Saturday, 30 May 2015

WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 Preview and Predictions

With just two weeks of hit and miss build up, heading out of a strong Payback  PPV, how could the sixth incarnation of WWE's Elimination Chamber shape up? Let's have a look ahead.


Singles Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (C) vs. Dean Ambrose





Elimination Chamber PPV Record

Rollins - 1 win, 1 loss
Ambrose - 1 wins, 1 loss



The return of last year's ATPW 2014 Feud of the Year has perhaps not reached the heights it did last time round. Trying to jam over a months worth of booking into two weeks has left the build up feeling rather hurried. Both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose have put in strong performances, but have been hampered by a supporting cast of what feels like thousands as the hatred that we saw between the couple over last summer doesn't seem to be as apparent as it once was. Part of me wishes that this bout had been held off until Money in the Bank on the 14th July, just to give things time to breath. It isn't like WWE went through most of 2014 without the World Heavyweight title being defended on PPV or anything!

Now, we all know that Ambrose and The Aerialist can go in the ring, and we all know that they have bucket loads of chemistry. But...as has been the case for the last couple of PPV's, this is all about the involvement of The Authority. J&J Security being dicks is all well and good, their antics can play nicely into the developing story of a match, but another run-in or more general arseholery from Kane or even a returning Big Show and Rollins' title reign begins to become a big of an over-booked joke. I'm pulling hard for an interference free win for The Architect to bolster his run as champion and build him ready for potential collision with Brock Lesnar down the road.

Prediction - Seth Rollins retains


Singles Match
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens





Elimination Chamber PPV Record
Cena - 3 wins, 3 losses
Owens - FIRST APPEARANCE


These two characters fit so well together. The "Never Give Up" John Cena opposite the no fucks given Kevin Owens. The feud between the duo has become incredibly heated over just two weeks, being both well paced and well performed, this may be the clash I'm most looking forward to on Sunday. If the double show as much chemistry in the ring, as they have showed on the microphone on Monday Night RAW #1147 then we might be in for a real treat. Expect a smash mouth brawling style of match, with plenty of sound WWE storytelling, these two may bring out the best in each other. 

Does Kevin Owens need to win his WWE PPV debut? Of course not, it's against John Cena. A headline bout against the biggest star the industry has produced over the last ten years will be enough to round of this introduction to WWE's main stream. There's a number of direction we could see this one take, and I'm hoping WWE braves it out and has a clean finish, that leaves a reason to return to the feud later down the line.


Prediction - John Cena wins


Elimination Chamber match for the vacant Intercontinental Championship
R-Truth vs. Sheamus vs. King Barrett vs. Ryback vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev




Elimination Chamber PPV Record

R-Truth - 3 losses

Sheamus - 4 losses
Barrett - 2 losses

Ryback - 1 loss
Ziggler - 1 win, 1 loss
Rusev - FIRST APPEARANCE


Fuck R-Truth off and you've got a decent Elimination Chamber match, that might be won by any of the competitors. Whilst Rusev's involvement is up in the air due to a leg injury suffered on Thursday Night Smackdown #823, if the Bulgarian Brute is involved in the match we'll have the continuation of his feud with Dolph Ziggler which could get messy for the Show Off. Elsewhere I'm hoping for some heavy hitting action from the likes of Sheamus, Barrett and Ryback and hopefully some creative spots with the Chamber. Chamber matches always tend to be a lot of fun and with a match that is fairly hard to predict. I want to say Sheamus, but look at that win loss record!


Prediction - Dolph Ziggler wins the Intercontinental Championship

Tag Team Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Tag Team Championships
Los Matadores vs. The Ascension vs. The Lucha Dragons vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro vs. The New Day (C) vs. The Prime Time Players




Elimination Chamber PPV Records

Diego - FIRST APPEARANCE

Fernando - FIRST APPEARANCE
Konnor - FIRST APPEARANCE
Viktor - FIRST APPEARANCE
Kalisto - FIRST APPEARANCE
Cara - FIRST APPEARANCE
Kidd - FIRST APPEARANCE
Cesaro - 1 win, 1 loss

Big E - 1 win
Woods - FIRST APPEARANCE

Kingston - 4 losses
Young - 1 loss

O'Neill - 1 win



Just like R-Truth in the Intercontinental Championship bout, take out perenial there-to-make-up-the-numberers Los Matadores (replace them with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) and you've got a great looking Elimination Chamber. The tag team element will bring a freshness to the gimmick and the possibility of having twelve bodies flying about the structure is an exciting one. I'm expecting quick and pacy action, with all six teams able to offer something different to the Chamber. I'd be surprised to see New Day drop their titles as they're riding a wave of momentum at the moment as champions, I'd imagine we'll see either Cesaro & Tyson Kidd or The Lucha Dragons as the final opponents for the dastardly trio.


Triple Threat match for the Diva's Championship
Nikki Bella (C) vs. Paige vs. Naomi




Elimination Chamber PPV Record
Nikki - FIRST APPEARANCE

Paige - FIRST APPEARANCE
Naomi - FIRST APPEARANCE 



After a piss poor tag team match at Payback WWE has done a good job of constructing a feud between these three women which is both easy to follow and makes perfect sense. Naomi injured Paige after The Diva of Tomorrow became Number One contender, Nikki Bella is the Diva's Champion, let's have three way (as the old saying goes). WWE has given these women the opening segment of the second hour of Thursday Night Smackdown for two weeks in a row, with a good talking segment on #822 and a decent contest between Paige and Naomi on #823, so it would seem WWE is taking note of the work we've seen from the women in NXT and realising that the more time that women have to develop feuds and the more time they are given in the ring, the more people will give a shit. I'm quietly looking forward to seeing if these three can pay off the confidence that WWE has shown in them over the last two weeks, I also have a feeling we'll see Nikki drop the title here.

Prediction - Paige wins her third Diva's Championship.




Singles Match
Neville vs. Bo Dallas






Elimination Chamber PPV Record
Neville - FIRST APPEARANCE
Dallas - FIRST APPEARANCE


A simple feud based around Bo Dallas costing Neville his feud ending bout with King Barrett on Monday Night RAW #1147 and the 25 year old's jealousy of The Man That Gravity Forgot's success since his move to the main roster. I wouldn't mind seeing this feud go for a little longer than two weeks, as Dallas has really stepped up to the plate with his mic work across this short feud and I'm intrigued to see what he might do if WWE put a little more faith in him. The New Sensation has proven he can perform on the bigger stage, whilst the son of Mike Rotunda hasn't produced a memorable match since his time working opposite (Adrian) Neville on NXT last February. If Dallas can step up here we could have a good slice of competition, especially if we see the artist formerly known as Pac's injured leg play into the bout.

Prediction - Neville wins.


Finally...


This has all the makings of a very very good PPV. Owens vs. Cena could be something very special indeed, even with a rushed build up Ambrose and Rollins' chemistry should pull them through, booking permitting. The pair of Elimination Chamber bout are almost guaranteed to deliver on their gimmicks alone. Even the Diva's title bout may present some worthwhile action. I'm worried about how much I'm looking forward to this, it tends to be a recipe for disaster....remain positive...remain positive....

See you Monday for the review. Enjoy the show.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

WWE Monday Night RAW #1148 Review

The last WWE event at the famed Nassau Coliseum, on Memorial Day in the US no less, WWE was going to pull out all the stops for this one, weren't they? With storyline development between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, including a tag team match pitting Ambrose and Roman Reigns against Rollins and Kane, another open challenge from John Cena and the continued fallout of Rusev and Lana's break up, could the go-home show for Elimination Chamber deliver? Let's find out. 


Tag Team Match
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose 
vs. 
The Authority's Seth Rollins & Kane with J&J Security





Things kicked off this week with The Authority (minus the A.W.O.L. Big Show) announcing that Seth Rollins' World Heavyweight Championship match with Dean Ambrose at Elimination Chamber would only go ahead if Ambrose could get to sign the contract for the match. With the theme of the entire episode laid out early, Ambrose and Rollins had some fun back and forth on the microphone, including Ambrose referring to J&J Security as a hobbits and Rollins debating the finer points of being referred to as Justin Bieber by the WWE Universe. There's so much chemistry between the two rivals that it's almost a shame to have so many others involved in this feud. Things would eventually lead to Stephanie McMahon booking a tag team match with Rollins & Kane taking on Ambrose and Roman Reigns.

The match was a decent enough encounter, although the match itself was remarkably similar to a plethora of matches that we've seen on Raw and Smackdown over the last six months. Reigns and Ambrose spent a surprising amount of time in control of the match, with the commentary team pointing out that this was due to their familiarity from their days in The Shield, whilst this makes sense when you don't think about it, as soon as you consider that Kane & Rollins have teamed up seventeen times in the last ten months with Ambrose and Reigns only teaming three times, that logic gets completely lost. The closing sequence that saw Rollins and Ambrose going back and forth with a handful of reversal before Ambrose picked up the win with backslide was the highlight of an otherwise paint by number, go through the motions tag bout.

Things would get interesting during a backstage segment where J&J Security would confront Ambrose during an interview with Renee Young. After Ambrose lost his cool with Noble and Mercury, Ambrose hit the camera man, in what would turn out to be a far-cleverer segment than it originally looked. The camera man would go on to press charges, with the Authority and especially Rollins gloating as Ambrose was carted off by the police. Rollins line "Jail is too good for him. He belongs in a zoo" was perhaps the highlight of the entire show. Stephanie and Triple H were later joined by RAW guest stars Kevin Connoly (EntourageUnhappily Ever After), Adrian Grenier (Entorauge), Kevin Dillon (Entourage, Platoon) and Jerry Ferrara (Entourage) who were there to promote the upcoming film version of HBO's Entourage. The segment was pretty unremarkable, featuring awkward interaction between the two, but the reference to Stephanie's clash with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 31 was a nice touch and will almost certainly keep the rumour mill turning. The use of a Youtube video to show that Rollins had pushed the camera man into Ambrose earlier in the night was a novel way to reveal how things had really went down.

The main event segment of the show centered around The Authority gloating about Ambrose being unable to sign the contract for his match with Rollins at Elimination Chamber, with Rollins masterfully skimming past his involvement in Ambrose's arrest. Reigns coming out to confront the Authority, only to get beaten down in quick fashion thanks to a chokeslam from Kane, felt a little superfluous, other than needing to keep Reigns face on television. Of course, Ambrose was able to make it back to the arena, driving the police van that took him away and wearing police uniform (I'd love to hear someone try to explain that) eventually able to sign the contract after he and Reigns hit Rollins with police batons, Reigns had speared J&J Security and Ambrose had hit Dirty Deeds on Kane. It did it's job, I suppose, but the whole segment and story was too convoluted for my tastes, and similar to last week seemed to be trying to fit weeks of storyline into one week. Holding off on the Ambrose vs. Rollins match until Money in the Bank would have offered a much more satisfying tragectory for the pair, without having to have the story dominate the show (Almost 45 minutes of air time was dedicated to this storyline)


United States Championship Match
Zack Ryder with The Cast of Entourage
vs. 
John Cena (C)




It was once again to jump on the Hustle Loyalty and Respect tram to Cenation boulevard, as John Cena opened up the challenges for the United States Championship. Beginning with a strong promo from Cena, in which the Cenation Leader talked about the "Let's Go Cena" "Cena sucks" chants, pulling them apart and separating the two fan groups, before admitting those who chant "Cena Sucks" may be chanting "Fight Owens Fight" at Elimination Chamber. Cena has showed just how clever he can be with these promos over the last two months and this may be his brightest moment as United States Champion. Whilst many will feel rebellious for chanting against Cena on Sunday, as a certain section of the fanbase loves to do, they'll in fact be doing just what John Cena (and crucially the WWE) wants them to do, which should hopefully lead to cracking atmosphere inside the American Bank Center.

After being introduced by the Entourage cast, it was hometown boy Zack Ryder who made his way out to accept the open challenge. It may have only been his second singles match on Monday Night Raw of 2015, but the Uniondale crowd couldn't have cared less as they lapped up Ryder's entrance and were strongly behind him all match long. Ryder clearly still has a connection with the audience, especially in New York and it's surprising how little he is used on WWE's two main shows. Four matches on Raw and no match on Smackdown since September is mind boggling considering how over Ryder still is with live crowd. Maybe a run on NXT might help WWE find a place for him?

Inside the ring the action was decent enough, with Ryder battling through Cena's patented offence thanks to a little distraction from fellow Long Island native Kevin Connoly, running through a series of his signature moves (including his own version of the Tommykaze/Tommyknocker/Impaler/Unprettier/Killswitch) all of which got decent to good reaction from the crowd, with the Rough Ryder especially working well as a near fall. The highlight of the match though had to be Ryder's missed 450 splash, seriously when has Zack Ryder ever done a 450 splash? It put over what the match meant to the Long Island Iced Z, and even with Cena pulling out the win with the Attitude Adjustment, made for a great moment. 


With Ryder and the Entourage lads leaving Cena to celebrate, it as time for NXT Champion Kevin Owens to make his presence felt once more. Owens delivered a Pop-up powerbomb to Cena and in scene similar to last week held the NXT title belt aloft whilst standing on the United States belt. Owens has been allowed to look very impressive over the last two weeks both on Monday Night RAW and at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, and he's really picked up the ball he's been handed by WWE and sprinted with it. The simple build to Cena and Owens' match at Elimination Chamber has felt the most natural out of all the other feuds we've seen going on over the last two weeks, allowed to grow at it's own pace, whilst building an strong feeling of excitement for their clash on Sunday.

Singles Match
R-Truth 
vs. 
Rusev





This match finds itself so far up this review thanks to a lot to the story-line activities that followed it. Going just a minute, Rusev, now proudly waving a Bulgarian flag, destroyed Truth in a quick fashion, picking up the win via submission with the accolade. Firstly, I'm not sure why WWE have put R-Truth in the Elimination Chamber for the Intercontinental Championship when they clearly don't have any real direction for him. Secondly, if WWE really wanted R-Truth in the chamber match why have him get absolutely destroyed by Rusev? Surely, there was someone else knocking around that could have been fed to the Bulgarian Brute?

Rusev went on to repeatedly call out Lana. Seriously I lost count of the amount of times that the Super-Athlete pleaded for his former manager to join him in the ring, before she eventually came out in her Miss Hancock-esque attire. Full of the WWE style soap area the pairs interactions was a well-scripted see saw of a segment, that had me hooked from start to finish. The narrative was easy to follow with Lana initially seeming to want to reconcile with Rusev until he asked her to say she was wrong, which, of course, didn't go down to well. WWE script writers often get it in the neck for their writing, but this segment was done very nicely, getting over a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Whilst the script writers deserve praise for the segment, it could have fallen apart if it weren't for Rusev and Lana pulling out their strong performances on the microphone that I can remember. Lana particularly took her chance and ran with it, with a superb tirade on Rusev at the conclusion of the segment, delivered with real venom. After what had gone before it was easy to believe she genuinely hated her former charge. The development that Rusev is an old-fashioned kind of fellow ("You need to know your place, woman!") was an interesting touch, and whilst it might be another slice of WWE stereotyping foreign performers, Rusev handled it well and got strong reactions from the crowd with his lines.

With Lana heading for the back, new love interest Dolph Ziggler took the opportunity to come out for smooch. This was a bit of a dick-ish thing for the babyface Ziggler to do, in all honesty, even if the kiss was little more than a peck on the lips. Whilst I'm enjoying the feud between Lana and Rusev, it's notable that things do feel a little bit rushed between the two. Perhaps if Lana had been kept off TV following her dismissal by Rusev last week, allowing things to breath (with Rusev in the Elimination Chamber there was no real need for the program to start right away) everything could have been that little bit more assured, and produced something that felt like it was growing a little more natural than what we've seen over the last two weeks. Almost proving my point, that wasn't the last we'd see of Rusev and Lana this week...

Singles Match
Sheamus 
vs. 
Dolph Ziggler 






The pairs third televised singles match in just over five weeks struggled to meet the standard of their previous two bouts. Essentially a match of two halves, I found the early part of the contest rather dull. Despite a big tilt-a-whirl slam on the outside and a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, the match didn't find it's natural groove of the big Irishman working the show-off's back, or at least Ziggler just didn't fancy selling it. All the passion and fury that the two had bought to their rivalry over the last two months had been dropped and two simply had a match, which for someone who had bought into what had been an interesting and exciting program was a little disappointing to see.


Whilst the fire had gone, the closing sequence was done well, with both Lana and Rusev turning up a ringside. A lovely reversal sequence that saw *takes breath* a jumping DDT by Ziggler, turned into White Noise by Sheamus, turned into a Roll by Ziggler, turned into a Brogue Kick attempt by Sheamus, that would eventually lead to Sheamus connected with the ringpost, before Ziggler hit a superkick for two, was smooth as hell and produced a good reaction from the live crowd for the near fall. It was Rusev's involvement that would get the win for Sheamus however, as the Bulgarian caused the distraction that allowed Sheamus to pick up the win with a Brogue Kick. Rusev's then demoltion of Ziggler, placing him in the accolade whilst screaming "Kiss him now" at Lana was a pleasant end to the segment.



Ten-on-Three Handicap Match
The Lucha Dragons, The Ascension, Los Matadores, The Prime Time Players, Cesaro & Tyson Kidd with El Torito & Natalya 
vs. 
The New Day




Booked by Kane (go figure) this match followed a promo from The New Day in which they complained about being placed in an Elimination Chamber match this Sunday. The three continued to show off solid mic work, with the Nassau Colisseum eating up everything that the trio had to say. Whilst some of it was cheap heat, it was heat non-the-less, as Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E continued to push forward as one of the most over acts on WWE's TV product. Kane's interruption and talk about fairness did little for no-one, seeing he's supposed to be a heel, the Big Red Monster then booking them into a ten on three handicap made even less sense. It's difficult to work out what WWE was aiming for with this segment and with Kane's involvement
 in particular.

The match itself then made things even more confusing, as it broke down after less than a minute of The New Day working over Kalisto. The action that followed was done well, with every team attacking each other and a number of big moves being hit, before Cesaro and Tyson Kidd were the ones standing tall following their Cesaro Swing/Dropkick combination to Kofi Kingston. Whilst that action was good, I still can't get my head around booking a ten on three handicap match and then abandoning it a minute in, so everyone can fight each other. Why not just book a twelve man tag team match? The Elimination Chamber bout should be a great spectacle and a good platform for the division, but this segment did very little to help promote the match.


Singles Match
Paige 
vs. 
Tamina Snuka with Naomi




For the short amount of time they were handed, Paige and Tamina did a stellar job with this match. Plenty of strong action, with Paige hitting a cannonball off the ring apron standing out as a particular highlight of the brief clash. Things were however let down by an ending the saw Naomi hit Paige on the outside, in plain sight of the referee, allowing Tamina to hit a Samoan drop for the win. Putting aside the fact that a number contender was just pinned, whether it was the referee, Naomi or Tamina who were at fault for the huge botch of allowing the ref to see the interference this won't go anyway to help proving to WWE's upper reaches that the diva's deserve more screen time. The Bella Twins (who were on commentary) ended things with a stare down with Naomi and Tamina. 



Singles Match
Neville 
vs. 
Stardust






A short but enjoyable contest, that featured Stardust focusing Neville's leg that had been injured at Payback, beginning with a nice dragon screw leg whip in the ropes. Unlike last week's match with Bad News Barrett though, Neville quickly recovered to hit a Tornado DDT and Red Arrow to pick up the victory. The storyline progression following the bout with Bo Dallas attacking Neville with a dropkick to his injured leg was a welcome addition and it's nice to Dallas getting a chance to shine in a decent storyline with Neville. Stardust however is wallowing in no man's land although a pre-match confrontation with actor Stephen Amell (Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Half Shell) and the publicity that followed, might prove a springboard for the down on his luck wrestler.


Singles Match
Ryback 
vs. 
King Barrett




King Barrett and Ryback squared off prior to both men being involved in the Elimination Chamber for the Intercontinental Championship this Sunday. The match was beginning to look interesting as Barrett focused on Ryback's still injured ribs, sending the Big Guy into the corner of the barricade, delivering multiple kicks to the mid-section, hitting a diving elbow drop, locking on a seated surfboard stretch and hitting Wasteland, with Ryback doing a good job of selling the ribs once more. However, the below four minutes that the match was given wasn't enough to provide a satisfying finish as Ryback hit a spinebuster and a shellshock to get the win, almost out of  nowhere. 


Other Stuff 


The show opened with John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Alicia Fox, Roman Reigns, Booker T, The Bella Twins, Titus O'Neil, Dean Ambrose and Natalya reciting parts of Ronald Reagan's 1982 Memorial Day speech, as well as ten bell salute inside the arena., First Look: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on the WWE Network was promoted with a sneak peak, whilst The Rock's new film San Andreas also received some promotion.



Finally...







Whilst there was storyline progression a plenty, after the strength of last week's Raw, this was almost certainly a step backwards. Whist the main programs of Ambrose vs. Rollins, Cena vs. Owens and Lana vs. Rusev entertained in different ways, Ambrose's feud with The Authority dominating the episode meant that mid and lower card matches were short to make good on their early promise (See: Ryback vs. Barrett, Neville vs. Stardust, even Tamina vs. Paige) and the one match that was given time in Sheamus vs. Ziggler struggled to provide the fierce action that the feud ending match deserved. 

Elimination Chamber still manages to look an exciting prospect, even with the less than stellar build to the two Elimination Chamber matches, both matches will most likely deliver, whilst Cena vs. Owens and Rollins vs. Ambrose should also be strong. However, this episode didn't do much to contribute to that excitement, and whilst entertaining in places, ultimately fell flat.


The Rating


Upper card - 6/10

Mid card - 3.5/10
Lower card - 3.7/10


Overall Rating - 4.8/10

Thursday, 21 May 2015

WWE NXT Takeover: Unstoppable Review

The wait for an NXT Takeover was over. After three long months of drought the rain doth pour over the wrestling kingdom. But could Sasha Banks and Kevin Owens defending their titles against Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn respectively quench the thirst? Let's find out, shall we?



Singles Match for the NXT Women's Championship
Sasha Banks (C) vs. Becky Lynch







Glorious. Absolutely glorious. People have been talking for a good twelve months about the strength of the women's division in NXT and if this doesn't make Vince McMahon (or whoever is in charge of such things for the main roster) sit up and take notice then nothing ever will. From the moment Becky Lynch walked down her new steam-punk infused get up, and almost Rated-R Superstar style entrance, this was a slice of wrestling heaven. 

Story-telling! Story-telling! Story-telling! That's surely the whole point of pro wrestling, the premise when you pay your ticket price or subscription fee. The idea that two performers will tell you a story with their bodies whilst completely showing every elements of that story through their mannerisms and body language is sometimes lost in modern pro wrestling. But it was here and it was here in bucket loads. Both females have submission holds that are heavily based on the arms, so guess what both females beat the shit out of each others arms. What makes it even better is the fact that both females sold their arms like they were about to fall off, meaning that when those submission holds were locked in, it was a hundred times easier to buy into and suspend that disbelief that what you were watching was simply a story. The pop when Becky Lynch finally managed to lock in the arm bar (Move #2) was something special.

Beyond the story that unraveled like scripture, the two performers worked hard to keep things interesting with a series of well-timed and well thought out moves. Things can get a bit heavy going when everything is focused on one body part, and the creativity of the two ladies keep things from going in this direction. Sasha Banks in particularly impressed as she adapted her offence to suit the needs of the match, a double diving knee drop onto Becky's arm being a prime example of this. Lynch also got in on the act, with a lovely arm trap suplex. All the while both were bringing an intensity, both through their offence and their selling, that made this match completely different to how main stream women's wrestling has been portrayed for some time now.

The finish saw Sasha able to catch Becky with an arm drag off the top rope before locking in the Bank Statement to get the submission victory. It would have been nice to have seen Becky last a little bit longer in the hold, however with the previous work done on the arm (and the quality of selling) then there was really no harm done in having her tap out so quickly and the standing ovation she received post-match highlighted this. Heading out of the show, I'm interested to see what direction the women's division takes over the coming months, with Charlotte and Bayley picking up the victory in their tag team match, they would both surely be back in the title picture, but a rematch between Becky and Sasha maybe too good to pass up on...Two out of Three falls?

Singles Match for the NXT Championship
Kevin Owens (C) vs. Sami Zayn






Before the main event both competitors appearance's on Monday Night Raw over the past month were featured. A nice touch that showcased both men against the biggest name in the industry of the last ten years, John Cena. We also got to see both men preparing for the match, again working towards the "big fight feel". Owens was also interviewed by Greg Hamilton, with a superb character driven promo putting over his big week with his debut on Monday Night Raw and three title defenses on the NXT Live Events in Philadelphia and Albany. There was a well placed reference to his war of words with John Cena on Monday Night Raw, as Owens offered Zayn some "veteran advice" in what a good way to keep his feud with Cena ticking over heading into Elimination Chamber.

The main body of the match was almost an inversion of their previous encounter as NXT Takeover: Rival, a much more fiery Zayn took the action to Owens from the outset as the two brawled all over ringside and the even out in the crowd. A lot of fun to watch and again different from what we had seen from the two men before and on the rest of the show. Zayn's determination to batter Owens suited the storyline and was played believably by both men, with Owens looking almost surprised at how much Zayn wanted to bring the fight. The crowd was hooked from the outset, which added to the action creating what felt like a great atmosphere within the Full Sail Arena.

Once the action was *almost* contained within the ring, a series of near-falls for Zayn as he pulled out some of signature offence, like the Blue Thunderbomb and the half and half suplex, were a nice addition to a match that didn't have a whole load of wrestling content. Both men missing their respective signature moves in the corner also allowed for both of those moves to be kept looking strong without having to have someone kick of either. The short amount of in-ring action was done well, it's just a shame there wasn't a little more of it, as we know that these two can really bring it in a main event setting.

Of course, one of the major talking points heading out of the show was the WWE debut of Samoa Joe, who headed down to the ring to make the save following Owens relentless assault on Zayn following a pop-powerbomb onto the apron, as well as a headbutt to NXT General Manager William Regal. The debut was one of those moments that nothing that had gone before it really mattered that much, because it was just so freaking cool. There's a lot of avenues to take this, I'm hoping we get to see a satisfying conclussion to the Zayn vs. Owens feud, whilst a Joe/Owens headliner would also seem to be on the cards for the next Takeover special. Whilst the match itself wasn't a patch on the first from NXT Takeover: Rival, the debut of Samoa Joe may be one of the coolest moments of NXT television history.


Singles Match for the Number One Contendership to the NXT Championship
Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze





After an inventive angle explained Hideo Itami's absence from the match on the Pre-Show, this one became a regular one on one match (which the commentary reminded us of every few seconds). The two were given strong character based entrances that really set the tone for not only the match but the rest of the show. Both men looked like stars as they headed to the ring and everything from the new NXT set to the extra used during Breeze's entrance were part of opening the show right and creating a big fight feel heading in.

The match was a smashing opening bout fought at a high pace with the two clicking very well. Whilst they haven't been seen in a singles match on television, it was clear that the two have worked numerous matches on live events over the last two months, as everything was crisp and the reversal sequences flowed so well. The two worked in a strong false finish that saw Breeze remove the turnbuckle pad, eventually reverse a pinning combination sending Balor into the turnbuckle before hitting a Beauty Shot. The crowd bought into the finish and I don't think there would have been any complaints if that was how the match had ended. It was Balor however who went on to pick up the win with the Coup de GrĂ¢ce following a running front dropkick into the turnbuckles. I can't help but wonder how different this match would have been if it were a main event as opposed to the opening match.


Tag Team Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships
Blake & Murphy vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass with Carmella




A thoroughly entertaining tag title contest, with Enzo Amore putting in his strongest performance to date. Amore looked good in the Realest guy in the room in peril role, taking a considerable beating from Blake and Murphy, who pulled out some good tag team moves in the process, including their own version of The Wolves' Force of Nature for a good near fall. The finish itself could have been slicker, as Alexa Bliss ran in cause the distraction that would end up allowing Blake to pin Amore for the win, as Cass seemed to waiting a long time for Alexa to run in. Apart from that slight hiccup at the finish, this was an engaging tag team match, that proved the worth of Amore & Cass as a tag team going forward.



Singles Match
Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno




This match did absolutely nothing for me. I've tried hard to find something about Baron Corbin that I like and I just can't find a thing. Maybe I'm being harsh and maybe my bias towards Corbin is why I couldn't get into this match. Bar a cool spot that saw Corbin knocked Rhyno off the top rope to the floor, this was a dull slugfest type affair. It was frustrating to see Corbin refuse to interact with a crowd that was giving him shit and for that matter the crowd were almost completely ignored throughout the match. Corbin picked up the win with End of Days, in just over seven minutes, probably about five minutes too long!


Tag Team Match
Emma & Dana Brooke vs. Charlotte & Bayley




For what this was it was absolutely fine, it worked nicely in it's slot just after the opener and allowed for a feel good moment on a show that was dominated by the heels. Cleverly booked to reduce Dana Brooke's involvement in the match, whilst also giving her space to learn from three more experienced workers, although she looked uncomfortable in the ring. The finishing sequence that saw both Bayley and Charlotte hitting their finishing moves before Charlotte was able to pin Emma was solid way to end proceedings in what was a fun women's tag. A bit more interaction between the two team members, maybe some double team moves would have been a nice addition, just to give this match a little something extra. 



Other Stuff


A superb highlight package detailing NXT's recent live events in Philadelphia and Albany aired, the NXT live experience was pushed heavily, expect to see NXT beginning to tour more extensively over the next twelve months. The newest Performance Centre recruits were shown at ringside, with Uhaa Nation getting the biggest reaction from the live audience, which made me happy. Eva Marie is here! EVA MARIE IS HERE! EVA MARIE! 


Finally...





In terms of match quality, I think it would be fair to say that NXT Takeover: Unstoppable would struggle to compete with the previous Takeover shows. But that doesn't stop it from being a fantastic two hours of entertainment that had me hooked from start to finish (except for a ten minute gap for Baron Corbin). Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks stole the show with the magnificent Women's Championship match, whilst the debut of Samoa Joe will go down in history. Breeze and Balor put together a strong bout to make up the mid-card, whilst the Tag Team Championship match stands out as the highlight from the undercard.

NXT continues to grow and continues to produce a creative and engaging television product. The next two or three months of television stand to be very interesting indeed, with the title picture being wide open with Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor all having issues with the Champion and reasons to go after the belt. If you're not watching NXT, what the fuck is wrong with you.

Next TV Review: WWE Monday Night Raw #1148

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

WWE Monday Night RAW #1147 Review

Coming off the heels of a well-recieved Payback PPV, could WWE continue that momentum on the road to Elimination Chamber? The Authority holding a special ceremony for World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, a heavyweight clash between Sheamus and Ryback, another open challenge from John Cena and more, but did it deliver the goods? Let's find out. 

Seth Rollins: Architect of a Dream





Heavily promoted throughout the show the main event segment saw The Authority holding a special ceremony for World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, entitled Architect of a Dream (which is superbly annoying name). Earlier in the night in a backstage segment Triple H gave Kane the task of organising the segment, in what seemed to be the end of the Big Red Monster's tiff with Rollins. Rollins turned up with champagne, after what appeared to have been a night out with his boys J&J Security, to continue to wind up Kane was a nice touch, with Rollins continuing to knock his character work out of the park. Talking of great character work, Dean Ambrose turned to request a World Heavyweight Championship match with Rollins at Elimination Chamber, ending up winding up Kane so badly ("What would Paul Bearer think?") that he was placed in a match with Bray Wyatt later in the night. An enjoyable backstage segment, with each part of the puzzle coming together nicely. A quick backstage segment with Kane getting things ready, whilst also being disturbed by a kissing Adam Rose and Rosa Mendes was also a thing that happened.

The first part of this segment was magnificent. The faction of The Authority has grown into a something that is both entertaining to watch and easy to hate, keeping elements of the group off of television at certain times has kept thing feeling fresh. I enjoyed seeing the group back together, as they all heaped praise upon Rollins. Kane's promo in particular was a highlight, his "We don't always see eye to eye...I'm over a foot taller than you are" line was spot on, a highlight package of Rollins' career that Kane had made was the icing on the cake, whilst also highlighting an end to their rivalry. Jamie Noble also shone in his time on the mic, grabbing some cheap heat and continuing to lick Rollins' little hole. 

Of course, Dean Ambrose was back out, attempting to get the World Heavyweight Championship match he had requested earlier and this is where the segment began to struggle for me. Of course, Ambrose losing to Bray Wyatt earlier in the night (see below) didn't exactly help his cause and whilst Ambrose and Stephanie sparring on the mic was entertaining, the string of action that erupted afterward felt a little long and convoluted. Essentially, Ambrose managed to get his title match by threatening to hit Rollins with a steel chair with Rollins' head on some cinder blocks at ringside, before Rollins was able to gain control to close the show with a Pedigree. This was two or maybe three weeks worth of booking squeezed into one segment. Obviously this was needed due to Elimination Chamber occuring in two weeks, although I'm not sure the show even needs a title match (almost every PPV last year didn't have one) I wouldn't have liked to have seen Ambrose have to struggle a bit more to get his match and prove himself.

Ambrose and Rollins' history over the last year should allow the two to put together an strong title bout at Elimination Chamber, and this show left me interested in seeing how things are going to develop over the next week and then past the PPV in Money in the Bank in June. There's still space to develop the rivalry as it was left rather open in their previous blow-off match at Hell in a Cell last October. I'm hoping we'll see the pair given a lot of freedom to create a competitive wrestling match, rather than an more over-booking, Rollins needs to have a little more credibility if he is going to look like a believable challenge for Brock Lesnar when he finally returns. Perhaps we'll see either Randy Orton or Roman Reigns neutralise the Authority's threat early doors? 


Singles Match
Ryback vs. Sheamus







Taking up the opening segment of the show, this one came together when Stephanie McMahon and Triple H were talking about the upcoming Elimination Chamber match for the Intercontinental Championship. It was great to see Stephanie back on Raw and she was on top form on the microphone, working the crowd well and delivering some superb lines like "Unlike Daniel Bryan's career, the show must go on". The back and forth between Sheamus and Ryback following both interrupting the Authority was okay, but neither really stepped up to the challenge of being part of the opening segment of the show. Ryback seemed desperate to get a rub from repeatedly mentioning Daniel Bryan and whilst it tied in nicely to the storyline, I'd have preferred a few less references.

Once the match got started business really picked up. I've enjoyed Sheamus and Ryback's two bouts on television last year, and the duo seem to have a good chemistry in the ring, being able to bring out the best in each other. This was no different, possibly the best match that the duo have put on, for a number of reasons. With Ryback's mid section heavily bandaged due to his match with Bray Wyatt at Payback, Sheamus' offence was mostly focused on that area. Ryback continued to impress with his selling that worked so well the previous night, putting over the pain whilst also seemingly struggling to breath, not just when Sheamus was in control but also at appropriate points during his own offence like after hitting a Gorilla Press onto the announce table.

This style of match suited Sheamus' heel persona well and gave the character some different directions to go in, beyond the bloke that bullies the smaller the guys which can only ever run for so long. He looked good in control and viciously working over the ribs, however it was the sneaky means of victory that really allowed the character to shine. Sheamus appeared to injure his eye after colliding with the ringpost, and with the referee holding Ryback at bay, Sheamus delivered a Brogue Kick to pick up the victory and stretched his streak over Ryback to 3-0. The Celtic Warrior then showing his eye wasn't hurt after the match was a great touch that the Irishman played very well indeed. 

With both men being announced to be apart of the Intercontinental Championship Elimination Chamber on 31st May, this match worked well to keep each man looking strong, using the relevant injury to give Ryback an excuse for the loss and the Big Guy probably came off better in a valiant defeat than he would have pulling out an unbelievable win. Ryback needs a couple of victories heading into Elimination Chamber after losses to Sheamus, Wyatt and Seth Rollins over the last week, in order to have him look like a viable challenger for the title.


John Cena United States Open Challenge


 


John Cena's Open Challenge has become one of the major highlights of WWE television since it was introduced on the Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania. Things were turned on their head a little here, but we'll get to that in a moment. Things opened up with Cena's now customary promo, which didn't hit the spot with me. The main reason for this was the heavy focus on 'Murica, Cena's "We're all proud Americans" perhaps the most perplexing of the bunch. I'm not American, there's plenty of guys on your roster that aren't American, the last two people to hold the US title before Cena weren't American. I do understand that Cena is United States Champion and  and I'm all for him putting over the belt as a belt of the people, so to speak, but I couldn't buy into the promo and get behind things as much as the live crowd (and especially a bunch of soldiers) did.


However, things quickly took a turn for the better as NXT Champion Kevin Owens made his Monday Night Raw debut, as he appeared to head out to answer Cena's challenge. Owens and Cena going back and forth on the mic was a truly special moment. One of those goosebumpy, edge of your seat moments. Whilst it was clear that not everyone knew who Owens was, he made sure they would remember him by nailing his time on the microphone, working the crowd well, keeping his no-nonsense character that viewers of NXT will be more than familiar with. On his part Cena also raised his game, running down Owens for disrespecting the fans. The two characters just seemed to click, whilst there was certainly chemistry between the two performers.

Interestingly, Owens decided that he didn't want a United States Championship match because he was already a Champion. For me, this did everything for the NXT title, showing it as a prize that was worth holding onto on it's own, whilst Cena's prior promo protected the United States title. With Owens looking to fight Cena on his own terms, he quickly attacked the US Champion, delivering a swift and impressive pop up powerbomb, before holding the NXT title a loft. Owens came across fantastically in this moment, not just because he looked like a bastard for treading on the United States title (again helped along by Cena's promo earlier, although none of the commentary team picked up on Owens being Canadian), but he looked like an absolute beast by destroying the biggest name in wrestling in a matter of seconds.

With NXT Takeover: Unstoppable coming up on Wednesday, this segment (along with Sami Zayn's appearance a few weeks back, which formed a large chunk of the discussion between the two) helped to promote the show to an audience that may not have been particularly interested in the show before, which can only be good for the brand as it continues to grow. Even more intriguing was the backstage segment that saw Owens talking to Triple H, before revealing to Renee Young that he would face Cena at Elimination Chamber. If the two can deliver on the promise of their segment and build on their evident chemistry this match has the potential to be something very special indeed.

Rusev's Reaction



Billed as Rusev's reaction, the initial segment involving Rusev and Lana going back and forth on their relationship and eventually parting ways. I thought the scripting of this segment was nice, with both Rusev and Lana putting in decent performances in what must have been a difficult segment to play out in front of a live audience. Lana's delivery made it clear that she will be taking the babyface roll going forward, trying to garner sympathy by pleading that she was "only trying to protect [Rusev]" by "quitting" for him in his match with John Cena. Maybe this was a little lengthy for what it needed to be, and could have had two minutes or so shaved off with a little tighter scripting, but for what it was it an entirely watchable piece of the WWE Soap Opera. 

Whilst this seemed like the last we would see of Rusev and Lana, they made another appearance later in the show, following Dolph Ziggler squashing Stardust (seriously, a nothing match). During a Michael Cole interview with Ziggler post-match, that revealed Ziggler would be involved in the Elimination Chamber match for the Intercontinental Championship on 31st May, Lana would come down to the ring and kiss Ziggler. Ziggler's supposedly a changed man since the day when he was snogging the face of AJ Lee on Monday Night Raw every week, with two sharing a couple of pecks, Ziggler even seemed smitten as the two walked away. Before they could leave, Rusev charged the ring, but ended up taking a Zig Zag after Lana acted as a distraction for the Bulgarian Brute. I'm interested to see how this goes, Ziggler and Lana could make an interesting partnership, but I have a feeling this will be short lived and there to allow Lana to feud with Rusev without getting physical. But for now, long live Dana/Lalph. 


Singles Match
Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose




In a return to their feud that was big part of WWE television from October last year through to January, Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose piece together a strong television contest. The characters meshed back together well, presenting a series of enjoyable sequences and decent spots. Things were pretty much back and forth throughout the entire bout, which suited the characters, with both men showing that they don't need a gimmick match to be creative, Wyatt's rope hung suplex to the outside stands out as a particularly impressive moment, as does a double clothesline spot on the outside.

After a section of good back and forth action that saw both men dodge each other's signature moves, it took interference from J&J Security to allow Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail to pick up the win. An interesting result for Ambrose who would end up getting a World Heavyweight Championship in two weeks at the end of show, and whilst I understand the idea of building the rivalry between he and Rollins, there really was no need considering they spent most of the Summer and into the Autumn of last year feuding (and the PPV is only two weeks away). Wyatt on the other hand is building some strong momentum with another win here, he's looking like a solid pick to win the Money in the Bank Ladder match on 14th June in Columbus.

Singles Match
King Barrett vs. Neville





The match itself was a pleasure to watch, telling a great story and with Neville doing a superb job of selling an injured leg, after being attacked by Bo Dallas prior to the match (In an interesting segment, that may have proven that the United States just can't understand Geordie) Being unable to do the German Suplex, being unable to hit a springboard because of the knee was a really nice touch that more often than not is forgotten in modern day pro wrestling. Whilst I'm interesting to see where a Bo Dallas vs. Neville feud could go in the future, I can't help but feeling that there was still more space to develop the story between Barrett and Neville, hopefully it will be picked up again in the future.

Tag Team Championship Match
Cesaro & Tyson Kidd with Natalya vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston




Things were moving quick in the tag team division, and whilst this match was built around Xavier Woods being banned from ringside, it quickly descended into a melee, with Kofi Kingston and Big E disqualified for refusing to stop their assault on Tyson Kidd while he was trapped in the corner. What was presented during the match was entertaining, with Kidd and Cesaro dominating the majority of the match with some cool offence. With Elimination Chamber on the horizon, all the teams that would be involved ended up running out as the Lucha Dragons, Los Matadores, The Ascension and The Prime Time Players came out. This was an exciting twist on WWE's cliche mass run-ins, with some cool high flying spots from Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores. The Prime Time Players ending up standing tall after Darren Young delivered a Gut Check to Xavier Woods was a solid touch after the Players' recent run of promos on the division. 


Diva's Championship MatchNaomi with Tamina vs. Nikki Bella




Before the match, Stephanie McMahon forced Brie Bella to stay backstage because she was supposedly worried about Brie's mental health following husband Daniel Bryan's injury. Strangely this didn't play into the match at all, with Tamina doing absolutely nothing until the finish, which didn't exactly help Naomi. Not a patch on their match from Extreme Rules and failing to build with the blocks that had been provided was just silly. It was however great to see Paige return, making the save for Nikki Bella after the match, before hitting her with a Rampaige because why the fuck not, I suppose. It would seem we'll get a Triple Threat between these three at Elimination Chamber, with Michael Cole desperate to get over that Paige was the "true number one contender"


Tag Team Match
Luke Harper & Erick Rowan vs. Fandango & Zack Ryder





An extended squash match for the former members of the Wyatt Family, as they continue to dominate their opponents. Your basic tag team structure, with Fandango playing your Ballroom Dancer in peril. The surprisingly still mildly over Zack Ryder got in a fair amount of offence, but eventually succumbed to Full Nelson Slam/Superkick combination that allowed Erick Rowan to pick up the win. For what it was it was it was fine, Harper and Rowan look to be getting a big push as duo, and with the pair surprisingly left out of the Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber, it would have be taken that the duo will become the challengers for whoever walks out of the Chamber with the belts.


Other Stuff


The same promo video for Tough Enough that ran during Payback was shown, which was a real treat. Daniel Bryan dropping the Intercontinental Championship last week was also replayed again, WWE seems to really want to hammer home the point that he is injured after showing the same recap on Payback the previous night. NXT Takeover: Unstoppable also received a promo, it's on the WWE Network this Wednesday. This week's Smackdown with feature the "return" of Roman Reigns, because he's been away since Sunday. Titus O'Neil winning Celebrity Dad of the Year received a little mention, good for Titus.


Finally....






Overall, I thought this was a solid edition of Monday Night Raw, with WWE working quickly to announce matches for Elimination Chamber. The main segments delivered, especially John Cena and Kevin Owens back and forth on the microphone, and although the Ambrose/Rollins storyline was incredibly rushed, there was still some good performances. Rusev and Lana shone in the mid-card as their storyline was furtherned with the addition of Dolph Ziggler, whilst Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose had the strongest bout of the night. The undercard offered some fresh rivalries for the main roster, even if the matches (with the exception of Barrett vs. Neville) didn't quite deliver.

As a television product this was a decent follow up to a strong Payback PPV, that moved quick to turn that momentum towards Elimination Chamber. Thanks for reading our next TV review will be Wednesday's WWE NXT Takeover: Unstoppable.