My interest levels in this show were pretty low on the whole. Mainly because the same day Revolution Pro Wrestling had scheduled a show in London, at York Hall in Bethnal Green. I was sold the minute they released the name of the first wrestler booked; Tomohiro Ishii. I’m a massive fan of Ishii and his realistic work. I booked two tickets immediately, despite having no one in particular to go with. I ended up coercing my beloved wife to join me and attend her first wrestling show. It was a terrific evenings entertainment from the reliable Rev Pro promotion. I swear it’s their intention to put on a fantastic card every single show they do. The first few matches booked for their Uprising show in October were so tantalising I’m certain to be going to that show as well. Massive props go out to Will Ospreay and Matt Sydal for having the outstanding match on a card populated by the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Roderick Strong, Colt Cabana and AJ Styles. It’s a genuine MOTYC, which I’d put at ****3/4, possibly at ***** because I was there. It’s also a contender for the best match I’ve seen in person. It really was that good. This coming from a guy, in Sydal, that I disparaged the last time I saw him for being rusty and clunky. You can ignore that now, Matt Sydal is back and Will Ospreay is incredibly good in the ring. His somewhat vanilla personality will count against him when he gets to America, and believe me he will, but he can get by on wrestling alone. He’s that damn good.
Oh yeah, the WWE put a show on too. Let’s see how that went…
14th June 2015.
In memory of Dusty Rhodes 1945-2015
Before we get underway everyone is collected out here for a ten bell salute to the fallen Dusty Rhodes. There isn’t a man or woman among the WWE superstars that hasn’t been touched by Dusty’s genius. I’ve often been critical of his in-ring ability but Dusty’s ability to draw people in was almost unparalleled. His voice was amazing and he could sell a story in a few sentences with his unique style. His work with the WWE, especially in moulding the current generation of stars, is greatly appreciated and he will be missed, both as one of the most charismatic men in the history of wrestling and as a beloved mentor.
We’re in Columbus, Ohio. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler.
Money in the Bank Ladder Match
Randy Orton vs. Neville vs. Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns
No messing around here as we go right into the Money in the Bank match. I suspect this is because there are so few actual, genuine, title threats in this match. Roman is the obvious one and the likes of Neville, Kofi and Dolph are basically in there for the high spots. For me the Money in the Bank gimmick is played out and could use a year off. Make it a bi-annual event and you’ve got two years to cash in. Make it really mean something. It wasn’t even that long ago that Seth Rollins cashed in. It gets off to a poor start with everyone fighting over one ladder. It looks horribly disorganised. I like the chaos, but it’s not much fun to watch. They settle down into setting up spots and the crowd are still not keen on Roman Reigns. I guess it’ll take longer than three months to rehab him. As with all these multiple person matches it suffers from massive selling issues. At one point Orton, Kane, Ziggler and Sheamus all just disappear to let Roman hit spots on Kofi and Neville. Where the hell are they all? Orton hits a series of RKO’s to thunderous applause, showing I’m completely off the pulse of what the common wrestling fan likes as I think Orton is dull. The one on Neville off the ladder is a good spot but it’s only because of Neville’s bump. Neville sometimes using his flying for logical spots and sometimes not. An example being a random Red Arrow on an already downed Sheamus. Wouldn’t climbing the ladder have made more sense? The crowd seem most inclined toward a Ziggler win, showing no amount of losses can tarnish his popularity and yet the WWE still don’t seem all that interested in him.
The wonky selling continues and with everyone down Big E and Xavier Woods come down to assist Kofi. There was a theory, amongst the IWC, that Kofi would actually win this match and Brock Lesnar would take the case from him. Who’s going to stop Brock anyway? Roman ends up stopping Kingston with a powerbomb onto the rest of the competitors. Only Orton remains. Spear! As Roman climbs the ladder to collect the contract Bray Wyatt appears in the ring to push the ladder over. SISTER ABIGAIL! Roman had it won but instead it looks like he’ll be working with Bray Wyatt. That leaves the case for Sheamus to pull down. Well, that’s underwhelming.
Final Rating: **1/2
Video Control takes us to Paige for an interview. She points out the Bellas are dominating the divas division and she’s out to take it down. She promises to instigate change tonight “for you, Dusty”.
WWE Divas Championship
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige
Paige lost to Twin Magic a few weeks ago. So Nikki is definitely a heel, again. Just so we get that straight. The match really struggles to get going and the high spots feel strangely detached. Paige changes that with a knee to the temple but Nikki comes right back afterwards, having learnt how to sell at the John Cena School of Excellence. This is the problem with a) pre-planning an entire match and therefore not getting to feed off the crowd and b) short diva matches. Not that I want to see Nikki in longer matches, I hasten to add. The school of thought is that the more you work the better you get but if Nikki hasn’t gotten any better by now she surely never will. Paige lands another big knee and hooks the PTO. It is way too close to the ropes and not well applied so that doesn’t get the job done. Again Nikki just springs back into action afterwards. Modern wrestlers are frequently criticised for poor selling but there’s no excuse for ignoring a transition and just carrying on like nothing happened. It’s selfish, for starters. Paige has the good common sense to sell for extended periods and let Nikki build an offence. Something she’s not offered in return. The Bellas pull Twin Magic, Paige reverses on Brie and gets the pin. The sight of Brie unstuffing her bra is hilarious. “I’m Brie”. Paige kicks her in the face and Nikki returns to hit the Rack Attack for the actual pinfall. I appreciate the tribute to the Dusty Finish but I still hate the Bellas. But then, I’m supposed to. They’re heels. So maybe they’re booked better than we give them credit.
Final Rating: *1/4
Promo Time: The Miz
My first reaction; “what’s this asshole doing here?” He puts himself over in a big babyface way by saying he’s from Ohio before switching to say that if you don’t live in New York or LA you don’t count. He’s joining commentary because he wanted the IC title shot that Show took. He might ‘want’ a title shot but I’m sure a lot of wrestlers do. What’s Miz done to actually warrant any title contention?
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Ryback (c) vs. The Big Show
This is Ryback’s first title defence since winning the belt in a dreary match at the Elimination Chamber two weeks ago. Show gets nothing out of the gate and Ryback tries to finish in three moves like a good Goldberg clone. When that doesn’t work he stops off to beat up The Miz too. Ryback gets a few demonstrations of how strong he is, including a suplex. Ryback, extremely casually, kicks out of the chokeslam. Show resorts to the KO punch but Ryback falls out of the ring. It’s the best selling in the entire match as Ryback just drops. Miz then jumps Show for the DQ. Urgh.
Final Rating: *
Video Control shills Tough Enough on USA, returning on 23rd June. Chris Jericho appears to be the main presenter. I used to dig Tough Enough when it first started as it was something different. There was a feeling they could create some actual stars with it. Maven in particular but also Josh Matthews had a wonderful underdog vibe about him. Josh is still in the business but hasn’t been a wrestler in a long time. As the series went on they increasingly aimed to create guys who looked just like their production line of cookie cutter wrestlers and none of them made it. With good reason.
Kevin Owens vs. John Cena
Oh thank the Gods for this one. Three matches of absolute nothing and here comes a re-match from Elimination Chamber (a match I clocked at ****1/2 and was quite excellent). This show desperately needs this match to be good. Owens has gained a bit more traction for having bested Cena last time. Brilliant sign in the crowd; “The Cena The”, a sly reference to the Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob has “Die Bart Die” tattooed on himself and claims it’s German for “The Bart The”. The crowd LOUDLY chant “NXT” and Owens’ confidence levels are way high compared to even the last match. That win has genuinely made him. The crowd’s eruption turns this into an event match. Hell, Owens can get away with a protracted headlock and it’s DEAFENING in there. That’s when you know you’ve got them with the storyline. Owens has some good stuff lined up here including countering the Protobomb into a takeover and then hitting Cena’s tackles and Protobomb himself. “YOU CAN’T SEE ME”. Five Knuckle Shuffle! Well, this is awesome. Cena gets out of the AA into the STFU. Owens gets out but it’s Cena who now has to change his repertoire because the ‘same old shit’ simply won’t get it done against a guy who’s got all that scouted and is strong enough to make those counters work. I’m particularly impressed with him hurdling Owens on the Popup Powerbomb attempt. Like against CM Punk there are moments where Cena looks like he’s thinking really hard about spots and you can see how unnatural his body position is going into those spots. He’s way out of his comfort zone. It takes a special wrestler to force Cena out of that tried and tested formula.
What’s truly impressive about this follow-up is it’s more innovative and interesting and relies less on finisher kick-outs. To have two great matches in quick succession is good news for Owens. Although admittedly Owens kicks out of the AA and Cena FINALLY sells this as being an issue by ARGUING THE COUNT. Yes, thank you! It’s so frustrating to see Cena just plod on into the next spot like a near fall means nothing to him. Owens may even have gotten in his ear about it and it’s superior storytelling to anything Cena has done for years. It drives Cena to riskier spots, like some sort of top rope attempt, and Owens counters into a spinning sitout powerbomb. Cena then counters the Popup Powerbomb into a friggin’ rana. It’s gold. The crowd chant “this is awesome” and it certainly is. That particular spot showed that Cena was willing to scout Owens after just one match, and he had to because he lost that match. Merosault misses and the AA gets another near fall and Cena again argues it. I love how Owens goes dead-weight on Cena after that, playing possum, knowing full well that Cena loves to prove his strength by lifting heavy stuff. Cena feels the urge to lug Owens’ weight around only for Kevin to counter when the opportunity presents itself. Cena shows more frustration when Owens won’t come out of the ropes on the Struggle Snuggle. FUCKING CODE RED FROM CENA! What the hell? It took them ages to get in position for it but it’s a goddamn Code Red! POPUP POWERBOMB…for 2. Ok, maybe we’re into finisher kick-out territory but it’s definitely been a different match. Springboard Stunner sets up the AA and Cena gets his win back. Great match but I’m not shocked that Cena went and got his win back. In terms of MOTY territory, I’m leaning toward the first match because it made Owens look better. This was rather predictable booking and as I said at Elimination Chamber, I’d rather they hadn’t rushed into this re-match. Still, two great matches from Cena and Owens and that means good things for Kevin Owens. He looked great here.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Cena offers a handshake, which Owens accepts before booting Cena in the guts. I’m glad they retained Owens character and the crowd erupts as Owens kills Cena with a powerbomb into the apron. If he’d swiftly turned face after one feud it would be a waste of one of the best pure heels in the business.
Video Control takes us backstage where Dean Ambrose points out he’s been robbed, screwed and pushed down for a year. Which is why he lost so much popularity. Ambrose seems to think he’s the champion because he already scored a pinfall over Seth Rollins. Back to ringside and the commentators talk about the death of Dusty Rhodes. “There was never a better talker in the industry than Dusty Rhodes” – Jerry Lawler. This leads into a video to celebrate his life and career. It has me in tears. We’ll all miss Dusty Rhodes at the History of Wrestling offices. He was a beautiful man.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Prime Time Players
Kofi Kingston isn’t out here because he got messed up during the ladder match. So it’s Big E and Xavier Woods by themselves to defend the belts. Xavier gets angry at how much Ohio sucks but Big E shows him the power of positivity. Great facials from both guys and a better promo than usual from them. Big E throws Darren Young around extensively. Young doesn’t have much sympathy reaction because he’s so confident. If you’re going to be that guy in a tag team you need to be a little bit pathetic. Not every match, just when it’s needed. It’s part of the beauty of tagging. Which is the problem with so many wrestlers; no one wants to look weak. Titus is certainly fine at the other half of the job; cleaning house. He’s borderline careless with the way he throws people around. He’s really growing on me. Titus floors Xavier with the sit-out spinebuster and the Prime Time Players win the tag titles. #millionsofdollars! This was ok but the tag division is lacking any good teams, beyond Cesaro & Kidd, which is a waste of Cesaro.
Final Rating: *3/4
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose “shocked the world” by winning the title two weeks ago… in a Dusty Finish. To show how creative the WWE are, they’ve already done that finish again once tonight. I can only assume that was to pay tribute to Dusty Rhodes so I can let that slide. We kick things off backstage with Triple H screaming encouragement into Seth’s face. “SHOW THEM ALL”. It’s great stuff and I wish they’d not made Rollins look so weak over the past three months and need to rebuild their own champion. Ambrose is from Ohio so he’s instantly over. With the way he’s been booked of late you’d think he would be anyhow. Initially the match is underwhelming and the crowd’s lack of interest reflects that. Basically nowadays if you’re having a ladder match nobody cares until we see a ladder in action. This happens every single time. The trouble they have is the allocation of a staggering 35 minutes for the match and that can’t be all torturous ladder bumps. Ambrose brings the Dusty love by hitting a Bionic Elbow off the ladder and the crowd disappoint by a) not recognising the spot and b) remaining silent afterwards. Compare this to Rev Pro where a single normal Colt Cabana bionic elbow sent the crowd into an American Dream loving fervour and a lengthy chant of “Dusty”. And that was in a comedy match. For shame Ohio. Seth develops a tactic as the match progresses and takes Dean’s knee. This is to stop him climbing and it not only makes logical sense but also showcases Seth’s ability as a champion. He’s not relying on Kane or J & J here, he’s all alone. Working the leg over so someone can’t climb might make sense but it doesn’t draw in the crowd who certainly want more from a ladder match than technical wrestling. True, Rollins uses the ladder as a weapon in his pursuit of destroying Dean’s knee, but it’s the same principle. Not much excitement for a ladder match.
Ambrose adopts a bit of an RVD approach to selling as well, hitting spots and then selling afterwards, rather than forcibly modifying his moves to suit the injury. It sort of fits into his gimmick of a crazy person but not really. Seth, who’s spent most of the match working a sensible, logical approach, now decides to run off into the crowd. Why does Ambrose bother following him? It’s a ladder match! Just climb up the ladder, pull the title down and walk out champion. Who cares if Seth’s in the crowd? It seems to be part of a tactic, on Seth’s part, to draw Dean away from the ring so he can run back and get the belt down. The big question is why does Dean go out there? Oh yeah, he’s crazy, that’s the answer for everything. From there things do pick up as Rollins takes a massive, sick bump where he’s backdropped out of the ring through a ringside ladder. It’s the kind of bump where he can stay down, realistically selling, while the one-legged Ambrose spends an eternity getting another ladder into position. This leads to Ambrose hitting Dirty Deeds on the Spanish Announce Table, which has been very securely constructed this evening and doesn’t budge. Dean looks to hit his head on one of the monitors too. Seth saves the title by bashing Ambrose in the knee with a monitor.
It’s actually a really well put together match BUT the crowd don’t seem interested in it. And why is that? Could it be that every single Seth Rollins match is overbooked? Could it be that they’ve all got one eye on the ramp to see who’s going to run in? It’s a measured expectation of a mismanaged crowd. The WWE really only have themselves to blame. Rollins looks to finally put Dean to bed with a ridiculous running powerbomb into the rail, followed by yet another ridiculous running powerbomb into the rail! Running powerbombs always scare me a bit because the deliverer can’t know where the victim is going to land and D’Lo Brown crippled Droz by doing that. This double powerbomb spot is followed by a sit out powerbomb on a stack of chairs…on a ladder. Ambrose is dead and Rollins could easily grab the belt but Dean miraculously recovers to turn it into a tug o’ war over the strap with both guys teetering on top of the ladder. They come off together, with the belt, and Seth manages to fluke his way into retaining. That finish doesn’t sit well with me. Seth had done enough damage to Ambrose to win the match and in doing so restore some pride in himself as a main event performer. At least he did it “on his own” and legitimately won a match. I didn’t hate this match, because they told a logical story and logic goes a long way with me, but the finish and several other little aspects were silly. Dean doesn’t win because he can’t catch? So, not a disaster and I’m glad Seth actually won something by himself but not a classic either. In the pantheon of ladder matches this won’t be remembered in years to come.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Summary: My expectations for this were quite low and I was buzzing from the Rev Pro show, as noted several times during the PPV. This has possibly effected my ratings somewhat and I have never really liked the Money in the Bank match. Any match where you’ve got multiple people and they lie around selling had better have great high spots to reflect that need for selling. This match really didn’t. Whereas the main event did and it ended up dragging because of all the selling. I certainly preferred the title match. The best match of the night is easily Cena vs. Owens with both men reprising their excellent performances from Elimination Chamber. Cena did something new, and not just the Code Red, but he showed genuine frustration at not being able to put Owens away. I honestly think they’ve dropped the ball on a potentially great long-term feud by having Cena get his win back in two weeks. Surely there was a chance here to build up a guy who’s got Cena’s number. Who Cena can’t beat. That has to sell tickets when Owens finally steps up to the main roster and takes Cena’s belt off him. Do they just hate money in the WWE or something? In terms of storyline and in terms of work the Owens-Cena angle is the best thing the WWE have going right now. I hope there’s a long delay before a third match though because while the feud is even there’s still a sense of menace about Owens and he’s getting over big time. Leave the third match for down the line, have Owens be an even bigger threat. As for the overall show; the first hour was a waste of time; the rest of the card was pretty good. Between Rev Pro’s Summer Sizzler, reading Simon Garfield’s riveting The Wrestling and the finale of Game of Thrones this was barely a blip on my weekend though.