Wrestler of the Week – Cesaro
WWE had a surprising amount of fantastic wrestling this week. The two highest points were the Dolph Ziggler-Tyson Kidd-Cesaro match on Smackdown and the Ryback-Cearo match on Raw. The common thread, obviously, is that Cesaro is one of the most creative, consistent, and flexible wrestlers in the world at present. These two matches show just how adaptable he can be. In the first, he was the big man with two smaller, quicker wrestlers and used his size and strength to control the match for long stretches. Against the mammoth Ryback, he had to fight more from underneath, use more counters and wrestling holds, and even went to the top rope to deliver a very nice elbow drop from across the ring. While some of the moves overlapped from one match to the next, it is impressive how much he can adapt his style and delivery based on the needs of the match. The final product in both cases is proof that what he did differently in the two matches worked independently. Despite two more losses on his sub-par record, Cesaro is inching closer to the kind of crowd-backed breakout that propelled Daniel Bryan from admired mechanic to megastar in the first half of 2013. That kind of transition does not happen in one week, but Cesaro is doing such good work that it will inevitably pay off eventually.
Match of the Week – Dolph Ziggler def. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd in a Triple Threat Elimination Match to Retain the Intercontinental Title
It’s rare that Smackdown features a title match of any kind. It’s even rarer for that match to have a clean and exciting finish. It’s incredibly rare for all of that to be part of a nearly 30 minute match that absolutely stole the show. Kidd has seen action in gimmick and comedy matches since his return to the main roster, so it was a breath of fresh air to see him wrestling a fantastic match like this one. Kidd even got the pin on Cesaro when Ziggler hit him with the Zig Zag. A few minutes later, Ziggler slipped out of the Sharpshooter and hit another Zig Zag on Kidd to retain his title. Triple Threat matches are very hard to put together because wrestling focuses so much on one-on-one conflicts. This one reminded me of the main event at Wrestlemania XX between Shawn Michaels (played here by protégé Ziggler), Chris Benoit (played by protégé Kidd), and HHH (with Cesaro in the big man role). In both cases, the match succeeded because the wrestlers came up with creative ways to keep everyone involved.
Quote of the Week – Kevin Kelly
“Welcome back from maternity leave, Steve Corino!” –ROH’s Kevin Kelly, who has referred to Steve Corino’s paternity leave as maternity leave for the past month.
Must See Moments
1. Survivor Series Teams Take Final Shape
In the go-home show to Survivor Series, the teams that would wrestle for control of WWE were not completely set. When Sheamus went down with an injury, Erick Rowan surprisingly joined Team Cena in his place. Rowan is not anywhere near a main event level at the moment, but it will not do any damage to get him some experience as the 10th best guy in this match. WWE owes it to itself to give him an opportunity to develop his skills. One of the better parts of Raw was the quiet moment waiting for the 5th member of Team Cena. Every indication pointed to Ryback, who was the eventual reveal. Still, it was fun to imagine the possibilities, from the possible (Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns) to the improbable (Undertaker, Sting) to the outlandish (CM Punk, Kurt Angle). On the other side of the Survivor Series match, Luke Harper took a big step in his career with a huge Intercontinental Title win over Dolph Ziggler. Unlike his former teammate Rowan, Harper is ready for the spotlight immediately and seized this opportunity to stand out.
2. James Storm’s Revolution Wins TNA Tag Team Titles
Storm spent a couple of weeks courting the Wolves’ Davey Richards to join his emerging stable with The Great Sanada and Manik. Richards teased interest in the group until he ultimately turned Storm down. The Revolution ganged up on Richards and Eddie Edwards and beat them senseless. Once they were fully laid out, Storm cashed in his Feast or Fired contract, introduced Abyss as the newest member of his team, and quickly won the tag team titles. Storm is a strong worker, good on the mic, and can be an excellent veteran presence in TNA. It is clear from this angle and the interactions with Mahabali Shera that the Revolution is going to be a meaningful group. I have two hopes- one is that TNA’s possible absence from TV between broadcast contracts does not undermine their momentum and the other is that Sanada remains a focal point of the stable.
3. Finn Balor Emerges as Major Presence
While Hideo Itami’s introduction into NXT has been uninspiring, Balor joined him to form a tag team and immediately set himself on a higher level. His energy and magnetism are impossible to quantify, but it was clear from the moment he stepped in the ring that he has a tremendous connection with the fans. Itami’s track record has earned him a great deal of patience. Even so, it is hard to pinpoint what has made him so bland to this point. Despite working his way to the zenith of Japanese professional wrestling, he has looked tentative and unimpressive for most of his time in NXT. I made excuses for him in my head until I saw what Balor- who has a fairly similar background- accomplished in his first match.