Monday, 30 June 2014

Money in the Bank 2014 review

The chief selling point of this year's Money in the Bank pay-per-view was the crowning of a new WWE champion. The titular briefcase took a backseat to the title, with all three of the company's top rising stars and all but two of the active main eventers bring piled into the ladder match for the vacant title. This left the Money in the Bank contract match looking like a mid-card affair. This being the first time there's ever been a MITB match with only one world title on the roster that shouldn't have been the case. It should have been presented as something more prestigious than a mid-card prize.

WWE was hit with an unfortunate number of injuries but they still had options. A non-ladder bout could have been held for the championship, freeing up the bigger names to work meaningful matches against one another. Or the competitors for the pair of matches could have been jumbled up to create a mixture of former champions and undercard guys in each. Dolph Ziggler would have been accepted in the world championship ladder match for example.

But they made the decisions they made and presented the card they did. Was it as good-looking a piece of booking work as other shows bearing the Bank brand have been? No. Was it the above average offering it had the potential to be even with its clear limitations? Read on and see.

In notable happenings from the kick-off show WWE debuted a new Money in the Bank stats video, in the same vein as their Rumble by the numbers one and Daniel Bryan made his first appearance since being stripped of the championship. Bryan received a huge reaction and announced that he doesn't know when he'll return to the ring, mentioning the possibility of another operation.

This photo sums up perfectly why I like Bo Dallas.
Or, if you will, why I'm a Boliever.
After answering a couple of trite questions Michael Cole had collated from Twitter Bryan was interrupted by Bo Dallas. He was given a pep talk and responded by saying "Bo, leave!" It was a pretty insubstantial sequence but it did at least get D-Bry and Bo on TV. That's never a bad thing.

Money in the Bank proper kicked off with the tag team title match. That came as a surprise. I'd expected the briefcase match on first with the championship match closing the event. The Usos dictated the pace for the first several minutes, ultimately losing control when a Jey was shoved off the turnbuckle and landed face first on the crowd barrier. After absorbing punishment for a while he managed to tag out to his bro and the match phased into a brawling, double teaming and leaping over the top rope session. After a near fall heavy sequence Jimmy and Jey retained off a double superplex and a pair of splashes on Erick Rowan.

It was a satisfying opener. I can't help but feel it would've been nice to see the Wyatts win the belts but that can come later. The lack of meaningful teams practically guarantees a Battleground rematch.

Next up was a series of video recaps reminding us why Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose dislike one another. Then Ambrose was shown backstage cutting one of his eccentric, lively promos. Which, for the record, are hard not to enjoy. He said he planned to use ladders to win the contract and smash in Seth's face.

Match two was Paige against Naomi. They worked what I think we can at this point refer to as a standard Paige defence. The challenger was in control for much of the match and most of the time when Paige got the advantage she opted for submission holds. There was, however, the added thrill of seeing Cameron looking smug at ringside when her fellow Funkadactyl took a move. Paige won with a guillotine DDT.

After an expert panel segment and a repeat of the MITB by the numbers vid Damien Sandow came to the ring to call the crowd halfwits and say New York's better than Boston (because cheap heat, that’s why). He got his comeuppance at the hands of Adam Rose.

The Money in the Bank match followed that but was preceded by talking heads from the competitors. It was overly scripted nonsense not worth my time repeating. Ziggler was the best of the bunch, and got a heartening pop when he appeared on the screen. Also, it was announced Bad News Barrett would be unable to compete due to injury. That was a pity. He's been doing great stuff since WrestleMania and deserved to be included here.

The also-rans of the match.
The first ladder battle was the match of the night (although it didn’t have much competition). Impressive spots and storyline points in order of occurence: Ambrose entered last and went straight for Rollins; Ambrose butterfly suplexing Rollins onto a ladder; a Rob Van Dam tumbling senton onto Rollins, laying on a ladder propped in the corner; JBL lecherously saying that Jack Swagger is a weapon; Swagger power bombing Van Dam off the top of a ladder, followed moments later by Ambrose suplexing Rollins off the top; Swagger catapulting Ziggler into a ladder and Ambrose; 'The Lunatic Fringe' getting taken out of the match on doctor’s orders after "landing awkwardly on a shoulder"; Kofi back dropping Rollins off the top of one ladder onto another; 'The Show Off' super kicking a ladder into Swagger's face; Ziggler pulling himself up a ladder while trapped in a Patriot lock; Rollins doing a number on Ziggles with a chair; and an effective finishing sequence which saw Ambrose make his (inevitable) return to stop Rollins winning, only to be stopped from winning himself moments later by Kane.

Kane’s interference (specifically a Tombstone piledriver) allowed Rollins to take the briefcase, causing Michael Cole to kick off about the injustice of Ambrose being cost the match. The scene was topped off by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon coming out to celebrate with their charge. It was a well booked match that delivered the required thrills and spills and furthered the Rollins and Ambrose rivalry. Not bad considering it was missing Bad News and RVD got injured halfway through.

The need for some comedy was pretty high after such a hard hitting ladder battle. Thankfully RybAxel were on hand to provide it. Because there's little funnier than Ryback's perma-anger and Axel's depressing Better Than Perfect T-shirt and poorly designed ring gear featuring an axe that looks like a Wi-Fi emblem. They were facing the not unfunny Goldust and Stardust. Their team name really needs to be Gold Star.

The match went longer than their first encounter on RAW. But that wasn't hard as that match lasted less than two minutes. It was inoffensive but utterly unmemorable. Stardust got the win for his team off a roll up on 'The Big Guy'.

In the back Byron Saxton asked Fandango about the love triangle he was involved in. Fandango's response was that he loves triangles. Next he called Byron's question about fairly officiating the match "fascinating." It was a great example of why WWE needs to do more with its mid-carders. The Fandango gimmick isn’t cut out for the top of the card but it, and the man behind it, could do so much more in a thriving, well-booked mid-card. Summer Rae and Layla rocked up and bickered. Fandango remained the most captivating thing on the screen.

The talking continued in the ring with cheap heat act Lana and Rusev. They were met with a USA chant. Lana screeched for the crowd to shut up and, amazingly, they did. After some pro-Putin patter Rusev said something in (presumably) Russian. Part of it sounded like “super athlete.” Then Big E came out. A box appeared in the corner of the screen. In it was a pre-recorded talking head of E in which he seemed to be channelling Abraham Lincoln. The pair had a physical match but it never progressed beyond average (although Big E nailed his ever impressive spear through the ropes. 'The Super Athlete' went over with the Steiner Recliner then posed in front of a large Russian flag.

Fandango is magical.
Summer Rae v Layla was the penultimate match of the night. It was a standard Divas match but with the added twist of the two women flirting with guest ref Fandango throughout. Layla won after elbowing Rae in the face. She and Fandango had a kiss and a cuddle after the match. It was heart-warming to see, although Summer didn’t seem to think so.

And then, finally, it was time for the WWE championship match. The order of wrestler entrances was actually pretty interesting here. Bray Wyatt came out second (missing out on the impactful first spot to Sheamus), hometown star Cena was out fifth (and in fairness he tends to get booed in Boston just as much as anywhere else), followed by Orton. The final man introduced should have been Roman Reigns, presenting him as the star and holding off his big pop for as long as possible. Instead he was the penultimate man out and Kane took the final entrance.

The match was a slow starter. There just weren't any big spots happening and none of the men in the ring seemed interested in trying to draw the crowd in. That included the usually reliable Cesaro, Wyatt and Cena. It was a disappointing effort. The audience amused themselves by booing Cena and chanting "Boring!" For that to happen during the main event of Money in the Bank should cause the writing team some concern.

There were a few memorable exchanges, although most of them got subdued reactions from the crowd: Cesaro dangling above the ring from the belts; Orton doing the draping DDT off a ladder propped up between the ring and the announce desk; Reigns lifting up a ladder as Cesaro and ‘Great White’ stood punching one another on top; Cena doing the same; Wyatt suplexing Cena on to a ladder; Cesaro giving Sheamus a Swiss Death off a ladder; and Orton giving Cesaro an RKO to Cesaro off a ladder.

Roman Reigns should have looked like the star of the show.
People finally started reacting when Reigns was booked to storm through all of his opponents, presumably because that’s what they’d been waiting to see. It’s understandable. With three rising stars in the match WWE should have prioritised giving them all impressive moments and booking them to dominate the veteran headliners. That’s what audiences want: new stars. That the Reigns sequence culminated with him facing off with John Cena was a good call but the visual failed to get the sustained cheer it merited. That was probably a result of it taking too long to come about and-or the first portion of the match being so bland.

Cena and Reigns briefly traded punches to boos and yays but stopped pretty quickly. They should have recognised that it was drawing the audience in and gone a bit longer. Thankfully Bray Wyatt was in next, stopping the audience from cooling off too much. A roar of approval went up when he floored 'The Viper' with Sister Abigail. Unfortunately the pacing was off again as 'The Eater of Worlds' quickly vacated the ring to make way for ADR and a continued sequence of run-of-the-mill attempted title grabs. In an ideal world Bray would have hung around for longer.

The closing moments saw Reigns fight a bloody Orton off the ladder with headbutts and punches before being choke slammed by Kane. Cena then slipped in from nowhere and AAed 'The Demon', yanked Orton off the ladder and then jauntily scampered up the ladder to unhook the belts and become a fifteen time world champion. The show went off the air with Michael Cole saying "Ladies and gentlemen you can boo him or you can cheer him but there can be no doubt that John Cena is the greatest champion in WWE history." It’s hard to think of a comment more clearly designed to illustrate that Cena is above Daniel Bryan in the WWE pecking order.

Money in the Bank was not a good show. The opening match and the briefcase ladder match were both very enjoyable offerings but everything else was either forgettable filler or poorly formatted. Some of the matches were better cut out for an episode of RAW or SmackDown than for the undercard of what’s become the company’s fourth biggest event of the year.

The champ is here. Again.
The main event was the worst offender. Cena did very little before winning the thing and the opportunity to build up Wyatt, Reigns and Cesaro was horribly squandered. With the number of men involved the match could have been used to launch some fresh feuds for Battleground and SummerSlam. Even the obvious feud for those shows, Reigns v Orton, didn’t get the treatment it should have: there was no clear point where Orton (with help from Henchman Demon Kane) clearly and definitively cost Reigns the championship via shady tactics.

Money in the Bank 2014 was a missed opportunity and a below average offering. That’s partly attributable to injuries. It’s mostly attributable to WWE not knowing where they’re going or what their audience want.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Night of Champions: The Long Game

It’s a little disappointing to say but the next several months of WWE pay-per-special-events look a little predictable. Most people I’ve spoken to are predicting the same winners for Money in the Bank (preview of that show available here). Cena, Rollins and the Wyatts are the important names people expect to go over. Lesnar’s involvement in SummerSlam has been confirmed, with a leaked poster making it look like a match between him and Cena is on the cards. And it’s been twigged that Night of Champions is going to fall around the expiration of any initial Network sign-ups, meaning WWE will want a big show to encourage people to renew their subscriptions.

I’ve written before that predictability in wrestling isn’t always a bad thing. A card can be thoroughly predictable while still be very enjoyable and providing surprises during matches, rather than in the results. But a few months of predictable programming pushes this feeling to breaking point. A predictable show is fine. A string of them is not.

Because I feel that the next few months in WWE seem easy to call I thought I’d post some predictions for beyond Money in the Bank.

The most obvious prediction to make is that Cena will enter SummerSlam as WWE champion and defend against Lesnar. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll leave Money in the Bank with the strap. He could just as easily win the title from a transitional champion at Battleground. The frontrunner for that spot would probably be Randy Orton, although Bray Wyatt and Sheamus could work too.

I don’t think the transitional thing will happen though. I think Cena will unhook the gold at Money in the Bank and make it through Battleground unscathed to defend against ‘The Beast’ at SummerSlam. What he’ll do at BG is beyond me. A title defence against recent foe Wyatt could just about work. So could a stipulation brawl with Kane. Cena’s been slipped into a feud with ‘The Demon’ in Bryan’s absence and it’s the sort of title match WWE would likely book on a filler show, which Battleground looks set to be.

Filler show? Well, yeah. I originally thought it had a chance of being a pretty significant piece of work, featuring Ambrose v Rollins and Orton v Reigns in singles scraps, but I’ve changed my mind since the need to stack Night of Champions with big bouts came up. I’m now expecting Reigns’ match with ‘The Viper’ to be held off until SummerSlam and the SummerSlam match against Triple H that I expected him to have to be pushed back until Night of Champions. Ambrose and Rollins can rumble at Battleground and SummerSlam without hurting the appeal of the match. They’d just need to be given a suitably enticing stip for their bout at ‘The Hottest Event of the Summer’.

This leaves me predicting four matches for Summerlam. Lesnar challenging Cena for the title and probably winning. Ambrose and Rollins having their second straight singles encounter, this time with an exciting gimmick added to keep it feeling fresh. Reigns KOing Orton with a Superman punch. And Daniel Bryan returning to action to gain retribution against the main who, in the storyline, inflicted the neck injury on him, Kane. I think it’s likely Bryan will be ready to return at Battleground but keeping him off that show saves his return for the bigger show and keeps ‘The Big Red Monster’ free to lose to Cena.

Oh, and one other SummerSlam match. I’m not interested in how they’ll get there but I think the Wyatt Family versus Stardust and Goldust seems like a logical thing to expect too.

Night of Champions is the real reason I’m writing this. Because I want to predict a few months ahead of time that it will see Daniel Bryan challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship. That’s the biggest match WWE can promote right now. Were it not for Bryan’s injury it would have headlined SummerSlam (technically it still might but it looks unlikely right now). That it (probably) won’t will in fact been to WWE’s advantage as it gives them an excuse to hold the bout off for a show they need to make a must-see event.

Save it for Night of Champs, bro.
I’ve already mentioned that Triple H versus Roman Reigns will probably be on the card too. That match has already been teased. We’ve had a preview of it in the Shield v Evolution six man tags at Extreme Rules and Payback but by the time a September PPV rolls around those matches will be several months old, meaning that people won’t feel like they’ve already seen the match. To be honest I don’t think that would be the feeling anyway, rising star Reigns against seasoned veteran Triple H is a match with a fair amount of appeal even without the pair locking up beforehand. But a few months between the six man collisions and their first singles match can’t hurt.

By this point the Rollins and Ambrose rivalry will have very likely run its course. I’ve no idea who ‘The Architect’ will have moved on to but whoever’s holding the Intercontinental championship wouldn’t be out of the question. I’m expecting Rollins to have the Money in the Bank contract by this point (he’ll either win it at the show or Ambrose will and he’ll beat him for it during their feud), and he’ll need a reign as ‘The Man’ of the mid-card before going on to the world strap. That’s just the way WWE works.

Rollins wrestling for the IC title will free Ambrose up for a match with Orton. That’s another fresh match to slap on the Night of Champions card. And fresh matches featuring main names is what are what’s needed for that show.

If most or all of this happens I’ll probably feel pretty proud. But I’ll also feel more than a litrle deflated. For WWE to be so predictable for three months would be very disappointing. I don’t think they will be. They must realise how simple the layout of everything up to Night of Champions looks and I suspect they’ve got plans to chuck in some surprise. Hopefully that’ll start at Money in the Bank. If it doesn’t it’s going to be a long and boring summer.

***

For ease and simplicity here’s what I’m predicting for the next three pay-per-views:

Battleground:
Cena to leave as WWE champion
Seth Rollins v Dean Ambrose

SummerSlam:
Brock Lesnar to defeat John Cena for the WWE championship
Daniel Bryan v Kane in a stipulation match
Randy Orton v Roman Reigns
Seth Rollins v Dean Ambrose in a stipulation match
The Wyatt Family v Stardust and Goldust

Night of Champions:
Daniel Bryan v Brock Lesnar
Roman Reigns v Triple H
Randy Orton v Dean Ambrose
Seth Rollins to wrestle for the Intercontinental championship

Saturday, 28 June 2014

ROH Best in the World 2014 review


For the last few years Ring of Honor has produced a June show called Best in the World. While no event produced under the name has ever been the best card of the year they have generally been very enjoyable affairs with worthwhile main events and compelling undercards. This show was amongst the best BITW instalments. The main event was a satisfying exchange that paid off over two years of build-up (although that build-up should ideally have paid off last year). It was supported by one of the better undercards of an ROH show this year, and they’ve been doing a pretty good job in that area.

Here’s how things went down.

The opening video was designed to put over the significance and history of ROH, as well as the fact that it produces the world of wrestling's superior names. It included old footage of Punk, Danielson, Joe and the like before switching to current roster members, all of whom said the words "the best", except for last man shown Adam Cole, who got to say "...in the world." It was vaguely embarrassing.

Kevin Kelly welcomed us to the show from ringside. The first shot of the arena in Nashville showed that ROH had pushed the boat out on production. The picture quality was better than both ROH's TV show and the internet broadcasts they'd been doing. The setup featured a big screen which switched between showing the Best in the World logo and match graphics. These things are ultimately kind of pointless but it added to overall look of the thing.

Kelly said he felt the stars were aligned (he actually used that phrase) for Michael Elgin to win the ROH championship. Steve Corino, decked out in a snazzy yellow jacket, disagreed. He felt that Elgin had had enough chances to win the title and was destined to be a perennial runner-up.

After the top bouts had been sufficiently talked it the opener got underway. ACH, Watanabe, Caprice Coleman, BJ Whitmer, Tadarius Thomas and Tommaso Ciampa faced one another in a six man mayhem match, the winner of which would get an ROH television title shot. For those wondering a mayhem match is ROH's way of denoting lucha rules: when someone's thrown out of the ring they are no longer legal and another participant waiting on the apron can take their place in the ring.

Watanabe played heel. He really gave it some wellie and obviously had a watch of some standard US heel tactics on YouTube, but there was something about it that didn't quite work. But then that's why he's spending time in Ring of Honor: to gone his craft. The match saw Caprice do his jumping northern lights, including an impressive double northern lights, ACH pump kick Tadarius over the top rope, and a spot on Project Ciampas to Caprice and ACH (broken up by The Decade). ACH won after a dive onto everyone at ringside and a 450 splash on Thomas back in the ring. Ciampa and ACH shook hands after the match but Ciampa spat in his hand first. Then Corino and Whitmer had a heated row outside the ring, just because.

That was followed by a recap video of the feud between Jay Lethal and Matt Taven. Or, more accurately, Taven and Truth Martini. This included recaps of MTV posing as The Romantic Touch to beat Lethal in a non-title match to earn a championship shot and the fire burning incident at Supercard of Honor VIII. That Taven was competing just a couple of months after that incident is probably one of the most ridiculous instances of no-selling in ROH this year. If you're going to introduce fire into a wrestling storyline it should be done to write someone off TV or explain the need for a mask or other clothing change. I've no idea why the fireball was included as there was clearly no long-term intention to pay it off.

The bout would see Truth handcuffed to a ring post. Because, y'know, he interferes in matches and nobody wanted him to here. Banning him from ringside was apparently not an option. Taven didn't get much a reaction then he entered. Nothing new there. Lethal was met mostly with indifference. He had Seleziya with him in addition to Martini. That was fine with me: I'm a fan of her work. Truth did some tiresome stalling before getting cuffed to the post.

The match was wrestled well and at a brisk pace. They avoided any major missteps, took impressive bumps and ensured their offence was crisp. But despite this the match never really seemed to get going. I think it was hurt by the audience taking a while to get invested. It's disappointing but understandable. I think the problem is that Taven as a good guy is hard to warm to. Beyond his issue with established heel Martini there's no real reason to cheer the guy.

The finish saw Truth pay off the head of security to keep Taven at bay, giving Seleziya the chance to break Truth's cuffs (apparently she tore them apart) and flee with her boss. Taven gave up on chasing them almost immediately, even though he definitely would've caught them with ease and we'd been told he wanted to get his hands on Martini more than regain the title. Instead he went back to the ring and attempted a frog splash on a downed Lethal. He was met with knees and a Lethal Injection for the loss.

Roderick Strong was accompanied to the ring by Adam Page and Tadarius Thomas for his submissions match against Cedric Alexander. If you're new then Strong is a member of The Decade, a group who feel they should be given respect based on their length of time with the company, and he's taken particular issue with Cedric Alexander because he's feels Cedric is disrespectful to the business.

The story of the match was that Strong had the experience advantage and was a far better submission artist than Cedric, who was presented as a high-flyer who's not known for submission proficiency. It was a logical story effectively told, both by the wrestlers and the commentary team.

Cedric tried gaining the win with various holds. He first used a guillotine choke, then a dragon sleeper, then a butterfly lock. None got him the submission but it was noticeable that he was going for more submissions than Strong. In fact Strong didn't go for any throughout the match, and ended up being forced to submit to his own Stronghold, after a back breaker onto the top rope and a lumbar check.

It was the right decision and it had the right finish. Cedric using Strong's own hold to defeat him will allow the rivalry to stay alive as part of Roddy's problem has been Cedric "stealing" moves. As well done as the finish was it was strange that Strong went the entire match without applying a single hold. Had he worked over Cedric's back and gone for the submission a few times Cedric's victory would have seemed like a bigger achievement: he'd have weathered the storm in addition to getting Strong to tap.

After the match Cedric offered a handshake. The fans chanted for Strong to shake but he walked out. The poor sport gimmick continues. The feud pretty much has to end with a handshake at this point.

That was followed by the tag team grudge match pitting the Briscoe brothers against Michael Bennett and Matt Hardy. The pre-match video saw the Briscoes talking about being dangerous men, showed Matt Hardy being awarded the "real" world title and turning it into the Iconic championship, and covered the trio of Hardy, Cole and Bennett forming The Kingdom. An actor called Nick Searcy accompanied Hardy. I've never heard of him before this show and I probably won't after. When it comes to outside guest stars ROH never quite manages to fully impress.

The match went for about five minutes before the heels got disqualified for smacking Jay with the Iconic championship. Jay took a mic and called the decision into question and asked Nigel McGuinness to make things right. Nigel did so, walking out into the arena to announce the match would continue under no DQ rules. Then he joined commentary because why not?

What followed was a brawl featuring chairs, tables, ladders and Maria interference. There was also some amusing pro-Hardy Corino commentary, the highlight of which was "Turner just Hebnered him!" after Jay kicked out after a Twist of Fate. Jay got the win after suplexing Matt off a ladder and through a table, following up with a Jay Driller for good measure. It was a fulfilling brawl. Which is what should be expected of the Briscoes at this point.

Footage of Elgin's mullet being cut off by Cole at a "live event" was shown. Elgin's wife MsChif ran out and begged Cole and Bennett to stop. She got slapped in the devastating figure four for daring to question the mighty ROH champ.

In the aisle Larry Mercer and Mandy Leon were with new ROH signee Moose. Sadly, the Bravado brothers weren't around. I still think ROH made a mistake not keeping them around. Moose cut an awkward babyface promo about wanting to earn his way to the top and not be handed anything based on his NFL accomplishments. He exhibited very little personality. Gabe knew what he was doing when he cast him as a minder. The Moose-centric festivities were interrupted by Veda Scott. She offered him her managerial services, citing the success of RD Evans as a reason to join her. Moose said he'd discuss it later and just wanted to enjoy the show. Veda and Ramone stormed to the back. It could hint at an Evans versus Moose feud but I doubt it. It looks as though they want to use Moose as a face and that won't happen if he's pitted against the ├╝ber-popular 'Papa Bear'.

Kevin Steen and Silas Young were up after that. Both men got heavy streamer treatment, which was surprising in the case of Young. Steen was as popular as ever. Young showed a great deal of aptitude and skill interacting with the crowd and drawing them into the match. They were always going to react to Steen's offence because he's so popular, but it was a pleasant surprise from 'The Last Real Man'. Steen won after a top rope fisherman suplex and a package piledriver.

After the match ‘Mr Wrestling’ cut a promo about respecting Silas for trying to make a name for himself on the top guy (making a point of saying that he is the top guy) and getting to wrestle him on a big show before his contract expires. He offered a handshake and had it accepted. Steen acknowledged some signs thanking him before Silas gave him a sly chop block. So it looks as though Steen’s final ROH match will take place opposite Silas Young. Based on their match here I think that’ll provide a good way for the most popular ROH star of the last four years to bow out.

The tag team title match was preceded by a Fish Tank skit. Basically it was Fish and O'Reilly sitting in armchairs talking about redefining tag team wrestling (and possibly the laws of physics, that bit was a little unclear) and having things in common with Bad Influence (the metrosexual gimmick, specifically). The returning Daniels got a loud reaction and a predictable "Welcome back!" chant. Plus streamers. Lots and lots of streamers.

reDRagon isolated Kazarian early on, working over his arm with kicks and submission holds. Kaz made a comeback, wiping out the champs and escaping a guillotine choke before tagging in Daniels, who immediately tore through Fish and O’Reilly. ‘The Ring General’ tried a BME but O'Reilly avoided it. ReDRagon took turns charging Daniels in the corner then hit a back breaker and knee drop combo on him. Bad Influence managed to fight back, Kazarian downing Fish with an ace crusher and Daniels again going for the BME. It was Fish’s turn to avoid it, rolling out of the way and catching CD with a Samoan drop. He tried a moonsault of his own but that was also avoided. A pin attempt after Angels Wings was broken by O'Reilly. Daniels missed a sitdown moonsault to the outside and got run into the apron by Fish. Yeah, there were a lot of missed moonsaults in this match.

Back in the ring Kazarian gave O'Reilly a Flux Capacitor but landed on his own elbow, causing him to pause for a few valuable seconds before making the cover. When he did go for it Fish pulled the referee out of the ring. O'Reilly tried a schoolboy with a handful of tights but only got two. Kazarian got tripped by Fish, allowing O’Reilly to knee him in the head and reDRagon to connect with Chasing the Dragon. Kazarian stunned the crowd by kicking out. Undaunted O'Reilly slipped smoothly into an armbar as Fish leapt on Daniels to stop him making the save. Kaz tapped to end a satisfying tag title match.

These are two of the best teams in wrestling and this match demonstrated why. TNA’s stupid decision to release Bad Influence is definitely ROH’s gain. I’m looking forward to more meetings between the teams. Bad Influence interacting with the rest of the roster should be fun too.

The pre-match video for the main event focused on the importance of the ROH championship and Cole and Elgin both being spoken of for years as the future of the promotion. Both spoke about their history and what the title means to them. Elgin said he doesn't want to just be a guy who's wrestled for ROH, he wants to join the list of ROH champions. Cole did a more generic heel bit about being the best in the world. It was a strong verbal performance from the usually limited Elgin.

The early going worked in ringside brawling, featuring an Oklahoma stampede on the entrance ramp. The story was that Elgin was focused and not letting Cole get into his head, ignoring his mind games and powering him around like a boss. Elgin debuted a new move: a stomach blower from a concrete slam position. It's the sort of thing that I can imagine him using frequently. He’s good at slotting his repertoire into interesting sequences.

Cole kneed his way out of Elgin’s stalling suplex and hit a brain buster onto his knee. Elgin came back with a Crippler crossface and then drop kicked Cole as he tried a springboard to the top rope (having escaped the crossface, natch). That led to the deadlift second rope suplex, but he modified it into a falcon arrow. Cole gave Elgin a top rope hurricanrana, a reverse-rana and a Florida Key. All for a delicious two count.

Cole leapt off the second rope and was met with a pump kick from Elgin. The champ struggled back up to his feet and missed a super kick, belting the ref and knocking him out. Elgin did a buckle bomb and an Elgin bomb but there was no one to count. This kicked off a sequence that played on the history of so many Elgin title challenges and Cole title defences featuring outside interference and ref bumps.

Cole’s Kingdom buddies Bennett and Hardy ran in and kicked away at Elgin. He shrugged it off, escaping a Twist of Fate and dropping both interfering heels with the fall away slam-Samoan drop combo. Next he elbowed Cole in the back of the head and then Awesome bombed him on to Bennett and Hardy. Maria slapped Elgin, causing him to chase her around ringside. That led to him getting walloped with the title belt and dropped with a Florida Key.

At that point Hanson and Rowe arrived to even the odd, brawling backstage with Bennett and Hardy. Maria tossed the title belt to Cole and distracted the ref. MsChif ran out and gave her a green mist as Elgin ducked the title shot and blasted Cole with a buckle bomb and an Elgin bomb. Cole stunned the crowd, who had started throwing streamers, so convinced were they that the match was over, by kicking out. The audience chastised themselves with a chant of “We fucked up!”

Cole gave Elgin a drop kick to the knee and then smacked his knee into a ring post. He even applied the Bret Hart hanging figure four for good measure. He went to apply the figure four in the ring but got rolled into a pinning position. That only got two, but Elgin immediately applied a crossface. Cole refused to quit and then Elgin’s knee gave out as he ran towards Cole for a clothesline. Cole capitalised on the situation by giving him a super kick and a Canadian destroyer.

Naturally Elgin kicked out. The champ went for a sunset flip but Elgin powered out and pounded Cole with a trio of power bombs to earn himself the three count, the victory and the championship. The final couple of minutes of the broadcast were given over to Carey Silkin presenting Elgin with the title and Elgin celebrating. Kelly and Corino talked Elgin up as 'The Best in the World' and a worthy champion.

It was a year too late but hey, at least he finally got it.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Money in the Bank 2014 preview


There's a chance Money in the Bank's hot streak could end this year. The last few instalments have seen the show develop into WWE's fourth biggest pay-per-special-event of the year, a combination of the titular gimmick's importance, very strong supporting cards, and memorable match-ups like Orton v Christian, Punk v Bryan, and Cena v Henry, and, of course, Cena v Punk. The bar has been set high.

This year's card is lacking in a few areas. The most obvious things to point to are the absence are CM Punk, who walked out in protest against sub-par booking (or something) and the absence of Daniel Bryan, who's recuperating after surgery on his neck. While Bryan will appear he won’t be wrestling, and he’ll only be on the pre-show event. They're big draws for WWE and this is the first major show the company's promoted without them that can't sustain itself on its own name. They were both available for the Rumble in January and WrestleMania succeeds primarily because it's WrestleMania (it could be argued that Rumble does too to an extent). Here WWE will get a decent indication of how important Bryan and Punk are to their bigger shows' levels of success.

The event is also suffering from a weak undercard. Beyond the two ladders matches, one for the WWE championship vacated after D-Bry's neck injury and the other for the traditional briefcase containing the magical contract, there's not much on offer. The decision to book two ladder matches with a combined tally of fifteen participants has severely limited WWE's options for the non-ladder bouts. They could have avoided that by bulking the briefcase collision up with big bump-takers who don't mean much to people (such as Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel) but while that would have created more options for non-ladder bouts it would also have made it a little easier to predict outcomes. No bump fodder's winning a briefcase.

Thankfully predictability isn't something affecting the WWE championship ladder match1. Four of the eight wrestlers look like conceivable winners, with another two being long shots. Only Alberto Del Rio and Kane look like absolute no-hopers tasked with making up the numbers. A year ago ADR was being used really well and would have looked like a potential winner. A lack of focus and disregard for the roster outside of select pushes had resulted in a disappointing tumble down the ranks for him. Meanwhile Kane is just Kane. WWE have been reheating him as a monster for months but the character is so ridiculous at this point that he will never again be the champion.

The four men I think have the good chance are Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and John Cena. Sheamus and Cesaro are the men who aren't likely to win but could get it as a surprise. Selecting a winner is tough because WWE has so many options. They could go with perennial safe choice Cena or his backup Orton. They're accepted as headliners by viewers and could be used to stabilise the company's creative direction after a few floundering months.

Reigns could be rocketed to the top of pay-per-views to work defences against, well, everyone really. He's spent so long as a member of The Shield that every singles programme he could be placed in is fresh. Triple H and 'The Viper' would be the most obvious first contenders for him. Reigns v Bryan could be an exciting prospect too. It's happened before but never for the title and never with both men as crowd pleasers. Cena could (naturally) be left in reserve for a future 'Mania. A win at MITB followed by a lengthy run defeating everyone placed before him could turn Reigns into something special.

But somehow I don't think it's likely. WWE historically likes to create hot babyfaces by putting them through a lengthy title chase which sees them screwed out of winning the prize a couple of times. It's hard to argue with the approach as it's stood them in good stead over the years. It’s not the most inspired thing they could do though.

Most of the arguments that apply to putting the championship on Reigns also apply to Bray Wyatt. The only main eventers he's wrestled in a major setting are Bryan and Cena. He still has fresh matches waiting for him against Tripper, Orton, Batista and Reigns, as well as lesser mortals like Sheamus and Cesaro. Perhaps most importantly it could be used to squeeze one last PPV meeting between him and Cena onto our screens at Battleground.

The Wyatt character would be interesting to see as WWE champion. He's still being framed in storylines as a villain but he has a high level of crowd support (thanks partially but not exclusively to WWE not giving him much competition, due to their inability to push more than three fresh acts at once). His acknowledgement that the championship equates to power in WWE could be used as the basis for a feud with 'The Game'.

I think the answer to predicting this match lies in looking ahead to SummerSlam. The likelihood is that the champion will defend against Brock Lesnar at that show. He's the man that conquered The Streak and he was making noises about getting a title shot before WrestleMania so it feels like the right match to do. On top of that WWE have been sending out email polls asking whom fans would like to see 'The Pain' challenge for the strap at SummerSlam. Everything points to Lesnar being the SummerSlam foe of the WWE champion.

Sheamus, ADR and Kane can be ruled out of such a lucrative spot straight away. 'Great White' could win do a short reign and lose the title to Lesnar’s opponent at Battleground to swerve audiences (something I don't think WWE's above doing, sadly) but even that seems beyond Del Rio and Kane. Reigns and Wyatt would perhaps look a little out of place opposing 'The Beast' as a defending champion but defeating him could give them an incredible boost. The same goes for Cesaro, although in his case the fact that he and Heyman share an agent would put an interesting spin on things and gives him a slightly better chance of being the defending champ.

But the two guys best cut out for a match with Lesnar are Cena and Orton. We've seen Cena tangle with Lesnar a couple of times, once at Extreme Rules 2012 and once at Backlash 2003. It's not exactly overdone but it's also not fresh. Meanwhile Orton and Lesnar have never wrestled each other before. It's rare for WWE to have a fresh match between two such established names and while I don't think it would be a classic I do think it's more desirable than Lesnar v Cena. ‘The Viper’ versus ‘The Beast’ is the match I'd like to see.

It's not the match I'm predicting though. I can't envision a way it could be made to work. Why would The Authority, heel management figures, put their chosen one heel champion in a match with an unstoppable rage-monster who's also a heel? Orty could win the title and go face, but it's hard to see how that could come about in storyline terms and it's even harder to imagine crowds accepting it. People are perfectly happy booing him at the moment.

So I think Cena will win the title and defend it against Lesnar at SummerSlam. As a safety net and an act capable of making a match feel like it means something there are no other options. For the record I suspect he'll defend against Kane at Battleground. Because Kane seems to be WWE’s go-to guy for pay-per-view challengers at the moment. I've no idea why.

The final thing I'll say about the WWE title match is that I expect it to be very good. WWE's top three prospects (Reigns, Wyatt and Cesaro) are involved, as are the top two active stars, so there's no way it won't be impeccably laid out. I expect every one of those five to get memorable moments. Big bumps are practically guaranteed from Orton and Cesaro too: they're the only guys in the match both willing to and physically capable of taking them. Although Wyatt may have some steps or a ladder lobbed at his head again. That'd be a laugh.

The most noteworthy undercard match is the tag team title match. Jimmy and Jey Uso will defend against The Wyatt Family's Erick Rowan and Luke Harper. The Usos versus the Wyatts is a worthwhile match that WWE have done well to make mean something, foregoing their usual approach of simply announcing the thing or going with dull non-title wins over the champs for the challengers. They spun it off of the Wyatt versus Cena feud, something they don't do anywhere near enough considering how natural that approach feels and how effective it can be.

The time feels right for a title change. Jimmy and Jey have had the gold since March and Harper and Rowan have been steadily building as a duo pretty much since they made their main roster debuts in May last year. They are unquestionably the natural choice to beat the Usos. Changing the title holders here would escalate the feud, probably needed as even though this is their first PPV collision they've been linked for a month or so, and cement the Wyatt lads as a formidable pairing. The Usos could regain them on a RAW or at Battleground to keep things hot.

That said this is the first title match of what will probably be a lengthy series. Usually under these circumstances the champions, or champion, would retain by disqualification (or similar). It's entirely possible WWE will stick with their preferred formula. I hope not though. A bit of experimentation is what's needed at the mo.

The only other title match on the show will be the Divas title. Paige will defend against Naomi. There's potential here. Naomi is a more capable wrestler than her partner Cameron and is about as over as the former cheerleader for a man who pretends to be a dinosaur can be. Paige has had some belting matches in the past, but we haven't seen anything that's not average out it her since she rocked up on RAW nearly three months ago.

With ten minutes at their disposal and both women (though particularly Paige, because she’s the more skilled and experienced wrestler of the pair) on form they could do something special. With such a sparse card it's conceivable that they'll get the time. Hopefully everything else will come together if they do. No matter how long or how good the match I think Paige will retain. I don't think she'll lose the championship until there's a solid challenger in place. Although, for the record, I could imagine Naomi winning the title and being betrayed by Cameron, setting up the much anticipated Funkadactyl versus Funkadactyl feud.

Aside from the second ladder match the only other thing confirmed for the show is RybAxel v Goldust and Stardust. It’s still too early to say what WWE are doing with the Stardust character although my instinct is that it will end with a heel turn and a split for the brother team. I’ve no interest in seeing them face RybAxel. They defeated them in under two minutes in Stardust’s debut and I’m sure they’ll manage it again here. The match has been seen and wasn’t exciting.

Four matches on a card obviously isn’t enough. I expect WWE will add at least another two bouts to the show. One of them will almost certainly be Rusev v Big E. They’ve had a feud simmering away for the last month, much of which has played out on SmackDown. Considering ‘The Super Athlete’’s push it’s highly unlikely he’ll be left off such a sparse show and Big  is the natural opponent for him. They’ll have a good, hard-hitting hoss fight and Rusev will go over.

The only other match available to WWE that would have any sort of meaning is Summer Rae v Layla. Summer got dumped by Fandango via Twitter, handily freeing up more of her time to go and film Total Divas and creating a similarly handy vacancy for the previously aimless Layla. Summer took the storyline dumping hard and, after inexplicably biding her time for over a month, returned to TV, locked lips with Fandango and had a brawl with Layla. It’s not the most thrilling plot ever to hit WWE television but there is at least a logical progression to it that’s easy to follow and that makes sense.

A mixed tag match could be produced but I think a singles match with Fandango at ringside is more likely. I hope it doesn’t end with him spurning both women and going off by himself because having a dance partner is one of the few things that sets him apart from everyone else at the moment. If it happens I’ll be picking Summer Rae to win. The only reason for that is that I think there are more plans for her than for Layla.

Finally there's the Money in the Bank ladder match, the one with the traditional "get a WWE title match whenever you want it, bro" contract on the line, represented by a snazzy briefcase. The men involved are, in no particular order, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Rob Van Dam, Dolph Ziggler and Intercontinental champion Bad News Barrett. It's that line-up which has placed such strain on the rest of the card. The men involved in this match are the men WWE usually relies on for fleshing out its special event mid-cards. By pooling them all into one match they’ve limited themselves elsewhere.

This needn’t have been the case. If WWE made better use of the six hours of main roster programming they produce every week they could have a bundle of mid-card feuds going on amongst a group of over and diverse characters. That they seem so uninterested in giving anyone below the upper mid-card anything to do has resulted in them having very few options for fresh meaningful matches. If more wrestlers get over WWE has more chance of finding a new money-making star. For some reason they seem to be against doing this. Anyway, you can read more on the subject here.

The plus side to putting pretty much the entire mid-card into one match is that the match should be good. There’s a natural story to tell of Rollins trying to avoid Ambrose as he tries to win, and the match could also be used to launch a proper rivalry between Ziggler and Bad News after it was flirted with on the June 20 SmackDown and June 23 RAW. Sadly I think we’ll be without the enjoyable plot of Damien Sandow turning on Cody Rhodes that drove much of last year’s undercard ladder bout.

I think Kingston, Swagger and Van Dam can all be written off as potential winners. They’re there to make up the numbers and take some falls. In Kofi’s case that extends to doing something “wacky” with the ladders. While I’d like to say Ziggler’s got a chance of winning I don’t think it’s terribly likely. WWE have cooled on him considerably since this time last year. Which is a great pity considering how over he was (and is) and how talented he is.

Bad News Barrett could be in with a chance of winning the case. Since being reintroduced as an active competitor the night after WrestleMania XXX he’s been handled very well. He’s put on good matches and WWE have mostly presented him as a dominant force. He was apparently injured at the SmackDown tapings on Tuesday so it’s possible he won’t be in the match, but if he is I won’t be surprised by him winning.

He’s not my prediction to win though. That goes to Seth Rollins. Really I think it comes down to him and Dean Ambrose leaving with the briefcase. With that being the case the obvious WWE finish is to have Ambrose about to win only for Rollins to do something heelish to knock his former partner off a ladder and grab the case for himself. That “something heelish” would almost certainly be within the rules of the match but that won’t bother WWE. That approach would add to the Ambrose-Rollins animosity and set Rollins up as The Authority’s hand-picked rising star.

Of course, it’s also possible Ambrose could win, leading to Rollins assuring Triple H that he can rest the briefcase from him if granted a one-on-one match at Battleground. But this seems a little less likely somehow. Plus if Rollins has the case it opens up a storyline between he and Reigns if Reigns wins the championship.

So that’s Money in the Bank. A show that’s hard to predict winners for, which is never a bad thing, but that which looks pretty sparse on paper, which is never a good thing. I’m sure it’ll end up being above average: WWE seem to understand the show’s status and have put effort into the lader matches. But I hope the absence of a mid-card sparks some action regarding storylines taking place across the roster, and not just at the top.

Predictions summary:
John Cena to win the WWE championship
Seth Rollins to win Money in the Bank
The Wyatt Family to defeat the Usos for the WWE tag team championship
Paige to defeat Naomi
Goldust and Stardust to defeat RybAxel
Summer Rae to defeat Layla
Rusev to defeat Big E

***

1 I'll say here and now that referring to it as a Money in the Bank match is inaccurate: they’re fought for Money in the Bank contracts. This is a multi-man ladder match for the world title.

Monday, 23 June 2014

SnookiMania

So apparently Snooki wants back into the sports entertainment game. What's that? You’ve never heard of Snooki? Allow me to attempt an explanation.

Snooki’s full name is Nicole Elizabeth Polizzi. She shot to quasi-fame as a cast member on Jersey Shore, a show about a group of recognition-hungry layabouts flaunting their wealth and glamorous lifestyles in semi-scripted feuds and storylines (not dissimilar to wrestling, as it happens). Swimming pools, nightclubs and cheating partners featured prominently.

On the back of her popularity on that show she bagged numerous media appearances and a dose of fame. She also got a second, not very different, show in which she has a starring role. It’s called Snooki & JWoww. JWoww was also on Jersey Shore and holds the same media personality job description as Snooki.

Fake tan? No, definitely not.
When it became clear that Jersey Shore could sustain a level of popularity for a while WWE felt the need to associate with the show. Not satisfied with giving Zack Ryder a gimmick inspired by the programme they also hired Snooki, as the most marketable and one of the most respectable cast members, to host an episode of RAW in March 2011. That met with unspectacular results, as these sorts of WWE experiments tend to. Only a handful of non-wrestling fans were keen enough on Snooki to tune into RAW to watch her antics unfold. None stuck around (at least not in significant numbers) for any non-Snooki wrestling shows that followed.

Undeterred by the general public's spectacular indifference WWE forged ahead with the original plan to feature Snooki at that year’s WrestleMania. Not happy with simply having her appear (because that had been done) somebody in the company decided that Snooki should wrestle at the event. That she did, in the once prestigious semi-main event spot no less, teaming with John Morrison and Trish Stratus to defeat LayCool and Dolph Ziggler. Yep, Snooki was inexplicably booked as a babyface on the show which attracts the most hardcore wrestling fans. To the surprise of very few (a number which I suspect includes Snooki's agent) she was booed.

I shan't lie. I'm not overly familiar with Snooki's career so I had no idea what she'd been doing since WrestleMania XXVII until I Googled her to write this. Turns out she's mostly just been filming the reality show already mentioned. I can't say with any certainty whether or not her fame has increased, decreased or abstained from fluctuation altogether since her last WWE stint but I'd guess it's about the same. Essentially I'd assume she still has her own group of loyal fans. And if that's the case WWE could do worse than using her again.

Yeah, I'm advocating the use of a celebrity by WWE. Not revolutionary considering the company's track record and fairly unremarkable considering the celeb in question's been involved before and had announced they want to be involved again (on the Talk is Jericho podcast, for the record) but hear me out. If WWE were to simply bring in Snooki for a guest hosting spot on RAW it would be pointless. It's been done. It's also been proven she doesn't inflict a major change on ratings, which is the number one reason people of her ilk are brought in.

What I think WWE should do is offer Snooki a one year contract. Immediately you've got someone who can, with the right training and booking protection, work as a top heel in the Divas division and who can give Total Divas a boost. With the show going into its third series a boost is exactly what’s needed (the announcement that Rosa Mendes is joining the cast won’t provide it). In fact there's even the potential to do a series focusing solely on Snooki becoming a wrestler (which needn't preclude her from the TD cast). That could be shown exclusively on the WWE Network, netting more subscribers as her fans are forced to sign up to watch, or sold to TV channel, getting WWE some cash for a show that's unlikely to cost a lot to make.

Signing Snooki to a full contract (obviously an above average one in monetary terms) would create far more mainstream interest in WWE than having her make a one off appearance would. A fully fledged Z-lister becoming a bona fide full-time wrestler? TMZ and the like would lap that up!

While the reality setup would be Snooki's natural domain she could function well enough as a wrestler. She already has that much vaunted gymnastics background Michael Cole banged on about at 'Mania XXVII and could be stationed at NXT for the first several months of her contract. That she's going to be unpopular with fans would just need to be embraced (or perhaps I’m being hard on her and she has the ability to work out as a face: if so it’s hardly a loss, she’d just be booked differently). Sticking her with the BFFs would be sensible. It would not only cast her as a heel but also offer her some protection by surrounding her with more experienced heads.

After three or four months she could be promoted to the main roster to be carried through matches by Natalya, Emma, and Paige (notice how Divas are rarely entitled to surnames?). In fact, Snooki could be used as a device to elevate all the BFFs. The group could be called up as a unit with Snooki positioned as the star. That would make storylines easier to write (as each face challenger would have various singles and tag matches waiting for them opposing the villainous group) and allow multiple roster members to benefit from a celeb signing. There would also be a natural blow off feud between Snooki and whichever member of the BFFs WWE feels has the most potential for singles success in the long run. That's probably Charlotte but personally I like Sasha Banks's chances.

Her background means she's going to understand the social media aspects of being a WWE Diva (a downfall of many men and women WWE hires) and she's likely to pick up the knack of cutting a promo quickly if she's got the right teacher. She’d certainly be looked after in the teaching department. WWE would want their high profile signing to learn quickly and well in order to benefit from her as much as possible. As such they’d put their top people on her (stifle that laughter…).

The timing of this is something WWE would have to look at. Snooki's currently pregnant, which makes it an unlikely deal to be struck in the immediate future. That's not a concern though, because signing Snooki now isn't really ideal for WWE anyway. This is the sort of stunt that would best work in conjunction with WrestleMania. That would allow Snooki to make her first and last appearances on 'The Grandest Stage of Them All' and would ensure whatever Snooki-themed reality offering was concocted would be ready to air in the build-up to her second 'Mania, where Snooki would ideally be having a significant singles clash.

Snooki versus Charlotte at WrestleMania XXXII? You heard it here first!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

SmackTalk 20.06.14

SmackDown’s generally a one match show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can lead to good matches ad interesting matches and good interesting matches. This week’s show featured the latter. The seven participants in the WWE championship ladder match at Money in the Bank were placed in a four-on-three handicap match. It was well booked and made the more important match the seven are to be involved in seem more interesting.

It’s an approach I think WWE should use more often. Getting a number of guys together who don’t usually interact is a good way of starting fresh issues. With that seeming to be something WWE has a problem with (so much so that they rarely bother doing it outside of the main event) it’s odd that they’ve not realised this themselves.

Anyway, just for fun, here’s a tweeting session I did.

Seth Rollins v Kofi Kingston

Tweet 1: Let's tweet some Smack.
Tweet 2: First guy out is Seth Rollins, meaning I have to make the obligatory Agents of SHIELD comment.

Seth Rollins, agent of SHIELD.

Tweet 3: Rollins was wearing trainers when Ambrose attacked him on Main Event. Can't imagine image conscious Triple H approved of that.
Tweet 4: He's facing perma-disappointment Kofi Kingston who's decked out like The Flash.
Tweet 5: "Dean Ambrose belongs in a rubber room" - JBL, perhaps hinting at plans for WWE to steal the Samuel Shaw story
Tweet 6: Kofi lost surprisingly quickly. I don't think it'll hurt his chances of being added to Money in the Bank though.
Tweet 7: Uh-oh, Seth's got a mic...
Tweet 8: Is Kane's new ring name Demon Kane? Everyone seems to be calling him that. It's like he's a DBZ villain who's reached his second power level

John Cena promo, featuring interruptions from Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus, Cesaro, Paul Heyman, Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton

Tweet 9: Michael Cole's welcoming us to the show after the first match and a recap vid. Weirdo.
Tweet 10: John Cena on SmackDown? SAYWHAAAAAAT?!
Tweet 11: Cole's introducing himself AGAIN. This is getting out of hand.
Tweet 12: Cena's jokes falling flat there.
Tweet 13: Rough cut to the crowd chanting "Yes!" It's almost like they didn't take Cena's original cue and had to be prompted a couple more times.
Tweet 14: Hahahaha interrupted by Del Rio of all people.
Tweet 15: Remember when ADR first debuted and he feuded with Rey about three separate times in his first year?
Tweet 16: Sheamus came out. I wanted him to say that he was going to unify the US title with the WWE and World titles to make the WWE triple crown.
Tweet 17: He didn’t. Poor.
Tweet 18: Heyman getting the most heat of the entire show by mentioning Lesnar ending The Streak there.
Tweet 19: Reigns and Cena could be something one day.

Wouldn't surprise me if this was a WrestleMania main event one day, to be honest.

Tweet 20: And I don't mean slash fic.
Tweet 21: Randy Orton. Go to guy for exciting promo segments.
Tweet 22: That promo segment ended with all the guys fighting. Didn't see that comin'...

Dolph Ziggler v Bad News Barrett

Tweet 23: Dolph putting the moves on Lilian Garcia there.
Tweet 24: Bad News Cape Klaxon!!
Tweet 25: Leave it to Barrett to drop in a football reference. Helping to stereotype all Brits as football lovers.
Tweet 26: Could've done with that being longer. Still good though. I want Ziggler v Barrett on the next three PPVs. I'll take them in MITB together.
Tweet 27: Bad News hit Ziggler so hard that his music stopped. Impressive.

Titus O’Neil v Adam Rose

Tweet 28: They're idiots for not saving Titus v Rose for a pay-per-view.
Tweet 29: Love the fact that Rose's entourage are the most excited people in the arena. Most people in the crowd aren't bothered.

The most excited people in the building.

Tweet 30: Can't wait for that bunny heel turn.
Tweet 31: Titus loses. Demands a rematch. Loses again. I'm sure someone, somewhere finds that hilarious.

Kane v Dean Ambrose

Tweet 32: #DemonKane
Tweet 33: Nice to see Rollins has put some effort in for his spot as a guest commentator. So few wrestlers care these days.
Tweet 34: Look at Lawler. He sits there in naff T-shirts every week.
Tweet 35: Once again I feel compelled to comment on Dean Ambrose being really, really surprisingly over as a singles babyface.
Tweet 36: Rollins didn't cost Ambrose the match. mbrose cost Ambrose the match. #BretscrewedBret

Jack Swagger v Big E

Tweet 37: BIG HOSS.
Tweet 38: It's the grudge match we've all been waiting for: Big E v Jack Swagger!
Tweet 39: These two had a cracking match at Elimination Chamber. My hopes are raised for this.
Tweet 40: Lasted about a minute so nowhere near as good as the match at Chamber. Gonna pin my hopes on Big E v Rusev.

Fandango, Summer Rae and Layla backstage

Tweet 41: Fandango not using his gimmick voice is the most kayfabe-breaking thing I've seen in years.
Tweet 42: Summer mouth rapes Fanners and Layla sees. Nothing is said. Their eyes do the talking.
Tweet 43: Yep. Really hyped for that Layla v Summer Rae match.

Bo Dallas v Fandango

Tweet 44: Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo!Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo! Bo!
Tweet 45: The obvious finisher for Bo Dallas is the bow and arrow. Why is this not happening?
Tweet 46: 'Dirty' Curty going back to his old ways, basically.
Tweet 47: Not pleased with Layla and Summer trying to overshadow Bo Dallas.

"Are you a... Boliever?"

Tweet 48: Is part of Bo's gimmick that he becomes a bystander in other people's storylines and gets wins out of it? If not it should be.
Tweet 49: Anyone who says Bo's not getting over is wrong. There are signs in the crowd for him and his victory is being booed.

Bray Wyatt backstage promo

Tweet 50: Wyatt Family screen thing going off with Bo in the ring made me think they were going to acknowledge them as brothers.
Tweet 51: 'The Designer of Chaos' is another great moniker for Bray.
Tweet 52: Nice that WWE are savvy enough to have Bray say that he's only siding with the other heels briefly.

Randy Orton, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, and Bray Wyatt v John Cena, Sheamus and Roman Reigns

Tweet 53: Instead of a four-on-three match they could have done Sheamus, Reigns and Cena v ADR, Orton and Cesaro v The Wyatt Family.
Tweet 54: Could've been interesting. Maybe they'll do it next week. But they won't.
Tweet 55: The question that everyone wants answered is: are there Mexican flags on the ring posts?
Tweet 56: Awkward shot from the cheap seats there. It was so they didn't have to show a bunch of tarped seats I expect.
Tweet 57: Bray Wyatt foregoing a musical entrance and instead choosing to teleport to the ring there.
Tweet 58: Love Cole making out Reigns is untrustworthy because he said nobody could stop him from winning the world title.
Tweet 59: This match perfectly illustrates how WWE could use six man tags to start new feuds every few months.
Tweet 60: It's not actually a six man tag, but still...
Tweet 61: "Sheamus loves to fight, don't he?" - Michael 'I Can't Think Of Anything To Say' Cole
Tweet 62: The announcers are pushing a lack of trust towards Reigns but Cena teamed with him and Ambrose the week after Rollins turned. Ridiculous.
Tweet 63: Cena and Orton tag in at the same time. The audience immediately begins booing.
Tweet 64: Needlessly sexual cover from Orton there.
Tweet 65: For those playing along at home it was the one he went for after he pointed at Reigns.
Tweet 66: "It's his first big chance at the title!" - Michael Cole on Cesaro, who also wrestled for the title in the main event of Elimination Chamber
Tweet 67: The Crowd Noise Machine is going into overdrive now that Reigns has tagged in.

Bray Wyatt's about to get Lex Luthored.

Tweet 68: Pretty good finish to that. All of Reigns' spots were used and then he went over. Works for me.
Tweet 69: I wish JBL would stop talking about watching Reigns erupt though. #filth