Monday, 21 July 2014

WWE Battleground 2014 Review

A show that didn’t live up to expectations, but then they booked themselves into a corner here. Most of these matches are SummerSlam matches that were booked a month too early and so they had to come up with screwy finishes or no shows in order to keep the status quo for August 17th.

Naomi vs. Cameron

Disappointing. Both Divas have new looks, Cameron has new music and boy is it now clear that her blonde hair really lifted her look. The finish was poor and the match was nothing, when Cameron grabbed the tights for a school girl win. They didn’t work together well at all. Probably the worst match on the show. This needs work on the house shows over the next month and then they should give this another shot at SummerSlam

The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family 2-out-of-3 Falls match for Tag Team Championships

After two nothing falls this BURST into life. What was the purpose of the first two falls? I really don’t know. The first two falls went a little under eight minutes total and were both soft pins for both sides. The two early finishes made the last fall look stupid – they both got pinned by moves that all of a sudden they were able to kick out of later on?

Great spot when Jey superkicked Harper from outside, leading him to eat a splash from Jimmy. The dives were great, it was creative and both teams ended up looking strong. The double suplex off the top rope was a ‘this is awesome’ moment and worthily so and the stereo splashes to finish the match was a welcome end to this feud. I’m keen to know where they go next.

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

Hmmm. Odd. Why take this off the show? They couldn’t come up with a finish that they were happy with? So, don’t book the match.

Neither of them wrestled on this show. Surely, that’s a negative here? The brawl (sans the car lot stuff) is Raw-worthy, not ppv. Instead of watching these two wrestling something that could have been absolutely tremendous, we had to sit through Adam Rose and Fandango? Makes me angry.

Paige vs. AJ Lee for the Divas Championship

Paige tried the Big E Langston tackle through the ropes and kind of just stopped and they half tumbled through the ropes instead. It looked like a botched spot at an indie show and the crowd grew less and less into this. There was also a sunset flip off the top rope by Paige that made AJ land on her head and it just looked like it really sucked. More’s to boot, after every spot, Paige would stop and shout fake encouragement, saying, ‘come on AJ!’ which just got tiresome. This didn’t come across well and the crowd weren’t in it and nothing in this match really ever looked right.

The shining wizard finish didn’t look right, either. The layout of the match was fine and could have been a good match as I had hoped and predicted it would be, but the lack of execution on so many spots, coupled with the lack of crowd reaction just left this one as a fairly damp squib, unfortunately.

Rusev vs. Jack Swagger

I was hot for this match and they’ve since had some mainstream pub for Lana’s implied comments about the Malaysian Airlines incident. The crowd weren’t into this, though, unfortunately. I wish it had happened in front of that Virginia crowd from Monday. When Lana was talking, there was far less reaction than I would have expected.

The patriot lock spots were good and Rusev is great at selling the submission hold. I’m glad that they put over the hold but kept Rusev strong for the finish, crawling in for the 10 count so that Swagger could get counted out. I wanted this to spill over into SummerSlam and given the current political climate, this is entirely appropriate and ought to get high billing in August. I think they need to go hardcore with this, but they won’t, unfortunately.

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

The finish came out of nowhere and, again, this was odd. I guess though, after the screwy finish in the Rusev match and after Rollins and Ambrose didn’t wrestle, you sort of had to do a pinfall in this match – I just never thought it would be Jericho.

So, Wyatt can beat Cena at WrestleMania but can’t beat the part-time 43 year old Chris Jericho? Made no sense to beat Wyatt here. They ought to have used Harper and Rowan (who had been sent to the back) in order to get the DQ so that a SummerSlam rematch was set up. Its obvious booking, but I have to say that this made no real sense.

Ultimately, the match never quite clicked. They never really synched up. There was some good stuff but nobody thought that codebreaker was the finish. Bray Wyatt's left eye looked really bad – it looks worse than it did on Monday, how does that work? And has anyone else ever wondered what the hell is wrong with that weird red tat on Bray’s left arm? It looks like someone has swiped a paintbrush across his arm and forgotten to wipe it off.

Battleground Battle Royale for the Intercontinental Championship

They’d tread water so much earlier and yet they were able still able to give all the guys entrance music burst – yet, oddy, no RVD, not that it matters hugely. Zack Ryder still exists. Wade Barratt looks thin and unwell. He’s claiming to be back to take on the IC champ, but by the time he’s back, it’ll have changed hands 5 times.

There was some awful camera work where they showed Miz hiding outside the ring on the floor and they weren’t supposed to. They also did that thing where if a guy would throw someone out, they would be the next person out. Surely in 2014, we’re beyond this in WWE?

The odds had Cesaro as favourite all week until late Saturday when Miz fell from 13/1 right down to 5/6 within 12 hours.

No Heyman with Cesaro? We’ll see tomorrow night what this means. Brock’s back – maybe they’ll just forget about Heyman ever being with Cesaro?

The Kofi spot was great and the Cesaro stuff with him was good fun, if not completely illogical. They seemed to get lost at some stage throughout this mini feud in this match, with Cesaro at some point pulling Kofi’s hair in order to stay in the match. Cesaro ultimately getting eliminated by Heath Slater has to lead to an amusing squash on Monday.

I wonder what they do with Bo Dallas now?

Miz winning leads us to wonder whether they will unite the titles once and for all at SummerSlam. Questions are: what would they call it? Is Dolph Ziggler involved?

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

In the end, this was a good match, with lots of near falls and saves. Fans even did a ‘this is awesome’ chant at one point. It was all built around Cena vs. Reigns, but every time they'd get there Kane or Orton would break it up. They finally did a trading of punches and big moves. Reigns seemed to spear everyone constantly but it was always broken up. He also did his running kick on the floor to everyone. The big spot was Reigns spearing Orton through the barricade. Match wasn't smooth in spots and, like Jericho and Wyatt, was just missing something here.

They really wrestled in the spirit of the match (fatal four way), working tornado tag style early on but they kept everything in the ring with lots of saves and ruined pins by everyone. Better camera work allowed this to happen.

They made this all about Kane and Randy being at each other and Cena and Reigns being equals who were neck and neck throughout. If you didn’t know better, you’d really assume that Cena and Reigns were doing the main event at SummerSlam. What they do now, as a result, will be interesting.

WWE Batista: The Animal Unleashed DVD Review

Perhaps a more appropriate tagline for this new WWE release would have been Batista: The Animal Understated. The documentary on this 3-disc set runs at 40 minutes and is essentially a whistle stop tour of Dave Batista’s life since he left the WWE in 2010.

Dave is relaxed, calm and honest and speaks with a maturity and wisdom that few 45 year old semi-retired professional wrestlers possess – he is almost unnervingly low key and modest, drawing you in with his everyman humility. But, as a collection, this is certainly no better than the 2009 release, I Walk Alone. And when compared to recent superstar retrospectives (Triple H and Warrior, for example) the relative brevity of the documentary feature might give you every right to feel rather short-changed.

If, of course, matches are what you look for in these sorts of things, then you will be happy enough. Most of the work on display is taken from 2007-2010 providing you with some light and shade and some different offerings from those that were available on I Walk Alone. Though his excellent work with The Undertaker is not exhibited here, there are matches worthy of remark with Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio and Edge for your money.

Watching Batista on his return to WWE in January 2014 feels at times as though you are intruding on some deeply private moments. There is wonderful backstage footage of him meeting staff old and new (look out for his chat with Khali), in what he refers to quite firmly as his ‘home’. What strongly comes across, though, from this voyeuristic insight is that Dave Batista is a professional who likes to do things by the book, doesn’t like special treatment and would rather do something the hard way rather than merely dialling it in. A case in point is found in his preparation for his latest film: if you read about Guardians for the Galaxy, you’ll find that he and Chris Pratt trained for two and half months just for their one fight scene which director, James Gunn, decided at the 11th hour he wanted to film in one long shot without cuts. Batista has noted that it took them 22 takes to get it right. Here is a man who is not shy of a little hard labour.

Having left in 2010 due to the shift in the product to a PG-era and what he felt was a growing lack of opportunities for him in main event spots, Batista moved to pastures new. We’re shown his work with Josh Rafferty under Cesar Gracie in preparation for his first, and only, professional MMA fight against Vince Lucero in 2012. Gracie talks about his commitment to training and that he was a natural despite his age when he first arrived. Stephan Bonnar is equally complementary in what is an interesting departure for WWE programming as we are shown Jiu-Jitsu training and the toughness of MMA and real fighting is explored and explained. We even see Dave receiving his purple belt from Gracie and the subsequent belt-whipping from his peers in the dojo.

At his return to Raw in Dayton, Ohio, in January, he jokes about the WWE having faith in his ability to work after four years out of the ring. He is acutely aware that he has legions of internet detractors (well, haters) and, returning from a recent Achilles tendon injury amongst many new, young faces in the company, he is clearly desperate not to ‘mess it up’. Describing himself on several occasions as his ‘own worst critic,’ Batista is happy to work just as physically as he used to, despite the L1 spinal surgery that he underwent in 2011 (an injury that he reveals he sustained when Cena threw him through the stage at Over the Limit 2010).

Seeing how hard Batista worked whilst away and knowing how hard he worked during his first run in WWE, makes his reaction to the boos that he gets at the Consol Energy Center at the Royal Rumble in Pittsburgh all the more uncomfortable to watch. The crew captures him post-show, backstage that night where he looks somewhat crestfallen and, although trying his best to acknowledge that the business is like that sometimes, is visibly saddened by the reaction.

He leaves us with words of deep excitement for WrestleMania 30 and his utter and very genuine delight at being cast as Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. The work he has done in his time away and the success he has gained seems to have been like everything else in Dave Batista’s life: rocky, tough and hard-earned. If you piece together the facts from I Walk Alone and add in this stop-gap, you gain a clearer picture of why he is so visibly moved when he talks about Marvel’s decision to go with him for their latest marquee piece.

It might have been better, therefore, to have waited. Had WWE followed Dave Batista through to the other side of the film’s release this summer and to a subsequent return to in-ring action, they may well have found themselves with a far more remarkable documentary feature, chronicling the story of their jeered former champion taking on the world of Hollywood and winning. At 45, though, would that have been possible? Would that have been wise? Regardless, we’re left little more than a pleasant stroll through the last four years of Dave Batista’s life and another collection of some of his finer matches as he awaits the launch of the next stage of his career.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

WWE Battleground 2014 Predictions

Ultimately, this year’s Battleground looks to be the launch pad for SummerSlam, which we’re told is 75% booked, including finishes. Cena and Brock will headline, and Orton & Reigns, Jericho & Wyatt, Ambrose & Rollins, and Paige & AJ will all do battle again next month. As a result, I’m expecting a lot of screwy finishes and/or no contests tonight in order to allow for these feuds to continue.

Naomi vs. Cameron

When the odds first came out for this match, weirdly they had Cameron as favourite. I say weirdly, because moments later Naomi was the clear odds-on favourite. Cameron has been front and centre of later with a win on Raw and a stupid loss on Main Event. Naomi had to drag Rosa Mendes through a 5 minute match on Superstars this week and would lead me to assume that they’re more interested in Cameron being the new heel going forward.

Alicia Fox’s unhinged, ‘crazy’ chick gimmick has apparently had the plug pulled on it and AJ Lee and Paige doing a sort of tweeners programme, I can see that they need a new strong female heel. Total Divas has a lot to answer for.

The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family 2-out-of-3 Falls match for Tag Team Championships

Surely it’s this time round for the Wyatts? These two teams have had consistently good matches and, often, some tremendous ones but enough is enough. The Usos have really had the rub from all this but I fear for them once they lose these titles and stop feuding with the Wyatts. The fact that they’ve been embroiled with this stable has allowed them headline Raws and SmackDowns in 6-man tags that they would otherwise never have done. They’ve joined forces with huge faces like Cena and Jericho and been really over as a result.

Wyatts will finally win here tonight. Expect them to be at the centre of much of what’s to come over coming months.

Battleground Battle Royale for the Intercontinental Championship

The bookies say this will be Cesaro. He will have the gimmick of having won two Battle Royales in 2014 but will have a title that means nothing and is in huge need of a reboot. I can see the finish being Sheamus and Miz eliminating each other but the question is how they get round the Bo Dallas streak. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter – it isn’t going anywhere.

There are lots of little sub plots here that will all eliminate each other, leaving Cesaro to win: RVD & Del Rio; Fandango & Ziggler; Big E & Kofi and RybAxel. They all sort of cross over, too, so there should at least be some interesting moments. Kofi probably shouldn’t do a cool Royal Rumble spot this time – save those, please.

At Mania, this was a surprisingly good match but I don’t see it being much to rave about tonight. It was really only the finish that stood out in April. Here, I can see Cesaro going over with the uppercut to Bo off the apron.

Paige vs. AJ Lee for the Divas Championship
AJ Lee should retain here but these two are capable of having a really strong match. Count on this leading into SummerSlam, making this a warm-up match of sorts. Champion and challenger are being surprisingly cordial to each other as of late, both are sort of tweeners right now. Look for that to die away after things get spiteful during this bout. Paige’s heel turn can begin with her frustration over a loss. AJ over-celebrating her win won't help Paige’s attitude either.
Rusev vs. Jack Swagger

I could see them rethinking this based on the crazy-good reaction that this has had on Raw the past few weeks. Who’d have thought that Swagger could come out as such an utter hero after being so turgid for so long in the company? This has been so strong, particularly given Lana and Zeb’s wonderful performances of late and that, coupled with the current news emanating from the Russian-separatist states, they really ought to spill this one over into SummerSlam.

When Swagger caught Rusev in that Patriot Lock the other week, people became unglued. Rusev shouldn’t be losing yet and Swagger, the Real American, shouldn’t be tapping to a Russian in the current climate. I’m hoping that this is a really strong no contest.

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

Jericho came back to work with Wyatt. I was shocked how quickly they went with this programme; I felt that they ought to have waited until SummerSlam for this one. When he loses here tonight, why would anyone want to pay to see this again? I think Jericho still has it in him to pull out one more top drawer match and Bray really has the psychology to do it. These two will have mapped out a really good contest, it’s just a shame that it has to have a finish. So, as with the previous one, I’m wondering whether the Wyatts interfere as do the newly-title-less Usos and we get a DQ finish.

I want to see more of these two trading promos. When Bray looks back over his career, he will have had the opportunity to work with two true greats in Cena and Jericho, and to think that he’s only just really starting out…

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

Long may this feud continue. These two make everything ok when I watch WWE now. Without Punk, The Shield and The Wyatts have just made everything better and leave me salivating for what will come. I love the idea that whenever Rollins is ready to cash in, Ambrose will screw him. It makes for a fantastic feud. Both are great in the ring and very good promos.

I’d say that this has the best chance of being match of the ppv and ought to see Ambrose winning. If Rollins wins, you blow this feud off before it has properly started. The briefcase means that you can beat Rollins and still keep him strong, especially since he is The Authority’s chosen one at the moment. Ambrose, meanwhile, is the lone ranger who needs to win in order to uphold that disturbed, destructive persona. Roddy Piper ain’t got nothing on Ambrose…

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Sometimes, you know, it is ok for the obvious to happen. I don’t need a swerve here. I don’t need a new champion. I certainly don’t need Kane as champion and it is certainly far too early for Roman Reigns.

Cena walking out as champion means that we get to see him and Brock as SummerSlam, which if their match at Extreme Rules 2012 was anything to go by, should be quite the spectacle and quite the brutal encounter. Cena rarely, rarely, has poor ppv matches – you really do have to do dig deep to find the last one that was sub three stars – and Orton and Reigns are superb. Reigns is very much taking up the Dave Batista role here: power moves and high impact from a super heavyweight. Kane has the experience to lie low and feed the others, using his choke slam as a neutraliser where necessary.

If everything goes well tonight, this along with Jericho-Wyatt and Rollins-Ambrose could be a very strong match.

I just sense that Battleground is brimming with promise. I really hope I’m not disappointed.  

WWE Superstars TV Report – 18th July 2014

Noteworthy: Rosa Mendes wrestled and it wasn’t completely horrible. Ryback beat R-Truth in pretty entertaining 10 minute match where he sort of came off like a babyface. “Feed me more!” is back. Finally there’s some light and shade on commentary thanks to Renee Young.

Naomi pinned Rosa Mendes in 5:00

Rosa is going to be on season 3 of Total Divas hence why she’s starting to appear on television and in matches.

This Richmond crowd were great on Monday and they were very supportive and respectful here. They were behind Naomi and these two put on a reasonable five minute match with enough protection from Naomi, who bumped all over for her.

They lock up and a swift kick from Naomi lets her roll up Rosa who kicks out at one. A nice hip toss and drop kick send Rosa to the outside where she checks her hair and composes herself before rolling back in and kicking out at two.

Naomi climbs the ropes, locks Rose in her legs, wiggles her ass in face and then kicks her to the floor. Naomi is then thrown clear by Rosa and is sent to the floor outside. She uses some of the weakest, lamest stomps you’ve ever seen, rolls her back in and gets a two count. Frustrated, Rosa, repeatedly thrusts Naomi’s head into canvas.

Out of nowhere, Rose hits a perfectly executed snap suplex – it actually got a small cheer. She then chokes out Naomi on the middle rope and goes for a rear chin lock. Then, again, another wrestling move, this time not quite so controlled but Rosa executes a spinning side slam and covers her for a two count.

Rosa takes a breather outside, Naomi hits a baseball slide but gets caught in side slam position outside which she is able to reverse into a tilt-a-whirl head scissors. Back in the ring, Naomi tries a backslide, but Rosa kicks out. So, Naomi goes home: drop kicks, clotheslines see her go from the split leg moonsault which she misses. So she grabs Rosa and hits a modified falling inverted DDT for the win. This finisher would seem to not have a name yet.

Not the worst Divas match I’ve ever seen.

The Raw rebound was that awesome Swagger and Rusev segment followed by the Jericho and Wyatt confrontation.

Ryback (w/ Curtis Axel) beat R-Truth (w/ Xavier Woods) with the Shellshock in 9:50

Ryback treats Truth like he’s a pipsqueak here and there’s a great moment early where Ryback looks so shocked that Truth is able to not only knock him to the mat, but also hurt him. His face was fantastic. Ryback takes most of the early going until he misses a leg drop and is hit by a missile drop kick from Truth, who lands a leg drop of his own. Ryback kicks out and gets up to charge at Truth who merely, steps aside, pulls the top rope down and sends Ryback outside. Grinning, Truth takes a bow as we go to the break. Lovely house show stuff.

Truth uses a drop toe hold on Ryback but he gets mad and for a good straight minute teases a stoppage by repeatedly hitting Truth with knees and stomps. The ref has to prise Ryback off Truth in the corner as Truth just gets continually pummelled. Ryback with a huge whip to the corner and Truth just buckles at the knees and looks half dead. Ryback goes for a cover, gets a near fall and reverts to a headlock.

Ryback executes a quick scoop slam to set Truth up by the ropes for a top rope splash which he misses taking a kick to face from Truth. Ryback misses two charges to the corner, the second time going shoulder first to the post. Truth takes advantage, hits clotheslines and spinning heel kick and then executes what I can only describe as Booker T’s Ghetto Blaster and Ryback just about kicks out.

The crowd are into this now. This time Truth hits a top rope missile drop kick on Ryback and, again, Ryback just gets the shoulder up. Truth’s charge to the corner is then blocked by a kick to the face from Ryback. He climbs to the top rope, the splash misses and it looks like it really sucked – huge bump from such a huge guy.

Truth uses a suplex and we get another near fall. The crowd are delighted by every near fall now. Out of nowhere Ryback executes a huge spinebuster, then climbs the ropes and starts to pump his arms and asks for the crowd to chant, “feed me more” It’s back! Who knew? Like Pavlov’s dogs, they duly oblige and he smacks Truth with a beastly meathook clothesline. They all join in, too, for “finish him!” and Ryback hits the Shellshock for the win.

Ryback got a babyface reaction after this match. Probably means absolutely nothing…

The Raw Rebound built up the Fatal Four Way for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship happening Sunday night at Battleground.