Wrestler of the Week – Sami Zayn
HHH wrote on Twitter after Zayn’s match with John Cena that the debut reminded him of Cena answering Kurt Angle’s challenge over a decade ago. As much as that comparison means, there are certain areas in which Zayn is superior to the young Cena. Although he will never have the prototype physical appearnce, Zayn is a much better wrestler than Cena was at the time (and is probably better than him in the present). Zayn also has a dedicated fanbase from his time in ROH and NXT that helps his recognition off the bat. WWE deserves some credit, too, for timing his debut so wonderfully in front of his adoring hometown fans in Montreal. As long as his shoulder injury is not significant and Zayn can stay reasonably healthy, he has a vey high ceiling and should join Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Neville, and others at the forefront of the next generation of WWE main eventers.
Match of the Week- Tie, Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins; John Cena def. Sami Zayn
This week’s Raw was one of the best episodes since WWE went to the permanent three-hour schedule. A big part of the reason was the combination of two outstanding matches in the middle of the card. On top of Zayn’s fabulous debut in a gutty loss against Cena, Ambrose got a chance to earn his way into the Payback main event due to Kane’s frustration with Rollins. It was a clever match in that Rollins let Ambrose dominate the action and look like an imminent threat to the hated champion. When Ambrose finally got the win, it felt like a great catharsis for his fans who have followed him through months of tangential rivalries and questionable support. This match is an example of how much one great match can mean for a wrestler’s popularity and even his whole career.
Quote of the Week – Booker T
“It’s Freebird rules! That’s how the Freebirds used to do it!” Booker T did not understand that the Freebirds picked two out of Michael Hayes, Buddy Roberts, and Terry Gordy would pick two out of the three to wrestle at the start of a match, not that all three would wrestle in a handicap match.
Must See Wrestling
1. Prince Puma Churns through Challengers
Lucha Underground continued to expertly pace its matches and rivalries to keep emotions cresting at the right time. After Hernandez beat Cage and King Cuerno in a #1 Contender match, Puma faced Drago. Due to Drago’s win over Aerostar in their best of five series, he got a title match that would cost him his job with a loss. Drago came very close to winning several times before Puma eventually got the win with an unwanted aid from Hernandez. LU got more out of Drago than I would have expected. Puma continues to wrestle tremendous matches and serve as a storyline foil to his main event challengers. Hernandez comes to the company with more of a history than most of its main eventers, so I will look forward to seeing whether there is more narrative force in the rivalry.
2. Jay Lethal def. Tommaso Ciampa
Lethal continued to elevate himself and the ROH TV Title with an exceptional main event against Ciampa. Although Donovan Dijak and Truth Martini distracted Ciampa enough to get more heat on Lethal, he eventually got the win with the Lethal Injection. Ciampa attacked the referee after the match to write himself out of ROH, at least for the time being. Lethal has been the best wrestler in ROH all year and one of the best in the world.
3. New Day Climbs the Card
Tag team wrestling is often treated as a stepchild on the WWE card, so it was discouraging when Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods were confined to the division in their reboot. Luckily, WWE has shown their commitment to the team and the individuals who make it up. New Day interrupted main eventers Randy Orton and Roman Reigns at the start of Raw. They not only wrestled above their tier on the card, they got the win. New Day is getting a reaction from the fans (who knew Kofi could get heel heat?) and WWE is putting them in a position to succeed.