‘WWE Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – July 29th, 2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened on Monday Night Raw, be sure to check out last night’s WWE Raw Rundown.

daniel bryan 2Internet fans finally got what they wanted, with Daniel Bryan confronting Vince McMahon to kick-off the show. Smart decision by creative here. With Vince openly confronting Bryan about his chances to win, viewers have an even bigger reason to pull for Daniel Bryan. This segment sold Bryan both as a legitimate title contender, and as a main-event superstar. And while I thought the “anti-Cena” rherotic was a bit weird coming from the boss, it leaves me curious about where this storyline is heading. My prediction? An Orton-McMahon alliance is in the wings.

Ryback didn’t look nearly as impressive as Bryan, though. His match with Cena was fun. The problem is, he’s lost countless times now, and his character seems utterly directionless. Is he still a main-event guy? Is his heel personal even relevant anymore? Seeing him put a random backstage citizen through a table just felt forced, and inspired nothing in me but a strong desire to change the channel.

Mark Henry and The Usos lost their match against The Shield, but they ended up as the last group standing… again. I feel like they’ve gotten their “babyface revenge” at this point.

CM Punk, however, still hasn’t gotten his hands on Paul Heyman. These two didn’t cut a promo against each other last night, and they honestly didn’t need to. What’s needed to be said has already been said. Heyman sneaking away by any means necessary only makes the fans hate him more, and things should pick up considerably once Lesnar returns. This was filler, but that doesn’t make it bad by default.

Also falling into the “more of the same” category was the Wyatt Family’s attack on Kane. It was a necessary evil, having to re-introduce Kane to these guys after a few weeks off, and vice-versa. I’m looking for WWE to bring something fresh to the table in the coming weeks.

Christian’s winning streak continues to be one of my favorite things on WWE television right now. He’s already defeated a few low-to-mid profile acts, but cemented his return with a strong victory over Alberto Del Rio in a very competitive match. These two had great chemistry on Raw, and I’m hoping they end up locking horns at SummerSlam. It’s nice to see Christian finally treated as the true veteran he is.

Overall show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I like a little more intrigue from my WWE TV (and a little less “Total Divas” filler). And while the show tried to live by its strong in-ring action, it died by the number of non-finishes throughout the night. It was a paint-by-numbers kind of evening.

What did you think of last night’s show?  Sound off in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter @therealwiseman. Also, be sure to follow @BetweenTheRopes while you’re at it!

WWE Smackdown Rundown – July 19th, 2013

smackdown outlineEntertaining edition of WWE Smackdown. The matches didn’t fully deliver, but the show had enough going for it to keep viewers intrigued. Let’s look closer: [Read more...]

Monday Night Raw Reaction and Review – 7/15/2013

Be sure to check out the Raw Rundown for complete coverage of last night’s show!

Cena vs BryanBrad Maddox kicked things off on Raw, and what an impressive way to promote his first official night as General Manager. I was worried creative was going to make him look like the weak authority figure. Instead, they put him in the ring with John Cena, Randy Orton, and Fandango. Triple H and Stephanie even put over his “pick your own opponent for SummerSlam” as a good idea. Maddox has a lot of charisma, and I hope he continues to be used effectively.

Two surprise attacks last night also made things interesting. Seeing The Shield tear apart a beast like Mark Henry was fun and unexpected. Does this mean Henry is turning face? If so, he seems like the perfect foe for this powerhouse trio. For some reason, their segment didn’t feel like “just another Shield attack” for once. If they do beat the big man, this could be their shot at redemption. Likewise, The Wyatt Family surprised us with their attack on a returning R-Truth. Bray Wyatt cut an amazing promo here. Something about eater of worlds, the creator being a liar, etc. This character is something different and refreshing, and his lackeys are simply terrifying. Plus, his challenge to Kane should make for some interesting fodder between now and SummerSlam.

We all know CM Punk and Paul Heyman are really, really good. But sometimes the WWE product can skew our expectations. Let me say this: that segment last night was one of the best I’ve ever seen in professional wrestling. Not only did Punk and Heyman put together some of the most effective mic work that WWE’s seen in months (years?), Brock Lesnar was to perfection as the muscle. This feud feels personal only because of the way Heyman and Punk sold it. I have so much more I want to say about this, so maybe I’ll put together a full column on it at some point down the road. For now, just know that this was a must-see moment.

I was worried that Rob Van Dam would be lost in the shuffle last night. With so much else going on, there was no way WWE had time to really promote his homecoming, right? Wrong. Instead of putting together an artificial promo, or hotshotting a feud, they simply put him in the ring with another veteran and let him work. The message is clear – why should people care about RVD? Because he’s an exciting wrestler. His ring work is unique. The “you-still-got-it” chants were completely wrong, because RVD never lost it. This was an incredible, Pay-Per-View worthy match. Check it out.

John Cena finally picked Daniel Bryan as his SummerSlam opponent, and internet marks everywhere let out a collective sigh. This was expected, but it was the right call. John Cena always does better when he has a skilled mat technician to work with (just look at his epic feud with Punk), so these two should tear down the house at SummerSlam. Question: Does this mean Daniel Bryan has finally arrived?

Overall show was one of the best episodes of Monday Night Raw I’ve seen in months, maybe years. The crowd was hot, the show felt fresh, and everything delivered. I said on Facebook that this felt like a “post-Wrestlemania Raw,” but I was wrong. It was better.

Video: WWE Money in the Bank Kickoff Show Online

WWE has posted the kickoff show from last night’s Monday in the Bank pay-per-view online including the tag-team title match between The Shield and The Usos.

WWE Money in the Bank 2013 – Staff Predictions

WWE_Money_In_The_Bank_2013_posterLater today is the WWE Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Here is the predictions from the Between The Ropes staff for each match on the show.

WWE Tag Team Championship:  The Shield vs. The Usos (kickoff match)

Brian Fritz:  WWE has ben putting in a little more for the Usos as of late to try and make them look like a legitimate threat to The Shield.  But they really aren’t.  I hope more is done with the WWE tag-team division but it has to be built around The Shield at the top and they need a long reign so it won’t end here.

Steve Muelhausen:  Hard to believe this match is the kickoff match starting at 7:30p ET at every possible platform online. The match should be good based on the four talents but I see Rollins and Reigns retaining.

Michael A. Wiseman:  Considering The Usos have only been relevant for a day or two, I’m going to have to go with The Shield here.  The Usos have been highlighted effectively in the last few weeks. Before they won their title shot, though, they had little-to-no air time on the major WWE shows. I’m glad creative is trying something new here, but I don’t think they’re putting any long-term focus on The Usos – at least not enough to give them the gold.

Marshall Bowen:  Show of hands, who thinks that WWE spent all that time building up The Shield for Rollins and Reigns to lose to the Usos, who haven’t had a solid direction in the entirety of their short WWE careers? No, nobody? It’s pretty obvious that they needed to throw together something of a worthy pre-show to what is steadily becoming a major event for WWE and a tag title match fills that void nicely. Look for The Shield to retain.

Chris Jericho vs. Ryback

Brian:  While Ryback is in a much bigger need for a win, I think Chris Jericho gets the victory.  But Ryback gets his revenge on Raw the following night with Vickie Guerrero by his side.  I can easily see a scenario where Ryback takes out Jericho to not only get some steam back but also as a way to explain Jericho’s latest break with his WWE contract about to expire and him going on tour with his band Fozzy.

Steve:  It is hard to see where WWE is going considering there was really no buildup this week for this match. You had Jericho have two matches with Curtis Axel and Ryback working with the Miz. Jericho will be taking a hiatus from WWE. Ryback gets a much needed win here.

Michael:  Ryback’s character seems to be in a funk, and Chris Jericho has taken a backseat to pretty much every other storyline in the company. This past Monday night hinted at a change in Ryback’s character.  Will we see it play this Sunday? I think Ryback wins as a way to re-establish himself, and that Jericho’s reputation for putting over young, new starts remains intact.

Marshall:  I’m shooting widely in guessing on this one only because this match has no direction towards it and say Jericho wins. Hopefully this can go somewhere and both of these men can get back to something interesting and not thrown into nothing matches to fill time on the pay per view.

Divas Championship: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn
Brian:  I’m not the biggest fan of this storyline and don’t like it when WWE does these petty ‘you’re fat’ angles, especially with the women.  But AJ has broken out as the star of the division both in the ring and out with her promos.  AJ gets the victory here and next up a likely split from Dolph Ziggler.

Steve:  I have really intrigued with this feud. Lee has been really solid on the mic and Kaitlyn has played her role well. Best feud for the women’s division in a long time. I see Lee retaining.

Michael:  It’s refreshing to see the Divas division highlighted in such an effective fashion. I think the last week or two has been more of the same (AJ, we get it, you think Kaitlyn is chubby), but both of these ladies have delivered on their promos. Ultimately, I think AJ walks away with the win here (and, as a result, her ego causes a split with Dolph Ziggler). These two should put on an entertaining match come Sunday, and I think this rivalry will carry the division through to SummerSlam.

Marshall:  As is the case with The Shield, WWE didn’t spend all that time building up AJ for a Diva’s title run to hot potato it back to Kaitlyn weeks later, AJ wins with some help from Big E and we all get to hope this match is better than the more recent meetings between these two.
Intercontinental Title:  Curtis Axel vs. The Miz

Brian:  I’m not sure exactly what the WWE has planned for either of these guy in the coming months.  I’m one of the few people that still really likes Curtis Axel but he needs more opportunity to speak and go through those growing pains so he can improve.  Typically, being on the main roster is not a place for that but he needs it, even with Paul Heyman in his corner.  As for The Miz, this guy headlined WrestleMania a few years ago and now he is trying to land a secondary title so his stock isn’t very high.  While I want to see Axel get into the bigger picture, I think he’ll have to wait but in the meantime, he’ll remain the Intercontinental Champion.

Steve:  Like how Axel has booked even though he lost to Jericho this week on Raw and Smackdown. That showed Axel can be beat and showed great intensity in losing. I don’t know what WWE is doing with The Miz. Doesn’t seem like they have no long term plan with him. Should be a solid match with Axel going over to retain the title.

Michael:  It’s easy to say Curtis Axel walks away with the championship just because WWE would be foolish to take the gold off of him during this build. On the other hand, I think The Miz is in greater need of this championship than Axel. Since this feud is probably just a placeholder to the next step of his push, I do think Curtis Axel retains on Sunday. Personally, I’d like to see him drop the title to The Miz and go on to bigger and better things.

Marshall:  Axel retains in what should be an entertaining match for the IC title to help legitimize his reign as IC champion with Paul Heyman by his side.

World Heavyweight Championship Contract Money in the Bank Ladder Match:  Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Dean Ambrose, Fandango, Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro

Brian:  This is the tougher of the two MITB ladder matches to predict.  The popular choice seems to be Wade Barrett which I am in favor for but I’ll go a little out of the box and go with Antonio Cesaro.  Now, I might be dead wrong on him but he’s been such a good worker and I think he’s awesome at his character.  He’s the younger (or newer) WWE guy that people seem to never bring up but now is the time for him to get his due.

Steve:  This has been the match put on the back burner due to the WWE Championship Money in the Bank match. Like the fact this match features all heels. All of these past matches have been good and this match should be no different. Feel that the favorites are Ambrose, Fandango and Sandow with Cesaro as the darkhorse. Going with Ambrose as he has the most upside out of these individuals and see how far he can go.

Michael:  Think Jack Swagger loses any sleep over the fact that he’s the only former World Champion in this match and not in the “All-Stars” one?  If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Wade Barrett to win here, since he looks the most poised to take his game to the next level. But the flashes of greatness I’ve seen from Antonio Cesaro in recent weeks make me consider him a close second. If Barrett does win, I expect him to cash in on Dolph Ziggler at some point down the road.

Marshall:  I call this one for either Swagger or Cesaro, with the edge towards Swagger. Their storyline has made for some great heel heat and winning the contract would only help to elevate that heat to the next level with the threat of an impending cash-in.

Money in the Bank All-Stars Ladder Match:  CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Rob Van Dam, Randy Orton, Christian and Sheamus will compete to win a contract for a WWE Championship Match

Brian:  All along, I’ve thought that Daniel Bryan was destined to win this match and I won’t change that prediction.  However, if you go by regular WWE booking, he has been winning a lot lately so that would seem he wouldn’t get the big win here.  But I think WWE is trying to put him on a big streak to cement him as a main-eventer and set up a big championship match for him against John Cena at SummerSlam.   I would not be surprised in the least though if Randy Orton won here.  The scenario I would like to see play out: Brock Lesnar takes Kane’s spot and win the match.

Steve:  The TBA is due to Kane being out of the match after getting brutally attacked by the Wyatt Family on Raw this past Monday. The match should be the match of the night with Punk, Bryan,Van Dam and Christian in the match. The favorite seems to be Daniel Bryan in this match as he is rumored to be headlining Summerslam. Think the wild card in this match is Van Dam as the returning star. Think Sheamus and Orton cause each other to not win, Punk getting screwed over somehow by Paul Heyman. Feel that Daniel Bryan wins the match and goes onto SummerSlam.

Michael:  Smart money says Daniel Bryan takes the briefcase and main-events SummerSlam with it. But I’m going to go out on a limb here say that RVD becomes Mr. Money in the Bank for a second time. We know Punk is feuding with Lesnar, Sheamus and Orton are both fillers here, and Christian is stuck in mid-card Hell again. So I think it’s only appropriate, in front of a jacked Philly crowd, that Rob Van Dam wins the match and cements his WWE homecoming.

Marshall:  Daniel Bryan wins this match and his second MITB contract. Since losing the Tag Team titles with Kane he’s really seemed to have the build that he had around the time he last won the contract.
World Heavyweight Championship:  Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler

Brian:  Ziggler has lost a bit of his “cool” factor over the past few weeks and it could be tough for him to get it back with his switch to a babyface.  I think it’s too early to take the title off Alberto Del Rio so I’ll say he retains but nothing would surprise me here.  I am glad that Del Rio is back being a heel which he is much better suited at.

Steve:  These guys had a really great match last month at Payback where Del Rio regained the title and saw a double turn as well. No Ricardo Rodriguez as he is suspended for 30 days for violating the wellness policy. Ziggler has looked really strong the last few weeks over Del Rio. Should be another great match with Del Rio retaining and this feud going on until SummerSlam.

Michael:  These guys have had a fantastic feud, but their time is about up. I think Ziggler ultimately wins here to finalizes his ongoing face turn.  Ziggler needs the title more than Del Rio to keep his status in the main event picture. Plus, the endless possibilities of Money in the Bank mean that Ziggler can win without actually leaving with the title. A triple-threat match including Ziggler, Del Rio, and Barrett would be fun for SummerSlam, and give Zigs one of those “overcoming the odds” moment that every babyface in WWE needs. Then again, I’m not a wrestling booker.

Marshall:  Del Rio retains and continues this feud with Ziggler into SummerSlam. This should be another guaranteed great match as Del Rio and Ziggler have always had high energy quality matches when they meet one on one.
WWE Championship:  John Cena vs. Mark Henry

Brian:  I gave away my prediction for this match coming off the All-Stars MITB ladder match with John Cena retaining.  This match may not be that great but the build up to it has been fantastic.  If Henry wins, I think were in line for the triple threat match at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship between Henry, Cena and Ryback and Daniel Bryan would remain out of the title picture for at least another month.

Steve:  The buildup has been better for this match than the two month feud with Cena and Ryback. Henry has been great here with his mic work and Cena as well for the mic work and selling Henry as a legit threat to win the title. The match won’t be a Flair-Steamboat classic, but the match should be passable. Feel this is Henry’s last go around and see Cena retaining and heading to SummerSlam.

Michael:  When this feud kicked off with Henry’s fantastic retirement speech, I really thought he had a chance at winning the WWE Championship. And while I still think he deserves it as the final notch in his career, recent weeks have me convinced that Cena is going to retain in another one of his “odds stacked against me” challenges. But hypothetically, if Henry were on the way out of WWE, wouldn’t a win for him be the perfect goodbye? Then, his rematch with John Cena at SummerSlam with a retirement stipulation would feel like a huge deal. Alas, the year of CENA continues…

Marshall:  Cena retains, flat out. Mark Henry has no shot of being WWE Champion in 2013. World Champ again, maybe, but not the big prize.

The Shield Talk Performance Center, Success in WWE

WWE superstsars Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns of The Shield talk about the new Performance Center in Orlando, FL, some places they trained at when breaking into the business and their quick success in the WWE.

Between The Ropes Wrestling Podcast – July 10, 2013

Better late than never – Brian and Steve talk about Raw from Monday night including the debut of the Wyatt Family, Daniel Bryan’s role this week and if he is being used too much, the lead up to the Money in the Bank PPV, Vickie Guerrero out as the Raw GM as well as Matt Morgan getting his release from TNA Wrestling.

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WWE Smackdown Rundown – June 28th, 2013

wwe smackdown logoIf you missed Smackdown last night, you missed the best (major) wrestling show of the week. WWE put together a fun, athletic two hours for Friday Night that delivered from top to bottom. Let’s check it out. [Read more...]

‘Monday Night Raw’ Reaction and Review – 6/24/2013

For complete coverage of everything that happened last night, check out the WWE Raw Rundown.

image2993Things got off to a hot start last night, with the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton stuff. Although cancelling the match and postponing it until later in the night felt like a cheap way to squeeze every last drop out of this feud, it made a lot of sense to have this rivalry headline the show. Especially if, and I’m just guess here, this was their final match.

Bryan winning here made sense, as he needed a way to re-legitimize himself as a singles wrestler. I’m just curious what’s in store next for Orton. Their mutual-respect handshake at the end makes it seem like they’re putting the brakes on a Orton heel-turn. Then again, this could just be setting the WWE Universe up for a swerve.

Speaking of set-ups, I think it’s pretty obvious here that Punk is being “set-up” by Paul Heyman. Their interactions last night carried a lot of weight and emotion, which was good. But it’s also the exact type of thing that will be replayed over and over once Heyman finally turns on Punk. Overall, this seems to be a great way to extend the feud between now and Summerslam without using up all of Brock Lesnar’s appearance dates.

The Shield has officially dropped to lower mid-card duty (don’t say we didn’t warn you). Hopefully their feud with The Usos will be quick and painless. This is the major consequence of no long term build with The Usos – that is, nobody gives a crap about their storyline.

Money in the Bank participants were announced last night, albeit rather informally. I can’t help but imagine this would have carried so much more weight had they let the wrestlers come out to the ring and jabber back-and-forth about who was going to win. I’m also confused about whether or not this is the only Money in the Bank match this year. If so, this is a stacked match, and should be very entertaining. If not, I think the company would have been wise to limit the participants here by spotlighting a few key performers (imagine how great a four-way Punk vs. Bryan vs. Orton vs. RVD MITB match would be), and then save the “all hands on deck” match for the World Heavyweight Championship MITB.

The McMahons were featured again, just not quite as heavily. It seems like creative wanted to put them back on TV, but now has no idea where to go with this storyline. At least Vickie seems to be shining in her role as “pawn” in the game of WWE Corporate chess.

Overall show was definitely lacking. About halfway through, the momentum completely died. Mark Henry’s segment fell flat (they should’ve just stuck with Cena’s promo, and kept Henry off TV another week), CM Punk had a lackluster match with Darren Young, and the spark from last week seemed to have evaporated. We’re officially back in the summer hangover – let’s just hope things pick back up again BEFORE MITB.

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 Payback 2013 – Staff Predictions

wwepaybackThis Sunday, it is the WWE Payback pay-per-view.  Here is the predictions from the Between The Ropes staff for each match on the show.

 

Payback Match Kickoff – Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow

Brian Fritz:  Sheamus is really caught in limbo right now when it comes to his place in the pecking order.  While Sandow should win here and get a bigger push, I think Sheamus comes away with the win.

Steve Muehlhausen:  This match will be on the kickoff portion of the show starting at 7:30 ET on basically every platform known to man. The feud has been scuttled as it is hard to believe what Shaemus is saying while Sandow has been carrying this feud. Sheamus doesn’t need the win here as Sandow wins in an upset.

Michael A. Wiseman:  I think Sandow wins this match, though I think he cheats to win (or otherwise resorts to heel-like tactics). But I don’t expect much out of this one.  WWE never gives their pre-shows matches much time to breathe, and this feud, despite the long(ish) build, is booked to be forgettable. Sheamus gets his revenge the next night on ‘Raw.’

Marshall Bowen:  Sheamus wins this one to get the night started and get the crowd rowdy and energetic for the night to come.

 

United States Championship – Dean Ambrose vs. Kane

Brian:  Dean Ambrose should retain the title.  The Shield is the hottest act in the WWE right now and all of them have belts and rightfully so.  Hopefully, Ambrose and Kane will be able to crank it up more than their recent match on Raw.

Steve:  They had a lackluster match on Raw with Kane winning by DQ, which was the reason Vickie Guerrero gave Kane a rematch. Ambrose will retain here as they should have more time here.

Michael:  Dean Ambrose is the obvious pick here. I expect an entertaining product from these two – Ambrose can go in the ring, and Kane is a very capable veteran. The fact that this match was added less than a week out says that creative isn’t taking the possibility of a title change seriously. Also, WWE would be foolish to start breaking down The Shield just one month after they regained a lot of momentum. Then again, the company isn’t know for putting a lot of thought into these decisions.

Marshall:  Kane is Ambrose’s monster to prove himself with in his young U.S. title reign and will prove the dominance that The Shield will continue to have over the summer.

 

Divas Championship – Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee

Brian:   For a few months now it seems that AJ would eventually win the Divas Championship only for it not to happen.   That should end here with AJ finally get a title to match her Ziggy’s.  She’ll probably get some help from Big E at ringside but AJ finally get the Divas championship.

Steve:  We have seen this story play out over the last month as the secret admirer storyline has started. A great promo on Monday’s Raw by Lee as Big E Langston came to reveal he was the secret admirer. It ended up being a ruse with Lee behind the ruse. Lee should win the title here but I feel Kaitlyn will win here to advance the feud for another month.

Michael:  AJ wins cleanly and finally takes home the Divas Championship. Her promo this past Monday on Raw was money, and she is primed to be the spark the Divas Division so desperately needs. The storyline coming out of this Sunday will be that the numerous distractions cost Kaitlyn her championship.

Marshall:  AJ takes this one with some help from Dolph and Big E. AJ has been building to this moment for well over a year now and this is finally the time to pull the trigger.

 

Intercontinental Championship – Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel

Brian:  With Curtis Axel being inserted into the match for Fandango who is sidelined with a concussion, it makes sense that the latest Paul Heyman guy win the title here.  I think Axel will win the title but I wonder what this means to how he is perceived in the company.  Rather than being a main-event level guy, I think he is a notch down.  By the way, I think his feud with Triple H is over already with Hunter having bigger things to deal with.

Steve:  This match was supposed to be a three way with Fandango in the match but he suffered a concussion about two weeks during a Smackdown taping. Surprised WWE inserted Axel in the match considering where he has been positioned so far. Have Axel winning the match here as it will build him up more and be like his father in winning the IC Title.

Michael:  Most people seem to be in agreement that Curtis Axel was added to this match so WWE could immediately quickly build on his hot debut with an Intercontinental Championship reign. And while I agree, I think it’s the wrong decision. Axel has been hanging around the upper mid-card since his debut, so this feud just feels like a step back. Hopefully they give him a real storyline coming out of Sunday.

Marshall:  I’m going out on a limb and saying Curtis Axel gets the win and the 2-0 for the night for Paul Heyman. Part of this prediction comes from the rapid fire re-debut Axel has had in these past few weeks.

 

WWE Tag Team Titles – The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan

Brian:  The obvious thing to happen here would be The Shield retaining the title and Orton and Bryan having issues during the match leading to a feud between the two.  I’ll go with that scenario because I believe sometimes the obvious thing to do is also the right thing.  Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong and too bad if the audience sees it coming as long as you still make it entertaining.  The real question will be is Orton or Bryan turning heel or could neither and they feud as babyfaces.

Steve:  This was the last match I was expecting going into Raw last week. Seemed like WWE was heading towards an Orton/Bryan showdown. WWE flipped things and decided to go this route. This should one of the two best matches on the show considering the workers in the ring. The intriguing part will the Orton/Bryan dynamic. Have Reigns and Rollins retaining with Orton turning on Bryan.

Michael:  Orton and Bryan have no business winning the titles. That’s exactly why I’m going to predict that they win here. WWE seems to like Daniel Bryan in this position, and the company has always found success with the oddball pairings. While I don’t think they’ll hold the championship for very long (maybe not even past the next night on Raw), I think Orton finally cements his heel turn whenever they lose the titles back in the eventual rematch. On the down side, creative seems to be cooling on The Shield.

Marshall:  The Shield retain against the former champ and his new partner, the combination of Bryan and Orton is not as fluid as a team as Rollins and Reigns.

 

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho

Brian:  I think CM Punk wins the match but there are a lot of different directions they can go here when it comes to Punk, Jericho and Heyman during and following the match.  Punk should get a hero’s welcome by the hometown crowd for what should be the best match on the card.

Steve:  This should be the match on the card. Everytime these two step into the ring, the matches are top notch. Like how the match has been built with Paul Heyman representing Punk. WWE did a good job here in not bringing Punk back until Payback. Jericho wins the match as Heyman will accidentally cost Punk the match as the build will start of the breakup between Punk and Heyman.

Michael:  Punk has to win here. It’s unfortunate for Jericho, who rarely ever seems to string together more than two victories in a row, but Punk’s hometown crowd would likely riot if he failed to win. I’m more curious to see how the company positions Punk coming out of this match. Is he coming back to stay? I’m not sure. I do think, though, that his turn against Paul Heyman starts this Sunday.

Marshall:  In his return to Chi-Town Punk defeats Jericho to kick off his summer as one of the top heels.

 

World Heavyweight Championship – Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio

Brian:  This should be a very good, under the radar match with Ziggler retaining the title.  I hope he gets a pinfall victory rather than there being a cheap DQ finish to the match and the feud continuing.  It’s time for both parties to move on even though Ziggler was sidelined with a concussion.  They both need fresh feuds at this point.

Steve:  A late add to this event since Ziggler was only cleared about 10 days ago to return to the ring. Ziggler had been out since May 7 when he suffered a concussion. Del Rio became the number one contender when he defeated Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules last month. Hard to build a match with this short notice but a story is there for the match. Ziggler should go over here to help build him through the summer.

Michael:  Alberto Del Rio has been the unfortunate victim of circumstance here. While waiting on Ziggler to return, he’s been given very little to sink his teeth into. These two will put together an entertaining 12-15 minutes (if WWE gives them that long), but Big E will distract and the champion will retain. I think Ziggler moves on to a bigger challenge from here (Sheamus or Punk) while Del Rio finds himself back in the mid-card.

Marshall:  Dolph wins this match, Del Rio will be the step in his title reign that really helps to establish his reign and guarantees a great match for the crowd and the audience.

 

WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell match)

Brian:  As much as the WWE has tried to make Ryback into a monster, it really hasn’t caught on.  And this match just doesn’t have the feel of a scary, crazy match.  Instead, it feels like the next step in a feud that has been pretty pedestrian.  Cena walks away the title here and I hope he walks away from this feud although I could see it going one more month.  But this should be the end.

Steve:  This match is a three stages of hell match with the first match being a lumberjack match, the second being a tables match and if it goes to a third fall an ambulance match. This is coming off an actual pretty good match they had at Extreme Rules. It will be hard to take this match as three stages of hell considering none of the matches are that brutal. It will be interesting to see how Ryback does here as this match should go between 40-45 minutes. This match will go all three falls as Cena will win the first fall, Ryback the second and Cena will win the third fall to retain the WWE championship.

Michael:  Let’s get this out of the way: Cena wins. He pins Ryback in the Lumberjack Match, Ryback evens the score with the Table Match, and Cena finishes things off in the Ambulance Match. I don’t see a scenario where Ryback walks out with the championship (or why WWE would even want Ryback, a man who has to be prompted to finish his sentences, as their top guy). Unfortunately, there’s not much to get excited about with this one. The stipulations suck, the feud has been tame, and the outcome doesn’t seem in doubt at all.  Think about this: CM Punk hasn’t been on WWE Television since the night after Wrestlemania, but his match this Sunday feels like a much bigger deal. Oh well.

Marshall:  This match will go to John Cena after going through all three stages of the match. Ryback still isn’t established enough for the championship and seems like he’s there to be the giant Cena decimates in this current title run.

Previewing WWE Payback

wwepayback
WWE returns to pay-per-view tomorrow night with their June event, Payback. This event seems to be trying to build itself around it’s title sake by having most of the matches taking place focus on return matches from the Extreme Rules event, the ongoing rivalry with The Shield, and what could perhaps be the payoff to the only rivalry going on in the Diva division currently.

 

The event will be headlined by a Three Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship in which John Cena will put his title on the line against Ryback. These two met at last month’s Extreme Rules event for the bel , only for their Last Man Standing match to end in a no contest after Ryback drove Cena and himself through the stage for the event and neither could answer a 10 count. This match will ultimately see all three stipulations – Lumberjack, Table, & Ambulance match – come into play with the end result of Cena walking out of the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL with the title firmly around his waist. In the end WWE still doesn’t know what exactly they are doing with the Ryback character and putting the WWE title isn’t going to help that.

 

Key matches on the undercard include Chris Jericho facing off against the returning CM Punk. As Jericho mentioned on Raw this past week this will be the third match these two have had the last being at the Extreme Rules 2012 event, which also took place in Rosemont. The title isn’t on the line this time, and Punk hasn’t made any appearances on TV since losing to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania in April. In the end, this match will be a great back and forth contest of technical wresting skill as both of the these executed in their previous two efforts, and Punk will win it. Even though Jericho has been the one on TV building up the match Punk will walk out of his hometown crowd with the win to set up what needs to be an interesting storyline with him for the summer that I can see leading to a match with Curtis Axel at SummerSlam in a battle of Paul Heyman guys, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

 

Alberto Del Rio will finally get his return match for the World Heavyweight Championship against the champ, Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler was supposed to defend the title in a triple threat ladder match against Del Rio and Jack Swagger but his concussion change that course a bit. In keeping with the name of the pay-per-view this will finally be Del Rio’s chance to get some measure of payback on the man who took the title from him in April. For Ziggler, he needs to help make that title matter and prove that there is a reason for him to be holding it. Add in the assistance of Big E Langston and AJ Lee and all signs point to Ziggler retaining. I would also expect this to be the feud that carries that title for the summer, with the occasional cameo from Swagger.

 

All of the members of The Shield will be in action defending their newly won gold as US Champion Dean Ambrose defends against Kane and the odd pairing of Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton will face Tag Team champs Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. In the end The Shield will remain victorious in both regards. Let’s face it they didn’t put the titles on them for The Shield to hot potato the belts in a month’s time.

 

The Intercontinental Championship is on the line in a Triple Threat Match pitting champion Wade Barrett against former champion The Miz and newcomer Curtis Axel. in keeping with the payback motif Barrett and The Miz will be goign back and forth in this match just enough to allow Axel (replacing the injured Fandango) to swoop in and take the title off of Barrett. Factoring into that decision will be the presence of Paul Heyman, who I’m fairly confident will make presence noticed.

 

The Divas division will be highlighted on this pay-per-view as Champion Kaitlin takes on her former partner and friend AJ Lee. This confrontation has been building for a while and is leading to what feels like the 9th reboot the Divas DIvision has had in the past three years. AJ will walk out of the arena with the belt, thanks in part to some from Doplh and Big E, and the audience will continue to wonder what the summer holds for the Divas division.

 

Sheamus takes on Damien Sandow in the pre-show match and will easily win in it to start the night off. The tradition since the beginning of these pre-shows has almost been to let the champion or the babyface get the win, and this will be no different.

 

Non-match wise I would expect to see something to follow up the Triple H/Vince confrontations of the past few weeks on the show to build up to something heading into SummerSlam, I just don’t quite know what yet.

 

Check back later in the week to see how my predictions hold up to the results, and catch WWE Payback live tomorrow night on pay-per-view.

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...]

‘Monday Night Raw’ Review – 6/10/2013

hhhaxelRaw opened up strong last night, delivering on Triple H’s promise from last week to start the show off by fighting Curtis Axel. Vince’s interference here by flexing his “Chairman of the Board” role here was great, Triple H restarting the match as a 60-minute Iron Man match was hilarious, and the segment went on exactly as long as it needed to. It peaked my interest as a viewer. Plus, I like the way Curtis Axel was highlighted here in a secondary role. He looks major league being in a segment with both Vince and Triple H.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show failed to deliver on this set-up. While I initially gave the storyline a “good” last night, a few things didn’t settle well with me. First, why was Stephanie McMahon playing peace-keeper the rest of the night, whenever she was the one last week denying Triple H the right to wrestle? Secondly, the last segment of the night, with the “group hug” between the three, seemed to be played more for laughs than anything else. It was entertaining, but did little to raise the stakes between Vince and Triple H. I expected more.

 

Chris Jericho cut a fantastic promo on CM Punk.  If you listened closely, though, you probably realized this was a face vs. face build, with all the talk of respect, etc.  Then the CM Punk chants broke out. For anybody doubting Punk’s return as a good guy, revisit this segment from last night. Either way, these two should put on an epic contest this Sunday.

The Team Hell No/Randy Orton Situation took an interesting turn last night. Booking Bryan and Orton in a match together this Sunday creates high-drama between the two. I’m just glad WWE actually took the time to give us a reason why these guys should be challenging for the respective championships.

Fandango was probably the biggest loser coming out of Raw. Putting Axel in his place on Sunday was a great booking decision in my eyes, and I think he’s the odds-on favorite to walk away with the win. It was also an unexpected surprise.  However, I suspect that this was originally the plan intended for Fandango, and wonder what his storyline will be once he returns.

The Divas Division was promoted effectively last night.  I anticipated this segment, with Kaitlyn’s admirer revealing himself, would suck. When Big E came out, my greatest fears were realized. However, seeing him (literally) drop Kaitlyn in the middle of the ring made me gasp in surprise, and when AJ came out, everything finally clicked.

These two ladies are doing all they can to make the fans care about women’s wrestling in WWE again. AJ’s promo on Kaitlyn was entertaining, energetic, and showed a sign of life that’s been missing in the Diva’s Division for years. I’m actually looking forward to seeing these two fight.

 

The Ryback-Cena confrontation was hyped all night, and I think it delivered in a way these two haven’t before. Ryback seemed confident on the mic, and John Cena brought back his serious voice. I know the lumberjacks were strictly there to sell the stipulation on Sunday, but I liked how they were effectively booked to keep either man from looking dominant when these two finally got their hands on each other. Having everybody in the ring was a great visual to end the show on, and should stick with potential PPV buyers throughout the week.  I always say that less is more with Cena, and last night was proof.

 

The overall show was lighter on wrestling this week, but heavier on story. Considering that WWE had only announced 3 matches for the PPV this Sunday, the company needed to start promoting something if it expected the fans to care. Luckily, the show proved very entertaining from top to bottom. While some feuds show obvious signs of being rushed (I’m looking at you, Kane-Ambrose), others culminated in exciting ways.  Plus, the show had a number of surprises to keep viewers intrigued.

It wasn’t the greatest Raw of all time, and wrestling-only fans were probably disappointed (at least Bryan & Rollins put on a great show), but WWE gave viewers a reason to care about the product again. If you missed last night, make sure you catch the highlights.

WWE Raw Highlights – June 10th, 2013

rawHere’s a quick look at tonight’s very entertaining edition of Raw.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for a more in-depth review of everything important that took place, along with a few more thoughts and opinions. [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.