Sunday, June 29, 2014

Playing the Percentages at WWE's Money in the Bank

Money in the Bank started as a staple of Wrestlemania in 2005 (thanks Y2J), and has evolved into its own pay per view...err- special event. Or whatever it is WWE is calling it these days with the network and all. It's one of the few events named after a match type that I can sink my teeth into. Why? Because of the sheer unpredictability of it all. We have seen a lot of crazy things happen in the past (Kane cashing in the same night, anything involving Kofi Kingston, Sheamus putting Sin Cara through a ladder, CM Punk beating John Cena). 

For those unaware to how MITB operates, a field is chosen and compete in a ladder match with a briefcase hanging above the ring. Whoever can climb up and grab it wins the contract inside of it that guarantees them a title match within the next 365 days at any time/location of their choosing. (As long as it's in a WWE ring. This isn't the 24/7 Hardcore Title rules from back in the day.) 

It's a match that favors bad guys and underdogs, really. The advantage of being able to strike at a moment's notice and gain the ire of the WWE Universe helped make Edge's singles career, and coined the term "The Ultimate Opportunist". The Miz, Randy Orton and CM Punk have all been aided as bad guys with this device. The plucky underdogs (CM Punk in 2008, Daniel Bryan in 2011 and technically RVD in 2006) helped cement their WWE careers, too. If you are a main event- caliber good guy (coughJOHNCENAcough), well- it's not really meant for you.

The difference with this year's edition is there is only one MITB briefcase match. The other is to determine a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the absence of one Daniel Bryan. Tonight  the WWE has a chance to surprise us all. How? It's not certain just yet. But based off the field for the respective matches, I'll run some numbers* and see who is in the best position to walk away with the gold and who will win the MITB briefcase. 

* all percentages were officially calculated using a universal formula: watching WWE on a  weekly basis.

Money in the Bank Contract Match: Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, RVD

Seth Rollins has the edge due to his recent swing in momentum- but how much confidence does WWE have him to be champion within the next year?

Seth Rollins (60%)

Ever since his turn a few weeks ago against his Shield brothers- or shall I say, business partners- Rollins has been a huge focal point if not THE focal point of WWE programming. CM Punk is gone for now. Daniel Bryan is injured. John Cena is, well, John Cena. No one knew who would turn first, but whoever was made to be the bad guy for the Shield would most certainly gain a lot of attention. Rollins was not anyone's first choice to be that guy based off his limited mic skills, yet he has flourished in his screen time since the beatdown.
He isn't a finished product by any means, and his ringwear is rather...unique- but Rollins should far and away be the favorite to come away with the briefcase in hand on Sunday. 

Dean Ambrose (20%)

Ambrose seems to have taken more offense to the Rollins' heel turn than Roman Reigns. In all fairness, Reigns was rather busy affecting the integrity of his maniacal boss's beverages in order to get a shot at the WWE WHC title to get bent out of shape over Rollins' dastardly actions. Get 'em, Dean. Ambrose is the most talented mic worker of the Shield, and his mannerisms/promo style bring a younger Brian Pillman to mind. If there is any chance of anyone not named Seth Rollins to win this match, Ambrose is an easy choice. 

Bad News Barrett (10%), Dolph Ziggler (10%) 

Once word got out that Barrett had injured himself at this week's Smackdown, his participation was immediately put in doubt.* Barrett has been on fire these last few months and was (still might be) a legitimate darkhorse to win the contract. His confidence is at its highest since his Nexus days, and he's pretty good in the ring as evidenced by Monday's show-stealing IC title defense against Dolph Ziggler. Barrett during any other time might even be a favorite, but Rollins and Ambrose seem to be on a collision course and edge the talented Brit out.

Ziggler is the WWE's best worker and still has plenty of miles left on his career (as long as he doesn't do that concussion thing again). He will likely submit another awesome performance come Sunday. Ziggler, like Barrett, will be limited to the current storyline with Rollins and Ambrose. As they say- never say never. Well, until you get to the rest of the field in this match as you'll soon see.

*as of this writing, Barrett is still a participant as noted by

Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, RVD - (0%)

Well, that made this list a little bit easier. These three are here for a few reasons. The first being: bodies. Swagger along with Barrett will act as a big bruiser. Kingston will be the "special spot" guy ala Jeff Hardy/Shelton Benjamin as he always is. RVD is there to put over young talent. I'm not a huge fan of the guy, but his willingness to make the younger stars look good is very admirable. 

That being said, none of these wrestlers has a shot in hell at walking away with the briefcase.

BOLD Match Prediction: Rollins and Ambrose are so engulfed in their personal issues that either Wade Barrett or Dolph Ziggler come away with the briefcase, shocking the WWE Universe. 

As this image implies, John Cena is WWE's golden boy and the sure bet to win the WWE WHC title on Sunday. Also implied, John Cena is the second son of God and is the epitome is all that is good.

WWE WHC Ladder Match:  John Cena, Randy Orton, Kane, Roman Reigns, Cesaro,  Sheamus, Bray Wyatt, Alberto Del Rio

John Cena (55%) 

Shocker, right? At  this point, Cena being in the title picture and/or winning the title should never be a surprise. From an adult male standpoint, I can't stand it. His character hasn't changed in almost a decade, and he could really benefit from a heel turn. From a business standpoint, I completely understand it. Cena is their top guy not solely because of his charisma, physical appearance, in-ring abilities or even because of his merchandise sales. (Although all of those are great supprting reasons.) Cena is the face of the company because he is reliable. He's the safe bet. Sure, he's had injuries, but he's come back from them in the blink of an eye and stronger each time. The "smart" fans might shake their head at the notion of him being the champ, but I couldn't possibly blame WWE for putting the belt on a man who has been a driving force in programming since 2003.
Also, who else is excited to see Cena's "you love me, you hate me, OMG I'm polarizing" promo on Monday's RAW? Thought so. 

Kane (15%)

It sort of pains me to put Kane's chances this high, but the "Big Red Machine" still has a built-in storyline with Daniel Bryan. Kane has been The Authority's right-hand man for the better part of a year and like Cena is a safe and reliable bet. Kane is rarely ever injured despite his age and is a company man. Kane winning and continuing his feud with Bryan would still make me queasy, though. 
Randy Orton (10%), Roman Reigns (10%)

Orton is similar to Kane. His alliance with HHH and Stephanie since last summer gives him an advantage, yet the idea of him as champion anytime soon is still nauseating. He should not allowed to have any physical contact with John Cena during the match. If I see the two of them square off even one more time, I'll likely vomit. Orton has been the more vanilla version of Cena. While not THE face of WWE, he's been a huge part of it in programming since around the same time. 
Reigns is an option based more on his potential than actual ability at the moment. His ringwork has been strong and protected in six-man tags, and his promos have been limited as well. He has an aura about him. Whenever he is on screen, people notice. WWE is looking to groom him as the future of the company and could shock a few if they put the belt on him tonight. While an option, I still do not think he is ready for it just yet. 

Cesaro (5%) 

Cesaro has been on the rise since late last year and his aligning with Heyman was definitely a good thing for both men. Cesaro looks like a player, and Heyman stays busy while Brock Lesnar does Brock Lesnar things. The likelihood of Cesaro winning is very low, but IWC'ers and independent wrestling (read: Ring of Honor) fans would die to see it happen. If anything, we will be treated to Cesaro Swiss-death'ing and spinning the others like crazy. 

Sheamus (2.5%) , Bray Wyatt (2.5%)

If anyone could benefit from winning the belt, it would be Sheamus. He's been incredibly stale since coming back from injury (despite being US Champ), and is borderline irrelevant. Sheamus winning the belt after teaming up with HHH and Steph as a bad guy would make him a focus and...interesting. He thrives as a heel with his old-school gimmick and flops as a face. He likes to fight...yeah, that's about it. In real life, Sheamus is good friends with HHH, so the elevation to champ is not so far-fetched. 

Bray Wyatt has been around since being disposed of by John Cena at Payback. By around, I mean just sort of there. Sure, he cuts his promos and puts on great matches. But the best young mic worker next to Ambrose should be doing so much more. His winning is very slim, but would definitely add a "what happens next?" vibe to the immediate future of the WWE.

Alberto Del Rio (0%)

ADR is in this match? Oh, that's right. As the saying goes, last but not least. In regards to ADR- last and definitely least. The once highly-touted Del Rio is at his lowest point since debuting, and there seems to be no end in sight. Sure, he can put on great matches. But so can a host of other stars who haven't had half the chance Del Rio has. What is left to do with him? His heel turn failed. His title runs failed. His face turn failed. His recent heel run has been anything but memorable. 

The reason WWE hasn't released him yet is because of how much they invested in him and they still seek a Spanish star to market on the levels of Rey Mysterio. This is some misguided notion that they HAVE to have a Spanish star. While utopian, I don't find it necessary. 

BOLD Match Prediction: Roman Reigns wins. Rollins after winning MITB cashes it in, wins and steals Reigns' thunder.

Other MITB Musings: 

WWE Tag Team Championships

The Wyatt Family will win tomorrow and begin a dominant reign as tag champs. The Uso's will try and stay close to John Cena some more. 

WWE Divas Championship

Paige will retain over Naomi, likely due to Cameron intefering. Because we ALL are clamoring to see Cameron in the ring very soon. Not. The focus here should be on Paige and developing her character. But hey- Total Divas has a season three ahead and needs material! Way more important.

Layla vs. Summer Rae (special ref Fandango)

The only match I have less desire to see outside of Cameron/Naomi is Layla and Summer Rae. Who asked for this? Summer Rae and Layla can be great in the ring, but their recent backstage segments have done neither one of them any favors. Flip a coin. Summer Rae wins because CATTINESS.

Also, Fandango should be repackaged ASAP. Johnny Curtis still has a future, yet WWE fails to push him. 

Rybaxel vs Goldust and Stardust

While I wasn't a fan initially and believed Rhodes should be pushed more (still do), I have to admit Stardust grew on me last Monday. Rhodes is making it work and is showing his talent in spades. I'd root for them to win the tag titles, but we've been there before. That is, unless they plan to feud them with the Wyatt Family. Those would be spectacular matches. Rybaxel are a very underrated team. Each guy plays their role well, and Axel is actually entertaining and underrated in the ring. Rybaxel win if WWE pulls the trigger soon on a Cody turn. The Rhodes will win if they are to be looked at as tag title contenders. 

Rusev vs. Big E

Tell me if you've heard this before: Rusev beats up a black guy. Sounds repetitive, doesn't it? R-Truth, Kofi, Xavier Woods, Big E (multiple times). Also, he's branched out to other squashes with Zack Ryder and Heath Slater. Point is, what will be different about tomorrow's match? It's "shit or get off the pot" time with Rusev, and WWE needs to make a move with the Russian. 

Booking idea: Jack Swagger turns face and rescues Big E tomorrow night  during a post-win Rusev beatdown. After all, Swagger's list does have Rusev's name on it:


Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron



Monday, June 16, 2014

Power Ranking NXT's Potential

Ever since the WWE Network made NXT easily watchable every week, I have looked forward to each Thursday night 9 pm slot. It's a chance to see the future of the WWE grow and evolve, and say you knew them before they made it big on the two main shows (RAW and Smackdown). 

The biggest reason I look forward to every episode is that it's something different from the regular WWE product. Here we get less of the bullshit segments and more of what matters: wrestling. At times, the short matches can leave me wanting more...but their 2 hour quarterly specials (Arrival, Takeover) are truly special. 

The future looks bright for the WWE thanks to NXT, and I have chosen to highlight the top ten stars who would have the biggest effect in the WWE Universe. 

*The number to the right of their name is their age.

 The Top 10

1. Tyler Breeze (26)

 Breeze recently put his skills on display at NXT Takeover against Sami Zayn for number one contendership to the NXT title. The match was a classic, as the two have great chemistry with each other. Due to it being a special event, the duo had more time than usual to work with. Breeze's ring psychology is matched by his abilities in it and on the mic. His character with a lesser talent could have been doomed to fail, but he not only makes it work- but adds to it. He's a microcosm of our vane society, bent on selfies and an "all about me" attitude. His most recent foray into media was nothing short of brilliant. 

Breeze has a title match in his future against the champ, Adrian Neville. I believe if they mean business with the "Prince of Pretty", Breeze should win convincingly and hold on to the title for at a minimum of  a few months. Breeze has been with WWE since 2010 (in FCW, pre-NXT), and has the experience and seasoning of a veteran. While I think he is more than ready to be on RAW and Smackdown, there is no reason to rush it. We have seen a few NXTers who have debuted and seemingly plateaued already (Paige, Big E, Bray Wyatt). They have plenty of time to adjust since they are fresh faces, but all the more reason for WWE to take its time with Mr. Breeze. 

2. Bo Dallas (24)

 I know, I know. Bo Dallas debuted a few weeks back on RAW and Smackdown. But he is elgible for this list because he is so fresh, and he was just on NXT last week (disguised as Mr. NXT). If there was a "most improved superstar" award, Dallas would receive it.

Dallas "debuted" last year after winning an eight man tournament- the winner being a part of the 2013 Royal Rumble. After a quick rumble run and a few forgettable matches on RAW, Dallas was back to NXT and eventually made its champion. But the crowd turned on Dallas, despite him being a babyface and holding the title for about 9 months. This is what forced a change in booking, but for the better. 

While his brother (known to fans as Bray Wyatt) was pegged to be the future main eventer, Dallas was more of an afterthought. Except he didn't fade away...he got better. His lack of self awareness and constant positive nature bring back memories of a 1999 Kurt Angle. The positivity isn't only limited to Dallas, but he encourages his opponents as well. He's been able to take a very simple, ho-hum gimmick and make it special. Why? Because he - pun intended- believes. Dallas thrusts himself into his character, and it shows. He's entertaining as hell and turned me from a hater to a Bo-liever. While he is still very much limited in the ring, his character has plenty of mileage left on it. Give it some more time, and this time next year he'll likely be main eventing shows consistently. 

3. Enzo Amore (27)

If you follow NXT, you might wonder why Amore is so high up despite not being on television in months. The twenty-seven year old from Jersey has been recovering from a broken leg, robbing new fans of his abilities. He's a force on the mic, probably the best out of the top ten. But he's still weeks away at least from a return.
The one weakness Amore might have is he isn't the best in the ring, like Dallas. You likely won't see any mat classics from him anytime soon, but that doesn't mean he isn't fun to watch.

The biggest thing fans and the WWE look for is the "it" factor. Amore possesses this without question. His promo skills are rare, and his catchphrases are natural. SAWFTTT just rolls off the tongue, and fans are desperate to chant along with Amore. "Badda boom, realest guy in the room." He's from Jersey, and he plays it to his advantage. He isn't another Jersey Shore ripoff like Zack Ryder. He's just a guy with a chip on his shoulder, waiting for his chance to shine. Get him reintegrated in the NXT universe and have the new fans see him, and I can easily see bright things in Amore's future.

4. Charlotte Flair (28)

Charlotte is high on this list, but not because of her last name. Sure, that gets her in the door and gives her a slight marketing advantage...but the girl has skills. She's got size to her (5'10) and obvious athletic prowess. It makes her a natural in the ring. She also shows a ton of personality and could easily slide into a heel or face role depending on what WWE wanted. Right now she has earned her stripes to be the newest NXT Women's Champion, and I don't see her giving up the belt any time soon. Like Dallas, this time next year I'd be surprised if she wasn't the WWE Divas Champion. 

Just don't book her as a "woe is me", boyfriend-obsessed damsel in distress. Can you NOT do that WWE? Charlotte is way better than that.

5. Bayley (25)

  Bayley has won the hearts of NXT fans back in January 2013. Now that the WWE Network shows NXT every week, even more fans get to see her. She seems built to be a natural face, and can get any crowd on her side. Her entrance is unique, her personality is bubbly and she, like Flair, can go in the ring. She's like the opposite of 2013 Bo Dallas. As a male she'd be considered fake and phony. But as a female? Loveable; someone you want only good things for. While she's not ready to be brought up just yet, season her some more in NXT with an eventual title run and she'll get there. 

6. Adrian Neville (27)

The champ Quite low on the list for the best in NXT right now, no? But while the highflyer known as "The Man Gravity Forgot" holds the gold, his promo skills are almost non-existent. He talks in short bursts on the mic and is eons away from ever being a verbal jouster. But his workrate is what makes him a force in NXT. He can easily put on 15-20 minute classics and has great ring psychology (see: NXT Arrival and NXT Takeover). 

Neville can be a star one day if he improves on the mic. In the mean time, he can be a solid mid-card wrestler such as Justin Gabriel or Evan Bourne was- or he could flourish with a partner in the tag team division like Seth Rollins did with Roman Reigns.

7. Aiden English (24)

First off, I hate singing gimmicks. But that is not why English is at 7. English being at 7 might be higher than most would have him, but his talent is there. He hasn't had a chance to shine like some in prolonged matches, but you can tell his ringwork is crisp and accurate.

More often than not as of late, English has been on the losing end of things (thanks Mojo Rawley). While he loses, he's there to make the others look good. But I have faith in his promo and in-ring abilities and believe in the next year or two, English will be primed for a good shot at achieving his WWE dreams.

8. Sami Zayn (29)

 Zayn would be much higher if he had any chops on the mic. The former El Generico has been around a while and wrestled all over the world. We know he can go in the ring (most recently against Tyler Breeze at Takeover). But he is nothing but vanilla in backstage promos and on the mic. While his ringwork is WWE ready, Zayn will need a huge character development and more practice on the mic to ever be ready for the bigger stage. Fans need more reasoning to cheer him than "well, he's not the bad guy." He could easily fit into a tag team eventually.

9. Jason Jordan (26)

 Jordan is a former Indiana amateur wrestling standout and it shows. He's built like a superstar and can move like a powerful gazelle. He's obviously very strong with plenty of technique, and working in a tag team helps his case for now with as green as he is.

His NCAA background can aid him well like it did for Angle, Lesnar, Hass and Benjamin. At some point he'll need to evolve and have a presence on the mic, but for now he can show off his in-ring capabilities and let the rest develop later. I could see him coming in as a tag wrestler, moving to the mid-card and within the next few years having a shot at being  a regular WWE star.

10. Sasha Banks

So far, Banks has been known for her "boss" gimmick in NXT, and being one of HHH's Wrestlemania 30 entrance sidekicks. But hey, CM Punk did the same in 2006 for John Cena- and look how he turned out.

Banks is another star who has grown by leaps and bounds within the last year. Lately she has not been the focus due to Paige's recent success, Charlotte's winning the belt from Natalya and Bayley's rise...but her time will come. She has a unique and exotic look which helps. She has good in- ring psychology. Her acting leaves a bit to be desired- but her presence commands attention. Once Charlotte likely gives the belt up to Bayley, I can see Banks and Bayley feuding leading to some great matches.

If the three divas on this list are injected into the WWE within the next year or so, the future is in great hands.

Honorable mentions: 

Kalisto- great tag wrestler and could be the Spanish crossover appeal star WWE desperately wanted Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara to be. 

Alexa Bliss- Cute as a button and pint-sized to boot, Bliss is green in the ring and on the mic, but has the potential to be an NXT star and possibly a WWE diva. Her real life struggle and battle with an eating disorder could tug at fans' heart strings, too.

Marcus Louis- I see Louis as the more talented Frenchman in NXT (over LeFort). His presentation skills promo is the stuff of legend and has been taken off YouTube by WWE. It was a riot and might only be the tip of the iceberg for the young man.

Tye Dillinger- Dillinger tags with Jordan as of now and looks decent. He has a long way to go, but shows plenty of promise and could be an NXT tag team champion soon.

Notable exclusions: 

Mojo Rawley- Rawley is the Sheamus/Cena of NXT. He has even less to cheer for with his flimsy "I don't get hyped, I STAY hyped!" catchphrase. His wrestling is almost non-existent as he is in short squash-like matches. Sorry, Mr. English. Rawley's moveset is based off knocking people down with his ass, then jumping and sitting on them for the 1,2,3. Maybe if it was the 1980's....sure. But in 2014? No thank you.

Adam Rose- Rose, like Dallas makes the list here due to his just recently having wrestled on NXT Takeover. His wins have also been in glorified squashes like Rawley, and shows no real ring psychology or actual charisma. For some reason, fans get behind his incredibly dry and boring "lemon/rosebud" party animal gimmick- yet his popularity all revolves around his entrance. Without that, he's just a barely there mid-carder. Repackage him as the South African Leo Kruger, please.

CJ Parker- Parker's new-age hippie gimmick is one that will run out of gas (no pun intended) sooner than later. The only way it can be made entertaining is if he promotes the environment while being a savage in the ring- and I have not yet seen that side. For now, he remains a boring nuisance. 

Corey Graves - Graves has been out for about a month thanks to a concussion. He's thought of to be a CM Punk-lite, complete with "STAY DOWN" tattooed on his knuckles. He constantly repeats the motto throughout matches, and is a Randy Orton-like black hole of charisma otherwise, in ring and out. His potential is very limited. He does, however, have great intro music.

The Ascension- The duo has been fortunate enough to be booked to win squash after squash match. Even as the longest reigning tag team champs, I cannot have faith in them. Ask them to put on longer WWE style matches and watch them eventually fail.

Sylvester LeFort - For some reason, LeFort gets chance after chance each week to show his skills. But I still have no desire to want to see him again. NXT. I mean....NEXT. 

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Shield Have to Be Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

This past Monday saw one of the best factions in recent history crack. The Shield, as they say, was a thing. Key word was. It all ended when Seth Rollins greeted Roman Reigns on the back with a very stiff chairshot. The next ribshot was for Dean Ambrose. This wasn't just a group of three guys parting ways. No, it was the dissolving of one of the rarest things in wrestling: a longterm stable of new guys who had an absurd track record of dominance for more than a year and a half. So, what happens now?

Simply put, stars must be born.

November 18th, 2012. That was the day The Shield debuted in the WWE. Three largely unknown rookies from FCW- or as it was also known, Florida Championship Wrestling. FCW was formerly WWE's feeder system before NXT. These three rookies didn't just come in and debut. They debuted.  

Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose came out during the main event of the 2012 Survivor Series. Ryback and John Cena were challenging CM Punk for his beloved WWE title.Punk was in the midst if a 434 day reign. Ryback was a legitimate contender; his fans seething for him to win the belt. Cena was there to balance it all out, because around that time he was in pretty much every title match. He just had to say the words. Ryback had the match in hand- until this happened:


 The Shield laid waste to the two top contenders, and that was only a sign of things to come for the young trio. They'd take out stars like the Rock, the Undertaker, Sheamus, Big Show, Mark Henry, and Jack Swagger- all former WWE or WHC champions. This wasn't the Nexus, who laid waste for all of a few months before their fifteen minutes of fame was up at Summerslam 2010. No, the Shield's reign of terror was felt for well over a year. 

The three newbies came in with black turtlenecks and pants, but would soon change to vests and look like a swat team. Their entrance was signified with these words: Sierra, Hotel , India , Echo , Lima and Delta. They would come down the side of the arena through the crowd. The Shield did not conform to the WWE's predisposed notion of rookies. They bucked the system. Those in charge weren't afraid to make them look like the stars. There was never any doubt or hesitation it seemed. Even when people thought in late 2013 and the beginning of this year they were headed for a split, the WWE did what the fans were clamoring for: they made the Shield into good guys. 

It's not like it was difficult. If you bring in guys who have wrestling abilities and a unique look and ::gasp:: put them over your established stars...then eventually they will be seen as credible and fans will take to them. Everything seemed to happen organically: the attire, the entrance, the moves, the separate personalities, the shaky camera three man promos. That edginess mixed with their insane chemistry in the ring (likely helped by traveling and being together constantly) is what produced the hottest faction in recent memory in the WWE. 

They weren't just new and refreshing. The Shield wasn't just a name slapped to three guys and put on t-shirts for the hell of it. It was a stamp of approval and a vote of confidence from upper management. They helped put the trio in the best position to succeed, and Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose took the ball and ran. 

They called themselves "The Hounds of Justice". What did that mean exactly? Was it to balance the power and serve actual justice? It was eventually evident they meant their justice. The slights, the wrongdoings, or however they perceived things. If the Shield didn't like you, you found out pretty quickly. 

One of their biggest impacts wasn't "the numbers game" as the announcers loved to say all the time. It was making the six man tag team match an art form of sorts. Six man tag matches became a trademark on almost every RAW and Smackdown. Rollins was the worker and spot monkey. Ambrose was the talker, brains and strategist. Reigns was the muscle, capping off most matches with the three-man powerbomb or his spear. Their finest effort came at Elimination Chamber against the newest stable, the Wyatts: 


The crowd was dying for that match in the weeks leading up to it, and all six relatively new stars delivered. The Shield would go on to dominate the New Age Outlaws and Kane at Wrestlemania before taking out Evolution 2.0 out two months in a row. Not by roll-ups or countouts. They did it CLEAN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING two months in a row at Extreme Rules and Payback. So naturally, my question heading into Monday night was, "Where does the Shield go from here?"

Where do you go when you have been to the top of the mountain? Do you stay there and wait for challengers? That's what singles' stars do. But a stable? How long in the current landscape can one last for? The Shield lasted longer than most, with an incredible run of dominance over many a WWE star. It's the kind of thing wrestlers can make careers off of, like Orton's "legend killer" gimmick, or Goldberg's streak of wins. The trouble with the whole thing is, how do you keep the momentum for all three guys and use it to propel your company into the next generation?

Aristotle once said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

That formula is what made the group successful. It's what allowed them to be dominant and grow as performers. Now that they have carved their own niches of sorts, the parts' sum must be greater than the whole. The WWE has invested too much for that not to happen. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose have worked too hard and been too good for too long not to be stars. I'm not saying they are perfect or polished or the best just yet- there is a lot more room for growth. But they aren't flashes in the pan. They are lighting in a bottle that managed to stay around far longer than any stable in recent history. 

If Monday is any indication, then WWE is starting off on the right foot. Rollins' turn came out of nowhere. It was foreshadowed at the beginning of the night when Batista quit:

 "This will not end until The Shield exists no longer." - HHH

And he was right. It was a "wink-wink" of sorts to the night's final segment. The Shield is no more, and HHH has the upper hand, thanks to Seth Rollins. Now, some have already questioned whether or not Rollins was the right choice. Months ago, WWE hinted at Ambrose being the weak link or the mole. Some even speculated it would be the two of them turning on the assumed breakout star, Reigns. But I believe they did it correctly. Ambrose would have been a little too predictable. Reigns is set to be the biggest star from the group. Rollins has the workrate, but not the mic work.


After joining Evolution- or whatever they are going to be called- his weaknesses will be masked once again, while his strengths will be played to. I could even see a corporate haircut complete with a suit and tie sometime soon. 

But for now we sit and wonder, "why, Seth, why?" Hopefully the reasoning is good. It's been too long a time for it to be thrown away with shoddy reasons and easy plot holes.

These three men need to all eventually become stars. The WWE universe had become so attached and invested in them, that the moment Rollins turned was one that will be remembered for quite some time. Just don't make us second guess it, WWE.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Payback's a...Bore

Quick. Name something that ends in "YBACK" that no one cares about. If you said Ryback...I'll accept it. But more appropriate is WWE's latest "special event", Payback. Formerly known as pay-per-views, the term now outdated because of the brand new WWE Network (9.99 per month, special events included). Yes, even I think it sounds a little odd. Sunday's show is full of...well....nothing. I legitimately meant it when I told friends I looked forward to Thursday's "NXT: Takeover" more than I wanted to watch Payback. This would be more fitting if it was an actual pay-per-view, as WWE would have to reimburse all those who suffered through it. Daniel Bryan being hurt does take the sails out of the show...but in a supposed match against Kane? We won't be missing much. 

Feuds that won't die are the main cause of all the anticlimactic nature of this show. Hopefully there's a giant reset button they'll hit right after so the WWE Universe can get back on track.

I'll run down the card for Sunday complete with anticipation ratings out of 10 (10 being the highest), but you may want to have you DVR ready instead. 

Hair vs Mask: Hornswaggle vs. El Torito on the Preshow at 7:30

Anticipation: 0 out of 10.

-I really could not care less if i miss this or not. I'll be too busy creating my pizza online.

It should be pretty telling that Los Matadors have been around for months and they still have yet to surpass the popularity of their "bull". Each week we see all three announcers (Cole, JBL and Lawler) go apeshit whenever Torito steps foot in the arena. It's like they lose all wherewithal and forget how to logically describe what's happening. At some point you'll get JBL cry "LOOK MAGGLE...HE'S TWERKING, MAGGLE!" Cole will fawn over the "little guy" and Lawler will talk about the company's first ever bull, like it's real. If anyone was supposed to think that and suspend their disbelief, the fact a bull has a mask is a little confusing. The fact that that mask is on the line- even more perplexing. It'll be a throwaway affair, as WWE has plenty more money to squeeze out of Torito than 'Swaggle. Torito wins with some sort of bull-shit. Pun intended. 

 Intercontinental Title Match: RVD vs. Bad News Barrett (C)  

Anticipation: 3 out of 10

- Now with food in my stomach, I'll be able to have my mind on wrestling, well sort of. This is another throwaway and should be a showcase for BNB.

Because so many people were clamoring for RVD to challenge for the IC title- not. RVD is still stuck in 1996 with his moveset, yet his body continues to age as he looks worse every time out. His strongest point might be selling an asskicking, and even that is subpar. Barrett is on an absolute roll right now and looks to only be getting started as IC champ. Before we know it, he'll be a face as the crowd is very open to liking him, regardless of his insults. the 3 hinges on knowing Barrett will win and watching RVD lose. The 7 other points it failed to garner are solely because I have to witness another RVD match. 

Like Clue, it'll be Barrett with the Bullhammer in the center of the ring for the uno, dos, tres. 

*Also, if BNB's latest "news" isn't "CM Punk is retired and all you 'second city' losers wearing his shirt are hopeless delusionists"....then I riot. 

Divas Title Match: Alicia Fox vs. Paige (C) 

Anticipation: 4 out of 10

-It took WWE years, but they finally gave Alicia Fox a character to sink her teeth into. Too bad it's at the wrong time with Paige as a newly minted Divas champion. 

 This is the first match at Payback I'll expect an actual entertaining back-and-forth affair. The reason it's a five is how predictable a Paige win here is. There's no need to cut her off at the knees so soon, even though Fox has been at her best these last few weeks. Her wrestling has always been sharp, but the WWE gave us no reason to care about her aside from her attire. Nautical Alicia Fox, Fox-cloak Alicia it's Batshit Crazy Alicia Fox. Interesting to see where she goes after tonight, as the division is certainly lacking without AJ.  Paige will win with her lame finisher and all of England will celebrate going 2-0 on the night and proceed to not go to the dentist.

Big E vs. Rusev (with Lana) 

Anticipation: 5 out of 10

This will be the first time Rusev gets actual competition. Too bad Big E has stagnated and Rusev has been put on a groundhog loop like every other wrestler outside of the Shield and Evolution. 

A lot of that 5 is for Lana, as she is a tremendous beauty with a great (fake) accent. And the rest of the 5 is because....well, hold on. Just admire: 

Now, where was I? O right.  The match itself will be between two big, powerful hosses that should provide some pretty cool moves, but a rather short (6-7 minute) match. E will valiantly try to beat the big, bad Russian...but Rusev's star is brighter. If a postmatch beatdown leads to R-Truth, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods coming out to exact revenge and form a 2014 Nation, then I'm all for it. A beatdown that would finally make sense from them. 

Rusev wins with an Accolade, holds it on too long and E's buddies help him. 

United States Championship: Cesaro vs. Sheamus (C) 
Anticipation: 6 out of 10

Two of the better big man ring generals go one-on-one. So much promise, yet still a chance for WWE to screw it up.  

Anything with Cesaro has my attention. His star has cooled off a little, but a brutal 10-15 minute match with Sheamus might be able to wake the Chicago crowd up. I could see the two starting a legitimate feud here. Cesaro can only get better, while Sheamus can help make him and others look better. Sheamus might have been WWE's "Irish Cena" for a while, but his days in the main event and as champion now that it's only one belt look to be behind him. Unless, that is, he turns heel.

Either Cesaro loses by the skin of his teeth in an intense match, or he wins with the Neutralizer and Swing. If Sheamus wins in dominant fashion after 8 minutes with the Brogue Kick, I'm turning off my X-Box. 

Last Man Standing: Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena 

"I've got the whollllle world in my-"     Shut up, Bray.

"You want some? Come get-"     Shut up, John.  

Anticipation: 7 out of 10

This feud has been done ass backwards. Wyatt should have won at 'Mania and furthered the doubt in Cena. Cena would get his win back last month and this one would be the rubber match for all the marbles. Instead, Cena won because "Cena". Then at Extreme Rules Wyatt won because "small child with microphone distortion".

It also has to be said that the damn "Whole World in My Hands" song is getting a little played out. It was great the RAW after Mania, but since then it's only been a crutch for a performer who is way better than to use said crutch. Wyatt was to be a new, refreshing character. His win at Mania would have gone a whole lot farther mileage-wise than Cena's did for him.Wyatt was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. He would be elevated by working with Cena, and Cena would get better by being motivated again with such a promising talent. Wyatt wasn't supposed to be "just another bad guy"- yet WWE seems heartset on Cena winning because, well- he's John Cena.

My head says Cena AA's all three through the stage for the win. My heart says Bray Wyatt actually watches film and scouts Cena and pulls out a gutsy (and much needed) victory.

Damn you, head.

Talky Talky Time: Daniel Bryan's Decision 

This should be interesting. But not because he'll keep it. 

Anticipation: 8 out of 10 

It's Bryan's on-screen decision that will symbolize what direction WWE will be going in for the near future. Will there be a tournament to crown a new champion? (Would be perfect timing to have King of the Ring next month). Will Bryan say no and have Brie get axed? (She has asked for time off, as well.) 

Stephanie plays her heel part perfectly, and fans will have to face the music, Bryan is hurt and can't defend the belt. The only thing that worries me is rumors of him facing Kane upon his return. NO. NO. NO. 

They'll milk this segment for all it's worth and hopefully not drag it out too long. You have my interest, WWE. But how long can you keep my attention? 

Perish or Adapt: Evolution vs. The Shield  

It's a one match show. And THIS is the match to watch. 

Anticipation: 9.5 out of 10  

The .5 is simply because the odds are in favor of the Shield. What does Evolution with a departing Batista and part-time HHH stand to gain? The Shield got the win last month (before WWE knew of Bryan's neck problems and Batista's unwillingness to job to Bryan again). Logic says the "Hounds of Justice" will get the win here. But don't mistake that info for any reason not to watch. HHH has been at his best as of late in building new talent whether through NXT or in the ring. Batista showed against Ziggler he still can put on a good match. Orton. 

The Shield have made the six man tag an art form this past year and a half, and look to add to that impressive collection with a win tomorrow night. It'll be intense. It'll be physical. And maybe, just maybe, WWE gives the green light on something red: blood. While they stay away from it, this would be the time to use it in such a heated rivalry. 

Batista will likely take a huge bump to put him on the figurative shelf, and Orton and HHH will be taken to the limit as well. Ambrose, Reigns and Rollin will add to their mantle of impressive wins and move on to something bigger and better following Payback- hopefully. 

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron