Friday, 22 August 2014

WWE Superstars TV Report – 21st August 2014

Noteworthy: The show has new titles with slightly remixed music - it’s glossy and hi-def but, most important of all, Roman Reigns is the superstar who closes out the sequence. Hornswoggle wrestled dressed as a cow, tagging with El Torito. Yup, seriously. Emma and Alicia Fox had an identical match to the one they had last week.

El Torito and Hornswoggle (w/ Los Matadores) beat Slater Gator with a top rope splash in 3:45

So, Los Matadores came out and like something out of WCW c1999, Hornswoggle came out dressed as a cow complete with mooing noises over their entrance music. What I had assumed would be a Los Matadores match v Slater Gator was in fact a short, comedy squash match where two minis beat men more than twice their size.

Pre bell, Los Matadores take out both both O’Neil and Slater in order to try to save some face for the heels who were about to lose, quickly. El Torito gets swatted to the mat by Slater after the bell and then O’Neil tags in, tries to sling El Torito but he clings on to his arm and then drop kicks him.

So, Slater comes back in, misses a clothesline allowing Torito to gore Titus and then he turns around when Slater misses a big boot which instead catches O’Neil. Torito hits a facebuster, top rope moonsault to put Slater down and then Hornswoggle finishes him off with a wobbly top rope splash for the win.

I have no idea why the felt the need to squash these two with this bizarre tag team. I have even less idea why it made TV. This was Saturday Morning Slam fodder. Remember that?

The Raw Rebound was the Steph segment with Nikki splapping Brie followed by that amazing Paul Heyman promo.

Emma beat Alicia Fox with a cross body in 7:03

This was a rematch from Superstars last week and honestly had many of the same spots if not some completely identical ones.

They opened up with a lengthy wrist lock exchange. They’re clearly going 8 minutes here and we know it because apart from the pre-planned spots (mostly comedy) they really lack ideas.

Emma rolls out of the wrist look with a forward roll and then kicks Fox, ducks underneath her and rolls her up for a two count. Another roll up from Emma and Fox has meltdown, going outside, slamming her fists on the apron and then booting the announce table. She  feigns that the kick has hurt her leg and comes back into the ring asking for time from the referee.

Emma fills the space by doing her goofy dance and then Fox joins in and we have them both dancing. This show! Fox lures her in and kicks her down to mat and gets a two count from the cover. Fox then goes to a few long chin locks only to be broken by her signature Northern Lights suplex which garners a two count.

Shoves and taunts from Fox show get Emma angry and she uses a tilt-a-whirl headscissors on Fox who goes through the ropes to the outside. She rolls back in and Emma puts her in a small package for two. Fox misses a big boot gets rolled up again for two and the eats a big clothesline, again for two. The finish sees Emma hit a top rope cross body for the win.

The Raw Rebound closed the show with the Rollins and Ambrose match from Monday.

Friday, 15 August 2014

WWE SummerSlam 2014 Predictions

On paper this card looks stacked but I said that about the last ppv and it really failed to deliver. But in LA and since its one of the big four, I’m sticking to my guns on this one – I think it will be a good show.

John Cena (c) vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Brock’s t-shirt could suggest that they’re going to take this into the next ppv and that somehow John Cena will retain. I wouldn’t put anything past them. However, I’m picking Brock here and we’ll need to watch the odds going in to Sunday night. There are some odd rumours going around about a double turn. I don’t know how you could do that, why you would do that and what the point would be for Cena to turn. Lesnar could but again, why?

Cena is off to film a movie, starts shooting next month. Logic asks why would Cena win here and says it’s not the time for Brock to lose. Questions are raised when you consider that a Lesnar takes their one big title off the road for a long, long time. Even so, he still should be winning this match.

What I will say is that their match in 2012 is my favourite John Cena match of all time and my favourite of the Lesnar matches that he’s had since his return to the company. It was brutal, slow, well-paced, great entertainment and Cena got his ass handed to him. Everything about it was perfect, except the finish.

This time, they’ll put it right. Lesnar to win.

Winner: Brock Lesnar

Bray Wyatt vs. Chris Jericho (Erick Rowan & Luke Harper are banned from ringside)

Chris Jericho came back because he wanted to work with Bray. Will he be happy with the programme so far? Not yet. Will he be happy with the first match? He shouldn’t be. Jericho hasn’t been at his peak in a match since about 2009 by my reckoning. He can still go but he just doesn’t have (or hasn’t been given the opportunity to show) that something extra. There’s no reason why Jericho should win here. Wyatt wins the rubber match to set up a potential third at the next ppv.

We’re told that this will go 15 minutes and will go on second. I’d say that that’s a good move. Bray was tremendous at WrestleMania but I would argue hasn’t been since. Time to step up.

Winner: Bray Wyatt

Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon

Where are they going with this? Monday’s weird angle means that she’s trying to turn Brie on her husband, perhaps play mind games with him. If they go with the two men in each of their corners, that would make this far more exciting. I’m just not that into this programme, despite Steph being so good of late.

Reports are that they have been training hard and want to have a good match but, let’s be honest, Brie is OK and Steph was never up to much in the ring and isn’t going to start be at her age after having had kids and not having worked in about a decade.

What do they gain by having Brie win? Why have an active roster Diva lose to a one-timer? I don’t think they even know here. Nikki will probably turn on Brie and so I’ll go Steph.

Winner: Stephanie McMahon

Jack Swagger vs. Rusev in a Flag match

I’ve loved this programme. This is easily the best thing that they’ve done with Swagger to date and it’s sad that it has to end. Zeb Colter has made this worth watching in much the same way that Paul Heyman makes things worthy of your time. What’s a shame, however, is the stipulation.

Perhaps more interesting than the result is where they go next. Swagger and Zeb as a babyface team aren’t much unless they’re fighting foreigners. Rusev is another big guy who can’t really carry a long match (this is slated to go 12 minutes) and much like Umaga, Khali and Vladimir Kozlov before him, will probably not amount to much as a ‘monster’ with a streak.

Why don’t they just book Swagger like they used to Kurt Angle?

Winner: Rusev

AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige for the WWE Divas Championship

I really don’t like Paige very much. I hate her awful mid-Atlantic accent, her look, her work. I’m in a minority here, I’m sure. I often fast-forward through her segments or interviews simply because I can’t abide her voice which grates on me like fingers down a chalk board.

AJ Lee, I like. She’s a better worker but can be just as irritating. She seems to have come back post-marriage with an annoying new ‘way’ of talking. I think her and Punk geek out together and it leads to them both saying things like “I’m super excited about” this or that. Hateful.

Anyway, last time out the match sucked despite how long it went. It ought to be much better this time. If it isn’t I don’t think they’ll get too many other opportunities on a big ppv with time to show off. They’re really high on Paige.

Winner: AJ Lee

Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns

I really want this to be a good match. I actually think it will end up being rather dull. Orton has that ability to look great on paper but so often can be a part of forgettable matches.

Reigns still has a way to go. When he was in The Shield he was hidden more for the big spots. His three moves are really all he has, so unless he has the smoke and mirrors of a hardcore match – ladders, tables, chairs, kendo sticks, announce tables etc – he’s exposed as being a fairly limited wrestler for the time being.

I hope I’m proven wrong. If they give Reigns the win as expected, I wonder what they do next with Randy Orton.

Winner: Roman Reigns

The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Should be a good match. Miz in Hollywood and Dolph in LA where he often does Improv. The plan is for them to open the show; I don’t know if that means the pre-show or if that means the ppv proper.

I’d never like to predict that Dolph gets anything because they never seem to give him much anymore. Miz via some kind of heelish shenanigans.

Winner: The Miz

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match

The match that never happened at Battleground. And how pissed we all were. So, I’ll predict it again: match of the night.

Both can work. Both are hungry and on the up. Win or lose both can still feud. Rollins can lose and cash in. Rollins can win and Ambrose can block every attempt he tries to cash in.

The Lumberjack aspect gets more of the roster at least on the show. I don’t see that it adds much to the match, though. I’d assume that The Authority get involved (Kane – doesn’t have a role as yet on Sunday) and help him to win again.

Looking forward to this one.

Winner: Seth Rollins

WWE Superstars TV Report – 14th August 2014

Noteworthy: Emma made her debut on Superstars. Adam Rose continued his streak of Superstars appearances. Fandango lost, again. None have this had any relevance to anything that will be happening this Sunday.

Emma beat Alicia Fox with the Emma lock in 5:34

Emma came out to debut on the show and would seem to be reasonably over with the crowd. She’s made a connection in the same way that Santino used to – a comedy act who can actually work and kick some ass when it comes down to it.

Fox goes for an early wrist lock and Emma uses a series of forward rolls to work her way out and eventually thrusts a kick into Fox’s chest to free herself. Emma then trips her up by going on all fours behind her. Fox takes time out, gets angry and rolls outside. Emma and her exchange words and Emma on the apron grabs the hair to bring Fox back in but Alicia sweeps her leg away so that Emma falls on her back on the apron. I always think this move must suck.

Back in ring, Fox covers for two and out of frustration smacks Emma’s head into the mat and then hooks her into a Northern Lights suplex (a move that she always executes really well) and goes for a cover but only gets two. Fox goes for a rear chin lock, picks up Emma and in a bizarre move, tosses her through the middle and top ropes. It looked like Emma tried to hold on and couldn’t and so just landed awkwardly.

Emma is rolled back in and is selling her left arm (which actually could have been a legit soreness after that bump). She catches Fox with a forearm and then slaps her. She tries to steal one with a roll up, but only gets two. She then starts using her dance as a method of attack, landing acute sort of slaps on Fox. It’s lame but gets some cheers.

The finish sees Emma start with a big clothesline for a two count and then puts her in the Dil-Emma but is forced to break the hold by the ref. She climbs the ropes, hits a cross body and the puts Fox in the Emma Lock for the win.

Nothing special as a match, a little longer than they normally go on Superstars. Emma has a future but is an acquired taste, I’d say.

The Raw rebound recapped the opening of Raw followed by the Rollins and Ambrose run in. They then showed a video package telling the Brie v Steph story in a build to their match at SummerSlam.

Adam Rose beat Fandango with the Party Foul in 7:15

Here are two superstars going nowhere. Fandango is a better worker than many, actually, but he can’t go too far with this gimmick, not into anything meaningful, anyway. His character on Total Divas is what he should be doing but it’s too subtle I guess.

Rose opens with a series of hip tosses and a cross body as he explodes out the blocks with energy. He throws Fandango clear of top rope and we go to a break – an excellent WWE Network advert that uses Warriors HOF speech as the soundtrack for images of Superstars past and present. Its great stuff. The tag line they’re going with seems to be ‘WWE Network: Immortal’.

Rose is in control after the ad, he kicks Fandango in the corner and then turns around and uses mule kicks to add more insult. He uses a snap suplex to get a two count and then a frustrated Fandango leaps up and hits a meat hook clothesline for a two count. Fandango slaps on a rest hold.

This is a pretty dull match. They exchange covers, Fandango goes back to the rear chin lock and Rose powers out to reverse it into a neckbreaker. He then powers up using flying forearms and a spinebuster and then awkwardly just puts Fandango into the Party foul and pins him for the win.

That finishing move doesn’t lend itself to fluidity in a match – he essentially has to stop the man in his tracks, put his head in the right position, stop and then hit the move. It’s ungainly. A bit like his act, actually. I’m with Kevin Dunn on this one, not a fan.

The Raw Rebound closed the show with the Hulk Hogan Birthday celebration segment.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Gift that Keeps on Giving: My WWE 2014 Calendar

Last Christmas my brother-in-law got me an official WWE calendar. Other than giving a little wry smile, I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I duly hooked it on the wall and turned over to January where I was met with a rather airbrushed looking Alberto Del Rio complete with signature Chesire cat grin. Again, nothing too unusual there. I left it hanging in my attic, forgot about it and each month, when I remember, I nip up on my way to the tumble dryer to turn over the page to reveal the next month’s superstar.

But as the year progressed something rather curious and rather wonderful began to happen: the calendar seemed to sync up with WWE storylines, booking directions or title holders.

Now you may be thinking, well that’s all just coincidence – whoever is on your calendar is just pot luck, pure chance. Well, of course it is, but when you start to look at who is displayed on certain months, it sometimes becomes pretty eerie.

Del Rio grinned at the back of my desk chair for the next 31 days but by early August would no longer be with the company at all. His inclusion on an albeit fairly arbitrary piece of merchandise is somewhat interesting – put yourself in the WWE merchandising department’s position: you’re making a calendar (primarily for kids) and you only have 12 that can put on it, so you pick your biggest stars, your biggest merchandise shifters and your most unique characters, right?

So, let me get this out of the way right now – Daniel Bryan is not anywhere to be seen on the WWE 2014 calendar.

Think about that for a second. When they put this thing together, they felt that Daniel Bryan was not a big enough star, character, part of their future booking plans (?) to be a part of their wall calendar for 2014. It beggared belief when I opened the cellophane on Christmas morning. By WrestleMania 30 on April 6th, it was even crazier. And yet by August 6th, he’s practically and afterthought as he recovers from surgery and awaits another.

Maybe someone in the WWE merchandise division is a prophet. Maybe long term booking actually exists in WWE… maybe I think about these things too much.

But as January came to a close, top company star CM Punk did not appear on the January 27th Raw after the Royal Rumble, nor did he appear for the SmackDown taping on the Tuesday despite being advertised for the event. By the Wednesday, stopped advertising Punk for future events. Punk had told Vince he was “going home.” As reports came out that this was it and not some kind of work, I flipped over my calendar that weekend. Who should be on February? One CM Punk.

On the 28th April episode of Raw, Sheamus won a 20-man battle royal to win the United States Championship for the second time, eliminating the previous champion Dean Ambrose last. Who was April? Sheamus. OK, less exciting, less impressive, but stay with me.

On the June 9th episode of Raw, Daniel Bryan’s doctor stated Bryan was not clear to compete; therefore, Triple H (and Stephanie) stripped Bryan of the championship and made it the prize for the titular Money in the Bank ladder match. Meanwhile, after Seth Rollins turned on his Shield teammates at Money in the Bank, he was victorious and won the briefcase after Kane (under orders from Triple H) helped him. Triple H was June.

And at the end of June, just as Triple H was pulling the strings as CEO and leader of The Authority, one John Cena would win his 15th world title, his first since April 2013. My calendar again surprised me with its knowing timing as a bulging, John Cena, looking like he’d been sneezed on by a Dulux colour chart, was staring back at me only a few days after his win. How suitable that the WWE Champion should be adorning children’s walls across the world for the start of the summer.

Then just last week, the August leaf of my WWE Calendar astounded me. Brock Lesnar was the superstar of choice. With a real likelihood that he will walk away with the title next weekend, it seemed spookily timely that he should appear on my wall for the month of August. And there he is, acting as a constant reminder of his breaking of the streak and a new era for the WWE World Heavyweight title.

So, if you’re curious to know what happens over the next few months in WWE, just consult your calendar - it holds all the information you need.