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NXT at WrestleMania 31 Axxess – March 26, 2015

These matches aired on the April 8, 2015 broadcast

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal

Neville vs. Hideo Itami

Staredown triggers a “THIS IS AWESOME~!” chant, and it should for this is a dream match. Eight years ago, this could be manipulated into being ROH vs. PWG. Five years ago, NOAH vs. DG.

Easily the best match of the tournament as this would be the only chance for these two to collide while in NXT based on plans in the very near future. While this of course didn’t reach greatness, they showed that such a match of that magnitude is capable in the future. Everything about this match was just so professional, from the mat wrestling (including a battle to gain leverage on hammerlock trades), Neville refusing to be the answer to the Go to Sleep trivia question, and Neville’s cut-offs when Itami took over in the middle and in the closing sequences.

In particular, my favorite spot was a teased running corner dropkick from Itami, only to eat a perfectly timed superkick from Neville for a hot nearfall. Of course, the tease became reality since these two are so polished and experienced. This should’ve been the tournament final, and as someone who finds fan conventions totally useless, advertising a match like this ahead of time in the future would make me consider attending the session. ***1/2

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal

Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze

Couldn’t come close to breaking ***, let alone the semifinal that this followed. This was paced as a fine TV or house show style match, nothing memorable whatsoever, but just enough for Balor to get his shit in and pop the crowd and lead to the rematch with Itami in the final.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Final

Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami

Nothing close to their first dream match in NXT’s prior tournament several weeks earlier and for understandable reasons, as both men are in their third matches of the evening, plus have matches booked the next night at San Jose State University. There really are no complaints to make here, as the match was good but nothing special, which is exactly where it needed to land to leave the crowd happy. Itami pulls off the major upset though, which shouldn’t have been with so much Japanese media in town due to Tatsumi Fujinami’s HOF induction. ***

Crazy food for thought: I never, ever prior to 2014 would’ve thought I’d see KENTA on the same WrestleMania card as Sting.

WrestleMania 31

Tag Titles Match

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston

The SF native Usos are of course decked in 49ers colors, and it’s an obvious shame that Jey had the busted shoulder and could only come out to soak in the moment without getting to do anything physical whatsoever. Gut-wrenching, as them winning the straps in a standard tag from the champs to open the PPV broadcast would’ve been something special.

The champs and hometown boys are of course the most over, while the New Day are still like a wet fart, looking hopeless to ever catch on. Now as for this match, I hated it on broadcast viewing. Sure it was a fun spotfest live, but the broadcast version exposed this as nothing more than a TNA “go out there and do a video game” match. That’s probably not a coincidence with Rudy Charles as the assigned referee, and this was the first WWE match I think I’ve ever seen in which a referee failed to keep track of who was legal. The match wasn’t THAT crazy to justify such sloppy officiating. Others will love this more than me, but I have no use for this in ROH, PWG, or TNA, let alone WWE, especially on the industry’s grandest card of the entire year.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale

Decent battle royale that didn’t quite live up to the original’s finishing stretch. The segments to mention were of course Show eliminating Itami like a complete, utter jabroni, thus making his appearance useless, as him getting to the final four would’ve done quite a bit to build the NXT brand. Cesaro got his moment to shine by scoop-slamming Kane out of the ring, only for Show to get his win back over him from the prior year. Then of course Damien Sandow (Mizdow) got fed up with the Miz’s bullshit, eliminating him to have a fun final with Show.

Show won for what would be obvious reasons at the conclusion of the event, although I sensed live during this match, and now believe even more so with the narrative forced by the commentary when Show won, that Sandow should’ve gone over here. The reason isn’t even about Sandow being the hot hand at the time, although that plays a part (Miz could destroy the trophy leading to their singles match at the next PPV, and maybe it actually would’ve caught on as a singles program for a few months.) Instead, I believe with how limited Show has been in terms of being the slightest bit of an interesting character in 2015, having him choke in this match for a second straight year could’ve made for a compelling undercard narrative going into WrestleMania 32 – would the third time be the charm for Show? Show him preparing for what he feels is his rightful prize in training videos, cutting promos/interviews explaining what it’d mean to him due to the Andre comparisons, etc. Then he is an actual force in that match at AT&T Stadium, perhaps the last highlight of a long and successful career, even though it never reached quite the level of Andre’s.

IC Title – Ladder Match

Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan

Fun gimmick match to open the PPV portion although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a memorable ladder match. There were stunts in this match, although nothing was timed and delivered to be on par with the memorable spots of prior ladder matches such as the Shawn Michaels splash, Edge leaping spear, etc. Having three of the most organically popular babyfaces (Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry) thrown in a match with four geeks obviously didn’t help either.

If any moments were standout, they’d have to be the dumbest one and the finish. Ambrose got pushed off by Harper and fell off of a ladder in the ring, onto a ladder platform outside the ring. Now with this being the biggest show of the year, this is the time to do a stupid stunt like that, but I’d have reservations had I been in his shoes, as this spot on the card was clearly beneath him and the other two legitimate stars shoehorned into this match. Those other two provided the other standout moment as Ziggler and D-Bry exchanged headbutts on the ladder, with D-Bry of course winning thanks to experience against Nigel McGuinness, and claiming the IC Title. Quite the lazy way to pacify those upset with D-Bry’s booking since returning a few months earlier, but if anyone could make that belt mean something again, he’s the very best choice. ***1/2

Since WWE was adamant about having a ladder match on this show, here was one of the million ideas I had in fantasy booking: Seth Rollins is forced (thanks to Sting somehow getting leverage on the Authority) into putting the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against the five guys (minus Roman Reigns) he and his buddies had violated the most since his betrayal of the Shield. That would be Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry, Ryback, and Randy Orton. That provides a loaded ladder match, that also manages to put two of the company favorites and the three fanbase favorites as mentioned all in a marquee match for the event, as well as providing quite the compelling story for a match since Rollins would see everything he had gained potentially blow up in his face. Now speaking of the two company favorites I was referring to…

Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton

Rollins is of course accompanied by J&J Security. My favorite match of the night in person, and maybe still even with something else later on objectively edging this out quite a bit.

What I love so much about this match is that it not only overcame the shitty booking since Orton’s return several weeks earlier, but this felt the most like a sporting competition compared to everything else on the card. Sure, J&J Security got involved a little bit and were quickly dispatched by Orton, but that was as minimal as possible. This looked like a match in which both men went to the film room and put in their proper time studying one another.

There were great counters and blocks all over this match, plus excellent teases. Whether it was Rollins dodging an early Ace Crusher attempt, or blocking a powerslam only to eat one seconds later, this was a purist’s dream for me. In person, this was an excellent match, but on broadcast with polished production, this held up many months later, and the finish of Rollins going for the SR curb stomp, only for his momentum to backfire and see himself lifted to helplessly fall into a perfectly timed Ace Crusher, is gonna be played in highlight reels and talked about for years to come, no matter how uncomfortable WWE is about the stomp. This lived up to my expectations after the classic they had months earlier in Buffalo. ****

Dream Match and Sting’s WWE Debut Match

Sting vs. Triple H

It sure seemed strange to have two of the most promoted matches taking place so early on the card, but I’ll explain why it was actually quite brilliant in my overall assessment of this event at the end of this review. Charles Robinson is the assigned referee, and I shudder to think had it been someone else not familiar with Sting. This may not have been as much fun live if it wasn’t for him.

Unlike HHH’s prior WrestleMania match, I’m not going to provide the detailed move by move analysis. This match wasn’t about putting on a technical masterpiece to pay off an angle several months in the making. Instead, this was about providing a dream match for lapsed fans that yearn for the business to feel like the days of the Monday Night War.

Now with that said, the first thing I’m going to address is the storyline going into this match. This was a blood feud based on vigilantism vs. corruption and oppression, so this match based on that storyline shouldn’t have relied on the retro faction warfare smoke and mirrors it got. This match certainly needed to have its smoke and mirrors, as NEITHER man looked to be in the best shape from an appearance or conditioning standpoint, but structured more like a brawl. While color was also obviously being saved for later on the card, I believe it was absolutely essential to have here both for the storyline and hide the shortcomings of both performers, and that it wouldn’t take away from the color in another match later.

The decision to have the original New World Order and D-Generation X, while providing for a fun, unforgettable segment, was extremely out of place for the storyline developed between Sting and HHH. Don’t get me wrong – it was something to see the two hottest factions of the Monday Night War finally collide, and I never thought the day would come in which SHAWN MICHAELS GIVES STING THE SUPERKICK. That was definitely a surreal moment.

I’m going to analyze that decision and its effect on this match even more. I had been critical that Sting’s perspective shouldn’t have been so limited going into this show, and that it should’ve been hammered down the audience’s throat that the Authority reminded him of the nWo being such a destructive cancer and leading cause in WCW’s death (his mission would be to save WWE from a similar fate.) While that dynamic was mentioned in one great video, it was so brief while the Authority hogged so much mic and screen time that even a detailed viewer like me practically blinked and missed it at the time.

So DX comes to help out HHH, and then the nWo comes out minutes later. Some may question that based on Sting’s history with the nWo. Why would they come out to help? The reasons are layered – it’s an opportunity for Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to appear on the biggest show of the year, so of course they’ll take it. Also, let’s remember (as much as none of you want to) that when the nWo splintered into separate factions, Sting joined the Wolfpac version. Also while in TNA, Sting has shown he no longer held a grudge against any of those three, teaming with and aiding them on multiple occasions. WWE would never mention these details of course, but they exist.

In addition, the original nWo are all backstage at Levi’s Stadium, see someone they went to war with and against getting manhandled by D-Generation X. Why wouldn’t they wanna come help out someone they respect, while also feeling a sense of competitive pride dating back to the Monday Night War to prove who the alpha faction of that time truly is?

With that part of the analysis out of the way, I move on to this. The way this match was structured, including DX and nWo involvement/brawling, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and HBK attacking Sting to benefit HHH, this didn’t belong in 2015 at all, not even thinking about the vigilante vs. authority angle. This entire segment should’ve taken place at WrestleMania X8 or WrestleMania XIX, with it leading to the Sting vs. Shawn Michaels dream match at the following year’s WrestleMania. The timing would have been far more appropriate with the War wounds far fresher, it’d lead to a hot match nobody could’ve even thought would become reality, and it’s a shame that couldn’t happen as WWE’s insistence on pussy-footing around with established WCW talent rubbed Sting the wrong way after WCW’s death.

With all of this said – this was a hell of a spectacle, even with Sting and HHH appearing to both get gassed or out of sync at points. And I’ve no problem with the handshake afterwards – HHH was the one that offered it, both men having earned each other’s respect and moving on despite what lead to their dream showdown. I’d have had Sting win of course for the obvious reasons, but this definitely contributed to me getting my money’s worth live.

For the next half hour or so, the show is all filler. A mini concert. A meaningless divas match pitting the Bella Twins against Paige & AJ Lee (I’m sure Divas champ Nikki tapping clean to Lee’s Octopus hold will lead to something, I just know it will), and then the HOF recognition segment. While many hate filler and I’d usually argue against this as I strongly prefer cards to be structured in order of match importance, it worked for me here for two reasons, one which I’ll list here. This half hour or so of pure filler gave me time to walk around Levi’s Stadium while still in daylight and take in the surrounding Santa Clara beauty. HIGHLY suggested for everyone to do the same when at this venue.

US Title Match

Rusev vs. John Cena

By far the hottest, most sensible angle coming into this show, it’s just a shame that this didn’t quite live up to its buildup or even their first match several weeks earlier.

This was of course a good match, but it’s not a compliment when stating the best moment was Rusev’s tank entrance (the night’s best gimmick entrance by far), no matter how spectacular that particular piece of production was. Before I explain why this didn’t quite live up to the hype, especially for this being Rusev’s year-in-the-making first loss, the match had its bright spots. Everything was clean and crisp, nothing sloppy like Sting vs. HHH, and I appreciated Cena’s overall no-nonsense demeanor throughout the match. That sold his perception of Rusev as a threat and also his patriotic anger. Rusev also got his fair moments of dominance and had to really work to lock in the Camel Clutch, but of course it finally wouldn’t work out for him.

As for why I found this disappointing, which my star rating won’t reflect, is mostly because this didn’t have a super-hot finishing competitive stretch of epic proportions as it deserved. For Rusev’s historic loss, a year in the making, on the year’s grandest stage, more effort should’ve been placed in showing just how difficult that task would’ve been for Cena, similar to how opponents of the Seahawks have felt for the past four years. A distraction sports-entertainment finish thanks to Lana, while obviously leading to a breakup between her and Rusev that those behind the scenes would want, didn’t add to the primary story. Rusev wouldn’t have been hurt by losing without the sports-entertainment booking; but his stock certainly hurt by being down for the count after just one Death Valley Driver, rather than a series of nail-biting nearfalls that would’ve had us all in attendance jumping up and down with emotion. Like the IC Title with D-Bry earlier in the evening, if the plan is for the US Title to have its prestige raised after a solid Rusev reign, Cena certainly is the best pick possible. ***1/4

In the next segment, the Authority gloat over the supposed attendance record and that they drew the box office, rubbing in HHH’s victory over Sting. To be clear, that wasn’t disrespect from HHH towards Sting, but towards the audience for relying on Sting to get the job done and thinking he could take the Authority down and serve them the same humble pie as the Shield and D-Bry did in 2014.

Speaking of pie, out came the Rock, predictably so after the Authority threw in a “millions” remark, What followed is one of the greatest segments I’ve ever experienced live and has been discussed to death in what looked to be leading to a huge crossover match the next year at AT&T Stadium. Rock got the cheap pop talking about his very early days in the Bay Area and got slapped by Stephanie McMahon, then convinced Ronda Rousey to come into the ring and help him knock the Authority down a peg. Not quite on par for me personally with the Championship Ascension Ceremony in Seattle, but definitely an all-time WrestleMania moment that blew Rock, Hogan, and Steve Austin’s segment a year earlier out of the water.

Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker

Live, this match looked like a sloppy mess to me. That’s explainable as Wyatt reportedly rolled his ankle earlier in the day during warmups or walk-throughs, and he’s not elite enough to overcome that. On broadcast, this match was still nothing special and arguably felt like a waste of time, but Taker still looked a bit lethargic and broken down, albeit still significantly healthier than a year earlier when he was concussed. Of course, Taker gets the win to show he’s still got it, and leaving Wyatt, one of the most pushed acts on the roster without any clear storyline direction. Whatever, the crowd popped for it.

WWE Title Match

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns

Now of course, was this the right main event? I still say no, even with how shockingly great this turned out to be, as the “right main event” I’m referring to has the potential on paper to be a true all-time classic for the industry should it ever actually occur.

Now with that said, I went into Levi’s Stadium, despite how disappointing the Reigns push was, hoping these two would give me my money’s worth and prove everybody wrong that was concerned about the predicted lack of chemistry these two would have. And I’m happy to say that I was totally wrong in that regard.

Start to finish, this entire presentation was top-notch art. In a match perfectly structured for each other’s strengths, they went out and smashed it for the top prize in the industry. From Lesnar getting the early domination segment (in a manner far more captivating than Kane or Big Show struggled to reach against Reigns in the months leading up to this), to Reigns smiling to show he could absorb the pain that the Beast Incarnate unleashed upon him, to Lesnar juicing after being slammed head-first into a ring post to transition to Reigns shining, I could not have asked for a better match from these two.

It wasn’t just the structure of this match, or even the off-the-charts, unforgettable finish that made this a special match between two bad-ass heavyweights. The crowd provided an AMAZING big fight atmosphere that translated exceptionally well to the broadcast, and I can say that live it was a pleasure to be a part of. Lesnar was the hottest babyface on the roster, and Reigns through no fault of his own was the biggest heel to a significant portion of those in the Bay Area that weekend.

Now as for the finish, nobody could’ve really seen it coming after the booking of the prior several weeks and Lesnar signing a contract extension just days earlier. But to see Seth Rollins, the former Tyler Black, sprint to the ring once Reigns had knocked down Lesnar (but still struggling himself to take advantage thanks to the former UFC World Heavyweight Champion’s brutality), and successfully cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase, was a rewarding live experience I’ll remember forever, reminding me of why I remain a fan of such an often-disappointing niche industry after 18 years. He had worked his ass off to achieve the Shawn Michaels spot I foresaw for him a year earlier, and it was the right call to make to give the company a chance to (hopefully) re-evaluate the path for Reigns to reach his inevitable coronation. Plus, Reigns seeing a bit of humility doesn’t hurt him, and Lesnar is still protected since he didn’t do the job. This also adds a layer to the choice Rollins made to sell out and destroy the Shield, in what I hope one day will pay off in that particular threeway dream match so many of us yearn for. ****1/2

Coming out of this show, many who attended it, including Dave Meltzer himself, said this may have been the greatest WrestleMania of all-time. That was a bit hyperbolic, but as someone who has attended every WrestleMania since the 25th edition at the now-named NRG Stadium, this is right behind WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix as the best one I’ve attended as an overall event and experience.

I had mentioned earlier that this show used an unusual but very satisfying format. With many months to have slept on it, it was actually BRILLIANT to split the card into pretty much two halves, with the first half closing with the Sting vs. HHH co-main event prior to going on what was in reality a halftime/intermission show before getting to Rusev vs. Cena to kick off the second half. This allowed those in attendance to get snacks and use the restroom without missing anything important, and for me personally I used the time to admire the geographic and new money beauty surrounding Levi’s Stadium.

This was a WrestleMania with two great matches, one of them a MOTYC, plus THREE absolutely unforgettable WrestleMania moments, including a historic first-ever MITB cash-in on the grandest stage (poetically a decade after the concept’s birth), Sting’s first ever WWE match, and what appeared to hopefully be signs of the company re-evaluating some of its storytelling mentalities, both with the one that seems destined to be its next face, as well as two midcard titles that were now placed on true champions.

This review isn't quite done yet though. I must throw in my two cents regarding two special documentaries highlighting the WrestleMania 31 journeys of Hideo Itami and Roman Reigns, the former airing on NXT's April 8, 2015 broadcast, the other being a WWE 24 episode. As has been said over and over again, I don't care how much time and money these types of pieces cost, they should be happening more frequently. How anyone could watch these documentaries and not feel some kind of connection to Itami and Reigns, who obviously came from VERY different backgrounds and would both leave Levi's Stadium empty-handed in storyline, would be truly baffling. Not only do these documentaries do a great job of highlighting its particular superstars, but the engulfing experience that is WrestleMania weekend and why everyone should enjoy it first-hand at least once.

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WWE Raw – March 30, 2015: The Good Shit (AKA The First 2 Hours)

The show kicks off with former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar coming to the ring dressed for battle, accompanied of course by Paul Heyman. We get the usual fantastic promo from Heyman hyping up a fight and putting over the prior night’s main event, while also noting he will no longer be singing the praises of Roman Reigns. Out comes Stephanie McMahon to grant Lesnar a one-on-one rematch with the new champion Seth Rollins, who hasn’t arrived yet. Like anyone believed we’d be seeing that dream match on cable TV. Nowhere NEAR the promo Heyman cut on Lesnar’s behalf a year earlier in New Orleans, but that was an all-time upper-echelon, timeless classic promo, so that’s no insult to this one.

IC Title Match

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler

Quality TV match but nowhere near the classic many in attendance were themselves it was. There was nothing wrong with this match at all. The mat work, the counters, the strikes, the head-butting were all fine stuff on their own, and this was propped up a bit by a highly enthusiastic audience frustrated with these two guys not being in far more marquee positions on the card. D-Bry wins of course and the two of them even fight off Wade Barrett, but the returning Sheamus, complete with mohawk and braided long beard, runs off the former IC Champ and then attacks the beloved babyfaces. He certainly needed to come back with a tune-up, but looks mean nothing, so we’ll see how that pans out as I continue with the rest of 2015. ***1/2

Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, & The Ascension vs. Lucha Dragons, Big E, & Kofi Kingston

Totally shallow spotfest to pop many of the supposed smarks in attendance, but no offensive tag legality issues like the day before. The highlight of course was Cesaro being a base for Kalisto, showing off what indy fans got to enjoy from the former Claudio Castagnoli during the 2000s decade. The most important note is that the New Day have all the momentum of Kane & Big Show… if they were stuck in quicksand.

A video package for Neville airs. Perhaps if the video actually confirmed that tonight would be his call-up, the crowd would’ve popped with higher enthusiasm.

The scheduled WWE Title match between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar of course doesn’t happen as Rollins comes up with transparent excuses to bail out on it. What results is easily the highlight of the evening, one that I pretty much foresaw for Lesnar a few months in advance whether he signed a contract extension or not. Lesnar destroys J&J Security, forces Rollins to run away through the audience with the belt, and crushes the commentary crew when flipping their table on top of them.

Michael Cole attempts to flee the scene, but that’s for naught as Lesnar grabs him to the crowd’s delight and drops the lead commentator in the ring with an F5! He then goes after a cameraman and Stephanie pleads for him to stop, but he drops him with an F5 anyway, causing the Billion Dollar Princess to indefinitely suspend him. Lesnar responds with another F5 on the cameraman.

Moments later, Renee Young catches up with Stephanie, who says the contract extension gives her leverage to fine and suspend Lesnar without allowing him the opportunity to fuck off to the UFC. The Authority would be far more tolerable if the writers threw in details like this for the characters more frequently.

Neville makes quick work of Curtis Axel. Totally nothing squash. Why not actually throw Neville into a competitive match with Rollins and let them steal the show so both guys come out looking great and fans like me, who drove fucking 12 hours each way for this particular weekend, get rewarded for investing time and hard-earned money into the company?

John Cena comes out and cuts his usual fun promo that does nothing but state the obvious in classy fashion and lays down an open challenge to anyone in the locker room for his US Title.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose

If I’m in charge, I certainly wouldn’t have a guy who fell off a ladder onto another one from inside the ring to the outside of it take a single bump the night after. But whatever, these two put on another quality TV match, right on par with D-Bry vs. Ziggler earlier in the evening, even earning some of the same overrated reactions from those in attendance afterwards.

The standout weak moment was of course the botched sunset powerbomb, but they both just kept moving forward; they made the right call having Cena no-sell it and surprise Ambrose with an STF, since Ambrose’s botch exposed to Cena what he had planned. Everything else was fine stuff, from the transitions to Cena taking powders to stall Ambrose’s momentum to even Ambrose going for the STF himself and getting a nice near-fall out of the double underhook DDT. To the surprise of nobody, the less physically taxed Cena came the victor, like D-Bry kicking off this reign on a high note. Also of note is I believe this is the only clean non-gimmick job for Ambrose since the Shield split, giving this reign a significant beginning. ***1/2

I’m also really glad WWE made the call to give us a two hour Raw for our final night of wrestling in the Bay Area on this magical weekend. Two quality matches to kick off title reigns, a fun Heyman promo, and a white-hot segment to build up the inevitable Rollins vs. Lesnar singles showdown that I’ve been frothing at the mouth for about a year to see come to fruition. I’m glad this edition of Raw made sure not to deliver a totally useless, weekend-closing third hour that killed the goodwill developed with even the most jaded of fans thanks to a hot NXT house show, awesome WrestleMania, and two killer hours of Raw.

NXT – April 1, 2015: The Good Shit

The brand has returned to Columbus, as has Sami Zayn from his brief sabbatical. His promo is simple but effective – he wants the NXT Title back, and he wants to beat the shit out of Kevin Owens. No cute fluff exposition to fill up 15 minutes of airtime. Later on, Rhino declares he wants the title and interrupts Zayn in a backstage interview.

Raw – April 6, 2015: The Good Shit

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Stardust - ***1/2

SmackDown! – April 9, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day turns up the volume on their heel turn, chastising the audience for the “New Day sucks” chants and failure to appreciate positivity. They display total narcissism, telling the fans that they MUST love and like them for what they do. Fucking fantastic. They then go overboard with show-boating for every successful thing they do as Big E & Kofi Kingston face Tag Champs Cesaro & Tyson Kidd in non-title action. The New Day still end up losing yet again, their antics backfiring.

Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, & Roman Reigns vs. Big Show, Sheamus, & Wade Barrett - ***1/2

Raw- April 13, 2015: The Good Shit

US Champion John Cena does the usual shtick of making rhetorical statements to put everyone and everything over, which very few can pull off, and throws out a teasing gem that I have no arguments against, that being London is deserving of hosting WrestleMania.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Wade Barrett - ***1/2

Dolph Ziggler vs. Neville - ***

SmackDown! – April 16, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day once again chastise the audience about not clapping along, but leave with a victory this time over Los Matadores.

Bryan Danielson’s Final Match?

John Cena & Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd

I will wait to see when the day comes that Mr. Danielson decides to call it a career until I give a perspective on all the years he gave to the business. The discussion of whether or not he’s finished has been done to death.

Instead, I will point out that if this indeed was the end, then London would not be the worst choice to have been the host for such an unfortunate honor, and the other three participants surely would look back on this with pride as well. The most important thing to take out of this match is perhaps Mr. Danielson, should this be the end, taught the greatest lesson for aspiring wrestlers in his career: once he got the hot tag, he finally did the right thing for himself (likely due to WWE’s strict advisement) by having a fun finish without taking a bunch of stupid bumps and risks for a low-priority TV main event. Hopefully, it wasn’t too late for him to have learned that lesson himself. Him going over also shows that perhaps the company knew this could be it, and despite the ups and downs since he signed in 2009, he actually was respected by those in charge. ***

Raw – April 20, 2015

NXT – April 22, 2015: The Good Shit

Becky Lynch wins an NXT Women’s Title Shot match against Charlotte and Bayley by pinning the latter while the former had the Figure Eight locked on. ***

Women’s Champion Sasha Banks talks shit to her former ally and the new #1 contender. The attempted intimidation is futile.

To close out the night, Sami Zayn sabotages Kevin Owens from further assaulting Alex Riley, resulting in a tremendous pull-apart brawl, complete with Zayn hitting a moonsault onto the NXT Champion, who then scurries away for the first time in his WWE career.

SmackDown! – April 23, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day cut another tremendously effective promo, still butt-hurt over the audience not giving a shit about clapping, smiling, and positivity, then continue their momentum with Kofi Kingston pinning Cesaro going into their Tag Titles match.

Seth Rollins & Luke Harper vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns - ***3/4 (easy contender for SmackDown! Match of the Year)

The less said about the main event angles, the better. As time goes on, it’s becoming more likely this month will best be known as the unfortunately abrupt end to an off-the-charts career.

NXT is a bit cold, but the seeds are being planted for the leaked Takeover event planned for May 20. Who aren’t cold for sure are the New Day, who have finally found their rhythm as obnoxiously narcissistic cunts. Cena and the weekly US Title open challenge are the other highlight.

An overall poor month of build coming off a hot weekend in the Bay Area.

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Extreme Rules 2015: The Good Shit

Neville vs. Wade Barrett

Fun kickoff match as would be expected in a city like Chicago. Barrett used clubbing blows to get control, Neville busted out the kicks and high-flying shit, and I can only imagine if these two were presented in a substantial fashion feuding over the IC or US Titles. I must mention of course that Barrett is magnetic in his pre-match ringside promo shitting on Daniel Bryan, and WWE's refusal to push someone with his height and microphone ability is my pick for the biggest booking red flag of the past half decade. ***1/4

Loser Kisses the Winner's Ass

Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler

Another quality undercard match that deserved something far more substantial at stake. Whereas Barrett found himself in an ultimate mismatch against Neville due to the speed and kicks, Sheamus had the advantage here because he had the overpowering strength to maintain control on Ziggler. Of course, Ziggler played the underdog yet again, continuing to pigeonhole himself in a mid-card babyface to groom heels, rather than a top one to be in marquee programs. Ziggler's comeback attempts were all on point, and it was nice to see him catch the cocky Sheamus off-guard to get a victory. ***1/4

My only comment about the post-match is that if anyone wants a shining example of why pro wrestling is viewed as trailer trash, lowest common denominator entertainment, and wonders why it struggles to draw middle and high-income demographics (and thus the same level of advertisers), this is the segment to display for such evidence. At least the original was during a boom period and had Dwayne Johnson involved to shield the utter shittiness of this gimmick.

Tag Titles Match

Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston

My pick for the match of the night here. This was an Americanized, 2010s decade version of the heavy/junior vs. heavy/junior tags NOAH loved booking a decade ago, and while not quite on par with the workrate of some of those, this had the personality to compensate for it. Xavier Woods was once again sensational being an obnoxious cunt at ringside, while the four workhorses busted their asses to put on a dandy of a tag match.

Everything in this was just crisp stuff, from the juniors having a stalemate at the start, to the New Day cutting the ring in half on Kidd, to the heavies showing off their breathtaking strength. There were of course the near-falls and all kinds of hot action in this one; this overall was a step above the Usos vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan series in the prior year, because this had heels that were emotionally connecting with the audience. Pure brilliance to have Woods grab the foot, and kicking off a New Day for the tag titles. ***3/4

Last Man Standing Match

Big Show vs. Roman Reigns

Another hot match for the evening and the best possible conclusion to a feud that had long past run its course. This was intelligently orchestrated, allowing the gimmick environment to enhance the generally useless type of match these two have together. For once, Big Show's dominance wasn't tedious, with the rules of the match actually enhancing the drama and giving reason for resting, rather than just relying on them to put forth a lazy effort.

Reigns was sensational with his comebacks and stiff shots to knock down the giant, eventually getting one of the smark capitals behind him and in the palm of his hand thanks also to taking some risky bumps, the highlight being a chokeslam from inside the ring to the outside through two tables. This was the obvious spot, along with the beating taken from Brock Lesnar a month before, for Reigns to earn respect and become a man in his detractors' eyes, although it just can't compare to Randy Orton being dropped onto thumbtacks 11 years earlier.

No complaints about the finish, as it was common sense for the next chosen face of the company to go over and in a blaze of glory, which he sure did by burying Show underneath a commentary table to keep him down for the 10 count. ***1/2

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Raw – April 27, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day cut a fun promo prior to the Big E vs. Cesaro match, 24 hours removed from becoming Tag Champions. What would’ve put this promo over the top into mega heel heat, since this took place in Green Bay: mention that the New Day come through in the clutch, unlike the Packers choking away the NFC Championship against the Seahawks 3 months earlier.

King of the Ring Tournament Quarterfinal

Luke Harper vs. Neville - ***1/4

NXT – April 29, 2015: The Good Shit

NXT Champion Kevin Owens wants a fight with Sami Zayn, but GM William Regal comes out followed by Zayn and then announces a championship rematch at the next Takeover supercard. Owens tries to manipulate the scene hypocritically to make non-title, only for Zayn to turn that around to get into the champ’s head and get him to agree, using “title match or nothing” as well as claiming Owens was always the Triple H to Zayn’s Shawn Michaels as leverage. So refreshing to see an opening TV promo segment that has the purpose of building supercard main event heat, not just fill time and lead to what by the end of the opening segment is usually a cold main event for later in the evening.

Zayn is about to sign the contact rematch later, only for Alex Riley to barge into Regal’s office and demand a rematch. Riley is so butt-hurt that he’s a dick to Zayn, who’s being a supportive peer, leading to a singles match for them tonight.

A short interview feature with Becky Lynch airs, simply making it clear that her choice to become a pro wrestler was to become a champion, putting over the importance of the Women’s Title. Another crazy concept segment.

Bayley loses to new women’s division sensation Dana Brooke, thanks to being distracted by documented thief Emma.

Regal announces an NXT Title shot match at the next Takeover supercard between Finn Balor, Tyler Breeze, and Hideo Itami.

Bayley is pissed by Emma’s antics.

Zayn vs. Riley is a filler main event, albeit a meaningful one since Owens provides commentary. He once again displays a career that should be ready for him once he hangs up the boots, in reality actually reminding me of CM Punk. Very clear voice that commands attention and perfectly smug to build heat for his opponents. He of course gets up and attacks both after several minutes, leaving Zayn laying and giving Riley a powerbomb on the ring apron. Fantastic conclusion to an incredibly focused program.

SmackDown! – April 30, 2015: The Good Shit

Tag Titles Match

Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd - ***1/2

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Fun backstage segment beforehand, showing that Ambrose is quite the smart character by letting Rollins believe he’d call the match off. The match itself actually did a great job of displaying the hatred between each other, and the commentary actually bothered to explain their history. It was just another very good main event between two guys with the same kind of chemistry as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, in that they could probably sleepwalk a *** match with each other. Of note is that Kane’s antics ended up costing Ambrose the match. ***1/2

Raw – May 4, 2015: The Good Shit

Roman Reigns and Randy Orton exchange barbs about who will leave Payback 2015 as WWE Champ in their scheduled match against Seth Rollins that night, and are interrupted by the New Day, leading to a fun handicap match. There was no shame in Reigns & Orton losing to the Tag Champs. Reigns vs. Orton is scheduled for tonight’s main event by Kane.

As a result of the chaos that happened days earlier, Ambrose gets another shot at Rollins tonight, which the champ is none too happy about, trying to manipulate Kane into cancelling it. Later on, Rollins pours more gas on the fire, shitting on Kane and this “pointless” rematch in an interview while on his way to the ring.

Before the bell rings for Rollins vs. Ambrose, Kane appears and says to make this rematch not pointless, Ambrose will be entered into the Payback 2015 main event should he win this. Rollins whines of course, already having the “disadvantage” of J&J Security being banned from ringside, but perhaps he should be focused on his arch-nemesis gunning for his title instead…

WWE Title Shot Match For Dean Ambrose

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

…As Ambrose takes advantage and tries to finish Rollins immediately with an O’Connor roll. Rollins goes to the outside and Ambrose is on him like white on rice. This certainly has a big fight feel to it and the Montreal crowd certainly deserves credit. Back in the ring, they have great back-and-forth stuff, taking turns getting the heat.

Highlights in this classic match include Rollins taking an RVD-style bump off of a tornado DDT, Ambrose regaining control later with a crowd-popping elbow suicida, and an excellently timed rebound lariat that had been teased earlier on the outside (Rollins of course had evaded that one as he had scouted thanks to his matches with Ambrose and Nigel McGuinness.) There were some great nearfalls in this one too of course, the standout for me being a superkick from Rollins to a fallen Ambrose, one that really looked like it connected.

It looked like perhaps this will all a tease for Ambrose and his marks when he was given a running powerbomb onto the outside about 15 minutes into this gem. But once J&J Security showed up after the rebound lariat (my goodness, had Rollins fucked up his shoulder on that ugly bump…), their plan to assist the champ backfired, paying off how the match started as Ambrose got Rollins down for the three count via a schoolboy pin. Excellent match that holds up many months later, and will many years later. This marks the first time the former Shield will all collide, but with Orton thrown in; however, Orton being involved means this isn’t about the Shield, but Rollins having to face the three men he fucked over the most in 2014-15 and potentially losing it all in the process. ****

US Champ John Cena comes out to cut the usual good sportsmanship promo, soaking in the outstanding Montreal atmosphere in the process. He also focuses on his scheduled I Quit match with Rusev, and I couldn’t possibly care about that feud after WrestleMania 31. The crowd is amazing though chanting “Ole ole ole,” letting it be known they had a pretty good idea who’d be facing Cena tonight.

Bret Hart comes out to introduce the challenger, only for Heath Slater to interrupt in an amusing moment, getting knocked out by the HOFer as soon as he gets in his face. The challenger for tonight is of course a Montreal native and one of the hottest stars on NXT…

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Sami Zayn

Obviously a bittersweet match due to Zayn’s shoulder problems finally hitting their breaking point, both during his pre-match hype routine and when taking a backdrop suplex. Many felt at the time that his injury took away from the match. I challenge everyone to revisit this match, as it was definitely the Sami Zayn show, Cena really just being a secondary performer in this match, which speaks volumes about the faith the company has in Zayn, as well as his individual performance in the face of such incredibly pressure and adversity.

This isn’t anything close to Zayn’s best match, but it may very well be his very best performance due to the circumstances mentioned in the prior paragraph. While he of course had to briefly lick his wound at times, his effort was sensational, busting out all the usual spots fans of the former El Generico had become so engrossed with over the past dozen years. Over the top rope dive, through-the-ropes tornado DDT, blue thunder powerbomb nearfall, the Koji Clutch, you name it, if it’s something Zayn brought to the big leagues once he signed, it was in here. He was not to be denied a quality match on this night.

While the match quality doesn’t quite measure up to other matches with very real injuries, Zayn’s performance here is on par with the likes of Triple H in the Two Man Power Trip vs. Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho classic, Bryan Danielson against Colt Cabana and KENTA, Curt Hennig at SummerSlam 1991, Nigel McGuinness against Austin Aries, AJ Styles at Final Battle 2015, and Shawn Michaels both at WrestleMania XIV and Taboo Tuesday 2004. No doubt Zayn solidified his future and reliability for when he’d inevitably return. ***1/2

The Reigns vs. Orton main event is just an excuse for the Authority B-team to attack both of them, and of course that brings out Ambrose, who’s the last one standing of the current month’s four main eventers after he drops Orton to close out the show. Hot finish here to a tremendous night of wrestling.

NXT – May 6, 2015: The Good Shit

Emma, wearing Bayley’s “I’m a Hugger” shirt, loses to Charlotte in the opener and is hugged post-match by Bayley. An aggressive side of Bayley is displayed that hasn’t been seen before, as she drops Emma with a belly-to-belly suplex to get her shirt back, which she then throws into the audience.

Another Becky Lynch interview feature airs, discussing her journey to NXT and the various wrestlers that inspired her, including The Rock, Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Dynamite Kid. That’s quite the variety I must say. She wants to be the very best, and to make that happen, she knows she must dethrone Sasha Banks in two weeks. Amazing that this one-hour weekly program has time for this but the three-hour and two-hour shows don’t.

In a pre-recorded interview, Michael Cole sits down with NXT Champ Kevin Owens. The champ is amazing with his smugness, wondering why Cole doesn’t acknowledge trivial shit and refusing to admit that he has a personal vendetta against Sami Zayn to justify his actions since debuting in the company. It has to be said: of all the dream scenarios Kevin Steen fans thought for him, the dream matches, the storylines, etc., NOBODY ever took into account the amazing chemistry he’d have with Michael Cole.

Women’s Champ Sasha Banks does her meaningless put-down trash-talk, but she’s a fucking star and the promo is short, so it works.

In a pre-recorded interview, Michael Cole sits down with Sami Zayn who explains that he’ll fight fire with fire. He’s fed up with Owens ducking an explanation for his actions in WWE, and challenges Owens to see him next week and answer the question for once.

The contract signing between Banks and Lynch of course ends in a fight between the two, Banks instigating it and having to scurry away after Lynch locks her in a seated Fujiwara armbar. Effective segment to elevate the challenger and present her as a legitimate threat.

In what could be nothing, but we don’t know yet, Finn Balor eats a Yakuza kick at ringside from Hideo Itami during the former GHC Champion’s main event with Tyler Breeze. Before Balor and Itami can react to each other over it, Breeze attacks them both.

SmackDown! – May 7, 2015: The Good Shit

Dolph Ziggler & Neville vs. Sheamus & Wade Barrett - ***1/4

Fun main event contract signing segment for WWE Champ Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton. The dialogue further reinforces that this match about Rollins facing his comeuppance, not “here’s the Shield going at it with Orton thrown in!” Rollins is quite clever, albeit transparent, revealing the shit the challengers may or may not have been saying about each other in the past. It of course ends in a fun brawl as these segments always do.

Raw – May 11, 2015: The Good Shit

US Champ John Cena comes out, you guys know the routine by now. He has to hold onto the title because of what it represents, etc.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Neville

Pretty damn good match between two men who look like they were manufactured by an action figure company. There’s really nothing to complain about here; sure, Rusev costing Neville the match sucked, but these definitely have a classic in them should they ever have a rematch under the right circumstances. Undoubtedly, Neville was Cena’s greatest challenger to this point, possibly finishing Cena off had the match been left alone, and this is a great example to shove in someone’s face if they question that Cena can’t work; he was clearly the ring general in this one, knowing when it was time for Neville to shine and leading the way to what should’ve been a star-making performance. ***1/2

IC Champ Daniel Bryan relinquishes that title, confirming that he’s in bad health again and has no idea when or even if he’ll ever compete again. Once again, no assessment of his career until the day he decides to hang up the boots.

Cincinnati’s own Dean Ambrose is the last one standing to close out the show, laying out Reigns with the double underhook DDT. Decent go-home shot.

NXT – May 13, 2015: The Good Shit

In a pre-recorded interview, Finn Balor gives a stock answer when asked if he’d rather challenge Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn for the NXT Title.

Tyler Breeze gives his one-dimensional narcissistic answer to the same question.

Hideo Itami says he wants Kevin Owen because he is a “bad person.” Been waiting almost a decade now for that one…

In another pre-taped interview, Zayn says he just has to gut through his shoulder injury if he’s gonna dethrone Owens next week. This really does feel like a sports presentation.

In the main event go-home segment, Zayn gets a lot of shit off his chest towards Owens, who still refuses to explain why he’s been such a fucking cunt. Instead, Owens vows to put Zayn out of action for good next week. Excellent, excellent build after a bit of a lull.

SmackDown! – May 14, 2015: The Good Shit

Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus - ***1/2

Another fun pre-match promo from the New Day, calling out Cesaro & Tyson Kidd for being “cheaters” and “bad people.”

No DQ, No Count Out Match

Kane vs. Roman Reigns - ***1/2

The show ends with a backstage brawl that has Seth Rollins scurrying, while Ambrose and Reigns have a staredown with the WWE Title on scene.

Payback 2015: The Good Shit

Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus - ***1/4

Tag Titles – 2/3 Falls Match

Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd

Fun match again between these teams, this team with New Day taking a page out of Demolition’s playbook and having the fresh Xavier Woods pose as Kofi for the winning pinfall. ***1/4

WWE Title – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton

Very good main event weighed down by focusing too much on Kane’s job security. The highlights include the former Shield giving the patented powerbomb to Orton through a commentary table as well as Ambrose and Reigns going at it for the first time in a non-Rumble match since the Shield initially formed. Ambrose and Reigns were also golden in letting Rollins believe for a second that the band would be back together again, knowing he was trying to butter up to onto the WWE Title. With Rollins pinning Orton, that eliminates the Viper from WWE Title contention, a good move to make going into the summer. ***3/4

Raw – May 18, 2015: The Good Shit

Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt - ***

John Cena’s US Title open challenge leads to NXT Champion Kevin Owens making his main roster debut. Rather than accept the opportunity to become US Champion, Owens instead says he’s happy being NXT Champ and has a GREAT verbal confrontation with Cena, showcasing himself as a natural fit for the company that should’ve been signed many years earlier. He suckers Cena with a kick to the gut and leaves the face of the company laying with a pop-up powerbomb, then actually stands over the US Title and holding his NXT Title in the air! Best main roster debut since the Shield by leaps and bounds. A fantastic advertisement for NXT Takeover: Unstoppable as well.

Backstage, Triple H welcomes Kevin Owens to the main roster, and the dream match I've waited several years to see is official, as Cena collides with Owens at the end of the month at Elimination Chamber 2015. OH FUCK YES~!

Ambrose is fed up with the Authority’s bullshit and demands Seth Rollins give him a singles match for the WWE Title. After a fun brawl, the Authority relents, but Rollins leaves with the upper hand. Fun segment in a vacuum and it leads to a main event match that never fails, plus this keeps Ambrose up top, but I objectively can’t imagine casual fans caring very much about the Authority being so overexposed.

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NXT Takeover: Unstoppable: The Good Shit

During the preshow, someone that to date has yet to be revealed attacked Hideo Itami in the parking lot, putting him on the shelf still up to this point with a shoulder injury. NXT Champion Kevin Owens casually walks by and shows zero compassion, sarcastically saying "That's a shame."

In the opener, Finn Balor secures another shot at the NXT Title by defeating Tyler Breeze.

Owens has a great backstage interview, showcasing all the little things that make him a standout promo, and takes credit for Sami Zayn's shoulder injury, and that tonight he's finishing his arch-nemesis for good.

Alexa Bliss takes a badly needed heel turn, helping Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy hang on to the Tag Titles over Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady by attacking Carmella and then interfering behind the ref's back.

NXT Women's Title Match

Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

For those who miss Nigel McGuinness, this is the match for you. What will make this instant classic hold up so well I believe is that this wasn't a bomb-throwing near-fall extravaganza. Instead, these two outstanding athletes told a magnificently compelling story through body language, submission work, psychology, and old-school storytelling.

Lynch of course went after the left arm of Banks, obviously setting up the champ for the seated Fujiwara arm bar. The match would become even though when both were on the apron and Lynch went for a Yakuza kick, only for Banks to grab the leg, thrust the challenger forward, and channel Triple H at WrestleMania XXX with an arm twist takedown right on Lynch's left arm and shoulder.

Simply put, this was an absolutely sensational match with all kinds of great storytelling through submissions and limb work, including a London Dungeon, multiple lungblowers on different body parts, and of course Banks putting the sports-entertainment icing on the cake by being a cocky shit, mocking her former ally. It certainly looked like Lynch would pull off the breathtaking win once she was up top with Banks down on the mat, but the champ showed off her own resiliency; she got up quickly, giving a lungblowner on Lynch's badly damaged left arm and shoulder, then finished off her greatest challenger to this point with the Banks Statement.

This was Lynch's breakout match in the company, and unfortunately all these months later, it's looking like this will be her career highlight, rather than springboarding her into genuine stardom. But that takes nothing away from this match. Every piece of praise poured on this was earned, and this is a match to show to any aspiring wrestler than storytelling matters far more than a plethora of bumps in order to engage the audience. One need look no further than Lynch's post-match standing ovation for evidence of that. ****1/2

NXT Title Match

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

Whereas the prior match focused on technical wrestling, this right here was a fight between two men who hate each other. Despite his left shoulder injury, Zayn put on another amazing performance on par with the match against John Cena two weeks earlier, but in this one he was booked to dominate early. The champ could barely get an advantage, having awakened an avalanche of determination that was this time fueled by pure anger from Zayn.

The match would get thrown out of course when Zayn leaped towards Owens, only to be given an apron powerbomb and never getting back up, as Owens continued to attack the former NXT Champ mercilessly. It got ugly enough that GM William Regal came out and fish-hooked the nostrils of Owens, only to be assaulted by the champ as well. After a couple more minutes, the worst kept secret in wrestling becomes reality...

Samoa Joe makes his better-late-than-never WWE debut, getting in the face of Owens, who takes the obvious powder because he's not about doing anything unless it's to his advantage. What should be noted is that Joe showed no acknowledgement towards the fallen Zayn in the ring, and maybe, just maybe, that's a sign that he'd be willing to leave a colleague laying, if not worse, to get a chance at the top spot in NXT. ***1/2

It's a Takeover supercard. The day one of these doesn't justify paying DOUBLE your monthly WWE Network rate is the day the whole operation should shut down.

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SmackDown! – May 21, 2015: The Good Shit

Dolph Ziggler vs. Wade Barrett - ***

Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt - ***

(Of note is that to offset the Authority B-Team fucking with Ambrose, Roman Reigns punched Wyatt. Wonder if that’ll come back to bite him.)

Raw – May 25, 2015: The Good Shit

Stephen Amell, the lead star of Arrow, has a staredown with Stardust from the front row, prior to the former Tag and IC Champion’s match with Neville.

US Champion John Cena cuts another compelling promo, with the moral being that no matter how much buzz NXT Champion Kevin Owens has created for himself, the bottom line will be about who wins their dream match at Elimination Chamber 2015. This was some quality exposition from Cena, articulating what Owens represents for those who’ve wanted Cena to be knocked down a peg for the past decade.

With this being WWE’s final event at the Nassau Coliseum, Cena lays down another open challenge, and out come various cast members of Entourage. They introduce Long Island native Zack Ryder, and MAJOR kudos to the company for allowing him to shine in a brief match against their franchise. No matter how anyone subjectively views his gimmick and in-ring performance, the bottom line is that man connected with consumers in 2011 and those in charge dropped the ball capitalizing on (if not maliciously sabotaged) that momentum. This was a pretty damn good one night apology.

Of course, after Cena shows great sportsmanship and allowing Ryder a very real moment for himself in his home region, out comes Owens to drop the franchise with a pop-up powerbomb!

The New Day cut a great cookie-cutter cheap heat promo to rile the crowd up, shitting on the shithole arena that the Islanders abandoned in favor of the billion dollar Barclays Center. These guys are FAR more charming when whining about things that are “unfair” than Seth Rollins is.

NXT – May 27, 2015: The Good Shit

NXT Champion Kevin Owens opens the show, wearing a John Cena US Champion shirt and using Sami Zayn’s entrance theme. It worked when CM Punk mocked Jeff Hardy six years earlier, it worked here. Owens spews a bunch of his usual bullshit to justify his assault on Zayn, and magically turns the crowd against him too when they do the “John Cena sucks” sing-a-long by saying Zayn sucks too. He also of course mentions that he avoided Samoa Joe because that’s what a “good person” does.

GM William Regal comes out and says had he not touched Owens at Takeover: Unstoppable, Owens would be gone from WWE. He’s fed up with Owens assaulting everyone, then mentions Hideo Itami, who Owens clearly states he cannot take credit for. Solomon Crowe comes out and challenges Owens for a main event tonight that I cannot imagine anyone carrying about.

Itami is shown interviewed with a damaged shoulder, making it clear that whoever mysteriously attacked has put him out of action and robbed him of his chance at the NXT Title.

Bayley & Charlotte are left laying by Emma & Dana Brooke after both formers in each unit had a match. Sasha Banks is ready for the main roster at any moment, so good to see heels getting elevated in the women’s division.

A great video package airs, recycling the Becky Lynch interview feature from the past month, then providing a highlight reel of the classic she had last week with Sasha Banks. Imagine having this on Raw whenever a truly special match has taken place.

Earlier in the day, promising athlete in Jason Jordan is caught for a quick interview in the weight room, since he is looking for a competent partner. Chad Gable is also in the room and goofily offers his services in a manner that somewhat reminds me of Chad Collyer, except he lists quite an impressive resume and provides a “Gable” towel when Jordan objects.

Owens decisively defeats Crowe in the main event and looks to inflict a career-threatening assault on his former PWG rival, only for Joe to come out and prevent that. Owens warns Joe that he’s next. Yet again, a solid, focused hour of wrestling with all kinds of interesting threads.

SmackDown! – May 28, 2015: The Good Shit

Lumberjack Match

Lucha Dragons vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd - ***1/4

Elimination Chamber 2015: The Good Shit

Dream Match

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

Perhaps the most anticipated match on this year’s Road to WrestleMania project, and boy did this live up to it. Now of course, even though I have the patience to meticulously provide a play-by-play that manages to dissect the match along the way, I’m not gonna do that here. Instead, I’m going to clearly point out why this match was an instant classic, and will likely grow in reverence as time passes on.

Surface-level, faux know-it-all dipshits that pollute the majority of message boards and social media often try to pass themselves off as intelligent by stating action-packed matches like this one are just glorified indy spotfests. That is what makes them surface level, and what makes me, along with most of you who will bother reading this, far more in-depth, objective, and just overall accurate when it comes to watching and dissecting a great match.

Throughout 2015, Cena found himself challenged by many of the past indy stars that had come along to WWE, resulting in his game being elevated and shredding the insipid “five moves of doom” narrative during his push prime. Perhaps no match defined that more than this one. Simply put, if one were to keep score in this like a boxing or MMA match, Owens pretty clearly dominated this one. Sure, Cena had his hope spots and heat moments here and there, but by and large this was the Kevin Owens Show.

With Owens dominating this match, it made sense that Cena got back into it briefly due to Owens getting cocky and trying to mockingly execute the Five Knuckle Shuffle, much like Cena had done when he went for the People’s Elbow at WrestleMania XXVIII. This time though, the mocker didn’t pay the ultimate price, instead finding himself no longer with such an overwhelming advantage. This was actually brilliant, as they would pull off another story from Cena’s rematch with the Rock later on.

Now of course, the moves in this were quite amazing and spectacular, leading to suspenseful near-falls aplenty. In particular, I was pleasantly surprised (although now in January 2016, maybe not so pleasant after all due to Cena’s injury) to see a super swinging neck-breaker pulled out. Seeing a new guy on the block get to do that to the franchise displayed what a trust that Cena and the company had in Owens. There were of course the moonsaults, Death Valley Driver near-falls, the modified package powerbomb drop, etc. but the story became quite clear in the finishing stretch.

Cena was brilliant in trying to avoid the pop-up powerbomb; it was teased magnificently. But like the Rock at WrestleMania XXIX, Cena became too predictable, going to the lariat well way too much just because it had stopped the momentum Owens had a minute earlier. Knowing that Cena would be busting out his third or fourth lariat in a span of about 60 seconds, Owens ducked it, allowed Cena to run the ropes, and pulled off the upset of the decade, getting Cena to look up at the lights after a pop-up powerbomb!

Post-match, Cena has rolled out and left ringside, and Owens exhaustingly brags that he started a fight and now he’s finished it; the real champ is here.

This was brilliantly paced, elevated Owens with a spectacular layout and finish, and had a finish that displayed Cena’s desperation due to being outmatched by the NXT Champion. This is without a doubt a tremendous match that is extremely deserving of its place in WWE history, and its legacy will grow as the years go by. This was the symbolic match of 2015 Cena. ****1/4

Cena vs. Owens II in two weeks at Money in the Bank 2015. No matter how much chemistry these two have, I can’t be overly thrilled with them rushing this rematch like TNA did with Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe, rather than ROH’s planned patience with Joe vs. CM Punk.

WWE Title Match

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Another great match from these two, who continue to show the rare kind of chemistry that would result in them sleepwalking through a *** match should they ever have the opportunity.

This was just brilliantly laid out like Cena vs. Owens, with this time the babyface Ambrose predictably dominating against the chickenshit Rollins. Of course, I appreciated the trolling Rollins displayed, rubbing in that he had betrayed Ambrose and Roman Reigns a year earlier, bragging that it led to him becoming the top champion in the entire industry on the year’s grandest stage. Little things like this stay true to the characters and their backstory, plus provide an extra layer of emotion and importance.

I loved everything about this match, from the transitions, to the near-falls, to even the Dusty finish, Rollins intentionally putting the referee in harm’s way to hold on by DQ. With that said, I can objectively state that I cannot fathom anyone having a strong enough emotional connection to the Authority dynamic of this that they’d actually be significant money to see this story unfold. But the work ethic of these two, along with their in-ring charisma and chemistry, made this quite the match to remember, presenting this decade’s version of the Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes rivalry. Oh yeah, Ambrose leaves with the title anyway, not putting up with the Dusty finish. ****

Raw – June 1, 2015: The Good Shit

In what is in no way considered “The Good Shit,” but has to be mentioned, Tyson Kidd, real name TJ Wilson, suffers what I ultimately assume is a flukey career-ending neck injury when he takes the musclebuster from Samoa Joe during their dark match. Major ramifications for the tag division and Cesaro in particular, and it’s heartbreaking to see Kidd’s career come to a screeching halt right in the middle of his greatest run, but hey, this is 2015, and that’s unfortunately one of the year’s defining themes.

Twenty-four hours after his classic, possibly career-defining victory over John Cena, NXT Champion Kevin Owens cuts another gripping promo, bragging that he backed up everything 24 hours earlier. He then points out that his son expressed concern about Cena’s well-being rather than celebrate daddy’s victory, which he then explained was something that had been pissing him off for many years. Owens is tired of kids being “manipulated” by Cena and “the marketing machine,” claiming kids feel “blind worship” for the company franchise. He shits on and mocks Cena’s trademark mottos, and states that while he paid his dues NOT being on TV prior to signing with WWE, Cena by being on TV became his son’s hero. He then states he’ll be a “real role model” for his son, because he’ll once again back up all the shit he talks and defeat Cena in the upcoming rematch.

Cena comes out with an equally gripping retort, saying he wants to respect Owens for beating him the night before, but he can’t because of the NXT Champ’s shitty attitude. Cena then brilliantly shuts down the snide, bitter disapproval that Owens displayed, bringing up that if WWE’s marketing deserves credit for Cena’s connection with children, then why didn’t the same happen for other wrestlers like Adam Rose? He also turns around the “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” and “Never Give Up” burials, saying the latter actually defines the journey Owens took to get to where he is today. At Money in the Bank 2015, Cena will turns Owens into a “real man.”

What a brilliant promo battle from these two, with two characters that have clearly defined motivations. Not thrilled about a rushed rematch, but everyone’s doing their job to make me anticipate it.

The New Day cut another great local cheap heat promo, although leave out an important detail when burying Tim Duncan for being old. Why not brag that the night before, they had survived to the very end of their Elimination Chamber match, entering and then leaving as champions, unlike the Spurs, who couldn’t get past the first round a few weeks earlier? They then boast if Kofi Kingston wins the Money in the Bank contract ladder match, all of them have rights to it. That’d be something unique to follow-up the greatest cash-in in the concept’s history.

The Money in the Bank 2015 main event is set: Seth Rollins defends the WWE Title against his arch-nemesis Dean Ambrose in a ladder match. There are worse ideas for a main event. Ambrose leaves Raw with the title in possession once again.

NXT – June 3, 2015: The Good Shit

Eva Marie does a live, on-stage interview, getting somewhat irrational X-Pac heat, but trying her best to shrug it off and saying she wants to be a part of the women’s division since that’s where the best compete. Hilarious segment.


Sami Zayn has undergone successful shoulder injury, including his ongoing rotator cuff tear from his days before WWE. He should make a full recovery!

NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks gets a solid interview feature package, completely conceited. Like Owens, she’s backed everything she’s said, so it’s difficult to not respect her.

Balor has a boring pretaped promo stating how serious he’s taking the Tokyo opportunity since that’s where he became a superstar, and puts Owens over as the real deal.

SmackDown! – June 4, 2015: The Good Shit

Seth Rollins cuts one of his better promos on what is the one year anniversary (taped date, not broadcast date) of the Shield’s violent end. Rather that cut his standard tedious promo just shamelessly politicking for 15 minutes, he clearly explains why he betrayed Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns, how it paid off for him, and that the former is beneath him, having to steal the WWE Title to have possession of it. Of course, Rollins twists history, but his calm demeanor and using a chair to call back to the historical event a year earlier, as well as the entire production, made this stand out. Ambrose is fun interrupting him, but on this night, the nod surprisingly goes to Rollins. Damn good opening promo segment.

The Ascension vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Prime Time Players - ***

NXT Champion Kevin Owens, as usual, cuts a great promo to reinforce his stance as a father sick of his son blindly worshipping John Cena. This time, he buries Cena for being “delusional” for his mottos and that he’ll put an end to the “corruption of our children’s minds.” He’ll show us what a real champion, role model, and man is. Owens issues an open challenge for the NXT Title and makes easy work of Zack Ryder, then rubs it in post-match. A total ***** segment to build heat.

Raw – June 8, 2015: The Good Shit

This week, we open with US Champion John Cena for the promo formula. Unlike what goes in the WWE Title scene, this is actually compelling, as he is fighting for everyone fan that loves and hates him in his rematch this weekend against NXT Champion Kevin Owens. He promises a victory and reminder that he’s still the WWE’s gatekeeper. Owens interrupts and makes an NXT Title open challenge, which Cena accepts, only to be shut down by Owens, since they have a rematch six days away. After good-and-forth back stuff, each has issued an open challenge, with the challenger choosing which title he wants to fight for.

Neville comes out and wants a rematch one day with Cena, but for now would rather keep Owens from continuing to disgrace the NXT Title.

NXT Title Match (Open Challenge)

Kevin Owens vs. Neville

Good match as expected here. Cena is wise to be looking at Hollywood for his post-in-ring career, as his commentary here was horrendously, tediously robotic. Owens took the opening powder as an attempt to get in Neville’s head, who brought the fight in this one and pulled out plenty of bombs and aerial attacks, the highlight being back-to-back separate German suplexes, the latter being an impressive, completely unassisted deadlift on the rotund champ. Owens came close to costing himself the title on live TV, focusing too much on trolling Cena, but the damage he inflicted was too much when Neville went for the Sky Twister, allowing Owens to get up and knock him down to drop him with a pop-up powerbomb. ***1/2

DISSESION BETWEEN SETH ROLLINS AND J&J SECURITY~! SMELL THE RATINGS~! So yeah, even though the casuals in no way give a shit about this, it means we get James Gibson and Tyler Black going at it later in the ring, which is a dream showdown for someone that misses pre-SBG ROH.

Next week in Cleveland, WWE welcomes special guest star and WrestleMania XXVIII performer MGK.

All to say about the Rollins vs. J&J main event is that Rollins very clearly has chemistry with both, and it sucks we’ll likely never get a competitive one-on-one match between Seth Rollins and Jamie Noble. They could definitely pull off something special together. Rollins loses of course when Dean Ambrose distracts him at ringside. Horrendous go-home segment to build heat, as nobody cares about Authority dissension, but I’ll James Gibson and Tyler Black colliding any way I can just this once.

NXT – June 10, 2015: The Good Shit

Jason Jordan is interviewed in the locker room, about to announce his next tag team partner, but Chad Gable interrupts to once again offer his partnership, providing another “Gable” towel. Jordan shuts him down and leaves in disgust, allowing Gable to write his name next to Jordan’s at the designated locker.

Samoa Joe wins a glorified squash over Scott Dawson in his WWE debut match, while NXT Champion Kevin Owens provides great smug commentary and being a bully to Byron Saxton. Owens vs. Joe next week in non-title action is announced by GM William Regal.

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Money in the Bank 2015: The Good Shit

Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match

Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Neville vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton

The token useless ladder match of the year. I challenge anyone to point what makes this match anything special at all; the booking was just the cherry on top to truly symbolize what a waste of time this entire match was. With injuries seemingly becoming more frequent for solidified names in WWE, it of course makes sense for these guys to try to tone it down a bit more.

That provides a catch-22, though, in that this match provided the formula of solo showdowns while everyone else laid around outside. Unfortunately, none of the solo showdowns had a compelling story unfold, nor was there a grand compelling story throughout the match. Guys did moves, some involving ladders, rinse, repeat. There were no gigantic spots to justify guys laying around outside like we'd seen the year before, let alone in the masterpiece that birthed this annual tradition.

Nobody was elevated by this match at all, a key ingredient when Chris Jericho came up with the concept a decade earlier. Bray Wyatt costing Reigns the match makes sense based on what happened a few weeks earlier on SmackDown!, but I have my doubts the writers will bother to remember that detail. Reigns was gonna have his irrational detractors no matter what, so rather than go with a cold Sheamus, who had no momentum going in or coming out of this match based on his booking as well as his performance in this match, I'd have just gone with the Big Dog and have him do the honorable cash-in like John Cena and Rob Van Dam in the past.

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

Amazing big fight atmosphere here, similar to Reigns when he faced Brock Lesnar at Levi's Stadium. What a crazy effect from a crazy cause - Owens gets mic time equal to Cena, and goes over him cleanly to solidify him as a dangerous threat, resulting in a rematch the audience takes seriously.

I overall enjoyed this more than the original classic two weeks earlier, but one can't go wrong either way. I just couldn't ignored the red-hot atmosphere from Columbus compared to Corpus Christi's more casually cold environment (the difference between Owens being established and not yet established.) This had all the high-impact moves of before, this time though Owens was able to pull off his mockery successfully.

There was just no way Cena would be losing a rematch against someone that had been shitting on his ethics, so it came as no surprise that he managed to kick out of a perfectly timed powerbomb, but the work so exciting and suspenseful that the crowd was going apeshit, Owens having proved himself as Cena's equal. Once again, in what certainly couldn't have been best for Cena's shoulders after being taken numerous times to Suplex City, Owens got the super fisherman's neckbreaker on Cena to counter an attempted superplex. It took a lot to take down Owens this time, with Cena having earned this victory after a springboard stunner and Death Valley Driver, and the commentary team did an outstanding job putting over the quality of this match.

Post-match, Cena still puts over Owens for the amazing competition, and Owens accepts, only to channel Chris Jericho's actions towards Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIX and assault the victor, leaving him laying on the outside via an apron powerbomb and laughing hysterically. The laughter was far more convincing than the poor man's soap opera type we get force-fed by Seth Rollins. I actually want someone to cave in the face of Owens now; it'd be wise to make us wait awhile to see that happen on the main roster. Fantastic match and post-match to keep the heat brewing. ****1/2

WWE Title - Ladder Match

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

Not as dull as I'd remembered last summer, but this certainly wasn't the epic they were going for. There was no need for this to go over 30 minutes, as that length isn't conducive to optimizing the pace and drama for ladder match. However, this was a match that had a goal and did its best to achieve it, which was to establish Rollins as a credible threat on his own, without any assistance whatsoever, for when Brock Lesnar would eventually return.

With that said, despite Rollins being shown as a cerebral character by going after Ambrose's left knee and dropping Ambrose with multiple running powerbombs on the outside. However, since Ambrose had the home state advantage in Ohio, I wouldn't have made it so lopsided in the last several minutes, as the crowd was instead dick-punched rather than incensed, feeling defeated at what they were seeing. I have a FETISH for manufacturing the optimal white-hot live atmospheres and do not apologize for that.

Ambrose still looked like he could've won by them somewhat copying the finish of Packers @ Seahawks from the 2012 NFL season, displaying the company still viewed him as important despite never booking him as a true top guy. I sure hope that all this effort to solidify Rollins as a dangerous motherfucker pays off in the classic I've envisioned he'd have with Lesnar when that inevitably happens later in the summer. ***1/2

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Raw – June 15, 2015: The Good Shit

Dean Ambrose interrupts the self-congratulatory Seth Rollins promo, who is boasting about the victory the night before, and Ambrose threatens to sit in the ring and hold the show hostage unless he gets to have a fight with the WWE Champion. Rollins has a backstage talk with the Authority (who promise an announcement regarding the title later), leading to what should inevitably be an incredible Rollins vs. Triple H match, and then Sheamus comes to rub his MITB briefcase in Ambrose’s face…

Dean Ambrose vs. Sheamus - ***1/4

NXT Champion Kevin Owens cuts another outstanding promo, claiming John Cena disrespected him after last night’s match to justify the assault, and also reveals the franchise player is out of action. He wants the rubber match to be for the US Title. Great, so the writers are doing an Angle vs. Joe on this feud after all. Owens decides to issue an open challenge, albeit doesn’t specify it being a title match. Out comes Cleveland native Dolph Ziggler to accept the challenge and says he wants to bring Cleveland a title. Owens gladly clarifies that this is a non-title match.

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler

One of my most anticipated matches once Steen was confirmed to be WWE-bound. Owens dominated as a trolling asshole, Ziggler made his underdog comebacks at the right time (a position who’s pigeon-holed himself in unfortunately), the Cleveland audience made the match even hotter. I absolutely loved Ziggler avoiding a pop-up powerbomb, giving the crowd some hope when it was inevitable. Very good stuff and hopefully they have a meaningful series with something at stake in the future. ***1/2

The Battleground 2015 main event is set, as Brock Lesnar returns from suspension to get in the face of WWE Champion Seth Rollins and scare the shit out of him five weeks before their singles match that I’ve been BADLY frothing at the mouth to see. High expectations for that. Here’s the first Bryan & Vinny bonus on this project.

NXT – June 17, 2015: The Good Shit

“Who is Finn Balor?” Pt. 1

A great brief documentary piece showcasing Balor’s time in Europe both at the beginning of his career and his farewell run there, although the producers and narrators don’t clarify that. The primary point of this is to show that Balor is driven but very humble about himself, getting him over as ethically the complete opposite of NXT Champion Kevin Owens prior to their July 4 showdown in Tokyo. Whereas Owens had bragged over and over again, here Balor was credited by Becky Lynch for her career, which he refused to accept. Why can’t there be time for these on the 5 hours of weekly main roster TV?

Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe have a decent if uninspiring main event leading to a Dusty finish. There are glimpse they could have a killer feud-ender, but it was a mistake to have Owens try to use rest holds to wear down Joe (copying CM Punk’s 2004 strategy) rather than chop down Joe’s legs and base, which would’ve been far more compelling. I did appreciate Owens trolling with “Chinlock City” and sparking “Headlock City” chants though. The post-match brawl is admittedly hot.

NXT – June 24, 2015: The Good Shit

Hideo Itami has an in-ring interview and the interview says he’s “3-4 months away” from competing. Sure thing. Kevin Owens interrupts and cuts a great promo, including saving himself when he got tongue-twisted and the crowd heckled him for it, saying it’s just like Itami trying to speak English. Itami refuses to apologize for calling him a bad person, so Owens says that while he’s not responsible for Itami’s injury, he’ll come fuck him up some more and take responsibility for it. Finn Balor of course comes out and has a brawl with Owens, but finds himself attacked by Rhino on the stage.

“Who is Finn Balor?” Pt. 2

This week, the focus is on Prince Devitt’s time in New Japan, that he became a huge star in the company and forged a great friendship with Mall Bloom, the former Albert, A-Train, Tensai, and Giant Bernard. Bloom recruited him around Wrestle Kingdom VIII time and Devitt took the risk after an amazing 8 year legacy he forged for himself that I greatly anticipate to finally taking the time to watch this year. Also shown are clips from his Orlando apartment showcasing his friendship with Sami Zayn and love for both Legos and SummerSlam 1995, which he states is his favorite PPV ever. Who isn’t rooting for this guy come July 4 at The Beast in the East?

Finn Balor vs. Rhino

Much more exciting match than what they had earlier in the month, and Owens is a sensational cunt on commentary. Balor of course wins a hot main event full of great transitions and momentum shifts, then gets mugged by Owens and Rhino. Samoa Joe makes the save to lead to an obvious tag match for next week. ***1/2

SmackDown! – June 25, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day have a fun full-of-shit backstage interview claiming the power of positivity will help them regain the Tag Titles from the Prime Time Players at Battleground 2015. The champs interrupt and do a great job of mocking them, getting in New Day’s heads about figuring who will be the third wheel out, but Bo Dallas arrives to reinstate their inspirational positivity. A natural pairing.

Prime Time Players & Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day & Bo Dallas - ***

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - ***1/4

Raw – June 29, 2015: The Good Shit

Kevin Owens pretends to accept John Cena’s US Title open challenge, only to say he’d rather wait for Battleground 2015 where he’ll dethrone the franchise. Out comes Cesaro instead while Owens joins the commentary team.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Cesaro

Owens is of course sensational in being a hypocritical bully with his commentary. Meanwhile, this was the Cesaro Show in the ring. Cesaro dominated the majority of this, allowing him the opportunity to be elevated yet again by Cena. With his partner Tyson Kidd out indefinitely (more likely permanently), the former US Champ made the most out of this to hopefully rejuvenate his singles career, throwing Cena around like a rag doll on multiple occasions and displaying his trademark deceptive strength.

With Cesaro stepping his game up, Cena found himself yet again in 2015 achieving his goal of being forced to step up his game too, especially when Cesaro got out of the STF and turned it into Scorpion Deathlock. Later on, Cena once again showed that the Code Red he used on Owens two weeks earlier was no fluke, this time fluidly hitting on Cesaro, further shedding the cringeworthy narrative that he’d have never fit in with ROH or the X-Division a decade earlier.

Cesaro would regain the advantage and get Cena down in the Scorpio Deathlock again. Like Neville several weeks earlier, it looked like Cena’s reign would be ended by a surprise darkhorse, and like that situation, it was ruined when Owens attacked Cesaro for the DQ. He justifies his actions by stating that only HE gets to have the bragging rights of dethroning Cena. A magnificent match with a Dusty finish that made complete sense, paying off the purpose of Owens being on commentary. ****

Prime Time Players & Lucha Dragons vs. The New Day & Bo Dallas - ***1/4

Sheamus vs. Neville - ***1/4

In the closing scene, Seth Rollins and the Authority B-Team are presented as dangerous threats, taking out Roman Reigns. Ludicrous, over-the-top booking to try to groom Rollins for Lesnar, as it only made Reigns look like a chump against his sidekick losers.

Main Event – June 30, 2015

Luke Harper vs. Jack Swagger - ***1/2

NXT – July 1, 2015: The Good Shit

“Who is Finn Balor?” Pt. 3

The final piece of this amazing documentary feature focuses on Fergal Devitt’s time in WWE so far and has connection with the fans. He explains who he settled on the Finn Balor name. The piece also shows some of the flawed mentality in the way WWE produces its events and television, showing that’s the one flaw that won’t be going away when Vince McMahon is no longer in charge. Balor also explains the logic behind his “inner demon” painted persona for major matches. In what is likely no coincidence, Balor is shown backstage at an event with Karl Anderson.

Simply put, anyone who watches this collective Finn Balor: The Demon Revealed documentary and isn’t rooting for this guy to dethrone Owens later in the week at The Beast in the East may wanna take a look in the mirror to reevaluate why they watch pro wrestling. This is a guy that busts his ass and makes sure to leave no scorched earth behind whenever he moves on to the next opportunity. I can’t wait to see this guy gives Owens a piece of humble pie, and I’m glad to have a WWE Network subscription to witness it. Now THAT is the definition of drawing money and doing what’s best for business.

Kevin Owens & Rhino vs. Finn Balor & Samoa Joe

Hot main event here. Nothing to really break down here other than this followed a simple formula, leading to Balor getting the pinfall on Owens thanks to him capitalizing on a heel team miscue. Balor is WHITE-HOT going into Tokyo this weekend, making Owens vs. Balor the obvious true main event. Fuck whatever Cena and Lesnar are doing. ***1/2

SmackDown! – July 2, 2015

Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt - ***

WWE in Tokyo, Japan – July 3, 2015

Dream Match

Finn Balor vs. Chris Jericho

The world-traveled stars exchange mat wrestling early to establish them as equals to the crowd’s delight. After a few minutes, Jericho gains the advantage and becomes the default heel, standing on Balor to choke him on the ropes and trolling the audience. Balor would have his hope spots and teased comebacks, only for Jericho to masterfully cut him off.

After significant dominance by Jericho, Balor was established as possibly being the heir to Dolph Ziggler’s throne for whenever he gets inevitably promoted (Ziggler marks, be worried once that happens.) Balor made excellent comebacks with Pele kicks and an over-the-top-rope tope con hilo to pop the audience that had fallen in love with him for the past several years. In addition, he displayed tremendous resilience being locked in the Boston Crab for roughly a minute, refusing to tap out and doing his damnedest to successfully reach for a rope break.

But Jericho would cut off by the momentum from that mentioned highspot, crotching Balor when he went for the double footstomp finisher. This showed once again he had gone to the film and is still a student of the game. With the heat back to Jericho’s advantage, Balor tried to end that with a standing shotgun dropkick, but Jericho stopped his own momentum to allow the NXT Title #1 contender to take a flat bump, Jericho went for the Quebrada, only to get knees to his gut! Selling the abdomen, Balor took advantage and gave the future Hall of Famer a running shotgun dropkick in the corner, followed this time by a successful double footstomp from the top rope!

This was an easy MOTYC that told a simple story: Jericho still has PLENTY of gas left in the tank when he’s slotted against quality opposition. He dominated this match, preparing Balor for what was to come in 24 hours, and the NXT Title #1 contender had to dig down deep against a future Hall of Famer and multiple time WWE Champion to earn a victory. Tremendous match that ought to be included on a Balor compilation down the road since WWE filmed the event. ****1/2

The Beast in the East: The Good Shit

Chris Jericho vs. Neville

A match that brought back memories of the Cruiserweight division during the War. That was assisted by Jericho playing the default heel like the night before, channeling his persona from that period that won him numerous awards and put him on the map. He was tremendous in being a condescending prick to Neville, but not too over the top about it. In some ways, Jericho’s role here reminded me of Pure Champion era Nigel McGuinness.

The Tokyo atmosphere obviously helped too since NJPW and DG fans were familiar with both men. They were totally behind Neville during his comeback attempts and aerial attacks, as well as his resilience the first time he got locked in the Boston Crab and kicking out of a Codebreaker counter. That really paid off in the finish, as Neville went for the Sky Twister only to get kneed in the gut, and then Jericho put him in a proper Liontamer for the finish, paying off the tease and some of the back work throughout the match. ****

Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston

In a vacuum, this is fun. The Beast Incarnate totally obliterates Kingston and new his New Day buddies with relative ease, leaving all three in his wake.

However, there were plenty of problems with the format of this segment, and that it even happened in the first place. Forget that the New Day were the Tag Titles #1 contenders; this is a valuable act on the roster that was completely tossed to the wayside for someone that had plenty of credibility already because he’s BROCK LESNAR.

At the very least, it’d have been a smart move to have Big E, the muscle of the New Day, briefly knock Lesnar off of his feet. Show SOME credibility for this faction, especially since this trio had beaten ROMAN REIGNS & RANDY ORTON just two months earlier. Having Lesnar demolish these three single-handedly certainly doesn’t speak well for the heir to John Cena’s throne and one of the most successful stars of the past decade.

Paul Heyman’s absence was definitely felt, and perhaps had he been at ringside, while Big E & Xavier Woods would counter him for what could’ve been some utterly spectacular verbal exchanges. With that said, there were two opportunities on here for Lesnar, one that would’ve followed through on his feud with Seth Rollins, the other just a one-off match that could’ve made this show even more memorable.

This was the chance with Lesnar and Kane on the card to have them collide, with this being the event to write Kane out to further build up Lesnar. Unlike the New Day, Kane can be obliterated since he’s such a stale piece of the active roster in 2015. At the very least in regards to Lesnar and Kane, the Beast could've targeted the Demon in the night's final match; Lesnar in 2015 has been presented as an irrational ass-kicker, and after what happened the week before on Raw, no way Lesnar would just let Kane go about his business in the ring without consequences.

On the other hand, Cesaro, coming just a few days from possibly dethroning Cena and regaining the US Title if not for Kevin Owens, could’ve been rewarded by the Authority with a singles match here against Lesnar. It would be a test for Cesaro to wear down Lesnar for Rollins, while giving him the opportunity to have a career-defining, nail-biting victory in front of an audience that would be highly appreciative of the two fucking each other up with strikes and suplexes. There’s the Paul Heyman guy dynamic going on too to play off of.

NXT Title Match

Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor

Announced during the entrance of Owens is that on August 22, the night before SummerSlam 2015, the Barclays Center will host NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. OH FUCK YES~!

The prematch ceremony alone justifies me having initially stayed up late to watch the live broadcast of this, staying true to the puro culture for important championship matches. Of course, Owens tosses his flowers out, not giving a single shit about any of the tradition. The injured Hideo Itami is sitting at ringside, obviously pissed at his body robbing him out of this moment.

Like the day before against Jericho, Balor found himself dominated by Owens overall in this one. It appeared not to be that way at first, as Balor channeled what Austin Aries did to Samoa Joe at Final Battle 2004, going right after the champ at the beginning of the match and trying to catch him off guard. But as stated, Owens would find himself dominating this, getting cut off here and there by the favored challenger to the Tokyo crowd’s delight.

Those who followed Prince Devitt’s journey prior to WWE will surely appreciate this match even more than I did. Doing my research, it became obvious to me why the audience popped for particular moves being teased and delivered, including the Bloody Sunday, Reverse Bloody Sunday, and over the top rope somersault senton. The teased finishers from Balor’s NJPW days pulled sensational reactions from the crowd, and the pop was ludicrous once he had punished Owens later to deliver them.

By no means was this the Finn Balor Show. Owens didn’t just win this had it been based on points, but he did a masterful trolling job as usual of the crowd, mocking more traditions such as bowing. He once again displayed why he is THE top full-time heel in the company, as there is nobody on the roster, active or injured, not Sheamus, not Seth Rollins, not Bray Wyatt, not Alberto Del Rio, better at drawing effective, substantial heat.

The dominance of Owens wasn’t enough though, for when he attempted a top rope senton, Balor channeled Jericho earlier in the evening and hit Owens with knees and a follow-up Bloody Sunday for an awesome near-fall. Balor went for the running shotgun dropkick only to eat a superkick and sleeper suplex for another awesome near-fall. Owens resorted to more trash-talk and slapping, which was a huge mistake.

Balor avoided a pop-up powerbomb, successfully hitting Owens with a running shotgun dropkick, another running baseball slide style dropkick, and then achieved his destiny, finishing off Owens with the top rope double footstomp in front of the audience that had watched him grow for 8 years! Post-match, Hideo Itami applauds Balor, although he’s obviously torn up, and Tatsumi Fujinami appears to congratulate and pay respects to Balor, while Owens of course refuses to display the slightest bit of sportsmanship. Excellent presentation from start to finish and a match to show anyone that questions why you watch professional wrestling. ****1/2

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Raw – July 6, 2015: The Good Shit

Paul Heyman cuts a very good promo, although not a great one, making it very clear that Brock Lesnar never hated John Cena, Undertaker, or Roman Reigns. He hates Seth Rollins, so imagine what will happen at Battleground 2015. But the beatings begin tonight in Chicago.

Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns - ***1/4

Titus O’Neil is sensational as the Prime Time Players are on commentary, mocking JBL for his all-too-frequent useless banter rather than commentating on ensuing matches, and wins a burn battle over who’s more successful and educated.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Cesaro

Kevin Owens, fresh off of losing the NXT Title to Finn Balor, bitterly interrupts Cena’s standard pre-match promo, and he accepts the challenge. Before the bell rings though, Cesaro interrupts and threatens Owens, who simply walks away, allowing Cesaro to have the opportunity. Owens walks backstage, which is a mistake. He clearly should’ve been on commentary again for these two colliding.

This was once again the Cesaro Show, as he dominated this match with power moves, stiff uppercuts, and tremendous technical wrestling. With almost every comeback Cena attempt, Cesaro would cut him off. Whether it was a fallaway slam on the outside, Crippler Crossfaces at different points, a late apron superplex, or a tremendously timed uppercut deep into the match, Cesaro had the Chicago crowd believing on multiple occasions he’d pull off the upset. Major points for calling what I believe was an audible near the end, as there was a botched Springboard Stunner, so since it wouldn’t have stunned Cesaro, it allowed him to hit a cradle faceplant for another great nearfall.

Cena often did himself no favors with his comeback attempts, going to the well far too often for one of the best students in the game. This was a night in which had he shown something new, he wouldn’t have had such a difficult time gaining control. His shoulder tackles and “You Can’t See Me” routine were easily countered by Cesaro, forcing the champ to not gain any true momentum. That said, Cena is the master of scratching out a victory from the jaws of defeat, and tonight was no exception once he hit a Super Death Valley Driver.

Cena and Cesaro have no time for a post-match embrace, as Owens attempts to assault the physically battered Cena, only to eat a Death Valley Driver and then scurry away. This was a mistake, as mentioned earlier Owens should’ve been providing commentary on here so he keeps his star shining. If the plan was also for Cena to shine due to horrendous TV ratings too, have him attempt the Death Valley Driver on Owens, but instead Owens gets out of the move and scurries away, that way he is still presented as a credible sociopath, rather than another of a dozen or so mid-carders that end up in .500 Hell. Tremendous match of course though, with some business-exposing sloppiness keeping this from reaching their Denver work of art 17 months earlier. It's a testament to these two that they managed to overcome those glaring flaws. ****

Main Event – July 7, 2015

Luke Harper vs. Cesaro – ***3/4

NXT – July 8, 2015: The Good Shit

Charlotte teams with NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks for a favor in return, successfully defeating Emma & Dana Brooke. Next week is Banks vs. Charlotte for the title. God I just hate when matches are advertised in advance, that’s not how the big leagues do it on cable TV.

Speaking of the Women’s Title, Bayley has a backstage interview from the weekend’s live event, showing a broken hand courtesy Emma. She states her #1 goal is to become the champion and Emma will be the first domino to fall once she’s cleared.

Kevin Owens is found backstage after his NXT Title loss against Finn Balor the week before and refuses to give comment, instead snapping as the camera quickly fades to black.

After months of persistence from Chad Gable, Jason Jordan finally relents and agrees to become tag partners next week.

Superstars – July 10, 2015

Heath Slater vs. Neville - ***

Raw – July 13, 2015: The Good Shit

Paul Heyman comes out with Brock Lesnar to cut a hell of a money promo, getting me excited for the Battleground 2015 main event. He reminds everyone that any time Lesnar challenges for a title, he leaves as champion. Of course, lost in mentioning Lesnar’s history with Seth Rollins is the classic match six months earlier involving John Cena, but I’ll get into that later.

Rollins comes out with Kane, and the latter is mocked by Heyman as “Undertaker’s baby brother” as well as once again rubbing in the Undertaker’s broken streak at WrestleMania XXX. Obvious telegraphing from WWE here, all I hope for is the one-on-one classic I know Rollins and Lesnar can deliver.

In what is no way categorized as good shit, but certainly must be mentioned, Stephanie McMahon declares a “divas revolution” and introduces Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks to the main roster. A historic but otherwise awful segment that I’m not detailing.

The New Day cut another entertaining promo, with Atlanta native Xavier Woods being a cunt about the local sports teams failing to recently win a championship, among other things.

John Cena issues his weekly US Title open challenge, which is answered one at a time by Rusev, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro. Rusev and Owens exchange amusing barbs, and this leads to an intriguing threeway to face Cena.

US Title Shot – No DQ, No Countout Match

Rusev vs. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens

Another excellent, action-packed match with Cena providing commentary at ringside. Weird booking there for Cena to be the fresh guy, but I’ll dive into that after reviewing this classic. There are a number of great near falls in the first act, but the obvious highlight would be something I usually hate. Owens attempts to deliver a superplex to Rusev, and Cesaro goes underneath to use the positioning and powerbomb Owens with Rusev getting suplexed as well. This was crisply done and didn’t expose the business, which is why this instance worked unlike something similar at WrestleMania 31 and so many times on the indies.

I consider the second act to have started when Rusev and Owens had a punching exchange, a fresh matchup that I’d been looking forward to for several months. After some Cesaro intervention, the two bulls would spill to the outside, only for Cesaro to charge at them with an uppercut to cut them off and get some momentum in his corner. The action would continue in the ring, not a second of it plodding or contrived. Owens would get cocky and piss both off; once Rusev clotheslined him to the outside, he decided to just walk away since he already had a shot six days away.

The broadcast returns from commercial break with an amazing third act between Rusev and Cesaro. They take a scary bump with Rusev giving Cesaro a superplex to the apron. After a couple minutes of gathering themselves, they continue the action in the ring. They tease a number of submissions and tap out, including the Scorpion Deathlock and Camel Cluth, while also mixing in some sweet giant swings and heel kicks.

Since this is still under No DQ, No Countout rules, Rusev has to crawl to the outside to escape the Scorpion Deathlock, and he is just exhausted. This allows Cesaro to hit a suicide dive and running uppercut, but Cesaro makes this mistake of going to the top rope. Rusev knocks him down to position him in a fireman’s carry, but Cesaro’s momentum bouncing off the ropes has him also bounce off of Rusev’s shoulders, leaving him in position to be finished off with a superkick. Excellent match that stayed true to the Owens character, kept Cesaro hot, and went a long ways to reinforce that Rusev is still a credible threat despite losing the initial feud to Cena, getting injured, and being dumped by Lana. ****

The US Title Match between Cena and Rusev is of course ruined by Owens, making that particular contest a waste of time for this show.

So there are a few things that could’ve been done here. This could’ve been a tag pitting Cena & Cesaro against Rusev & Owens, throw in some of ROH”s “Defy or Deny” rules to spice it up (Owens being pinned would be the exception since he has a guaranteed shot at Battleground 2015.) This could’ve just been Rusev vs. Cesaro with Owens ruining it and Cena negating any further assault. This could’ve been Cena vs. Rusev vs. Cesaro with Owens ruining it.

But last week, Cena was given the main event, won a grueling classic, and then got the upper hand on Owens afterwards, as a clear attempt by the company to repair shitty TV ratings. If that’s the case, I see an opportunity here for the other TV show that’s been glaringly tossed aside the past couple years.

Have the threeway match as is on here, with the winner facing Cena on SmackDown! As a weekly show that had long seen very few segments and matches of consequences, and also saw its attendance severely decline in 2015, having Cena make a special appearance to defend the US Title could’ve made for a great band-aid to that brand. Owens can still interfere on that show, perhaps in the go-home segment to build last-minute heat for the finale of their trilogy. I will be pointing out more easily missed SmackDown! opportunities as this Road to WrestleMania 32 project continues.

The main event contract signing involving Rollins, Kane, Heyman, and Lesnar is fine stuff, although I cannot possibly give a shit about Rollins poking fun at Kane and further assaulting him after the latter got fucked up by Lesnar.

NXT – July 15, 2015: The Good Shit

Chad Gable & Jason Jordan make quick work in their first tag match over a couple of jobbers, debuting the Grand Amplitude as their finisher.

An amusing Baron Corbin video package airs, boasting about his non-wrestling accomplishments and attempting to dismiss the guys who had forged legacies as pro wrestlers outside WWE. His argument obviously holds zero water, especially since he neglects to mention he never played a single down in the NFL and was the equivalent of a jobber on the gridiron.

Sami Zayn appears to provide a medical update. After a red-hot 2014, 2015 has sucked and it looks like he won’t be back until 2016. He says he isn’t over, which puts it into perspective when considering Daniel Bryan’s status. He’ll be coming back for the NXT Title, and states “there’s no better motivator than revenge,” telling Kevin Owens not to put him in the rearview mirror and that the two of them are still linked, no matter where both were at this point. “Watch your ass ‘cause I am coming for you!” Further evidence that these two will bump into each other again in early 2016.

Footage is shown from San Diego Comic Con:


NXT Women’s Title Match

Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte - ****

SmackDown! – July 16, 2015: The Good Shit

After taking care of the Lucha Dragons, the New Day cut an amusing promo on the Prime Time Players, then quickly walk away when being confronted by the Tag Champs.

As Cesaro is walking to gorilla position for his match, he walks by Kevin Owens, who sarcastically wishes him good luck.

Rusev vs. Cesaro - ***1/4

I cannot think of an overall more disappointing build for Rollins vs. Lesnar, but I have hope they’ll be given the proper opportunity to provide a match for the ages. I’ll wait until after the match to assess the program. I'm certainly thrilled to see Cesaro getting plenty of screen-time, although question why Cena vs. Owens III is getting rushed, once again just like when Kurt Angle burst into TNA and first feuded with Samoa Joe. Why exactly do Ambrose, Rusev, and Cesaro not have matches for Battleground 2015?

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Battleground 2015: The Good Shit
Sheamus vs. Randy Orton
These two were given a boost by being the PPV opener in Orton’s hometown of St. Louis. That’s a smart move. But the crowd itself wasn’t what just elevated this match from their tedious series on TV. These two simply had a compelling match that made it clear that they phoned in the free shit.
There’s not a huge amount to really analyze in this match, as it wasn’t gonna be a deep story based on its position on the card. But everything was crisp with some tremendous transitions and finisher teasers plus reversals. As shown in the post-match highlight reel, Sheamus had two perfectly timed counters for Orton. One was Orton grabbing the ropes to break an attempted Texas Cloverleaf, so when Orton got up, he ate a Yakuza kick. The other was when Orton went for the Ace Crusher, only for Sheamus to scout it and go for a schoolboy roll-up. But once the Ace Crusher was hit, everyone in the STL knew their hometown boy sealed the W. ***1/2
The New Day cut a fun group pre-match promo about regaining the Tag Titles, but nothing close to their very best. Prime Time Players retain in a nothing special match.
Luke Harper assists Bray Wyatt in defeating Roman Reigns, the first step in reuniting the Wyatt Family. Match was nothing special thanks largely to Wyatt being absolutely tedious while dominating, including lazy rest holds in which he did nothing to increase his leverage or antagonize the crowd.
US Title Match
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens
Definitely the weakest of the three and not due to any of the ring work. This is just what simply happens when one of the wrestlers is cooled off going into a trilogy finale.
In this one, Owens got the early heat and did what Wyatt ought to be doing more often, which is taunting the audience for the damage he’s inflicting upon the babyface. This would turn out to be far more back-and-forth than the first match 7 weeks earlier though. I loved that the Springboard Stunner was countered into a release German Suplex; for once, someone had scouted one of the most inconsistent signature moves in Cena’s arsenal and did so with flawless timing.
There were a number of other great spots, including Owens channeling Roderick Strong and turning a Cena boot into a backbreaker, Cena delivering the Code Red, and Owens turning Cena’s top-rope leg drop into a powerbomb near-fall. But the standout moments to me were Cena’s willingness to take a Super Swinging Fisherman’s Neckbreaker, and also allowing a Super Death Valley Driver to be kicked out of by Owens. Cena did his absolute damnedest to make Owens as hot as possible in a match that was officially ending the former NXT champion's big main roster push.
Even with the obvious descent on the horizon for Owens on the card, these two men managed to have the crowd hot, and Owens was sensational not just trolling Cena and the crowd, but Michael Cole as well. Owens tapping out clean to the STF for many will be viewed in the moment as a burial, but with the video below, made perfect sense for his shtick.
Of course, having this trilogy occur within 7 weeks, the program concluding in just 2 months, was a sign of the lazy storytelling model implemented by WWE in recent years, having zero desire and/or ability to generate several months-long arcs with true twists and turns, peaks and valleys, and a genuinely climatic conclusion unless it's to benefit one of their hand-picked favorites. But I will dig into that aspect a few months down the road on this project. ****1/4
WWE Title Match
Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar
Speaking of a lazy storytelling model, we got this match. To say this didn’t reward my faith that despite a lukewarm at best build these two would deliver the singles classic they’re capable of would be a gross misunderstatement.
There’s nothing wrong with Lesnar being the better man; there’s nothing wrong with Undertaker showing up to fuck him out of the WWE Title and going in that direction for a bigger stage. It is absolutely inexcusable for Rollins to have been on the wrong end of a glorified squash for about 10 minutes before the unofficial finish of the match kicked in.
Eighteen years earlier, IN THIS SAME EXACT VENUE, a very similar premise took place, that being the obnoxious chickenshit heel Shawn Michaels being locked inside a cage structure to get his comeuppance against the monster babyface Undertaker. The finish even had the Kane character making its anticipated debut to fuck Taker out of winning and leading to their match on a grander stage.
Now of course, there’s a difference here. With the original Hell in a Cell, HBK’s buddies were banned from ringside; in this case, the Authority B-team had been put on the shelf by Lesnar en route to this event, leaving Rollins all alone. So HBK could still get help through underhanded tactics, while Rollins had to stand on his own feet since Triple H & Stephanie McMahon were testing him.
With all of this said, I want everyone to imagine what a non-iconic classic the original Hell in a Cell would’ve been had HBK not managed to take over the match in underhanded fashion by assaulting the cameraman so that the medical staff would open the cage. So why couldn’t we get something similar here? Why not have Rollins bleeding and hanging around the timekeeper’s area, getting checked by medical staff? He can be begging to forfeit the match due to blood loss, and then talking shit to Lesnar about it, luring the Beast, and then attacking him with the WWE Title belt to intentionally draw a DQ. Have Paul Heyman remind the referee as he’s about to throw the match away “Remember what Brock did a few months ago when you guys screwed him!” to convince the referee to let the match continue.
This then allows Rollins to have gained control in such underhanded fashion, showing off his cunning intelligence, allowing him to troll the Beast, Heyman, and the audience, boasting how he didn’t need help from the Authority, Kane, or J&J Security. This reflects the part of the buildup in which Rollins and the Authority B-Team did outsmart Lesnar, except now Rollins has done it alone, thus elevating him in this match despite what the finish would be. After Rollins gets a bit too cocky trolling the audience for a just a bit too long, the Beast capitalizes to make a comeback and they have an off-the-charts closing stretch, the intelligent chickenshit Rollins doing his damnedest to avoid the wrath of the wounded, pissed off Beast.
Then, and only then, Lesnar gets the upper hand, plants the champ with the F5, and within seconds, the lights go out, Taker appearing and attacking the Beast (still getting the novelty pop from the crowd), and Rollins hesitantly crawls on top of Lesnar to escape with the title, then he rolls out as quickly as possible so as not to also be assaulted by the glaring Phenom after being in a grueling classic. The show still closes with Taker standing over Lesnar. Depending on how hot the crowd is for Taker glaring at Rollins, this could also potentially tease them having a singles match down the road.
The match layout wasn’t the only problem with this angle. The writers truly failed to make this direction mean anything. Unlike Lesnar’s feuds against John Cena, CM Punk, and Roman Reigns, this program had no Lesnar interview vignettes. Imagine how much more exciting those could’ve been, and then Heyman gets plenty of promo time on MULTIPLE episodes of TV to truly, passionately pontificate what Lesnar will do to Rollins. Imagine if Rollins got his own interview vignettes as a retort, making reference to a certain classic earlier in the year involving both him and Lesnar, and bragging about his CrossFit workout routine giving him the edge to slay the Beast.
This storyline also focused a bit too much on the closing moments of WrestleMania 31, choosing to present Rollins as an out-of-his-league phony as WWE Champ. Since Lesnar’s return from suspension on June 14, the classic match involving Cena at Royal Rumble 2015 was referenced a grand total of zero times. Why not fucking bring that match up over and over again, as it accomplishes the following?
Promote a reason to order the WWE Network and revisit what many called WWE”s best match of 2015.
Gives Rollins a reference point to brag that he truly broke out to the main event picture in that match.
Gives Rollins a reference point that he’d visited Suplex City once, and proved that he learned from it at WrestleMania 31 when he cashed in, and would do so again in the one-on-one match.
Instead, this storyline got Heyman spewing out largely mediocre material, Lesnar showing ass for Kane, Jamie Noble, and Joey Mercury in 2015, Rollins presented as a total chickenshit without any type of credible foundation despite having established it in the first month of the year, had none of the Lesnar interview vignettes that had proven to be effective as recently as just a few months earlier against Reigns, made zero references to arguably the Match of the Year involving both men, and then resulted in a way too quick squash match that devalued Rollins and the WWE Title.
Some of you may still feel I’m being overly negative, bitching that I didn’t get my specific preferences met for what had been a HIGHLY anticipated singles match to me for a year. For those of you who jump to that conclusion, read the following courtesy the Wrestling Observer:


the show drew 11,000 fans in a building where the company has frequently over the years sold out its 14,500 WWE capacity.
I also believe it’s not a coincidence that TV ratings sucked during this feud and continued to be a concern for the rest of 2015. After all, the fans had just been told that the champion of the company was no match for a guy who only appears on occasion, without having the established first ballot HOFer foundation of Cena a year earlier. They were clearly told that not only was he secondary to the part-timer he competed against, but also to the one that interfered, and hadn’t even at least gotten a significant portion of control in the night’s WWE Championship main event to elevate him coming out of this match.
I do expect a Lesnar vs. Rollins rematch down the road. I’ve a feeling that Rollins will be respected enough behind the scenes by then for these two to have the classic they’re fully capable of pulling off. It should’ve happened on this night; not only would it artistically been rewarding, but with the evidence I presented, I believe it would have legitimately been best for business metrics.

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If you plan to read this one, strap in and clear the next hour or so. We got a long commute today for our ultimate journey to Dallas.


Raw – July 20, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority are backstage and ecstatic, as they love and confirm Lesnar vs. Taker at SummerSlam 2015. They’re so full of shit though when HHH says he’ll tell Heyman not to show up and keep the Beast away from the Sprint Center; they’re promoters and know damn well it’ll only stir up emotion for everyone involved as well as the audience.

They find Heyman backstage later, and he just wants to verbally present Lesnar’s message at ringside. They don’t trust him so they order everyone not viewed as a top star to provide security should the situation erupt.

Heyman cuts a career highlight promo, emphasizing the motivations of Lesnar’s quest for the WWE Title and Taker’s Streak. He questions why Taker would be butt-hurt by bragging about something as historic as breaking the Streak, which makes total sense, but he forgets that he’s been a cunt about it of course. After fucking Lesnar out of the WWE Title, Heyman says it’s personal, so he looks straight at the hard cam and repeatedly states “My client Brock Lesnar conquered YOUR undefeated streak at WrestleMania!” then ends it with “your ass belongs to Brock Lesnar!” This gets a standing ovation from the audience because it ticked every single box for a money promo.

The lights then go out, once back on showing Taker in the ring and staring a hole in Heyman, who is begging for mercy. Lesnar’s music hits and in reference to what happened the prior time Lesnar was fucked out of becoming WWE Champion in San Jose, the commentators bail. The HOFers then go to work on each other, but HHH quickly motions for security. When standard security proves to not suffice, all the mid-carders and curtain-jerking geeks rush to ringside and do their best to keep the legends apart, without being victimized in the crossfire.

The legends kept finding ways to get at each other, including sliding under the bottom rope and running around the ring to attack the other, or lulling the roster security, then capitalizing and pouncing on the other. As Lesnar is finally dragged to the back, he screams “I will you kill you”! with Taker responding “You’re gonna have to!”

We get back from commercial break with Lesnar being escorted by the roster, only for Taker to abruptly pounce on him and this classic pull-apart brawl continues, complete with Lesnar flipping a table over en route to pouncing on Taker. “I will you!” They collide one more time with Lesnar screaming “I WILL YOU!” even louder, and local police arrive to keep Lesnar away from Taker, who is escorted away. Lesnar is zip-tied by them, but is adamant to not be touched.

This is simply Raw’s greatest segment of 2015; NOTHING comes close to this. The audience was WHITE-HOT, Heyman cut one of the best promos of his career, he pontificated his and Lesnar’s perspective, he acknowledged Taker’s perspective, he included the “money” when describing the magnitude of their SummerSlam 2015 main event; both legends then had a pull-apart brawl for the ages, put over not just by their body language, but the commentators fucking off for their own safety, the roster struggling to keep them apart, the raw emotional dialogue shared between both legends, and that local police were finally needed to keep Lesnar at bay, making him realize how chaotic the scene had become.

I’m not including the YouTube video of this segment; you need to see this masterpiece in its entirety and THAT is why the WWE Network exists.

HHH makes it clear he won’t be pressing charges, he just wanted to get things back in order so that the SummerSlam 2015 main event isn’t jeopardized. Total carny as he clearly wanted to give a little tease, then figuratively pull out and keep both the legends and the audience salivating for more.

WWE Champion Seth Rollins gloats about still holding the title, completely dismissing the circumstances as to why. Since no official decision was confirmed the night before, he has Lillian Garcia announce that Lesnar won by DQ thanks to Taker’s interference, which means Rollins is still champion. US Champion John Cena interrupts and says he’s thankful for Rollins being such a lousy champion, as it’s allowed the US Title to be elevated by having excellent matches in open challenges almost every week. Rollins, the transparent politician he is, attempts to deflect by saying Cena is just placating the fans by giving chances to undeserving roster members, which Cena easily crushes by sarcastically saying how heartbreaking he always is about being rejected by some of the audience.

Rollins buries Cena for carving out a niche, bragging that he’ll be THE champion of the company, whereas Cena congratulates him for walking away yet again, proclaiming that the champ is here! If anybody can be counted on to repair the damage done to Rollins the night before, it’s Cena. My only concern though is that Cena, while a top star, hasn’t main-evented a PPV in 2015, so it’s a step in the right direction for Rollins, but not the same as having a competitive program against Roman Reigns or a part-timer.

That said, Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker and Seth Rollins vs. John Cena are the top matches for SummerSlam 2015. I’m sold on paper, and I’m sold even more after one of the greatest segments in Raw history, as well as a competitive rivalry between the two top singles champions in the company.

Main Event – July 21, 2015

Lucha Dragons vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston - ***1/2

NXT – July 22, 2015: The Good Shit

Tyler Breeze demands GM William Regal to give him a marquee match at Takeover: Brooklyn, rudely waiting in his office and causing Regal to pause his cell phone conversation. Regal says he’s working on it.

Rhino vs. Samoa Joe confirmed in 2 weeks during a Joe squash.

Bayley slays her first demon, overcoming a hand injury and cleanly defeating Emma via a belly-to-belly suplex. This is how finishers get established. Bayley then proclaims she wants to face Charlotte. The challenge is accepted in a backstage interview. Charlotte is interrupted by an insecure Dana Brooke.

In the main event contract signing, the rubber match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens is official for Takeover: Brooklyn. Owens rubs it into the Full Sail’s audience face that the match is taking place in Brooklyn, ever the masterful troll, and claims that The Beast in the East was a fluke. After both have signed as well as Regal, Owens starts a brawl and assaults Regal when the GM attempts to stop him, then takes a powder when Balor gets the upper hand.

SmackDown! – July 23, 2015: The Good Shit

Rusev vs. Kevin Owens is nothing special as a whole, but has some tremendous individual parts. The match is a result of Sheamus & Owens walking out on Rusev earlier in the week on Raw, which Owens does so yet again here. The highlight is easily when Owens drags Rusev and bitches about how heavy he is, saying “God, lose some weight.”

Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro - ***1/4

In the post-match, Kevin Owens assaults a vulnerable Cesaro. No problem with this program that ROH and PWG never pulled the trigger on.

Raw – July 27, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority announce that the PPV portion of SummerSlam 2015 portion will be 4 hours. Hope this means WrestleMania 32’s PPV portion is 5 hours.

Sasha Banks vs. Paige - ***

The New Day steal the spotlight from the Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores match, and their interruption is absolutely phenomenal. Big E & Xavier Woods hold a sign pointing towards Kofi Kingston as “Real MEGA DAD of the Year” and taunting the Prime Time Players at the commentary about it. This allows the Dragons to win, a week after the Matadores had defeated PTP.

Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton gets thrown out when the latter is attacked by Sheamus. Cesaro runs to the ring and is a brief house of fire, taking Sheamus out and leaping towards Owens on the outside. After Sheamus holds Cesaro’s foot, Owens gets the upper-hand with a pop-up powerbomb on the former US Champion. If Cesaro can consistently have a fury to this level, he’ll keep this push going and break the glass ceiling for good.

US Title Match

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins

The usual great Cena defense in 2015. Everything was great here, although the drama really picked up when the most newsworthy event of the match took place. Before that, these two men showed how familiar they’d become with each other, although Rollins needed to go to the film room just a bit more, as his signature Enziguri was countered into an Electric Chair Face Plant, one of the same moves Cena used against Owens the night before.

Once Rollins broke Cena’s nose with a knee face bash straight out of Tekken character Bruce Irvin’s move set, that’s when the drama really unfolded. Cena’s nose bone had clearly shifted to the right and he was bleeding profusely, but he did his damnedest to fight through it and win the match in quick fashion at the slightest hint of vulnerability from Rollins. This not only proved how much in reality that Cena respected the business and the fans, but in kayfabe how much he valued his US Title and wanted to secure a shot at the WWE Title.

It was a sight to behold when Cena kicked out of a Superplex immediately followed by a Falcon Arrow, bringing the Oklahoma City crowd to a frenzy. JBL had an obvious but perfect line to convey the moment: “John Cena is one tough son of a bitch. WOW!” Rollins took a gamble going for the Phoenix Splash, assuming that both of the prior moves and the broken nose was enough to keep Cena down long enough. Instead, Cena evaded it and immediately used the positioning of Rollins to lock in the STF, and then used his leverage to prevent a rope break, causing the WWE Champ to tap out and securing a title shot for himself. One of the most inspiring performances in Raw history in a year that saw Sami Zayn, coincidentally in a US Title match against Cena, do the same. ****

NXT – July 29, 2015: The Good Shit

A backstage American Alpha interview airs from last week. Their shoddy attempts to bury other tag teams definitely falls under the developmental category, rather than cream-of-the-crop vanity project.

Tyler Breeze crashes GM William Regal’s office, demanding an opponent for Takeover: Brooklyn. Regal says he’s reached around the globe, but doesn’t spill the beans yet.

American Alpha win a squash match with the Grand Amplitude again. They got the tools in the ring, now they gotta improve their interviews.

Charlotte makes pretty easy work of Dana Brooke. Logical booking to groom her for Bailey next week.

In a backstage interview, Eva Marie declares her ultimate goal is to become NXT Women’s Champion. Quality troll booking from the writers here.

SmackDown! – July 30, 2015: The Good Shit

The Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro opener gets thrown out as Kevin Owens makes his good on his promise, leaving the commentary table and attacking Cesaro. The main event is Rollins & Owens vs. Cesaro and a tag partner. A shame Tyson Kidd’s career was finished two months earlier.

The New Day cut another fun promo putting themselves over prior to their 8-man tag pairing Big E & Kofi Kingston with the Ascension against the Lucha Dragons & Los Matadores. New Day clearly want the winning pinfall, but they dodge a bullet when the Ascension take the loss, so they’re not eliminated from Tag Title contention quite yet.

Rusev vs. Jack Swagger - ***1/2

Main event time. Cesaro’s partner is…

Seth Rollins & Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose & Cesaro

Hot main event here as every matchup was interesting; it must be mentioned though that Owens and Cesaro made Rollins vs. Ambrose enjoyable in this instance. In this case, rather than be a thrown together filler singles main event, the two former Shield brothers were pitted against each other thanks to organic circumstances, while keeping their issue, which to date has yet to reach an emotionally satisfying conclusion, still alive as they’d turned their attention towards other goals and opponents. It only made sense for Ambrose to insert himself, as he’d be looking for any excuse to get his hands on Rollins again, and Rollins was paired with someone who loved to pick a fight.

As proven the week before and during their time in ROH, Rollins vs. Cesaro was a splendid matchup. As always, Rollins and Ambrose provided their natural chemistry, once again displaying that they can sleepwalk their way to a *** match against each other. The most interesting matchup in this of course was a dream match, one that nobody on the indies ever managed to make happen, that being Ambrose vs. Owens. They definitely showed a sample of what they could do down the road, and it certainly wouldn’t be a bad direction to take once Owens is done with Cesaro and Ambrose along with Reigns is done with the reuniting Wyatt Family.

It was nice to see these makeshift teams working nicely together; despite not being regular partners or united in a faction, both pairs stood united rather than throwing this match away, which was a nice, logical breather. Owens was determined to cool off Cesaro’s rise due to portraying an on-screen version of off-screen WCW Hulk Hogan, while Rollins saw this as a double opportunity to help Owens with his goal, while rubbing yet another victory in the face of Ambrose. Cesaro’s clean victory over Owens was not only a glimmer of hope that his substantial mid-card push would continue, but a glaring strength for what this weekly program would become later in the year. I also can’t help but laugh at TNA, as that federation had a chance to lure ALL of these men with lucrative offers 4-5 years before this. ***1/2

Superstars – July 31, 2015

Wade Barrett vs. Jack Swagger - ***

Raw – August 3, 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Champion Seth Rollins has an interesting monologue for once, boasting about breaking US Champion John Cena’s nose and laying down a title for title challenge at SummerSlam 2015. He’s sporting a new T-shirt, reading NEVER SHUTS UP on the front, displaying a thumbs down on the sleeve, and reading U [Can't C] KNEE on the back. In celebration of both him and Cena’s legacies kicking off four months earlier on WrestleMania 31 weekend in Santa Clara, he’s laying down an open challenge to defend the WWE Title. Upon return from commercial, he then says the open challenge is basically to cruiserweights, expecting El Torito to show up.

WWE Title Match (Open Challenge)

Seth Rollins vs. Neville

Neville got the early advantage and if scored on points, he actually dominated this match. That makes sense since Rollins was cockily, idiotically not expecting Neville to accept the open challenge. Before the commercial break, Rollins had no answer for Neville’s kicks and high-flying attacks, finding himself figuratively on the ropes going into the break.

Back from commercial, Rollins had gained control by ramming Neville off the apron onto the commentary table. They then had a tremendous series of counters. Neville was able to hit both of his signature Geman Suplexes, including the Irish Whip momentum and the deadlift variations, and as someone with a low center of gravity like Neville, I found the latter pretty impressive considering the height difference. Rollins managed to regain control later via a lariat and then the match truly peaked the rest of the way.

Rollins went for the Pedigree, but Neville used his core strength to get out of position and go for an off-the-charts jackknife pin near-fall that had many in the crowd, as well as the commentators, believing the referee didn’t properly count to 3. Neville would move on from that and successfully hit the Sky Twister, and the height of Rollins came into play for the champ; Rollins was down for the count, but his left leg made contract with the middle rope when Neville rolled him for the pin. Neville failed to keep his eye on the ball, allowing emotions to waste his time as he processed that he failed to have Rollins in proper ring position. This gave the champ enough time to recover while playing possum and know that Neville would predictably go for the Sky Twister again. Rollins evaded it and successfully hit the Pedigree as teased before, but the champ left showing that he had been taken to the limit.

Since this took place in San Jose: Why the fuck didn’t the fans in attendance at the WrestleMania 31 Aftermath Raw get this match when we were all in town? ****

In an 8-man tag rematch from SmackDown! last week, the New Day get the winning pinfall as Big E & Kofi Kingston team with the Ascension against the Lucha Dragons & Los Matadores. That should put New Day in Tag Titles contention.

Bella Twins vs. Charlotte & Becky Lynch - ***


Guests: Cesaro and Kevin Owens

Before inviting Owens out, Miz pays tribute to Piper for being the talk show pioneer, because before MizTV, The Highlight Reel, and Heartbreak Hotel, there was Piper’s Pit as the originator.

Quality screen-time for this feud, as it eventually turns into Owens using his 3 months of main roster success to outshine Cesaro, while Cesaro references that Owens is best at talking and walking, with the walking part being disrespectful and embarrassing every time he abruptly forfeits a match. Miz is tremendous with his gleeful smile and bug eyes knowing he’s about to have a fight erupt. He gets shouted down by both, then Owens walks out, but shoves Miz from behind into Cesaro to try to get an easy upper hand, only for Cesaro to get Owens in position for a giant swing. Owens manages to sneak out of it and take a powder as usual. Not a home run segment, but effective nonetheless, and Cesaro’s mic work is at worst on par with that of the hand-picked Roman Reigns.

Paul Heyman delivers another money promo, first showing the footage from Undertaker assaulting Brock Lesnar in the Battleground 2015 WWE Title main event. He invites Lesnar out, who throws steps into the ring and steps on them to literally elevate himself while Heyman provides the verbal goods. Heyman reveals that Taker begged Vince McMahon for the rematch to take place at WrestleMania 31, but it was declined (thus explaining why Taker accepted Wyatt’s challenge). On Sunday, August 23, “My Beast, your Conqueror” will be taking the Phenom to Suplex City. Phenomenal promo from Heyman that saw him sweating profusely and even briefly speaking in tongues. I cannot wait for this rematch as I’m fully convinced the New Orleans match sucked solely due to Taker’s concussion.

Stephen Amell, the lead star of Arrow, is confirmed for next Monday in Everett, WA. Interesting.

Sheamus, Luke Harper, & Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, & Randy Orton - ***1/4

Fucking excellent episode of Raw that completely blew away what should’ve across the board been a far better, more historically important one in the same arena four months earlier.

NXT – August 5, 2015: The Good Shit

Charlotte vs. Bayley

Good but nothing special. With that said, this elevated Bayley as she found a way to reverse the Figure Eight and break an attempted Super Natural Selection, then using Charlotte’s positioning on the top rope to apply a Super Belly to Belly Suplex for the victory. Another demon slayed for Bayley, this one a main roster star and former NXT Women’s Champion. ***1/4

Michael Cole has a previously recorded empty arena interview with Kevin Owens, who of course questions why GM William Regal is rooting against him in the rubber match against Finn Balor. To avoid a screwjob finish which he claims to suspect would happen, he lays down the challenge for Balor vs. Owens III to be a ladder match. Of most interesting note, since this is a year in review and revisit on the road to WrestleMania 32 weekend, he states his 3 motivations for becoming NXT Champion again are the following:

More money in his bank account.

Carrying around a championship every time he walks down an entrance ramp.

Having a reminder of what he did to Sami Zayn.

Owens of course walks out on the interview when Cole asks if he can beat Balor. This once again proves that Owens can be emotionally taken off his game; had he been rational, he’d have referenced the first match he had against Balor, in which he was victorious in Columbus. These two are just tremendous every time they exchange dialogue.

Bayley requests Regal to grant her an NXT Women’s Title shot. Instead, he schedules for next week a title shot match between her and Becky Lynch. Bayley is highly appreciative, going for a hug, but Regal cuts that off and shakes her hand instead to keep it professional. I love this match as an official title shot opportunity; Charlotte had been eliminated from contention just weeks earlier losing clean to Sasha Banks, while Bayley was in the middle of a chase but Lynch really deserved to also have a chance after her breakout match at Takeover: Unstoppable.

After Tyler Breeze wins an easy squash, Regal comes to the entrance ramp and reveals Breeze’s Takeover: Brooklyn opponent. Making his WWE debut will be Jushin Liger. OH FUCK YES~!

A video package of Liger’s time in WCW airs. When he eventually gets inducted into the company’s HOF, expect this to be the majority of the video package for it.

Uhaa Nation is featured in a training video; his goal is to become NXT Champion and he will make his debut at Takeover: Brooklyn. His stage name is now official too: Apollo Crews.

In tag action, the Hype Bros. get a victory over the Revival, only for the Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard inspired bastards to leave a post-match beating on them for the trouble.

Rhino vs. Samoa Joe - ***1/4

Since Owens is on the main roster and obviously in a singles program against Cesaro for SummerSlam 2015, I wouldn’t have booked a ladder match. Granted, brawls can be less taxing, but when ladders are involved, then crazy bumps are involved. Instead, to keep Owens from insane bumps and ladder shots, and because each had a victory over each other, I’d have booked Balor vs. Owens III as 2/3 falls, that way the winner is decisive.

SmackDown! – August 6, 2015: The Good Shit

Roman Reigns accepts Bray Wyatt’s “family challenge,” as he’ll team with Ambrose to fight Wyatt & Luke Harper at SummerSlam 2015. Works for me since it’s in Brooklyn and these four had chaotic trios matches during the Shield era.

Prime Time Players & Mark Henry vs. The New Day - ***

The match is good but meaningless, as Henry gets the pinfall victory, sabotaging the New Day’s desire for a Tag Titles opportunity. They have a sensational backstage interview after the commercial break, pointing out that Henry got the victory and he’s not Tag Champ, so therefore it shouldn’t count against their case for a title shot. Tremendous politicking here, with the “he should’ve retired already” sugar on top, and dismissing this “negativity” from the interviewer.

Rusev vs. Roman Reigns - ***3/4 (SmackDown! MOTYC)

Raw – August 10, 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Champion Seth Rollins has the typical opening segment promo, providing a slightly amusing phone interview with a fake John Cena to bury him. Cesaro interrupts and wants a title shot, but Rollins says last week’s open challenge was a one time deal. Kevin Owens interrupts and wants a shot. Randy Orton interrupts and wants a shot. Triple H arrives and announces Cesaro vs. Owens vs. Orton tonight, with Rollins defending the title against the winner in tonight’s main event. As someone who attended this show live, I subjectively loved getting these two matches.

But this was objectively a glaring SmackDown! opportunity staring at everyone right in the face to help that show’s ratings. Have Cesaro vs. Owens vs. Orton as tonight’s main event, with Rollins defending the title against the winner at the following evening’s taping in Portland. This also gets the fresh blood of Cesaro and Owens in a Raw main event for a major singles opportunity, rather than being amongst several stars in a trios match as in recent weeks.

Stephen Amell, the lead star of Arrow, is shown sitting front row at ringside. Since I was sitting almost right behind him, I’ll include photos from a certain segment later.

Big E & Kofi Kingston pick up a victory over Los Matadores to solidify their Tag Titles contention. Everyone needs to experience Xavier Woods talking shit up close like I did. He was absolutely tremendous trying to get Amell’s attention, making references to Arrow’s second season by bragging about Big E being injected with Mirakuru.

In a backstage interview, Renee Young reveals to a celebratory New Day that they will get their Tag Titles shot at SummerSlam 2015, but so will the Lucha Dragons and Los Matadores. It’s obviously bittersweet to them, but they’re glad for the opportunity, and they convince Young, with a smile on her face, to clap along as they yell “New Day Rocks!”

WWE Title Shot – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton

For once, Owens didn’t walk out on this match, which makes sense due to its important stakes; despite getting the rare clean victory over Cena months earlier, Owens had yet to receive a WWE Title match. Cesaro and Orton have an uppercut exchange early, and Orton eventually dominates the match early. While all of these guys had been involved in threeways before, only Orton had been in a high stakes one within the WWE ring, specifically when he had to defend the title against Batista and Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX, and he left that one empty-handed and had yet to recapture the title too. So of course he came in with guns blazing here.

Eventually though this just turned into a sensational roller-coaster ride. There were plenty of highlights in this one. From a scouting perspective, I think my favorite would be when Cesaro countered an Ace Crusher attempt into the Crippler Crossface. Now keep in mind I don’t remember a damn thing about the utterly meaningless but good series of matches Cesaro and Orton had a few years back, and I haven’t watched Orton’s stellar matches against Chris Benoit in literally a decade. But I can’t help but make the educated assumption Cesaro had learned from not just his own history with Orton, but studied those Benoit vs. Orton classics and this counter is the evidence I point to.

Since there’s no rope break, Orton had to crawl and fall to the outside to escape the Crippler Crossface, and this gave Owens the tremendous opportunity to hit an over-the-top-rope tope flip on both men as the broadcast went to a commercial break. When the broadcast returns, Orton is still on the outside as Cesaro and Owens continue their ongoing feud in the ring, and Owens clearly has the upper hand. Later on, Owens thrusts Cesaro back into Orton in what looks to have been a botch between the latter two, but JBL covers for it on commentary by saying Orton was accidentally poked in the eye. It’s a minor eye poke though, as Cesaro eats a clothesline and takes an apron bump.

That’s followed by Owens eating a signature powerslam, then Orton drops both of them with stereo draping DDTs in another highlight. Cesaro shoves Orton off during an Ace Crusher attempt, allowing Owens to grab the Viper’s boot, drag him to the outside, and execute a Fallaway Slam to the future HOFer on the hard cam side’s barricade. This was the section I was seated in and I can say that the sound effect didn’t seem pleasant for Orton. A tremendous live experience though.

Cesaro takes advantage of Owens gloating on the outside to launch himself over the top rope with a twisting plancha! Back in the ring, he strikes Owens with a springboard twisting uppercut for a nice near-fall. At this point we were chanting “This is awesome!” and deservedly so. Owens blocks a super gut wrench suplex attempt, then Cesaro plants his knees in the back of Owens during a Swanton attempt. Cesaro goes for a running uppercut only to get supekicked! Fucking perfect timing. Owens gives Cesaro an Irish Whip for the pop-up powerbomb, but the former US Champion leaps over his head as Orton slides back in the ring and capitalizes on the brief window he has, putting both men down with Ace Crushers to win the match and secure a WWE Title shot in tonight’s main event!

Since my return home here to Seattle in July 2013, this is EASILY the best match I’ve experienced live on Pacific Northwestern soil. Bell to bell, I loved this WAY more than the Orton vs. Batista vs. D-Bry match, despite this obviously lacking the emotional storytelling and ultimate stage. This was absolutely splendid and jaw-dropping, telling a great story to go with the packed action thanks to terrific counters and outstanding timing. Even better than the Rusev match the month before and an absolute gem. ****1/4

A fantastic excerpt of SummerSlam Reckoning: The Phenom vs. The Beast airs. Like last year, I’ll be reviewing the documentary.


Guest: Daniel Bryan

What’s the only way to get me to watch storyline advancement for Miz, Ryback, and Big Show? Bryan Danielson making an appearance in the Seattle metro area! There really is nothing of note here, but the foreshadowing is depressingly eerie as many fans shout “PLEASE RETIRE~!” at Show while Danielson is sitting right there. I believe this segment is important, as it serves as a reminder – if a booker has a chance to do something FUN with a hometown guy, pull the trigger on it. Doing so helps the rest of the event have an enthusiastic atmosphere at worst, off-the-charts energy at best. A VERY fun segment in person.




A tremendously hot piece of business to experience and I cannot believe it cost me a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents thanks to Bryan Alvarez and whoever comped him.

In a backstage interview, Sheamus says he may consider cashing in his Money in the Bank opportunity tonight. Like that has any chance of happening going into the biggest SummerSlam of all-time.

WWE Title Match

Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton

Quality TV main event here, and I point to no Authority B-Team as the reason. Rollins attempted to gain the upper hand by taking early powders and then taking control early, but that was brief. That would explain why Rollins, despite being the fresher participant, largely refused to go at Orton with guns blazing. There were in fact two instances in which Rollins did become aggressive and Orton made him pay. One was Orton elbowing Rollins during an attempted suicide dive, the other was when Orton used the momentum of Rollins to position for and execute a draping DDT.

The more physically taxed Orton took this opportunity to regain the WWE Title seriously, not treating this as a free throw-away main event. He seemed to have an answer for EVERYTHING. When Rollins ducked the trademark powerslam, he still managed to successfully execute it moments later, making any film study Rollins may have done seem like a waste of time. Orton lost his positioning when he tried to escape the Pedigree, so Rollins went for it again, only to still get tossed over the ropes. Moments later, Rollins didn’t get close enough to deliver a springboard knee strike, allowing Orton to hit a gorgeous Ace Crusher for what would’ve been a guaranteed title change just yards away from me.

But Sheamus yanked Orton out and assaulted him, then delivered a Yakuza kick to Rollins. Before the ref would signal the official MITB cash-in to the timekeeper and ring announcer, Orton got back in and at least got the last laugh as he took out Sheamus. Long-term there would’ve been no good business reason for a title change here, but had it happened, the Xfinity Arena crowd would’ve become unglued, capping off what would’ve been an iconic Raw, rather than just the tremendous one I was lucky to see for free in the second row (behind a celebrity that was involved in a hot-as-shit angle no less.) ***1/2

SummerSlam Reckoning: The Phenom vs. The Beast

On par with the prior year’s Cena vs. Lesnar: Prelude to the Biggest Fight of the Summer documentary. In this one, rather than either participant giving sound bites, there were talking heads to put this highly anticipated rematch over, including Paul Heyman, Steve Austin, Big Show, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Triple H, Edge, and Randy Orton.

This simply chronicled the magnitude of their WrestleMania XXX encounter, followed by Lesnar’s journey ever since, including SummerSlam 2014, Royal Rumble 2015, WrestleMania 31, and Battleground 2015. It was a beautiful illustration of Lesnar’s carnage since being catapulted to what was thought to be unreachable heights by breaking the Streak. Then footage from their fight in Kansas City airs, and the editing couldn’t have been more perfect, as the documentary closes with the haunting exchange of “I will kill you!” and “You’re gonna have to!”

I’ve clearly articulated the counterproductive booking of the Rollins vs. Lesnar match. At least in this case, unlike the 2015 Royal Rumble match, it led to this absolutely masterful direction. I couldn’t be any more amped for this rematch, and I have full faith that they will smash it as long as there are no major injuries again.

NXT – August 12, 2015: The Good Shit

Baron Corbin makes quick work of some jobbers and the crowd is sick of him since they saw enough of the same shit already on this taping. He cuts a cocky promo, out comes Samoa Joe, Corbin says “not tonight” when challenged, picks a fight anyway, and Joe gets him in the Coquina Clutch. This is exactly the program we all envisioned for Joe’s first major stage match when he debuted 3 months ago.

Joe vs. Corbin is confirmed for Takeover: Brooklyn.

NXT Women’s Title Shot Match

Bayley vs. Becky Lynch

Damn good main event here. The champ Sasha Banks provides commentary. Amusing dialogue portion when Jay-Z & Beyonce are mentioned as being present at Barclays Center. First Corey Graves gets his fact wrongs by referring to Jay-Z as still owning the venue, then one of the geek babyface commentators asks if Darius Rucker will be present since he’s apparently a WWE fan.

The story of this match was Lynch sticking to her own comfortable game plan by working on Bayley’s left arm and shoulder, rather than targeting Bayley’s broken right hand. Banks was smart to point out that if she faces Bayley, she’ll be going after that injury. Lynch wasn’t ruthless, but she was all-business, thirsting for another title shot that she’d yet to receive since her breakout match just 3 months earlier.

Attacks on Bayley’s left arm and shoulder included numerous hammerlocks, a hammerlock Northern Lights Suplex, being stuck in hammerlock position while having the left arm dropped onto the top rope, and some hyperextensions. Bayley was magnificent in selling Lynch’s work, mostly relying on her right arm to deliver blows to make a comeback but still constantly nursing her thriving pain.

A small detail I really appreciated was the near-fall segment that started after Bayley evaded a pump handle maneuver. Bayley had 3 near-victories right after another, respectively a jack-knife pin, a cradle pin, and a backslide pin. On the last one, Lynch rolled over to Bayley’s left side to break it, remembering all the damage she had already inflicted on that arm and shoulder. Lynch would later execute a successful pump handle suplex and also use Bayley’s positioning to lock on the seated Fujiwara arm bar for a tremendous near-fall.

Bayley ultimately won by showing she had gone to the film room to study Lynch’s arsenal. In her second major counter of the match, Bayley blocked Lynch’s second attempt for the seated Fujiwara arm bar (an attempt to counter the belly-to-belly suplex) and successfully put Lynch down for 3 via a schoolboy roll-up pin. She did this using her right arm and shoulder, showing that Lynch should’ve taken advantage of the circumstances rather than relying on her predictable strategy, as Bayley was mentally prepared for it.

Not a MOTYC, not even a great match, but I loved this. Great storytelling that displayed the preparation both women brought into the match, having a highly compelling chess game to reach the top of the division. The only thing missing was a Lynch interview earlier on the program since the lack of it made Bayley the predictable winner. ***3/4

SmackDown! – August 13, 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Champion Seth Rollins vs. US Champion John Cena in a title for title match confirmed for SummerSlam 2015, as Cens will be cleared on time. Cesaro vs. Owens also confirmed. Good lord Owens is pulling some admirable double-duty in Brooklyn.

Seth Rollins & Kevin Owens vs. Neville & Cesaro - ***1/2

Raw – August 17, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority in the opening segment go over a number of topics, the newest one for you the readers of this project: Jon Stewart is hosting SummerSlam 2015. The more of him, the better I say.

Sheamus & Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro & Randy Orton - ***

Seth Rollins asks the Authority to have a statue sculpted in his image once he defeats John Cena this weekend.

That is the last reference to that awful Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler feud, as I just wanted to show that after weeks of being away and not being missed, Ziggler showed he was at last worth a return novelty pop.

More superstars give their thoughts on the upcoming Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker rematch. Another must-see segment that I believe has footage not seen in the full documentary.

Title For Title Contract Signing

Seth Rollins cuts his usual monotonous promo putting himself over for several minutes. It gets interesting once Cena comes out and offers a retort. With the Authority standing in the ring, he clearly points out that his ultimate payback for the broken nose won’t be an injury, but ruining Triple H’s legacy. Rollins will be a foot note and answer to a trivia question when Cena matches Flair’s 16 time World Champ record, which will eat at HHH. He then points out that HHH was never Flair’s bitch, but then tells Rollins, “On Sunday… I’ma make you mine.” Terrific promo from Cena and a rock-solid semi main event for SummerSlam 2015.

Brock Lesnar’s Homecoming

Magnificent segment with Lesnar clearly enjoying himself as the hometown hero in Minneapolis, confetti flying down. After Paul Heyman puts over Lesnar’s accomplishments, he sings a modified Lesnar-driven version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which is a song traditionally performed by the University of Minnesota Marching Bad. EXCELLENT shit going on here and this is right on par with hometown hero segments such as the Rock in Miami, Shawn Michaels in San Antonio, CM Punk in Chicago, Daniel Bryan in Seattle, Eddie Guerrero in El Paso, and pre-2014 Batista in DC.

Heyman then delivers a borderline lunatic promo, blowing the roof off the Target Center as Lesnar is reveling in it. He states that if Undertaker formed a trio with God & Satan to have a 3-on-1 handicap match against Lesnar, all 3 would be taken to Suplex City! Right as it appears Heyman is about to have a fucking breakdown because of his passionate pontification, the lights go out, but Taker doesn’t appear.

After Heyman accuses Taker of cheap Jedi mind tricks again, the lights go out and Taker appears, hitting a low blow, chokeslam, and Tombstone piledriver to the crowd’s incredibly vocal displeasure. Fantastic go-home segment and it’s crystal-clear that Taker is the heel by now. As someone who’s had the pleasure of attending WWE events involving D-Bry in Seattle, I was very happy for the fine folks of Minnesota, three and a half years into Lesnar’s current run, finally getting to experience the same thing.

NXT – August 19, 2015: The Good Shit

NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and Bayley have a contract signing, and Bayley says despite her failures to capture the title before, it feels different this time. She’s definitely got momentum. After Banks talks shit to Bayley and the crowd, he attempts to just leave, but Bayley says she won’t be blown off, that she’s ready for a fight. Banks then just buries her, saying she won’t have a happy fairytale ending and she won’t fight tonight because Bayley isn’t worth the trouble. Bayley boils as Banks is leaving but then has a pull-apart, and Corey Graves accurately states that Bayley attacked Banks from behind. Definitely a hot go-home segment for this match.

Tyler Breeze makes quick work of a jobber, puts the jobber in a Jushin Liger mask, and cuts a basic promo about the HOFer, heel-kicking the jobber as a symbol for what’s to come in Brooklyn.

After Samoa Joe wins a quick squash match, he’s assaulted by Baron Corbin on the entrance ramp; after a brief brawl that gets into the ring, Corbin gets the last laugh via the End of Days.

Kevin Owens closes the evening with a phenomenal heel promo, shitting on Full Sail for disapproving of the next supercard being in Brooklyn, and then of course he takes full credit for the Barclays Center sellout. Many found Owens to be in the right for bringing up Full Sail’s “hypocrisy,” when in fact it was only natural for them to be spiteful. There was no announcement made during the weeks leading up to Brooklyn that Orlando would ever host another Takeover in the future, plus despite wonderful booking, promos, and matches, these episodes were also dripping with plenty of filler that I skipped.

Owens climbs a ladder in the ring as he continues to shit on Full Sail, saying he’ll regain the NXT Title and be glad to rub it in their faces again. Once Owens pauses for a moment, Finn Balor takes the opportunity to dim the lights, showcase an empty entrance ramp, and then is seen by Owens sitting on a turnbuckle. Balor had an angry look, but to be honest, it felt forced; I’d have much rather he looked straight forward, having a more silent angry face. Think Chris Benoit staring at Triple H during the Game’s entrance routine at No Mercy 2000, or Neil McCauley's crew dealing with Waingro in the first dining restaurant scene early in Heat.

Balor gets the upper hand in their melee, and when he charges with the ladder, Owens takes a powder. Balor vows in his own words to hold on to the title and win the feud. Fun go-home segment, and I certainly wish I’d had the stars lined up to have booked a flight to NYC.

SmackDown! – August 20, 2015: The Good Shit

Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, & Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Roman Reigns, & Randy Orton

Quatlity TV main event with everyone playing their roles perfectly, and a fine go-home segment for 3 of the matches booked for SummerSlam 2015. I actually believe this match epitomizes WWE in 2015: A superstar can come from anywhere, whether being born in the business or carving out a legacy while learning their craft on the indies. This match was a mirror image in a way, as each team had two indy stars and two homegrown stars. ***1/2

While far from perfect, if one started watching WWE for the first time after Battleground 2015, I’ve laid down the evidence that they would’ve hopped during a tremendous month of television. The weeks leading up to Takeover: Brooklyn and SummerSlam 2015 just had a plethora of the Good Shit, and in some ways, surpassed the weeks leading up to SummerSlam 2013 and WrestleMania XXX just thanks to the sheer quantity that comes with building up two mega events on the same weekend. While nothing during these 5 weeks could quite meet the emotionally connecting highs of those two particular journeys, I certainly, when also considering ROH’s events in Philadelphia and Brooklyn on this very weekend, wish I could’ve had everything lined up in a timely and financially appropriate fashion to have booked a week of vacation in the Tri State Area for SummerSlam weekend. I’ll be doing my damnedest to make it happen for 2017, and if possible, I’ll eek it out for 2016.

And what a Good Shit lineup I’ve got to revisit and review for both nights. I’ll be sure to do these two events justice.

Takeover: Brooklyn

The debut match of Apollo Crews

Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin

Jushin Liger vs. Tyler Breeze

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens

SummerSlam 2015

Jon Stewart as the host

Stardust & Wade Barrett vs. Neville & Stephen Amell

Sheamus vs. Randy Orton

Prime Time Players vs. Los Matadores vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens

Luke Harper & Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena

Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker

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NXT at the Barclays Center – August 22, 2015

The following aired on the August 26, 2015 broadcast

The Revival & American Alpha vs. Hype Bros., Colin Cassidy, & Enzo Amore

Nothing special in terms of a star rating, but a perfect opener. Cassidy & Amore along with Carmella got tremendous pops, the NYC crowd completely in sync with them. It was a shame to see the Hype Bros. get such little reaction considering Zack Ryder is a Long Islander. The easy highlight was Cassidy tossing Amore to the outside on their opponents. Amore seals the win thanks to a splash on Chad Gable.

As has been mentioned before, MAJOR miscalculation not slotting Cassidy & Amore with Carmella to win the NXT Tag Titles here from Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy with Alexa Bliss. There was no need to wait for London or Dallas, and the bookers clearly should’ve had this foresight. Nobody feels an emotional attachment to the Vaudevillains; the crowd only popped for the Blue Pants and title change novelty. This also avoids the fucking embarrassment that was Carmella vs. Eva Marie.

Charlotte and Becky Lynch have their NXT swan songs in a nothing special match that had a botched finish to boot. Terrible match to end such great runs.

NXT Takeover: Brooklyn: The Good Shit

Jushin Liger’s WWE Debut

Jushin Liger vs. Tyler Breeze

Very much just a fun novelty match like Liger’s ROH debut 11 years earlier against Bryan Danielson. Breeze brought forth an admirable effort, but for someone looking to have a breakthrough victory, he allowed his emotions to get the best of him and that wasn’t completely due to Liger’s trolling and experience. The most telling moment was the referee telling Breeze to stop repeatedly stomping the HOFer in the corner and Breeze spazzed out, allowing Liger the opportunity to hit him with a palm thrust and somersault plancha. The way this story was told, it’s no wonder Liger came through under the bright lights in such a historic match for his career. ***

Apollo Crews wins his debut match against Tye Dillinger. Mind-numbingly structured competitive contest.

NXT GM William Regal announces the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament starting September 2, and will culminate at the next Takeover on October 7. Fantastic idea inspired by the Jim Crockett Memorial Cup, and an easy way to fill multiple weeks of TV.

Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin’s first good match, obviously carried by the veteran Joe. This was the match to prove that Corbin was all talk, not quite ready to be in the deep end. Joe got the early advantage, causing Corbin to take a powder. Any time Corbin got an advantage, Joe was quick to cut him off; that he cut off Joe’s elbow suicida showed he was improving, but his inexperience was still glaring. Joe managed to just cut off pretty much every advantage Corbin would get, including a leg sweep on the apron, and in the end the Koquina Clutch was too much. Step in the right direction for Corbin. ***

In an eyebrow-raising moment, Kana is at ringside sitting alongside Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter.

Stephanie McMahon comes to the ring to introduce the first of our double main event.

NXT Women’s Title Match

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

Tremendous entrances for both here, as Bayley has an extravagant attire and Dusty Rhodes gear, while Banks is brought out via an Escalade and escorted by personal security. Epic, goosebump-inducing presentation already in a billion-dollar venue.

Banks gets condescending and talks shit at the beginning, so Bayley gets the brief early advantage as a house of fire. When Banks starts stomping Bayley’s head in the corner, the challenger gets an adrenaline rush and turns it around on the champion, putting her in a Tree of Woe in position for a springboard elbow drop. They tease Banks regaining control with a schoolboy pin, but Bayley cuts that off rather quickly by reversing an Irish Whip in the corner to hits a springboard back elbow. With Banks to the outside, Bayley hits a baseball slide dropkick.

But Banks cuts Bayley off was they get back in the ring and have a struggle on the turnbuckle, with Banks getting his first true advantage by kicking Bayley’s right knee to knock her to the outside. She is fabulous as she mockingly counts along with the referee, and is merciless as Bayley slides back in. As Banks continues to have the heat, she mocks Bayley’s signature pose, capped off with a disrespectful slap. It appears that Banks is targeting Bayley’s back, which would make a belly-to-belly suplex difficult later on, and locks on a Straight Jacket Submission.

Bayley attempts a couple comebacks in the corner, only for Banks to catch her while in air and ramming her head-first into the top turnbuckle. Bayley’s placed horizontally on the top rope, eating double knees, which is perfect to attack the abdomen to fully marginalize her torso and make a belly-to-belly suplex impossible. As Bayley sells the pain, Banks gets too cocky attempting to belittle her and pays for it via a kick to the shoulder as Bayley regains the advantage.

Bayley sucks whatever pain she’s in for a brief house of fire, only to be quickly cut off as Banks gives her right arm a takedown on the second rope, On the outside, Banks finally starts targeting Bayley’s previously damaged right hand, removing its protection just as she stated she would 11 days earlier. This is marvelous storytelling, as Bayley’s right hand is smashed on the steel steps, stomped on in a wristlock position on the floor, and then smashed into by the steel steps. Long Island then gets a reminder of Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio from SummerSlam 2002; the referee tries to keep Banks at bay in the ring, so as he’s down, she hits an over-the-top-rope somersault plancha as the crowd goes apeshit! Definitely alarming to see Banks land back-first on the outside though.

Back in the ring, Banks belittles Bayley while running the top rope to target Bayley’s right hand, only to be shoved off the outside. They exchange blows in the ring, and Bayley is sensational selling her right hand, reminding of Roderick Strong in similar situations and having to use her left arm to deliver damage, then going for Polish Hammers. Bayley is finally making a genuine comeback, hitting a splash in the corner and then a corner suplex as she’s got the crowd behind her. Banks blocks a belly-to-belly suplex and what looked to be an attempted Chaos Theory. She manages to hit a Lungblower on Bayley’s right hand, then gets her in the Bank Statement!

The atmosphere is just sensation as Bayley desperately crawls for a rope break, only for her right hand to be stomped on by Banks! Bayley manages to still get her left hand close to the ropes, so Banks use her right foot to try to bounce them back into position, but Bayley reverses into her own Bank Statement for a breathtaking near-fall submission! Crowd is bonkers here! Bayley drags Banks up by the legs and hits a sudden belly-to-belly suplex for another sensational near-fall, and “This is awesome!” chants have been reignited.

Bayley crotches Banks for a super belly-to-belly suplex but blocks it, then shoves Bayley off on a Super Hurricanrana attempt, and Bayley takes an ugly fall. They have another great near-fall as Banks hit a fluid double knees pin attempt. Banks appear to physically and emotionally exhausted at this point, having never been challenged to this point before as champion or challenger. They have another turnbuckle struggle, only for Bayley to a Super Reverse Hurricanrana, then immediately capitalizing on the dazed champion to hit the belly-to-belly suplex and achieve her dream, capturing the title!

In what is their NXT swan song, Charlotte and Becky Lynch come embrace Bayley, and knowing that this was a special moment and match, Banks gives in too, all four having a curtain call moment. True to the Bayley character, all four hug, paying off an incredible journey that had only been kicked off several weeks earlier.

Many supposed smarks believe the NXT’s female division is incredibly overhyped. I point to this match as the proof that these women live up to the hype. This match was the result of the division being treated seriously for years, a champion that had survived in wars, and two characters striving for the same goal from two drastically different mentalities. This was a grand stage with major stakes, stealing the show and holding its end of the hype bargain from Stephanie McMahon.

This was a match that rewarded its audience for supporting the NXT brand, in the same breath as Neville vs. Sami Zayn eight months earlier. The story was quite simple, a cocky, ruthless champion snubbing her nose down at the injured, less accomplished challenger. The champion did her damnedest to make a statement to anyone else who’d dare challenge her, vocally and physically shouting out her supremacy in the division. Then going deeper than that, Bayley’s selling enhancing the emotional impact of this story, sending a message to other wrestlers, both male and female in every locker room. THIS is the proper way to make a comeback for the ages. With all of that, these ladies still managed to have the perfect timing of near-falls and high-spots to have the crowd in a frenzy.

My only nitpick complaint is there were a couple moments when it seemed to indicate that this match was rehearsed, not being quite as fluid as Randy Savage, Kenta Kobashi, and Mitsuharu Misawa at their best. That is an extremely minor complaint on my part. Nonetheless, as Kevin Owens stated on the WWE 24 episode about this show, he and Balor have got a very tough act to follow.

This is my Road to WrestleMania 32 Match of the Year up to this point. I’ll be stunned, ever so pleasantly of course, if anything else on the ultimate journey to Dallas dethrones this incredible roller-coaster. ****3/4

NXT Title – Ladder Match

Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens

Standard wrestling at the beginning with Owens trying to roll to the outside and grab ladders, showing his experience in this type of match. The first real highlight to me was when the crowd chanted “Ole! Ole!” to troll Owens, only for him to mock Sami Zayn’s injury. Amusing for Byron Saxton on commentary to assume Owens was mocking Balor there too, showing he likely has zero education on the business outside of the WWE bubble.

Owens teased a dangerous move using the ladder on the outside, only to deliver a regular blow to troll the audience again. They have a brawl that spills into the audience, with Balor taking an Irish whip on the medal site out of the barricade, and then countering a powerbomb attempt by flipping Owens onto the padded floor. Owens still manages to regain control by tossing Ablor around, then stands on the commentary table to bask in his glory.

The match then has a tremendous example to use on the next edition of “Don’t Try This at Home” when Balor drop kicks a ladder into Owens, only for the structure to fall on his leg as he's landing. Despite his unbearable pain, Balor manages to hit an over-the-top-rope somersault plancha. When Owens cuts him off in the ring moments later, Balor is tossed outside and his arm scrapes a ladder. Just another reason I would've booked 2/3 falls instead.

Owens is planted on a ladder in the corner, so Balor goes for the shotgun dropkick only to get cut off via a lariat for Owens to regain control. Owens dishes out punishment using ladders, planting Balor spine-first on the ladder to eat a senton moments later. Owens sees himself get back-dropped again awkwardly on an upright ladder, thus proving the stupidity of booking him in this kind of match the night before a singles match on a major PPV. Since he’s experienced this kind of pain before, he still sucks it up to go on the attack, only for Balor to evade a cannonball and Owens crashes into a ladder. As teased a few minutes earlier, Balor gets the shotgun dropkick immediately afterwards. But Owens drags Balor from climbing the ladder, dropping him with a powerbomb as both collapse.

Balor lifts the ladder as Owens climbs, causing the challenger’s neck to strike a turnbuckle on the way down. At this point the crowd is clearly behind Balor, clapping for him, but Owens drags him out. An apron powerbomb is blocked and Owens eats a soccer kick, but evades a double foot stomp, allowing him to now hit the apron powerbomb. This is pretty damn good psychology since Balor took two brutal bumps back-first into the barricade earlier.

It's great to hear the crowd against Owens as he attempts to climb the ladder, then we get another reason why I would’ve avoided booking a ladder match, as Balor’s head hits the ladder after taking a superkick. This match is just begging to be used in court as evidence in the ongoing concussion lawsuits. Owens drags Balor to the top of the ladder and attempts a super fisherman’s buster (thanks Mauro Ranallo!) but that’s blocked. Balor knocks Owens off the ladder, causing the challenger to fall back-first on a ladder platform! What’d I just say about concussion lawsuit evidence?

Owens tries to suck up the pain he’s selling, likely legit pain, but Balor kicks him down and then hits a fucking super double foot stomp, hurting his left ankle from the awkward ladder ending earlier. He finally, mercifully brings this unnecessarily dangerous, but still very aesthetically thrilling, car crash to a conclusion by grabbing the belt. As Owens had stated behind the scenes, these two men had a tough act to follow, but no doubt this was a great match. Cesaro’s got quite the task trying to guide a wounded Owens tomorrow. ****

Not quite as grand as Charlotte and Lynch, but a fitting NXT swan song:

In extensive footage from the broadcast days later, Owens refuses to answer when the interviewer specifically asks him about his future in NXT, just exiting the door.

Not even close to show of the year due to New Japan’s cream-of-the-crop major events, but definitely a must-see thanks to the double main event. Banks vs. Bayley in particular will be remembered for many years to come, chronicled in the annals of time as a landmark match both for women and WWE.

The following aired on the rest of the August 26, 2015 broadcast:

Former NXT Champion Neville has requested Regal to be involved in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament, and of course Regal obliges. Sounds reasonable to me.

Regal puts Rhino & Corbin together since they’re both lone wolves. Whatever helps Corbin improve after so much investment, the better.

A post-match interview from days earlier has Joe saying his ultimate goal is to win a championship.

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SummerSlam 2015: The Good Shit

On the kickoff show, Kevin Owens interrupts the discussion of his feud against Cesaro. He is excellent in intimidating Booker T. and Bryon Saxton, asking why he’d be jealous of Cesaro. Fantastic narrative control and bullying from Owens as he just said a month earlier he’s protecting his spot from Cesaro. He fucks with Saxton’s paperwork, assuming there’s a Cesaro Section sign in it, and vows to turn it into the Silent Section tonight. Kudos to Booker for presenting himself in this fashion.

Amusing opening segment as Jon Stewart welcomes everyone, then brings out Mick Foley, who expected the Rock, not Brock Lesnar, for a fun interview. He reminds Stewart that Hell in a Cell II was 17 YEARS AGO and no shit he’s terrified of visiting Suplex City. Just a sad reminder, although probably best for both legends’ health, that we never got Brock Lesnar vs. Cactus Jack.

Sheamus vs. Randy Orton

A notch below their Battleground 2015 match, which I’d point to a hot NYC crowd not measuring up to Orton’s partisan hometown STL crowd. This was further evidence that they phoned in their TV matches though, as both worked really hard. By far the highlight for me was when Sheamus made an attempt to skin the cat in the corner, only for Orton to have it scouted and used the positioning to lock Sheamus and deliver a draping DDT. Orton also counted a slingshot thrust forward shoulder block into an Ace Crusher, but the Celtic Warrior was intelligent enough to roll to the outside.

That ultimately is what got Sheamus the much needed victory, as it allowed him to cut off Orton at the ropes. This lead to Sheamus landing the Schwein, then delivering back-to-back Yakuza kicks, and there was no getting up from that damage from Orton. I’d have personally slotted Cesaro vs. Owens in this opener instead to really heat up NYC, but I assume Owens was being given as much time as possible to recover from the prior night’s ladder match. ***1/4

Tag Titles Match

Prime Time Players vs. Los Matadores vs. Lucha Dragons vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston

MUST-SEE and removed from both the WWE Network and WWE’s YouTube page:

I’m assuming WWE doesn’t want to fight its fair use, but I say that with the most elementary idea of that legal terminology.

Only two individual participants can be legal at a time, thus requiring tags. This leads to a tremendous opening strategy by New Day. Now at ROH's Tag Wars 2010, there was a four-way gimmick elimination match, and because of the elimination rules, it was insulting when the Briscoes were legal and told they had to actually go at it in the ring despite being on the same team. However, in this case, New Day maneuvered to have each other both legal and lay down for the other, because the rules of this match, one fall to a finish, would mean that they would’ve recaptured the titles. FUCKING BRILLIANT AND HILARIOUS.

The rest of the match is a sloppy, nothing special spot-fest, although nothing irritating. The finish is perfect, as the New Day take advantage of the others doing the work, then get rid of O’Neil to score the pinfall and recapture the belts! All three are sensational in their reactions, highlighted by Big E running around in circles in the ring!

Stardust & Wade Barrett vs. Neville & Stephen Amell

One of the top celebrity matches thanks to Amell’s sheer effort. While his lack of fluidity, experience, bumping, and wrestling cardio became apparent, there was nothing business-exposing about what he did. He took plenty of bumps playing the Ricky Morton role, while smoothly executing all of his offense when the time came for it. Major kudos to him after the hot tag and Neville got everything in order to insist on hitting a splash to the outside, then collapsing out of pure exhaustion. From a booking standpoint, it’s important to mention that Neville got the pinfall on Barrett, leaving Stardust and Amell out of the decision and the door open should this continue down the road.

I’m aware of Steve Austin shitting on Amell working a pro wrestling match based on some type of misguided prejudice; perhaps should he ever read this, he’ll have finally understood how moviegoers with any type of aesthetic standard feel watching his shoddy attempts on the silver screen. Should Amell ever decide to pursue pro wrestling full-time, I’m fully confident that he has the work ethic and respect for the business to make something substantial out of it. While nothing special as an actor in Hollywood, wrestling has such low standards in that regard that he would by default be an elite promo in the squared circle too.

Luke Harper & Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns

Very good tag match with hot action on the outside early. Ambrose & Reigns first have Wyatt taken out to get the odds in their favor, but in the second act, Harper & Wyatt did that to Reigns. While the kayfabe strategy is obvious (take out the more pushed star of each team), it backfired here. The NYC crowd, rather than view Reigns as being knocked out so that Ambrose would play the FIP, saw this as an easy resting period for him, chanting “Roman’s sleeping!” Someone who’s the next legit top guy wouldn’t get those kinds of reactions. Don’t believe me? Revisit the same scenario for Lesnar in the Royal Rumble 2015 threeway classic from Philly; he certainly didn't get shit on for resting after eating a flying elbow drop on the table from Seth Rollins.

The audience was clearly seeing through this program; that Reigns was removed from the WWE Title picture was obviously just short-term, and instead of making him hotter, this was just making it more obvious he’d be back in the hunt by the most important time of the year. Further evidence that Vince McMahon no longer grasps the psychology of the young adult audience, which he of course deflects by blaming us as millennials like that means anything at all in terms of his failure to pick the right guy for the top spot in the business. The finish did Reigns no favors in terms of crowd reaction, Ambrose tagging him in for the clean-up spear and victorious pinfall. Good match as stated though, just a failure when looking at the bigger picture. ***1/2

WWE Title vs. US Title

Seth Rollins vs. John Cena

In what could just be a coincidence, Rollins has the same colored gear as Bayley and New Day. I definitely prefer the villainous black gear to perfectly reflect his dark complexion.

This is my favorite WWE match of 2015 for a number of reasons. Immediately, Cena wasted no time protecting his face due to the broken nose a month earlier. His storytelling in that regard was just flawless. When he and Rollins would exchange strikes, Cena would guard his face, leaving his torso open for any strikes, There was a sensational sequence I’ll get into, but for this part of the story, I gotta point out that once Rollins was finally able to land a corkscrew roundhouse kick, Cena turned his head around first, rather risking a concussion than another broken nose.

This might very well be the match that epitomizes why Cena is a truly phenomenal worker. For once, the match was more than an action-packed festival dripping with tremendous scouting and a white-hot audience. After Rollins had just been completely demolished the month before, fate stepped in to give him the menacing credibility he needed by shattering Cena’s nose in their OKC match, resulting in Cena doing everything possible to protect his face. Thus, Cena was putting over what a hazardous striker Rollins is. This went a long way in elevating the stock of Rollins, badly needed since he’s the champion of the entire company.

This match, in addition to their OKC classic and other rematches to come, showed just what a deadweight J&J Security had been on Rollins. Rather than have two cruiserweight stooges trying to get involved and give Rollins an advantage, Rollins found himself shining on his own, gripping the NYC audience that was clearly behind him due to his sheer talent and work ethic. From that angle, when also factoring in their first singles classic near the end of 2013 when the Shield still existed, this match serves a reminder of what a fucking waste of screen-time the audience had endured during the first half of 2015 thanks to how Rollins was booked most of the way.

Rollins wasted no time on trying to troll the fans, instead reveling in their support. This was actually an effective strategy on his part; rather than waste time talking shit, he pulled out everything in his arsenal, including suicide dives and a follow-up somersault plancha over the top rope! The reason he did this crowd-pleasing shit? Because that is what it fucking takes to get the upper hand on John Cena, as Rollins had just learned a month earlier despite shattering the nose. By also getting the audience behind him, Rollins could hope that this would be one of the rare instances that Cena would mentally break from the atmosphere, which had proven to be a possibility when it happened at WrestleMania XXVIII.

As always, these two had each other scouted incredibly well. There were counters and signature move evasions aplenty in this one. As had been done before on at least one occasion (the classic involving Lesnar at Royal Rumble 2015), Cena didn’t allow Rollins to even attempt the jumping corkscrew roundhouse kick, instead immediately giving Rollins a backdrop suplex. Rollins of course kicked Cena in the shoulder during this first Five Knuckle Shuffle attempt, and Cena was lucky that the blow didn’t land on his recently repaired face.

Now of course, the teases would pay off later. Cena would land the Five Knuckle Shuffle and Rollins would manage to get the knee face bash on Cena, but this time there would be no shattered nose. Each man would also deliver Release Death Valley Drivers for incredible near-falls, with each having rolled out of moves to land them. Cena would successfully evade a Phoenix Splash attempt, only to eat one later for a great nearfall. Rollins repeatedly teased the Pedigree, only for Cena to continue to deadlift him overhead, because such a move would obviously be devastating to his face.

Time to dissect the incredible sequence I had mentioned earlier. First, a preface: when Rollins was monkey-flipped into the corner, he was able to avoid damage, but before he could gather himself, Cena was on him like white on rice, dropping him chest and stomach-first with an Electric Chair Face Plant. Rollins struggled to get up from this, allowing Cena enough time to hit the guillotine leg drop as Rollins was bent at the waist. And now the incredible sequence begins.

Cena goes for a Super Release Death Valley Driver, but Rollins slips out and appears to attempt a Sunset Flip Powerbomb, but Cena holds onto the ropes at first, and Michael Cole is tremendous in pointing out this is a sign of the HOFer’s core strength. Rollins holds on though, gets in standing position, and has the leverage to successfully hit a buckle bomb. With Cena down, Rollins sucks up his pain and exhaustion to hit a High Fly Flow, but is in clear pain as he goes for the pinfall. This is when Cena rolls backwards upon kicking out, allowing himself to deliver the Release Death Valley Driver on Rollins.

Now we pause the sequence for a moment. This portion of the sequence displays that Rollins is indeed the true predecessor to Shawn Michaels. The struggle Rollins showed in getting up after the Electric Chair Face Plant, followed by almost losing leverage on the buckle bomb attempt, followed by the pain in his face upon executing the High Fly Flow, and then being rolled into a Release Death Valley Driver all happened for one reason: Rollins was selling the pain in his abdomen from being dropped on his front end minutes earlier by Cena.

Now, let’s get back to the sequence that includes some portions I had already mentioned. Rollins manages to land on his feet once Cena launches him off his shoulders, then delivers the corkscrew roundhouse kick, but Cena turns his head away to protect his face, which JBL tremendously mentions on commentary. Cena goes for the crossbody, only for Rollins to roll back and successfully hit his own Release Death Valley Driver for an amazing nearfall. What an absolutely tremendous story told between these two workhorses in a span of just a few minutes.

After that sequence, the finishing stretch kicks in as Cena evades another attempted Phoenix Splash, then puts Rollins in the STF. Rollins sucks up whatever pain is in his abdomen to break out and use his legs to push Cena, then attempts a Pedigree, but Cena blocks that of course for the obvious reasons, indicating that move will be instant death for him. In another tremendous piece of storytelling, Cena locks in the figure four leglock to pay homage to Ric Flair for what would be his 16th World Title should Rollins tap or pass out. But Rollins has enough strength in his legs and regained in his abdomen to turn over, and Cena’s face selling the pain before reaching the bottom rope is sensational.

Both are slow to get up, selling the pain in their legs. Cena gets the first strikes to knock a fatigued Rollins down, and it looks like he’s going for another guillotine leg drop. Rollins has it scouted from earlier in the match though, getting an adrenaline rush as Cena struggled to climb. Rollins delivers a Superplex with a follow-through Falcon Arrow for another fantastic nearfall. Like Cena just moments earlier going to the well too often, Rollins goes for another Phoenix Splash attempt, only for Cena to roll out and Rollins lands on his front end, which certainly can’t be a good thing considering the pain he had been experiencing in that body part.

The referee is knocked down by the feet of Rollins as Cena executes a Release Death Valley Driver. Cena checks on the ref and when he returns to Rollins, that’s enough for the champ to hit the face knee bash, then falls back down in exhaustion as Cena sells it. Jon Stewart runs to the ring with a chair and teases he’ll strike both guys, appearing to sell a conflict. No idea why he’d attack Cena, which he does once the HOFer stands up, then Rollins takes advantage, planting Cena’s face on a chair via the Pedigree to bring Cena’s historic US Title reign to a very buzzworthy conclusion! The crowd goes nuts for both the chairshot and the finish, grateful for Rollins to get the glory and Cena not to match Flair’s promoted World Title reigns record! What a coincidence that he wins a championship wearing the same colors as the also successful challengers Bayley and New Day.

Now I’d have just personally given Rollins the clean win. I understand that he was being built to as a fraudulent champion, but beating Cena clean would’ve helped his stock significantly, which would then be passed on to Roman Reigns in the future once he’d dethrone Rollins, and Cena loses nothing from it. Stewart’s interference was a bit botched due to apparent mistiming, but I proved in the previous paragraph that it can be covered with an explanation of conflicting emotions on his part. The commentary team failed to do that, surprisingly because they did an exceptional job calling this match and covering for what otherwise could’ve been perceived as minor botches throughout the match.

With the exception of the Stewart dynamic and an ugly Springboard Stunner, I love everything about this match. The more I think about this match, the more I write about this match, the more I jump back-and-forth through various parts of this match, I fall even more in love with it than before. That is a clear indication of a phenomenal match, and when looking it from that angle, I believe that years down the road, this will be looked upon as fondly as Michaels vs. Mankind at Mind Games. I know I’ve used that match for comparisons to other works of art that had one glaring flaw to prevent perfection, but this match comes incredibly close by having a similar interference direction. Obviously this one had a finish unlike Michaels vs. Mankind, but there are some striking similarities with the closing moments of each match.

Rollins was just fantastic with his abdomen selling, reveling in the NYC audience’s admiration, and giving everything he could to defeat one of the greatest champions of all-time by himself. Cena more than proved his worth as an in-ring performer, selling a prior injury and therefore getting Rollins over as a legitimate menace in the process. These two men scouted each other as always, having a blisteringly competitive contest, desperately going to their wells too often and paying for it. And they lived up to the bloodthirsty New Yorkers’ expectations, having the Barclays Center audience in the palms of their hands from start to finish. If it wasn’t for the awkward/mistimed interference segment involving Stewart, this would absolutely be in the upper-echelon as the company’s best match of the 2015 calendar year, as well as my Road to WrestleMania calendar. This is definitely just as nail-biting of a roller-coaster as Sasha Banks vs. Bayley the night before! ****1/2

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens

I strongly suspect as stated that this was placed before the main event not as a cooldown, but to give Owens as much time as possible to heal and get treatment from the prior night’s ladder match. Unfortunately, I believe this match needed to open the PPV as the audience didn’t emotionally connect with anything in this match despite both men clearly busting their asses for it. Sure, the crowd popped for certain moves, but it became crystal-clear after about 5 minutes that it didn’t really matter to them who won this match.

There were two instances in which Cesaro attempted to show fire and the reaction was tepid at best. One was as he got repeatedly slapped, he snapped and then rapidly slapped Owens to get a comeback. The crowd didn’t give a shit. Later, he sold that he was starting to get an adrenaline rush, taking heavy breaths to display he was about to try to regain control. Again, the audience didn’t care, but honestly, his facial expressions here didn’t feel sincere like we’d see from cream-of-the-crop performers such as Bryan Danielson. Compare this to Danielson’s greatest facial expression of his career at ROH’s Vendetta, angrily trying to not sell Roderick Strong’s painful chops, breathing in and out profusely. Maybe Owens wasn't kidding on the preshow when he declared he'd turn the Cesaro Section into the Silent Section.

Had these guys opened the PPV, I believe there’s a slight chance the crowd would’ve been more into this and these two could’ve had a show-stealer. I certainly believe in that position, they would’ve delivered something better than Sheamus vs. Orton, which is no knock on that particular match.

I’m not gonna make excuses though, other than I believe Owens wasn’t able to keep up his usual pace and heel shtick to his usual standard due to being 24 hours removed from a taxing ladder match. There really are no other valid excuses. Owens received a substantial push on the main roster throughout the entire summer. Cesaro had highly competitive matches against Cena that had some saying MOTYC, with the sequel main-eventing Raw. Cesaro was fed an upset victory over Rusev and then placed in numerous main events on SmackDown! involving Rollins, the champion of the company. This feud itself was given plenty of substantial screen-time, including MizTV which allowed both to have an appropriate amount of promo time. They also competed in two title match opportunities, one of them being for a WWE Title shot.

With ALL of that in their favor, there’s the cherry on top that this match took place in Brooklyn, a smark haven with plenty of educated fans aware of their forged legacies on the independents. And these guys failed to emotionally hook in the audience despite having that huge advantage.

There was nobody angrier about WWE’s failure to maintain the red-hot momentum Cesaro had in 2014. I became quite irritated that Owens for about a month into his WWE main roster career saw his opportunities to contribute verbally get significantly diminished. In spite of that, by the time that the go-home week for this show arrived, both of these men found themselves on a tremendous roll in a hot midcard feud.

I write these reviews because I believe I have a gift to objectively, articulately present the educated insights and passionate fandom that I have for this business. I am not here to provide slanted pieces with clear agendas and transparent excuses to push and favor particular acts, performers, or directions that happen to excite me with no regard for reality and what’s best for business, aesthetics, and connecting with viewers.

I love Cesaro. I love Kevin Owens. Both have proven night after night that they’re tremendous contributors to this industry. On the second biggest night of the year for the biggest company in the industry, under the bright lights of a very favorable New York City, these guys failed to deliver. That is the bottom line.

After such an incredible summer from Cesaro, this was highly disappointing to see from him, and when considering Vince McMahon’s choice of words to describe him several months earlier on The Stone Cold Podcast, I’d be worried about this push continuing. If I’m Vince, I have my ammunition to move on to other projects on the roster. Cesaro did himself no favors, having two months of great momentum, only for it to go back to Owens to reheat him after four losses to Cena and Finn Balor. I sure hope Cesaro still gets another opportunity to show that he can thrive again, because I know he’s a lot better in regards to connecting with the audience than he showed in his performance on this night.

Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker

The match starts hot and heavy, as Lesnar attacks Taker during his entrance routine immediately once he steps inside the ring. Taker still fights back though, catching Lesnar off-guard enough to knock him out of the ring via a big boot and clotheslines, still sporting his trench coat. Loved this as Lesnar has every right to go for the cheap advantage immediately after Taker fucked him out of the WWE Title and then low-blowed him at his Minneapolis homecoming ceremony. This also showed that Taker came ready for battle and wouldn’t succumb to any surprises.

Lesnar steps back in and the opening bell rings, getting a double leg takedown and trying to get alpha on Taker, only for the Dead Man to punch right back for the advantage as the audience engages in dueling chants. Taker goes for his ropewalk shoulder attack, which seemed surprising to happen so early, but Lesnar showed his excellent gameplan by using Taker’s position to attempt an F5. Lesnar knows it’s gonna take more than brute strength this time to get the job done. Works for me.

Taker evades the F5 and tries to go on offense after a boot to the face, only to eat an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, landing in what didn’t look to be very pleasant fashion on his right shoulder. Lesnar than takes him to “Suplex City, bitch!” via one release German Suplex. Taker shows he’s done his due diligence in the film room on the second attempt, stepping forward and causing Lesnar’s face to hit the turnbuckle, busted open in the process. Taker takes advantage with the Snake Eyes then continues the attack when Lesnar takes a powder to gather himself. Taker works the back, which is very smart to make that body part prone for the chokeslam and Last Ride, while also marginalizing the F5, German Suplexes, overhead belly-to-belly suplexes, and possibly even the Kimura Lock if Lesnar can’t hold his position.

Taker looks fatigued, but he wins a brief strike exchange, indicating to me that he knows this will be a brutal marathon if he’s gonna conquer the Beast for the first time in his career. Lesnar regains the advantage though by evading a chokeslam and hitting more release German Suplexes. That cannot possibly be healthy for a 300-pound man in his late 40s. As the audience engages in dueling chants once again, Lesnar sets up a commentary tabe for action, but Taker cuts him off.

Taker’s attempt at a Last Ride backfires badly, as Lesnar deadlifts him in position for a gorgeous F5 onto the table! Taker of course breaks the count and Lesnar’s face of blood and sweat is just disgusting. “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch, c’mon! I’ll kill you.” As Lesnar stands over a fallen Taker, getting cocky, the Dead Man looks up and replies “You’re gonna have to!” Lesnar still remained too cocky, leaving himself open for a successful choke slam. Lesnar quickly gets back up though, only to leave himself open to a Tombstone Piledriver for an obvious nearfall.

This leads to another highlight of the match and terrific long-term storytelling payoff. Both are down on the match exhausted. Lesnar gets up first and laughs just like a year earlier against John Cena, only for Taker to sit back up too and laugh back at him in mocking fashion, looking like a cunt that truly hates Lesnar and is starting to lose his mind over it. The audience goes apeshit for this as they exchange seated strikes.

Lesnar goes for another German Suplex in the corner but Taker evades it, only to get the Kimura Lock on and not listening to the ref. This isn’t good for Lesnar. First of all, he didn’t get the submission locked in fully, so the damage was minimal. Once the referee Charles Robinson got fed up with Lesnar refusing to break the hold, he forced the break, allowing Taker to plant Lesnar with a Last Ride for a tremendous nearfall. Lesnar still has enough energy to quickly get up and deliver an F5, leading to a kickout that surprised him. That makes sense because he’s delivered 3 F5s on Taker so far in the match, the same quantity it took to end the Streak. In addition, one of these F5s was on top of a commentary table. Unfortunately, this was lost on the audience based on their lack of white-hot reaction to the nearfall, and the commentary team failed to bring up this fact as well.

Lesnar hits a 4th F5 (but only counted as a 3rd by Michael Cole on commentary since the first one was outside the ring), which is another nearfall that stunned Lesnar. Lesnar is clearly stunned and contemplating his next move as he lays his left arm on Taker’s fallen body, only to get placed in the Hell’s Gate submission! Taker has been dealt so much punishment though that he loses his grip, and Lesnar takes advantage to get him in the Kimura Lock! Taker rolls forward and Robinson jumps to Lesnar’s left side to check for a pinfall. Lesnar kicks out at 1 and Robinson is out of position to see that Taker’s left hand is moving rapidly, indicating a tap-out victory for Lesnar. The timekeeper rings the bells though, then gets berated by Robinson saying it’s the referee’s job to call for the bell. With Lesnar’s attention also to the timekeeper, Taker gives him a textbook low-blow from behind, then locks in the Hell’s Gate again! Lesnar’s in too much pain to escape, his blood pouring off his forehead again, and Taker demands him to tap out, but Lesnar gives him the middle finger and then passes out, giving Taker his first victory over the Beast, but in a very dirty fashion!

Lesnar and Paul Heyman are hot afterwards, with Heyman declaring Lesnar the actual victor and mockingly ringing the bell numerous times.

This was a hot match, with a hot angle, with a hot crowd, that told an excellent story of two titans that hated each other. The more experienced, grizzled veteran was willing to stoop to any length in his quest for personal redemption towards the man that had ripped away his greatest accomplishment. Lesnar came in at first with guns blazing, falling into Taker’s mind games trap but regaining his composure and bringing the pain to the Phenom. The finish, which received quite a bit of criticism at the time when factoring in the finish of the night’s other marquee match, displayed that Taker had truly become a cunt in his vendetta against Lesnar. He hadn’t stooped to these types of antics in 13 years, ironically months before his first feud against a rookie Lesnar. I’m definitely looking forward to an obvious rematch between these two, even I’d rather these two face other very specific opponents at AT&T Stadium.

This match made something else crystal-clear as well: the ONLY reason they stunk up the joint at the Superdome is because of Taker's concussion in that historic match. As if it wasn't already obvious once that news came out by the next day. ****

Do I need to spell it out? Tremendous show right on par with Takeover: Brooklyn. What an incredible weekend BK got to experience.

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Raw – August 24, 2015: The Good Shit

Earlier today at “WWE World Headquarters in Stamford, CT,” Triple H boasts about SummerSlam 2015 living up to the hype, and then accrediting WWE Champion and new US Champion Seth Rollins for that. The double main event sure lived up to the hype and Rollins was the best performer among the four participants, that’s for sure. He asks for a statue in his honor, which HHH agrees to for tonight. They hug, just rubbing it in that while of course not sexual, this business relationship is beyond professional, especially when comparing to NXT GM William Regal’s interaction with Bayley earlier in the month.

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar kick off the show, both visibly pissed and the latter showing the bumps and bruises from the prior night’s war against Undertaker. Heyman shows the footage of Taker tapping out, then buries Taker’s mystique as a fable and Pavlovian belief. The footage clearly shows that Taker was admitting he could no longer let Lesnar bring the pain and that the Beast is clearly the alpha between the two. Lesnar isn’t pissed at the referee or timekeeper, as they were just doing their jobs in the circumstances presented, with the latter having “compassion” seeing Taker tap out. This is just tremendous, especially when he says he has enough material to keep talking for all 3 hours, which the crowd reacts to with great glee. It continues as Heyman points out Taker’s desperation by going for the low blow and taking the tainted victory. “Brock Lesnar told you G.F.Y.” upon giving Taker the middle finger, and that Taker just can’t hang with him.

Lesnar wants a rematch tonight, which obviously isn’t happening. “Brock ain’t waiting ‘till Hell,” and we’ll do this “Brooklyn style.” That first quote… possible foreshadowing? But Bo Dallas comes out to be incredibly condescending to Lesnar. The response is a visit to Suplex City, with extra ones plus an F5 at Heyman’s request, confirming these two are clearly anti-hero babyfaces at this point. This is clearly a way to appease those who tired of Lesnar just standing next to Heyman when appearing on Raw, and it clearly worked as the crowd kept wanting more.

Braun Strowman debuts as a Wyatt Family member to destroy Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns. Like I could give a shit about such a green horn or even believe there’s any possibility that his size (which is the entire shtick) is gonna move the needle competing against football season and the MLB playoffs.


Guests: Team PCB

Here you go, folks.

Jon Stewart comes out to explain his actions the night before, getting significant appreciation from the NYC audience for it. He simply states his goal wasn’t to help out Rollins, but to prevent Cena from trying Ric Flair’s promoted World Title reigns. “As far as I’m concerned, the champ… is… Flair!” Flair comes out to reveal Stewart fucked up, as he was rooting for Cena. He wants someone that he respects to have the bragging rights when the record is inevitably broken. The crowd disapproves, so Flair responds with “Hey, hey, hey, you don’t gonna like it, you gotta learn to love it because it’s coming from the best thing today, baby. Remember that. Don’t forget… God’s in the house tonight.” Awesome.

These two are just great with their interactions, Stewart regretting not coming to Flair ahead of time for his blessing. Flair says Stewart has “messed up everything” and Cena comes out. He’s tremendous pacing back-and-forth, furious about what happened, while Stewart is tremendously nervous. Make this guy the lead authority figure going forward please. Cena is at peace with not trying Flair’s record; instead, he’s far more pissed that now the US Title is around the waist of Rollins, since now that title also has political poison surrounding it and less guys under the glass ceiling will have opportunities to excel. Everyone here is just perfect, with Flair staying quiet and letting Cena have at Stewart verbally. Stewart says as a fan though, he could not allow Cena to tie Flair’s record and apologize, ever so nervously. He then tries to spin it back saying Cena has a chance to regain the US Title. Cena gives him a receipt in the form of a Release Death Valley Driver, with Flair gazing down at Stewart, embarrassed for him but knowing he made his bed.

Excellent segment allowing Flair and Stewart to give Cena a bit of rub, putting over the promoted Flair record, and putting over the importance of the US Title. In a rarity, Cena was actually pissed about being cheated out of victory, rather than shrugging his shoulders with the assumption that he'll make it right in the near future.

Back from commercial break, Cena says in an impromptu interview with Renee Young he’ll have a talk with Rollins later tonight.

Ryback, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, & Randy Orton vs. Big Show, Rusev, Sheamus, & Kevin Owens – ***

The Authority use Cena’s receipt on Stewart shortly later to throw him out so he doesn’t ruin the presentation of the Rollins statue.

Raw – August 31, 2015: The Good Shit

Sting kicks off the show with mostly an effective promo, making it clear that he at least respected Triple H, but doesn’t respect the pampered WWE Champion Seth Rollins, and he’s coming for that elusive WWE Title. He goes overboard with the HHH respect when saying Rollins isn’t “half the man Triple H is.” Otherwise this was perfect, as Sting made his points passionately and did so in just several minutes, not overstaying his welcome. Puzzling that he got no promo time during the HHH feud.

On the other hand, Rollins being a pampered teenager to his Authority parents does a shitty job of following up on the hard work of Cena the week before, doing no favors to reinforce him as a legitimate menace, and of course devaluing the WWE Title.

Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/4

(I was 100% correct about Cesaro’s lack of crowd connection at SummerSlam 2015. He’s already getting cooled down and only used to reheat Owens.)

The New Day cut an amusing promo trying to shame the Dudleyz from using tables. Not much mileage in that, but they get everything they can out of the shtick. Dudleyz win a non-title match over Big E & Kofi Kingston.

In what could just be a coincidence to ROH’s booking of Jay Lethal and reDRagon, Rollins not only has to defend the WWE Title against Sting, but also the US Title against John Cena at Night of Champions 2015, which is confirmed by Stephanie McMahon. I hate the idea of “all championships are defended” as a gimmick novelty, but in this instance, it worked: Rollins has two titles, he must defend both in separate matches and lick the figurative egg off his face.

Main Event – September 1, 2015

Jack Swagger vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/2

NXT - September 2, 2015: The Good Shit

Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano make their first WWE on-screen appearances, as he books them against Bull Dempsey & Tyler Breeze next week in a first round match of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament.

In a backstage interview, Finn Balor & Samoa Joe are excited to team up in the tournament, but Joe isn’t that subtle in congratulating him for retaining the NXT Title against Kevin Owens. If an inevitable main event feud for the brand’s top title against Fergal Devitt doesn’t motivate Joe to try returning to his greatness of a decade earlier, then nothing will.

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament – 1st Round Match

American Alpha vs. Neville & Solomon Crowe - ***1/4

SmackDown! – September 3, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day kick off with another amusing promo about tables shaming. It becomes the standard, easily forgotten interruption promo involving the Dudleyz and Prime Time Players. New Day are amusing on commentary during the Dudleyz vs. PTP match. They continue to be amusing after the Dudleyz victory. In short: the New Day carry this entire segment and everyone else are just bodies to be mocked, shamed, and laughed at by New Day.

We get back from commercial with the New Day in a jolly mood. They’re stunned when Renee Young informs them they’re facing Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns tonight. Awesome reaction from them.

Sheamus vs. Cesaro – ***

(Cesaro’s cooldown project continues coming out of SummerSlam 2015 as I suspected, but on the other hand, the Money in the Bank contract holder should be given a credible win more often.)

The Wyatt Family tease a match against Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns at Night of Champions 2015. That’ll obviously be a trios match.

Raw – September 7, 2015: The Good Shit

Sheamus interrupts the monotonous, never-ending Seth Rollins promo to remind him he could cash MITB in at any moment, and perhaps it’ll be best to do it at Night of Champions 2015 after both of the champion’s title matches. Makes sense to me.

Backstage, Rollins finds Stephanie but wants to talk to Triple H, who’s in the room too. To prepare Rollins for his upcoming double-duty, he’s doing it tonight, first in singles against Ryback, then teaming later with the New Day against John Cena & Prime Time Players. While the double-duty preparation makes sense for the month’s storyline, this entire direction doesn’t benefit Rollins at all, nor Raw now going up against Monday Night Football starting next week. Rollins was presented once again as going to mommy and daddy for help, then unhappily accepting his matches for the night like a chump, and by pulling double-duty tonight, that’s just more mileage for him, AND it guarantees a THIRD segment for him tonight just at ringside, not even counting any backstage skits. That’s just overexposure. No matter how talented this young man is, he doesn’t have the overwhelming charisma, personality, effective promo ability, and connection yet (and may never) to be showcased as much as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan could before him.

Ryback’s promo about Rollins is interrupted by Kevin Owens, who's surprisingly eating an apple, a healthy food! He doesn’t spit his bites in Ryback’s face like Carlito would, but says to be careful “not to bite off more than you can chew.” Subtle irony here as Owens points out that Ryback looks hungry.

Ryback picks up a win over Rollins when the WWE/US Champion is distracted by Sting, who’s waiting somewhere on the arena premises with the stolen statue. Way to build up credibility for when someone dethrones Rollins, plus Ryback doesn't at least get a strong win to earn a WWE or US Title shot either. Sting’s not presented in the most effective fashion either, using goofy personality traits like a portion of his time spent in TNA.

The Wyatt Family assault Randy Orton after his victory against Sheamus. So much for keeping the MITB contract holder credible. Now I’ve been looking forward to Wyatt vs. Orton as a WrestleMania 32 match. By having this segment already in September, while the reason is obvious to keep him from teaming with Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns at Night of Champions 2015, it tells me that Orton will be Wyatt’s next feud after Reigns, which to me is very obviously concluding at Hell in a Cell 2015. Therefore, no Wyatt vs. Orton at Jerry World; since Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker is reported to have their feud end at the Granddaddy of ‘Em All, that means Sting ain’t getting Taker. Therefore, that telegraphs Sting vs. Wyatt for the Showcase of the Immortals.

Big Show interrupts Cesaro vs. The Miz. Yep, Cesaro’s getting buried again, as he eats a knockout punch from Show. Are we really booking ANOTHER substantial push for Big Show after he was vociferously rejected earlier in the year? Even though Cesaro failed to connect on the second biggest show of the year, does THIS punishment fit the crime?

Seth Rollins, Big E, & Kofi Kingston vs. Prime Time Players

The Xavier Woods Show here, as he delivered his most sensational performance probably since New Day turned heel. He was just on fire as E & Kingston dominated Cena. All the work into making New Day shine seemed to be a waste when Cena easily pinned Kingston at the end, but we gotta make sure Cena is strong. Why not have Cena take the pinfall to Rollins here? It gives Rollins bragging rights, while Cena can say “Congrats, you did it in a trios match after the other guys did all the work. We’ll see what happens at Night of Champions.” Losing a match here and there ain’t gonna hurt Cena, trust me. This match really seemed to book everyone in a corner, as the writers clearly didn’t want Cena to take the pin, it would’ve been ludicrous to have Rollins take his second pin of the night, and PTP were getting the Tag Titles shot next week. Weird match, but worth checking out just for New Day’s performance, Woods in particular.

Then after the match, Sting channels Heath Ledger’s Joker a bit more, dumping the Rollins statue in a dumpster truck. The writers were clearly influenced by The Dark Knight here, as we see a man with his face mainly painted white (not in the sexual way of course), acting a bit loony, and riding alongside a dumpster truck as it takes off. Way too silly of a direction; instead of going in this mind games direction that makes Rollins look like even more of a bitch, how about continuing to focus on Sting’s thirst to capture the elusive WWE Title and that Rollins is gonna do his damnedest to hold onto it despite the circumstances when they collide?

(What these writers should’ve booked on this edition of Raw based on Night of Champions 2015 direction: no double-duty for Rollins. The main event is Rollins & Owens vs. Ryback & Cena with Owens pinning Ryback to earn an IC Title shot since that was clearly a telegraphed program on this night already. Ryback and Owens have a brawl that takes them away from ringside; Cena gives the cocky Rollins a Release Death Valley Driver after Sting has the lights go out, presenting himself in a brooding, mysterious fashion rather than lighthearted dark comedy babyface. Boom, now three title matches for the PPV have just been highlighted without anyone looking like a complete bitch.)

Main Event – September 8, 2015

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens – ***1/2

NXT – September 9, 2015: The Good Shit

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe check on each other to make sure they're ready for tonight’s main event against the Lucha Dragons. No subtlety at all when Joe reminds Balor to not forget his NXT Title.

In their debut match, Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano defeat Bull Dempsey & Tyler Breeze to advance to the quarterfinals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament.

In a backstage interview, Dana Brooke says she made some big sacrifices to be in WWE and wants to become NXT Women’s champion and the best female wrestler on the roster.

New NXT Women’s Champion Bayley returns to Full Sail next week!

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament – 1st Round Match

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe vs. Lucha Dragons

Taped August 25, 2015 in Providence, RI

Quality match here as everyone had chemistry. There’s not much to comment on here other than to say it looks like Joe is really finding his groove again that fans of TNA and the independents were privileged to witness a decade earlier. I’m DEFINITELY interested in a Joe vs. Kalisto singles match at some point. Of course the champ and obvious future #1 contender advance. I do really hate that the show just fades out as Balor & Joe celebrate, not one mention from the commentators or a thrown-in video to promote next week, leaving this feeling much like a tacked on extra on a DVD release. ***1/4

SmackDown! – September 10, 2015: The Good Shit

Sheamus once again warns Seth Rollins that he holds the MITB contract.

The trios match pitting the New Day against Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, & Jimmy Uso is on its way to getting ***+, but Jimmy gets attacked in darkness by the Wyatt Family to send a message like they did using Orton. Would’ve much preferred the babyfaces winning here, do the sports-entertainment shit in the post-match, and have Ambrose & Reigns get a Tag Titles shot next week.

Lumberjack Match

Seth Rollins vs. Ryback

A quality lumberjack match here, making it one of the best ever of course. This one was just booked incredibly. Big Show would attack Ryback and Mark Henry would step in, only to get knocked out and then the babyface lumberjacks would force Show out. There’s that Big Show push all of you were demanding. When the heel lumberjacks would pounce on Ryback, it was noticeable that Kevin Owens just stayed in his spot, seeming either disinterested or with a hidden agenda as his body language displayed as soon as he came to ringside before the match.

Heels would interfere in the ring and attack Ryback, then the babyfaces stepped in. With the match even again, Ryback got the upper hand on Rollins, deadlifting the WWE/US Champ on a Pedigree attempt and getting him in position for the Shell Shocked, but Owens would grabs Ryback’s foot, causing him to trip and for Rollins to finish him off with a Pedigree. It was obvious Owens had something going on in his mind, and he was tremendous during this entire segment, making it clear again that he’s coming for the IC Title. Good action start to finish as well. ***1/4

Raw – September 14, 2015: The Good Shit

The company is clearly concerned already about the season premiere of Monday Night Football, as the Authority confirms Sting competes tonight for the first time ever on Raw. A complete lack of forethought not to have planned this when Sting returned in Brooklyn, as this historic match could’ve possibly popped a rating if advertised a week or so in advance. Sting faces Big Show, by the way. Again, the Big Show push you were all demanding, but it makes sense since he’s familiar with Sting, as much as I’d love to see Sting in dream matches against John Cena, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, or even Kevin Owens. Also, I recall some feeling that Sting is made as less of a big deal by working a match on free TV. Bullshit, as Undertaker has worked plenty of free TV since becoming a part-time special attraction. The Authority are amusing dancing with the New Day after introducing them to the ring.

Big E & Kofi Kingston of course retain the Tag Titles against the Prime Time Players. As usual, Xavier Woods is sensational, using the trombone to provide a sample of the “The Pink Panther Theme.”

Since Seth Rollins is having problems with both, Triple H books Sheamus vs. John Cena tonight. Now this is a match Sheamus can lose without being hurt, as Cena is clearly still a priority, as compared to losing last week to Randy Orton, who’s just running on a midcard treadmill.

Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns inform the Wyatt Family on MizTV that they found a partner for a proper trios match at Night of Champions 2015.

Sheamus vs. John Cena - ***1/2

Kevin Owens mercifully interrupts IC Champion Ryback’s promo, mocking him for regaining his confidence from reading The Secret. Owens says Ryback should’ve never hit rock bottom, because look at him, he’s muscular and got chances handed to him, as compared to Owens, not chiseled, having to scratch and claw for over a decade to get on WWE’s radar. Owens takes exception to Ryback as IC Champion, and when the champ retorts, Owens is great just smugly smirking to dismiss it. Ryback puts Owens over for the journey he took to get to WWE, but Owens scoffs at that respect, and says that while he failed at first, he climbed back to become a success and champion. Owens promises to dethrone him at the first chance, and Ryback confirms they’re having a title match at Night of Champions 2015. Very good dynamic here and quite refreshing for Owens to get substantial promo time again.

Nikki Bella holds onto the Divas Title against Charlotte via Dusty finish, allowing her to break AJ Lee’s record for longest reign in that championship’s history. Stephanie McMahon books a rematch for Night of Champions 2015. The chase for the record and Nikki’s tainted achievement of it are presented as a great deal, so that’s why it’s being mentioned here. But honestly, when considering the following:

The lackluster majority of that title’s existence

The previous usually lackluster Women’s Title that was unified with it in lackluster fashion at Night of Champions 2010

Nikki’s totally lackluster reign since dethroning Lee in lackluster fashion at Survivor Series 2014

The absolutely fucking WRETCHED “Divas Revolution”

I cannot possibly give a shit. That said, I *AM* looking forward to Charlotte’s obvious win coming up so that WWE’s female wrestling division can finally turn the page into being respected and trusted to deliver storylines, segments, and matches that qualify as The Good Shit. Everyone does deserve tremendous credit for selling the emotions of this Dusty finish, I just can’t be won over quite so easily due to the reasons I listed.

Sting vs. Big Show is ruined by Seth Rollins interference but Cena comes to Sting’s aid, leading to an obvious impromptu main event. Once again, a top star pulls double-duty.

Seth Rollins & Big Show vs. Sting & John Cena

A very fun and obviously historic match, as Sting makes the only Raw in-ring competition of his career matter, having a hot finish as he forces Rollins to tap out to the Scorpion Death Lock. Little did we know what a historic novelty this would be.

NXT – September 16, 2015: The Good Shit

Emma & Dana Brooke feel overlooked, vowing to properly introduce the newbies. That’ll be hilarious.

Sasha Banks is in the house!

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Quarterfinal

Rhino & Baron Corbin vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano - ***1/2

New NXT Women’s Champion Bayley has a wonderful Full Sail homecoming, going through the audience and bringing Izzy, a 9-year-old girl who’s her biggest fan, into the ring so they both can pose as champions. Bayley takes care of Sara Dobson in a quick glorified squash, but she allows Dobson a little bit of offense, giving back to those who haven’t reached her heights yet. I’d have just skipped the match entirely and had a homecoming ceremony, as this match made no difference.

Banks interrupts Bayley’s post-match promo, putting over what happened in Brooklyn, but she still feels that it was a fluke. Bayley’s willing to provide a rematch, but Banks wants to prove a point and send a message to the rest of the division, which makes sense based on her attitude during the BK classic. Banks wants to beat Bayley “again and again and again and again.” William Regal grants the rematch they want, as it’ll be Bayley vs. Banks II on October 7 in a 30 Minute Iron Man match at Takeover. In addition, NXT will SHOW, rather than tell, a true “Divas Revolution,” as it’ll be the main event of the evening. Crowd is going apeshit as expected.

SmackDown! – September 17, 2015: The Good Shit

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens

Ziggler marks would point to this as just him getting beaten down again, which is correct. However, Owens did something unfathomable to make Ziggler look like a threat: he sold Ziggler’s jumping DDT significantly. Owens not only rolled out to avoid having to use extra energy on a kick out, but upon getting back in the ring after executing an adrenaline rush Fall Away Slam to Ziggler on a barricade, could barely stand up straight, having to use the ropes to remain upright. It is not impossible to SELL a spectacular bump and compel the crowd in doing so. Also, Owens selling his neck, struggling to get on his own two feet, is quite eerie considering what was to come in three days…

Owens of course talked his usual trash, and when he was about to deliver an apron powerbomb, Ryback got fed up and came to fight him, but Owens of course scurried away to escape the Shell Shocked. At some point I’d appreciate an actual Ziggler vs. Owens feud with significant promo time and storytelling ups and downs, rather than just a series of matches. ***1/4

Seth Rollins & Sheamus vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns

Everything was executed as everyone was obviously asked by the agents and writers, but the direction of the match was completely wrong. I counted a grand spanking total of ZERO references to the Shield’s history, as the commentary focused on the bickering heels and the Ambrose/Reigns program against the Wyatt Family instead. But even Ambrose & Reigns didn’t bring the most compelling story to the ring. Sure, have Rollins & Sheamus bicker based on the WWE Title picture. Then why didn’t Ambrose & Reigns troll the heels, specifically Rollins, and take great joy over that bickering? How about Ambrose taking advantage of Rollins bickering, dishing out grinding forearms and vicious strikes, telling Rollins “Don’t be looking past us, Seth. We ain’t forgotten what you did.” Another great piece of trolling from Reigns to Rollins would be “That’s right Seth, you left us high and dry to be alone at the top. Now you can’t even trust Sheamus to stop us!” "You screwed Dean and me to beecome the champion, now you have to stand on your own two feet! I ain't forgot about WrestleMania!"

Obviously, I’m getting fed up with the interactions between Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns that fail to enhance the history between them and make the crowd salivate for the inevitable main roster dream match between the three. I don’t care for matches between storied opponents just being thrown out to fill TV time or have their histories completely ignored just to sell another story. If a new viewer were watching WWE for the very first time tonight, he would have ZERO clue that the Shield ever existed, let alone had an ugly split. That’s unacceptable storytelling, and quite frankly, I believe all these meaningless, thrown-together TV matches involving the three are a major reason why there’s some small backlash against the dream threeway to come in the future.

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Night of Champions 2015: The Good Shit
Preshow notes:
Kevin Owens gives a great interview dismissing all the IC Champions of the past, saying tonight’s focus is solely on his acquisition of another prize.
Booker T. at the analyst table hopes for Rusev to become a killer again and stop worrying about honeys. If the writers know that Rusev’s stock has fallen from this, why not just go back in that direction?
Cosmic Wasteland vs. Neville & Lucha Dragons - ***1/4
New Day dismiss Tom Phillips from their Twitter Q&A. Tremendous responses to every question. Xavier Woods could not be any more of a douche-bag the way he has his hair styled and colored. Reminds me of a bushy Chris Jericho in the early 2000s.
And now, the PPV portion.
IC Title Match
Ryback vs. Kevin Owens
Very good pop for Owens when his music hits. Ryback dominates early but Owens gains control when he gives Ryback’s left arm a takedown on the top rope. This becomes the story of the match as Owens just targets Ryback’s left arm and shoulder with various strikes, bombs, and submissions. When Ryback made a comeback, he hit a couple left shoulder charges, but due to the pain, used his right arm the rest of the way. Owens managed to get out of the Shell Shocked since Ryback didn’t have enough strength in his shoulders; on a second attempt, Owens raked the eyes since the referee was out of position and captured his first IC Title to a wonderful pop! ***
Well that definitely means there’s been a change in plans for Lesnar and Taker at WrestleMania 32. Perhaps we will finally get Taker, once labeled the "Conscience of the WWE" colliding against a certain WCW franchise icon? Can a certain goat-faced workhorse get cleared and we also get the greatest David vs. Goliath dream match of all-time?
The New Day cut their typically entertaining pre-match promo, including spoofing State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” slogan. Big E & Kofi Kingston retain the Tag Titles when Xavier Woods interferes for a blatant disqualification. Obviously the title change will be at MSG for a perfect Dudleyz homecoming.
Of course, the New Day are hypocrites and get the tables to assault the Dudleyz. It backfires when Woods eats a 3D to the crowd’s delight. Dudleyz getting their heat back further telegraphs a title change in a rematch at MSG.
Divas Title Match – No Champion’s Advantage
Nikki Bella vs. Charlotte
Charlotte is able to overcome taunting, mockery, and a tweaked knee that Nikki targeted like Owens did to Ryback’s left shoulder earlier in the evening, to mercifully bring the lackluster reign to an end, and more importantly, begin the next chapter of women’s wrestling. At least that’s the theory on paper. Why should I have faith in WWE actually DOING a change in direction, when they spent the last two months just TALKING about it? I do notice that Ric Flair and Becky Lynch are overjoyed for Charlotte, while Paige just applauds politely.
In another great backstage interview, new IC Champ Kevin Owens completely deflects from the eye rake controversy, instead choosing to bury Ryback for reading self-help books and boast about having a prize again.
Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, & Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose, Chris Jericho, & Roman Reigns
Not much of a surprise for the mystery opponent, but it works since Jericho is a novelty and has history with the Wyatts.
Perfectly executed match. After the babyfaces started with hot fire, the Wyatt Family cut the ring in half on Reigns, telling the story of him taking a beat down for a hot tag rather than play cleanup hitter. It really worked in this match as the crowd, which was actually a great crowd all night, was rooting for Reigns to make the hot tag.
Once the hot tag was made, the match became an action-packed firecracker, with Ambrose in particular bringing the punishment. It eventually broke down to Strowman vs. Reigns, and the apparent heir to John Cena’s throne was scraping out a victory, including knocking down the new titan with a spear. As he prepared for a Superman Punch in the corner, Jericho tagged himself assuming he'd be fresher, having seen that Reigns was still sore from playing the FIP earlier. This proved to be costly, as Jericho didn’t have the firepower to stop Strowman, passing out in the bear hug.
Post-match, Jericho just left without explanation, bumping shoulders unpleasantly with Ambrose, all of them bummed out. ***1/2
After the Authority give WWE/US Champion Seth Rollins a pep talk, Sheamus reminds them that his MITB contract is still looming. It’s time for our double main event.
US Title Match
Seth Rollins vs. John Cena
Easily the match of the night. On repeat viewings, this fell off a bit due to Cena’s early sloppy punches and a moment later when Rollins was in position to deliver his jumping corkscrew roundhouse kick, but stood momentarily and grabbed at Cena, exposing that the plan was for Cena to back-drop him.
This was still a very good match with a tremendous crowd, one that was so good that once Rollins got comfortable after dominating early, having an answer to everything Cena was dishing out, he wasted time soaking in the atmosphere, going in 360 degrees as the crowd did the wave in sync with him. Of course, the first-ballot HOFer Cena pounced right on it with a schoolboy attempt, showing Rollins needed to remain disciplined and not let up on his control.
There were a number of highlights in this match, including a failed High Fly Flow from Rollins, Cena countering a Buckle Bomb attempt with a hurricanrana that caused Rollins to bounce spine and neck-first off of the turnbuckles, and a somersault plancha fairly early from Rollins to keep the punishment coming to Cena. But the answer became clear in the finishing stretch as to whether Rollins could defeat Cena on his own, and it was a resounding no, falling to the Release Death Valley Driver and allowing Cena to pick up where he left off after a brief interruption to his US Title run. Rollins gave his all to hold onto it though, rather than throwing the match away for the more important WWE Title defense coming up immediately afterwards. This showed the pride he took in being a champion, his thirst to maintain the bragging rights as a dual champion and sabotaging Cena to boot, and in the process put over the importance of the US Title, which I deeply appreciate. ***3/4
Post-match, Rollins attempts to just leave with the WWE Title, but Cena says it’s time to back up what he signed for. Cena gives the WWE Champ a Release Death Valley Driver on the floor, throwing him into the ring. I’m sure Cena was happy to see Rollins have to back his double-duty shit-talk like Jay Lethal on the same weekend or Christopher Daniels in the beginnings of ROH, for he, Dolph Ziggler, Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Low Ki had been booked in multiple matches and went through with them, often with smiles on their faces, welcoming the challenge, and overcoming the adversity.
WWE Title – Sting’s Final Match
Seth Rollins vs. Sting
Another match that fell off a bit, as this was quite sloppy but for very understandable reasons. I’ve made it clear time and time again that I’m tired of wrestlers working multiple matches on the same card, especially both matches being singles. So it made sense that Rollins couldn’t go at the killer speed as the prior match, which was truly PPV quality.
After Sting dominated early over the fatigued, damaged Rollins, the champ got the advantage and perhaps set the unfortunate wheels in motion for what was to come less than 15 minutes later. Sting was shoved and took a commentary table bump, and his head came AWFULLY close to hitting a monitor and almost giving him a concussion. Of course, based on the circumstances of what was soon to unfold in front of this excellent Houston crowd, a concussion here, thus causing the match to immediately end, would’ve actually been a blessing.
Sting took so long to get up that the referee stopped the 10 count on both men, and Rollins considered just leaving with the title, looking like he’d possibly win by medical stoppage. Once Sting was up though, the closing bell not rung yet, the champion pounced on the HOFer (which I’m so glad I can use in reference to the Stinger now.) Sting was valiant though, shoving the still-fatigued champ off the apron to the barricade, allowing himself to make a comeback. Sting was very good in this portion of the match, but he was poor earlier delivering hope spots, if any, when Rollins had some control prior to this, and the commentary table bump can’t be solely blamed for that.
When Rollins started regaining control, Sting clenched his own fists and wiggled his arms a bit while lying on the mat, indicating there could be an issue with his neck or shoulders. With the biggest prize in the industry on the line though, he kept going, until the shitty occupational hazard side of this industry kicked in, eating a Buckle Bomb and suffering a legitimate neck injury, and struggling to stay upright, not having the ability to run without collapsing.
After attention from the doctor, Sting keeps it going, even though he knew his name would never get to be added to the WWE Title lineage, wanting to give the paying fans a fight to the bitter end. He blocked two Pedigree attempts from Rollins, turning both into Scorpion Deathlocks. The first was applied poorly since Sting could barely stand on his own two feet, and his injury caused him to over-rotate the second time, allowing Rollins to roll him up for the three and, seeing how scary this is, along with the fact that Sting would be 56 years of age at the time of this match, officially bringing an absolutely epic era to an abrupt conclusion. Gotta be crushing for Rollins as Sting was one of his favorites growing up; he isn’t alone in feeling that emotion.
Sting is able to walk to the back with help from medical staff, and Sheamus comes out to Yakuza Kick the gloating Rollins. Before he can officially cash in the MITB contract, Kane’s music hits and Sheamus avoids using his title shot, not wanting Kane to ruin it. Kane chokeslams Rollins and Sheamus asks for him to do it again and allow Sheamus an ever easier WWE Title victory, but Kane just does it to Mr. MITB instead. I didn’t buy into Sheamus not shrugging Kane off; perhaps that’s because I’m not buying ANOTHER Kane push in 2015, and thus this is the final time I cover the Rollins vs. Kane feud.
Damn good show that’s required for abrupt historical purposes.
This would happen to be the first domino falling to obliterate my dream WrestleMania 32 card, since although it was unlikely to happen, Sting vs. Undertaker was one of the marquee matches I envisioned. It was just never meant to be, and I’ve come to grips with that, instead appreciating what we as wrestling fans DID get for 30 years. This also cancels Sting's actual planned match, confirming the conclusion I had jumped to earlier in the month, courtesy the Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

For Undertaker, a Sting match at this point is not just questionable because of the uncertainty of Sting’s injuries, but it’ll mean far less with Sting having lost his first two WWE matches. Sting was expected to face Bray Wyatt at Mania, but he was since taken out of the angle that would start to set him up for that match.

I’m not going to even try to do justice to Sting’s career. There are better people to do that than me, even if I was to try. I cannot do justice to his Hall of Fame career that spanned three decades.
Since I “grew up” as a viewer and started writing reviews four years ago, I’ve only managed to see three of Sting’s matches, none of them from the 20th Century, none of them from WCW, none of them even from the 2000s decade. Because of that, I don’t have the proper perspective to go as in-depth into what Sting contributed to this business as I’d like to. What I will instead do is explain what he meant to me as a 10-year-old boy that was introduced to this wacky form of entertainment, and why he left the business in a state better than before he came into it.
I’ve been a wrestling fan since November 1997, I believe a week after the Montreal Screwjob. I can remember exactly who the childhood friend is that converted me into a wrestling fan. (Ironically enough, he’s now a resident of the DFW metro area.) I firmly believe after all these years that the reason I latched onto wrestling is because it was a natural crossover form of entertainment to me, as I have always been a HUGE fan of fighting games since my mother introduced me to Mortal Kombat during my early days of elementary school (proving that mother knows best as she accurately assumed I’d love that video game.)
I couldn’t have jumped onto the pro wrestling bandwagon at a more appropriate time, as I was first introduced to WCW right as the historic, highly anticipated Starrcade 1997 was just several weeks away. While I now wish I had been introduced much sooner to capture the birth of the nWo and experience the iconic Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin feud in real-time, it was really perfect timing to hook me during the thick of the War.
Within a month, having also discovered the World Wrestling Federation right as it was unleashing its Attitude Era, I can think of the four wrestlers that immediately grabbed me for different reasons, all of them babyfaces at the time: Sting, Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, and Rey Mysterio. Of the four, Sting was easily my favorite wrestler at first, partially due to the meticulous ascension he was taking towards finally thwarting the New World Order, and my parents, despite me only being a fan for a month, ordered Starrcade 1997 for me as a Christmas gift.
Those of you reading this are well-aware of what a shit-show that PPV turned out to be. I’m not gonna dig into the details here, as the Observer exists for that reason, and the fine duo over at the Lapsed Fan Wrestling Podcast will cover it tremendously in the coming weeks, hopefully by the time I’m in Dallas. Despite what a wretched abomination that event turned out to be, and being the naïve boy I was at the time, I was happy to see Sting win the WCW Title, not fully grasping the shady antics to undermine him that had occurred in his iconic showdown against Hulk Hogan.
There is a VERY good chance that if not for Sting, I may have never been converted to a lifetime pro wrestling fan. None of you would be reading this, would’ve ever met me, if it wasn’t for Sting. While my favorites would change as time went on, I always still liked him, rooted for him, and eventually gained a deep respect for him as I got older, a respect that was legitimately earned by him. I know I’m not alone in this case, as there are numerous fans who express the same, such as LeBron James, Kevin Hart, Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan, Shelton Benjamin, and Bray Wyatt, who stated when discussing the possibility of what would turn out to be a planned match at WrestleMania 32, “I have to have [that] before I die; I don't care if it happens outside a Waffle House, somewhere.” Sting was also held in such regard that when the Dwayne Johnson was pitched a match against Shawn Michaels for WrestleMania 21, the Rock instead suggested to work a match against Sting or Randy Savage.
Since I became a reviewer in May 2012, the 3 matches I’d seen involving Sting were obviously way past his peak; two of them I saw live, the other on broadcast as his career abruptly ended. The first time I saw him perform was in a totally meaningless Lethal Lockdown match at Lockdown 2013 in San Antonio, shortly before I returned home to Seattle. While I was happy to see him live at least once considering I never saw Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Eddie Guerrero, or Kenta Kobashi, the match still left a lot to be desired for me as a Sting fan and it wasn’t his fault. Thankfully the chickens finally came home to roost for that federation, causing Sting to make his elusive WWE debut and allowing me to see him in a much more satisfying match against Triple H at WrestleMania 31. For that, I feel both privileged and grateful, and I believe I did that dream match justice when I reviewed it at the beginning of this Road to WrestleMania 32 project.
Sting’s influence obviously cannot be denied on the industry, including names such as Kane, Goldust, Bill Goldberg, Tyson Kidd, and AJ Styles. His fingerprints are still felt today both as a persona and in-ring character. There’s the argument that he took too long to develop into a quality promo, that he wasn’t the most effective draw, and sometimes was too lackadaisical to be considered a Hall of Famer.
When arguing about his HOF candidacy, I point to Sting’s importance during the War, drawing the biggest box office in WCW history, and his legendary feud against Ric Flair as evidence of his drawing power. Once he, AJ Styles, and Bad Influence departed TNA, Impact ratings dipped significantly enough to get phased out by SpikeTV. In every locker room, from the grimy territories, to Jim Crockett Promotions, to WCW, to TNA, and ending in WWE, there won’t be one piece of shade thrown in Sting’s direction. Like another favorite wrestler of mine that I’ll be reflecting on later in this Road to WrestleMania 32 journey, Steve Borden was by all accounts too good for this business, the consummate professional and quality human being that is so rare to see in an industry with carnival roots.
Professional wrestling is better because of Steve Border’s contributions as Sting, both on and off the screen, inside and outside of the ring. While his spot in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame still eludes him, I am ecstatic to know that WWE will honor him in his new hometown of Dallas, and he will get his moment in front of nearly 100,000 loved ones, peers, and devoted fans at WrestleMania 32.
While I have no plans to attend his induction ceremony, I greatly anticipate being in attendance at AT&T Stadium to give him his deserved Hall of Fame pop. I didn’t quite realize six months ago when his career ended how much Sting meant to me a wrestling fan. It is with tears in my eyes today that should he ever read this, I have only a simple statement for him:
Thank you, Sting. Thank you for everything. Thank you for drawing me into this wacky business and causing me to fall in love with professional wrestling. Thank you for proving that sometimes our childhood idols actually are good, respectful, kind-hearted, God-fearing people. There will never be another one like you.

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Raw – September 21, 2015: The Good Shit

Why is Ryback vs. Bo Dallas worth watching? New IC Champion Kevin Owens on commentary, of course. I need say no more. Hope this Owens vs. Ryback feud doesn’t go all the way through Hell in a Cell 2015, though.

Big E, Kofi Kingston, & Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler & Dudleyz

One of the most entertaining matches of the entire year. New Day have the most entertaining promo of their feud against the Dudleyz, outraged over Xavier Woods being put through a table the night before. They even pose with Rusev during his pre-match routine.

Highlights include Woods playing Rusev’s theme on the trombone, New Day going crazy over Rusev’s dominance, and even a brief encounter between Rusev and Bubba, which I’m in agreement with JBL in hoping for a singles match between the two in the future. All of that paled to the peak of the segment though, in which Summer Rae started playing along and dancing to the rhythm of Woods on the trombone, clearly having fun. A refreshing visual for Raw.

In case anyone wonders why ratings dwindled severely and many fans had moved on to doing more interesting things with their leisure time, Big Show squashes Cesaro and cuts a promo on Brock Lesnar. Cesaro’s crime at SummerSlam 2015 doesn’t fit this punishment, as him having a shot at the Beast would be far more interesting to the New Yorkers at MSG on October 3, especially since he’s a far more recent Heyman guy. Don’t try to sell me on “the masses” caring about this Big Show push, as most lapsed casuals would see this and roll their eyes at the lack of fresh faces on top. Astonishing that Kane and Big Show get pushed AGAIN in 2015, this time in a lazy, pathetic attempt to lure viewers away from Monday Night Football.

US Title Match

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins

This is booked by Kane and that’s all the detail I’ll provide since I’m not discussing the Rollins vs. Kane feud. Rollins is selling the pain of the prior night’s double-duty and attacks Cena immediately to offset that. Rollins dominated as usual in his matches against Cena, who would look for any moment possible to finish off Rollins. This understandably lacked the heat of their prior 3 matches, and why wouldn’t it? This was a meaningless match that everyone knew wouldn’t have a title change. The ending sums it up perfectly, as they channel the Electric Chair Drop Face Plant and Rollins successful High Fly Flow with weak abdomen from their SummerSlam 2015 work of art, resulting in Cena rolling from it immediately and planting Rollins with a Release Death Valley Driver for the victory. Why even have this match here, rather than a promo segment hyping up a rematch at MSG? ***

NXT – September 23, 2015: The Good Shit

Kana makes her debut as she’s welcomed by NXT GM William Regal, and displays that her stage name going forward is Asuka. Her enthusiasm feels incredibly authentic, igniting an NXT chant as she says this is a dream come true. Most importantly, she says she’s here to become NXT Women’s Champion and then signs the contract with Regal as Full Sail chants for her.

This moment is course interrupted by Emma & Dana Brooke. “Asuka’s gonna kill you!” from the crowd, and they’re completely condescending towards Asuka and tell her to leave the ring, which she obliges. But at the entrance ramp, she simply turns around and smirks at them, letting them know with one simple facial expression that they fucked with the wrong motherfucker. Terrific buyer’s remorse body language and facial expression from Emma & Brooke. Terrific debut segment that set the wheels in motion for the end game of Asuka getting a championship match on a particularly important, if not THE most important, weekend of the year.

Tyler Breeze is miserable when asked to comment on his match against Apollo Crews at Takeover: Respect, and the joyful Crews rubs that misery in his face.

American Alpha cut a vastly improved promo, although it’s odd to see that Chad Gable never looks directly at the camera, while Jason Jordan does.

The show ends with a Finn Balor & Samoa Joe promo, with the most notable part saying “Ain’t that right, champ?” as Joe slaps the NXT Title, which briefly catches Balor off-guard.

SmackDown! – September 24, 2015: The Good Shit

New Day punk out some geek backstage in an amusing little segment.

Cesaro eeks out a win over Bo Dallas. You read that correctly. Let’s move on.

IC Champion Kevin Owens is amusing stealing some spotlight during his partner Rusev’s pre-match routine. Why can’t every wrestler be this dedicated to the most minute details of their persona?

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - ***

Ambrose wins via O’Connor Roll when Kane does his lights out shtick to distract Rollins. That right there is what kills SmackDown! ratings – the champion gets pinned and yet the winner gets no title shot stemming from this match, because we just gotta push Kane. I’m trying to avoid the Rollins vs. Kane feud, dammit.

Raw – September 28, 2015

One of the most pitiful efforts of the year from WWE. Remember that Raw has ratings competition against Monday Night Football too.

NXT – September 30, 2015: The Good Shit

A terrific Asuka video package airs that I’m unable to find posted by WWE.

NXT GM William Regal grants Dana Brooke a match against Asuka at Takeover: Respect, then shows her and Emma some footage of her that scares the shit out of them, killing their cockiness. Emma hilariously wishes Brooke “good luck with that.” Back from commercial break, Asuka’s footage of her is shown just kicking a punching bag and smiling.

American Alpha once again display that they’ve developed into a solid, effective promo duo and they get interrupted by the Revival, both teams debating on who will fail to advance to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Final next week.

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Tyler Breeze – ***1/4

Rhino & Baron Corbin are way too confident in themselves about winning the tournament.

Takeover: Respect lineup

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Semifinals

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe vs. The Revival

American Alpha vs. Rhino & Baron Corbin

Asuka's WWE Debut Match

Asuka vs. Dana Brooke

Apollo Crew vs. Tyler Breeze

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Final

NXT Women’s Title – 30 Minute Iron Man Match

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

SmackDown! – October 1, 2015: The Good Shit

Live From Madison Square Garden: The Good Shit

Of note are that Sheamus & Rusev had an ugly post-match after losing a tag match together.

Paul Heyman cuts a great backstage promo, promising MSG becomes Suplex City tonight.

IC Title – Dream Match

Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho – ***1/4

New Day cut a very good pre-match promo and then hold onto the Tag Titles over the Dudleyz, who are either toast, or their elusive 10th Tag Title victory under the WWE umbrella is being held for a stage more important than their hometown. Whatever, the sooner they turn heel for when the Usos return and also face Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns, the better.

Raw – October 5, 2015: The Good Shit

Tremendous opening segment as Paul Heyman & Brock Lesnar air footage from WrestleMania XXX and SummerSlam 2015. Heyman is absolutely magnificent articulating Undertaker’s consistent last laugh over the past quarter century, but had yet to do so against Lesnar. He says that Hell in a Cell isn’t Taker’s match, it’s Lesnar’s match! Without it being mentioned, that would be a fact, as Lesnar defeated Taker in their genre-defining first match inside the Cell 13 years earlier. This will be the end of their feud, as they’re never crossing paths again, one will ascend as the victor, the other will be left conquered.

Big Show comes out right at Heyman’s promo ends, bringing a bit of a buzzkill to this segment. But it just turns out to be an excuse to keep Lesnar from standing by Heyman’s side, as Show is rejected when offering respect. That fits Lesnar’s gimmick, and him blowing off Show fits in perfectly with the Go to Hell Tour as well. Show trolls Lesnar about losing to Taker “again,” so Lesnar makes him pay.

Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, & Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, & Randy Orton – ***1/2

New Day lay out US Champion John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, and the Dudleyz. This is New Day overload, and the time wasn’t right to turn them into a grittier threat. That time will come, but this reeked of Vince McMahon becoming a New Day fan and giving way too much of a dose of them to the audience, desperate against the ratings-magnet Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

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NXT Takeover: Respect

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Semifinal

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe vs. The Revival

Dash Wilder goes for the early advantage, knocking Balor off the apron when the match starts, but Joe cuts off pretty quickly. Wilder quickly regains control though and Revival briefly cuts the ring in half on him, building to a semi-hot tag. When Balor gets involved, he’s a house of fire at first, laying in his usual arsenal and neutralizing both by himself, highlighted by a somersault plancha.

Wilder would distract Balor though, allowing Scott Dawson to chop-block his left knee and the Revival were just vicious on Balor, feasting on that body part. Submissions, banging it against the ring post, wrapping it around the ropes, the Revival would not let up on Balor. With Balor playing the FIP, a much more significant hot tag was built, which made perfect sense since Joe works more of a powerhouse style. But when it looked like it’d happen, Wilder removed Joe off the apron, continuing the ring to be cut in half on Balor.

The Revival ultimately cost themselves the match when Wilder got tagged in, then wanted to tag Dawson back in seconds later for assumedly more double-teamed work. Dawson was still dazed from a Balor blow though, so while Wilder was trying to reach him, this allowed Balor to break the grasp and get the hot tag on Joe, who quite easily finished off Wilder with a musclebuster. In another moment of stupidity, but perhaps because he believed the Revival needed an extra finishing touch, Balor requested to be tagged in, to which Joe obliged, and Balor followed-up on the musclebuster with the double foot stomp, further harming his damaged left knee in the process as he went for the victorious cover while Joe kept Dawson away.

Quality opener here that put the Revival on the map and showed that Balor, after a bit of a dry spell as a babyface character in the build to the rubber match against Kevin Owens, may actually have a calling in filling Dolph Ziggler’s spot at some point. That spot would be as a babyface that can take a sympathetic beating with the added bonus that Ziggler lacks, which is to make believable comebacks, while also selling the damage. ***1/4

New tag champs please!

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournment Semifinal

American Alpha vs. Rhino & Baron Corbin

American Alpha eventually gain the advantage on Rhino by targeting his left arm, showcasing their spectacular teamwork, the highlight being a double Northern Lights Suplex. Eventually the smaller Chad Gable found himself playing the FIP when Corbin attacked him on the outside. The heels were a bit dry when working on Gable, especially following the Revival’s far more focused, purposeful attack in the prior match.

Once Gable got the hot tag on Jason Jordan, the match became a breakout for American Alpha and advanced Corbin’s improvement. There were all kinds of great moves and technique vs. power battles in this one, and the highlight of the match came down to Gable vs. Corbin, as the former managed to hit a Chaos Theory on the latter! The damage Gable ate earlier though became too much once Rhino took out Jordan, allowing Corbin to hit the End of Days on a failed shoulder rotation move by the fatigued Gable.

Definitely American Alpha’s breakout match, and Gable was incredibly over. He could very easily be a future NXT Champion before being promoted to the main roster should he and Jordan pursue singles careers. I know many were saying AA should’ve advanced due to how over they were, I say the same but for a different reason: one of the regular teams should’ve advanced, and it makes most sense for Rhino to take a pin rather than Balor, Joe, or Corbin based on booking goals. Still very good booking overall though that got everyone over more than before. ***1/4

Asuka’s WWE Debut Match

Asuka vs. Dana Brooke

Glorified squash here to present Asuka as a killer. She tried to play nice at first but Brooke wanted to troll and play mind games which magnificently backfired. Asuka was on her like white on rice, including rolling along with Brooke to maintain a hammerlock early. Asuka showed that she’s not here to be Bayley, as she also mocked Brooke’s antics, turning the mind games back on the fitness model. Emma had to bail Asuka out, but the writing was on the wall as soon as Asuka easily escaped a body-scissors submission. Once she got the armbar on, Brooke rolled over, and Asuka used the positioning to lock on a Danielson-style Crossface Chickenwing, it was all over. Post-match, Asuka knocks the shit out of Brooke for trying to be a sore loser, then intimidates Emma on her way out. Spectacular segment that fired on all cylinders.

I like what this is teasing...

Apollo Crews vs. Tyler Breeze

Crews dominated early with his size, power, and agility, including a shoulder charge on the floor. It would take an elbow to the face and running into a turnbuckle to allow Breeze to gain control, giving him the opportunity to dump Crew to the outside vis a schoolboy roll. On the outside, Breeze tossed Crews towards the ring’s electronic board and Crews landed back-first on it.

This allowed Breeze to target the back and neutralize the agility of Crews, who had difficulty sustaining a comeback because of it. After a modified Lungblower, Scorpion Death Lock, and other work on the back, Crews countered a cross-body attempt with a powerslam, then managed to military press slam Breeze, but the NXT veteran grabbed the legs of Crews, who shook him off. Breeze then got his knees into the gut of Crews during the follow-up moonsault. Breeze ultimately cost himself the major singles victory that had eluded him in 2015 by becoming predictable with multiple corner charges. Crews scouted it and hit a Yakuza kick and wasted no time getting his combination military press slam and moonsault on the dazed Breeze. ***1/2

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament Final

Finn Balor & Samoa Joe vs. Rhino & Baron Corbin

Dusty’s daughter-in-law Eden Stiles does the introductions.

Balor started the match so that he and Joe would prove his left knee was good to go. This seemed to work for a while as Balor held his ground about the heels. Once Joe got tagged in, he ended up playing the FIP for a bit as he appeared to his lower back during a chokeslam variation by Corbin. When Balor got tagged in, he was good until he re-aggravated his left knee and Rhino chop-blocked him.

With Balor’s knee acting up, Corbin went to work on it, copying the Revival’s steel post slam attack from earlier and beating on the NXT Champion. But Balor got too cocky like usual, gloating over his control and predictably running the ropes to deliver a punch, which the champ scouted to deliver a Sling Blade. Balor got the hot tag to Joe as Rhino got tagged in, and Joe owned the former ECW Champion. Balor took care of Corbin on the outside, using his right leg to finish the former gridiron player with a soccer kick, and got tagged in so Rhino could eat a combination musclebuster and double foot stomp, just like the semifinal match. Joe is genuinely giddy over the victory. Damn good tag team wrestling here that I’m sure would’ve made Dusty proud, and a major breakout night for Corbin. ***1/2

Post-match, the Rhodes family celebrate with Balor & Joe for the trophy presenation, with Dustin and Cody there, the latter willing to drop the Stardust nonsense because of how important this is. Cody says that tonight, “we are all Rhodes.” A tremendous segment, the first part that defined the name of this event.


NXT Women’s Title – 30 Minute Iron Man Match

Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

Bayley is donning the red and gold colors of the Iron Man character, while Banks is decked in pink and yellow, which she apparently wore when breaking into the business in 2010. They soak in the moment and audience adulation to use up an entire minute, and the atmosphere is quite electric, with chants such as “Main event!” and “You deserve it!” directed at both women.

The two lockups at the beginning are quite sensational, neither appearing to be in any hurry to unleash an offensive flurry, realizing that this is a marathon. After the feeling out process though they have sensational pinfall variation attempts, including a jackknife, La Magistral Cradle, and backslide, just to name a few. They have to be given credit for covering a bitch perfectly, as Banks didn’t get a full rotation for a Sunset Flip, so she immediately just went for a standard cover.

This sequence ended when Banks dropkicked Bayley into the corner. Banks landed nastily on her left shoulder during an overhead arm drag, but she valiantly kept going, not wanting to piss away such a historic opportunity. They displayed some terrific scouting of each other, as Banks quickly shoved herself from a belly-to-belly suplex. Bayley goes a bit overboard with the respect, allowing Banks to catch her off guard but the champ regains control, causing Banks to take a powder.

Bayley doesn’t let up though, knowing she has to stay aggressive when there’s potential blood in the water. Banks rolls her up though but gets caught with her feet on the ropes, then blocks the ref’s vision to deliver an eye poke for the 1-0 advantage. A tremendous first fall.

Banks gives Bayley no rest period, so the champ matches the intensity, but a face crush attempt in the corner backfires, allowing the challenger to regain control They continue cutting off major moves for each other, only for Bayley to hit a belly-to-belly suplex for a 1-1 tie. The challenger takes a powder immediately to sell the finisher.

Bayley makes the mistake of going for dropkicks on the outside, as Banks scouted it from earlier in the match, caught her, and slammed her into the steel steps. Banks repeats the steel staps slamming, then talks shit to Izzy for incredible crowd heat. Bayley continues kicking in despite the pain, then tweaks her knee when tossed to the outside. We then get a highlight as Banks throws Bayley into an LED board, then steals the hair bow from Izzy, getting a count out fall for a 2-1 lead, mocks Izzy, throws the bow back, and in the process gets PHENOMENAL heel heat!

Bayley ensures she’s not counted out again, but Banks keeps the attack, getting cocky and mocking Bayley while targeting her back. This is just tremendous as the crowd are having the vintage dueling chants regarding Banks. She shows off her film study by talking shit to Bayley in the corner; the champ attempts to kick her, only for Banks to use the positioning to deliver a backbreaker! They have a tremendous near-fall as Banks locks on a standing Boston Crab, then stomps Bayley’s arm to move on. Banks goes for it again though and pays for it, as Bayley rolls her up for a 2-2 tie.

The champ evades double knees to the back to regain control, hitting an ugly reverse Sling Blade, but it worked since she pulled the hair of Banks. She keeps selling exhaustion and back pain, showcasing what should make her a huge star on the main roster. They exchange Tree of Woe strikes, first Bayley giving an elbow drop, and a minute or so later Banks regaining control and delivering the double knees successfully, more than 20 minutes into this classic.

Bayley does a sit-up in another Tree of Woe, allowing the charging Banks to crash her left shoulder into the steel ring post. That ain’t a good sign after the bad landing early on the overhead arm drag. Bayley gets some poetic justice from Brooklyn, slamming the left hand of Banks on the steel steps, selling the progression of a killer instinct. Bayley evades another charge from the desperate banks, and Banks for it by eating a left arm takedown, causing more pain on that side of her body, neck to hand. Banks experiences her left hand being smashed on the steel steps again, then Bayley runs on the steps for a running forearm attack, further selling her killer instinct, but Banks shoves her towards the steps.

Banks attempts a suicide dive, but gets caught and eats a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor! That’s a nearfall in the ring, and would’ve been a decision had it not happened on the outside. Crowd is going crazy chanting “Iron woman!” Once again, Bayley is selling her back from the work of Banks earlier, struggling to mount the challenger on the top rope and capitalize. After the struggle, Bayley hits a Super Belly-to-Belly Suplex, but Banks is too close to the ropes on the pinfall!

Just a few minutes remain and both are absolutely spent with a 2-2 tie. They have a SENSATIONAL near-fall as Banks lands on her feet when Bayley executes a Super Reverse Hurricanrana, and then the challenger hits a belly-to-belly suplex of her own! Bayley kicks out and rolls on her belly, so Banks immediately locks on the Bank Statement! Due to the left hand smashes, Banks cannot get a full grip on the submission, which Corey Graves terrifically points out.

Banks copies Chris Benoit in the final moments of his classic match against Kurt Angle at Unforgiven 2002, bouncing her foot off the ropes to force both to roll backwards and prevent a rope break. Instead of going for a pinfall though, Banks locks the Bank Statement on again, still not getting a full grip, stomping Bayley’s hand. With less than a minute left, Bayley brakes the grip, then grabs the sore left hand for leverage and smashes it on the mat to neutralize Banks.

Bayley rolls backward on a Lungblower due to the challenger’s sore left hand and locks Banks in a shoulder submission, then stomps her head for the victorious submission just seconds before the clock ran out! Both are absolutely spent and the Full Sail crowd obviously gives both women a well-deserved standing ovation.

Just a shade below their Takeover: Brooklyn work of art, but this stands on its own as a MOTYC candidate as well. A tremendous atmosphere, an appreciative crowd, selling, psychology, callbacks to their prior classic, picking up on each other’s habit, Bayley showing a more aggressive side to prove Brooklyn wasn’t a fluke, Banks being a masterful heel, this really had it all. An absolutely breathtaking NXT swan song for Banks, putting an exclamation mark on this part of her career and making the champion as hot as possible on the way out. ****1/2

Post-match, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, various NXT officials, and the roster are at the entrance. Banks is presented with flowers from Regal and is in tears as the crowd thanks her for everything, knowing this is her NXT swan song. HHH presents flowers as well to Bayley in the ring, who’s also in tears of course, being part of such a historic and emotional presentation.

For those wondering why NXT draws such a strong emotional connection to its audience like ECW, ROH, PWG, and NJPW, this segment, along with the trophy celebration of the prior match, are the evidence all one needs. This along with the Rhodes family segment show exactly what those in charge of this NXT operation feel about the business, its roster, and its viewership, and that is respect. This symbolizes how NXT has drawn the audience that was once in love with ROH, and is a defining reason why I have such a passionate fandom for this business.

Easily the show of the year from WWE, be it NXT or the main roster. EVERYTHING delivered and meant something, capped off with two incredibly classy moments and a historic MOTYC that bid farewell to one of its pioneers. I have nothing to nitpick about this show when looking at it as a whole package. This was a truly rewarding experience for this viewer and gets my strongest recommendation; it's required viewing for any degree of professional wrestling fan.

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SmackDown! – October 8, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day cut a mildly amusing promo on Philadelphia, including a burial of Chip Kelly and the Eagles. A well-deserved burial, obviously. Xavier Woods talking shit is the obvious highlight of the Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler match.

Kevin Owens on commentary highlights the Rusev vs. Ryback match. Yes, what better way to kickstart this IC Title reigns for Owens and rebuild its prestige than to have him continue feuding with Ryback through late October?

Raw – October 12, 2015: The Good Shit

John Cena puts over Chicago like usual and it’s the return of a 2015 highlight.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler

After a left arm submission, Ziggler takes a powder and allows Cena to congratulate a couple in the audience just getting engaged live in the Allstate Arena audience. Like Cena did to Rollins for taking in the Houston audience a few weeks earlier, Ziggler takes advantage of Cena congratulating them again with an arm drag as the broadcast goes to a commercial break.

Back from commercial break and the match follows the usual Cena style against a workhorse performer, meaning that he gives quite a bit, allowing Ziggler to shine. This was a VERY refreshing change to see Ziggler do more than just take a beating, only to have him spam moves without selling anything on a comeback. Instead, he avoided spamming superkicks prior to teasing it like Shawn Michaels as a finisher. Then when it was hit later, it actually meant something.

Highlights from my memory of this match include Cena’s attempted Super Death Valley Driver backfiring, instead having him eat a Super DDT from Ziggler, Cena blocking the mentioned superkick tease and delivering a lariat for Ziggler’s troubles, and Ziggler pushing himself off Cena during a regular Release Death Valley Driver to hit a Fame-Asser for an incredible near-fall. Both men sold their exhaustion well, and the top highlight to me was when Cena blocked a Zig-Zag, turned around to eat a superkick as was teased earlier, and then Ziggler capitalizing on Cena’s positioning to hit the Zig-Zag for another incredible nearfall. So how did Cena win with his Release Death Valley Driver? By doing what he always does – using his experience as a cream-of-the-crop winner to find any opening he had to land it, and he did. Exceptional chapter to Cena’s iconic in-ring 2015. ***3/4

NXT – October 14, 2015: The Good Shit

After Bayley gives a typical goodwill speech for the emotional MOTYC last week, she’s interrupted by Alexa Bliss, Wesley Blade, & Buddy Murphy. Bliss unconvincingly puts her over, then grabs the NXT Women’s Title to say she’s coming for it.

The Revival state that by eliminating the Vaudevillains in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament, they are the #1 contenders for the NXT Tag Titles. No arguments here.

NXT Title Shot Battle Royal

Total of 22 participants in this one, so that means like most battle royals with that much overcrowding, this was a chore during its first half. Should’ve just gone with a dozen participants, as nobody bought Adam Rose or Mojo Rawley having any chance of winning this.

I did like that the Revival, Rhino, and Baron Corbin immediately targeted Samoa Joe at the start, bitter about the week before. But nothing of interest happened until the second half when it was down to about a dozen participants. Corbin made a business decision and eliminated Rhino, which he can’t be blamed for at all. The crowd was SUPER behind Tyler Breeze to win this, taking notice that he was a veteran that have paid his dues in front of them and yet to reach his break yet.

The crowd was so behind Breeze that they were pissed when Joe eliminated him, then delighted when Breeze retaliated by yanking him off the apron for an elimination! Looks like Breeze chasing the NXT mountaintop could have some legs to it. So it came down to Corbin and Apollo Crews, which was a fine final, although nowhere near the acclaimed Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker and Chris Jericho vs. Sheamus finishing stretches from their respective Royal Rumble matches. After a good closing few minutes, Crews managed to eliminate the entitled former gridiron player, securing himself a shot at the title less than 2 months since his debut, just like Kevin Owens earlier in the year. Prince Devitt vs. Uhaa Nation would definitely quality as a smark’s dream match. ***

Raw – October 19, 2015

The only quality segment is WWE Champion Seth Rollins interrupting Shawn Michaels, the two of them face-to-face and having a verbal confrontation. However unlikely, if HBK were to come out of retirement to face Rollins before he gets too old…

Everything else was such a waste, doing a HORRIFIC job not just as a go-home show for Hell in a Cell 2015 and failing to do anything of note with Ric Flair, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, and Undertaker, but throwing the Shield together for one night as a desperate ratings move. Unless, of course, the fine folks of Dallas, who will be hosting WrestleMania 32, saw the Shield together as a tease of sorts for something historic to come in six months…

Main Event – October 20, 2015

Kevin Owens vs. Neville - ***

NXT – October 21, 2015: The Good Shit

Fun novelty on this show as James Storm makes his only appearance. The Full Sail crowd goes crazy, with the camera showing a mark losing himself like a girlfriend who just had marriage proposed to her by her soulmate. The crowd gives Storm a “You belong here” chant as he makes pretty easy work of a jobber, then delivers his “Sorry about your damn luck!” catchphrase to the jabroni. A shame WWE wouldn’t increase their offer just a bit more to beat out TNA, as Storm would’ve brought a different flavor to NXT and also be a great foil and mentor for Baron Corbin.

Who is Apollo Crews? Pt. 1

Basic but effective interview package about Crews chasing his dream to become a WWE superstar. It’s very obvious that he came from a loving mother, who busted her ass to raise him and his siblings, instilling a work ethic in him that’s gotten him this far.

Alexa Bliss reminds everyone she’s still coming for Bayley’s NXT Women’s Title after making quick work of a jobber.

The broadcast ends with a backstage Samoa Joe promo, he’s pissed at Tyler Breeze. What a crazy concept, these two guys are at each other’s throats because both are aiming for the NXT Title.

SmackDown! – October 22, 2015: The Good Shit

Big E & Kofi Kingston are amusing being mad about Xavier Woods being put through a table this, sporting XW arm bands. Kane is admittedly amusing mocking them for their attempts at sympathy. This is on YouTube but I’m excluding it since Kane and Seth Rollins interact.

Seth Rollins vs. Cesaro - ***1/4


Guests: Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae

Ziggler tells Summer that he’s just into her, after trying to disguise it as not wanting to be used. Summer has a new man though… Tyler Breeze! He buries Ziggler for being an “uggo” and “mistreating” Summer, then Ziggler for whatever reason refers to Breeze as a lazy millennial; he must not watch NXT. Breeze attacks him and leaves him laying though, including using his selfie stick to attack Ziggler’s throat, which put him out of action a few months earlier when feuding with Rusev.

I’m optimistic about these two flamboyant workhorses from a bell-to-bell perspective. However, I have major concerns about Breeze debuting already. Just two weeks earlier, Full Sail was going crazy for him, as he earned their respect by paying his dues there and busting his ass to have quality matches. So there’s PLENTY of juice left for him there, perhaps all the way through Dallas. In addition, while his gimmick got over in NXT, it’s honestly very one-dimensional and lacks legs to be anything substantial on the main roster. So I hope for two things: he’s transitioning for a while from NXT, and by the time he’s fully promoted (assuming this segment wasn’t that), his gimmick will have a bit more substance so that he can flourish.

IC Champion Kevin Owens admits to being an asshole and says being respectful hasn’t worked out for Ryback, while burying the title’s lineage until he won it. Tremendous character work.

An awful five weeks of build after Night of Champions 2015, with a huge failure to pick up on the white-hot momentum of Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker from the summer as they head towards their final battle.

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Hell in a Cell 2015: The Good Shit

On the preshow, a pretaped Kevin Owens promo airs from outside the STAPLES Center. He buries sports fandom for it attracting the “simple-minded.” That’s interesting coming from a professional wrestler. He accurately says he’s aware the Lakers suck, and points out the foolishness of the Magic Johnson statue, calling him a false idol just like Ryback will be tonight.

Rusev, Sheamus, & Wade Barrett vs. Dolph Ziggler, Neville, & Cesaro - ***1/4

(Good to see Rusev and Sheamus teaming together, without explanation, after what happened at MSG.)

And now, the PPV portion.

US Champion John Cena quickly gets through his promo, not wanting to waste any time. Zeb Coulter returns for the first time in over a year, saying Cena divides audiences, but it’s time for people to become united and for Cena to be dethroned as well, someone who will do much bigger things with it.

US Title Match (Open Challenge)

John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio

Great novelty pop for Alberto, perhaps the only thing he enjoyed about this segment, as he appeared to get as much bliss out of this return as I did. This match simply sucked, as Cena appeared disinterested and lost in several minutes clean to Alberto. It was amusing to hear the commentators try to narrate it as Alberto’s return catching Cena off-guard. Both looked like they’d rather be elsewhere than opening a WWE supercard event inside the West Coast’s most prestigious arena.

There’s a cliché that the people never know what they really want. They can come up with a million ideas, have it handed to them, and they’ll still be unhappy. There are times when this cliché is accurate.

Nobody demanded, nobody requested, nobody wanted, nobody needed to see Cena’s epic run as US Champ, after so many classic matches and breakout performances from opponents, come to an end not just to Alberto Del Rio (who was as over as a heavy metal band at a black gospel church when being fired in August 2014), but in such anticlimactic fashion. This was far more inexcusable than Undertaker’s Streak ending in disappointing fashion; that sucked due to Taker’s concussion.

Nobody demanded, nobody requested, nobody wanted, nobody needed to see Zeb Coulter and Alberto Del Rio ever patch things up and unite. They displayed zero chemistry together. I’d argue that whoever pitched and laid out this entire segment committed a suspend-able, if not fire-able, offense. There was nothing good about this segment. NOTHING. Don’t tell me the pop at the end meant anything, as it was just a pop for the title change novelty and nothing more. Dogshit segment.

What’s even more irritating about Alberto dethroning Cena, on this particular night, and with this being Cena’s last night before taking some time away?

Let’s rewind to June. Cena’s in the middle of a juicy feud against Owens. A friend of mine brought up something I hadn’t even picked up on; neither of the first two Cena vs. Owens classics had even spilled to the outside, 100% of the action staying inside the ring. So here’s what I had in mind at the time, and now knowing that Cena would be taking time off after this very show, I present the following:

Battleground 2015 – Cena has a US Title open challenge against someone other than Owens and retains; Owens has a post-match brawl with Cena, getting the last laugh after making quick work of a jobber.

SummerSlam 2015 – Cena vs. Owens III with a Dusty Finish, that being a double count out due to a brawl that becomes so heated they have to be pulled apart. The Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns feud ends here in a hot-as-shit chaotic tag match involving Luke Harper and Dean Ambrose.

Raw: SummerSlam 2015 Aftermath – Cena and Owens have another brawl to close out the show, an extremely heated brawl on par with Brock Lesnar and Undertaker the month before, and both agree to a fourth match under Last Man Standing rules at Night of Champions 2015. This brawl is the white-hot segment going into the fall as an incentive to not tune out against Monday Night Football and the MLB playoffs.

Night of Champions 2015 – Cena barely wins the Last Man Standing match in a controversial fashion that leaves a sour taste.

Raw: Night of Champions 2015 Aftermath – Owens viciously assaults Cena, briefly putting him out of action, and steals the US Title.

Raw: Hell in a Cell 2015 Go-Home – Cena makes his return from injury to target Owens and says he wants to give Owens one last shot at the US Title rather than steal it. They agree to settle it once and for all inside Hell in a Cell. There's no Cell overkill since Wyatt vs. Reigns ended in Brooklyn.

Hell in a Cell 2015 – Owens wins the feud and dethrones Cena’s epic, interrupted reign as US Champion inside Hell in a Cell, and puts Cena out of action again, with the narrative being “this time it may be for good.”

This five-month feud establishes Owens as a force to be reckoned with going forward, whether it be it a returning Sami Zayn or against main-eventers like Brock Lesnar and Undertaker, come April 3 in Dallas. It also spares us from Owens wasting his time in a feud against Ryback. You tell me that doesn’t sound plausible and far more effective than what we actually got.

Hell in a Cell

Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns

This was a glorified plunder-fest, a good but not special one. Highlight include kendo sticks, face-smashing into a chair stuck on the Cell, and Reigns eating a Uranage Slam off the apron through a table on the floor, igniting a light “This is awesome” chant. With a table mid-ring, they had a struggle on the turnbuckle, and Reigns got underneath Wyatt to powerbomb him through the prop for a great near-fall.

Both sold this powerbomb and earlier punishment after that spot, and there were lights “This is awesome” chants. Honestly though, the crowd should have been going crazy here as both men were down, which is a failure on both characters not being over as strongly as they’re pushed. They excited the crowd again with a Sister Abigail being turned into a roll-up, then a Superman Punch being a near-fall. Moments later, Wyatt ate a spear through a table on the floor for another great pop, triggering light “This is awesome” chants again.

There was a great counter, as Wyatt blocked a spear and hit the Sister Abigail for a near-fall, and Wyatt can only laugh in reaction. But Wyatt cost himself when he sit up the sticks to protrude outward, talked shit to Reigns, got thrown towards the sticks, and then ate a spear. I’d like to see these work a Cell match against others, as both have thrived in gimmick matches against other opponents. ***1/4

Big E & Kofi Kingston cut another entertaining pre-match promo, burying the Lakers and mourning the absence of Xavier Woods tonight, while also carrying his broken trombone. They retain again to nobody’s surprise.

Hell in a Cell

Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker

Taker shuts the door with authority to a tremendous crowd pop as he enters the Cell. Crowd has hot duel chants as they have a slug-fest to begin, including Taker knocking Lesnar off his feet in the corner. A great piece of psychology early when Taker uses his hips to throw Lesnar to the floor during a German Suplex attempt. Moments later, Lesnar is showing color as he gets shoved forehead-first into a steel post.

After Lesnar is thrown in the ring and disgustingly wearing a crimson mask, he immediately gives Taker a spinebuster to regain the advantage and uses a chair, then collapses to sell the inflicted damage and get his color wiped off. Outside the ring, Lesnar continues the attack but Taker blocks a suplex attempt to deliver a snap suplex of his own on the floor.

Dueling chants again once they’re back in the ring, and Taker slams Lesnar’s throat on the top edge of the chair. Taker is now showing color as well btw. Lesnar gets an adrenaline rush upon being Irish Whipped into a corner and has Taker now visiting Suplex City. After 3 German Suplexes and an F5, Taker sill kicks out and the doctor comes to check on Lesnar again, only to get tossed aside. Lesnar executes another F5 for a wonderful near-fall. No need for Lesnar to get frustrated, as it took 3 F5s to end the Streak.

Lesnar introduces steel steps into the ring, then uses it to club Taker for another nearfall. Lesnar delays for a brief fraction of a second using them again to strike the fallen Taker, who takes advantage and rolls out of the way. Lesnar again takes too long due to blood loss and exhaustion so Taker shoves him away with his feet. Taker locks in the Hell’s Gate on the prone Lesnar, who pummels his way out of the submission and throws in a few punches more before collapsing.

Lesnar then rips the apron mat, exposing the padding and then wooden panel underneath as Taker sits up. Taker chokeslams Lesnar onto the unpadded wooden board. However, he is too exhausted to even attempt a cover. Lesnar then eats a follow-up Tombstone Piledriver for an incredible near-fall, surprising Taker and both are down in exhaustion again.

When Taker gets up, he motions to finish Lesnar, only to eat a low-blow and follow-up F5. That brings their iconic feud to a proper storytelling conclusion, with Lesnar winning every encounter except for one in which Taker did the same to him but in illegal fashion. This will get the same rating as the original 13 years earlier, and therefore I’d say is roughly the same level of excellence, but this lacked the genre-defining ingredient of No Mercy 2002. Perhaps that’s because of the pink breast cancer awareness ropes and lack of unfathomable underdog story, but make no mistake – this is tremendous. ****1/4

Post-match, Taker is left alone and thanked by the crowd, but is attacked by the Entire Wyatt Family, who then carry him out like a human sacrifice as the show goes off the air. Like I care about that feud.

Voices of Wrestling’s Joe Lanza is correct – an overall awful show until the fantastic main event. Nothing else is required viewing.

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If you plan to read this, get comfortable. This is a long entry thanks largely to a plethora of match quality.


Raw – October 26, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority inform WWE Champion Seth Rollins that since he’s beaten so many challengers, it’s time to establish a new #1 contender tonight. There will be four singles matches involve the various winners from Hell in a Cell 2015, with the four winners of those matches meeting in the main event for a WWE Title shot.

MISSED RATINGS OPPORTUNITY: As stated, I’m tired of guys breaking themselves down quicker by wrestling multiple times on the same card. Have the four WWE Title Shot Qualifiers tonight, then the actual WWE Title Shot match on SmackDown! Maybe even better, have two of the qualifiers tonight, two the qualifiers on SmackDown!, and then the winners are advertised a few days in advance for the following week’s Raw.

Anyway, Roman Reigns interrupts to tell Rollins he’s be dethroning him.

WWE Title Shot Qualifier

Kofi Kingston vs. Roman Reigns

Big E & Kingston bury the style and greasy hair of Reigns, then brag about being champions unlike him. The Dudleyz are in their past, Xavier Woods is in their hearts, and their opponents tonight in the ground. They’re once again sporting XW arm bands.

Kingston got cocky early over brief cat-and-mouse, with E on the outside gloating. Reigns got the upper hand of course since he’s a juggernaut, and I love New Day calling a timeout as the match broadcast takes a commercial break. Back from commercial, Reigns has continued dominating, so E talks shit to distract Reigns on the outside. This allows Kingston to blindside Reigns with a baseball slide and regain control for a couple minutes. But nothing was gonna stop Reigns from making a comeback and winning, with E taking a Superman Punch on the apron for trying to distract Reigns again. ***

WWE Title Shot Qualifier

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

Owens focuses on Michael Cole early so Cesaro attempts a schoolboy rollup. Owens would try the same shit later and pay for it again as Cesaro blocked a suplex attempt, hitting a delayed vertical suplex of his own. The rest of the way was pretty much an action-packed contest, including a mutual clothesline on the outside, a running European uppercut on the outside, a somersault plancha off the apron, a countering sequence featuring a giant swing turned into a baseball slide attempt, that Cesaro rotated on his feet from, only to leave himself prone to a DDT. The second giant swing attempt would be Cesaro’s undoing, as Owens stayed in the ropes while Cesaro debated with the ref, leaving him prone to eat a superkick and pop-up powerbomb. ***1/4

Zeb Coutler deems the duo of himself and Alberto Del Rio to be Meximerica, complete with a flag that is half-Mexico, half-America. I would love to meet the person who, with a straight face, pitched this idea. Easily a future WrestleCrap Hall of Fame induction.

WWE Title Shot Qualifier

Alberto Del Rio vs. Neville - ***

WWE Title Qualifier

Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler

Tyler Breeze & Summer Rae are at ringside. E cuts off Ziggler early while Kingston gloats “hips don’t lie” on the outside. This really turned out be a highly competitive contest, as it was back-and-forth action. Off the top of my head, highlights include E slapping Ziggler’s ribs to the tune of “New Day rock/sucks” while locking in an Abdominal Stretch, E immediately hitting Ziggler with a clothesline after being distracted by Kingston, and a Fame-Asser being countered into a powerbomb. The end came when E got overzealous against the former World Champ, charging in the corner only to have a shoulder eat the ring post, then immediately going down to the Zig-Zag. I’ll be curious to see if Ziggler and Reigns, be it together or with separate partners, request a Tag Titles match after beating the champs tonight. ***1/4

Why is Dean Ambrose happily allowing eight combatants to battle for a WWE Title shot while he sits on the sidelines?

WWE Title Shot – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Kevin Owens vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Roman Reigns

Rollins is providing commentary. Plenty of fresh matchups in this one, so this should be interesting. In particular, this will be the first time ever Owens and Alberto collide, as Owens was hired the same month Alberto got fired.

It starts as Owens vs. Ziggler and Alberto vs. Reigns, but quickly gets away from that with both matchups spilling to the outside. Alberto takes out Ziggler and the heel champions target Reigns, but he fights them off since he’s a juggernaut, then takes out Ziggler when he gets back in the ring. Reigns seems very much more adored than usual from the San Diego crowd. Reigns continues cleaning house with multiple drive-by slides on the heels, only to eat a lethal superkick instantly from Ziggler as it goes to commercial.

Back from commercial, the heel champs double-team Ziggler in the ring while Reigns is still selling the superkick. They takes turns on Reigns to keep him out of the quation, then actually go at it for the first time ever after Owens doesn’t allow Alberto a pinfall attempt. They definitely show some chemistry and Owens rolls to the outside after a superkick.

Reigns gets back in to capitalize on the emotional Alberto, dominating the US Champ. Alberto is punched out, and now Ziggler’s in for a babyface showdown and the Zig-Zag is blocked; I don’t believe a Ziggler vs. Reigns singles showdown has ever taken place, not even when the Authority would use the Shield to bury Ziggler two years earlier. Reigns eats Ziggler’s dropkick and stalling DDT for a near-fall, which causes Rollins to express some tremendous anxiety.

A terrible Fame-Asser attempt is rightfully scouted by Reigns and turned into a powerbomb; as this happened, Rollins said it wasn’t fair to Ziggler to have his qualifier match just moments before this while Reigns got a two-hour break. While Rollins of course doesn’t care about Ziggler and is just being a politician since he knows Reigns is his biggest threat in this series, he is correct actually. By competing in the first match, Reigns benefitted from more than a two-hour break – he got to scout everyone else, so he saw and copied Big E’s exact same counter to the Zig-Zag. Ziggler had a huge disadvantage going in this, since he was in the last qualifier, he had 10, maximum 15 minutes to do any film study in addition to getting any standard medical attention. All the more reason to have spread out this series over different broadcasts.

Reigns delivers a Superman Punch to Ziggler, then gets shoved by Alberto and he tries to steal the pin, but it’s a near-fall. Crowd’s starting to go crazy here. Owens shoves Reigns into steel steps, then eats an Enziguri from Alberto. Alberto tries that on Ziggler but the latter scouts from their series in 2013, then he delivers the Fame-Asser for a near-fall. That makes sense since that’s a signature move, not actually an established finisher. Crowd’s going crazy again as Rollins puts over the match.

The exhausted Alberto and Ziggler get up simultaneously with the former gaining the advantage, while Owens and Reigns are still outside selling their attacks. Ziggler attempts a Superplex, but gets placed on the shoulders of Owens for a Doomsday or Electric Chair move; as Alberto sets up for his end of the bargain, he’s Superman Punched by Reigns. Owens tosses Ziggler off his shoulders, who then superkicks Reigns out, only for Owens to give him a treat to Suplex City. Owens delivers a cannonball to Alberto, who simultaneously eats a Drive-By Slide from Reigns.

Owens and Reigns have a stare down and San Diego is HOT. Reigns eats a Superkick, gets Irish Whipped, and he counters the Pop-Up Powerbomb by Superman Punching Owens in mid-air for the victory! Rollins may as well be shitting his pants as he tries convincing everyone, including himself, that Reigns will fail once again. They then have a stare-down and Reigns confidently walks away as the broadcast goes off the air.

A truly great match with fresh encounters, a yin-and-yang dichotomy of a heel showdown and a babyface showdown, nonstop action, elements of film study, and absolutely sensational counters. Of course, there was the tremendous San Diego crowd as mentioned adding to this, pounding the barricade and counting along with the near-falls, chanting for Reigns as he got in the face of Rollins. I absolutely adore this match, and I shit you not, I was blissful to see Reigns win, not just from a business and booking analysis perspective, but because this match got me to establish an emotional connection to him. I cannot wait to see Rollins vs. Reigns, for the top prize in the business, in a main event supercard slot, with a VERY likely title change and coronation, take place. It’ll be nice for the two of them to redeem all of their prior singles matches on TV, which have ranged from nothing special to tedious shite. ****

Main Event – October 27, 2015

Brie Bella vs. Becky Lynch - ***

NXT – October 28, 2015: The Good Shit

An excerpt of the wonderful Finn Balor: The Demon Revealed re-airs from the summer.

American Alpha vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano

Chad Gable and Ciampa start with a knuckle lock that goes back and forth, including the counters with eventually Gable winning that battle. Ciampa & Gargano eventually cut the ring in half on Gable, which is perfect since he’s smaller and has connected incredibly with the Full Sail audience. However, before that segment, Gargano’s left arm was damaged when Jason Jordan was in for a brief period. That got really bad for Gargano when he charged at Gable on the apron, only to get a cross arm-breaker locked on. Gargano was tremendous selling the left arm, trying to shake off the pain when waiting for the tag or after delivering chops later.

After the hot tag to Jordan, he ended up getting the ring cut in half on him as well, eating a number of vicious attacks including a slingshot DDT by Gargano. The indy superstars played the default heels which made for great crowd psychology, Gargano choosing to yank Gable off the apron to prevent Jordan from making a hot tag. Once Gable managed to get tagged in again though, it was all over, CIampa being taken out of the equation and then Gargano eating the Grand Amplitude. Damn good tag team wrestling. ***3/4

Who is Apollo Crews? Pt. 2

This edition focuses on his brief time in WWE so far, particularly his debut and the battle royal from two weeks earlier. Simply put, while he admits to still have plenty of room for improvement, he is here to be champion, and next week, he will dethrone his good friend Finn Balor.

Samoa Joe vs. Tyler Breeze

Breeze takes a bunch of powders early to lure Joe, who takes the bait out of anger. Breeze’s control is brief though since he cockily relaxes on the top turnbuckle, leaving him prone for Joe to unleash a fury on him, ending and peaking with an Elbow Suicida going into the commercial break.

Back from break, Joe continues dominating. Breeze regains control by blocking an Irish Whip and a series of strikes along with a modified Lungblower. Once again though, he allows his frustration to distract him into an argument with the referee during a five count, and thus allows Joe to regain control. Breeze cuts him off with a dropkick, and after a bit more control, Joe regains control and pretty much controls the rest of the match, not being thrown off of a Sunset Flip counter off of a musclebuster attempt, ending with a counter in the Coquina Clutch. This would turn out to be the unadvertised NXT swan song for Breeze. I’m worried about him on the main roster for the reasons I stated before, plus he got no reaction in San Diego, which was otherwise a hot crowd earlier in the week. ***1/4

SmackDown! – October 29, 2015: The Good Shit

IC Champion Kevin Owens interrupts Roman Reigns and does a very weak burial of what happened on Monday, so Reigns challenges him to either put up or shut up.

Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns

Reigns dominates early and then doesn’t allow Owens any breathers on his attempted powders. The domination continues and then Owens eventually gains control with a Stunner on the ropes. After an Irish Whip and Fall Away Slam on the barricade, he idiotically takes time to gloat in the ring, having learned nothing from his feud against John Cena, and the juggernaut Reigns immediately makes a comeback because of that.

Owens attempts to forfeit the match by count out, but Reigns doesn’t allow that either. Back in the ring, Owens regains control briefly thanks to a successful German Suplex, but is scouted for it on the second attempt as well as when setting up for a cannonball, eating a jumping clothesline while charging at Reigns. Reigns attempts a Fireman’s Carry but is fought off so he plays Owens on the top turnbuckle. A Superplex attempt by Reigns is blocked, then a Super Fisherman’s Swinging Neckbreaker is as well, so Reigns delivers a Superman Punch, knocking Owens to the floor. The IC Champ forfeits the match by count out, leaving with his IC Title through the audience. Incredibly interested in an actual feud between these two in the future. ***1/4

Big E & Kofi Kingston debut Unicorn Horns merchandise while still sporting enlarged XW armbands, then provide commentary for a meaningless fourway tag match. They make a mockery of the entire experience, bringing back memories for me of the nWo and original DX. Phoenix crowd chants “We want New Day!” as well, proving they’re far more ambitious about getting over than most of the roster.

Dean Ambrose and Cesaro, while clearly looking like stars in their various attire, deliver dialogue towards each other in absolutely atrocious fashion.

Tyler Breeze assaults Dolph Ziggler after the former World Champ’s gimmick hardcore match against the Miz. Good to see a vicious side, but there’s still not much depth to his gimmick.

Raw – November 2, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority confirm Seth Rollins will defend the WWE Title against Roman Reigns at Survivor Series 2015. That should be epic. To prepare for that event, each will select four partners for a 10 man Survivor Series Styles Elimination match in the main even tonight.

Tyler Breeze distracts Dolph Ziggler, causing a loss to Kevin Owens. The booking towards Breeze & Summer Rae is quite moderate, which is the concern I had. Nobody cares about him taking a selfie while posing over Ziggler’s prone body. These writers probably saw the Cassie Cage character’s selfie fatality get all kinds of praise in Mortal Kombat X released earlier in the year, and wonder why something similar ain’t working here. That’s because Cage, a fucking fighting game character, has more depth to her than snobby, narcissistic selfie addict, plus it was a clever display of evolution from that franchise's developers and writers.

Rollins recruits Owens for his team, with the condition that he’ll owe Owens one in the future. Wonder if this segment will be remembered in the future.

Becky Lynch delivers quite the strong promo, channeling her quirky personality in effective fashion, not even thwarted by Brie Bella’s barbs.

The New Day, including Xavier Woods, volunteer to help Rollins in tonight’s main event, which he accepts. Love this 100% heel champions team, and all of them are actually OVER, leaving Alberto Del Rio out since he wouldn’t belong. The team makes sense too since Rollins has a history of teaming with New Day and Owens.

Divas Title Shot – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Brie Bella vs. Paige vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks - ***1/4

For the main event, the heel champions come out first. The New Day are visibly pissed that Reigns has recruited the Usos, Jey back in action for the first time since WrestleMania 31. Ryback’s also been recruited and to nobody’s surprise, Dean Ambrose has as well.

Survivor Series Style Elimination Match

Seth Rollins, The New Day, & Kevin Owens vs. The Usos, Dean Ambrose, Ryback, & Roman Reigns

The cocky Woods is eliminated immediately by the Usos.

Confirmed during this match is that Randy Orton is out of action for an extended period of time due to a shoulder injury. Another domino falls to obliterate Vince McMahon’s plans for Dallas, as well as my fantasy card. Pretty boy Orton going up against the freak Bray Wyatt in a battle of mentals just wasn't meant to be on the grandest stage in company history, and I suspect that Orton was gonna be slotted against Brock Lesnar that night.

The heels dominate Jey for a bit before he tags in Jimmy. Absolutely insane to see the Usos execute Stereo Planchas on Big E & Kofi Kingston, considering Jey is returning from a shoulder injury and just moments after Michael Cole broke the news about Orton on commentary. The Usos eliminate Kingston in the meantime for a 5-on-3 advantage. E immediately goes after Jey and with the help of Owens eliminates him after a Big Ending. Owens moments later eliminates Jimmy with a pop-up powerbomb to make it a trios match now.

Owens and Reigns have a battle with Rollins trying to bail out his partner, then Ambrose inserts himself as the equalizer, He gets ran over by E on the outside, then Ryback runs E over too. Rollins distracts Reigns to allow Owens to land a superkick, but both legal men collapse since Owens is selling damage. The match goes to a commercial break.

Back from commercial, the heels dominate Reigns. Rollins goes for a rest hold, but two things keep it from being tedious as compared to Bray Wyatt: Rollins at least bothers to reestablish his grip, squeezing as much as he can, and the production team airs the prior eliminations during this valley. Reigns of course teases a comeback, only to be cut off via a Sling Blade. Owens piles on once tagged in and is of course cocky, then tags Rollins back in for a double vertical suplex. As Rollins trolls Reigns, he only ignites a successful comeback after getting overzealous and Reigns get the hot tag.

E and Ryback have a heavyweight battle in the ring with Owens trying to help out, so Ambrose gives him a missile shotgun dropkick and then a rebound lariat on the outside. Rollins throws Ambrose into the steel steps as Ryback eliminates Big E via the Shell Shocked. The Usos will obviously gun for the Tag Titles immediately, but I wonder if Ryback will request a shot as well. Rollins immediately attacks Ryback from behind and eliminates him via a Pedigree, making this quite the star-studded tag match remaining of Rollins & Owens vs. Ambrose & Reigns.

Rollins knocks Reigns off the apron so Ambrose can be legal after being thrown into a barricade by Owens. A Pedigree is blocked but Rollins prevents a hot tag. Ambrose still fights him off and keeps Owens at bay while Reigns is struggling to be ready for a tag. Rollins benefits from an Owens distraction but gets pounced on by Reigns to break up the pinfall attempt, and Reigns gets in as many shots as possible on the WWE Champ.

Owens gets tagged in to pick the bones of Ambrose, mocking him in the process and talking shit to Reigns. I absolutely LOVE Owens grinding his forearm and clubbing the face of Ambrose with crossfaces while talking shit. That’s the kind of violence I wanna see and wouldn’t be in violation of PG standards.

Ambrose emphatically kicks of a Rollins springboard knee strike, and the Denver audience is behind him as the heels continue to cut the ring in half on him. Owens cuts off an Ambrose comeback and leaves him open for Rollins, but Rollins just keeps talking shit and that allows Ambrose to make a comeback, including Rollins hitting a springboard knee strike on Owens. Ambrose finishes Owens off with a follow-up double underhook DDT, leaving Rollins alone against the two men he broke onto the main roster with and then betrayed to reach the top. I’d expect Ambrose to request an IC Title shot now.

Rollins attempts to bail twice but Ambrose & Reigns cut him off, not letting up whatsoever. This is a one-sided destruction that brings back memories of Prince Nana against Austin Aries & Roderick Strong, but because Rollins is actually a champion combatant, he doesn’t quite get his comeuppance, attacking Ambrose & Reigns with a chair to disqualify himself.

Post-match, Rollins continues attacking Reigns, wanting to soften him up for Survivor Series 2015. But once back in the ring, Reigns takes him out of the ring via a Superman Punch, and the champ retreats, leaving his former best friends to stand united together in the ring while he desperately clutches his title on the entrance ramp as the broadcast ends.

Thoroughly entertaining match with all kinds of interesting stories come out of it, and I enjoyed this a bit more than the Survivor Series 2014 main event. A surprise return, new potential contenders for the champions, various compelling matchups, and a poetic ending between three men literally 17 months in the making. Of most importance, I am legitimately anticipating Rollins vs. Reigns in what should be a high note conclusion to a horrendously booked reign, even if it means Sheamus may ruin the moment. Of course, with what was about to happen in less than 24 hours, this match only becomes even more poetic as I’m about to detail. ***3/4

WWE in Dublin, Ireland – November 3, 2015

Finn Balor vs. Sheamus

Good but nothing special house effort. ***

Of far more importance, and in no way considered the Good Shit, the injury bug now strikes WWE Champion Seth Rollins, shredding his right knee in the main event against Kane. There’s absolutely no way the injury is better than it looks, and that not only means he’ll have to forfeit the WWE Title and thus Rollins vs. Reigns is cancelled, but yet another domino falls to obliterate WrestleMania 32 plans. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter confirmed Rollins was to face Triple H, which was obviously inevitable and can still be done upon his return. I of course was hoping that’d be done sooner and we’d finally have the former Shield colliding for the top prize, nobody else involved. There’s an incredibly strong chance that can still come, but in addition to Undertaker vs. Sting and Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton, I have to kiss Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns goodbye. At least in the latter two's case, the door isn’t shut forever, and it was truly poetic that the final moments of Rollins in a match during the 2015 calendar year would be trying to thwart off Ambrose & Reigns.

NXT – November 4, 2015: The Good Shit

The Revival interrupt Carmella as she gives a medical update on Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore, mocking her and the sprained MCL they gave Cassady, while also vowing to win the NXT Tag Titles next week.

American Alpha have an amusing promo, realizing that they’re ascending and by becoming the best team in the business, everything else (winning the titles) will come to fruition. Chad Gable says they’ll become the “world’s greatest tag team,” which Jason Jordan frowns upon.

Emma denies being terrified by Asuka, telling Dana Brooke that she’ll need to give the puro star a proper welcoming. Looking forward to it.

NXT Title Match

Finn Balor vs. Apollo Crews

New NXT championship matches tradition here as the lights dim and a spotlight shines on the combatants during the introductions. Love it.

They have a stalemate before the commercial, which kicks in after just a couple minutes tops. They continue having a back-and-forth with various dropkicks and suplexes, neither gaining significant control yet. Balor finally gains control when he avoids an elbow drop and hits a soccer kick. He cuts off a comeback attempt, returning to the Cobra Clutch.

Crews uses his power to break the hold and then dropkicks Balor to gain control. The timing is impeccable in this match, as Balor regains control by knocking Crews out of the ring with an Enziguri and then follows up with a somersault plancha. For whatever reason, the match goes to another commercial just five minutes after the first one.

Balor has maintained control, not letting up. He looks to attempt a Reverse Bloody Sunday, but Crews blocks it and hits a Fall Away Samoan Drop. After being teased, each man hits a signature move, Crews the Military Press Slam (but Balor gets the knees up on the follow-up standing moonsault) and Balor the Reverse Bloody Sunday. Balor hits the running shotgun dropkick but the double footstomp is evaded. Crews lands a Yakuza kick, but Balor has enough to land a Pele kick before collapsing. The crowd is quite enthused with this match. Unfortunately, Baron Corbin interferes to have the match thrown out, specifically targeting Crews due to being butthurt and entitled about the battle royal a few weeks earlier. ***1/2

Samoa Joe arrives to fight off Corbin, who takes a powder. Balor and Joe are left in the ring, the latter appearing conflicted before attacking the champ! Joe is still conflicted as he continues the assault and leaves the champ laying with a musclebuster, screaming “I did this to you!” Joe leaves the title on the fallen Balor, obviously gunning for it as hinted two months ago. TREMENDOUS BOOKING and I cannot wait for this dream match to occur.

SmackDown! – November 3, 2015: The Good Shit

Alberto Del Rio vs. Neville - ***1/4

IC Champion Kevin Owens interrupts Dean Ambrose’s interview with Renee Young, politicking and trying to dismiss Ambrose pinning him on Raw. Owens gets incredibly smug saying Ambrose has to prove himself in singles tonight, which Ambrose is looking forward to. These two have got some EXCELLENT verbal chemistry potential.

We get confirmation of WWE Champion Seth Rollins shredding his right knee in Dublin. He’s out 6-9 months and a tournament will be held to crown a new champion at Survivor Series 2015, with more details to come next week.

Dream Match

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

Great dynamic early as Ambrose locks an arm twist on and Owens immediately goes to a rope demanding a rope break, so Owens slaps his head as he lets go. They exchange headlocks, with Owens saying “my headlock’s better than yours.” Awesome. Ambrose gets a couple arm drags so Owens takes a powder as the broadcast takes a commercial break.

Ambrose lands another arm drag and then works on the left fingers of Owens when the broadcast returns. Owens regains control and cuts off Ambrose, only to eat a crossbody and clothesline to the outside. Back in the ring, Owens cuts Ambrose off with a stunner on the ropes, then delivers a receipt by tossing Ambrose into the barricade twice, boasting over it.

Owens continues dominating in the ring, talking trash while locking on a sleeper hold. He cuts off a comeback attempt to continue dominating and talking trash. He fucks up by wasting time telling Jerry Lawler to pay attention and Ambrose takes advantage. Owens attempts the Super Swinging Fisherman’s Neckbreaker, but Ambrose cuts it off to deliver a Superplex and make the match even. Ambrose delivers a tornado DDT that Owens takes a beautiful bump for.

Owens delivers a Schwein after blocking a crossbody for a near-fall. He’s getting visibly frustrated, concerning that he won’t be able to knock Ambrose out of IC Title contention. He talks trash to Ambrose on the top rope; that stupidity costs Owens as Ambrose punches him down and delivers a shotgun missile dropkick. Ambrose eats a Stun Gun, but evades a pop-up powerbomb, eats a superkick, and then uses the momentum to deliver a rebound lariat. Awful scouting by Owens there, especially due to history against Nigel McGuinness.

The match comes to an end when Ambrose kicks Owens in the guy, but the IC Champ sells it as a low-blow. The replay confirms the obvious, that Owens lied and embellished like NBA players flopping and NHL players diving. Referee Charles Robinson scolds him and Ambrose goes on the attack with a couple suicide dives, and Owens scurries away. Poor Robinson being involved in ANOTHER controversial finish in 2015. Looking forward to this dream feud continuing after that outstanding storytelling finish. These two have tremendous chemistry. ***1/4

Raw – November 9, 2015: The Good Shit

Looks like a great sellout crowd in Manchester tonight.

Triple H kicks off the show to put over former WWE Champion Seth Rollins, and the crowd chants “Thank you Rollins!” He acknowledges that Roman Reigns earned a WWE Title shot two weeks ago, then requests him to appear. The previously announced tournament begins tonight, and HHH offers Reigns a bye to the final if he agrees to replace Rollins as his protégé. Reigns declines, incorrectly stating that he’s “always” achieved his success on his own. I must have missed all of 2013. Reigns is slotted in the tournament as a result of this with 15 other participants.

So a few things coming out of this to go over:

This segment obviously telegraphs Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for WrestleMania 32. Not sure what makes Reigns sympathetic in this scenario; he lacks that type of charisma that Daniel Bryan had in the same spot two years earlier against HHH. HHH also put over Reigns here as a potential A+ player, while he constantly dismissed D-Bry as a B+ player. In addition, while HHH outright sabotaged D-Bry left and right, here he’s just simply putting Reigns in a tournament, no actual disadvantage. The psychology is thus completely missing for what the goal is here.

I’m wondering if Jimmy Jacobs pitched this tournament idea with Reigns being inserted, as it’s incredibly similar to ROH in 2013. Michael Elgin had earned an ROH Title shot by defeating Jay Lethal at Supercard of Honor VII, then the ROH Champion Jay Briscoe was briefly shelved due to injury a couple months later. A tournament was held to crown a new ROH Champion, and rather than Elgin getting any kind of bye, he was inserted with 15 other participants.

Speaking of 16 participants in this tournament, an absolutely terrible idea with John Cena away and Randy Orton on the shelf. Perhaps had this particular week been in North America, Brock Lesnar would’ve been flown in as a last-minute star power emergency, as he obviously deserved and had a claim to challenge for the WWE Title. I also wonder where the Hell is Chris Jericho? He can easily be inserted based on his resume and star power alone; nobody would deny his claim to be entitled to a spot in the tournament. So without Cena, Jericho, and Lesnar, I would’ve made this an 8-man tournament instead, for this is your first round which is revealed throughout the night, but I’ll list here:

Big Show vs. Roman Reigns

Sheamus vs. Cesaro

Alberto Del Rio vs. Stardust

Kalisto vs. Ryback

Kevin Owens vs. Titus O’Neil

Wade Barrett vs. Neville

Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz

Dean Ambrose vs. Tyler Breeze

Reigns, Cesaro, Alberto, Owens, Barrett, Neville, Ziggler, Ambrose. That’s your proper tournament, and Sheamus can decline a spot when offered by the Authority since he’s got the MITB contract.

Kevin Owens manages to turn the UK fans against him, burying them for worshipping the Queen of England. Perfect promo here and I cannot wait for this guy to be in the main event picture again.

WWE Title Tournament - 1st Round Match

Sheamus vs. Cesaro

Sheamus comes out with Wade Barrett before the commercial break. During the break, Barrett talks shit to future soccer HOFer Wayne Rooney, saying he’d love to fight him, but wouldn’t wanna embarrass Rooney’s son. The Manchester crowd pops when Barrett buries Manchester United as well.

This was another quality addition to one of my favorite bell-to-bell rivalries in the company. Sheamus and Cesaro were pretty much even early, but Cesaro I’d say dominated the second act. Sheamus did a tremendous job avoiding the giant swing, which I think for crowd heat purposes, was a mistake to book. Really shitty circumstances entered their ugly head when the two had a vertical suplex battle that had both spill to the outside, causing Cesaro’s right elbow to violently strike the apron. Imagine the brief pain when accidentally stubbing your funny bone, and multiply that by 100.

Cesaro is visibly injured as he constantly clutches his right arm. He tries to avoid using it, but force of habit gets him to use it at times, although he does use his left arm to deliver some European Uppercuts. Two incredible counters from him were ducking a Yakuza kick and locking Sheamus in the Scorpion Death Lock, and rotating out of a Uranage Backbreaker, immediately dropping the Irishman with an Alpamari Waterslide.

The finishing sequence came on the outside when Cesaro executed a running European uppercut, causing Sheamus to fall over the barricade. Barrett distracted Cesaro, allowing Sheamus to attack the former indy sensation from behind. Sheamus talks shit to Rooney, then Barrett has his turn. Barrett makes the mistake of placing his finger on Rooney, giving the soccer icon the legal right to slap him to a tremendous pop. Sheamus allows himself to be distracted and Cesaro capitalizes with a modified cradle pin for the victory. Very good match and the injury looked legit for Cesaro, however it added to the psychology of this match and he did a great job working with it. Looking forward to the Cesaro vs. Reigns quarterfinal, as it’s a powerhouse singles match I’ve been wanting to see since around WrestleMania XXX season. ***3/4

The New Day are outraged by being completely left out of the WWE Title Tournament. They have a point for sure when looking at that tournament roster again.

NXT - November 11, 2015: The Good Shit

Baron Corbin squashes Tye Dillinger in seconds, and then gets in a heated brawl with Apollo Crews, who’s pissed about being fucked out of the NXT Title. Tremendous fire by Crews here, further putting over how valuable that title is to him.

Bayley reacquires her NXT Women’s Title from a bailing Alexa Bliss, then runs into Nia Jax. Bliss attacks Bayley from behind, while Jax grabs the belt and stares at it before handing it back to the champ.

NXT Tag Titles Match

Vaudevillains vs. The Revival

Vaudevillains dominate before the commercial break, including work on the left arm each on Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder. The challengers play clever games to gain a brief advantage but that fails. It takes Dawson giving Aiden English’s left knee a chop block for an advantage going into the commercial break.

Back from commercial, the Revival continue attacking English’s left knee. A Dragon Screw, strikes, submission, slamming it against the ring post, their attacks are just pure textbook. This is obviously terrific psychology and storytelling, but I must also mention the old-school brilliance of the ring being cut in half on English. English teases a hot tag only for Dawson to cut him off and the Revival continue their underhanded tactics.

It doesn’t get any prettier for English as the challengers continue attacking his left knee. He finally gets a hot tag to Simon Gotch, who’s a textbook house of fire. Gotch idiotically tags the injured English back in and he gets immediately chop-blocked. Corey Graves thankfully points out Gotch’s stupidity for that. Gotch goes after the Revival to the outside but they take him out to isolate English, delivering a top rope stomp on the left knee. Dawson forces English to tap out to the Reverse Figure Four Leg Lock. No snowflakes, but damn tremendous storytelling to elevate a heel team for their title victory.

The Revival cut a backstage promo, proud of themselves for claiming the NXT Tag Titles after staying true to themselves for a dozen years in the business.

Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss for the NXT Women’s Title next week. Once again, crazy concept to advertise matches more than 2 hours in advance.

Samoa Joe explains his actions, claiming to have carried Finn Balor on his back en route to them winning the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament. That’s a pretty subjective perspective even with Balor’s knee injury at Takeover: Respect. What makes sense though is that Joe’s pissed for Balor not going to bat for Joe to challenge him for the NXT Title. Joe says it was insulting for him to be in the battle royal, having earned it. He’s correct in that regard based on him not losing at all for five months, but then says that the day he walked in the door, he was owed and ENTITLED to an NXT Title match. Who can really blame Joe for this after seeing Kevin Owens walk in and manipulate his way to a title match in just two months? Balor interrupts and vows to kick Joe’s ass as refs hold both back. Joe attempts to goad Balor, then shoves a ref into Balor for a cheapshot Coquina Clutch and they can’t pry him off! Joe poses with the title, then drops it on Balor. Tremendous main event segment that showed up, got its point across, and didn’t overstay its welcome like main roster segments with similar goals so frequently do.

SmackDown! – November 12, 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Title Tournament – 1st Round Match

Wade Barrett vs. Neville

Gotta point out that Booker T.’s WWE Title match history was quite fuzzy, stating this is the biggest match of Neville’s career. He obviously forgot about Neville already having a title shot 3 months ago against Seth Rollins, which is surprising because Booker was making quite a few boxing and MMA references during this match, including Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, and Muhammad Ali.

Neville gets the advantage early thanks to some headlocks, so Barrett uses his own tall frame to place Neville on the apron and force a rope break. Barrett then drags Neville by the hair and slams him down to gain an advantage. Barrett dominated the majority of the match’s remainder, being vicious but also a bit too cocky like he’s Kevin Owens. The Manchester crowd picked up on him being the obvious default him against his fellow Brit, although it wasn’t as heated as Owens would make it, or even Sheamus earlier in the week.

Barrett requested Jerry Lawler to proclaim him the next WWE Champion on commentary, allowing Neville to walk the barricade and surprise him with a front somersault. This brought the match even and Neville hit a Standing Shooting Star Press in the ring. Barrett blocked a Deadlift German Suplex but still cut him off with a back kick to the gut. After a kickout, Barret cornered referee Charles Robinson and asked “How much is he paying you?”

After teasing the deadlift version earlier, Neville got the Snap German Suplex Variation on Barrett but ran into a shitty Winds of Change for a near-fall. That would’ve been an awful finish. Neville blocked the Elbow Smash finisher, hooking Barrett’s right limbs for a cradle variation. While in a fireman’s carry position, Neville took advantage of Barrett talking more trash, planting him with a DDT and finishing him off with a Sky Twister. Quality first round match here, and I liked the four Europeans in the tournament were slotted against each other in Manchester. ***1/4

Quarterfinal matches for the next Raw in Greenville, SC:

Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns

Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto

Kevin Owens vs. Neville

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler

Why not have a couple of those on SmackDown! next week to spread this out for ratings?

Raw – November 16, 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Title Tournament Quarterfinal Match

Kevin Owens vs. Neville

Back-and-forth match at first, with Owens eventually taking a powder when Neville gets on the top rope. Neville then improvises and hits a Moonsault Press on Owens to the outside going into commercial break. When the broadcast returns, Owens has regained control thanks to some attacks on the outside. He talks his usual trash while dominating, even blaming the ref for a slow count at one point. Neville stays in the game with comeback attempts, with it becoming legit when Owens takes too long setting up a corner-to-charge. Because of that Neville hits a Snap German Suplex and middle-rope Sky Twister for a near-fall. A full Sky Twister gets evaded but Neville gets on his feet to hit an Enziguri. Neville goes for another Sky Twister but Owens moves so Neville lands on his feet again, only to eat pop-up powerbomb, taking a wonderful bump for it, and the IC Champ advances. Quality addition to their quality series. ***1/4

WWE Title Tournament Quarterfinal Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler

Really good psychology here, as after some a struggle for each to get control, Ambrose targets Ziggler’s left leg. He didn’t quite attack it like the Revival would, but it would come in handy later. Ziggler was great at teasing the superkick, which Ambrose constantly evaded; meanwhile, Ziggler did a great job avoiding various signature moves such as Ambrose’s suicide dive, the rebound lariat, and double underhook DDT. When Ziggler tuned up the band like Shawn Michaels, it actually meant something since he had yet to successfully land one superkick yet.

They each had some great counters for each other as well. Ambrose pulled off a backslide near-fall on a swinging neckbreaker attempt, while at another point Ziggler stalled Ambrose on a rebound lariat by kicking the knee and hitting a Fame-Asser for a great near-fall. Every teased move came to fruition at some point, including a great rebound lariat from Ambrose after eating a Stunner, and he sold that damage by struggling to get up. Another great and highly critical moment came when Ziggler landed a Super Facebuster on Ambrose, re-aggravating the pain in his left knee while Ambrose intelligently rolled out of the ring. Ziggler was quite exceptional selling the left knee, constantly hopping around.

They had a brief strike exchange with Ziggler head-butting Ambrose and going for a Zig-Zag. That got blocked so Ziggler went for a schoolboy pin, but Ambrose blocked that and positioned Ziggler for a successful double-underhook DDT. I found this MUCH more interesting than their 2013 series, surely because this time Ziggler wasn’t in the middle of a counterproductive burial. When Ambrose inevitably turns heel, I’d love these two to have a marquee program. ***1/2

The New Day dismiss the milestone of Undertaker’s 25th anniversary, saying their one-year anniversary is far more important and newsworthy. They also bury the Usos, claiming to be responsible for Jey’s shoulder injury, and then mock their chant. Of course they’d take credit for something they’re not responsible for at all. Tremendous promo.

WWE Title Tournament Quarterfinal Match

Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns

Reigns has a pre-match promo in which he claims he has never sold out. Fuck off cunt, you broke through as part of a mercenary and Authority enforcement faction. I wouldn’t be surprised if plot hole writing like this gives his detractors extra reason to hate the Reigns character – he’s very clearly full of shit there. Cesaro has his right arm bandaged due to last week’s injury.

After a lockup, Cesaro teases a European uppercut on the clean break. After some headlocks, they exchange kip-ups to competitively one-up each other. A creative moment early occurs when Cesaro does a cartwheel off the turnbuckle to escape Reigns and gain control. He hits a gut wrench suplex on Reigns, catching the former Royal Rumble winner off-guard. Reigns gains control via a tilt-a-whirl slam but continues selling his abdomen, which is costly. Since Reigns stalls due to the pain, Cesaro regains control with a springboard twisting European uppercut.

The real story of the match begins. Reigns uses his leg strength to block a giant swing and then charges at Cesaro in the corner, only for his right shoulder to hit the middle turnbuckle, then Cesaro immediately shotgun dropkicks him from behind, jamming that body part into the steel post. Absolutely brilliant to bring this match even and on the same body part after Cesaro’s injury last week.Reigns is in agony on the outside so Cesaro capitalizes with a running European uppercut going into the commercial break.

Cesaro is still working on the right arm and shoulder of Reigns, having him in a submission. Reigns is tossed to the outside, then he scouts Cesaro coming with the uppercut again, dropping him with a big boot. Reigns once again is only brief with his control though, once again still selling his right arm. This allows Cesaro to hit some more uppercuts. Reigns displays more great scouting, cutting off another uppercut attempts with a forearm, but his force of habit has him using the damaged right arm. He uses it also for more strikes, but the pain stalls him and Cesaro is on him like white on rice with uppercuts.

Reigns won’t allow Cesaro to regain control though, using his right arm to hit another clothesline and then executing a belly-to-back suplex. Cesaro scouts the drive-by slide, and grabs Reigns to hit the giant swing then follows that up with a Scorpion Death Lock! This is just tremendous. Reigns is reaching for the ropes, so Cesaro puts him in a Cripple Crossface and keeps it locked on when Reigns attempts to roll out of it; of course his right arm is the one locked.

Reigns powers out and uses the positioning to hit a Samoan Drop, but Cesaro was awesome trying to grind his face to prevent it. Little things like that add so much to a match’s storytelling. Both exhausted men get back and Cesaro is launched to the outside, his damaged right arm striking the apron. Because of this, Cesaro is prone to a successful drive-by slide and Reigns is back in control. In another brilliant moment, Reigns shakes off his right arm after various strikes with it; this brief selling allows Cesaro enough time to block another strike by hitting that body part. Cesaro is clearly in pain and his stalling allows Reigns to roll over and deliver a sitdown powerbomb for a near-fall. Both men are once again down in pain and exhaustion.

Reigns is up first, signaling for the Superman Punch to Greenville’s disapproval. But Cesaro uses the leaping of Reigns to lift him up for a European uppercut counter! Incredible near-fall for that one. However, just like Reigns, he used his damaged right arm, so he’s selling it. Cesaro dropkicks Reigns off the turnbuckle onto the apron, then goes for the apron superplex. Reigns blocks it and delivers a Superman Punch and sets up for the spear. Cesaro counters that with an uppercut and goes for the cradle facebuster, but Reigns deadlifts him overhead. Cesaro lands on his feet and Reigns goes for antoher cloethesline, but Cesaro turns that into a backslide near-fall. Reigns lands another Superman Punch and immediately hits a spear, finally putting down the pesky Cesaro. They shake hands afterwards, a true show of respect.

An absolutely excellent match between two powerhouses that couldn’t be any more different from one another. Visually they couldn’t be any different, their styles are totally different, their personas are totally different, and they blended together beautifully. Since they’d very rarely collided in matches involving other participants and I don’t believe had ever done so in singles before, this was definitely a fresh matchup. Tremendous counters, scouting, psychology, selling, and I loved the mirror image right arm damage narrative weaved into this.

Reigns may never win many of his naysayers over just like John Cena, but bell-to-bell he’s talented enough to be elevated into truly special matches; enough of him working programs against the likes of Big Show and Bray Wyatt; put him in the ring with studs like Cesaro, Cena, Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, etc. Of course, MAJOR kudos to Cesaro being a team player and working this match on a very real injury, going above and beyond to make sure the company’s top project not only shines, but learns from him. He’s definitely redeemed himself for SummerSlam 2015, the Greenville crowd far more connected to his comebacks and counters than Brooklyn was. That’s not an error or typo. One of the best Raw matches EVER. ****1/2

The rest of the tournament will take place at Survivor Series 2015.

The semifinals are Alberto Del Rio vs. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose. MISSED SMACKDOWN! RATINGS OPPORTUNITY HERE, plus you guys know how I feel about double-duty.

NXT – November 18, 2015: The Good Shit

Nia Jax makes quick work of Carmella.

Alexa Bliss cuts an effective promo for tonight’s main event for the NXT Women’s Title against Bailey. She’s informed by a referee that GM William Regal has banned Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy from ringside.

Emma makes quick work of a jobber.

Dana Brooke challenges Asuka for a rematch next week, which is obviously accepted.

Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe for the NXT Title is official for Takeover: London. OH FUCK YES~!

A promo from earlier in the day airs from Joe. Regal doesn’t want Balor to jeopardize their match, but Joe says the reality is he has the week off to protect Balor. Contract signing next week.

NXT Women’s Title Match

Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss - ***1/4

(Plenty of “Hey we want some Bayley!” chants and Bliss has a great gotten-to face. Looking forward to being a part of that chant in Dallas.)

Nuclear heat post-match as Eva Marie informs Bayley they compete next week for the NXT Women's Title. She’s absolutely terrific when she gets tired of the booing and says “Shut up, ya dorks.”

SmackDown! – November 19, 2015

Cesaro works his last match of 2015, with the news coming days later that he’ll be out 4-6 months to get shoulder surgery. No shock based on what happened in Manchester. While there’s never a good time to be injured, for the sake of his creative direction, perhaps it was a blessing: he was just starting a surefire feud of the year contender with Stardust. I’m sure Vince McMahon had no big plans for him, but this is yet ANOTHER domino to obliterate my dream WrestleMania 32 card, as I had Cesaro slotted to finally get his elusive singles victory over John Cena for the US Title.

The New Day have fun mocking Kalisto for being a short luchador. I legit laughed over it.

An otherwise terrible, utterly meaningless go-home show. The WWE Title Tournament semifinals needed to be on this broadcast.

No sympathy here for the lack of depth, and the main roster deserves incredible kudos for one of the most compelling match quality months of 2015. I’ve pitched so many ideas on what to have done with the tournament, but ultimately it was impossible for the company to dig itself out of the hole, as this was a culmination of not protecting its midcard backbone as insurance policies for this kind of emergency situation.

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Survivor Series 2015: The Good Shit

WWE Title Tournament Semifinal Match

Alberto Del Rio vs. Roman Reigns

Some good psychology in this one as Alberto first targeted the right shoulder of Reigns to gain control, coming just six days after it being damaged against Cesaro. That would be short-lived though as Alberto would switch up his target to the left shoulder, perhaps as a force of habit. There were definitely great teases that paid off in this one, and the left shoulder of Reigns played a significant part in that regard. Teased moves that got delivered later included the Superman Punch, spear, superkick, stidown powerbomb, and cross armbreaker, with Alberto keeping that locked on when placed on the turnbuckle and using his leverage to go over the ropes and cause more damage. It was ballgame though once the spear got hit to nobody’s surprise. This is probably Alberto’s best one-on-one match quite easily since his return. ***1/2

Jo Jo interviews Reigns backstage, getting congratulations from Dean Ambrose with them hoping to face each other in the tourney final. After Ambrose leaves, IC Champion Kevin Owens interrupts, who vows to be the one facing Reigns later and he’ll sabotage his coronation, putting his accomplishments over.

WWE Title Tournament Semifinal Match

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

Another quality semifinal here. Owens would cost himself terrific opportunities to finish off Ambrose due to his egotistical desire to gloat, talk trash, and make demands towards Michael Cole. Not the most effective direction to take for someone who’s trying to not just reach the mountaintop, but keep Ambrose from IC Title contention. He was hilarious taking Ambrose on a self-proclaimed tour to Chinlock City.

Perhaps had Owens spent more time in the film room than on coming up with new forms of trash talk, he would’ve seen obvious signature moves coming at first such as the suicide dive and rebound lariat. The latter is inexplicable for Owens when of course considering his feud against Nigel McGuinness back in the day. To his credit, he scouted the signature moves when Ambrose would to that well again, catching Ambrose on the second suicide dive attempt and dropping via a light F5 onto the commentary table, but not a devastating one at all.

Owens picking up on Ambrose’s habits came into the equation during the finishing sequence. Ambrose evaded the pop-up powerbomb, but landed a superkick. Ambrose tried using the momentum for a rebound lariat, only to eat another superkick. Ambrose is Irish Whipped for another pop-up powerbomb attempt, but he hits a hurricanrana, catching Owens off-guard just long enough to hit the double underhook DDT to advance to the finals against his best friend Reigns. These two obviously have standard match chemistry; I want a blood feud now. ***1/2

Just like back in July, the New Day bury Atlanta, including hometown boy Xavier Woods, who is sporting an all-time great heel hairstyle, only further making him come across as a condescending prick. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, they’re grateful to be Tag Champs, while also pointing out their partners’ accomplishments, that being Sheamus (Mr. MITB) and Wade Barrett (the 2015 King of the Ring.) They then brag about having more titles than the Braves, Hawks, and Falcons combined for great heel heat, and Woods rub in another dig at them for good measure. I cannot believe seeing Sheamus dance to the New Day’s theme music, then he cuts an absolutely curtain-jerker type of buzzkill comedy promo. Absolutely wretched booking of Sheamus in that moment there when it was so obvious how this evening would end.

WWE Title Tournament Final

Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns

The crowd is largely behind Ambrose to the surprise of nobody who understands audiences in 2015. With this being their first ever singles match on the main roster, the atmosphere isn’t quite as hot as I’d want it to be. There are so many reasons for that and I'll briefly go over that in the match assessment.

Despite the handicapped booking going into this, these two good professional wrestlers managed to have a good match with some solid psychology, specifically Ambrose targeting the left arm of Reigns, including locking in a Fujiwara Armbar. Reigns did a good job selling the damage on that joint inflicted by Ambrose and Alberto, including snapping it into place which I appreciated. They also sat up simultaneously near the end of the match and challenged each other into a striking contest. Ultimately, after a match that had some very good scouting due to these regular tag partners being so aware of each other, Reigns scouted Ambrose going for the corner elbow smash, so he hit him with a spear to capture his first WWE Title.

For a culmination, no matter what was about to happen, I should be using an exclamation mark, not a period, when describing Reigns finally reaching the mountaintop. Maybe if the semifinals had been before this show, giving 3 to 6 days of advertising for this Ambrose vs. Reigns final, this would’ve been more heated and deserving of an exclamation mark. I'm sure these guys both pulling having already wrestled earlier in the night, when also considering the schedule WWE has for its roster, didn't help. But this feels flat, despite Ambrose congratulating him and all kinds of pyro and confetti. This was a good Raw main event masquerading as a historic PPV collision.

Triple H comes out to congratulate Reigns, but the handshake is refused. Reigns instead spears the COO, but then gets Yakuza kicked by Sheamus, who is cashing in his MITB contract. Reigns kicks out, but eats another Yakuza kick as Sheamus reclaims the WWE Title and celebrates with HHH. Unlike the closing moments of SummerSlam 2013 that this is obviously ripping off, there’s no visceral atmosphere at all to this segment. The crowd doesn’t care about Reigns as he stands in the ring empty-handed.

I had said that Ambrose vs. Reigns, bell to bell, was a good match. However, because I factored in the Randy Orton cash-in at SummerSlam 2013 and Seth Rollins cash-in at WrestleMania 31 when handing out ****1/2 each to John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, I have to include this flat cash-in as an entire Ambrose vs. Reigns segment. Ambrose vs. Reigns was a clean three snowflakes, only to be taken down by a cold storytelling moment that was awfully built to. So therefore, Ambrose vs. Reigns officially gets no rating from me.

This ending segment was so lazily written. Reigns obviously isn’t sympathetic like D-Bry. In addition, D-Bry was suckered by a turning HHH, and Orton, stale as he was before that wonderful summer night in Los Angeles, was a significantly hotter, far more formidable threat than Sheamus here when he cashed in. There was no surprise turn to make the psychology work here, and it’s absolutely stunning that Sheamus was in no way groomed for this moment to be taken at least somewhat seriously the moment he won the MITB contract. As pointed out to me, why the fuck didn’t his feud against Orton earlier in 2015 ever have the contract up for grabs? Why did Sheamus got so easily chokeslammed by Kane two months earlier? Why was he booked as lighthearted midcard filler the night of him cashing in?

With that said, because of how abysmally WWE progressed towards this moment, I said this at the time, and I’ll say it now: due to how poorly Sheamus had been and would continue to be booked once he’d cash in, I’m glad to see it done now during the least important period of the year. Get that shitty elephant out of the fucking room before ‘Mania season hits, as nobody would’ve wanted his MITB contract looming over the WWE Title match at AT&T Stadium.

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Raw – November 23, 2015: The Good Shit

The Authority books Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Title in a TLC match to headline TLC 2015. Rusev vs. Reigns is tonight’s main event. I’m not wasting my time and energy, nor yours either, breaking down everything wrong with the creative direction of Reigns chasing the dastardly Authority and their henchmen champion Sheamus. I have full faith in Sheamus and Reigns providing a quality match though, but holy shit the TLC novelty event couldn’t have been replaced at the last-minute with a standard event after all the injuries?

Today marks the first anniversary of the New Day. Even their material is flat, as they go way over the top with props to mock and bury country music, going on tangents to get heat from the Nashville crowd. This is a HUGE drop from their SummerSlam 2015 peak.

Rusev vs. Roman Reigns - ***

Reigns wins by DQ thanks to an attack by Wade Barrett. Reigns gets medieval on Sheamus & Rusev moments later with a chair. The three Europeans had been teaming together regularly, so while I wouldn’t have booked Reigns to fend off all three by himself so early on the road to TLC 2015, at least it’s not a new faction the company is trying to pass off as a force to be reckoned with.

Awful, AWFUL episode saved by Rusev and Reigns being workhorses.

NXT – November 25, 2015: The Good Shit

With NXT GM William Regal still recovering from emergency neck surgery, Michael Cole has been assigned by him in the interim tonight. He informs the Full Sail audience that he received a phone call from “corporate” approving Eva Marie’s challenge to Bayley for the NXT Women’s Title and the match will take place tonight as she requested. Tremendous trolling direction here.

Cole oversees the Finn Balor and Samoa Joe contract signing, the former coming out first and venting about what he’ll do to Joe in London. The latter simply arrives, signs contract, leaves, without one bit of eye contact. As Balor is leaving, Joe attacks him from behind and then leaves him laying after a Coquina Clutch.

Eva Marie has Tom Phillips interview her in Regal’s office, claiming she’d need a bigger space to train for tonight’s main event and that the GM won’t mind. She says it’s time for a “real woman” to hold the title, then introduces Nia Jax as her ally.

The Asuka vs. Dana Brooke rematch is a total ruse, as Brooke talks shit from the ramp and that allows Emma to attack Asuka from behind and leave her laying with an inverted STF.

WWE senior official Charles Robinson arrives and will be overseeing tonight’s main event to ensure no controversy per “corporate.” Fantastic trolling.

NXT Women’s Title Match

Bayley vs. Eva Marie

Nia Jax accompanies Eva Marie. Corey Graves is tremendous justifying the possibility of Eva having all the odds stacked in her favor, citing “responsibility to stockholders.”

Tremendous little smoke-and-mirrors spectacle. After Eva has some shine, Bayley surprises her with a belly-to-belly suplex and the match is obviously over, but Jax removes the ref before the count of 3. Eva rolls up the distracted Bayley and Robinson comes in to make the count. He also stepped in when Bayley was going for a corner attack. Just fantastic. Eva landed a Shiranui for a near-fall and a second attempt was blocked, as she would inadvertently by shoved into Robinson. Bayley went for a Super Belly to Belly Suplex but was knocked was dragged out by Jax. Bayley retaliated by grabbing both feet to slam her on the apron, then hit the Super Belly to Belly Suplex for the win as the original ref had regained consciousness. Post-match, Jax attacks Bayley and poses with the belt before dropping it on the champ.

SmackDown! – November 26, 2015: The Good Shit

IC Title Shot – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze

IC Champion Kevin Owens provides commentary to just obviously scout the competition, no ulterior motive. He was ON FIRE in this match with so many tremendous gems, the peak being when asked about his potential opponents bring to the table. He acknowledged Ambrose’s scrappy brawling skill to match his, said he’s proud to have nothing in common with Ziggler, and compared his gorgeousness to that of Breeze’s. Jerry Lawler had him clarify and Owens doubled-down on that statement.

The match itself was very good as would be expected between these three workhorses, in the same territory as the Ambrose vs. Ziggler quarterfinal match the week before. Breeze brought some terrific scouting to this one, perhaps having learned from losing to Ambrose in the first round two weeks earlier. On a rebound larat attempt by Ambrose, Breeze grabbed his feet to block it and that allowed ZIggler to strike the former indy sensation, temporarily marginalizing him.

This had terrific timing over and over again, with a key point coming when Ziggler hit the Zig-Zag on Ambrose, and Breeze desperately broke it up in the nick of time because that’s actually an established finisher. When Ambrose later went for the rebound lariat again, Breeze ducked it and that allowed Ziggler to eat it, then Breeze shoved Ambrose out to take the near-fall. Breeze would take Ziggler out with the heel kick, leaving himself open to the double-underhook DDT. Ambrose has a staredown with Owens, but the champ walks away. ***1/2

Raw – November 30, 2015: The Good Shit

Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze - ***1/4

Divas Champion Charlotte agrees to face her friend Becky Lynch as her dad can be at ringside. Speak of the devil, Ric Flair shows up.

Charlotte feigns an ankle injury while Ric distracts the ref so she can roll up Lynch. Backstage after the match, Charlotte says it’s just tough love now that they’re in the big leagues, then they do the pinky swear, albeit Lynch is really disappointed and hurt by her actions and attitude.

Sheamus vs. Reigns ends up with Reigns winning by DQ thanks to Rusev attacking him while the WWE Champ got bailed out of the ring by US Champ Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett. Sheamus announces the four of them have formed the League of Nations. This doesn’t sound very promising considering how all four had been booked coming into this. I documented already how mishandled Sheamus was when the writers KNEW he was getting the top title at some point. Barrett was a jobber mixing it up with the likes of Stardust and R-Truth. Rusev was damaged, perhaps permanently like Sheamus in 2012, by the saga involving Lana, Dolph Ziggler, and Summer Rae. Alberto was as flat as most Midwestern geography thanks to the absolutely abysmal, utterly pointless Meximerica gimmick with Zeb Coulter. But maybe, just maybe, this formation will be a shot in the arm for all four individuals. Lord knows the company needs it due to depth issues.

LON thankfully win their first match together in the main event against Reigns, Dean Ambrose, & The Usos thanks to some New Day assistance. It makes sense for New Day to try doing anything to sabotage the Usos, as they’d already fucked with them and the Lucha Dragons earlier in the night. New Day are getting a bit overexposed, but hey, depth is lacking. I'd have also preferred LON to divide and conquer to win without assistance from anyone else, even if they use dastardly tricks of their own, with New Day attacking the Usos afterwards to pile on.

NXT – December 2, 2015: The Good Shit

Next week’s main event is confirmed as Finn Balor & Apollo Crews vs. Samoa Joe & Baron Corbin.

Tom Phillips interviews the Revival, who aren’t worried about defending the NXT Tag Titles against Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore at Takeover: London, threatening to go after Cassady’s other knee this time.

James Storm makes one other appearance that I’d forgotten about in a squash over Adam Rose.

To hype up their match tonight, American Alpha interrupt the Vaudevillains interview and vow to eventually become NXT Tag Titles Champs.

After Emma wins a squash match, Asuka appears on the Titan Tron and confirms they’ll collide at Takeover: London. Emma is clearly rattled, realizing she may have bitten off more than she can chew. OH FUCK YES~!

Nia Jax assaults Bayley during an interview, clearing wanting an NXT Women’s Title shot.

Samoa Joe vs. Tommaso Ciampa

At the risk of this sounding like a shoehorned homer reference, this somewhat felt similar to me a 2015 Divisional Round playoff game when the Carolina Panthers visited the Seattle Seahawks. CAR had been on a 5 game win streak, while SEA was on a white-hot 6 game regular season win streak and had a Wild Card Round bye thanks largely to a ferociously resurgent defense. The win-loss records made the matchup lopsided on paper, and when factoring the stakes of the game, with it being at CenturyLink Field, and on prime time to boot, there was no way the Panthers were gonna pull the off the upset.

So why do I bring up that game and compare it to this match? It’s because while the Seahawks proved to clearly be the superior team en route to hosting the NFC Title game the following week and eventually advancing to Super Bowl XLIX, the Panthers gave an admirable effort, keeping the game far closer than it had should’ve been for a significant period until Kam Chancellor’s pick-six off Cam Newton. That is the story that this match told. Ciampa gave an absolutely admirable effort to topple a buzzsaw that had his sights set on his confirmed NXT Title match. He slugged it with Joe, he went after Joe’s left arm to marginalize much of his moveset, and got the former ROH Champion in a guillotine choke. While in that position he also went for the Kimura lock on Joe’s left arm.

But like that fateful pick-six Chancellor got off of Newton, Joe set everything back in place to ensure his victory en route to challenging for the top prize, seating Ciampa on the top rope during the Kimura Lock, and then hitting him with a deadly Enziguri. It was ballgame from there – Uranage Slam, musclebuster, Coquina Clutch, Ciampa taps out, thanks for coming. I’m sure Ciampa was able to raise his asking price on the indies due to this match, and deservedly so. No snowflakes from me, but a very effective match to remind Joe not to look past anybody.

SmackDown! – December 3, 2015: The Good Shit

Becky Lynch appears to be way too trustworthy of Charlotte after the cheap win she got this week.

The New Day vs. The Usos vs. Lucha Dragons in a ladder match for the Tag Titles is confirmed for TLC 2015. Should be an action-packed spectacle.

Roman Reigns defeats the League of Nations by count out. I was willing to be open-minded and optimistic that LON would be a shot in the arm for its members. Instead, despite the severe lack of depth, gotta keep making sure Reigns looks strong over everyone else even on free TV. The annual cold period just can’t be avoided by this company I guess.

Raw – December 7, 2015: The Good Shit

Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler - ***1/4

(Post-match has Dean Ambrose throwing popcorn and soda in the face of Owens. Glad we get this instead of heated interviews and promo wards, this is definitely maximizing this dream feud.)


Guests: Divas Champion Charlotte & Ric Flair

Miz manipulates Charlotte into revealing her heel turn, constantly trying to bury him for any hard questions he asks, and then proclaiming she’d love to talk shit to Paige. Of course Paige shows up and they have a brawl after Ric gets slapped, but Paige scurries away since they’re both heels. The smarter move to cement Charlotte’s heel turn would’ve been for Sasha Banks to be getting the title shot at TLC 2015 since it’s in Boston. Banks would be a far more interesting arrogant default babyface as well without doing any damage whatsoever to Becky Lynch being on the side questioning Charlotte’s attitude change. In fact, it could build more heat between Banks and Lynch as well.

NXT – December 9, 2015: The Good Shit

Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore vow to achieve vengeance and dethrone the Revival for the NXT Tag Titles at Takeover: London. Effective promo with genuine emotion.

Emma is confident she’ll pull off the upset against Asuka next week, citing that she’s the one who laid the groundwork for the Divas Revolution on NXT before the Network launched.

Emma & Dana Brooke appear as an attempt to cost Asuka her match against Deonna Purrazzo. Instead, Asuka cancels Purrazzo’s plan to take advantage by immediately roundhouse kicking her for a KO victory.

Apollo Crews reminds NXT Champion Finn Balor that once they’re finished with Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin next week, he’s coming for the title again.

SmackDown! – December 10, 2015

IC Champion Kevin Owens has an attorney represent him to sign the title match contract, but of course he shows up to sucker attack Dean Ambrose, then scurries away when it doesn’t go his way. This attorney segment involving Kevin Steen worked because it was live with very little dialogue from the one-time character, preventing overexposure of terrible acting. In addition, in late 2011, Steen was an unhinged character that wouldn’t seek legal action for anything. In 2015, he’s a manipulative politician that cuts throats to get to the top. Just ask Sami Zayn.

There couldn’t have been any more of a contrast in building to the December 2015 supercards. I have no emotional connection whatsoever with TLC 2015 although I’m sure a few of the matches will deliver, while I’m fucking stoked as shit for Takeover: London.

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TLC 2015: The Good Shit

Tag Titles – Ladder Match

Big E & Kofi Kingston vs. The Usos vs. Lucha Dragons

Xavier Woods has standard hair, which is brought up because he says Boston doesn’t deserve a special occasion hairstyle. They say tonight they cement themselves as the faces of the tag division. They did that six months ago when Tyson Kidd’s career ended and Jey Uso was still out. They bury the Usos for Jey getting hurt and the Dragons for being short, saying this isn’t “WWE Junior.” They also bury their face paint and masks because “we are stars.” They do their version of a 5 second pose for the “next Wheaties box cover.” Woods is providing commentary during the match as well.

This isn’t the kind of match to analyze move for move or even in terms of psychology. This was obviously a stunt show and that’s not a criticism, but a pure gem. In a time that ladder matches are constantly becoming great examples of the law of diminishing returns, this managed to stand above the rest of the pack, easily the best one since the Money in the Bank 2013 PPV opener.

All I can really do in this match is list off all the highlight reel moments off the top of my head in this match, and there was no shortage of them. Sin Cara #2 sacrificing his body by doing a somersault plancha to the outside on a ladder, an Uso eating a dropkick from Kingston while the ladder was in his face and Woods played the trombone, Kalisto hitting a monkey flip 450 splash on a ladder, Kingston being stuck in a Tree of Woe and getting hit with a ladder, this was a nonstop demolition derby of epic proportions.

I certainly cannot forget one of the more creative spots in this match, in which both Lucha Dragons were on the primary ladder with E planted underneath, but he BENCH-PRESSED THE LADDER WITH TWO GROWN MEN STANDING ON IT. This caused Sin Cara #2 to fall off the ladder and Kalisto was still on it, a very perilous. Thankfully the Usos caught him when he jumped off, only to eat a Black Hole Slam for his troubles. What an ingenious spot, as it brought something new to the ladder match history while showcasing the strength advantage the New Day had with Big E.

Of course, the highlight of them all was truly jaw-dropping both for entertainment and concern for these athletes’ well-beings, as Kalisto hit a Sitdown Shiranui to Jey coming off the top of the ladder… onto a ladder platform. UN. FUCKING. REAL. The pop for this was just out of this world.

The finish came shortly after that highlight, as Kalisto was the only one left standing of the six official participants and started to climb the ladder. Woods left the commentary table again and threw his trombone at Kalisto to distract him. This allowed Kingston to yank Kalisto off the ladder, who took a tremendous rotation for his bump, and the New Day retained, bringing this legitimate barn-burner to an end as the audience reveled in it. ****1/4

Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns take turns visualizing how they’ll become IC and WWE Champs tonight respectively, wishing each other luck and ready to celebrate after the show.

IC Title Match

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

Owens buries Bostonians for being attached to their sports teams and feeling accomplished when their teams succeed, saying they’re just spectators and nothing more, then compares it to Ambrose for not having done anything of note yet. He of course dismisses that Ambrose beat him just three weeks ago.

Ambrose dominates early but gets cut off thanks to an Owens back elbow. Eventually they’d spill to the outside and that’s when this match kicked into gear. Ambrose went for a rebound lariat on the outside, but Owens caught him and executed a Fall Away Slam on the barricade in picture-perfect fashion. After being tossed towards the timekeeper area, they teased a count out near-fall on Ambrose.

Ambrose kneed Owens in the back on a Senton attempt, but the champ would tease a comback on an elbow drop attempt by Ambrose, giving him one visit to Suplex City. Ambrose would however avoid a cannonball, allowing him to hit an elbow drop. They teased their finishers with Ambrose hitting the double underhook DDT, and they had a SENSATIONAL false finish as Owens got two fingers on the bottom rope. As Ambrose sold the emotion, Owens went on the attack but Ambrose kept avoiding the pop-up powerbomb, turning the second attempt into a hurricanana pin. Would have preferred an extended reign for Owens to build traction and culminate in a loss to Sami Zayn at AT&T Stadium, but there needed to be a babyface title win on this show. ***1/4

WWE Title – TLC Match

Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns

Dueling chants early, but not for either of these two. “We want Cena!” “Cena sucks!” That right there is a culmination of John Cena earning the hardcore type of fans’ respect after all these years, as well as the abysmal booking of these two throughout 2015.

They started hot and heavy here, having a true slugfest right at the very beginning. In fact, these two heavyweights just clubbed the fuck out of each other and killed themselves to put on the best show possible and compensate for the poor booking. To a degree, it worked. Some of the stunts in here were wince-inducing while simultaneously inspiring, seeing these two give everything they had to be the champion of the company.

As far as bumps through plunder that stood out, there would be: Sheamus being toseed into the TLC props entrance area (which could’ve VERY badly for him), Reigns being backdropped and then suplexed through tables, Sheamus giving Reigns a Schwein off steel steps through a table, and Reigns giving Sheamus a Samoan Drop off the apron through a ladder platform, damaging the champion’s right arm in the process. Oh yeah, speaking of bumps and bruises, Sheamus had a gash on his left tricep through almost the entirety of this match, a nice little display of the brutality in this heavyweight fight. I can certainly appreciate the story of Sheamus going above and beyond to brutalize Reigns, as it sells his awareness of what a formidable juggernaut the challenger is.

The atmosphere was a bit lacking, which doesn’t keep this match from being the classic it should’ve been. This felt very much like a classic BJ Whitmer plunder gem, but didn’t have the enthusiastic crowd to put it over the top, and again that’s because of the booking. However, the crowd was believing when Reigns hit a Superman Punch to Sheamus on the ladder, causing the champ to fall off and through a table in the ring. It was an electrifying moment, highly creative and perfectly timed to have Boston buying into Reigns getting his coronation at long last.

But Rusev and Alberto Del Rio would come to the aid of Sheamus, attacking him. They took Superman Punches to the outside while Sheamus sucked up every bit he could muster to climb the ladder and retain the title, but the juggernaut Reigns got back in the ring. Sheamus then Yakuza kicked the former Tag Champ, then climbed the ladder and pulled down the title to retain, getting a celebration from his fellow League of Nations members on their shoulders. It’s odd that Ambrose and the Usos are missing, although much more for the former based on the conversation he had with Reigns earlier and he hadn’t been put through a brutal ladder match. ***3/4

Reigns is fed up though, so after recovering from the Yakuza kick, he spears Rusev & Alberto while they’re carrying Sheamus, then pummels them all with a chair. The Authority come out as do numerous referees to calm him down, and Triple H is fantastic with his acting, loosening up his tie and some buttons on his shirt to sell the stress. After checking on the champ, HHH approaches Reigns only to get Superman Punched!

HHH is being carried out but Reigns continues the assault, then powerbombs the Cerebral Assassin. The table doesn’t break however, so he delivers an elbow drop to make it happen for good measure, triggering “Thank you Roman!” chants. He’s about to leave and then sees the referees bringing HHH, so he runs back and spears him, triggering the chants again! For those who believe this attack was unwarranted, this was a breaking point of everything the Authority had done since April 2014 to him and his friends. Absolutely sensational segment to win the bloodthirsty Boston crowd over, and I was legitimately into it, smiling to see this Reigns project succeed.

Raw – December 14, 2015: The Good Shit

Roman Reigns has no regrets about last night when talking to Stephanie McMahon. When she labels him a disgrace, he says that’s a more accurate term to describe her entire family. Steph drops the bombshell that her father Vince is on the way. It’s AWESOME to see Philly behind Reigns here after the debacle nine months earlier.

Owens once again gives tremendous interviews when Jo Jo finds his backstage. He now wants to drive Ambrose to the point of legit insanity and recapture the IC Title.

Vince McMahon shows up during the R-Truth vs. Bo Dallas match, having it thrown out and demanding them to leave ringside. He has Stephanie go back to Connecticut, wanting to handle Roman Reigns on his own.

He of course cuts a great promo, saying Reigns is now sweating and demands him to come to ringside after a commercial break. Reigns refuses to apologize, not giving in to Vince’s aggressive demand. Vince gets ahead of himself, preparing to beat an apology out of Reigns, but WWE Champion Sheamus comes out. He wants the honor of forcing Reigns to apologize. Sheamus is so cocky about beating Reigns again, he wants to put the title on the line against him. Philly’s on board, but Vince denies it. Reigns makes a cringeworthy comment about “old, shrived up prunes,” but whatever, the crowd’s stoked that Vince approved the match. If Reigns doesn’t win though, he’s fired. Vince kicks Reigns right in the nuts before leaving.

The New Day come out selling the pain from the night before and put over everyone involved, asking the Usos and Lucha Dragons to come out. Both units are skeptical of the trio even with New Day having photo highlights of the classic ladder match. Kalisto in particular brings up that Xavier Woods attacked him with the trombone, resulting in a shitty apology from Woods that nobody buys. Everyone shakes hands since the New Day are insistent that they respect both teams. This attitude got the Philly crowd to chant “New Day rocks!” But as both duo teams leave, the New Day start boasting about still being Tag Champs, including bumping around, so they get their asses kicked and the crowd boos! Tremendous segment to put focus on the tag division and sell the fantastic match they had the night before. This was an excellent bounce-back for New Day, and it’s obvious that their push has helped the entire division.

Becky Lynch is unaware that Ric Flair intervened to help her and Charlotte win.

WWE Title vs. WWE Career

Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns

Vince McMahon is sitting at ringside in support of Sheamus. Fucking Irish supremacist.

The champ’s pale skin displays the bumps and bruises from their brutalizing TLC match just 24 hours earlier, and it’s a testament to both men that they could pull off a good match like this. Of course, the booking of the past 24 hours played a significant part in this match delivering the moment that everyone was expecting to come much sooner in 2015.

They pulled off their usual arsenal and paced it well with the various counters, but what made this stand out was just how much Philly was pulling for Reigns finally. Vince was absolutely tremendous selling the emotions of every near-fall, ever so cocky about Sheamus, ever so panicky about Reigns. If there was one actual wrestling moment that stood out to me, it would be when Reigns was busted open after a headbutt. He did grab his head before the color showed, so hopefully he bladed rather than doing the idiotic, career-shortening hardway bullshit that Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness pulled in this city 8 and a half years earlier.

The atmosphere of course kicked up a notch in the third act, which started when Sheamus ate a Superman Punch for certain defeat, only for Vince to drag out the ref and tell him to sit down, then permitting him when Sheamus got the distraction advantage. Vince had a chit-chat with the ref over that, allowing Rusev & Alberto Del Rio to come to ringside. Reigns immediately took the latter out of the equation with a Superman Punch, but ate a kick from Rusev.

Rusev tossed Reigns back in the ring and stood on the apron to boast, perhaps sacrifice himself in case the challenger hadn’t taken enough punishment to stay down yet. He got Superman Punched for his troubles and Sheamus was up to attempt a Yakuza kick. Reigns avoid that and gave him a Superman Punched, then gave one to Vince as well at the crowd’s delight! Sheamus took advantage of the distraction and finally hit the Yakuza kick for an excellent near-fall and the crowd is fully behind Reigns. Sheamus goes for it but Reigns scouts it, spearing him and finally reaching his culmination as the crowd genuinely erupts! In a terrific piece of storytelling, Reigns sweeps the fallen Vince off the apron to the outside like a sack of garbage.

Seeing that online post-match exclusive, it now becomes clear that despite not seeing it on-screen, Reigns must have asked his friends to not intervene, he wanted to test himself to overcome the odds just like he said to Triple H the month before. It was a very clear parallel seeing Reigns on the Usos’ shoulders in celebration, having overcome the odds on his own, compared the Sheamus accepting every bit of assistance possible in the closing moments of the prior night’s match and then sitting on his partners’ shoulders like he’d done it on his own. Obviously a terrific, historic moment, and a good match elevated by the circumstances, similarly to Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan. This isn’t the best moment of the year due to Brock Lesnar and Undertaker’s brawl, but it’s one that should be remembered for years to come, and of course means even more having taken place in Philly, nine months after the Royal Rumble 2015 mess. ***1/2

The obvious question: can the writers come up with an effective follow-up direction heading into the most important period of the year for Reigns?

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NXT Takeover: London: The Good Shit

Triple H kicks off the show with a hype speech. Zero issue with this after getting carted off earlier in the week. A month before this, I witnessed in person at CenturyLink Field an ambulance take Mike Iupait off the field as a precautionary measure when his neck took a bad angle. He then started against the Bengals the following week. HHH merely took some blows to his face, back, and abdomen, and he proved his toughness in 2001 during his first quad tear. This didn’t bury Roman Reigns at all.

Emma vs. Asuka

Emma is of course accompanied by Dana Brooke. “Asuka’s gonna kill you” chants as the match starts.

They exchange waistlocks and arm twists early, then have an extensive hammerlock exchange on each other’s left arms. Neither will let up on it, Asuka rolling with Emma just like she did with Brooke two months earlier. Emma ends it with an elbow, so Asuka locks a Fujiwara amrbar on her right arm, then kicks her repeatedly and hits a running hip attack to the outside.

Brooke distracts Asuka to allow Emma to gain the advantage. Emma works on the arms and shoulders after some attacks, screaming out of frustration while dishing out the punishment. She locks a Full Nelson and the crowd gets behind Asuka to make a comeback, which she does with elbows strike and a backslide pin. That’s quickly cut off by Emma though as shes continues the attack, including an Irish Whip into the corner that hurt Asuka’s back. Brooke is tremendous talking shit to her.

Asuka teasing a comeback only to get cut off thanks to simple slap that knocked her to her knees, but manages to hit a missile dropkick to end Emma’s dominance. As they’re getting up, they have a striking exchange and Emma makes the mistake of running the ropes as that allows an Asuka comeback. Asuka brings out numerous attacks including a dropkick, spinal kick, dropkicks, and another hip attack.

She unleashes some Yes kicks but Emma catches her right leg. Asuka ducks a punch and Emma ducks a spinning backfist, and Emma gets a jackknife pin near-fall. Asuka successfully lands some spinning backfists and another hip attack for a near-fall. Asuka has been exceptional selling her arm, shoulders, and neck, which comes into play when Emma strikes it create some desperate distance. Emma avoids a corner charge and immediately locks in a Tarantula while Brooke talks shit.

Asuka eats a Butterfly Suplex in the corner and running corner charge then takes more punishment. Emma sets her up for the inverted STF and Emma goes for the modified old-school Curb Stomp, but Asuka grabs the legs to apply an Ankle Lock, then delivers a German Suplex. This is tremendous as Asuka continues to strike while also selling her head and neck. She goes for the Crossface Chickenwing but Emma prevents her hands from locking. Emma gabrs the ref and pushes him to the corner to back Asuka into him andknock him out.

Brooke throws a weapon to Emma, who has a tug of war over it with Asuka. Of course Asuka is caught by the ref with it, but he believs her about not using it. Emma tries taking advantage of the distracted Asuka with a rolling reverse cradle, but that was a fatal mistake. Asuka kicked out and immediately used that positioning to lock in the Crossface Chickenwing as the crowd went bonkers. Emma tapped out by Brooke distracted the ref and got banned from ringside by him. Emma was about to use the weapon, but got knocked with the roundhouse kick to bring this classic to its conclusion. A sensational opener in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Give me Bayley vs. Asuka in Dallas please. ****

NXT Tag Titles Match

The Revival vs. Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore

Challengers went after Scott Wilder’s left arm early, including Cassady using his height to lock on a Standing Position London Dungeon. After some more work on Wilder, the champs cut the ring in half on Amore, targeting his left arm as well thanks to it striking the ring post, with my highlight there being a Hammerlock Northern Lights Suplex. They did a tremendous job of building up the hot tag, including Amore being placed in a drop toe hold to make sure of it.

Once Cassady got in he was a house of fire, knocking the champs to the outside so Amore had himself get tossed out to the them and bring in Scott Dawson to do so some work. However, Cassady found himself getting dominated when Dawson attacked his recently healed left knee, allowing the Revival to target that with various strikes and submissions, once again preventing a hot tag to Amore. The hot tag would be made with Cassady giving Amore some elevation on a splash. That would be a sensational false finish though as Dawson pulled Amore out of the ring during the count. He used Carmella as a shield so she slapped him and Cassady went after him, only to get tossed into the ring post. This allowed the champs to hit a double-team Gutbuster on Amore for the win.

Damn good tag team wrestling with tremendous officiating as well, as the referee refused to allow a non-legal pin during the match, and that second may have cost the champs an early victory. Cutting the ring in half, working on body parts, even Wilder in the post-match squeezing his left hand to still sell the damage to boot, zero complaints about this match. ***1/2

Baron Corbin cleanly wins a disappointing match against Apollo Crews. The highlight was Corbin telling Crews to “go back to Ring of Honor.”

Nia Jax has a staredown with Asuka during his pre-match backstage interview. Not in Dallas, please.

NXT Women’s Title Match

Bayley vs. Nia Jax

Crowd is signing “Hey Baby!” towards Bayley at the beginning. I wonder if any other female has ever connected with an audience and gained their respect as much as she has.

Had ROH ever been able to book a James Gibson vs. Takeshi Morishima match, I imagine it would’ve been an awfully similar, superior version of this one. That’s not a criticism of this match, but the dynamic of it was incredibly similar, with the finish reminding me of Gibson’s time in ROH to boot. Jax used her size to dominate Bayley, but her lack of experience, composure, and conditioning ultimately became her undoing. Bayley did a great job of attacking at any chance possible, while Jax often got cocky on her pinfall attempts or just failed to move with a sense of urgency. That usually wouldn’t work, but because that was the story of this match, it worked beautifully, and Bayley went above and beyond to carry this match. Once she got Jax to sit down while locking on the guillotine choke, there was no way she was leaving without a submission victory, forcing the monster heel to tap out. Again, give me Bayley vs. Asuka in Dallas dammit. ***1/4

In addition to Zayn’s return, booked for next week is Vaudevillains vs. Hype Bros. vs. American Alpha vs. Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy. That has potential to be fun.

NXT Title – Dream Match

Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe

Joe absolutely DOMINATED the first dozen or so minutes of this match. Balor would make his cut off attempts to ensure this wasn’t a squash, but for awhile it looked like it could have been all for moot. The domination came when Balor attempted a double-foot stomp to Joe on the steps but it got avoided. When Balor charged at Joe seconds later, he ate a Uranage on the floor. A highlight of Joe’s dominance for long-time fans of his was his combination powerbomb, kickout into a Boston Crab, and then applying a Crippler Crossface. Balor would roll into a pinfall, but Joe kicked out and used the positioning to reapply, then changed it to a shoulder submission, softening him for more of the musclebuster and more of his arsenal.

After the destruction of the first dozen or so minutes, Balor finally made a comeback with a DDT. From this point it was pretty much a competitive match, with Balor’s answer to Joe’s earlier Elbow Suicida being a somersault Plancha to pop his fellow 10,000 or so Brits. They pulled Enziguris, Pele Kicks, forearm smashes, this really was an action-packed match full of bombs being thrown in attempt to break each other down for their ultimate finishers. Balor would even hit a double-foot stomp on a kneeling Joe for a near-fall and went for the Reverse Bloody Sunday but Joe cut off, only to get hit with multiple strikes and a second Sling Blade.

Joe would bounce back with a senton after avoiding the corner shotgun dropkick, kicking out after Balor got a Sunset Flip pinfall attempt counter on a musclebuster. Once Joe kicked out, he ate one of numerous Pele Kicks, with both down in exhaustion. The crowd was ecstatic for them to break the 10 count. After more competitive action, the finishing stretch came when Balor knocked down joe with multiple running shotgun dropkicks. He’d go for his “Coup de Grace” foot stomp finish, but Joe got up and attempted a musclebuster, only to be knocked down and ultimately eat it for the finish. A tremendous slugfest reminiscent of ROH’s glory days and living up to my dream match expectations. ****1/4

Had Corbin vs. Crews not disappointed, this is on par with Takeover: Respect. As is, this is just a shade below. In other words, SEE THIS IMMEDIATELY.

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SmackDown! – December 17, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day brag about winning the epic ladder match at TLC 2015, and claim the Usos and Lucha Dragons are just jealous about it. They go OTT by trying to sabotage fans from enjoying their antics.

Charlotte helps Becky Lynch win against Brie Bella.

Kevin Owens is focused on getting the IC Title back from that “cockroach” Dean Ambrose, saying “he cannot survive me.” He promises bad things for Dolph Ziggler in their match tonight, saying he won’t stop until he hospitalizes him.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens - ***

(Owens goes for a post-match assault but Ambrose arrives to brawl with him. As Ziggler is leaving, Owens superkicks him. Ambrose checks on Ziggler who assumes it’s Owens, so the champ eats a superkick from the former World Champ to the delight of Owens.

Raw – December 21, 2015: The Good Shit

The 2015 Slammy Awards Show

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/4

John Cena returns next week in Brooklyn to face US Champion Alberto Del Rio. Definitely missed him.

The New Day is pissed that the Usos won Tag Team of the Year. Even more damning than Neville winning Breakout Star of the Year. Big E hilariously threatens to spoil The Force Awakens, but Kofi Kingston stops since he hasn’t seen it yet.


SmackDown! – December 22, 2015: The Good Shit

The New Day are still justifiably about pissed about being snubbed for Tag Team of the Year, and song an entertaining rendition of “We Wish You A Booty Christmas and a Happy New Day.”

IC Title – No DQ, No Count Out Match

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/2

NXT – December 23, 2015: The Good Shit

Vaudevillains vs. Hype Bros. vs. American Alpha vs. Wesley Blade & Buddy Murphy

The London crowd is fully behind AA, particularly Chad Gable. Incredibly fun spectacle with Gable dominating early, then once he tagged himself in got the ring cut in half on him by Blake & Murphy. Once Jason Jordan got tagged in, he threw suplexes aplenty, triggering a “Suplex City” chant. A big chunk of the participants fought to the outside, so Jordan gave Murphy an overhead belly-to-belly suplex over the top rope onto the pile, then he and Gable finished off Blake with the Grand Amplitude, and the ref never once failed to remember who was legal. ***1/2

An interview from last week with the Revival airs, one I didn’t find online. Dash Wilder gives Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore credit for their effort, but Scott Dawson says the Revival are clearly the best tag team on this planet.

Sami Zayn’s return to action is a wonderful moment as expected. Unfortunately, he has a long, tediously competitive match against Tye Dillinger. I’m sure this was done to give Dillinger some shine. It failed.

Raw – December 28, 2015: The Good Shit

Vince McMahon warns WWE Champion Roman Reigns that Triple H will be coming for vengeance soon, and Reigns won’t see it coming. Don’t care about any of the other silliness in this, even if well-executed.

Sasha Banks defeats Becky Lynch after Charlotte had stayed away to oblige Lynch’s request to let her win matches on her own.

The New Day refuse to sing for Brooklyn due to being robbed of the Tag Team of the Year Award and not even being nominated for OMG Moment of the Year. This is fucking hilarious.

Finally, an actual brawling feud between these two. Now if only could have a true promo confrontation for the ages like I know they’re capable of.

It’s definitely good to see John Cena back. Don’t care about him feuding with the League of Nations, but we all learned just how valuable he truly is during his two-month absence.

The Rock will appear at WrestleMania 32!

Raw – January 4, 2016: The Good Shit

Neville vs. Kevin Owens - ***1/4

(Post-match brawl between IC Champ Dean Ambrose and Owens when the latter tries to further assault Neville. Ambrose gives Owens an elbow drop through a commentary table, saying to come get the IC Title if he wants it so badly.)

Chris Jericho returns to the main roster! The segment sucks, but who cares? The roster needs his star power depth during the most important time of the year.

Vince McMahon informs WWE Champ Roman Reigns will be defending the title at Royal Rumble 2016 in the Rumble match itself.

SmackDown! – January 7, 2016: The Good Shit

Making his new debut as the program’s lead commentator is the legendary Mauro Ranallo. No complaints whatsoever here.

Renee Young asks Kevin Owens for a minute of his own, so he gives her 60 seconds and checks her watch while he claims he dethrones the “cockroach” IC Champ Dean Ambrose tonight. Hilarious how adamant he is about the 60 seconds.

Raw – January 11, 2016: The Good Shit

John Cena is confirmed to be out of action for several months and will miss WrestleMania 32 due to shoulder surgery. FUCK, now the obvious match against Undertaker is off the table. Just unreal.

Divas Champion Charlotte says she learned from Paige to throw ethics and sentiment out the window.

Becky Lynch gives a great interview voicing his disappointment in Charlotte and vows to defeat her again.

Brock Lesnar’s in the Royal Rumble match! OH FUCK YES~! His presence will be HUGELY instrumental in rejuvenating that concept as a special box-office attraction, which is badly needed after the past couple years.

NXT – January 13, 2016

Sami Zayn confirms he’s gunning for the NXT Title, while Samoa Joe claims otherwise based on what happened at Takeover: Unstoppable and based on his performance against Balor. Baron Corbin says that based on defeating Apollo Crews, he should be #1 contender, then Joe references beating him at Takeover: Brooklyn to say he has no claim. It’s so awesome to see Samoa Joe and an unmasked El Generico doing business together for an inevitable singles match that nobody else ever booked.

SmackDown! – January 14, 2016: The Good Shit

IC Champ Dean Ambrose challenges Kevin Owens to face him in a Last Man Standing match for the title at Royal Rumble 2016. OH FUCK YES~!

Becky Lynch challenges Divas Champ Charlotte to a title match at Royal Rumble 2016. Look forward to it.

Raw – January 18, 2016: The Good Shit

Kevin Owens is great on commentary as usual during Dean Ambrose’s match.

The New Day vs. The Usos for the Tag Titles is confirmed for Royal Rumble 2016, as is Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto for the US Title. A terrific card on paper and unofficial night of champions.

NXT – January 20, 2016: The Good Shit

Rich Swann makes his WWE debut in a losing effort to Baron Corbin.

Next week’s main event is Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin for an NXT Title shot.

Dry month of build on top. Huge missed opportunities for the midcarders and curtain-jerkers to not get any airtime at all to discuss their rare opportunity to become WWE Champion in the Royal Rumble match. Whatever, with all the rumors going on, I’m anxious for Royal Rumble 2016.

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