Category Archives: WWE

(06/29) Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Jack Swagger

TD Garden (Boston, MA)
Money in the Bank Ladder Match 

The Money in the Bank ladder match has garnered the reputation as a foolproof gimmick match.  The gimmick – six or more guys in a ladder match – lends itself to at least a solid match.  The traditional NWA/WCW War Games concept was often viewed in a similar fashion.  In both cases, the theory is that the gimmicks themselves make it easier to have great matches regardless of who is actually in the match (within reason, of course).  With Money in the Bank matches, it is a pretty solid bet that the match will at least be entertaining.

This was the first of two MITB-style ladder matches on the 2014 Money in the Bank PPV and was probably the better of the two.  That is despite the fact that 4/6th’s of the participants served very little importance beyond being warm bodies.  The only issue in the match was between ex-Shield members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose – who, true to form, has gone off the deep end following Rollins’ betrayal – attacks Rollins immediately upon entering the match.   Rollins and Ambrose are not always in the ring (together or separately) but they are always the focus of the match.  Swagger, Kofi, Dolph, and RVD all get their moments, but the issue between the former Shield teammates is presented as the centerpiece.

There were many ladder bumps and neat spots in this one, but two stand out above the rest.

The first came when Kofi was perched on a ladder with a few of the other wrestlers in the match standing around outside the ring.  Ambrose tipped the ladder to keep Kofi from grabbing the belt.  As the ladder fell, Kofi jumped off and landed a plancha on the guys on the outside.  It was perfectly executed and not telegraphed at all.

The second great – or insane, if you prefer – spot saw Kofi backdrop Rollins off of a vertical ladder onto a horizontal ladder that had been propped up by the 1st ladder and the ring ropes.  Rollins’ back hit HARD off of the ladder causing him to bounce up in the air before landing on the mat – just an insane move.

Ambrose was taken out mid-match with an arm injury.  Heroically, he returns near the end of the match to keep Rollins from winning (temporarily).  The match ended – as it should – with Ambrose and Rollins as the only two wrestlers left standing.  That is until Kane came out to put away Ambrose and hand the briefcase to Rollins.

This was a fun ladder match with a few insane spots.  The focus on Ambrose and Rollins gave the match an additional focus beyond “six guys fighting for a title”.  The angle of Rollins holding the briefcase while Ambrose does everything in his power to prevent his former teammate from cashing in could be a lot of fun.  Both guys have been excellent in their post-Shield roles thus far.

Ladder Match | Watch It | Quality & Bumps

(06/29) Jimmy & Jey Uso © vs. The Wyatt Family (Eric Rowan & Luke Harper)

TD Garden (Boston, MA)
WWE Tag Team Championship 

It has been a relatively quiet year on the tag team front on a worldwide basis.

Historically, WWE is not the promotion one would look to when searching for quality tag team wrestling.  In 2014 with a weak tag team landscape, however, they have arguably offered the best tag wrestling of any promotion in the world.  That is due – in large part at least – to the work of these two teams.

The Usos and Wyatt Family kicked off the Money in the Bank event with a high-energy championship bout.  The teams are a nice compliment for one another both from a stylistic standpoint and a visual one.   The quick, high-flying baby face team versus the big, powerful heels is a time tested match up.  It works even better when the big heels are also athletic enough to eat their opponent’s offense, which is the case here with Harper.

The spot where Rowan caught and held one of the Usos on an attempted plancha only for his brother to follow up with the same to finally knock the big man down was cool.  Harper hit a pair of topes – one on each of the champs – which got a big reaction.  Harper has taken nicely to the maniac big man role in terms of the moves he utilizes, his facial expressions, and the ability to bump for smaller guys without losing any of his mystique.

Despite their run of good work and they continued ability to remain over, the Usos have been treading water lately so this match had the feel of a title chage.  It goes as a marginal surprise then that the Usos retained with a pair of frog splashes on Rowan.  It would not be surprising if they re-match in the near future with a different ending, as the Usos seem to be running out of challengers.

US Tag Team | Worthwhile | Quality

(05/29) Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn

Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
Number One Contender to NXT Championship 

Booking a pretty boy against a wrestler the fans respect to get him over as tough and legit is not a new concept.  The WWE attempted that here with the vain Tyler Breeze going toe-to-toe with NXT darling Sami Zayn to prove he is more than just a pretty face.  Whether these things ultimately work largely depends on the follow up and ability of the wrestler but it is a time-tested method of pushing and giving depth to an otherwise one-dimensional heel gimmick.

What is less of a proven method for pushing a guy is the one being used for Zayn.  Baby faces tend to have a tough time remaining over when they continually fail to “win the big one”.  Just ask poor Lex Luger how well that worked out for him.  However, it did work – in a roundabout way – for Daniel Bryan recently even if that was not the initial intent.  WWE seems to be trying something similar with the popular Zayn where he continually loses in hopes that his supporters will rally around him even more.  In NXT – where the regular fans in Winter Park don’t necessarily represent an accurate crosshair of the WWE fan base – the presentation of Zayn as a guy who can’t win the big match won’t hurt him most likely.  Still, it seems like an odd way to push a guy even if it did (sort of) work with Bryan.

Speaking of Bryan, Zayn clearly has many of the same positive attributes that Bryan possesses.  He has a knack for taking a beating and garnering sympathy, perhaps as well as Bryan.  He compliments that with an explosive, high impact move set that is not quite at Bryan-like levels but could get there with some fine tuning.  It would be harsh to get on a guy for attempting to experiment and innovate in an environment designed for that precise purpose.  At the same time, it is clear Zayn is still working out his offense.  It might be a little too much at times and perhaps unnecessary, as demonstrated in this match when he struggled twice to pull off a variation power bomb maneuver.  He’s got the tools to potentially put it together in a nice, Daniel Bryan-like package for sure.

Breeze was good here and able to hold up his end of the deal – that is, he came away looking like more than just a one-note narcissistic character.  He still strikes me as a tag team whose best role would be part of a pretty boy heel tag team.  I am not sure he has the gimmick or the offense to work as a singles heel at this point.

This was a fine match that accomplished what it set out to, although it was probably the least of the “big three” matches on this card for me.

WWE Singles | Common | Quality & Hype

(05/04) Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kane

Izod Center (East Rutherford, New Jersey)
WWE World Championship

Bryan and Kane wrestled a “Kane match” here, which would be fine if not for the fact that having Bryan wrestle such a gimmicked match marginalizes his value.

By a “Kane match” I mean this was heavy on brawling, changes of scenery and fire (always lots and lots of fire).  To the credit of both guys the match was perfectly fine within that style.  Kane has wrestled variations of this match throughout his career with different guys and far less talented guys than Bryan.  He has it down.  The wonderfulness of Daniel Bryan is that he can adapt to pretty much anything thrown his way – he is a professional, look it up – so even though this style of match is not the ideal use of him, he still adapts to it just fine.

The backstage stuff avoided coming off as hokey as it could have.  Even the visual of Bryan driving a forklift with Kane on it back to the ring was far less groan worthy than it by all rights should have been.  He just has a way – maybe it is his complete sincerity in everything he does – that makes things that really shouldn’t work, somehow work.  The fire spot was handled well, there were some big bumps by both guys, and they worked relatively tight.  It was a fine match inside of a lousy structure.

If Bryan can work as enjoyable of an Inferno match or Buried Alive match versus Kane at the beginning of June (one of those stipulations is almost inevitable for the re-match) that will be an even more impressive feat as those styles might be even more confining than the style wrestled at Extreme Rules.

WWE Singles | Common | Title Match & Quality

(05/04) Evolution (Triple H, Bautista & Randy Orton) vs. the Shield (Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns)

Izod Center (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

The Shield and the newly reunited Evolution work a trios match at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view that is up there with the best six-man tags in the promotion’s recent history. That is of course heavy praise – and probably a bit divisive of a comment as well – given the seemingly never ending supply of quality six-man tags the Shield have produced during their nearly one and half year run in the WWE.

What set this match apart from other Shield six-man tags for me was the nearly flawless structure. The Shield came out hot and dominated the first several minutes with Evolution (although mainly Triple H) bumping all around the ring for them. I thought that element was missing from the February PPV Wyatt Family vs. Shield match. That match lacked a fired-up opening baby face segment and just sort of settled into a more mundane Shield control segment. This match started hotter and carried the momentum because of Triple H bumping all around the ring and the Shield bringing their high-octane offense to the table (with Rollins leading the charge).

Evolution eventually cuts them off and we are treated to a sustained control segment by the heels. All three members of Evolution were solid in their roles, tagging in and out whole running through their usual offense. These guys individually do not have the greatest control offense, but in a six-man the importance of that is far lessened with the ability to hit a couple of moves, tag out, and keep things constantly fresh, which they do to a tee.

The match breaks down as all Shield matches inevitably do. The Shield have this part of the match down to a science and this occasion was no different. They run through their usual high spots – the Reigns’ running kick (which was a punch this time), Superman punches, dives from Rollins, and Ambrose’s high-energy stuff. All six guys really laid the clotheslines in throughout this match as well, adding an additional element of violence and heat to the bout.

Breaking from the Shield routine just a bit, Orton, Triple H, Ambrose, and Rollins head into the crowd for some late-match brawling while Bautista and Reigns are laid out in the ring. I was skeptical when they headed over the barricade because my memory of Triple H and Orton crowd-brawling segments is not exactly positive. A lot of times there isn’t a noticeable game plan beyond “let’s hold each other as we walk through the fans” but this time there was a clear end result and high spot they were building to, with solid spots along the way to keep things moving. Triple takes a bump over the guardrail in the stands (which the cameras miss) and Ambrose tumbles down the steps to keep things moving. This all builds to a balcony dive from Rollins that – thanks in part to WWE production – felt like it came out of nowhere rather than the ECW/indie style balcony dive that is telegraphed and built to. The entire thing was really well done.

Back in the ring, Bautista and Orton come to. That is maybe my one qualm with this match – those two should have been given something else to do rather than lying prone in the ring for several minutes during the brawl. Ultimately it doesn’t matter much because the cameras rarely showed the ring during the brawl, but as soon as the camera cuts back I couldn’t help but reminded that they were lying prone for an awfully long time. Reigns spears Baustista and picks up the pin, with Big Dave taking his second PPV loss in as many months.

All-in-all, this was another excellent six-man tag in a year filled with them. It was also perhaps the finest Shield six-man during their run thanks to airtight structure and great execution.

Trios | Must Watch | Quality