Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Opinion: John Cena's 100 Greatest Matches (20-6)

John Cena sucks. John Cena sucks. That's how the old song goes. Thousands singing in building around the world to this theme song, just to show how much they believe Cena "sucks". And I suppose this list of bouts is my reply to them, in a way. However, it's also a celebration of Cena's return to WWE from injury this coming Monday on Raw on the USA Network, Sky Sports and elsewhere. The 39 year old's return will almost certainly give the show a boost, both in terms of excitement and TV ratings, with a number of mouth-watering potential feuds and storyline opportunities. There's a real story to be told with Cena trying to find his place within the "New Era". 

So to get you all lathered up for The Cenation Leader's return, here's 100 of his best matches. You can find matches 100-21 here, we'll be going a bit more in depth from now on, as we look at Match 20-6, before the final article will complete the Top 5. This second part includes matches against the likes of Kevin Owens, Edge, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Cesaro and Shawn Michaels in matches ranging from the main event of SummerSlam to the main event of Monday Night RAW! The list has been kept to no more than four competitors for singles matches and no more than three-a-side for tag bouts, so there are no Royal Rumbles, Money in the Bank Ladder matches, Elimination Chambers, Survivor Series tag bout etc. here. Enjoy!

20 – vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H – Survivor Series 2009

With a superb twist at the very beginning of the bout, these three guys work very well together to produce a perhaps surprisingly satisfying triple threat bout in the main event of Survivor Series 2009. With the WWE Championship on the line, this is, in my opinion, the best three-way match that Cena has ever participated in, full of great near-falls and dramatic moments.

19 – vs. Seth Rollins – SummerSlam 2015

Rollins has featured a number of time on the list so far, but for me this was the best match between the two (so far). The crowd is red hot throughout, as Rollins and Cena battle over both the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and WWE United States Championship with a number of creative sequences and stellar false finishes. The match would probably find itself higher up the list if it weren't for the shoe-horned appearance of comedian Jon Stewart at the very end of the contest.

18 – vs. Cesaro – Monday Night RAW #1153

Seriously, how many great matches has Cena had with Cesaro and they've all come on Monday Night RAW! As part of Cena's United States Open Challenge that lit up WWE's TV product last summer, The Cenation Leader and The Swiss Superman once again put on a great match that has the crowd coming unglued. Similar to Rollins match from SummerSlam, it's finish is the reason that it doesn't find itself higher up the list.

17 – vs. CM Punk – SummerSlam 2011

The first singles match on this list against CM Punk finds itself in the lofty position of 17th as the pair main evented SummerSlam over the WWE Championship. An often over-looked bout, because of it's rushed build, Cena and Punk's chemistry is still on full display here, in a slow-burner that produces compelling action and features some brilliant false finishes. Triple H's role of Special Guest referee adds an extra narrative string to the bout bow. Again, another case of the finish not quite standing up to the rest of the match, but this one has less of an effect than previous mentions.

16 – vs. Randy Orton (Iron Man) – Bragging Rights 2009

A very different type of Iron Man match as Cena and Orton battle over the WWE Championship in the main event of the first Bragging Rights PPV. The Falls Count Anywhere, Anything Goes gimmick provides a number of interesting story-telling elements, as the duo put on the best bout of their storied rivalry. Big spots and over-the-top moments create a hugely entertaining match, where the hour time-limit seems to fly by.

15 – vs. Edge (Last Man Standing) – Backlash 2009

When Cena reignited his feud with Edge in 2009, the pair created a brutal Last Man Standing match that was full of all the hatred and emotion that made their rivalry one of the best remembered of the decade. With some huge spots, including an Attitude Adjustment into the crowd, the contest builds rather nicely as the duo attempt to keep each other down for the count. Perhaps let down slightly by it's mildly screwy finish, but in my opinion the closing spot more than makes up for any misgivings.

14 – vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules) – Extreme Rules 2012

A bloody brawl that is anything but pretty, yet remains a captivating watch from start to finish. With a narrative that couldn't be any more John Cena as he get's his arse kicked and digs deep to pull out an impressive victory, this bout was completely different from anything WWE was producing at the time. Whilst this is a loud and brash contest, it's made by a couple of nuances in the pairs selling and reactions to each other throughout, as they keep adding and adding to the branches of narrative. A couple of sports-entertainment flourishes  remind you that you'll still watching WWE! 

13 – vs. Umaga (Last Man Standing) – Royal Rumble 2007

Remembered as one of the best Last Man Standing bouts of all time, there's an argument to be made that this is the best bout of it's kind to ever have occurred in a WWE ring. Cena pisses blood in a cleverly crafted, character-driven encounter. A creative finish, builds nicely over a few minutes to offer a wonderful closing visual. 

12 – vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield (I Quit) – Judgment Day 2005

I've described the previous two matches on the list as “bloody”, this match takes things to the next level and beyond. In my opinion, WWE's best “I Quit” match, Cena and JBL go to war, using a number of interesting props and objects in a hard-hitting brawl. There's some quality moments all along the way, including some brilliant use of the gimmick, which lends itself to spots that are still as impressive over ten years later. If there were any doubts about Cena's main event credentials after a mediocre WrestleMania 22 match between the two, then this clash should have dispelled them, in his best match to this point. It could also be argued that this is JBL's greatest bout!

11 – vs. CM Punk – Night of Champions 2012

The second match with CM Punk inside the top 20 is their WWE Championship bout in the main event of 2012's Night of Champions. The duo work so well together here, pulling out a number of quality transitions and reversals, in an intense clash. With Punk now a fully blown heel, the bout can explore avenues that previous encounters couldn't, as we get some rather brilliant story-telling, helped along by a hometown crowd for Cena with his father also in attendance. Perhaps let down slightly by the finish, which after both men had kicked out of numerous finishers from each (including Punk hitting a Rock Bottom) leaves things a flat, had things ended on a slightly different note then this would have made the Top 10, at least.

10 – vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels – Backlash 2007

Two WWE Hall of Famers and two first-balot future Hall of Famers do battle in a Fatal Four-Way match and it's just as good as it should be. Some thrilling sequences of action involving all four guys, with their numerous relationships and storylines giving the match a little extra depth. Each man is on top of his game with plenty of in-ring chemistry between each, which really helps to drive the match and stop it from becoming an spot-fest. However there is shit loads of superkicks and who doesn't love superkicks? 

9 – vs. Edge (TLC) – Unforgiven 2006

The peak of one of Cena's biggest feuds, this is one of the best singles Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches in wrestling history. The hatred between the two men can almost be felt coming through the screen as they batter each other with nasty chair shots, with the match escalating quickly as both men take huge bumps off ladders and through tables. It's a nice inversion of the “Fighting against the odds” narrative, as Edge's hometown crowd are almost 100% behind him, adding a unique feel that completes the bout. The finish, that see's Cena hit an FU off a ladder through two tables, has perhaps never been bettered since, as the match became Cena best match up to this point. A real marquee clash for a performer whose main event run was still in it's infancy. 

8 – vs. Kevin Owens – Elimination Chamber 2015

A different type of wrestling match than John Cena is known for, as he and Kevin Owens have pacy, back and forth bout, that verges on being a spot-fest. The two characters instantly connect and the performers soon follow with the two creating some crisp sequences of action with a real impact behind them. The crowd laps it up, popping for the near falls with Cena and Owens both having some tremendous false finishes that had everyone convinced that the match is over. Cena works extremely hard throughout to make sure that the “debuting” Owens looks as good as possibly, bumping all over the shop for his opponent and selling like he's been in a real battle. Owens winning the contest creates a moment that will be talked about for years to come and is the icing on the cake for this instant classic.

7 – vs. Kevin Owens – Money in the Bank 2015

The rematch that outdid the original...just. Maybe it's not a crisp and free-flowing as the first, but for me, this is the better match because there was something on the line. As good as the first match was, it was still in essence an exhibition match, whilst this one had the real consequence of a rebuilt United States Championship being on the line, as well as Cena looking to gain a modicum of revenge in a way, for the initial defeat. There's a bit more of a narrative element to this contest as well, with Cena trying out new things and using moves he'd rarely used, whilst Owens stuck to the gameplan that won him the original match, it's a brilliantly subtle piece of psychology that becomes the back bone of contest.

6 - vs. Cesaro - Monday Night RAW #1154

Just a week after the other match with Cesaro inside the Top 20, the two were back at it again and this time it was even better. Everything that had been done so well the week previously was done even better this time with the two waging war and taking things to the next level. The duo pace things perfectly, with neither man staying in control of the action for long and the pendulum of momentum swinging between the two throughout. Top notch submission sequences, believable near falls and a crowd that falls in love with the action as the match builds, by the end of the match, the men's' facial expressions are making the action even better, selling pain, frustration and determination all at the same time in a fabulous piece of television. As opposed to the last match, this one has completely clean and satisfying finish! Inside the Top Five matches in Monday Night RAW history...but as we'll see in the Top 5, it's not the best Cena has had on the show...

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Opinion: John Cena's 100 Greatest Matches (100-21)

John Cena sucks. John Cena sucks. That's how the old song goes. Thousands singing in building around the world to this theme song, just to show how much they believe Cena "sucks". And I suppose this list of bouts is my reply to them, in a way. However, it's also a celebration of Cena's return to WWE from injury this coming Monday on Raw on the USA Network, Sky Sports and elsewhere. The 39 year old's return will almost certainly give the show a boost, both in terms of excitement and TV ratings, with a number of mouth-watering potential feuds and storyline opportunities. There's a real story to be told with Cena trying to find his place within the "New Era". 

So to get you all lathered up for The Cenation Leader's return, here's 100 of his best matches. Let's start with 100-20, and then we'll go a bit more in depth from there. The first part of this list includes many a PPV main event, including some from WrestleMania, as well as hidden gems tucked away on episode of RAW, Smackdown and even ECW on Sci Fi! The list has been kept to no more than four competitors for singles matches and no more than three-a-side for tag bouts, so there are no Royal Rumbles, Money in the Bank Ladder matches, Elimination Chambers, Survivor Series tag bout etc. here. Enjoy!

100 - vs. Edge - Monday Night RAW #708

99 - vs. Randy Orton - SummerSlam 2009

98 - vs. Wade Barrett (Chairs Match) - TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2010

97 - vs. The Rock - WrestleMania XXIX 

96 - vs. Triple H - Monday Night RAW #841

95 - vs. Seth Rollins (Tables Match) - TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs...And Stairs 2014 

94 - vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell) - Payback 2013

93 - with The Rock vs. The Awesome Truth - Survivor Series 2011 

92 - vs. Damien Sandow - WWE Monday Night RAW #1066

91 - with Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Damien Sandow & The Real Americans - WWE Monday Night RAW #1067

90 - vs. Randy Orton - Monday Night RAW #1081

89 - vs. Alberto Del Rio - Night of Champions 2011

88 - vs. Rusev (I Quit) - Payback 2015

87 - vs. Dolph Ziggler - Monday Night RAW #1024

86 - with Shawn Michaels vs. Montel Vontavious Porter & Mr. Kennedy - Friday Night Smackdown #391

85 - vs. Chris Jericho - RAW #639

84 - with Evan Bourne vs. Edge & Sheamus - Monday Night RAW #888

83 - vs. Randy Orton (Tables, Ladders & Chairs) - TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2013

82 - vs. Edge vs. The Big Show - WrestleMania 25

81 - vs. Dolph Ziggler - Monday Night RAW #917

80 - vs. Brock Lesnar - Night of Champions 2014

79 - vs. Mark Henry - Money in the Bank 2013

78 - vs. Johnny Nitro - ECW on Sci Fi #55

77 - vs. The Undertaker - Vengeance 2003

76 - vs. Rusev - WrestleMania 31

75 - vs. Randy Orton (Hell in a Cell) - Hell in a Cell 2009

74 - vs. Ryback (Last Man Standing) - Extreme Rules 2013

73 - with Team Hell No vs. The Shield (Elimination) - Monday Night RAW #1042

72 - vs. Randy Orton (Hell in a Cell) - Hell in a Cell 2014

71 - with Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle & The Undertaker - Smackdown #216

70 - vs. The Undertaker - Smackdown #254

69 - vs. Edge (Steel Cage) - Monday Night RAW #697

68 - vs. Randy Orton (I Quit) - Breaking Point 2009

67 - vs. Rusev - Fastlane 2015

66 - vs. Batista - WrestleMania XXVI

65 - vs. Batista (I Quit) - Over the Limit 2010

64 - vs. Cesaro - Monday Night RAW #1105

63 - vs. Triple H - Monday Night RAW #856

62 - vs. Dean Ambrose - Monday Night RAW #1140

61 - vs. Seth Rollins (Steel Cage) - Live From MSG: Lesnar vs. Big Show

60 - vs. Chris Jericho - Armageddon 2008 

59 - vs. Chris Jericho - Survivor Series 2008

58 - with Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Damien Sandow & The Real Americans - Friday Night Smackdown #741

57 - vs. Chris Jericho - SummerSlam 2005

56 - vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H - WrestleMania 24

55 - vs. Chris Jericho - Monday Night RAW #830

54 - vs. Wade Barrett - Hell in a Cell 2010

53 - vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H - Night of Champions 2009

52 - with Shawn Michaels vs. Batista & The Undertaker - No Way Out 2007

51 - vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. CM Punk (Hell in a Cell) - Hell in a Cell 2011

50 - with Team Hell No vs. The Shield - Monday Night RAW #1040

49 - vs. Seth Rollins - Friday Night Smackdown #749

48 - vs. Brock Lesnar - SummerSlam 2014

47 - vs. Randy Orton - SummerSlam 2007

46 - vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H (Elimination) - Backlash 2008

45 - vs. Bray Wyatt - WrestleMania XXX

44 - vs. Kurt Angle - No Way Out 2005

43 - vs. Bobby Lashley - The Great American Bash 2005

42 - vs. Batista - SummerSlam 2008

41 - vs. Kurt Angle - No Mercy 2003

40 - vs. Seth Rollins - Night of Champions 2015

39 - vs. Seth Rollins - Monday Night RAW #1157

38 - vs. Edge - SummerSlam 2006

37 - vs. Triple H - WrestleMania 22

36 - vs. Alberto Del Rio (Last Man Standing) - Vengeance 2011

35 - with Ryback & Sheamus vs. The Shield - Elimination Chamber 2013

34 - vs. John Morrison vs. The Miz (Steel Cage) - Extreme Rules 2011

33 - vs. Dolph Ziggler (Ladder) - TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2012

32 - vs. Kevin Owens - Battleground 2015

31 - vs. Shawn Michaels - Monday Night RAW #816

30 - vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing) - Payback 2014

29 - vs. Rob Van Dam - ECW One Night Stand 2006

28 - vs. Triple H - Night of Champions 2008

27 - vs. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels - Taboo Tuesday 2005

26 - vs. Chris Jericho vs. Christian - Vengeance 2005

25 - vs. Edge vs. Triple H - Backlash 2006

24 - vs. The Rock - WrestleMania XXVIII

23 - vs. Batista (Last Man Standing) - Extreme Rules 2010

22 - vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 23

21 - vs. Cesaro - Monday Night RAW #1082

Well, that's the first part of our John Cena's Greatest Matches list, we'll be revealing the matches that place 20-6 tomorrow evening, before showing you our Top Five matches on Monday as we get ready for Monday Night RAW.

What did you think? Did we get it right? What do you want to see in our Top 20? Let us know in the comments below! 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Wrestle Ropes' Ready for the Weekend - May 2016 Week 4 - NGW, OTT & DPW

We're back with yet another edition of our weekly article and either you people keep reading them or Across The Pond Wrestling like having us around. Either way this weekend we're firstly heading to Northallerton for New Generation Wrestling's event on Friday. On Saturday we are once again going across the Irish Sea to Dublin for Over The Top Wrestling before finally rounding off hopping over to Wales where Dragon Pro Wrestling are in action in Newport. Let's get Ready For The Weekend!

Kicking off the wrestling weekend and New Generation Wrestling will be at The Forum in Northallerton. The show will be main evented by the current NGW Undisputed Champion; 'The Showstealer' Nathan Cruz and Martin Kirby. In a different set of circumstances, Kirby could have been the man with the gold in this contest as he originally set to challenge Rampage Brown at NGW's last event at The Forum for the title. However, Cruz managed to become the champion before that happened. Now Martin Kirby gets to face the man at the top of the mountain and while the championship will not be on the line, a win would certain put Kirby in line for a future title match. Cruz will be focused on his triple threat championship defence that takes place just 24 hours later, but he certainly won't be ignoring the threat that Kirby poses. One of the men who will be challenging Cruz on May 28th will be Rampage Brown. He shall also be in action this Friday when he faces Liam Slater in a match that shall be a first between the two. Brown is hell-bent on destruction right now and nobody is safe from his wrath. His opponent in Northallerton will be the ever popular, Slater, a man who has had his own problems of late, mainly in the shape of Joseph Conners. While it would be wise for Slater to have eyes in the back of his head, if he's not looking at Brown then he might not have a head on his shoulders when Brown is finished with his this Friday. If Brown is dangerous, then Dara Diablo is just as dark. The man who once stood alongside the biggest and most loved names in NGW simply does not exist anymore. In his place, is a dark and dangerous man who is in full control of the demons inside him. His opponent is Matt Myers, a man who has a drive like he never has before. These two men meet a number of months ago and it was Myers who walked away with the win. Since then Matt Myers' ambition has grown with the fire inside him for success. The question now is can Matt Myers' fire still burn bright when it is face to face with the blackness of Dara Diablo's soul?

Match Card

‘The Showstealer’ Nathan Cruz vs Martin Kirby

Rampage Brown vs Liam Slater

‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero vs AJ Anderson

The Proven (Caz Crash & Sam Wilder) vs Team Sports (Ace Matthews & David Graves)

‘The Amazing’ Matt Myers vs Dara Diablo

Moving on to Saturday and Ireland's Over The Top Wrestling are back in Dublin at the Tivoli Theatre. The night will see The Gymnasties hard work come to fruition when they final challenge The Kings Of The North for the OTT Tag Team Championship. The Gymnasties have had to win three matches in a row to earn this title fight and they're bound to give it everything they have to finally win the championship they have desired for so long. The K.o.t.N. on the other hand have held the championship for a long time and will have no plans on releasing them this Saturday. The fact that it was Dunkan Disorderly of The K.o.t.N. who was the last hurdle The Gymnasties overcame on their road to the championship match will only add to Bonesaw & Damien Corvin's determination to win and keep the gold. Pete Dunne was originally scheduled to face Zack Sabre Jr this Saturday but an injury has meant that Dunne was without an opponent. Well he's got one now in the shape of 'Iron Man' Joe Coffey. These two men have never met one on one and the only interaction they have had in the squared circle was back in 2014. In those two years, these men have grown in ever sense of the word. Both are now bigger, stronger and more experienced. OTT is in one for one hell of a match in Dublin. The main event will see championship gold up for grabs as Luther Ward shall be putting the OTT No Limits Championship on the line against one of the most dangerous strikers in the world in 'Anti-Hero' Tommy End. Ward has been a mainstay of Over The Top Wrestling for a long time and is now in his second reign as champion. While known for his success as part of the Sumerian Death Squad, End has also held gold as singles competitor in multiple countries. This Saturday he will look to add another country to that list while Ward shall look to add another name to his list of men who have tried to take the championship from around his waist.

Match Card

OTT No Limits Championship
‘Anti-Hero’ Tommy End vs Luther Ward (c)

OTT Tag Team Championship
The Kings Of The North (Bonesaw & Damien Corvin) (c) vs The Gymnasties (B. Cool & Sammy D) (w/ Justin Shape)

‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll vs ‘All Day Star’ Ryan Smile

‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne vs ‘Iron Man’ Joe Coffey

Logan Bryce vs Bull Dempsey

The weekend rounds off with Dragon Pro Wrestling who will be back at their home of the Rodney Parade in Newport, Wales. In the last 9 months, DPW have been having more regular events in Newport and 'Battlelines' will be the latest. The main event will see the head trainer of the DPW Academy, Mike Bird bring the best of the Academy in the shape of Danny Jones and Bishop to face the current All Wales Champion; Big Grizzly and two trainees who have turned their back on the Academy, Jonny Doe and Joe 'Messy' Mezinger. Bird has had enough of Grizzly cheating his way to win and now with the help of Doe and Mezinger, he's had enough. His partners, Jones and Bishop are two of the finest men to come from the DPW Academy in recent memory. Jones came very close to becoming champion until the aforementioned cheating stopped it. Bishop on the other hand is undefeated in DPW, defeating some of the best on the roster. Bird, Jones and Bishop look to send a message this Sunday that dirty tactics and disrespect will not be the way of Dragon Pro Wrestling. This Sunday will also see the continuation of the Celtic Crown Women's Championship tournament with two d├ębuts. The first debut is Ciel Fontaine who carries a reputation of being a perfectionist with her work. That perfectionist trait has lead to her also being known as having quite a temper when things don't go her way. Her opponent and fellow debutante is Sierra Loxton, who is known for her very unique style, blending a mix of Lucha Libre and Joshi Puroesu to create vicious strikes that come with degree of showmanship. These two competitors will be a clash of styles, it'll come down to which style overcomes the other on May 28th and which debutante progresses to the next stage of the tournament. For a number of months, relations between former DPW Tag Team Champions; Panda Mask and Panda Cub have worsened. Things came to a head last month when they lost the championship to The Pure Breed. After that, things exploded between the two. This Sunday we're going to see one of the most popular tag teams in DPW tear themselves apart when they face each other one on one in Newport, Wales. This match may be less of who wins but rather who is the one to survive.

Match Card

Six-Man Tag Team
Danny Jones, Mike Bird & Bishop vs Big Grizzly, Jonny Doe & ‘Messy’ Joe Mezinger

Dragon Pro Tag Team Championship
The Pure Breed (Owen Wall & Matt Horgan) (c) (w/ Merlin Obediah Cambridge) vs ‘The Pride Of Wales’ Eddie Dennis & Lucky Bowden

Celtic Crown Women’s Championship Tournament Quarter-Final
Ciel Fontaine vs Sierra Loxton

Panda Mask vs Panda Cub

The Badman Invitational Scramble
Confirmed Entrants: ‘The Original Badman’ Beano, Oliver Sudden, Ian Williams III, Oliver Satchwell.

Dean Winter vs Brendan White

The Wild Boar vs ‘The Wonderboy’ Cal Adams

Kat Von Kaige Addresses Her Celtic Crown Semi-Final Match With Nixon Newell

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 www.wrestleropesuk.wordpress.com for the latest show and match announcements, British Wrestling event list, interviews, exclusive columns, reviews, reports and results!

Opinion: Squad Goals (Sean Taylor-Richardson)

Before we talk wrestling, indulge me in some football speak. The key element in the modern game, according to all of the learned pundits on television and twitter, is to build a competitive and balanced squad. Unfortunately my team, Arsenal, failed to assemble such a collective and consequently did not have the legs to last the season. Performing well in fits and starts and overly reliant on our weaker performers, we stuttered to second place, behind the astonishing Leicester City.

I’ve often thought my Arsenal fandom marries well with my WWE obsession: I’ve loved both since the age of 12; my wife tolerates but understands neither; and they both tend to promise me more than they can consistently deliver. As Arsenal’s title push was derailed between January to March, almost simultaneously WWE’s Wrestlemania card was stripped of momentum as the roster deficiencies were laid bare for all to see. I couldn’t help but note another connection between my dueling passions: neither organisation has built a squad to last the course and meet their fan’s lofty expectations.

Now, Arsenal can head into the transfer window and fix these issues (Arsenal fans can insert their own sarcastic remark here) but let’s get back to wrestling. What would a perfect squad look like for a wrestling organisation? What compliment of performers would be required to appeal to a broad fan base across a whole year of intense competition? What mix of talent could handle both the pressures of a grandiose Wrestlemania and the challenges of a Superstars taping on a cold Tuesday night in Tulsa? If the unlikely happens and, stay with me here, Shane and Steph do fall out and begin feuding, splitting the roster in two for the next round of Raw vs Smackdown, then we may see some serious squad building, WWE style. Where I to be assisting in the assembly of such a roster, this would be the spine I’d be looking to create.

The Main Eventer: John Cena

John is still the man that ticks the most boxes: promo, wrestling ability, experience, look, crossover appeal. He has the work ethic and the respect of the locker room so if you want to build your brand around someone, quite simply this is the guy to start with.

The Big Heel: Kevin Owens

Maybe he is too funny to be a true heel right now but I get the sense that if WWE pulled the trigger and put KO in the main events, his witty repertoire would be replaced with outright badassery. Just as a football team needs two centre backs who can complement one another, a wrestling roster needs a top face and heel who can make the magic happen. Cena and Owens have done so before and they will do again.

The All Rounder: Seth Rollins

Injuries happen and plans change. That’s where the all-rounder comes in to his own. A role once perfected by Edge, Rollins, his New Era successor, could be that guy as he can perform any number of roles: face or heel, hound of justice or corporate schmuck, high flying sympathetic challenger or beatable champ. If crisis hits, Rollins is the safe pair of hands a brand manager can rely on. A must for any roster.

The Women: Sasha Banks and Charlotte

If you’re building a woman’s division in 2016, these are the MVP drafts. Just as Cena and Owens could be the recurring feud in the male ranks, Sasha vs Charlotte could be the staple match of this brand’s women’s scene. Paige has a quirky, unique style and Becky is adorable as the underdog but the upside of Miss Banks and Miss Flair is too strong to ignore: talented already but with scope to grow further. Character wise they are vastly different, opening up electric opportunities for any programme, whilst the flexibility they offer in regard to who can play heel or face only adds to their versatility.

The Veteran: Chris Jericho

A lot of options here: Brock Lesnar and Undertaker are box office superstars but I’d be looking for a veteran who can offer more in terms of dates and aiding character development. Brock might pop a crowd but how much could a young guy learn being viciously pummelled for 15 minutes? That makes Chris Jericho the obvious choice for this slot. Able to play a variety of roles and mesh with performers of different styles, he would be a guaranteed good match on the card and a positive learning experience for the younger worker. We’re often told there are not enough “good hands” left in the business so hold on to those that we have.

The character wrestler: Bray Wyatt

There is so much untapped potential for Bray that it would be a crime to omit him. His inclusion would add colour to the roster, with his promos, narrative arcs and angles being totally unique to a show in which variety is king. He also offers the prospect of a stable which is a required booking trope for any wrestling group. Some might go for Undertaker and, as was aforementioned, experience is great but more than a smattering of youth is needed to keep things fresh.

The Underdog: Sami Zayn

The following views do not represent ATPW: A friend of mine once commented that Sami Zayn shouldn’t be likeable as he is “ginger, a hipster, dances like an idiot and looks like Seth Rogen who hasn’t been funny in years”. A little harsh perhaps (Bad Neighbours was okay) but when pressed, said friend admitted he still did like Zayn, adding that he just “didn’t know why”. Innate and inexplicable likeability is always a good trait in an underdog babyface and, for my money, Zayn has delivered NXT’s two most emotive moments: his title win against Neville and his recent send off in Dallas. So I’d pick him. And his hat.

One for the kids: Kalisto

Kids love masked wrestlers. Case in point: as I attended a family event last week, I was greeted at the door by an excited, sugar high 9 year old who proudly declared he had a new Sin Cara mask. Ignoring the fact that this anecdote represents that my first social interaction at this fairly formal occasion was to talk wrestling with a child, it also proves my point masterfully. Kids love a fella in a mask even if adults are non-plussed. It looks cool, sells merch and it doesn’t matter if you switch the performer underneath it: they won’t know, they’re just kids! So my brand needed a masked wrestler and I picked Kalisto, the superior of the Lucha Dragons.

The Comedy act: The New Day

New Day Rock: fact. Funny equals money: opinion. But is the opinion shifting? The New Day supposedly moved the most merchandise during Wrestlemania weekend and at last month’s Raw taping in London, I was overwhelmed by the colourful sea of their shirts that spilled from the bars and restaurants. As well as popularity, a comedy act helps vary the tone of the show, providing something for everyone and ensuring entertainment is always at a premium. Whilst some see it as belittling to wrestling (and if overdone, it can be) many serious works have added laughs to keep audiences guessing. Think Fight Club were brutal bare knuckle scenes are counterbalanced by moments of farce or Shakespeare’s classic Macbeth where the murder of King Duncan was followed by a servant taking a piss and telling sex jokes. Now imagine Raw: Sami Zayn and Kalisto have been caught in a barbed wire bear trap and everyone is crying. But here come the New Day with some cereal and video game jokes. We’re all laughing now. Job done.

The Slow Burner: Big Cass

Big Cass has been turning heads lately. Better delivery of promos, more intensity in his work and remember: he’s got something you can’t teach. He seems a sure thing right now and whilst sure things in wrestling don’t always pan out, I wouldn’t want to let Cass slip away. There’s gold in them 7 foot hills. And to bring the Arsenal connection back into play: he and Giroud share the best chant in all of sports.

The Commentary Team: Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves

Commentary needs an overhaul: Cole and JBL are at the point I’d let them leave on a free transfer. Mauro and Corey seems a dream ticket: fresh and untainted, they would offer a classic face/ heel combo with a deluge of factual details and relevant pop culture references (JBL’s grasp of modern culture is so poor that referencing George Clooney as the guy all of the kids like is some sort of pyrrhic victory for him). Mauro could specialise in Japanese context, Corey could uncover the indie scene and should Byron Saxton join the team, they could jostle him with more humour and warmth than those bitter old boys on Raw.

Obviously I’d need more bodies in the mix and, having established the core of my roster with the above picks, I’d love to add the likes of A.J Styles, Becky Lynch, Finn Balor and Baron Corbin to broaden the stylistic qualities of the collective. But for now, with transfer windows upon us and squad overhauls in the sporting world afoot, ask yourself this: if you were drafting a roster within the world of WWE, who would you move heaven and earth for? Answers in the comments below…

PPV Review: WWE Extreme Rules 2016 - Jericho vs. Ambrose (Asylum), Reigns vs. Styles (Extreme Rules), Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Zayn vs. Miz

On 22nd May 2016, WWE aired Extreme Rules 2016, sponsored by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, live on PPV and the WWE Network, from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose looked to put their feud to bed in the first ever Asylum Match, Roman Reigns put his WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line against AJ Styles in an Extreme Rules match and Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Sami Zayn all had a shot at The Miz's WWE Intercontinental Championship...but was it any good? Let's find out! 

extreme rules 2016 match card

Match 1 – Tornado Tag Team 
The Usos: Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Match 2 – Singles for WWE United States Championship
“The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana vs. Kalisto ©

Match 3 – Tag Team for WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day: Big E & Xavier Woods © with Kofi Kingston vs. The Vaudevillains: Aiden English & Simon Gotch

Match 4 – Fatal Four-Way for WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn vs. The Miz © with Maryse

Match 5 – Asylum
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose

Match 6 – Submission for WWE Women's Champion
Natalya vs. Charlotte © (If Ric Flair comes to ringside, Charlotte will forfeit WWE Women's Championship)

Match 7 – Extreme Rules for WWE World Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns ©

John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Michael Cole & Byron Saxton

Funky Extreme Rules 2016 hype package, with a focus on there being “No Rules”, whilst looking at a handful of matches on the show's card “Tonight we go extreme”...

gallows and anderson defeat the usos 

The show opened with an enjoyable Tornado tag team bout, that utilised the rules of the bout to create a different feel that suited the feud between the two teams. Before the bell had even been rung I was into the bout as The Usos went straight after Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, as they attempted to get a modicum of revenge on the team that had cost them their place in the WWE Tag Team Championship Tournament a month or so prior. The contest kept up a strong pace, with lots of dives to outside from Jey and Jimmy, whilst Gallows and Anderson brought their powerful, brawling style. I was particularly into the finish where Gallows looked to introduce the ring bell into the match, before a couple of twists and turns allowed the heels to hit their Magic Killer finish and pick up a fairly comprehensive victory. Personally, I'd have liked the bout to go on a little bit longer, but it's clear that WWE was looking to showcase both Gallows and Anderson here, against a recognisable WWE tag team, and this match definitely managed to work towards that aim. Judging by the crowd reaction to them, it's time to freshen up The Usos, perhaps a heel turn or anything that gives them a bit more character development than being "Roman Reigns' cousins" 

rusev defeats kalisto to become wwe united states champion 

I'm not sure I enjoyed this match all that much. I say I'm not sure, because there were parts of it that I thought were really quite cool, but then there were other parts that really ground on me, for just being a bit shit. Obviously, the contest was a Power vs. Speed type affair, so you had Rusev attempting to dominate Kalisto early doors, getting near falls of an elbow drop and a clothesline, before locking a couple of submissions. Bear hug, yeah I'm having some of that, Rusev is a big lad and can squeeze the shit out of Kalisto. Torture Rack, um, nah mate. Whilst The Bulgarian Brute chatting shit whilst having Kalisto in the rack was pretty funny, it just made it harder to buy Kalisto being able to get out of the hold. Kalisto's sleeper hold then looked like a pile of wank stained rags, thus making Rusev look like a burk for having to sell a poorly applied sleeper hold by a smaller man. 

Where the match did work was when Kalisto had the momentum and was scoring a couple of close pinfalls. Rusev provides a solid base for "The King of Flights" aerial offense and he made sure that each of Kalisto's moves looked as good as it possibly could have. With Michael Cole and JBL proclaiming that this was "Fun to watch", the finish of the bout was the most interesting part of the entire contest. Rusev sent Kalisto crashing off the top rope onto the apron, with the commentary team reminding us of the injured back and pentecostal muscles Kalisto had suffered recently, even if the spot itself didn't look all that devastating. The angle with Rusev refusing to let the doctor look as Kalisto and repeatedly attempting to lock in the Accolade, before eventually ignoring the referee and just locking it on was played well and made the Bulgarian Brute look like an utter cumbasket. However, in kayfabe, shouldn't the referee have disqualified Rusev for not letting the ref check over the injured opponent?   

new day defeat the vaudevillains to remain wwe tag team champions 

Despite being disappointingly short, I found a lot to enjoy in this WWE Tag Team Championship bout. Going just over six minutes, the match quickly became a spot-fest, skipping past a brief face-in-peril run from Xavier Woods. One of the best things about The New Day's babyface turn has to be Big E's hot tag, which is always a brilliant watch and Aiden English and Simon Gotch took those bumps like bosses. The finish was done very smoothly, with a number of moving parts, building towards Woods hitting a Shining Wizard for the win, after Big E had nailed his signature spear to the outside and Kofi Kingston taking advantage of a distracted referee with a well-timed Trouble in Paradise. The main talking point heading out of the match has to be having Woods kicks out of the Whirling Dervish, The Vaudevillains finishing move. It allowed for a great near fall, as I don't remember anyone kicking out of the move to this point, but having someone kick out of a teams finish just a few short months after their debut is a rather a strange decision. Perhaps, WWE has a new finish in mind, or perhaps they just wanted to put over the New Day, and especially Woods super strong? Either way, the kick-out added to the match, but could prove to be a mistake over the next few months.

miz defeats cesaro, owens and zayn to remain wwe intercontinental champion 

This was all shades of good. A big fat, bowl of tasty wrestling flakes, covered in sports-entertainment milk (other breakfasts are available). From the opening-bell, I knew that we were in for a treat with this one, as Sami Zayn nailed Kevin Owens with a Helluva Kick. It was a massive surprise, garnering a big pop from the Newark crowd, but made perfect sense. Zayn and Owens have been feuding for some while, and we've seen Zayn's frustrated at not being able to get his revenge for everything Owens has done to him, so why would he take his opportunity to hit him with his finisher from the very beginning! Lovely stuff. The fact that Cesaro then nailed Miz with a running uppercut in the opposite corner, allowing Zayn and Cesaro to go at it for a bit was the icing on the cake.

Fatal Four-Way's can often become fairly systematic, becoming basically a rotating singles match, and whilst there were plenty of opportunities for one on one action throughout the match (Cesaro and Zayn at the start, of course), the match felt like it was really making the most out of having four talents in the ring at the same time. A personal highlight was Owens putting a stop to attempted Tower of Doom spot by the other three men, which got some decent heel heat out of Newark, before Owens himself ended up at the top of a similar spot on the other side of the ring minutes later! A brilliant spot involving Miz going to hit an Exploder Suplex on Zayn, only for Cesaro to hit the WWE Intercontinental Champion with a German Suplex that sent both men flying, also deserves a mention. 

Where the match really took advantage of it's numbers was in it's near falls and false finishes. With a tonne of moments that had the crowd convinced it was over, it was difficult not to get swept up in the action, with Zayn's performance in particular standing out as he fought to get the victory. A wicked sequence of action involving Zayn hitting a Half and Half Suplex on Owens, Cesaro nailing Zayn with a Pop-Up Uppercut, before Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale on Cesaro, only for The Swiss Superman to kick out stands out as particularly thrilling string of action, and also gave Cesaro a cushion for when he'd take the pinfall later in the match. Following lots of pinfalls being broken up, the close of the match was again spot-on with Zayn losing his cool with Owens for stoping his pin on Cesaro and Miz taking advantage of Zayn's previous Helluva Kick to Cesaro to pick up the victory. A perfect end for the four characters involved, that gives Zayn and Owens feud some extra fuel (if it needed any) to drive towards the next PPV (and perhaps beyond), whilst strengthening Miz's reign as a heel champion. Also, note the symmetry of having the match begin and end with a Helluva Kick, very nice stuff. 

fast-forward...The Kick-Off Panel of Renee Young, Booker T, Jerry “The King” Lawler & Corey Graves talked about the show so far, including The Miz retaining the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Rusev winning the WWE United States Championship and more...

ambrose defeats jericho 

The debut of the Asylum match...a Steel Cage with various weapons and objects and stuff dangling above it...this match was going to be the shit, right? Right? RIGHT? Umm, well, no. And maybe also yes. I don't know. This match was confusing. I didn't know if I was enjoying it, I didn't know if anyone in the crowd was enjoying it and I don't check Social Media during PPV's so I had no idea if anyone viewing was enjoying it. It was a near half hour of weirdness, taking in a variety of different styles and trying to mash them into one coherent story. 

Let's start with the things I didn't like about this match. It was way, way, way, too long. Over 25 minutes. There was no need for the match to go this long that I can think of. It felt like for a long time that the match didn't progress, the two pulled down a number of weapons and went through the motions with them, but it didn't feel like there was anything that was driving the match. Take away ten minutes and the match actually becomes much more interesting. The pacing would have become tighter and the story would have progressed at a much more satisfying rate. You also wouldn't have had a bored crowd chanting for Seth Rollins! 

I talked about the match trying to mix in a couple of different style above, and the one that I found the most...interesting...was the matches use of comedy. Obviously, Jericho and Ambrose's feud has had a strong comedic streak over the last couple of months, involving talk shows and potted plants, but trying to work that into the match itself proved to be a little difficult and didn't sit well with a match of this length, in my opinion. From the surely unintentionally hilarious "creepy" music that accompanied the cage lowering from the roof, to Ambrose "looking to mop up Jericho here in this match" as Michael Cole described it, followed up by Jericho shouting "You hit me with a mop", "Y2J" pretending that a Kendo Stick was gun on top of the cage and then shouting "You're gonna get it" at the ref for not counting the pinfall and JBL shouting "For the sake of Fozzy, get out of there" when Ambrose introduced the bag of thumbtacks, I got a fair few chuckles out of the match, but those chuckles felt like they were detracting from the match itself and the hatred that was supposedly between the two men. 

Where the match really kicked into gear for me was Ambrose's elbow drop off the top of the cage on Jericho. Following the first big spot of the match things started to get a little more interesting. It wasn't long before the thumbtacks were out and the duo made the most of the fact that this weapon has been seen rarely in WWE over the last few years, by teasing numerous spots before shifting away to something else. After Jericho had patted Ambrose with a Barbed Wire wrapped 2x4, the spot where the thumbtacks got used was very satisfying indeed. Ambrose blocking the Codebreaker before dumping Jericho onto a big pile of tacks. A Dirty Deeds later and the debut of the Asylum match was over. Will we see the match again? Maybe, maybe not. But if it does come back, I hope that it takes the positives mentioned here and empathises them, and shaves at least ten minutes of the length! 

fast-forward...Upcoming WWE Network shows trailer...

charlotte defeats natalya to remain wwe women's champion 

Charlotte and Natalya put on another solid match here, as they have a number of times this year. The two are clearly very talented performers and managed to string together some quality sequences of action, almost on auto-pilot. I couldn't fault the pairs ability Despite that, I couldn't help but feel like the match was missing that special something that could have pushed it to the next level. Perhaps it was an over-reaching narrative or idea to drive the action, as despite there being a couple of story elements involved in the bout, nothing felt like it went anywhere. Charlotte injured her arm was played up for most of the bout, with the Champion selling her arm shoulder well through most of the match, only to forget about it later on and this stands out as a microcosm for the whole match. Lot's of ideas, with very few going anywhere satisfying. 

The Submission part of the match often felt like it was a bit of an after-thought, with the real stipulation of the bout being Ric Flair being unable to appear at ringside with his daughter. This was made completely obvious when Flair's music would hit with Natalya holding Charlotte in the Sharpshooter. Dana Brooke siding with Charlotte was an interesting twist, that I hadn't seen coming, which I suppose is a positive. Charlotte is a strong enough heel that she can use another cheap victory to her advantage but at the same time it means that her feud with Natalya seemingly comes to a rather unsatisfactory conclusion with no one really gaining anything from the two month outing. Side note - Charlotte forgetting to sell her injured arm at the end of the match bugged me a lot! 

reigns defeats styles to remain wwe world heavyweight champion, rollins returns

A world-class main event here, as Roman Reigns and AJ Styles worked hard for each other and the crowd to produce an exciting clash that sprawled around the arena. The first part of the match, with just Styles and Reigns going after each other was great to watch, with the duo heading out into the crowd and making the most of all the areas available to them, including scrapping out by the Kick-Off panels table (which I'm pretty sure has never been done before). A back-body drop from Reigns that sent Styles flying through an adjacent announce table was breath-taking as "The Phenomenal One" was almost sent into orbit by Reigns before crashing back down. Gaining a little of an extra thumbs up from me was Styles beginning to target Reigns' right leg, with the commentary team jumping straight on this by explaining all of Reigns' offense that this would effect, whilst "The Guy" sold the injury well throughout the rest of the match.

The next part of the bout was when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson arrived to aid Styles, before The Usos were out to help their cousin Reigns. This would produce some brilliantly worked near falls, taking advantage of the number of bodies involved in a similar fashion to that off the Fatal Four-Way earlier in the bout. After both teams had dragged their man into a pinfall, we got my personal favourite moment of the match which was Styles' Styles Clash onto a steel chair, that managed to produce two false finishes that got huge reactions from the Newark crowd. Firstly, the initial cover was stopped when one of the Usos attempted to pull Styles off Reigns, before "The Phenomenal One" went for another cover after kicking Uso away, only for Reigns to kick out at two! 

The finish, for me, didn't quite live up to the rest of the match as after Styles had gone ape-shit with a Steel chair on The Bloodline, Reigns managed to catch Styles in the middle of the Phenomenal Forearm attempt with a Spear for the win. It looked good and would have been a cool way to finish a regular match, but with all the creativity that had gone before, the finish needed to at least match that with a spot that suited the Extreme Rules match-type. However with the pinfall not being the exclamation point on the PPV, maybe it was decided to keep the finish a little more low-key as a way of making the most of the surprise return at the end of the bout? That surprise return was that of Seth Rollins, who has been out injured since last November. The crowd went nuts for Rollins as he nailed Reigns with a pedigree and brought Extreme Rules 2016 to an exciting close. 

atpw scale rating - 6.42/10

The highest ATPW Scale Rating for a WWE PPV this year. Which is interesting because the overall card probably isn't as strong as the previous PPV, Payback, with a lot of the undercard matches and even the marquee Asylum Match being average (with perhaps the exception of the opening tag bout). The weirdness of the Asylum match definitely dragged the score down and had that match been shuffled around and the time shared between some of the shorter bouts (The tag title match standing out as the most likely candidate) then this show would almost certainly have got an even better rating. 

However, what this PPV had that Payback didn't, was two outstanding, world class matches. The Fatal Four-Way and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match were both superb encounters, that whilst sharing some similarities, were different enough that both provided excellent viewing throughout their screen time. Both matches are worth checking out this PPV for alone and therefore, Extreme Rules was the best PPV of 2016 so far.