WWE Battleground Thoughts

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WWE delivered a very good show with Battleground, especially considering it was mostly a two-match card going into the pay-per-view. The in-ring work was really good in pretty much every match, save for the main event, which was a Brock Lesnar beatdown until the Undertaker showed up. We got an 11-minute women’s match, better-than-expected work from Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns, and another John Cena-Kevin Owens classic.

– Of course, the booking of that Owens-Cena match has left a lot of people scratching their heads (or saying they’ll NEVER WATCH WWE AGAIN) and I certainly agree that it was questionable to book the angry, surly Owens to tap out to Cena’s weakly-applied STF. While it seemed clear going in that there needed to be a way to extend the feud into SummerSlam, there were probably a dozen other ways to do it without weakening Owens in that fashion. My guess was interference by either Rusev or Cesaro, or some sort of DQ finish that allowed for one more match where Owens would take the US Title. WWE can still do Cena-Owens at SummerSlam but the logical road there just got a lot bumpier.

The match itself was incredible and anyone telling you otherwise is a little too focused on the result and not the journey. Owens continues to show off his athleticism and John Cena keeps having excellent matches with everyone he’s paired with. The pair’s chemistry is off the charts.

– Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt put on a great show once they got rolling. Reigns is getting into John Cena territory, where so many of his matches are really good that you have to give him some credit and not just his opponent. Luke Harper showing up and interfering protected Reigns in the loss and also gives Wyatt some of his much-missed muscle back. I’m definitely looking forward to another match at SummerSlam between these two.

– The previously unannounced women’s triple threat wasn’t a classic like many of Charlotte and Sasha Banks’ one-on-one encounters have been but it was given the time that most women’s matches aren’t afforded. Brie Bella didn’t help matters and at times it felt like she was holding Charlotte and Banks back. Either way, it’s nice to see WWE is continuing to give the women a chance and it looks as though Charlotte, Banks and Lynch are here to stay.

– The Prime Time Players v. New Day matchup was very fun and I can’t say enough about New Day on the microphone. Kofi Kingston seems more comfortable on the mic in this role than he ever has before and Big E has always been great but was never given the chance to shine. Xavier Woods added so much to this match with his mannerisms and shoutings on the outside. I can’t wait to see these teams square off again.

– The Lesnar-Rollins match was going in the same direction as Lesnar’s victorious match over John Cena at last year’s SummerSlam before the lights went out in St. Louis and the Undertaker appeared. It’s always nice to see Taker but I was hoping they wouldn’t go this direction because someone has to be a heel in the feud. The crowd doesn’t want to boo Taker (although they did briefly before switching to cheers) and Lesnar is so hot as a babyface that it doesn’t make sense to cool him off.

My other concern is what this means for Seth Rollins and the WWE Championship picture if Taker-Lesnar indeed is booked for SummerSlam. There isn’t a logical candidate next in line to challenge for the title, unless WWE decides to put Reigns in the match and put the Wyatt feud on hold for a bit.

[Image via WWE.com]

WrestleMania 31 Quick Hit Reactions

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WWE delivered a WrestleMania full of moments, entertaining matches and interesting booking last night in Santa Clara, CA. Coming in I had pretty high expectations for the show, based more on the card itself and the workers involved than the build. The company and its performers certainly did not disappoint.

Were there things you could nitpick about? Of course. But all in all I found this to be one of the best WrestleManias. Below are my quick hits on WrestleMania 31:

• The finish to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match could not have been booked any better. It was the first time a Money in the Bank cash in has been done during a match and with the briefcase being around for as long as it has, it’s always great when WWE can come up with a new way to use it. The tide of the match had just turned to Roman Reigns’ favor and both men were rocked, making it a perfect time for Seth Rollins to capitalize.

The way this was done makes it fairly easy to book the WWE Title picture all the way through SummerSlam, as well. Lesnar wasn’t pinned so he has a legit beef along with his rematch clause, which I would expect won’t come until SummerSlam. Roman Reigns took the pin but a program between the former Shield brethren is an obvious summer feud. And there’s also Randy Orton, who pinned Rollins earlier in the night following a spectacular RKO, who could claim rights to a title match.

The ending also can be used as the final piece of a Brock Lesnar babyface turn. We’ll see where that goes on tonight’s Raw.

• The aforementioned spectacular RKO earned the first pop of the night from this viewer. As with Money in the Bank cash ins, finding creative new ways for Orton to hit an RKO “OUT OF NOWHERE” can be challenging, but Orton turning a curb stomp attempt into the finisher was a truly clever spot. It was also perfectly executed by Orton and Rollins, so kudos to them.

The match was great but could have used a little more time. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since these two are top shelf when it comes to in-ring work.

• The Intercontinental Championship ladder match had some good spots and a few scary parts as well, most notably the harsh landing Dean Ambrose took onto a ladder bridged between the barricade and the ring apron. Daniel Bryan winning is the right call. The IC Title desperately needs an image restoration and putting it around the waist of the hottest babyface in the company (with Brock Lesnar giving him a run for his money) is a wise move.

• I liked the incorporation of DX and the nWo into the Sting v. Triple H match, even though it didn’t make sense to have the nWo side with their longtime nemesis Sting. While it was a bit of a mess, it made sense given Sting’s age and the amount of time it’s been since he last wrestled a lengthy match while in TNA. I would have booked the match to end after the nWo showed up and Sting hit Triple H with the Scorpion Death Drop but apparently Vince McMahon wanted to make sure that – even 14 years later – everyone knew the WWE beat WCW.

I thought Sting looked great, especially for being 56 years old. While The Rock looked gassed shortly into his WrestleMania XXVIII match against John Cena, Sting showed no similar signs. Maybe this is it for the Stinger but if he has enough in the tank, it would be great to see him stick around for a few more WWE matches. Even better would be to see him go out with a win.

Rusev had to lose eventually but I was really hoping he would get a WrestleMania moment over Cena. Getting the US Title off him could mean he’s headed to the WWE Championship picture, although that looks like a crowded landscape at the moment. Certainly giving Cena the strap will elevate the title in the same way the IC Title will be heightened by Daniel Bryan holding it but Cena didn’t need the win at ‘Mania.

The match itself was very good and it looks like we might be headed towards a Lana-Rusev breakup. Maybe Lana will come back from filming her movie as a babyface who suddenly lost her Russian accent?

• The match between Undertaker and Bray Wyatt was fine and Undertaker looked good, especially for being 50 years old, but it didn’t have that same mystique for me as usual. Obviously Taker not having the streak was a big reason for that. There were some good moments here, especially the spot where Wyatt was doing the reverse spider walk and Taker sat up. This one could have been booked either way and made sense, but it’s the second year in a row Wyatt loses to a high profile star at WrestleMania. That in itself can be considered quite the rub, though.

• The Tag Team Championship 4-Way match was a crazy yet entertaining trainwreck. I’m glad they kept the belts on Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. The team is getting over and if they’re not ready to give Cesaro a real singles run, it’s smart to keep the two together and let them grow as a team.

• Big Show winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was fine. If you got upset that someone else didn’t get the rub or Big Show “didn’t need the win,” you must have forgotten how little it did for Cesaro last year. Show had never won a battle royal or Royal Rumble before so it was a nice touch to give him the nod, along with the obvious comparisons throughout his career to (his one-time father, according to WCW) Andre the Giant.

Miz and Damien Mizdow were also able to tell their story in a big way, which was important. I would expect a match between the two at Extreme Rules.

• I thought the special entrances were all well done, even Triple H’s Terminator cross-promotion which was either the greatest thing ever or the hokiest thing in wrestling history, according to my Twitter timeline. It could have done without the whole “targeting” view-from-the-Terminator thing, but it was fine.

Rusev’s tank-riding entrance was the best of the night for me and I’m disappointed there was only a Fox News viewer’s dream of a video package before Cena entered. Really thought he would MURICA it up a little more.

Survivor Series 2014 Review: Sting and Dolph Ziggler Steal the Show

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The most notable moment from Survivor Series 2014, of course, was Sting finally making an appearance inside a WWE ring, delivering a Scorpion Death Drop to Triple H. The other huge takeaway is that this was really Dolph Ziggler’s show. With John Cena being eliminated after a knockout punch from the heel-turning Big Show, Ziggler was left to face three members of Team Authority by himself.

Alas, it was Dolph Ziggler – not John Cena – who overcame the odds last night.

While Sting placed Ziggler on top of Seth Rollins to get the final pinfall, it doesn’t take away from the fact that WWE made Ziggler look like a main event star last night.

The events of last night also set up a few programs moving forward, with John Cena and Big Show likely to square off and a potential Triple H-Sting showdown in the works. While WrestleMania XXXI seems the likely candidate, I could see the company not wanting to wait that long to get Sting on a pay-per-view card.

If I were picking nits (which I am about to) my only gripe with Sting’s appearance was that WWE gave him new theme music, even though his “Crow” theme was used in WWE 2K15 promotion and in the game itself. But it didn’t really matter. Once the crow noises hit, coupled with rumors that Sting was going to appear, the building erupted.

Below are my thoughts on the rest of the show:

– The Fatal 4-Way opener was a really solid match that kept the crowd hot. I missed the mark on my prediction of Goldust & Stardust retaining the straps but I really liked how the match ended, with Damien Mizdow finally getting in and stealing the pinfall from Miz. It’s a subtle nudge of things to come, when the pair inevitably breaks up because Mizdow is taking all of Miz’s spotlight, but that’s probably a little way down the line. Miz holding both belts and Mizdow still mimicking his celebration was great and I’m looking forward to what these two come up with as their reign rolls on.

– The Divas elimination match was… a match. I have no clue what the booking of this accomplished. The babyfaces (Is Alicia a babyface?) won in a clean sweep, with Naomi getting the final pinfall on Paige. The whole contest felt like a giant cluster with very little direction. I was hoping they would have Natalya and Paige be the final survivors for their respective teams, do battle for a bit, and set up a program between the two of them. It wasn’t meant to be.

– Roman Reigns appeared via satellite in one of his better interviews since his injury. That’s not saying much but this one at least wasn’t cringeworthy. Of note, Reigns said he’ll be back “this time next month,” meaning we’ll probably see him at TLC. My guess would be a match with Seth Rollins but time will tell if WWE holds him off pay-per-view until the Royal Rumble.

– I’m sure there was an uproar over AJ Lee losing the Divas Championship in the fashion she did (I stayed off Twitter for most of the show) but I’m fine with it. It was a nice tip of the cap to how Daniel Bryan lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII and Brie’s motivation made sense since AJ had DDT’ed Brie on Monday’s Raw, along with her marriage to Bryan.

There are still some questions. Is Brie a heel now and happily in the company of her sister once again? Or was this a one-off revenge move on AJ? Or did WWE not really think this out and just need a quick way to get the title off AJ, who is rumored to be leaving the company for another break?

Unanswered questions aren’t bad. Really, that’s the point. But do people really care much about the answers?

– Bray Wyatt defeated Dean Ambrose by disqualification when Ambrose hit Wyatt with a chair. During the post-match, Ambrose elbow dropped Wyatt through a table, then piled a bunch of chairs on top of him and climbed a ladder to mug for the cameras. The whole ladder thing was a strange and punch-you-in-the-face obvious way to set up another showdown between the two at TLC, which the broadcast team announced was official later on during Survivor Series.

– We got a surprise Bunny & Adam Rose v. Slater Gator tag team match, which was fine time-filler. I was hoping we would get our Bunny reveal but that will likely come on Raw. As silly as the Bunny’s involvement is, it’s a pretty well flushed out storyline and I’m actually interested in the payoff. I’m also excited about Adam Rose playing a heel, which seems to be a more natural fit for him.

– The pre-show Cesaro v. Jack Swagger match was pretty good and did well to get the crowd going early. That’s one thing that shouldn’t be understated: The crowd was great and that plays a big part in how the big moments of the show come off.

– I won’t make the “another heel turn for Big Show” joke. It’s a little strange, though, that we’re going to get another Cena-Show program, especially with Cena being the number one contender and Brock Lesnar rumored to be wrestling at TLC. Perhaps that isn’t the case and we won’t see Lesnar until the Rumble. If you don’t remember Brock Lesnar, he’s the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Yep, they still have one of those.

– All in all, WWE did a good job of making this feel bigger than it did going in. A lot of people didn’t like the Raw-style 15-minute opening promo, but it made the main event feel like more of a big deal. The follow-up will be important, as WWE could please a lot of fans by naming a new GM on tonight’s Raw that brings some excitement to the table. I’m not sure if I can buy in to the rumors of Sting being the GM just yet. We’ll see on tonight’s Raw.

– As for my predictions, I was 3-for-5. I was wrong on AJ Lee and Goldust & Stardust retaining their titles and three of the other matches were unadvertised or, in the case of Fandango, an opponent wasn’t named.

Some Random Thoughts on the Royal Rumble

The hot topic following last night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view is the crowd reaction based on Daniel Bryan not appearing in the Rumble match. It’s unfortunate since there were other notable occurrences at the show, like Roman Reigns clearly being pushed with his record-setting 12 Rumble eliminations, Bray Wyatt’s continued ascension to the top of the card and the return of Sheamus. Here are some more random musings about WWE’s second biggest show of the year:

• The opening Bryan v. Bray Wyatt match was incredible. So many little details that made it shine, the crowd was so hot for it and Bray going over clean says a lot about the direction they’re going with him. I thought him coming after John Cena later in the night cemented him as a rising star in 2014.

• Sure, Daniel Bryan told us Monday in a roundabout way that he wouldn’t be competing in the Rumble match. But having him lose in the opener sure sent a signal that he was going to enter the Rumble and have a solid run, if not win. On the other hand, I think keeping him completely out of the Rumble was the right call since he wasn’t going to win. WWE has painted themselves into a corner with Bryan’s booking and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

• The crowd went into business for themselves right from the start of the Cena v. Randy Orton match. While it’s entertaining to see a crowd express its displeasure over the match they’re getting, it certainly takes away from the action. In this case, the action was very serviceable. In fact, I enjoyed the match. But WWE fans are ready to move into a new era, without John Cena and Randy Orton clogging up the main event.

• That, coupled with the lack of Daniel Bryan, is why the crowd boo’ed so hard when Batista won the Rumble. Had Roman Reigns come out victorious, the crowd would have popped, simply because he’s one of the new guard. I think WWE is seriously overvaluing Batista in terms of his crossover potential and Batista reportedly flipping off the crowd after the show isn’t going to make anything better.

John Cena is the new World Heavyweight Champion

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In a result that will shock absolutely no one, John Cena defeated Alberto Del Rio at last night’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

The match itself was fine, with Del Rio focusing most of his attention on Cena’s injured arm, but – as usual – Cena “overcame the odds” to capture the title upon his return. It is Cena’s third reign with the World Heavyweight Championship and 14th combined world title overall.

Randy Orton wins WWE Championship after Shawn Michaels superkicks Daniel Bryan

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Wrestling fans that long for the days of the Attitude Era got a little taste of it last night with a WWE Championship match finish straight from the late 1990s.

Randy Orton won the WWE Championship after Triple H got inside the cage, Daniel Bryan gave a running knee to the COO, and then Shawn Michaels superkicked the bearded one, allowing Randy Orton to score the pin and walk out of Miami with the WWE Championship.

I predicted yesterday that this was how it would go down, but the ending made things less obvious since we don’t really know why Shawn Michaels kicked Bryan. It seems like they’ll go with the “friend doing what his friend wanted instead of what’s right” angle but Michaels was clearly not happy about what he did last night.

Whatever the motive, hopefully this is the end of the Orton v. Bryan series. While they can both put on a great match, it’s time for them to each find a new opponent.

AJ Styles is the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion

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If you haven’t heard, AJ Styles pinned Bully Ray in the main event of last night’s Bound For Glory pay-per-view to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. ImpactWrestling.com has the full results of the show.

Some other notable happenings at BFG:

• Chris Sabin is the new X Division champion after defeating Manik, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries in an Ultimate X match.

• Kurt Angle declined his induction into the TNA Hall of Fame because he felt he wasn’t worthy yet. This, even though he accepted the induction the night before, is why people continually scratch their heads at TNA booking. I know the point is just to not make Angle seem like some over the hill geezer, but logic and continuity would be helpful in those situations.

• The BroMans not only won the gauntlet match on the pre-show but also became the new TNA Tag Team champions later in the evening.

• Gail Kim won the TNA Knockouts Championship, meaning every title that was defended changed hands.

WWE SummerSlam 2013 review

SS13_Photo_292WWE delivered a really strong pay-per-view, perhaps the company’s best effort this year, in SummerSlam. The newsworthy item is Randy Orton cashing in, with the assistance of Triple H, and defeating Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship after the bearded one had just won the belt from John Cena. Dean Ambrose and Alberto Del Rio both retained their championships, and Brock Lesnar defeated CM Punk in a great, hard-hitting contest.

Some quick thoughts on the card:

• Randy Orton cash-in not withstanding, Daniel Bryan and John Cena put on an excellent main event WWE Championship match. We all know Cena can put on a great match when he’s in the ring with the right guy, but let’s not discredit Cena either. He was on top of his game last night.

Daniel Bryan was also at another level. Even though he is usually the smaller man in the ring, Bryan’s offense is so believable because of the aggression he portrays. That was the case again last night. The crowd was in a frenzy and thoroughly behind Bryan, which made the Orton/Triple H heel turn even more bittersweet.

• Speaking of believable offense, no one looks the part more than Brock Lesnar. His match with CM Punk was full of stiff action, chair shots and excellent storytelling. It was expected that Lesnar would go over and we’ll likely get some continuation to this program. I’d give this match the nod for Match of the Night, since it went about 30 minutes and the near-falls were tremendous.

• Alberto Del Rio and Christian put on a really good match and Del Rio winning makes sense since Christian almost came out of nowhere to challenge him. Del Rio’s post-match program about being the role model the Latino people need had me thinking Rey Mysterio would run-in, but maybe we’ll get that tonight on Raw. I’m curious to see who Del Rio will work a program with next, especially after that promo.

• The opening Ring of Fire match was fine. It would have been unfair to expect a five star wrestling exhibition out of Bray Wyatt and Kane, but the story behind it makes a lot of sense and the post-match attack on Kane fits right in. The Wyatt Family continues to look strong and, as with Del Rio, I’m interested to see where this takes them.

• Dean Ambrose and Rob Van Dam were having a very entertaining match, then The Shield, Mark Henry and Big Show showed up. It didn’t really hurt the match, but it felt like we were getting set up for a tag team match later in the show, which never happened. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something come from this on tonight’s Raw.

• As for my predictions, I was correct with seven of nine picks. I had Ambrose retaining the title, but not by disqualification. My other incorrect pick was Bryan to defeat a cashing-in Orton, which obviously was not the case.

Money in the Bank recap: A night of solid wrestling and smart booking

sandowDamien Sandow and Randy Orton left Philadelphia with Money in the Bank briefcases, all the champions retained, and Paul Heyman finally and decisively turned on CM Punk. WWE’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view delivered all of that plus some very solid matches. Below is a match-by-match breakdown of the card:

Kickoff Show: The Shield defeated The Usos to retain the World Tag Team Championships
The kickoff show tag team match was an excellent starter. The crowd was into it and it featured some great false finishes, with the Shield eventually coming out on top. The Usos showed that they have the potential to be a top tag team and, as we saw later in the pay-per-view, they are likely going to continue their program with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.

Damien Sandow defeated Fandango, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro and Dean Ambrose to win the World Heavyweight Championship contract Money in the Bank ladder match
The way this match ended was perfectly done. The Shield interfered to try to assist Dean Ambrose, which brought out the Usos to fend off Reigns and Rollins. While that all turned into a big schmozz on the outside, Cody Rhodes pushed over the ladder, catapulting Ambrose onto the crowd of wrestlers. It seemed at that moment that Rhodes was about the grab the blue briefcase. Alas, we had all forgotten about Rhodes’ tag team partner and “best friend” Damien Sandow, who entered the ring, knocked Rhodes off the ladder and grabbed the contract.

Sandow is a good choice to win the match. He’s great on the mic and can wrestle. It also allows for a face Rhodes v. heel Sandow feud and a likely SummerSlam match – perhaps even with the briefcase on the line.

While I thought Dean Ambrose was the obvious and most logical choice to win, he probably doesn’t need the briefcase to enter the main event title picture.

Curtis Axel defeated The Miz to retain the Intercontinental Championship
For some reason, WWE decided to bring out new Raw General Manager Brad Maddox for a talking segment in which he mocked Vickie Guerrero with a video package and attempted to get the crowd on his side. Needless to say, the Philly faithful were not having it. The segment was so bad, it was the first time in a long time I’ve actually been happy to hear Miz’s theme song hit.

The match itself was okay, but the crowd had died thanks to the Maddox segment. Axel retaining is the right move, as Miz really provides no boost to the title and Axel is solidifying his position as champion.

AJ Lee defeated Kaitlyn via submission to retain the Divas Championship
This match wasn’t as good as their previous encounters, and the crowd basically sleeping through it didn’t help, but it told a solid enough story. The way AJ applies the spider submission hold is awesome and makes it seem like it’s a move that can actually come out of nowhere, as WWE announcers love to say.

Ryback defeated Chris Jericho
I know a lot of people hated this match and its ending, but I loved it. The monstrous Ryback winning via rollup is great and it helps evolve his heel persona. It’s a “cheap” victory, which is what heels – and all WWE heels – do. Plus, it allows for maybe one more Jericho-Ryback match at SummerSlam, if Jericho fits it in his schedule.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler by disqualification to retain the World Heavyweight Championship
The match itself was great. Ziggler is just an excellent worker and he and Del Rio have great chemistry. It’s a shame we got a DQ ending but it fits nicely into the story. Keeping the belt on Del Rio makes sense and AJ costing Ziggler the match moves along their impending breakup storyline. Obviously AJ looks like an idiot with her “I was trying to help” defense, but it’ll be revealed down the line that it was all a plan. We might get one more Del Rio-Ziggler match for the title, but it might be time for both of them to move on. Ziggler’s next feud will likely be with Big E. Langston.

John Cena defeated Mark Henry via submission to retain the WWE Championship
Cena and Henry brought their respective “A Games” to Philadelphia and put on a great match. I thought it moved a little quickly into Mark Henry becoming frustrated with not being able to put Cena away but that’s nitpicky. While I agree that keeping the belt on Cena at this stage is the right move, I hate that it ended with the big monster tapping out to the always poorly applied STF. Hook his chin, Cena!

This probably moves Henry right back out of the title picture. While Daniel Bryan didn’t win the MITB match as many expected, I think he’s Cena’s likely SummerSlam opponent.

Randy Orton defeated Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Christian, Rob Van Dam and Sheamus to win the WWE Championship contract Money in the Bank briefcase
I know since this is the internet I’m supposed to be outraged that Randy Orton won the briefcase. Honestly, though, I’m fine with it and even predicted it. (Not bragging… Yes I am.) We’re likely going to get a heel Orton sooner than later and just because he has the briefcase and Cena has the title, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting a Cena-Orton feud. Even if we did, it’s been long enough since they feuded that it might feel fresh. Although I admit I don’t want another Orton-Cena feud.

As for Daniel Bryan, as I said on Twitter last night, so many people complain about everything being predictable but when the predictable Bryan win doesn’t happen, they’re upset. Bryan doesn’t need the briefcase to get a title match based on his buildup. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s announced tonight (or wins a #1 contender match to earn a shot) during Raw. Curtis Axel interfered to cost Bryan the briefcase and try to help CM Punk, which was more about the Punk-Heyman storyline than Bryan-Axel. I doubt we’ll see an Axel-Bryan feud come out of this.

Speaking of Bryan, the ultimate heel turn for Orton would be Daniel Bryan defeating John Cena to win the WWE Championship at SummerSlam and then Orton cashing in the briefcase. That would, of course, have the internet in an uproar, but it would also make sense from a storyline and set up a great Orton-Bryan feud.

Rob Van Dam looked better than I expected and pulled off all his signature spots. He got a huge pop from the crowd, as did Bryan and CM Punk.

Heyman turning on Punk and costing him the match finally gave us the full blown breakup we’ve been expecting between the two. We’ll likely get Brock Lesnar v. CM Punk at SummerSlam and tonight’s Raw should be interesting as the fallout between Heyman and Punk is dissected.

Final thoughts
All in all, this was a good pay-per-view. There was a lot of intrigue for tonight’s Raw (and beyond) created while also giving the fans solid payoffs for some of the angles that have been building.

(Image courtesy WWE)

Payback results and review: CM Punk returns; Axel, AJ and ADR win gold

punkpaybackWWE’s Payback pay-per-view delivered more than most fans – myself included – expected, including a bevy of title changes and the surprise announcement of the return of Rob Van Dam. While the John Cena v. Ryback Three Stages of Hell match was the least entertaining, the rest of the show was very strong, with the crowd into it throughout the night and some unexpected finishes.

The Cena – Ryback main event suffered from many factors. The match type itself already featured three of maybe the least exciting stipulations all bundled into one – Lumberjack match, tables match, and ambulance match. It also didn’t help that two guys WWE audiences certainly don’t believe have great in-ring talent had to follow the likes of CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan and The Shield. In hindsight, WWE would probably book the CM Punk v. Jericho match to close the show.

Below are the results and my thoughts on each match on the main card:

Curtis Axel defeated The Miz and Wade Barrett to win the Intercontinental Championship

It felt like Axel was a shoe-in to win as soon as he was announced as Fandango’s replacement but the match was pretty solid, the ending was smart, and the crowd popped huge for Axel winning the Intercontinental Title that his father helped make famous on Father’s Day. The way Axel won – pinning Barrett while Miz had the figure four applied – probably sets up a Miz – Axel feud for the title, which could be good.

AJ Lee defeated Kaitlyn via submission to win the Divas Championship

I couldn’t help but thinking during this match – and I had to restrain myself a bit because it might be a little hyperbolic – that we were watching this generation’s Trish Stratus and Lita. AJ and Kaitlyn have a long way to go before they’re in the same realm as two of the greatest women’s competitors of all time, but these two have obvious chemistry in the ring, a solid backstory, and can put together a hell of a match.

Dean Ambrose defeated Kane via countout to retain the United States Championship

A predictable outcome, which is fine, since Kane doesn’t need a singles title at this point in his career and Dean Ambrose is on the rise to the main event scene.

WWE announces Rob Van Dam will return at Money in the Bank

Rob Van Dam will return to WWE at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, which takes place in Philadelphia on July 14th. RVD will likely be a big crowd favorite in ECW’s old hometown, although WWE is wringing that cloth for all the nostalgia it can get at this point. While he was less than stellar during his TNA run, a motivated Van Dam could be really good for a short span in WWE. The company hasn’t said yet whether this is a one shot deal or a longer plan for RVD.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Dolph Ziggler to win the World Heavyweight Championship

Throughout the match Alberto Del Rio was playing the heel role. The crowd was solidly behind Ziggler and it felt like WWE was trying to do a double turn with Del Rio ended up heel and Ziggler babyface. Del Rio continually targeted the head of Ziggler and the announcers pointed out how that wasn’t very sportsmanlike, but you have to do what you have to do to become champion.

If the plan is to turn both men, it was smart booking to have Del Rio win the title, even though it’s so soon into Ziggler’s reign. It helps to build sympathy for Ziggler from the “non-smart mark” crowd and the good guy is usually better as the one chasing the title.

CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho

This match went down without any shenanigans, which was a bit surprising to me. Punk returned, with the same theme song, and defeated Jericho in an excellent match. A little bit of dissension was teased between Paul Heyman and CM Punk following the match and again backstage. It seems like WWE will eventually split these two up, with Punk turning babyface and hopefully feuding with Brock Lesnar.

Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton to retain the World Tag Team Championship

A predictable outcome – again, which is totally fine – and a solid match. Daniel Bryan continues to be one of the hottest wrestlers on the roster right now and will probably head into the main event title scene. The question is what’s next for Randy Orton?

John Cena defeated Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match to retain the WWE Championship
Ryback won the Lumberjack stage by pinfall. Cena won the second stage by putting Ryback through a table. Cena won the third stage by AA’ing Ryback through the roof of the ambulance.

Jokes about how flimsy the ambulance was! Now that that’s out of the way, this match itself wasn’t bad, really, but like I mentioned above it suffered from several factors. Hopefully this is the end of the Cena – Ryback feud.

(Image courtesy WWE.com)