This is the second ‘house show’ the WWE has slapped onto the Network, based on the name power of having Brock Lesnar wrestle. The first time was out in Japan where an appearance from Chris Jericho and an NXT title match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens also sold the show. This time around; the emphasis is solely on Lesnar. He’s the focal point of the WWE Network over the coming weeks during his “Goes to Hell” series.
3rd October 2015.
It’s been a very wrestling heavy weekend for me as I attended both Rev Pro shows; Uprising in London and Global Wars UK in Reading, seeing a deluge of grappling contests including Kyle O’Reilly vs. KUSHIDA, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Big Damo, Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles vs. Jushin Liger! It’s been a real treat and if you live in England, this is a promotion that’s running sensational live shows at the moment. You’d be a fool to miss them. The cards are so strong I’ve not mentioned half the talent involved (which included Hiroshi Tanahashi, ACH, Gedo, Tetsuya Naito and a host of top British talent). So I hit this show somewhat exhausted after a long train journey back from down south. I haven’t seen much in the way of shills so I’m only aware of two matches. If nothing else, this card might present a few surprises. Although they’ll probably just end up doing Randy Orton vs. Sheamus…again.
So, stuff I didn’t know was happening tonight 1) Seth Rollins vs. John Cena in a cage for the US title. We’re in MSG, obviously. Hosts are Rich Brennan, JBL and Byron Saxton. Sweet, no Michael Cole. Bonus. JBL immediately misquotes Bret Hart. Bret actually said “MSG isn’t a church but it is holy ground”. You can use that one, properly, next time John.
Sheamus & Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler & Randy Orton
I suppose this is slightly better than Sheamus vs. Orton (or Rusev vs. Ziggler) but both tandems are extremely tired. The Rusev-Ziggler feud should have at least produced one good match by this point. The crowd seem into it but that’s mainly because of jingoistic hatred of Rusev’s evil foreigner gimmick and a love of Randy Orton that makes no sense to me. Plus it is the WWE’s spiritual home and MSG crowds are generally favourable towards Vince’s product. It’s when they’re not that things get changed. So maybe I could pay off a few New Yorkers to sit on their hands when Orton and Sheamus are wrestling?
You know what most irks me about this show? It looks like every other WWE show. It has the same boring lighting, the same boring ring set up where you can’t even tell that we’re in MSG and the same boring production, which haven’t changed since 1998 because Kevin Dunn is a freakishly obsessive knob-end. Keeping in mind the last WWE special, from Japan, was brilliant. Different lighting, different cameras, different feel. It felt so fresh and interesting. This show is just another show. The only difference is the addition of Rich Brennan but they still have JBL dragging everything down.
Oh, and Orton wins with an RKO. Match was white noise. Every time Orton steps into the ring, or onto camera, my brain switches off and refuses to acknowledge that anything is happening. I honestly can’t remember a single thing about this match just seconds after it’s finished.
Final Rating: *
Post Match: Something interesting happens as Rusev yells at Sheamus for being useless, even more useless than Lana. Sheamus lays him out with the Brogue Kick. Possible face turn for the big Irishman? It doesn’t really fit in with his position as Mr Money in the Bank. Not that I could see him winning a world title.
Video Control takes us backstage where Kane is recovering from Raw and his ankle injury. “I look at this as an opportunity for personal growth”. Positive Kane is positively great.
Stardust vs. Neville
Urgh, again? This is increasingly feeling extremely house showy. I know it’s supposed to be a televised house show but that doesn’t mean throwing out a bunch of repeat matches that no one is that interested in. Does it? I hear a few fans yelling “boring” so maybe I’m not in the minority. Or maybe I’ve just been spoiled this weekend. These two do lots of house show stuff like dancing and Stardust stealing Neville’s cape. Nothing of note really occurs and Neville wins with Red Arrow. Which he’s been doing for what seems like an eternity and yet the feud with Stardust keeps aimlessly rambling on. The boredom of this was such that I don’t remember things that happened in the replays. At what point did Neville do an Asai moonsault?
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Renee Young interviews Paul Heyman, who introduces himself as the crowd sings along. Luckily there’s no Big Show to ruin it, like on Raw, and Heyman nails all his points. A good Paul Heyman promo is stunning. A shill follows for the NXT based TV show, where they go behind the scenes at NXT Takeover Brooklyn. That airs on the Network after Raw. #Content.
Team Bella vs. PCB
Again? What in the hell is wrong with this company? No one wants to see this. No one. Seeing as Paige has turned heel all the former NXT girls come out separately. They shouldn’t have brought Becky Lynch up. She came up too early. So did Sasha, for that matter. They should have brought Charlotte up to take Nikki’s belt, then run a feud with heel turn Paige. Then brought up Sasha Banks to recreate the NXT feud they had, leaving Becky vs. Bayley to headline NXT. They’ve blown their booking wad and both Becky Lynch and the useless Alicia Fox are entirely superfluous to the story that’s being told here. In order to make Becky seem relevant they’ve got her acting like a spaz. I’m sure that will work wonders in getting her over. Like with the last worthless 6-woman tag this lot did, they work heat on Becky. It’s almost as if the Bellas can only work one match and just do it over and over again. Interesting to see that Charlotte absolutely destroys Nikki when she’s got two healthy legs. Paige, bitch heel that she’s become tags herself in when the match is already won with the Figure Eight. That makes no sense. Then the Bellas work heat on Paige, which doesn’t work IN THE SLIGHTEST because Paige just turned heel and shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be worked over for heat.
Whoever is booking the divas on the main roster…go away. Whoever is booking NXT’s women, you should be in line for a promotion.
The faces then refuse to tag in to Paige and she loses to the Rack Attack while the FACES stand around doing nothing and LOSING the match for themselves. Paige moans about the lack of assistance after the match, despite doing exactly that on Raw last week and bemoaning that she’d never do something like that, which pretty much ruins her whole turn because it makes her look like a blithering idiot. The divas revolution just committed suicide. Thank Christ for NXT.
Final Rating: -**
Well, this show has been a complete abortion. WWE are their own worst enemies at times.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho
SAVE_US.Y2J! (and Owens). Jericho points out this is his 25th anniversary as a wrestler, as he debuted on 3.10.90 against Lance Storm, who’s in the front row. Jericho talks about his youth, watching Ted Irvine, his Dad, play for the New York Rangers in this building. Don Callis is at ringside too. Jericho deliberately plays up his babyface legend status to ensure the crowd don’t feel inclined to cheer Owens…and they still do because Owens is brilliant and New York is his kind of crowd. Even before they start this immediately feels different and special, a polar opposite of everything on the card before this.
Owens is more interested in trash talk and keeping his beatings simplistic than having a blow-away showstealer. It allows Jericho to play his veteran card as a potential upset and, record breaking potential tenth IC title. A lot like the booking of AJ vs. Liger from Rev Pro. Jericho is definitely a sentimental, timeless favourite. They have some canny counters lined up with trademarks popping up and not connecting before they get into the business of teasing some near finishes. The commentary is pretty good too with JBL referencing history and Brennan gliding smoothly through the contest without irritating me in the slightest. The finish is classy with the Pop Up Powerbomb countered into a sunset flip, into the Walls of Jericho and during the set up Owens sneaks in a thumb to the eye and wins with an inside cradle. Not keen on Owens becoming such a cheap shot, roll up artist but they put on a fine contest here. Jericho is the king of the network specials. Shame it was so short, as a 12-15 minute contest could easily have cracked **** with how they were working.
Final Rating: ***1/2
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
The New Day mock the whole Dudley Boyz shtick before the match in hysterical fashion. The “Waazzzzzuuuupppp” bit had me in stitches. Also Big E waves like he’s in the royal family. That’s incredibly endearing. Despite the Dudleys being New York area favourites, since they stopped being assholes to the New York crowds (circa 2000), the crowd are really into New Day. Which shows how far they’ve come this year. It’s been an astonishing turnaround. Xavier Woods continues his Jimmy Hart-esque run of being irritating in hilarious fashion, using an implement to make himself louder and working as hard as the wrestlers. Big E vs. Bubba is a surprisingly good match too. With Bubba strong enough to throw the big man around and E fast enough to show his strength in depth. 3D on Kofi out of nowhere would switch the belts but Xavier jumps in for the DQ. “Nobody has ever kicked out of the 3D” chimes in JBL, wrong as ever. Masato Tanaka says hi. ECW is official WWE canon. New Day retain regardless and this was fun enough. Woods eats a post match table, in a reprise of the last time they ran this exact same angle.
Final Rating: **1/2
Brock Lesnar vs. The Big Show
Last time Lesnar was on a special it was to murder Kofi Kingston. The whole match was just a destruction. I would be fine with the same here. Big Show has little to no value in his current role. He’s just a gigantic gatekeeper and Lesnar is way above him and always has been. Even when Show beat him in 2002 it was an upset and Lesnar has legitimised himself in UFC since then and conquered the streak. Show has done nothing. Show gets a few early spots like throwing Lesnar out of the ring but Brock decides to completely no sell a TRIFECTA of chokeslams in a bizarre piece of work. Brock ducks the KO punch though and sends Show off to Suplex City where he belongs. German. German. German. Botched F5. German. F5. This is how I like my Big Show matches. Him getting thrown around like baggage and getting beaten swiftly.
Final Rating: SQUASH!
Post Match: Belly to belly. F5. Suplex City, bitch!
Steel Cage Match
WWE US Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Seth Rollins
I don’t understand the logic of extending this feud by having the WWE champion continually lose to the US champion. It’s not so much making the US title mean more, because it’s Cena, but rather making the WWE champion look like a chump. And they’ve been trying hard to steer Rollins away from that, only to end up jobbing him out again. Whatever happened to keeping the champ strong, Triple H style? Despite wrestling Cena the crowd still hate Rollins, which is good news for him…in a way. It means he’s doing his job as a heel. Cena gets what would politely be called a ‘mixed’ reaction but he’s definitely the more over face of the two. Could it be due to him asking for time off? In a way Cena not being around might actually be of benefit to the WWE because they (and by they I mean Vince McMahon) seem incapable of letting anything grow organically without sticking Cena into the mix. Like having him tag with the Dudley Boyz last week. He’s getting all the rubs and all the wins, which is another reason why the midcard is trampling all over itself and getting nowhere. You could argue that despite being champion for six months, Rollins is still seen as just another midcarder. Until the likes of Cena and Lesnar are out of the way, the guys underneath won’t get *that* over without promotional help. Lesnar impacts the undercard guys less because he’s a ‘special attraction’. Cena is on every single show.
The argument against is that the WWE has a severe lack of star power but then, that was the case when they made Steve Austin, The Rock and Mick Foley into stars. A top end void creates stars out of necessity. The one thing they can’t do is keep putting over the same old faces (Show, Kane, Orton etc). This is a perfectly acceptable match, they’ve had a few belters recently, but the repeat contests has made this somewhat less special. Also that it’s for a secondary title. They work really hard but unlike their past matches it never really clicks for me. It’s not that there’s anything technically wrong but it just feels like an anticlimax. All match long. The cage doesn’t help, as it’s supposed to be a brutal environment but it’s been superseded by the Hell in a Cell (which they’re doing this month too) and the Elimination Chamber and no one is ever going to bleed on a kiddie friendly show. It’s a pointless stipulation. It’s not like they’ve been having matches with dodgy finishes (Jon Stewart Summerslam run-in aside). What makes the match seem somewhat worse is Rich Brennan’s commentary deteriorating into the long contest, probably because he’s got Michael Cole feeding him terrible lines.
Rollins is good enough that despite the repetitious nature of the contest, and most of the spots, he’s still able to keep his escapes fresh and use the escape stipulation to make the match different. That includes both the walls and the door. Seth is great in this environment. It’s just a pity the booking didn’t lead into this. It’s a cage match for the sake of it. Despite this Rollins does good stuff with the cage door, including climbing over it while it’s open to kick it back in Cena’s face. The match gets over in spite of the booking and it gets good because of the guys involved. What’s weird is they play completely within the rules, even though the cage match is no DQ, until a very late Rollins low blow. This gives The Demon Kane sufficient justification to come out here. With Kane blocking the escape Seth goes for a splash off the cage, channelling Superfly Snuka, but misses and Cena hits the AA for the win. Like I said before; there was no purpose to the booking and it confuses me greatly. If Cena is taking time off (and asked for it in the summer apparently) why is he going over the WWE champion three times? Despite this it was a good match. Best of the night.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Summary: There’s a lot of early crap. The first hour is bad. But once Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho got underway the card picked up. Owens-Jericho, Lesnar-Show and Cena-Rollins all delivered for different reasons and with different approaches. After an hour I was ready to turn the show off, because it was like watching a rough house show, but business improved. They could have been better off just running the last four matches as they all delivered.