Wrestler of the Week – Sami Zayn
My first inclination was to reward Ryback for the work he has done since he returned from injury. He deserves credit for the way he has recaptured his lost momentum and reasserted his position as a near-main event talent. WOTW is about more than just position on the card, though, it’s also about how a wrestler maximizes the opportunities he has been given. In the last week, and arguably over the course of the last year, there is no wrestler who has maximized his opportunities as much as Sami Zayn.
Zayn is pulling quasi-double duty at the moment and he excelled on both NXT and WWE programming. I say his double duty is “quasi” because the NXT matches were taped weeks ago while his WWE matches are airing in real time. His biggest accomplishment of the week was his victory over Tyler Breeze on NXT that earned him the #1 Contender slot. There have been hints at an eventual match between friends Zayn and Adrian Neville since NXT Takeover 2, so it was foreseeable that he would emerge from this match. Zayn and Breeze have worked together enough that they have become very comfortable countering one another, so this match was full of good chained sequences. Zayn eventually kicked out of the Supermodel Kick and responded with an exploder suplex and Helluva Kick to get his first singles win over Breeze.
On Main Event, Zayn got a rematch against Tyson Kidd after Kidd got a cheap win the week before when he used Natalya to create an advantage. Zayn and Kidd also share familiarity and an ability to wrestle each other fluidly on the mat. Kidd controlled the match at length until Zayn blocked a suplex from the top turnbuckle and hit a beautiful cross-body for a near fall. Kidd responded with an impressive float-over neckbreaker from the top rope that almost won him the match. Zayn barely made it to his feet but managed a blue thunderbomb for a two count. Kidd tried to pin Zayn with a handful of tights and the referee caught him. Kidd retreated out of the ring and used Natalya as his shield once again. He got back into the ring and hit a swinging fisherman’s suplex to finally beat Zayn, who looked good by never giving up. His ability to fight through pain is a big part of Zayns’ character and it came across in both of his matches this week.
Match of the Week – Dolph Ziggler def. Kane
Kane and Ziggler ignited a miniature rivalry to set the table for Ziggler’s feud with The Authority. The rivalry crested on Smackdown with a steel cage match between the two. Kane succeeds against smaller wrestlers who can sell his powerful offense- Rey Mysterio comes to mind as one of his great opponents and Ziggler can do many of the same things. Kane hit Ziggler with a big boot and a chokeslam. He also uncovered one of the turnbuckles before he went for a Tombstone in the middle of the ring. Ziggler floated over Kane’s shoulder and turned the Tombstone into a Zig Zag and smashed Kane into the exposed turnbuckle when he made it to his feet. I even liked the match’s creative ending. Ziggler climbed over the cage, but Kane swung the cage door to get him hung up on top of the door. When Kane tried to go through the door, Ziggler thrust himself forward to force the door into Kane and fell to the floor to win.
Quote of the Week – Stephanie McMahon
“There’s no such thing as politics in WWE.” –Stephanie McMahon to Lana and Rusev, regarding their pro-Russian nationalism on Team Authority.
Must See Moments
1. Ryback Goes His Own Way
Ryback went back and forth through the week between Team Authority and Team Cena. All that was clear after Raw was that he does not particularly like either. On Smackdown, he rebuked Kane’s offer to join Team Authority before he beat Cesaro in a solid match. On Raw, he planted John Cena with a spinebuster in front of The Authority to seemingly align himself with their team. After another solid match against Cena in the main event, he took out each member of Team Authority and left on his own. With Team Authority apparently full and Team Cena still down on member, it would seem that he could end up on that squad while still somewhat at odds with Cena. Regardless of where Ryback ends up, his efforts and the writing have helped restore a great deal of his lost momentum from Rybaxel.
2. Bobby Roode Retains TNA World Title
Roode’s win over MVP on Impact was almost secondary to the direction that the match led the main event storyline. There was already some dissent between MVP and Lashley when MVP inserted himself in the title match before Lashley got his rematch. After Roode beat MVP cleanly with the Roode Bomb, Lashley nailed the champion with a spear. It seemed like he would help his friend MVP to his feet, but instead he glared at MVP and stormed away from the ring. MVP has been a very strong mouthpiece for Lashley, so it is not clear what would happen if they split apart. Still, I would be happy to see Lashley vs. MVP somewhere down the road.
3. Luke Harper Emerges as a Singles Wrestler
After a few weeks of creepy video packages focused on his eyes and statements about putting himself back together with “pieces of you,” Harper finally returned to TV. His promos seemed to be loosely directed at Dolph Ziggler over the last couple of weeks, so it was not shocking that Harper targeted Ziggler upon his return. The timing was more surprising, though, as Harper threw Ziggler’s lifeless body at the feet of HHH and Stephanie McMahon immediately after Ryback’s defection from Team Authority. He simply said, “I’m a team player” and stared at the freaked out Authority. If Harper fills out the final spot on Team Authority, it will be a big step forward for one of the young WWE stars with mountains of potential.