: “If you missed Friday Night Smackdown, then you missed The Shield’s first loss.”

See, no matter how I word it, it still doesn’t sit right with me. Wasn’t this supposed to be a big freakin’ deal? Wasn’t WWE propelling these guys to bigger and better things? Doesn’t JBL call this group “the best faction ever” on a weekly basis? So why, then, would WWE give this important moment away in such a careless fashion?

Don’t get me wrong, the moment was handled perfectly fine on Friday night. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Kane celebrated their victory with a hot Greensboro crowd. Lilian Garcia even got back on the mic to make sure everybody knew this was the trio’s first loss as a three-man group.  But from a big-picture perspective, this sucks.

These guys were positioned to lose on a big stage, to a big opponent. Our own Brian Fritz promoted his own fantasy booking scenario on the BTR Podcast where The Undertaker would return at Summerslam, team with Bryan and Kane, and finally give The Shield what’s coming to them. This sounded like great booking. It would sell a few more PPVs, give the babyface Undertaker his revenge, and further promote The Shield by losing on a big stage. Plus, there’d be little shame in losing to three veterans.

Instead, WWE creative got bored and decided to hot shot the angle.

There was little-to-no promotion for this three-on-three encounter.  In fact, all the focus was on Sunday and the respective United States and Tag Team title matches (matches that, for the record, were booked just earlier this week). The hype train had us headed towards the PPV, not stopping off at the Smackdown station to see whether or not The Shield could remain undefeated.

I’m not saying that big, unexpected moments don’t have a place in the modern WWE – quite the contrary. Smart surprises should be staples of any pro wrestling organization. They keep things fresh for the fans, and give companies that much sought after water-cooler talk. I’d cite Del Rio’s World Heavyweight Championship win back in January as a perfect example. Being an established main-eventer, he didn’t need a huge build, and he was fresh into a face turn. Plus, WWE pulled the trigger on the title-change during the long void between TLC and Royal Rumble. It was a great way to create viewer interest.

But that’s not what happened on Friday night. Instead, when nobody was watching, and when nobody was told to watch, WWE gave The Shield its most damaging loss yet. And It left a lot of money on the table by doing so.

I’m not just counting potential Pay-Per-View buys of people hoping to witness the trio’s first loss. I’m including the credibility hit that these guys took as a whole. These guys had become must-see TV, both together and individually, because of the aura that surrounded them. Not even company demigod Cena could topple them. Now, they’re just another mid-card act, with mid-card titles, who have seen their greatest strength – being undefeated – completely vanish.

In all fairness, I have no perspective here on WWE’s big-picture. And what happens next with The Shield will depend mostly on how the creative team positions them coming out of Payback.

But this whole angle still feels like a giant missed opportunity, or at the very least, a rapid misfire. It’s simply not the way WWE should be handling the hottest group in pro wrestling today.

WWE Smackdown Rundown – June 15th, 2013

smackdown outlineThe word “mediocre” comes to mind when discussing this week’s Smackdown. WWE creative seemed to check out for the night, save for one very questionable booking decision. Let’s break it down: [Read more...]

WWE Smackdown Rundown – June 7th, 2013

wwe smackdown logoAnother great outing for Friday Night Smackdown, with all the right elements of an entertaining pro-wrestling show. Let’s dig in. [Read more...]

WWE Raw Rundown – June 3rd, 2013

rawWWE had its hands full with NBA competition last night.  Unfortunately, it failed to rise to the occasion. Read on for my thoughts on last night’s Raw.

[Read more...]

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.

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.