(We here at Push Cesaro apologize for the lateness of this post. We tried to figure out how to display Tweets properly and were to stubborn to admit defeat when this writing might have been relevant. We still didn't figure it out. Please help us. We are so sad about our failure.)
Willow: Did you watch the pre-show match between Stardust and his lackeys against Neville and his lackeys?
CJ: I was grabbing food and setting up for the rest of the evening so I only caught glimpses.
Willow: I'll talk about that one for a bit. I was also getting ready for the night by making some pizza, but I did see that entire match. So, Stardust and Neville are still feuding over super hero things or something or other. Not a whole lot to talk about on this one. The Ascension are like a void and I'm still not sure what to make of the Lucha Dragons. Kalisto can do moves, but I never remember anything he does the day after. I was glad Stardust picked up the win, because I like Cody, but I really would like for there to be less BS in this feud and have Neville and Stardust have a singles match, because right now this feud just feels like an excuse to get extra guys on a PPV. And I know Neville and Stardust could potentially do something cool. I did think it was humorous that Neville pulled the ropes open wider on the one big spot in the match so Sin Cara wouldn't botch the suicide dive through the ropes. That's mostly what I remember
CJ: They've had quite a few singles matches on Raw and SD from what I recall. I think there was three leading into the Amell match? Kalisto really needs to break out from Sin Cara and start his singles career. If you want him to remain in a team, why not have him an Neville work together? Neville could teach him some valuable things and you'd have two hot tag machines in one team! I just..don't get how The Ascension are so soft. I just can't figure it out. I did see them throw one nice knee though so this is progress! Only thing I remember Sin Cara doing is botching something on the ropes but I can't recall what it was.
Willow: Have they had singles matches? I haven't been watching Raw as consistently as I should I suppose. The last episode of Raw I saw had the non-match between both of these teams which was disappointing. I completely agree about Kalisto and Neville being in a team together. They both seem to be languishing at the moment, so it could give them both guidance. Wonderful hot tags from both. I don't know how anyone can make anything work with Sin Cara as your partner. He's just so prone to messiness. He has such a history that watching him work is distracting, because you're just waiting for the botch. I'm hopeful about Kalisto though. I think he could be cool.
Kevin Owens vs. Ryback (c)
Willow: *** 1/4
CJ: *** 1/4
CJ: So Ryback vs Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship is the shortest match on the card by 12 seconds! I still can't believe that the driving narrative WWE is taking for this is "Kevin Owens hates The Secret.". I kind of love it? A lot of writing has been done about Owens as the only real human being in this universe, even if he is a huge jerk, but he is great. I might be under watched but I consider him one of the best characters on all of TV right now. Ryback gets a lot of good will from me now since his return promo and talk with Axel. He had a pretty good match with Rusev a few month back on TV if you missed that. That aside, Owens is on an incredible roll and could make The Great Khali look decent right now.
Willow: I've been a big Kevin Owens supporter ever since he showed up in NXT. I was also a fan of him in ROH, but this is something different. I actually love his character. He really does feel like the only real person. Like he doesn't feel like he's playing a character? He's been on fire lately. I feel like his match work has diminished a little bit lately, but that has more to do with his opponents not being John Cena than him not working as hard. Ryback and Owens crossed paths in a 6 man on Raw a few weeks ago and I felt like they had strong chemistry so I was excited for this match. What did you think of this one?
CJ: I firmly believe certain performers should be given 15 minutes every major show if they want it. Kevin Owens and Cesaro are those guys for me right now. It's a smart way to open the show, give the crowd a KO win and let them work a safe, slow pace. Ryback gets to look good with his big spots and Kevin gets to be a wrecking ball who will take the smart way out unlike a certain other weasel later on in the show. It's not memorable and I won't revisit it but it was fine. Maybe they'll get a Smackdown to turn it up?
Willow: I was initially surprised by this match. I thought it would be a match of two giant men throwing each other around for a good ten minutes, but then Owens started to work the arm. It's smart though. It neutralizes Ryback's "Feed Me More" (I'm calling it that now instead of the meathook clothesline). Ryback looked good too. He got to be the babyface and I believed in what was happening in ring. It was logical. Owens taking the easy way out when Ryback was starting to make a comeback was great. I don't think it says something that he can beat Cena clean by had to beat Ryback dirty. I think he saw an opening and went for it. Solid stuff. I'm excited for Owens IC reign. There's a lot of opponents they could pair him with after Ryback. That being said, I hope that this feud doesn't go to another pay per view, because I'm worried about WWE's 50/50 booking practices. Ryback doesn't need his win back. Have Owens put him away on Raw some time and actually push KO. This is currently a good spot for him. I'm crossing my fingers for a Rusev feud, though he'd have to be a babyface....and that leads us into Ziggler/Rusev.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae)
Willow: * 1/4
CJ: * 3/4
CJ: So let us get this out of the way quickly, everybody knows that this feud is bad. Dolph Ziggler is worse then usual. Lana is god awful right now and her injury might actually be fortunate to separate from Zigman. I'm really surprised Lana has stayed so over with the crowd. Summer was doing decent work but I really hate this Lana 2.0 thing. Sweet baby Rusev needs out quick. We've all read this before about a thousand times. I really love the way Rusev works and those matches with Cesaro, triple threat with Owens and Cesaro, US Open with Cena, and fighting Cesaro, Cena & Orton alone have proven the dude can work with anybody. The match they had at Summerslam was fine despite that awful finish. I just can't care about this feud though. It's toxic. And it isn't toxic for the reasons most people bring up. I know you and I are in agreement and I think we should dive into it. Dolph Zigmoon is bad.
Willow: I completely agree. And I think I should state upfront that I hate Dolph Ziggler. Like extreme hatred. I can't watch a match of his without getting pissed off to some degree. I think part of it is his character, but it's also that he is the worst offender of my biggest pet peeve in wrestling, and that is loosey-goosey offense. If I don't feel like a move is connecting then I can't get into the performer. The feud is killing any potential for good work for either performer though. I can't stand what they're doing. It's the sort of thing that nullifies any claim of a revolution for the women on the roster, because they're being treated as prizes. Setting that side the alignments are all out of whack too. Many people have written about Rusev being a secret babyface, and he is. Ziggler is a natural heel, but he's the face here. It's just gross. This match didn't do anything for me. There were a few particularly egregious moments. One of which had nothing to do with the match. At one point the camera zoomed in on a Ziggler DDT that didn't connect at all and completely took me out of the match. Ziggler bumping about 2 seconds before he is supposed to also pissed me off. I didn't think it was a good match. Both guys are trying, but they have little chemistry, and it's a shame, because Rusev is one of the best workers on the roster and I feel like this feud is sapping all heat from him. They need to move on. I think it's now safe to say breaking Rusev and Lana up was a terrible idea.
CJ: Every time I think about this break up meaning Lana can't take cute pictures with Rusev in Nashville I get really agitated. I think Dolph's offense as it is exists in a bubble and it is only effective under those circumstances. That bubble is "absolutely huge moments that rarely happen". It worked at Survivor Series. It worked during his cash-in. It would work in a Royal Rumble if he was going to win from #1. Going wild and throwing yourself like a moron into everything makes sense when it is DESPERATION. Every single match having that same amount of desperation is going to make you look stupid. Dolph needs to look in the mirror and fix himself. He will never be the guy he thinks he is capable of being the way he is right now. When he was rumored to be leaving the company I could only think of two places he'd fit. One is TNA. The other is the Bullet Club as a heavier, less talented, Young Buck. That's it. Dude is damaged assets. I really wanted Rusev to end this feud by kicking the shit out of Dolph's head and gaining his heat back like a one night Del Rio.
Willow: It's strange because he is a natural heel, but his offense is based on desperation like you said. That aligns easier with a babyface. I feel like his one perfect moment was Survivor Series last year. I *got* Dolph then, but for the most part I think he's really unsuccessful at narrative within the ring, because he only wrestles in one mode lately. I was rooting for a double turn. I'm not sure how they would have executed it. Perhaps have Summer Rae leave with Dolph. Rusev cuts a promo on being heart broken about everything and Dolph making fun of him? This could all be done on Raw. It'd help both guys I think.
The Dudley Boyz vs. The New Day (c)
Willow: *** 1/4
CJ: Enough of Assman Jr, let us talk about the god damn New Day! I watched their episode of Table for 3 twice on Sunday, before and after NoC. I love everything the three of them are doing in ring and out of ring. When I found out Xavier was a cosplayer I was wondering how long it would take before he snuck that in and it was a lot sooner then I anticipated. I've never been into the Dudleyz. Never found them fun to watch and the Hardyz/Edge & Christian were way more fun to play in the Smackdown games. I'm really hoping the Dudleyz are back to eventually put over New Day and Primetime Players in a TLC match though. What did you think of the match? You weren't watching wrestling when they were dominating, how do you feel about the Dudleyz?
Willow: The God damn New Day! It's no secret that they are the best thing going in WWE right now. I've felt for the longest time that Big E is their biggest potential crossover start on the roster, along with Ambrose, and I'm hoping this is the start of that. Really love them. To answer your question on the Dudley Boyz though I am somewhat familiar with them. Their entire schtick is very attitude era, but not in a gross way. I adore their TLC matches with Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boys, as everyone does. They're cool. I popped for their reapperance. I was excited for them to feud with the Wyatts, but then Rowan got hurt. Feuding with the new day is better. I really liked this match. It wasn't like the greatest tag match of all time or anything, but I felt it was perfectly booked and the New Day getting a DQ and retaining was marvelous. Big E shouting at Bubba to go home old man, Xaver playing the trombone. I'm so into it. Like you I hope they are there to put them over at TLC. I definitely think they could feud for that long.
CJ: If they don't give Big E a massive push when they decide to break the New Day up, I might have to walk away from WWE. Big E deserves to be a major player in this company. I'm really hoping we start seeing the tag division getting more time since New Day is so over everyone wants to see more. Neville & Kalisto would be fun and it'd be a great way to give Braun some more experience with Harper. I absolutely loved the New Day bringing in the tables. They really need to do things like this to remind everyone that they are actually heels and not just goofball heels. I still have a dream that they will become the new Shield in terms of being so good together that no one can stop them and they dominate the whole roster.
Willow: Big E has such a presence. I mentioned it on twitter forever ago, but when Randy Savage was going into the hall of fame someone off hand said there's no one like Randy Savage today. I think that's false. Big E is that kind of guy. Not a carbon copy of Savage, but the kind of promo work he does and the kind of character he can be is that kind of crossover guy. I'm rooting so hard for him. Sometimes it's easy to forget the New Day are heels because they're so much fun, but I adored the table spot too. And the Dudley Boyz fighting em off and putting X through a table was the right call. How great would it be to see New Day and The Vaudevillains feud?
CJ: It would be pretty wonderful. Maybe they'll come up sooner then we anticipate and get a chance?
Willow: I hope so for the sake of that feud alone.
Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella (c)
Willow: *** 3/4
CJ: *** 3/4
CJ: Moving on to Nikki Bella vs Charlotte, it isn't on the same level as some of the recent NXT classics, but this is the best Women's match I have ever seen on the main roster by a large margin. I might be missing some major stuff from earlier in the companies history but this was really great. A lot of criticisms were aimed at Charlotte no selling the leg work at the end of the match and bridging into the Figure 8 for the submission victory but I don't have too many issues with for a couple reasons.
A) It sure did seem like maybe Charlotte actually injured herself (not necessarily a serious injury) and they had to shift the game plan. That would explain the sudden two moves into finish after Nikki dominated.
B) Even if she wasn't injured, I actually really like flash victories when they are used well. Charlotte catching Nikki with two of her strongest moves makes sense. Nikki made a huge mistake and couldn't get out. These types of finishes should happen every once in awhile to sell the legitimacy of finishing manoeuvres. We always expect the first submission to not matter and that is problematic. Besides, Charlotte sold her leg the entire match and even post-victory. She didn't Cena it.
C) I believe someone with a worked knee could temporarily bridge into their submission more then Ibushi can do a million flips. The difference is gutting through pain for that ONE moment, not 30 more.
Willow: There are some better women's matches in the history of the company though not many. I tink the Alundra Blayze/Bull Nakano SummerSlam match is probably better, and I like the atmosphere of the raw main event between Lita and Trish, even though that match is sloppy. Otherwise I agree. This isn't on the level of NXT mains, but this is such a good step in the right direction. Like you I don't have too much of a problem with the finish. This is my favourite match on the card, because of how it was presented. Some of the drama wasn't there because the record wasn't on the line, but what are you going to do? I think this ends up being a better match if it goes another two or three minutes, but I like it for what it is. Nikki Bella was tremendous here and as a recent fan of her work I was proud of what she accomplished here. She controlled the match, and Charlotte did some great work as a babyface selling an injury. I thought catching Nikki in the spear was vicious. I was a little bit confused at her using the figure 8 on Nikki and ignoring the leg work, but I like your explanation. I think this is good enough. Now this needs to be the first chapter in the future of the booking instead of it being a one off. There's a lot of cool things they could do here. Nikki has a rematch clause and Sasha has made Nikki tap so technically they're on the same level. If I'm booking I go triple threat at Hell in a Cell between those women. What I don't want is Paige turning heel and feuding with Charlotte. (UPDATE: Paige turned heel, womp womp)
CJ: I never watched NXT when Paige was champion but I really don't like her. It feels like she got disillusioned with everything since her rough feud with AJ. Maybe a heel turn would light a fire under her again? I really don't like her work right now and attempts at catchphrases. Ugh. Nikki Bella has been pretty good for awhile though she does have moments of sloppiness. This was none of that and the best we have ever seen her. Anyone who is still hating on Nikki at this point but loving only the NXT ladies should probably reevaluate what is going on there. I'm really excited for the future of the division! I want to see Alicia Fox and Becky Lynch suplex everyone! I want Nikki to forearm everyone to hell! I want Naomi and her sweet shoes to stomp fools! I want Brie and Tamina to stay away from everyone and take a few months to work on their stuff! I want Sasha to interrupt Seth Rollins and challenge him for the WHC Title!
Willow: Paige was pretty solid in NXT. Her best work was probably with Natalya (where is she btw?!) and Emma. I've seen her work as a heel in Shimmer. She has a lot of instinctual bad guy qualities that come from growing up in the Knight family so it could suit her, but I don't think now is the time. The dirty secret in the room is that Nikki is as good as Charlotte if not better. Charlotte is still pretty green and needs someone to guide her. Basically all the NXT women can do that. Nikki did it last night. I'm so excited to see where things go though. I'm feeling less disillusioned after this match. Sasha Banks should become WWE Champion. Beat Charlotte then Seth. Then Lesnar. Just all day long Sasha Banks. Let's do that.
The Shield (almost) vs. The Wyatt Family
Willow: *** 1/4
Willow: Mystery Partner time! How did you feel about the reveal and the following match? I was very excited for this, but I want to know your thoughts
CJ: I was assuming it was Erick Rowan if he was healed up, but I had already read Jericho was in attendance so that kind of took away the surprise. It was nice to see cool dad looking crisp like his match with Neville in Japan! Jericho has always been one of my favourites since I was a kid, especially since he had this awesome toe kick strike in the Smackdown games that you could use to set up standing finishers instantly with. Yep. Thought the match was totally fine, given the time. It isn't up to the standard of a lot of those old six man Shield matches but that's pretty damn lofty. I liked Braun, even though he is still very green. I liked the Shield Bros team work and dismantling of Braun until cocky Jericho ruined everything. Pretty excited about Jericho v Shield if he keeps working like this.
Willow: I hadn't spoiled myself so right before the shield came out I was full of anxiety. I was so worried it was going to be Baron Corbin or Finn Balor, both of whom I dislike a great deal. Being the big Shield mark that I am I was emotionally invested in this. I needed it to be someone okay. Best case scenario was Daniel Bryan, but I was totally fine with Jericho. I thought the match was good too. I'm not expecting the shield/Wyatts matches we got back in 2014, because I feel like it's impossible to get to that level of quality without Seth. BUT there was a lot of cool shit here. The entire match was worked around Braun being big as shit and strong and bricks and they just couldn't take him down. The team work of Ambrose and Reigns was on point, but Jericho didn't click. He was the weak link. He just couldn't gel. That was the downfall. I liked that narrative. And if we're getting heel Jericho as a stop-gap for Ambrose until they do a final Shield/Wyatts at Survivor Series I'll be really happy with that. I feel like he and Ambrose could have great chemistry, Fine match. I probably won't be revisiting it, but it was fun and told the right story.
CJ: It's nice to have a giant super powerful dude who isn't Brock Lesnar and isn't expected to carry matches or be a main event player. The Wyatts are the perfect fit for that kind of dude and I'm glad they can maybe gain some momentum back now. I wonder if Rowan rejoins when he is cleared and Bray takes on a super powered manager role? I'd really like that actually and could see him regaining some of what he had.
Willow: I don't think you have to have Bray Wyatt wrestling all the time. In some ways I think he's a special event type of guy. I think this feud with the Shield is building him up a little bit. I hope Rowan joins back. I'd love for him to make Luke, Braun and Erick do all the dirty work. I've enjoyed this feud and I like Braun too. He's a monster and I think he should be treated as such. What he can't do is go down to Reigns in singles anytime soon. Which is what I'm worried about.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. John Cena
Willow: *** 1/2
CJ: *** 1/2
CJ: Onwards to Seth Rollins vs The Authority! I know you aren't supposed to think to hard about these things but...I really can't figure out why he didn't just walk out on both matches and tell The Authority to fuck off. I really liked their first encounter and white attire Seth is my favourite look right now. What did you think of this first match with Cena?
Willow: I'm sort of confused about the booking of the matches. The Authority, specifically HHH and Steph keep going back and forth between heel and face on Raw depending on the segment so whatever. I'm not sure why Steph didn't tell Cena to fuck off when he asked for a rematch. Why does she have to play by the rules? Anyways, logic aside I thought this was good. Weaker than their SummerSlam match, but the ending is better. Putting Cena over is the right call. That's a weird sentence to type, but it's true. Things need to start cracking if you're going to have HHH vs. Seth Rollins in the future and bringing back the open challenge is good for everybody. As long as someone beats Cena clean for it and Cena lets the win happen, unlike what he did with Owens. One thing of importance: Major props to Cena for finally hitting the Yoshi Tonic.
CJ: More important to note, he didn't do the springboard stunner! I've been loving Cena this year and think he is a pretty strong WOTY contender but when he just decides to use these wacky indie moves as transitionary moves, I get forget why. That Yoshi Tonic should be a once in awhile thing, not a staple. I can't remember who said it on twitter but I wonder if we will ever learn the origins of 2003 Indie super worker John Cena. What triggered that? I agree with all of the above and I really hope they are going with that logic and actually book Seth v HHH. I hope that match is either WMXXX super worker HHH or they both only use pedigrees for 15 minutes with gigantic pauses in between. I know a lot of people were upset that Cena AA'd Rollins on the floor after that match because it is the most heel thing to do and it makes Sting look bad if he loses but I couldn't stop laughing. It is the most Cena thing ever. I wish he would just own up to that side of his character and be this face with tendencies to be the worst human ever. I'm glad they addressed how illogical it was for him not to bail right away.
Willow: A match between HHH and New HHH with just them using pedigrees would be hilarious. I sort of want that. HHH inspires the most cynical fantasy booker in me. I adored his match with Sting at WM31 because it was everything everyone didn't want. Anyways, Cena! Cena has been the man this year. I get occasionally fed up with him winning all the damn time, but there has not been a better worker in WWE this year. Sasha Banks is the only person who has an argument. To answer your question about super worker indie Cena. It had to start with Punk right? Punk came in, then Bryan and he wanted to prove he could hang with internet faves. God bless him though, because he's worked his ass off to a point where I actually look forward to seeing him on tv which is something. I thought his match with Rollins was pretty good. It wouldn't even crack Cena's 20 best matches this year, but once again he put on great work and working with Cena brings out the best in Seth because he gets to do some of the aerial moves that got him over with the shield. I loved that JBL fucking called him out on it. I thought it was hilarious. I sometimes just want to see Cena be the biggest dickbag in the world. He does things like this. He always has. When it is as overwrought it as it was at Night of Champions it is comedy gold.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Sting
CJ: So I never grew up with Sting and I still haven't watched any of his matches other then his recent ones in the WWE. Have you seen any old Sting?
Willow: To answer your question about Sting I've seen some. I've seen the classic time limit draw he had with Ric Flair which you should watch immediately. That's the one big Sting match I'd recommend. Otherwise he doesn't do a lot for me so I was rooting for Rollins heading into this match. I just can't root for a 56 year old guy. I don't even think I could root for Austin if he came back, and Austin's my boy among the old fucks.
CJ: Despite not having any past allegiance to Sting, this match was waaaaaay beyond my expectations. I was expecting smoke and mirrors or a match under 5 minutes or a DQ/Distraction or anything other then a straight up match! After all this time that Seth has bent ducking and dodging, he defends both titles back to back with CLEAN FINISHES. Let's keep this going! I also can't believe Sting let him do everything he normally would do and then went for that huge dive to the outside. Seth caught him well but I was surprised he got up from that. I'm hoping the injury he sustained wasn't serious but I'm not so sure I want to see him wrestle anymore. He gave everything he had and did just fine, but he can't keep that up and I hope he considers his health.
Willow: I think he honestly tried to go as hard as Undertaker did last month against Brock Lesnar. Now, the big difference there is Taker is 6 years younger, and 6 years in wrestling years is a long time. Sting has nothing to be ashamed of with this match. I think he did as much as he could. I think he got injured on the buckle bomb. That's what everyone keeps saying. He did stagger and stop afterward and go to the mat. I hope he's alright. He can't have too many more matches left in him and if this was his last one then he really put Seth over. I think I respect this match more than I actually like it. Sting's work is commendable, even though I don't particularly care about him. I think he brought real sympathy out of the crowd for the bumps he was taking and Rollins proved himself to be crafty enough to get by and vicious enough to put Sting down. I think it does more for story than anything great on a technical level. I think that's the recurring theme of the show. Night of Champions was good for narrative and the wrestling was fine. A part of me wanted to see Seth wrestle 3 times and go another ten minutes with Sheamus. How did you feel about the conclusion?
CJ: I really liked Sheamus until recently, I don't know what has happened but his work has plummeted the last few months. That said, this show was so consistently surprising I was 100% down for a third match against Sheamus. It would set up a face turn for Seth against HHH win or lose and nobody gives a fuck about Sheamus right now as the guy with Money in the Bank. Was stopping a Sheamus title reign right now worth a Rollins v Kane match at Hell in a Cell? Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh. Maybe? I'm sure the shows leading up to the next PPV with convince me otherwise but Seth could get something out of Kane. Maybe? Perhaps Team Hell No is right around the corner? Maybe?
Willow: I'm also in a similar place with Sheamus. I think he's solid as hell in the ring, but something is off right now. He's playing to the crowd too much and his stiffer style isn't really currently gelling in his matches. I have no interest in him at the moment. It was weird. I think picking Sheamus as the MITB holder is going to end up backfiring. I would have been down for a third Seth match, but only with the caveat that he retained clean. I'm not sure if Kane/Rollins is going to end up being good. They've been working this storyline for what seems like an eternity. However, your mention of Team Hell No has me thinking. What if HHH vs. Seth Rollins is set up by having Seth lose in a tag team match with HHH against Bryan and Kane? That is something to think about. That is likely a pipe-dream, but it would be an interesting route to go down.