Friday, 22 April 2016

TV Review: WWE NXT #192 (Gargano & Ciampa vs. The Vaudevillains)

On 13th April 2016, WWE aired the 192nd edition of NXT on the WWE Network, having previously taped the show on the 2nd April 2016 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, USA. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa for the first time since the end of October to face The Vaudevillains...but was it any good? Let's take a look!

nxt #192 match card

Match 1 – Men's Singles – Austin Aries vs. Angelo Dawkins

Match 2 – Women's Singles – Alexa Bliss vs. Tessa Blanchard 

Match 3 – Men's Tag Team – Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Vaudevillains: Aiden English & Simon Gotch

Match 4 – Men's Singles – Tucker Knight vs. Baron Corbin

Match 5 – Women's Singles – Bayley vs. Liv Morgan 

Match 6 – Men's Singles - “The Perfect Ten” Tye Dillinger vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

aries defeats dawkins

Austin Aries cemented his place on NXT with a strong victory over Angelo Dawkins. Dawkins has lost every single one of his 19 matches on WWE television since his debut in June 2013, but his size allowed Aries to look good here with Dawkins putting in a solid effort to make Aries look like a superstar. The former ROH World Champion has taken a rougher, brawling style in his WWE performances so far, that should help him to stand out from the crowd. Aries rope-assisted neckbreaker onto the apron was the highlight of the bout for me. However, I'm not fully convinced by the Roaring Elbow that Aries used as his finisher here, as it seemed to take a little bit too much time to set up for what it actually was.

bliss defeats blanchard

As much as NXT's short bout as designed to showcase one performer, they live and die on the quality of the performance from the loser of the bout. For me, this contest was a bit of a damp squib, thanks to a weak showing from Tessa Blanchard. I felt like her offence looked sloppy, that her selling was over-the-top and at times down right odd and it effected just how good Alexa Bliss could possibly look her. The crowd were deflated and seemed uninterested by the action, which would close with Bliss picking up the victory with the Glitz Flip (Standing Moonsault double knee drop). 

gargano and ciampa defeat the vaudevillains

This was a cracking tag team main event, with Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano slotting right back into their tandem and producing a fun and quirky contest with the Vaudevillains. Whilst it wasn't a particularly complex contest and I'd have liked to have seen it given an extra five minutes, each element of the bout was done well and all four men made sure that every little thing they did contributed to making the clash even more watchable. After a lovely face-shine, The Vaudevillains pulled out some lovely unique stuff when in control of Gargano, with the build towards the hot tag to Ciampa producing a nice twist on the cliche spot. A busy finishing stretch was the strongest action of the show, with Gargano hitting a neat senton off the apron onto Aiden English and Ciampa was eventually able to lock Simon Gotch in the Bridging Fujiwara Armbar to get his team an impressive submission victory. After this outing and especially with The Vaudevillains now transitioning over to Monday Night RAW and Thursday Night Smackdown, I'd love to see Ciampa and Gargano teaming up more regularly on NXT, as I feel that the tag division would benefit much more from the duo than the crowd singles ranks could.

fast-forward...Very entertaining interview with Tye Dillinger ahead of his match with Shinsuke Nakamura later in the show...Baron Corbin defeats Tucker Knight in a fairly straight forward squash match...In an earlier today segment, American Alpha chat to Big Cass and Enzo Amore and the two teams agree to a future contest against each other...

bayley defeats morgan

This was the strongest of the two women's matches on the show, with the crowd showing their appreciation for Bayley throughout. Considering Liv Morgan only had her first match last June, she put in a bloody good display here, bringing a lot of energy and pulling looking more than competent in there, especially when on the offence. There's certainly more than a spark of potential in this woman, I look forward to seeing her more often in the future. It also stands as a testament to the skills possessed by Bayley, that she allowed her opponent the opportunity to look good and develop, whilst also protecting herself, all within the space of just over three minutes. After the match, Bayley would address her NXT Women's Championship loss to Asuka, just 12 days prior at NXT Takeover: Dallas, in a short promo that seemed to be setting up a much-anticipated rematch between the two down the line.

nakamura defeats dillinger 

A short but fun contest to close the show, as Shinsuke Nakamura continued to embed himself into the fabric of NXT with a powerful victory over Tye Dillinger, in front of a Dallas crowd who seemed to adore the "King of Strong-Style". Nakamura's offence was put over hard throughout the bout with a series of hard strikes and blows used throughout, with Nakamura winning clean with the Kinshasha, but it was his character that got the most exposure here. The bout was peppered with a fair few comedy spots, with Dillinger playing his role well by mocking the former 3 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, which lead well into Nakamura return the favour. If there was any worries about how Nakamura was going to transition into WWE on a week to week basis then this contest should have cast those worries aside, like an empty bottle of Sunny D. 

atpw scale rating - 3.9/10

NXT #192 had a nice selection of short matches across the hour, but perhaps lacked anything that you could really get your teeth into. The main event tag bout featured a lot of fresh ideas and did everything it did well, but certainly could have done with more time and a strong sense of purpose. Elsewhere, Shinsuke Nakamura had an enjoyable victory over Tye Dillinger in the stand-out contest from the undercard, but with a lack of any storyline development made this episode very missable indeed. 

TV Review: IMPACT Wrestling #613 (Hardy & Tyrus vs. Hardy & Galloway)

On 12th April 2016, TNA aired the 613th episode on IMPACT Wrestling on POP TV, having taped the action on 18th March 2016 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, USA. Matt Hardy teamed with fellow Matt Hardy Brand member Tyrus to fight Jeff Hardy and TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway with the winning side being able to choose a stipulation for IMPACT Wrestling #614's Hardy vs. Hardy clash and Ethan Carter III went one on one with "The Miracle" Mike Bennett...but was it any good? Let's take a look.

impact wrestling #613 match card

Match 1 - TNA World Tag Team Championship Four Corners - Beer Money Inc.: Bobby Roode & James Storm (C) vs. The Bro-Mans: Jessie Godderz & Robbie E vs. The Decay: Abyss & Crazzy Steve w/Rosemary vs. Bram and TNA King of the Mountain Champion Eric Young

Match 2 - Men's Singles - TNA X-Division Champion Trevor Lee with Gregory Shane Helms vs. DJ Z

Match 3 - Men's Singles - "The Miracle" Mike Bennett vs. Ethan Carter III "EC3"

Match 4 - TNA Knockout's Championship - Madison Rayne vs. Jade (C)

Match 5 - Men's Tag Team – The Matt Hardy Brand: Tyrus & Matt Hardy vs. “The Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy & TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway (Winner selects stipulation for Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy match on IMPACT Wrestling #614)

hardy vs. hardy confirmed for next week

Matt Hardy kicked the show off surrounded by the Matt Hardy Brand, and continued to develop elements of his character, following being unsuccessful in regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on IMPACT Wrestling #612. Matt blamed Jeff Hardy for the loss and ripped into his brother in a passionate and slightly over-the-top promo. With Jeff quickly interrupting Matt, this segment boiled down to the pair agreeing to a match where the name "Hardy" would be on the line. Whilst parts of the segment bordered on ridiculous, both Hardy's put in entertaining performances and came out with some cracking lines throughout the segment. Jeff throwing barbs at his sister-in-law Reby Sky is always fun to watch, so I got a big kick out him saying “The only thing I'm scared of is your crazy bitch genes inside my family tree”.

beer money defeat the bro-mans, the decay and young & bram to retain the tna world tag team championships

Booked as an Invitational contest, Josh Matthews was for some reason surprised when the three teams advertised on TNA's website as being apart of the match actually accepted the challenge, but that's not surprising considering this is Josh Matthews.  The bout boiled down to mostly a ringside brawl before the contest fully got started, followed up by some fun stuff from the two babyface teams before some heel miscommunication from Bram and Eric Young, allowed James Storm to hit the later with the Last Call Superkick to pick up the victory. There was enough talent, enough variety in styles and enough on-going and past storylines to produce a world class opening match here. Unfortunately whilst most of the action was of a high quality, it was way too short to fully showcase the division fully and a big missed opportunity.

fast-forward...Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy collide backstage and agree to a Tag Team bout later on with next week's stipulation on the line...

corgan steps in to control the knockout's division

I fucking hated this segment. For everything other companies have done to change how they present their female performers, this was a major step back for TNA in my opinion. The segment started fine, I suppose, with Jade refusing to give Maria her TNA Knockout's Championship, before Gail Kim interrupted and things quickly went down hill. I cringed when Gail said that her problems with Maria were "a little more important" than the title. Just no, Gail. No. The segment soon became an omnishambles, with The Dollhouses' Marti Belle and Rebel coming out and seemingly having some issues with Jade, whilst Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky of the Beautiful People also arrived to say something, probably. The women bickered about who was the "leader" of the Knockout's Division and all in all were made to look like silly little girls. I felt embarrassed for everyone involved. Billy Corgan then turned up to cool things down, because he's a man and randomly booked Jade to defend her title against Madison Rayne later on in the show for no reason and then made a match to crown a new Leader of the Knockout's for next week. Shit. 

fast-forward...Ethan Carter III cut a hot promo on his upcoming match with Mike Bennett tonight, backstage...

dj z defeats lee 

This was originally announced as Trevor Lee defending the TNA X Division Championship against Eddie Edwards, however the continuing Gregory Shane Helms sage saw Edwards taken out backstage and then Helms issuing the second open challenge of the show. Of course, DJ Z made his return to TNA after a two and a half month absence to answer the challenge. Lee and DJ Z did the best they probably could inside three minutes and both men worked hard to fit as much as possible into the contest. It should be obvious to anyone that three minutes of action is ridiculous, even more so when you consider this is the only ring-time that Lee has received since the end of February. After DJ Z had grabbed a surprise victory by turning Lee's Small Package Driver into a regular small package, Edwards was then perfectly fit to save DJ Z from a post-match attack from Helms in a confusing piece of booking. 

bennett defeats ec3 via disqualification

After some strong build-up over the last few weeks, I couldn't help but feel a little bit disappointing by the first meeting between Mike Bennett and Ethan Carter III. Things started well, with EC3 attacking Bennett before the bell rang which showcased EC3's frustration with his rival and an early spot that saw EC3 reverse Bennett's suplex attempt to hit one of his own on the ramp also stood out. I just wish that Bennett had sold the move a bit more in the latter portions of the bout, to really make the moment matter. For me, pretty much everything here felt very rushed, both in terms of the layout of the bout (EC3's comeback seemed to come way too soon) and in the flow and transitions of the action. Things certainly weren't as smooth as you'd want for a marquee contest. I did like the idea of EC3 getting more and more frustrated with Maria's involvement in the match, which would eventually climax with EC3 nailed his adversary with a steel chair to cause the disqualification. There's certainly more to come from the Bennett vs. EC3 feud and I'm hoping that the pair produce a much better effort next time round, as they're definitely capable of much better than what they showed here. 

fast-forward...Al Snow speaks directly to camera and says he was wrong to attack Grado and Mahabali Shera on IMPACT Wrestling #611 and that he's heading to the ring to call them out...

snow attacks shera again for reasons

If I could have cared any less about this segment, I probably would have imploded or something. It seems that the crowd felt the same way, as they were completely silent throughout the whole sorry affair. Al Snow was out to apologise to Mahabali Shera and Grado, with the former WWF Tag Team Champion calling out Shera. Grado was apparently still in hospital two weeks after Snow's attack and couldn't be there. With most of the audience on the brink of entering a coma, Shera agreed to be coached by Snow. Snow then snapped an beat the shit into Shera whilst the crowd chanted "You Still Got It", which probably summed up the entire shitty affair. 

fast-forward...Tyrus confronted TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway backstage, with another reminder that Tyrus has a title shot and such...

jade defeats rayne to retain the tna knockout's championship 

This was a decent match that was torn apart by some of the worst commentary that has ever been broadcast on television. Josh Matthews and "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero are the shits. Here's a couple of example of their arseholery. Matthews "Jade reminds me of Ronda Rousey" Dinero "She's like a hybrid of Ronda Rousey and Gail Kim". Any follow up on that guys? Nah, fuck it. Here's some more. Matthews "You can learn all about your favourite stars and knockout's on social media". Thanks Josh, you fucking prick salad. Jade would pick up a fairly swift victory with her weak looking STO to give her her first title defense. I was too busy noting down the piss-poor commentary to notice anything that made the bout stand out.

hardy and tyrus defeat hardy and galloway, lashley attacks galloway

The main event managed to rescue the show just a little, as Matt Hardy and Tyrus overcame Jeff Hardy and TNA World Heavyweight Champion Drew Galloway in tag team action to allow Matt to select an "I Quit" Match as his stipulation for next week's Hardy vs. Hardy contest. A sound tag bout, that was well structured to make the most out of the four performers and played out in front of a crowd who were hot for the action throughout. The build towards both Hardy's clashing in the ring was the main narrative of the contest, with Galloway being worked over in the World Champ in peril role. Jeff was all over his brother, hitting a number of Twist of Fate's and when Galloway managed to take out Tyrus with a Claymore Kick it seemed like Jeff would finally have the contest won. However, there was finally twist in the story as Reby Sky turned up to hand Matt a hammer behind the refs back, with Matt taking full advantage of the situation. The visual of Matt lifting a prone Jeff off the mat to hit a Twist of Fate was the strongest moment of the show for me and capped a solid main event off well. After the match, Lashley turned up and ripped apart Galloway with a series of Spears, making it clear that The Destroyer has his sights once again set on the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

atpw scale rating - 2.78/10

The worst episode of IMPACT Wrestling for a very long time, certainly the worst episode of the show that's aired in 2016 so far. The main event tag bout was the shining light through the show and even that was perhaps only above average. The other marquee bout on the show between Ethan Carter III and Mike Bennett was another decent clash, but failed to live up to the hype. The under-card was highlighted by an fun opening segment with The Matt Hardy Brand and Jeff Hardy that would set up the main event's for this show and the next, but unfortunately pretty much the every other supporting moment on the episode was pure shite. The Knockout's segment, Al Snow trying to be relevant in 2016 and some of the worst commentary that has ever aired worked towards making this the shit-fest that it was.

Hopefully, with the Hardy vs. Hardy "I Quit" bout next week, TNA will be able to get back onto the level that they have been for the best part of 2016 so far.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Wrestle Ropes' Ready for the Weekend: April 2016 Week 4 - VII Pro, OTT & PROGRESS

This week we are not only crossing borders, we are crossing water. Firstly we are heading back to Telford for VII Pro Wrestling. Then we head across the Irish Sea to Dublin for Over The Top Wrestling before finally travelling to London for another sold out PROGRESS Wrestling event, Let's get Ready For The Weekend!

vii pro final inception
telford, shropshire, england

Kicking off the weekend and VII Pro Wrestling shall be hosting their 'Final Inception' event at the Dawley Town Hall in Telford. The show will see the first VIIth Heaven Ladder match with Pete Dunne, Morgan Webster, Nixon Newell, Dan Moloney and Chris Ridgeway all in the ring at the same time with the goal of reaching the contract hanging over the ring which shall allow the winner to choose any championship match, at any time of their choosing. All five competitors would be worthy challengers to any championship. But only the one who wants it most will walk away with the contract. Back in November 2015, VII Pro Wrestling held their trifecta trophy tournament which saw The Bruiserweights and The YOLO Squad meet as part of the final. Well since then, these two teams have had on-going issues. The next chapter of their saga looks set to take place this Friday when The Bruiserweights' CJ Banks and Wild Boar will face Ethan Silver & Drew Parker of YOLO Squad. This feud has been back and forth for almost six months. Something has got to give at some point. It might be this Friday in Telford. The main event for April 22nd shall see the VII Pro Champion and British Lions Champion meet one on one. Ryan Smile and Chris Brookes are the top two in VII Pro Wrestling even if their paths to get there have been very different. Smile has taken on all challenges and walked out with his head held high. Brookes on the other hand has resorted to doing anything he can to ensure he remains champion. While no titles will be on the line this Friday, the bragging rights to claim you are the top champion is worthy almost as much.

final inception match card

*Champion Vs Champion*
‘All Day Star’ Ryan Smile vs Chris Brookes

*VIIth Heaven Briefcase Ladder Match – Winner Earns A Championship Match At A Time Of Their Choosing Within 12 Months*
‘Young & Bitter’ Pete Dunne vs ‘Smashmouth’ Chris Ridgeway vs Nixon Newell vs ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster vs ‘SuperBeast’ Dan Moloney

Liberty vs Toni Storm

*Tag Team*
The Bruiserweights (CJ Banks & Wild Boar) vs The YOLO Squad (Drew Parker & Ethan Parker)

*Tag Team*
‘Number One’ Damian Dunne vs Tyler Bate

ott better than our best
dublin, ireland

Moving on to Saturday and we turn our attention to not only a promotion we've never covered but also a country we've never featured before. On April 23rd, Over The Top Wrestling are that their home of the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin with 'Better Than Our Best: Return Of The Assassin'. The main event for the evening shall see Ryan Smile and Will Ospreay make their tag team debut. They demanded that they face the best that OTT can give them and they certainly get their wish as they'll be facing Pete Dunne and the OTT No Limits Champion; Luther Ward. While Dunne and Ward may be the very best in OTT, they are not the best of friends as they have been fighting for the Championship in recent times after Dunne turned on Ward in a previous match. We'll need to see if they can work together once again to face a team looking to make immediate impact in Dublin. A number of months ago, Gerry Humperdink told Justin Shape that if he and his fellow Gymnasties team-mates could win three matches in a row then they would be granted a championship match. They have so far won two matches. The third match could well be the toughest though as Shape shall be facing Dunkan Disorderly who is on a winning streak right now. Not only will The Gymnasties' championship opportunity disappear if Justin Shape loses but so will Shape's beard as it has been confirmed that will be on the line as well this Saturday. At OTT's last event, Jinny made her debut with a a win against Martina. Now the loss would have been bad enough for Martina except Jinny didn't stop there and took it upon herself to ridicule not only her opponent by everyone in attendance. Now Martina wants some sort of retribution. So she has called upon her friend, Nixon Newell who shall join her to face Jinny and the returning Katey Harvey. Jinny will no doubt be looking to repeat her win from March against Martina. However she may have a small issue in the fact that Katey Harvey has made it known that she's out to prove she's the most dominant female in Ireland. And that might not sit well will Jinny.

better than our best match card

*Tag Team*
Luther Ward & ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne vs ‘All Day Star’ Ryan Smile & ‘The Aerial Assasin’ Will Ospreay

*Tag Team*
‘Session Moth’ Martina & ‘The Welsh Destroyer’ Nixon Newell vs Katey Harvey & ‘The Knightbridge Fashionista’ Jinny

Charlie Garrett vs Jordan Devlin

*The Beard Vs The Streak*
Justin Shape vs Dunkan Disorderly

progress chapter 29: practically progress in every way
london, england

Finally we wrap up the wrestling weekend with another sold out show for PROGRESS Wrestling at the Electric Ballroom in London. PROGRESS always deliver on their events and this one shall be no different. It'll also be rather special as this show will feature two qualifying matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series which shall be airing on the WWE Network later this year. The first qualifying match will see Zack Sabre Jr face Flash Morgan Webster while Jack Gallagher shall face Pete Dunne in the second contest. Both matches would be a perfect fit for PROGRESS Wrestling regardless of their major meaning for the winners. This Sunday shall also see the continuation of the Atlas Championship tournament for PROGRESS' brand-new championship. The tournament is a round-robin style with two groups of four men. The winner of each group will meet in the final for the championship. The two matches that are kicking of Group B give us a glimpse of the calibre of matches we are going to see over the next few months with Joe Coffey and Rampage Brown going one on one while Michael Dante faces Damo O'Connor on April 23rd. The person who does eventually win this championship is going to have earned every piece of it. The main event this Sunday shall see Marty Scurll face Tommy End in a rematch from Chapter 28. The big difference this time is that Scurll's PROGRESS Championship will be on the line. At Chapter 28, Scurll refused to defend his championship. However, PROGRESS ensured that 'The Villain' did compete as he was scheduled for an open challenge. When End answered, Scurll was not best pleased. He was even less pleased after End knocked him out and pinned the champion. Such a big win over the champion put End as the next in line for a title shot and he'll get it this Sunday. If their last meeting is repeated then End could be walking out of the Electric Ballroom as the new PROGRESS Champion.

chapter 29: practically progress in every way match card

*PROGRESS Championship*
‘The Villian’ Marty Scurll (c) vs ‘Anti-Hero’ Tommy End

*Natural Progress Series Final*
Pastor William Eaver vs Damon Moser

*Atlas Championship Tournament – Group B*
Damo O’Connor vs Michael Dante

*Atlas Championship Tournament – Group B*
‘Iron Man’ Joe Coffey vs Rampage Brown

*Pick Your Opponent’s Partner*
Pollyanna & ??? vs ??? & Dahlia Black

*8-Man Tag Team*
F.S.U (‘White Lightning’ Mark Andrews & ‘The Pride Of Wales’ Eddie Dennis) & The London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) vs The Origin (‘The Showstealer’ Nathan Cruz, ‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero, ‘The Bastard’ Dave Mastiff & ‘Liverpool’s No.1’ Zack Gibson)

*WWE Global Cruiserweight Series Qualifier*
Zack Sabre Jr vs Flash Morgan Webster

*WWE Global Cruiserweight Series Qualifier*
‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne vs Jack Gallagher

That wraps up this week's preview of the weekend's wrestling schedule. Of course, there are many more events taking place over the three days. To find out more about the shows we've highlighted here as well as all the others, check us out at for the latest show and match announcements, British Wrestling event list, interviews, exclusive columns, reviews, reports and results!

Chyna 1969-2016

ATPW is saddened by the news of the passing of Joanie Marie Laurer, best known for her time in the WWF, under the name Chyna, at just 45 years old.

We had some rather interesting interactions with Joanie over the last few years, both publicly on Twitter and through DM's but I'd be lying if I said we "got on". We do however wish to offer our condolences to her friends and family at this time.

During her career, Chyna won the WWF Intercontinental Championship three times between October 1999 and September 2000 as well as WWF World Women's Championship in April 2001. 

I'd like to urge anyone to keep any speculation to themselves in respect of the family.

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1195 (Ambrose Asylum with Shane McMahon + Jericho vs. Zayn)

On 18th April 2016, WWE aired the 1195th episode of Monday Night RAW, having taped the show earlier that same day at The O2 in North Greenwich, London, England. With 13 days until Payback 2016, Shane McMahon was a guest on Dean Ambrose's talk show segment The Ambrose Asylum which would eventually lead to Chris Jericho facing off with Sami Zayn, Cesaro and Maryse guested on WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz's talk show segment Miz TV leading to Cesaro teaming with WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day to take on Miz and The League of Nations and Kevin Owens squared off against Dean Ambrose...but was it any good? Let's take a look!

monday night raw #1195 match card

Match 1 - Singles - Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho

Match 2 - WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contender's Tournament Semi-Final - Big Cass & Enzo Amore vs. The Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley

Match 3 - Singles - Fandango vs. Baron Corbin

Match 4 - Eight Man Tag Team - WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz & The League of Nations: Rusev, Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio with Maryse vs. Cesaro & The New Day: Big E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods 

Match 5 - Eight Woman Tag Team - Natalya, Becky Lynch, Paige & Sasha Banks vs. Naomi, Tamina, Summer Rae & WWE Women's Champion Charlotte with Ric Flair 

Match 6 - WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contender's Tournament Semi-Final - The Vaudevillains: Aiden English & Simon Gotch vs. The Usos: Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso

Match 7 - Singles - Heath Slater with The Social Outcasts: Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel vs. Apollo Crews (If Slater wins then Crews must join the Social Outcasts)

Match 8 - Singles - Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

owens, zayn and jericho interrupt the ambrose asylum with shane mcmahon, jericho defeats zayn

I get a big kick out of opening segments like this one, for some reason. I think it's because they're the promo equivalent of a spot fest, that keeps the good times coming. Things were helped by the fact that everyone involved is popular and more than capable on the microphone, with a red hot O2 giving the segment the extra drive that it needed. The opening was essentially there to confirm two matches for Payback 2016, as well as make two matches for later in the show, but was padded out nicely by the work of all five men who each bought their different styles to the table and created an entertaining talking segment. Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose stood out in particular for me, as Jericho's salty old vet gimmick is coming together nicely, whilst Ambrose used his off beat humour to work as the glue of the whole opening. A weird moment where The Lunatic Fringe pointed out James Corden's parents in the audience was probably the only thing that let this down, as it showed just how desperate WWE is to have anyone remotely notable in the front row of it's shows.

Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn could have a good match with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs, if that was what they so wished. That's exactly what this was a good TV match with Jericho and Zayn running through a series of nice sequences and creating a solid narrative that meant there wasn't a dull moment to be had. It was very well put together, to get the most out of the twelve allocated minutes. The two characters slotted together nicely and this propelled the narrative of the bout, with the more experienced Jericho making sure that Zayn couldn't hit a lot of his high-flying offence, only for Zayn to be able to pull something else out of his sleeve. Y2J moving out of the way of a potential outside dive from Zayn, only for The Underdog from the Underground to nail Jericho with a Tornado DDT after soaring through the turnbuckle.

Another defeat for Sami Zayn on television leaves him without a singles win since his 18th March victory over Stardust on Main Event #130. However, the manner of Zayn's defeat probably means that this isn't the end of the world, as Y2J poked him in eye before delivering a Codebreaker for the victory in a satisfying ending. As I said last week regarding Zayn's loss to AJ Styles, I feel that Zayn's popularity actually increases with every loss, he is after all branded as "The Underdog from the Underground", and it really wouldn't work if he was winning left, right and centre. Jericho's character was enhanced by the victory and his cheating ways should continue to increase his heat as he heads into a match with Dean Ambrose in 13 days time. 

fast-forward...Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows interrupt an interview with AJ Styles, oooh Bullet Club friends...

amore and cass defeat dudley boyz to advance to the final of the wwe tag team championship number one contender's tournament 

A fairly simple, but non the less captivating slice of tag team action here, as Enzo Amore & Big Cass won their first match on Monday Night RAW and advance in the WWE Tag Team Championship Tournament. The high-energy duo had the crowd rocking with a charismatic promo, before both put in a strong performances, opposite the veteran tandem. It wasn't particularly flashy and stuck to the basic tag team format that pretty much everyone knows, with Amore playing the Certified G in peril, before Cass was able to make a wonderful comeback. Cass and Amore's big man, small man act works very well on WWE's main show, perhaps more so than I'd imagined it would and the commentary made a point of bringing up the dynamic of the team. Bubba Ray and D-Von allowed their opponents to look great throughout, and when Amore pinned Bubba Ray following some heel miscommunication and a Rocket Launcher, the new kids on the block seemed like genuine stars. 

reigns and styles meet face to face, gallows and anderson attack reigns

A very interesting segment here for sure, as WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns cut his most heely promo to date in front of a fairly hostile North Greenwich audience. After repeating his "I'm not a good guy" speech for the third week in a row, Reigns addressed his match with AJ Styles at Payback 2016 and threatened to hit anyone who got in the way of victory. Reigns character has been getting closer and closer to the sweet spot over the last few weeks and keeping his television time fairly limited (the entire segment went just over 8 minutes) took away the "forced down our throats" element that many fans like to bring up and has meant that his appearance have begun to feel special. Styles was on form also and had some nice back and forth on the microphone after interrupting Reigns that managed to push their bout on 1st May, but of course, that wasn't it. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows jumped Reigns and left him laying, whilst Styles walked away, adding an extra layer to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship bout and leaving things wide open heading into Monday Night RAW #1196 next week.

fast-forward...Styles tells Reigns he didn't have anything to do with the attack...Baron Corbin destroys Fandango and takes out Dolph Ziggler who was on commentary, more banter for The Big Breakfast...

miz tv with cesaro, cesaro & new day defeat miz & the l.o.n.

The Miz and Maryse's act at the moment is spot on, they easily get on the crowds tits and that's exactly what they are supposed to do. Miz bringing up a picture of Prince George on the big screen was a little bit corny and perhaps a misunderstanding on WWE's part of how attached a lot of Britons are to the Royal Family, but the WWE Intercontinental Champion did come across as a massive jebbend when he began insulting a small child. Cesaro's suit game was strong as he interrupted The A-Lister and things got heated between the pair. Miz quoted Taken which got "boring" chants, before Cesaro put the exclamation mark on things by quoting Roddy Piper and claiming he was all out of bubblegum. After a few teased match-ups, we'd eventually get a Eight Man Tag bout, introduced by Cesaro ripping away his suit to reveal The New Day as his partners.

A lively eight man tag bout, that kept the action coming and continued to have the London crowd on board. Another straight-forward structure here, but one that was done well with all eight participants in the match working hard to put on an entertaining contest. The initial face-shine made the most of the exciting offence that the New Day and Cesaro could come up with as a unit, whilst Xavier Woods worked particularly well in the face in peril role with some strong selling as he took an extended beatdown from the heel side. The closing stretch of the contest was thrilling spot-fest with Big E in particular standing out as he managing to hit a Belly to Booty suplex on Alberto Del Rio, before evading the Miz's Skull Crushing Finale attempt to hit a Big Ending. The excitement came to a head when Cesaro transitioned beautifully into a Neutraliser to get the win for his team by pinning Sheamus. A fun match, that gave Cesaro some momentum heading into his Intercontinental Championship match at Payback 2016, although it was pretty much a case of treading water for everyone else.

fast-forward...Mauro Ranallo interviews WWE Women's Champion Charlotte and Ric Flair, Natalya interrupts and reveals that she a rematch at Payback and says she'll have Bret Hart in her corner...

natalya, lynch, paige and banks defeat naomi, tamina, rae and charlotte

Who booked two eight person tag team matches right next to one another? I was genuinely surprised that the O2 didn't turn on this one, as it was a real piece of filler, that never felt like it truly got going. The only storyline that was involved was Natalya and Charlotte's family feud thingy and whilst the other women have had numerous ins and outs with each other before it didn't feel like this was even thought about being explored and left things feeling just a little bit flat for me. Natalya locking the Sharpshooter on Charlotte and making her tap out for the second week in a row, strengthened her position as Number One Contender, but beyond this I can't help thinking that the time could have been better spent. Allowing two women to shine bright would have been a much better option than having eight of them get lost in the mix.

fast-forward...Recap of Gallows and Anderson attacking Reigns and Styles and Reigns backstage confrontation...

the vaudevillains defeat the usos to advance to the final of the wwe tag team championship number one contender's tournament

Considering this clash went under four minutes, I thought the Vaudevillains and The Usos managed to create an quality tag bout, that crammed a lot into the time. The finishing sequence especially was done well and showcased Aiden English and Simon Gotch, while also protecting the Usos. The story played out with Jey Uso diving to the outside onto Gotch, and then grasping his taped up shoulder in pain, with English taking advantage and sending Uso into the ringpost before a Whirling Dervish gave the Vaudevillains a victory on their Monday Night RAW debut. Having Big Cass and Enzo Amore and The Vaudevillains go over The Dudley Boyz and The Usos on the same show, sent out a big message about WWE's plans for the tag team division over the coming months, with the division looking the healthiest it has done for a very long time. 

crews defeats slater

It was nice to see Apollo Crews involved in a little bit of storyline this week, as he picked up his eight TV win in a row. It wasn't exactly the biggest chunk of story and featured a stipulation that seemingly came out of nowhere, but none the less it gave Crews' weekly squash just a little bit extra. Basically, had Crews suffered his first loss since early February to Heath Slater he would have been forced to join The Social Outcasts, after the stiplation was made on the RAW Pre-Show. Two moments from the contest made this one stand out from Crews' previous matches on Monday Night RAW, the first being a beautiful moonsault off the apron onto Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel and the second being a decent near fall for Slater as he rolled through on a Crews crossbody for a two count. The Spin-Out powerbomb would get the win for Crews. 

ambrose defeats owens, jericho lays out ambrose

The seventh televised bout between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose since November closed the show, with the pair stringing together a decent television contest. Similar to Zayn and Jericho earlier, these two are always going to deliver some very watchable action and that's exactly what this was, even if it lacked a little bit of substance that you'd really want from the final match on the show. Perhaps that's why the crowd began to chant for commentator John "Bradshaw" Layfield at one point during the match? All in all, this was a good wrestling match, that suffered from an over familiarity and a lack of purpose. Very easy to watch, but almost completely missable at the same time. 

The finish was perhaps the freshest part of the bout, as Ambrose dodged an Owens cannonball attempt, and used a school boy roll up to get Owens in position for a Dirty Deeds that would give The Lunatic Fringe a clean victory in his first match on Monday Night RAW since WrestleMania 32. Ambrose is still undefeated against Owens in WWE, with five clear victories over his rival. The show would close with Chris Jericho attacking Ambrose and nailing him with a Codebreaker as their feud became even more physical. With both picking victories up on this show, their rivalry has been elevated above that of Owens and Sami Zayn, as WWE sets the pair up for what should be a must-see clash at Payback 2016.

atpw scale rating - 5.54/10

Perhaps a slight step down in quality from the two weeks that proceeded it, but this week's Monday Night RAW was still a watchable slice of wrestling television pretty much throughout it's three hour running time. A hyped crowd drove things along from the exciting opening segment, with the three marquee bouts all providing something different. Chris Jericho and Sami Zayn flowed through a well-crafted, if a little brief main event, the eight man tag was a thrilling clash that showcase both sides well and Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens closed the show by adding another chapter to their storied rivalry. The undercard was highlighted by Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows attacking Roman Reigns following a solid segment with AJ Styles, whilst both WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contender's matches managed to set up the winners nicely for a fresh clash in 13 days time. The show was let down by a pointless eight woman tag clash and a lack of urgency at times, but WWE is still in fine shape for the most part as they head to their next milestone event on 1st May.

Monday, 18 April 2016

TV Review: WWE Monday Night RAW #1194 (Cesaro vs. Owens *WWE Intercontinental Championship #1 Contender's Match*)

On 11th April 2016, WWE aired the 1194th episode of Monday Night RAW live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA on the USA Network. 8 days removed from WrestleMania 32, Kevin Owens confronted Shane McMahon (who was in control of the show for the 2nd week running), and ended up facing off with Cesaro for a shot at The Miz's WWE Intercontinental Championship, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns teamed with former rival Bray Wyatt to face League of Nations member Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio and Sami Zayn attempted to insert himself into WWE World Heavyweight Championship match by taking on #1 Contender AJ Styles...but was it any good? Let's take a look, shall we?

monday night raw #1194 match card

Match 1 - WWE Intercontinental Championship #1 Contendership - Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

Match 2 - WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contendership Tournament Quarter Final - The Lucha Dragons: WWE United States Champion Kalisto & Sin Cara vs. The Dudley Boyz: Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley

Match 3 - WWE Women's Championship - Natalya vs. Charlotte (C) w/Ric Flair

Match 4 - WWE Tag Team Championship #1 Contendership Tournament Quarter Final - The Social Outcasts: Curtis Axel & Heath Slater with The Social Outcasts: Bo Dallas & Adam Rose vs. The Usos: Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso

Match 5 - Singles: If Sami Zayn wins he get's a WWE World Heavyweight Championship shot at Payback - AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn 

Match 6 - Singles - Adam Rose with Bo Dallas vs. Apollo Crews

Match 7 - Tag Team - Bray Wyatt & Roman Reigns vs. The League of Nations: "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus & Alberto Del Rio w/ Rusev

In Memory of: Blackjack Mulligan

Commentary: John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton

Sponsored by: Tapout and JC Penney

owens interrupts mcmahon, cesaro defeats owens to get a shot at the wwe intercontinental championship

This week's Monday Night RAW kicked off with Shane McMahon giving it the big ones, because for some reason (apparently "overwhelming social media support", which of course WWE has been known to listen closely to in the past) he was in charge of the show for the second week in a row. Los Angeles was pretty hot for him and his run down of what he had planned for the show gave a much clearer picture than last week's opening segment. The climax of the segment saw Kevin Owens interrupt "The Boy Wonder", with Owens bursting into a rant about how many thing weren't fair, including the fact that he was yet to have his rematch for the WWE Intercontinental Championship that he lost to Zack Ryder at WrestleMania 32, but is now in the hands of The Miz. Of course, McMahon decided to hand Owens another pretty unfair decision, by placing him in a match with Cesaro where the winner would receive a WWE Intercontinental title shot. 

A belting opening contest from Cesaro and Owens, as you'd expect from these two. The bout was driven by it's narrative as Owens targeted Cesaro's arm and shoulder, which was wrapped in kinesio tape with a number of different submission holds. The Swiss Superman was spot on with his selling for the most part, making sure he was using his other arm for his uppercuts. The other side of the story was Cesaro's multiple attempts to use the Cesaro Swing, the first of which produced a brilliant moment when Owens halted the attempt by kicking Cesaro in the injured shoulder, before the Swiss Superman just double stomped him in the chest. The King of Swing did manage to get the move down for a short while, but once again the arm gave out in another moment of quality storytelling. It was a shame that the finish came off as a little sloppy as Cesaro attempted to turn a Pop-Powerbomb into a rana and transition it into his Neutralizer finish. It was a little bit too much going on here and unfortunately one little slip made the rest of the sequence fall down like a deck of cards. However, we are left with Cesaro placed in title programme just two weeks after his return, whilst Owens is freed up for his feud with Sami Zayn to continue.

fast-forward...Some bloke called Dr. Phil turn up and had some random shit to say to Charlotte and Ric Flair for reasons that I will never truly understand...

dudley boyz defeat lucha dragons to advance to the semi finals of the wwe tag team championship number one contenders tournament, enzo and cass have more words for dudley boyz

A dominant performance from the Dudley Boyz here as they coasted through a fairly hapless looking Lucha Dragons. To protect Lucha Dragons a little bit and mainly current WWE United States Champion Kalisto, they did an angle during the ad-break where Kalisto got injured down by the announce table, therefore leaving Sin Cara to go it alone. There was actually some cool shit that came out of it, with a spirited and skillful comeback sequence from Cara, but with the bout going less than four minutes, there wasn't enough to fully get your teeth into. I'm all for highlighting the strength of the Dudley Boyz (who won with a 3D), but I feel like this tag tournament should be being used to highlight the strength of the tag team division as a whole rather than just a handful of teams. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady were out to chat shit with Bubba Ray and D-Von and it seems clear that these teams might be on collision course in this tourney, with Enzo and Cass set to face The Ascension on Thursday Night Smackdown. Personal highlight, Enzo calling D-Von, Devon. 

the l.o.n. confront reigns, wyatt family attacks the l.o.n., shane makes the l.o.n. vs. reigns and wyatt for later in the show

It was the ghosts of storylines past for Roman Reigns this week, as all his late 2015 feud descended upon him in a weird mish-mosh of a segment. Firstly we were taking back to December when after Reigns had done his "I'm not a good guy" schtick out came Sheamus and his League of Nations buddies to talk about being from places other than America and such. They also mentioned chucking the "weak link" King Barrett last week, which the audience was supposed to buy as somehow making them strong and more of a threat. The most interesting things about the segment was, of course, the continued babyface turn of Bray Wyatt and his Wyatt Family who would make the save for Reigns and even coloborate with him to take out the L.O.N. The group is gaining more traction as babyfaces, but there is still a lot to be explored within the group dynamic, with Braun Strowman in particular stand out like Jim Duggan's thumb. Shane O'Mac was out to make himself a match, trying to push the whole odd couple partnership between Reigns and Wyatt, which let's face it, was the only real hook that the match had going for it.

charlotte defeats natalya to retain the wwe women's championship

More head scratching celebrity booking here. At the heart of it though was a solid television bout between Natalya and Charlotte, who both worked hard and created some quality submission based wrestling that was crisp and enjoyable to watch. Despite Natalya getting another title shot for literally no reason at all, the whole Hart vs. Flair stuff was played well and would have been a recognisable trope for many a casual or lapsed fan that may have been tuning in, that could have potentially pulled them in to the quality of the still-fledgling WWE Women's division. Whilst the pair never threatened to produce a break-away match, it was all done nicely and allowed Charlotte to continue to build her already impressive run as WWE Women's Champion and showcased the shiny new belt well. That lad Dr. Phil sitting at ringside and occasionally being interviewed by Byron Saxton was super weird though, especially when he initially condemned Charlotte's cheating and then went on to put over WWE's women's division as if it was the best thing since sliced bread no. 2. Who is Dr. Phil? 

fast-forward...Renee Young interviewed Sami Zayn, with AJ Styles interrupted the interview to give it the big ones a head of their headline bout later in the show...

the usos defeats social outcasts to advance to the semi-final of the wwe tag team championship number one contenders tournament, Gallows and Anderson return/debut and attack the usos

After The Usos won a fairly straight forward bout over Curtis Axel and Heath Slater of the Social Outcasts, it was finally time for NJPW's Luke (Doc) Gallows and Karl Anderson to show up on WWE programming. They got a big pop and went about dismantling the Usos, just because they bloody well could. The whole attack angle made Gallows and Anderson look like bad-ass motherfuckers who don't need no man. Or something like that. Having them get kicked out of the arena while Michael Cole jizzed over them "finally showing up" was a bit weird though. Basically Gallows and Anderson are here and they looked the real deal, with The Usos providing them with solid opposition that will help the WWE audience get themselves acclimatised to the former 3 time IWGP Tag Team Champions. 
fast-forward...The Miz had problems with M&Ms, water and Cesaro...

styles defeats zayn to deny zayn a shot at the wwe world heavyweight championship

  A savvy piece of booking here that managed do a number of things at the same time. The first point to address has to be that it provided us with a top drawer contest on television, that was crisp and clean, in front of a hyped crowd and actually meant something. Styles vs. Zayn was always going to be a winner wasn't it? Two of the best pro wrestlers on the planet right now, going at it provided some great back and forth action that had the crowd on the edge of it's collective seat. The added caveat that Sami Zayn had the opportunity to earn himself a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match if he were to win the match made it feel ten times as important as if the bout had just been thrown out on television and made each near fall and submission hold mean even more. Similar to the Owens vs. Cesaro bout earlier in the night, the finish perhaps struggled to live up to the action that had gone before, but credit has to go to Zayn for recovering from his minor slip well. 

The second point about the contest that I'd like to talk about is how it managed to add to AJ Styles legitimacy as the Number One contender to Roman Reigns' WWE World Heavyweight Championship. We'd seen Styles win the opportunity to face Reigns last week by pinning Chris Jericho, but it was a Fatal Four-Way match. It was a fun bout, but the contest doesn't exactly lead itself to creating strong babyface title contenders, with there always having to be an element of luck for the winner. So WWE used the storyline from last week, where Zayn missed the bout due to a backstage assault by Kevin Owens and used it to drive this week's show and solidify Styles as a top contender. Zayn will be more than fine, we've seen him lose a number of times across WWE programming and it only seems to make his appeal grow, thanks to the way that handles himself. Plus with the feud with Owens being allowed to bubble under this show, Zayn has a programme to slot straight into and keep entertaining the millions with straight away. 

fast-forward...After a recap of their match, AJ Styles put over Sami Zayn backstage, with Shane McMahon putting both guys over also...

highlight reel get cancelled, ambrose asylum takes it's slot

A straight-forward segment here, that actually worked a hell of a lot better than it probably should have and that's down to having two top quality talkers in the ring. Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel had been advertised as having it's biggest guest ever and anyone who'd been paying attention to Jericho's recent character shift knew exactly who it was going to be. Of course it was Jericho himself, talking to himself. It continued just long enough to get annoying and get a decent pop for an interruption from Dean Ambrose. What followed was a fun mix of the two's characters, with Ambrose's comedic timing putting an exclamation mark on the confrontation and produced a fun segment that advanced a fledgling rivalry well. 

crews defeats rose

Apollo Crews continued to impress as he smashed through Adam Rose to pick up his sixth TV victory in a row. Another squash for Crews after we've seen him walk over Alex Riley, Tyler Breeze and Curtis Axel in short contests over the last couple of weeks. The One Man Nation once again looked impressive with Rose doing a decent job of making his opponent look as strong as possible. I'm patiently waiting for Crews to be put in a strong storyline at the moment, but I've got a feeling WWE will continue with these quick victories for at least the next couple of weeks.

fast-forward...A vignette on Baron Corbin aired, focusing mainly on his Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal win at WrestleMania 32 and his match with Dolph Ziggler on Monday Night RAW #1193...

reigns and wyatt defeats the l.o.n.

The tag bout played out almost like a house show match in it's structure, mainly because there was no real consequence on the action, but the added level of intrigue based around Bray Wyatt's babyface turn made it more than watchable. Wyatt was the clear star of the bout for me, which is interesting considering that Roman Reigns is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion and how much effort WWE has put into making him look like a star over the past twelve months. Once the contest had settled down, it was Reigns who was working the face in peril role with Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio roughing up the champ. It was a wise move by whoever helped to put the match together, as Reigns got a heated response from the Los Angeles crowd, which also certainly fed into a stronger face pop when Wyatt got back into the action. 

The relationship between Wyatt and Reigns was played well, with the little moments, like Wyatt initially teasing that he wouldn't accept Reigns' tag, really making the match for me. The dynamic between the two drove the match, and even though the League of Nations have never seemed like a viable threat to anyone but themselves, even their part in the narrative worked and helped to produce a more interesting match. Whilst the bout clearly established Wyatt and his family as babyfaces, I'm not sure what direction that WWE will take them following this match. Reigns will need to be pushed in AJ Styles' direction to push their match at Payback, but after seeing Wyatt defeat the L.O.N. with a partner that he isn't used to, I'm not sure that there's much interest in having the two groups continue to feud.

atpw scale rating - 5.85/10 

Another strong outing for WWE's flagship show here, with a number of stand-out matches. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens provided a strong opener with Shane McMahon kicking off the show getting the crowd hyped quickly, Roman Reigns teaming with Bray Wyatt offered plenty of intrigue even if there was a lack of urgency against the League of Nations, whilst AJ Styles and Sami Zayn arguably stole the show with a great TV bout. The undercard was highlighted by a fun interaction between Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose to continue their feud and the show remained interesting by having stipulations on every match but one. 

WWE has come out of WrestleMania swinging on Monday night's, with two good edition of RAW, we'll see if they can continue this next week with episode 1195.