Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Nov. 11
WWE's best and worst offerings centered around champions prevailing and Survivor Series hype.
The company did well to pare down the Big Show and Randy Orton feud but swung and missed badly on the latest match added to the card. Curtis Axel, AJ Lee and Corey Graves were among the most impressive stars over the week.
How WWE booked John Cena and Ryback is sure to have eyes rolling, while a brief confrontation between two destructive trios was a thrilling highlight.
Where did WWE hit bullseyes and where did it miss the target altogether? From Axel's winning ways to a chokeslam of massive proportions, here is a look at the highs and lows of the week in WWE action.
Best: Championship Matches
WWE delivered two title matches this week that helped make the champions look strong and the championships stay relevant.
Curtis Axel retained the Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler on Monday's Raw, while AJ Lee kept her title after battling Natalya on Wednesday's Main Event. Thanks to the gold being up for grabs, both those matches were among the most compelling of the week.
It's odd that Big E Langston didn't get the title shot he's been promised twice now, but Ziggler and Axel put on a excellent match. The fact that Axel withstood Ziggler's charge again and again makes him look far more like a threat going forward than just a man wearing a prop.
Axel had something to brag about before and after the bout.
AJ and Natalya's match had some technical flaws to nitpick, but there was more reason to be invested in this Divas clash than most. Natalya's emotional outburst after the bout, AJ's post-match attack and the action the two women delivered meant so much because of the championship being involved.
Fans don't expect to see the WWE Championship on the line every week, but a steady supply of midcard title contests like these are beneficial for all involved and give fans more reason to watch, to root for their favorites and to have the match affect them.
Worst: John Cena Bests 2 Men
The distance between John Cena and other WWE Superstars is often too great, turning his matches into a case of an immortal playing a mortal's game. That's what happened this week.
Monday's Raw was heavy on handicap matches. Randy Orton faced the Tag Team champions by himself, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan took on all three members of The Shield and Cena fought both Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger.
Only Cena won his bout.
Orton controlled much of the action despite being outnumbered, but eventually, Cody Rhodes and Goldust forced him to retreat. The WWE champ looked impressive in his outing, but in the end, two men were better than him.
That same logic didn't apply for Cena.
How does it help Cesaro and Swagger on their quest to be title contenders to have them lose to a single foe? Why create the impression that these men are weaker as a duo than Cena is as an individual?
A man with a banged-up arm beating a team that recently pinned the Tag Team champs disrupts the audience's suspension of disbelief.
Best: The Wyatt Family and The Shield’s Tension on Raw
The Wyatt Family interrupted the main event on Monday's Raw, and an electric moment took place.
The Shield stared down Bray Wyatt and company in a tense, crowd-hyping showdown. The crowd reacted more to these few seconds than it did for any of the battles and trash talk that had happened all night. It was one of those rare confrontations that force the audience to stop playing armchair booker and just enjoy the show.
The Shield battling The Wyatt Family is a matchup many anticipated ever since Wyatt and his "brothers" debuted earlier this year.
WWE teased a potentially great future rivalry, the test screening going magnificently.
Wrestlers challenge wrestlers daily in this business. When that results in the kind of magnetic tension that we saw Monday, fans know that something special is on the horizon.
Worst: 6-on-6 Match a No-Go
WWE looked to be following The Wyatt Family and The Shield's confrontation with a preview of an incredible six-on-six Survivor Series elimination match.
The pay-per-view's card was without that trademark tag match, and when The Usos, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan brawled with The Wyatts and The Shield, it seemed that WWE had filled that void. Suddenly, Survivor Series was set to be far more exciting.
This was the kind of animosity-filled match that could elevate the pay-per-view.
It was not to be, though. WWE.com announced that Luke Harper and Erick Rowan would face Bryan and Punk in a tag team match instead.
That's a great match for the go-home episode of Raw, maybe even TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2013. Not going with an elimination tag team match when all the pieces are there to be placed is a big mistake.
Fans were buzzing about the match they believed the end of Raw was leading to. The option the company actually went with is sure to get more of a lukewarm reaction.
Best: Adrian Neville vs. Corey Graves
After a few subpar episodes, NXT delivered this week, especially with its main event.
Adrian Neville and Corey Graves met in an excellent 2-out-of-3 Falls match on Wednesday's NXT episode. The two former tag team partners have built an intriguing rivalry, and this bout pushed it forward beautifully.
Neville impressed with his usual array of high-flying moves, including using the Red Arrow to score the first fall.
Graves then took to attacking Neville's legs, wrenching and pounding his foe's lower body to ground him. Graves tied the match thanks to his Lucky 13 submission and then looked to be on his way to winning two straight falls since Neville was barely able to stand.
One of the most memorable moments of the bout soon followed.
Graves clamped on his signature hold once more, and Neville struggled to get to the ropes. The pain seemed to be overwhelming Neville, but he gutted it out and dramatically crawled to the ropes.
Neville later won with an inside cradle, capping off one of the most exciting matches on WWE programming all week. These two athletes gave us more evidence that NXT is not to be missed and that they will be producing matches like this one on the main roster before too long.
Worst: Ryback's Lack of Direction
Ryback lost to R-Truth on Monday's Raw.
That alone isn't enough to start tossing out the word "burial." Later in the night, though, Paul Heyman dismissed Ryback, ending their alliance by saying that Ryback wasn't fit to be a Heyman guy.
If this leads to a Ryback and Heyman feud, then this will better Ryback's career.
The almost off-handed manner in which this breakup occurred points to it not leading to anything, though. This felt like WWE was tying up a loose end rather than starting a new storyline.
Ryback has been on the receiving end of stop-and-start booking lately, each of his angles ending before they gain momentum. His relationship with Heyman appears to be over, even though it didn't last long enough to do much for his career.
"The Big Guy" now heads down a new path, one of many for him recently.
Best: Big Show and Randy Orton Simplify Things
A feud filled with lawsuits, mortgages, restraining orders and decrees from an unseen board of directors got simpler and more effective during Monday's Raw.
Big Show attacked Randy Orton in retaliation for the beatdown from Orton and The Shield last week. The big man chokeslammed Orton through a table in one of the biggest moments of the night.
It's definitely wise to add more to a feud than Wrestler A hating Wrestler B, but the Big Show storyline has been too busy at times. This week, WWE stripped it down and provided a great visual with the chokeslam to use in promo videos.
The narrative shifted away from Big Show's issues with Triple H and toward the man he's actually fighting. Time will tell if it's enough to convince fans to order Survivor Series, but the company did well to add intrigue to that main event with good, old-fashioned "eye for an eye" booking.