Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Nov. 18
In preparation for Survivor Series, WWE delivered a week highlighted by Big E Langston winning the Intercontinental Championship and dragged down by musical chairs and country music.
An underrated heel thrived in a segment on NXT, a Beat the Clock challenge made for dramatic matches and a 12-man tag team match showcased some of WWE's best talents. These positives largely offset the odd choice to build a match via musical chairs and to have a country music band get more screen time than Wade Barrett and Zack Ryder combined.
What engaged fans and what left them yawning? Let's do a running splash into the best and worst of the week in WWE.
Best: Big E's Big Win
Big E Langston defeated Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Championship on Monday's Raw, resulting in a stirring moment and a triumph that was easy to celebrate.
The title match kept getting delayed, cancelled right before Hell in a Cell and cut from an early November episode of Main Event due to a scheduling conflict. Some of the buzz had gone away from the bout when it finally came around, but Langston's win still felt significant.
He is a promising, intriguing star.
Pessimists will point to the title's recent history of being unable to launch Superstar's career (i.e. Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett), but given some quality feuds, Langston is sure to be an exciting champion.
Worst: Musical Chairs
WWE looked to set up a traditional elimination tag team match between the cast of Total Divas and the rest of the division on Monday's Raw. Of all the ways to lead into that clash, a game of musical chairs has to be among the worst.
Even as good as some of the women looked in western gear, it was hard to watch a gaggle of Divas circle around chairs in a game more fitting in an elementary school.
The segment dragged despite how quickly it ended. The conflict between the two sets of Divas felt random.
It's almost enough to make fans wistful for last year's World Championship Debate.
Best: Beat the Clock on NXT
A ticking clock is a powerful narrative device.
WWE fans saw further proof of that when John "Bradshaw" Layfield booked a Beat the Clock challenge on the Nov. 20 episode of NXT. Whoever beat their opponent in the fastest time would earn a future title shot against Bo Dallas.
Matches that would have otherwise been solidly entertaining had the added buzz born from the timed stipulation.
None of the bouts, from Alexander Rusev vs. Colin Cassady to Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn, were classics on their own, but as a collective, they made for one of the better NXT shows in a long stretch. Zayn and Adrian Neville finished off their respective foes in the exact same amount of time.
The result is a playoff of sorts scheduled for next week between Neville and Zayn that should be a fun ride.
Worst: Main Event Lacks Main Event
WWE's Main Event never delivers the surprises and storylines that Raw and SmackDown provide, but it's generally been a reliable source of excellent wresting.
Wednesday's edition offered no such great bout. Santino Marella took on Alberto Del Rio, Tamina Snuka battled Naomi, and Fandango and Kingston met once again. This isn't the kind of lineup that gets many fans pumped.
It was a disappointing night with so-so matches comprising the entire show.
Best: Bo Dallas, World-Class Heel
The week's best performance by a heel came courtesy of Bo Dallas on the latest episode of NXT.
The NXT champ is not the forgettable, generic character he was when he made a brief run on the main roster; he is now the company's king of smugness. His homecoming segment was enough to make a fan boo at the computer screen.
After donning a party hat and grinning as he walked through a cloud of balloons, Dallas bragged about his recent world tour.
He then presented a slideshow of his travels complete with doctored photos. At one point, he talked about how he "sports entertained" in front of fans in Cambodia and improved a man's health 50 percent by hugging him.
WWE has stuck with Dallas and the NXT titleholder is excelling.
Worst: Country Concert on Raw
Up against one of the more intriguing NFL games of the year, Monday's Raw featured a country music performance just before the show's main event.
Florida Georgia Line performed "Round Here" to a Nashville crowd that seemed mildly entertained. Elsewhere, how many fans did that mini-concert inspire to reach for the remote? The Raw ratings, per CagesideSeats.com, show a third-hour dropoff.
The Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots battle being close was certainly a factor, but a great wrestling match or dramatic segment would have been a far wiser choice for WWE to insert here. Instead, the company found a way to have several fans tune out.
Best: 12-Man Tag
The fans that stuck around after the country music performance on Monday's Raw were treated to one of the best matches of TV this year.
Cody Rhodes, Goldust, The Usos, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk clashed with The Shield and The Wyatt Family in a 12-man tag team bout many fans were hoping to see at Survivor Series. The match featured a number of moments worth cheering for, including Punk and Bryan borrowing the Hart Attack from the Hart Foundation and Rey Mysterio making a surprise return.
The tension between The Shield and The Wyatt family teased at a great future rivalry.
It's this type of thrilling, star-filled main event that helps fans forget about all the filler and middling segments that came before it. Survivor Series will feature many of these same wrestlers in an elimination match—one that stands to outdo Monday's offering.