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Archive for the tag “Adrian Neville”

WWE Thursday Night Smackdown – May 14th, 2015

The go-home edition of the blue brand beams into living rooms around America and through my computer monitor in Vancouver, as we get set for the final stop before WWE Payback.

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With some of the bigger name talent taking the night off (Randy Orton, John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, The Bellas), the rest of the roster trade partners for a night as they try their best to hype every feud on the upcoming card. A surprisingly uncomplicated night, with an absence of run-ins, interference, shmozzes, or last minute stipulations. The focus was on competitive in-ring action – of which there was plenty, and on the subtle relationships between single superstars.

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WWE Raw – May 4th, 2015

Ole! Ole! Ole, ole-ole-ole! Raw goes international as WWE brings the action to Montreal, Quebec, a city steeped in wrestling tradition and home to some of the most passionate fans in the world.

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In what would be a mixed bag of highs and lows, awkward moments and huge spots, the outspoken Canadian audience saw the main event picture for Payback undergo a re-adjustment, the tag team champions chalk up a big win, a Hall of Famer rub shoulders with a present and future star, and plastic spiders too.

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WWE Monday Night Raw – April 27, 2015

Hot on the heels of its latest Pay-Per-View offering, the one-ring circus comes to Green Bay, Wisconsin for Raw!

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The happening of the night is the 2015 King of the Ring tournament, with four qualifying matches to be held over the course of the broadcast, with the semi-finals and finals to air live on the WWE Network on Tuesday, April 28th. This is the first time WWE has aired a live event solely on the Network – will it pay off? Will it entice more people into becoming subscribers? My crystal balls see money in the bank (and not the blue briefcase).

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WWE Monday Night Raw – April 13th, 2015

The show is live from the O2 Arena in London, UK. The crowd played a pivotal role in this week’s episode, and the superstars played to the enthusiastic house. Homegrown talent (i.e. Bad News Barrett, Paige and Neville) were booked strong and featured prominently.

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Despite some interesting swerves and entertaining spots, the show felt like a house show which counted for very little. Story lines developed on their way to Extreme Rules, but shorter match length and the absence of a proper main event took away from the show. That being said, it was a fun episode.

THE RUN-DOWN

  • John Cena opens the show and the crowd boos him emphatically. He shrugs it off and proceeds with his US Championship Open Challenge, which is accepted by crowd favourite Bad News Barrett. John Cena ends up taking the match after hitting a springboard stunner and an AA for the pin. Rusev attacks Cena with a steel chain after the bell. It is revealed the US Title match at Extreme Rules will now be a “Russian Chain Match”.
  • The Divas (sans Nikki or Brie) compete in a battle royal for the #1 contender spot. Paige wins, and addresses her hometown crowd, but is attacked by Naomi.

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  • Bray Wyatt cuts a promo addressed to an unnamed individual.
  • Lucha Dragons vs The Ascension: Lucha Dragons win by pinfall after a flurry of moves from Kalisto.
  • Booker T interviews Roman Reigns in the ring. Big Show interrupts, and attacks Roman Reigns after the interview, smashing him against a prop mini-cab parked on the entrance platform.
  • Randy Orton vs Cesaro: Tyson Kidd interferes and gets Cesaro a DQ, but Kane restarts the match and makes it a 2 on 1 handicapped match. Orton wins after hitting Kidd with an RKO off a springboard dive. Randy Orton earns the right to choose a stipulation for the title match at Extreme Rules.
  • Backstage, Seth Rollins tells Kane to lay down for him so that he can pick a stipulation in the title match as well. Kane feels conflicted about it.
  • Adam Rose vs Dean Ambrose: Dean wins with Dirty Deeds.
  • Big Show talks heart to heart with Kane about doing what’s best for business.
  • Stardust vs Fandango: Stardust pins Fandango and Fandango dances with the crowd to his old theme music.

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  • Daniel Bryan talks with Kane backstage, challenging him to stand up for himself.
  • Seth Rollins vs Kane: Kane is conflicted about laying down for Rollins, until he finally chokeslams Rollins in defiance but then lays down and pulls the limp Rollins on top of him to throw the match.
  • The Miz vs Damien Mizdow: Mizdow wins with a schoolboy roll-up.
  • Prime Time Players cut a funny promo.
  • Ryback vs Luke Harper: Harper is disqualified after hitting Ryback with a piece of the announce table. Dean Ambrose chases Harper, who escapes through the crowd.
  • Naomi cuts a shoot interview on the Divas Championship.
  • Dolph Ziggler issues an open challenge a la John Cena, which is accepted by UK boy Neville. Neville dominates most of the spots, but ZIggler sends him into the ring post before hitting the Zig Zag for the win. Sportsmanlike conduct after the bell is broken up by Shaemus who attacks both men. Ziggler and Shaemus brawl before Dolph’s put down with a brogue kick.

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  • Seth Rollins reveals his stipulation for Extreme Rules: the RKO is banned. Randy Orton reveals his stipulation: a steel cage. Orton attacks Rollins, but the champ escapes when J&J run interference and Mercury eats an RKO.

ANALYSIS

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  • Cena’s open challenge continues to be a great bit of business for himself, the championship, and for other superstars hungry for airtime. Barrett was put over huge in front of his people, even kicking out of an AA! It took a springboard stunner and a second AA to put him away. The aftermath was all right, but I feel the folks at WWE will have to enlighten the fans as to what exactly is a Russian Chain Match.
  • The battle royal contained nothing special until it got down to the final two – Naomi and Paige. I don’t believe these two have shared many matches together, and a program between them is an enticing prospect. Naomi’s heel turn after losing was unexpected to say the least, and very effective. Perhaps embracing a harder edge is just what the former Funkadactyl’s character needs.
  • I’m intrigued as to whom Bray Wyatt is addressing in his promos now. I only hope we don’t see a repeat of his “feud” with The Undertaker, i.e. months of the same rambling speech followed by a blow-out match – which Wyatt ends up losing. Face it, these new promos would mean a lot more if he had won at WrestleMania.
  • Kalisto is being put over massively since debuting last week. Ascension remains a floundering tag team with no credibility.

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  • Roman Reigns gave, in my opinion, his best promo to date. He seemed confident and smooth in his delivery, and he worked off the crowd’s chanting without batting an eye. Big Show’s violent attack was effectively violent, but I fear it may be too little, too late. The giant has been a pushover for so long that it may be difficult for him to regain clout in the eyes of the fans. It simply seems like lazy booking to put Reigns back into the same feud as a few months ago.
  • Orton and Cesaro had the potential to be a good match, but it was far too short and the DQ finish felt cheap. Ultimately, every man delivered a passable performance. The fact that Orton and Rollins were battling for their right to choose a stipulation was not established enough, in my opinion.
  • The dissension angle between Kane and Seth Rollins seemed flimsy at first, but both men have thrived in the absence of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
  • Ambrose’s match with Rose was little more than a squash and had no redeeming value.
  • Big Show’s moment backstage with Kane seemed strange, considering these two were teasing a feud for weeks before WrestleMania that seems to have been abandoned in favour of a Kane/Rollins feud.
  • Stardust’s victory meant nothing, it was merely a vehicle to set up Fandango’s moment with the London audience. It was a wonderful moment to see the whole crowd come alive when Fandango’s old theme hit.
  • Daniel Bryan pep-talking Kane was even more out of place than Big Show’s “bro-ment”. Don’t these two hate each other? That being said, Bryan’s “Be a man” bit played perfectly the story, and there’s no one else who could have delivered it as effectively.

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  • The segment with Kane and Rollins went over, succeeding in part because of the crowd being so on board with every moment of it. Kane played his part exceedingly well, and Rollins continues to be the best heel in the business. The way the segment ended guaranteed the story will continue and the tension increase, without taking away from the championship match with Orton.
  • Having Summer Rae accompany Mizdow to the ring does not help her character, the same way it doesn’t help Naomi to wear an Usos tee-shirt as her costume. These women are wrestlers, not valets. The match itself was nothing special, but Mizdow continues to be over with the people, and his mugging with the crowd spot is great. (Summer Rae joined him in the spot, and did anyone else notice the fan going for a bit of tummy touching on the blond beauty? Careful, Summer, those London fans can get a bit rowdy.)
  • The Prime Time Players are having so much fun with their promos these days, and it shows. Darren Young slipped in a very funny, “Rainbow is my favourite colour.”
  • Although the thought of a feud between Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper – especially with Extreme Rules right around the corner – is awesome and exciting, both Ryback and Harper were wasted in this brief segment. Harper running from a fight with Ambrose seems to go against character.
  • Naomi’s interview worked in putting over her heel turn. Her frustration felt real, and it will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to her when they return to American soil.
  • Neville got such a rub from Ziggler, dominating the majority of the match with impressive spots and only narrowly coming up short. It would have been nice to have him do a bit of speaking in front of his country men and women, the match went over well enough without. Shaemus continues to be effective as a monster heel, something the company sorely needs with Kane and Brock Lesnar appearing to turn face.

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  • The stipulations for the championship match were a bit underwhelming. Banning the RKO seems like squandering a gift, and when in the history of wrestling has a steel cage effectively prevented outside interference? It would have been more intriguing for Randy Orton to stipulate that if Seth Rollins lost by count out or disqualification, he would lose the championship belt. That would surely prevent outside interference, from J&J at the very least. The segment was a poor main event for an otherwise semi-entertaining episode of Raw.

Lost in Translation: How Certain Gimmicks in NXT Will Not Fly on Main Roster

NXT Champion Kevin Owens went head to head this past Wednesday with number one contender Finn Balor (sans beastie) in a match that deserves every bit of praise it has received. The two competitors put on one hell of a show, proving their ability as storytellers of the highest caliber. No doubt these two will have more great battles in the future as they work their way up to the main roster.

They cannot, however, get too used to the generous booking they have received thus far, or they set themselves up to be seriously disheartened when they enter the big leagues.

This never become more clear to me than on a previous Wednesday night when Owens took on Alex Riley. He looked impressive, admittedly, but only because Riley did the job like a true pro. When the two men squared off with one another at the match’s onset, it appeared to me a bit of a mismatch. Don’t get me wrong; Owens is a big guy by everyday standards, but this is the WWE. They don’t call it “the land of the giants” for nothing.

Riley is a man who was never billed as a monster on the roster, but even he dwarfed his rotund opponent by three whole inches, making the man whom many are currently building up by comparing him to Brock Lesnar look rather diminutive in comparison. Not only is Riley big (by your average Joe standards: 6’3″ and billed at 236lbs), but he can really move, executing high dropkicks and leap frogs with deft agility and moving around the ring with easy speed and polished grace. Owens, meanwhile, is able to muster up the occasional burst of steam with which to launch his 260 pound bulk into his prone opponent like a wrecking ball, but the rest of the time he loafs around breathing heavy in what looks like lead-filled boots. Riley showed us what (in a certain, selective conformity) a real main roster superstar looks like and frankly, maybe even a bit harshly, out-classed Kevin Owens in the match. His performance was made all the more impressive by his ability to make his loss look credible.

NXT_269_Photo_18-1086320850Owens might look impressive against men such as Sami Zayn, Hideo Itami or Adrian Neville, but just imagine Owens in the ring with a Cesaro or a Jack Swagger, let alone a John Cena or a Kane. One would glance at the tale of the tape and quickly judge Owens the underdog.

I’m not trying to diminish the ability of Kevin Owens. I can’t. The man is talented. I’m merely pointing out that his current gimmick of a malicious wrecking ball sadistically decimating everyone in his path is not going to fly when he moves up to Monday Night Raw.

The same goes for the man many have been touting “the next big star”: Finn Balor.

Again, I cannot take anything away from the Irishman as a performer. He possesses natural magnetism and exudes more poise and presence than most of the people on the main roster now, and like Owens is more than accomplished in the art of building and executing a main event match. In fact, there are few that come to mind who can equal him in the art of stillness. One who comes to mind is Randy Orton, the “apex predator”. In fact, the two share many traits and it would really be something to watch them go at it inside the squared circle.

orton v balorHowever, as with Kevin Owens, much of Balor’s presence would shrink in the eyes of those watching when the moment came to square off, and we see the massive difference in size between the two. Randy Orton stands a full six inches taller than Balor and outweighs him by upwards of fifty pounds (if we go by their billed weight). Randy (being the charming fellow we know him to be) I can just picture standing with arms crossed watching Finn performing his elaborate entrance, creeping and slinking like a demon loosed from some primordial pit, as The Viper snorts a mocking puff of laughter through his nose, unimpressed.

The risk of current NXT stars being doomed to jobber status as soon as they move up to join the likes of “The World’s Strongest Man” and “The Big Red Corporate Demon” is not an eventuality, however, but merely a risk, and one that with care may be avoided. All it takes is a bit of gimmick shifting.

Let’s take Kevin Owens. No doubt he has what it takes to hang toe to toe and blow for blow with anyone on the main roster, but to bill him as a wrecking ball will not sell for a song with the likes of seven foot giants and “The Beast Incarnate” stalking about. Conversely, when one observes Owens celebrating his championship victory against Sami Zayn, pressing the title belt to his sweat and tear-stained face as he dedicates the match to his wife and child at home in a moment of utter vulnerability, one sees the raw material needed to get him over. Instead of being a dominating sadist fighting because he enjoys it, he becomes a never-say-die and never-back-down pugilist who fights to provide for his family.

720x405-RIVAL_02112015ca_2152One can picture a man like Kane, in all his power and wickedness, taking twisted glee in ruthlessly pummeling Owens from pillar to post. Again and again Owens struggles back to his feet, seemingly only to invite more punishment. But then Kane misses a big right, and Owens begins landing punches, chopping away at his over-sized assailant until the big man is sent reeling. No big flashy moves here, nothing fancy, just pure heart, grit and hardened gumption. In the end, Owens pulls off a victory (although he may have to use a finisher other than his pop-up power-bomb on Kane) and, in classic Rocky Balboa fashion, cries passionately into the camera: “I did it, baby!”

That’s a fine enough fantasy for the current reigning NXT champion, but what about the sensation from Wicklow County? What can Finn Balor do to off-set his initial physical disadvantages in the ring. One can gain inspiration from others come before.

Adrian Neville is an example of a wrestler who need not fret the same obstacles as those that stand to threaten his neighbour from across the Irish Sea. His secret weapon is his acrobatic move set, a talent which sets him dramatically apart from the majority of other superstars and simultaneously turns his smaller than average size into a strength instead of a hindrance.

NXT_07312014ca_4178It has become a standard in the world of professional wrestling: if you’re small and light, you better learn to fly or flip or kick – or all three, if you can help it. Neville can do all of it in spades, and that’s what he brings to the dance to compensate.

Daniel Bryan achieves the same, but while he lacks the gymnastic skills of the man from Newcastle he makes up for them with fleet-footed speed, near suicidal risk-taking, and an extensive knowledge of technical wrestling and submissions.

So aside from his elaborate entrance and make-up, what unique talents does Balor bring to the table? He doesn’t race like Bryan or flip like Neville. Although his experience in Japan has given him a mean kick, he doesn’t seem to use it nearly as much as his compadre Hideo Itami.

If he were not so invested in his war paint and demon-channeling, if instead he were to show up on Vince McMahon’s doorstep as a blank slate, a lump of clay to mold in whatever shape the king of sports entertainment saw fit, we all can imagine what would happen. Anyone who watches WWE knows Vince loves his regional, ethnic and national stereotypes, and we also know he takes his cues from pop culture. It requires no stretch of the imagination to look at Finn Balor through Vince McMahon’s eyes and see Brad Pitt’s guff-talking, bare-knuckle boxing gypsy character from Guy Ritchie’s 2000 film Snatch. He would tape up Finn’s wrists, slap some shit-kicking boots on his feet and send him out to scrap like a good Irish boy-o.

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The truth is, I don’t yet know what’s to be done with the artist formerly known as Prince Devitt. He’s got the skills, he’s got the world experience, he’s got the confidence, he’s even got something that sets him apart from your average indie star. He could very well be a future headliner in the WWE.

Even so, the questions yet remain:
Will his gimmick translate to the bigger stage? Will the creative team – not to mention the production team – provide him with the support he needs to get over? Lord knows The Ascension, who terrorized the tag team ranks of NXT for over a year in convincing fashion, have looked comparatively hokey since their advancement. Will the same fate befall Balor? Will his entrance on Smackdown or Raw be met with the same cold indifference the WWE Universe has shown Adam Rose and his Rosebuds? Or will he naturally pull in a following as Bray Wyatt has managed to do?

It’s never clear what the fans will gravitate towards, and success is never guaranteed. One thing is for sure: Balor is a credible talent and the company is lucky to have him, but if they aren’t careful in managing him, his career could go south even before it has a chance to take off.

WrestleMania 31 Preview and Predictions: The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

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Remember all the hype, prestige and build up to the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal that existed last year? Remember stars like Dolph Ziggler talking so passionately about what winning such a match would mean? I do too, and I miss that.

Remember how many of us were convinced, the way things were built up, that Big Show would win since he was pretty much Andre’s biggest fan and the near literal re-incarnation of the Hall of Famer? Remember how exciting and satisfying it was when in a masterful swerve at the last minute Cesaro pulled a Hulk Hogan spot and hoisted up the giant and eliminated him to win the contest instead? It was brilliant.

Remember how we all thought Cesaro was destined for a main event push after that? Yeah. I do too.

cesaroSo, here we are. A year later. Who are the front-runners this year, on paper and television and in the minds and hearts of fans and analysts? Who will end up winning? Let’s take a little look-see…

damienDamien Mizdow

Many analysts are predicting that since the feud between The Miz and his under-appreciated personal assistant and ex-stunt double didn’t blow up at Night of Champions or Survivor Series or TLC or Royal Rumble or Fastlane, that it will finally come to a head at WrestleMania.

The scenario certainly lends itself to such a happening. One could indeed picture both men becoming the last men in the ring, after combining their efforts to get rid of some of the more formidable entrants like Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane. Down to just the two of them, Miz would of course order his assistant to eliminate himself, and Mizdow’s refusal would yield a massive pop.

Mizdow definitely deserves a victory and an honour. Lest we forget he was a hair away from becoming World Heavyweight Champion, a hair away from defeating John Cena, Since then he has suffered a bit of an identity crisis, but has now found his way back into the fans hearts. Before such adulation gets lost and forgotten again, the man deserves his name engraved on the brass plate of history.

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Ryback

My personal pick. I have always been a mark for the muscle-bound wrecking ball, ever since his early days of squashing jobbers. The man had two main event pushes in less than a year, one as a face and the second as a heel, and neither yielded anything. He was a Paul Heyman guy. he was part of The Nexus. He made a tag team championship run with Curtis Axel. In the short time he’s spent in WWE he has covered much ground, worn many faces, but has continually come up empty-handed.

It would be nice to see the Big Guy to win something, that’s all I’m saying. But maybe that’s just not his thing. Maybe he’s just meant to carry the ball down the lane but never make the basket.

Either way, the fact that he’s being built as a favourite to win the battle royal this Sunday is the main reason why I doubt he will win.

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The Big Show

Paul Wight entered the WCW initially calling himself simply “The Giant”, wearing Andre’s old strongman singlet and claiming he was the son of the legend himself. He has stated numerous times how Andre was his role model, his inspiration, his hero. He suffers from the same condition that gave Andre his freakish size, and has surpassed the legend in his accomplishments inside the squared circle.

No other man in the wrestling world deserves an Andre the Giant Memorial Award more than Big Show, and for that reason he can’t simply be handed the victory. It’s why he didn’t win last year. To do the job and put someone else over is the greatest achievement of a pro wrestler, and in such fashion Big Show put over Cesaro last year.

It is conceivable that since he has not been featured as vehemently this time around, that WWE will “swerve” and have Big Show attain the gold he was destined to hold.

He has a master villain to work against in Kane, which makes such an ending possible. Kane is not only a fellow veteran of battle royals and fellow monster, but also a fellow member of the authority and essentially Big Show’s superior. If left up to the two of them, Kane could pull rank and order Big Show to eliminate himself. This would make a face of Big Show, and if he defied Kane and the authority to win his coveted prize and honour his hero, it could be a WrestleMania moment to be remembered.

The problem is that Big Show switches from face to heel and back again so frequently, he changes character on the drop of the dime so often, that such a moment might not have the gravity one would hope. He may eliminate Kane and hoist the trophy and celebrate to a crowd that could not be bothered.

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Curtis Axel

I never liked Curtis Axel. I never thought he was much of a performer. I never get excited when I find out he is on the night’s card.

That changed with this whole “AxelMania” angle. It has real heat, and the crowd is behind it. He has succeeded in playing up his own mediocrity, and the fans have gotten on board. He took his short-changing at the Rumble and turned it into a push. He took the disparaging comment JBL said about changing the channel into a catch phrase. He has taken every lemon thrown his way and made lemonade and sold it on a tee shirt.

In short, I admire what he’s been able to do with very little the last little while, and it may possibly yield him a victory at WrestleMania.

Then again…

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Adrian Neville

It has been announced that a tournament will be held at Axxess between four members of the NXT roster, the winner earning a spot in the battle royal. Most, including myself, are predicting that Adrian Neville will win that honour.

Although it may seem a bit much to give such a WrestleMania moment to a wrestler who is not even officially part of the main roster, for someone like Neville it could be the big impact he needs to establish credibility in the land of the giants.

Remember, the trophy doesn’t actually mean you are destined for a bee line to the top of the company, as was proven by Cesaro last year. If all it means is a nod from above that your efforts and talent are appreciated, than what harm can be done by giving it to a young upstart like Neville?

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