Hell in a Cell has come and gone, my friends, and while I did not get to see the live Twitter-verse reactions, I can tell that the overall impressions are positive. As they should be, it was a quality show, which as many who don’t #PromotePositivity as much as I do would say, is a rare thing.
I had a fractured viewing of it (watched the first hour last night and the remainder between 3:45 and 5:15 this morning), so I’m probably not the best person to judge the overall product. However, while I did enjoy the vast majority of what I saw, I can’t help but feel like I am wanting more. In some cases, that’s a positive, but in others, not so much.
Maybe its that I have more questions than answers right now, so for today’s review, here’s what’s in store:
We start with the pre-show, where besides Paul Heyman’s deliciously disdainful commentary, the best part was
Impressions: I had hoped for some more overt signs of dissension in the ranks but it seems WWE is going with the slow burn for these two. Perhaps that is because Sandow is making The Miz look so damn good. The patter between the two was fantastic - I went from being legitimately annoyed at Miz for interrupting Sandow’s brilliance to laughing out loud with glee at their mutual exchanges of bro-love. Most people (not me!) just wanted Miz to go away and never return, but now I think they are actually entertained by him. Such is the power of Sandow.
Moment: Sandow going back and forth between trying to copy the Miz’s words and yet be touched by the sentiment. We discussed this on Twitter recently, but it bears repeating - Is Sandow a top 10 talent in WWE on a pure entertainment scale? Could he even be top 5?
As for the question and what is next, we’ll save that for the match later in the evening.
We move on now to an unadvertised match, such as it was…
Mark Henry vs. Bo “Washington” Dallas
Impressions: Not sure what the point of all that was, especially when you add it to the results of the Rusev match later on. My biggest impression is that Bo Dallas needs more exposure and mic time.
Moment: Bo’s entire promo, both pre and post match. He was topical, heelish and yet still hilarious, even after getting his butt kicked. I still Bo-lieve!
Question: Could we see Bo Dallas become a mid-card title contender? I’ll get to this with the next match, but it feels like we’ve seen all of the possible combinations of matches with the current crop of IC and US contenders. Sliding Bo Dallas into the IC title picture makes sense to me, though I don’t think it’s what’s next.
What’s Next: For Henry, we’ll once again wait ‘til the Rusev match. As for Dallas, I think he continues to languish in the undercard for a while. I don’t think WWE sees him as I do, as a guy who could give Ziggler a run for his money. He’ll continue to be fodder for the guys they like, but don’t have a place for at the moment.
Now, onto the show proper. As predicted, we began with what I truly (and incorrectly) thought would be the match of the night…
Ziggler vs. Cesaro
Impressions: You know what happened here? I fell victim to one of a WWE fan’s classic blunders. No, thankfully it did not involve a land war in Asia, but it was almost as bad. I fell victim to my own hype. I spent so much time lauding this match as a potential all-time classic that when it was just an excellent match, I wound up disappointed.
I had really expected WWE to give these two 25 solid minutes to tell their story, and so when they moved from chain wrestling to the pinfall roulette in the first 5 minutes, I thought it was rushed. Had I been more realistic and expected 15 minutes of action, I might not have felt that way.
I’m glad Ziggler is getting the chance to be a legit IC juggernaut in getting the win in straight falls, which I am sure nobody expected. Cesaro also looked beastly, thanks to...
Moment: Of course it’s the superplex. That’ll be a highlight of his for a long, long time. Serious strength required there. Still. . .
Question: What happens to Cesaro now? He’s failed at capturing both the US and IC titles, and while this feud with Ziggler could continue, Ziggler made his point pretty clear that he was the better man. With Cesaro still hugging the “tweener” line, there’s no obvious place for him to go. Considering he is, in my mind and the mind of many others, the best in-ring talent WWE has, that’s a travesty.
What’s Next: The fact that there is no clear cut place for Cesaro or Ziggler for that matter makes me think this feuds continues regardless of last night’s outcome. Perhaps this brings out a darker, more vicious side of Cesaro since he was embarrassed at HIAC? I’d sure like to see that.
This just in, folks, hold on, I’ve got something in the headset here. . . What’s that? . . . Really? . . . No way around it? . . . Damn. . . Well, sorry gang, but I’ve been told that I need to discuss the Bella match. I was going to gloss over it, but rules are rules. . .
Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella
Impressions: Considering I was barely in the room and had the volume all the way down, my impressions are few and far between. I’m sad this feud needs to continue and I weep for the real women’s wrestlers who are on the sidelines while these two hog the spotlight. Seriously, why aren’t all the Cena haters blaming him for this?
Moment: Nikki stealing the Yes! chants after winning. For all I know, that’s been happening for weeks with this feud, but I got a kick out of it. I’ll admit Nikki has the “evil woman” look down, though my ears fill with wax and my vision goes all fuzzy every time she grabs a microphone.
Question: Can this be over now, please? Of course it can’t, we’ve got at least another 30 days of this, but I think that was just about everyone’s sentiment last night. Charlotte is languishing down in NXT right now, more so than any other talent considering she is so far above her competition, yet we’ll be getting 4 weeks of Brie getting coffee or being put in otherwise humiliating situations.
What’s Next: I could honestly care less.
Dust Brothers vs. Uso’s
Impressions: Another solid match by two solid teams. My biggest impression is the one I always get watching the Dust’s - Goldust, at 45 years old, is in the best shape of his life. He’s been wrestling for over 20 years, I’ve seen most of it, and he’s never looked better than he does right now. The other impression is how much Cody Rhodes is obviously loving being Stardust. A lot of people keep hoping Cody comes back, but honestly, when this team breaks up, I think it’s going to be Stardust vs. Dustin, not Cody vs. Goldust.
Moment: When Michael Cole mentioned that the last team to hold the tag titles that weren’t in this match were the New Age Outlaws. In 2014, only 3 teams have held the tag gold - These two teams, and a couple guys whose primes were over a decade ago. Let that settle in for a minute.
Question: Is the tag-team division dead? I somewhat joked about this idea in my prediction column, but seriously, could we see the tag belts disappear? The division is void of solid teams and the guys in NXT, as much as I love the Vaudevillains and the Lucha Dragons, aren’t going to save it. I have to wonder if at some point, Vince and Co. will just decide to say “Screw it” and drop the belts for a year or two. This is sad.
What’s Next: Barring the formation of another team or, even more unlikely, moving forward on the Kofi / Big E duo, don’t these two teams have to keep fighting each other? You can’t honestly tell me Slater-Gator or Los Matadores are contenders, can you?
Time for the most shocking moment of the night, when fans realized that WWE actually seems to know a bit about how to build a wrestling card.
Randy Orton vs. John Cena
Impressions: WWE Blunder 2 - Never bet against #KidsAndTroops. Many of us were really convinced Orton was going to emerge victorious, even if it was shady, and get a shot at Lesnar, but no such luck. Instead we get Cena vs. Lesnar III: Suplexes In Space!
I think this is WWE’s way of covering their bases. You’ve got a champion with questionable health (though reports say it’s not as bad as we originally thought), all the most likely Rumble comeback guys (Bryan, Reigns, etc.) also have doubts, so Cena once again is playing the role of the fall-back option. If Lesnar can’t continue wrestling, Cena wins the belt and we move along. If DB or Roman aren’t ready, Cena is, sadly, the best candidate to main event with Brock at ‘Mania.
I hate how this makes sense.
Moment: I loved that Orton is becoming a DDP-level master of doing the Ace Crusher out of nowhere. One of the best things about Dallas Page was that every week, we seemed to see a new version of the Diamond Cutter. That’s what’s happening now with the RKO. I’ve been toying with the notion of a series of Finisher columns for months now, but really, isn’t the RKO the best finisher going?
Question: When does Cena / Lesnar take place? I think we have a pretty good idea of where both guys are heading (hint: it’s the same direction) so the only question is when Brock comes back. I’m still thinking it’s the Rumble, though that’s a lot of Heyman / Cena promos to sit through, and even these two can’t keep it going for 2+ months.
What’s Next: Rollins. Cena and Seth have unfinished business after Night of Champions and I’m sure we’ll get more Authority strife tonight. Rollins rubbing it in Orton’s face that Mr. MITB won while Mr. RKO lost. One half of the main event of Survivor Series right now looks like a Triple Threat between these guys.
Sheamus vs. Miz
Impressions: Meh. This was the one match I probably paid the least attention to that didn’t involve a Bella. I kept an eye on it in case of any Miz-communications (Sorry, Shannon, but I’m sticking with my pun), but outside of that, it was a match. That’s it.
Moment: Since it took place during the match itself, I’ll go with Mizdow selling the Beats of the Bodhran with a slight victory over the Sheamus puppet show post-match. I’m telling you, Top 5 in entertainment value.
Question: How long can Mizdow take it? While, to be fair, he’s being featured more prominently now than at any time since he held the MITB briefcase, I have to think Sandow rebels sooner rather than later. We didn’t see any huge problems between the two last night, but they were there. Maybe Miz takes issue with Mizdow copying his employer’s beaten form rather than trying to save him from humiliation…
What’s Next: Miz in the same boat as Cesaro, really. He’s battled, and lost, both the IC and US champion. He can’t go back to Ziggler already, just like Cesaro can’t go back to Sheamus. This mid-card scene is a funny place right now.
As for Sheamus, I think he has a date with the Bulgarian Brute on the horizon.
Rusev vs. Big Show
Impressions: Solid match with confusing finish. I’m sick of the uber-Russian gimmick and of people having to pick up the defense of America. Like a lot of feuds going on now, I’m ready to move on.
Moment: Big Show putting Rusev in the Haas of Pain was my favorite wrestling move of the entire night, and yes I’m even counting the SuperDuperPlex. I loved every second of that, and if Rusev had tapped, I’d have celebrated. I know Big Show is huge and has a legit knockout punch, but the Haas of Pain should be his finisher from now on. So awesome.
Question: What was the point of Mark Henry being out there? He didn’t attack Big Show, didn’t get him disqualified, didn’t even really factor into the match at all. I don’t get the booking there. We seem to be heading down a road towards another “battle of the giants”, why not start it on Sunday?
What’s Next: Rusev goes after Sheamus. He’s beaten just about everybody else, so unless Luke Harper comes back tonight as The Patriot 2.0, Sheamus seems to be the next logical step. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the Russian title, but I’d pencil in these two for Survivor Series.
AJ vs. Paige
Impressions: AJ looks like Punk more and more every week. These two, compared to our first Diva’s match, can actually wrestle. Paige tapped much too quickly.
Moment: Paige doing her own version of the Cesaro Swing, though AJ’s rotation kept getting interrupted by the ringside barrier.
Question: Aren’t these two destined to be together? Both are being booked as being crazy with no friends. Both obviously have the love / hate thing down to a science. Do we need to wait for Charlotte to come up before these two join forces?
What’s Next: With Paige turning on Alicia, we’ll see some Triple Threat matches, I expect. Much like the tag division, it’s not like there are a lot of contenders out there for either talent to face.
Ambrose vs. Rollins
Impressions: Someone should study what they’ve done to the Cells over the years to protect people from massive blood loss. Seems like in the original years you could get busted open just by looking at Satan’s Structure, now it seems like you can actually be forced through the holes of the Cell and still come out non-crimson.
The dual fall felt forced, especially from Ambrose, who seemed to just jump off to be like his friend Seth. That moment felt very much like they were just shooting the highlight reel moment for the next 10 years of Cell matches.
Moment: The elbow-drop onto the balanced table, however, now that looked amazing. I seriously believed someone had broken a limb in that, especially with the way both wrestlers were tangled up at the end.
And, of course, Bray’s return. It was a thing of beauty, although his uranage suplex (Rock Bottom for those playing along at home) is a better looking move than Sister Abigail.
Question: How does Bray justify his actions? As much as I have wanted to see these two feud (crazy has never been so much fun), Wyatt is going to have to make a very compelling case. He can’t just be another Authority lackey nor can it just be because “I was unstable long before you” - there has to be a legit reason. The only way I can see it going is for Bray to take issue with the fact that the WWE fans have rallied around Ambrose to save the company, when it is Wyatt himself who is their savior.
Either that or they need to drop the savior act altogether and Bray just did it to get noticed - picked the most over guy in the yard and beat him down. Unlikely, but with more possibilities.
What’s Next: Chaos. And I can’t wait.
A long time ago, or at least it seems that way, Doc Manson and I set forth on a journey - to blog about professional wrestling. We called ourselves the Number Two Contenders, which made us feel all sorts of fancy.
What would set us apart, we surmised, would be the fact that we would sometimes blog as a conversation, going back and forth and sharing ideas. What you are about to read is the very first of those conversations.
I originally had asked for your tender mercies here, claiming that "we knew not what we did." Upon re-reading, though, I don't feel I can say that. I'll explain more in the comments.
The Teacher: For our first foray into the blogging realm, we thought we’d step back a bit and give you our “State of the WWE”. What we like, what we don’t like, and how we feel about where things are going. So, Doc, start us off. What’s the biggest reason you’re watching WWE right now?
Doc Manson: There are many good reasons to be watching WWE right now. After years of wishing for new stars, there are a plethora of new faces. Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns - all of these guys are highlights right now.
The Teacher: I notice you didn’t include Seth Rollins in said plethora.
Doc Manson: Not to take anything away from the guy, but Seth Rollins was always the least interesting of the guys in The Shield. Personality-wise he has been pretty one note. He has some killer abilities between the ropes, for sure, but he’s going to have to show me something more than the cowardly heel before I can jump on the Rollins hype-train.
T: Why is he called “The Architect”? Where did that nickname come from?
I agree with you on the personality piece, though I can’t say I get very excited any time Roman Reigns picks up a microphone. He’s got the “main-event” look in spades, but I don’t get much else out of him.
D: A week ago, I’d have agreed completely. His promo on RAW last week, culminating with calling Kane a “bitch” showed me that maybe he’s got some personality in there to back up those monstrous looks.
The real travesty amongst the former Shield members has got to be Dean Ambrose though, at least to me. I like the guy, he’s in a good program right now, but come on. If anyone in that group should have come out as the next top heel, it was Ambrose.
T: Top guy, absolutely, though I think Ambrose has almost-Stone Cold level potential as an anti-hero going up against The Authority. I love that he is refusing to let Rollins cash in his MITB briefcase, although we don’t need to see it each and every week.
D: I love when Ambrose just comes out of nowhere, but yeah the constant threat of the near-cash-in can only be fresh for so long.
T: Here’s a slight tangential question for you. I was watching a then-WWF PPV from 1997 today, back when Kane had first made his debut and was trying to goad the Undertaker into fighting him. In my memory, that seemed to last for a long time. ‘Taker would refuse to fight his brother, Kane would come hit him or cost him a match, and it just kept building and building.
Does the slow build of a storyline or match happen in 2014 WWE? Or is everything shoved down our throats based on the number of hours of programming they have to fill?
D: The slow build absolutely still exists. The lead-up to the Daniel Bryan title reign was so slow it seemed to risk losing momentum each and every week. I think the underlying problem is the internet. In the age of immediate gratification, its difficult to keep the audience’s attention for the long-term. Still, slow builds do still happen although I think most fans just complain about them while simultaneously complaining that they don’t exist anymore. Not to call you out.
T: Fair enough, I may resemble that remark, though I certainly didn’t complain during the Daniel Bryan lead-in. Granted, I wasn’t watching very often.
Have we seen the last of Daniel Bryan as an everyday wrestler?
D: What a set-up. Yes! Yes! Yes!
T: I do what I can.
D: But, no. Not really. DB will be back, although I suspect with a significantly different move-set, and without ever climbing back to the top of the card.
T: I think DB will have difficulty adjusting his repertoire. When Austin broke his neck thanks to an Owen Hart Tombstone back in the 90’s, he was able to fall back on brawling. Bryan’s lack of size is going to make that sort of thing tricky, even if he does administer some of the better kicks I’ve ever seen.
D: So, what about you. Why are you watching the product today?
T: To be honest? The WWE Network. Being able to watch each and every PPV whenever I want (which fits my old man schedule), both past and present cards, brought me back to being more than a casual observer of current storylines. I began to feel compelled to watch RAW each week, since I now had a better idea of what was happening.
D: The Network needs to receive the latest episodes of RAW and Smackdown! in a more timely fashion. I could cancel cable if they weren’t being posted a month out from the original air date.
T: In Vince McMahon’s perfect world, I’m sure that would eventually happen, though he’d lose some amount of money from the mainstream cable channels.
Outside of that, I’m in much the same opinion as you. I love that there are a number of new stars and soon to be stars I can watch each week.
While I’m on the subject, Luke Harper, in my opinion, can be a main event talent some day. Thoughts?
D: Is that the guy with the sheep mask, or the other guy? The other guy is good, but I’m guessing since I can’t remember which is which, he’s going to have some problems transitioning into a strong singles run.
T: Yes, Luke Harper is the one in the tank top. Wild eyes, sometimes goes “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!” and does the occasional leaping over the ropes. Erick Rowan is the one in the sheep’s mask.
In an alternate universe, he and Sheamus are doing a version of the Highlanders’ gimmick right now. Coming out in kilts and animal furs.
D: Yeah, Harper has been impressive, but he’s going to have trouble when/if he has to transition his character into something more than crazy, backwoods bodyguard.
Elephant in the room: Thoughts on CM Punk?
T: I have to imagine that at some point, he’ll make a return to WWE. There’s just too much money to be made both for him and for the company not to work out some sort of arrangement.
Having said that, I don’t imagine it will be during this calendar year. From what I’ve read, Punk might wind up doing a podcast or a TV show, so it looks like he’s going to try just being a celebrity for a while.
D: Yeah. CM Punk is a great talent, was one of my favorites on the roster. Honestly though, I don’t have time to miss him too much. Guys are stepping up and earning the spotlight right now.
T: Cesaro, for example.
D: God, Cesaro! That guy is incredible right now. Well, correction, that guy was incredible coming off winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30, and has just been struggling with Paul Heyman ever since. I love Paul Heyman, but people want to cheer Cesaro right now and once again they are in danger of killing this guy’s momentum on a weekly basis.
T: I always thought Cesaro was an odd choice to be a Paul Heyman Guy. He has enough natural charisma and verbal skills that he doesn’t need a mouthpiece.
You use Paul Heyman for someone who can’t seem to articulate their message or get over on the mic. I want Kofi Kingston to be a Paul Heyman Guy, darn it! If there’s anyone who needs a character reset and a heel turn, he’s got to be high on the list.
D: Adam Rose.
T: Totally a situation where they got a single idea… “Hey, let’s have a party guy entrance!” … And then did zero thinking besides that. Because once you’ve seen that entrance once or twice, you get it. Then you just have a guy with a lollipop and some dork in a bunny suit.
D: Bo Dallas. Yes, I’m just scrolling through the current roster on WWE.com.
T: I didn’t think I would be, but I’m becoming a bit of a Bo-liever. He’s pouring his guts out into that, though I could do without the midget fighting.
OK, I’m going to give you easily one of my Top 3 things going on in WWE right now. Might even be the number one.
D: Love the Stardust character. He is finally hitting a stride, and the matches that the Dust brothers are churning out every week are fantastic. Promos are always a highlight - crazy but fun. Hopefully, this ends with the long rumored Cody v. Dustin at Wrestlemania.
T: Two things.
OK, we should probably wrap this up, so a final thought.
We’ve gone through all of our favorite reasons to watch WWE, yet we didn’t utter the words “Orton”, “Triple H” or “Cena” once. Coincidence?
D: Nope. Again, I’m super happy to see new faces right now. Those guys are established, and the roster maybe needs them as a strong foundation, but its time to let the new stars shine.
T: Personally, I think all 3 could go away and we wouldn’t miss them all that much.
Alright, folks. There you have it. The “State of the WWE”, straight from the minds and hearts of the Number Two Contenders.
We welcome your well thought out comments and opinions to our own comments and opinions.
For my partner Doc Manson, this is The Teacher, signing off.