Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Feb. 17
On a week that featured a trio of fantastic matches, Cesaro and John Cena's clash on the Feb. 17 WWE Raw was the peak.
Adrian Neville and Jack Swagger delivered memorable performances in their own bouts, giving fans plenty of reason to cheer and to awe. WWE's continued poor utilization of its Divas and Bad News Barrett served as the week's worst offerings.
DISH Network's testiness about pay-per-views rivaled Vickie Guerrero's voice in terms of annoyance. From the company's clash with WWE to Cesaro and Cena slugging it out, the following is a look at the best and worst of Raw, SmackDown, NXT and more from the last seven days.
It was a week where in-ring excitement was tempered by the loss of a member of the WWE family. Nelson Frazier, known as Big Daddy V, Viscera and Mabel, passed away, per WWE.com.
WWE did well to reflect on the memories he created as today's Superstars looked to compose their own.
Best: Fatal 4-Way on SmackDown
Friday's SmackDown reminded us how powerful adding high stakes to a match can be.
Normally, a clash between Jack Swagger, Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry and Kofi Kingston would have been entertaining, but having a shot at the Intercontinental Championship elevated this bout to glued-to-the-screen status.
The merging of four Superstars with such divergent skill sets made for an outstanding match.
This battle for the right to face Big E at Elimination Chamber showcased power, speed, agility and mat wrestling. Fan favorites Kingston and Mysterio at first hesitated to go after each other, but once the first few kicks were thrown, the intensity increased.
Swagger hit a double German suplex on both Kingston and Mysterio before making the former wiggle around in pain and tap out.
Rather than simply announce Swagger as Big E's challenger, WWE wisely milked drama and excitement out of the decision by having him fight for that opportunity.
Worst: Lack of Spotlight on Divas Division
WWE Divas are usually given but the slimmest slice of airtime. This week, they received even less.
On Friday's SmackDown, no Divas match aired. WWE cut Eva Marie and Alicia Fox's match from the episode, per PWMania.com.
On Monday's Raw, the only Divas action fans saw was Emma and Summer Rae fighting outside the ring while their men competed inside it. AJ Lee appeared in a brief segment about Valentine's Day on SmackDown, Tamina Snuka and Natalya sat on the bench and WWE continued to delay Emma's in-ring debut.
Aksana vs. Cameron on Main Event was the only Divas match of the week, not counting NXT.
NXT continues to outshine WWE in terms of Divas action. The female portion of the roster is clearly not the priority on the main roster. Wasting the division's talent is unwise and irritating for fans of women's wrestling.
Best: Cesaro vs. John Cena
It began with headlock-heavy offense from both wrestlers, but Cesaro vs. John Cena on Monday's Raw turned out to be an instant classic.
Cesaro was out to prove that he belonged in the Elimination Chamber with men who have achieved far more than him. He didn't win as he did on Friday's SmackDown against Randy Orton, but had one of his most memorable performances, coming off as a gladiator who was on Cena's level.
Cena delivered some surprising counters. Cesaro hit Cena off the turnbuckle with a massive uppercut.
The Superstars had the audience locked in, delivering a dramatic bout that is on the early list for 2014's best match.
Cesaro looks ready for the main event after this showing. Expect upward movement for him post-Elimination Chamber.
Worst: Bad News Barrett Misuse
What was a fun gimmick has lost all its air and become a withered balloon drifting toward the floor.
Instead of Bad News Barrett heading somewhere with his gratingly negative persona, he was asked to be the aggressor in a forgettable skit. He walked in on Cody Rhodes and Goldust and kicked over the action figures they were playing with backstage.
He didn't even verbalize any actual bad news this time.
Roman Reigns dominated Mark Henry, a newly turned Christian tortured Daniel Bryan in the ring and Titus O'Neil earned a grudge match with his former partner. Barrett, meanwhile, was asked to knock toys off a table and make unoriginal comments about Valentine's Day.
Barrett needs a rival and needs to wrestle in between his rants at the podium. He's capable of far more than what WWE is asking of him.
Best: Elimination Chamber Additions
The Elimination Chamber already boasted two big-time matches when WWE added four new bouts to the card.
The Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel match on the pre-show doesn't promise to be a classic, but should be solid tag team action at the least. It will be worth watching if only for any signs of the Rhodes brothers splitting and setting up a match between them at WrestleMania.
Jack Swagger will challenge Big E for the Intercontinental Championship. The Usos finally get their title shot against The New Age Outlaws.
Both championship contests have great potential. For the IC bout, the collision of power is sure to be enthralling. The tag title match could provide The Usos with a huge, celebratory moment and serve as the catalyst for a memorable run as champs.
The men who once teamed as The Prime Time Players will face off as well.
Titus O'Neil vs. Darren Young is going to sneak up on people. It may seem like midcard filler thanks to the lack of star power, but the animosity of the storyline so far should make this an intense battle. O'Neil may not get another shot to impress like this, so expect him to give the performance of his life.
Thanks to all these new matches, the last pay-per-view before the WWE Network launches got a lot more enticing.
Worst: DISH Network vs. WWE
Fans who have DISH Network have to seek out alternative options to order Elimination Chamber.
Upset over the soon-to-launch WWE Network showing future pay-per-views, the cable provider pulled the Elimination Chamber event, per Zap2It.com. They are the only company to do so.
The strange thing is that the Network doesn't begin until after this show, so causing WWE fans frustrations now may only serve to drive them to subscribing. DISH Network is certainly going to make less money from WWE pay-per-views in the future, but isn't less profit from those shows better than none at all?
The DISH versus WWE battle offers another element of doubt about whether or not the new streaming service will succeed.
Will other companies follow DISH's lead? Will WWE gather enough subscribers to make the old pay-per-view model a dinosaur? Those are the questions swirling in some fans' heads now rather than thoughts on which classic pay-per-views to watch first.
Best: Adrian Neville vs. Tyler Breeze
Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze composed an excellent match together in the past, so it's no surprise that their most recent bout was so outstanding.
On the NXT from Feb. 19, Neville looked to gain a major victory before his impending date with Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship. He was the most intense that he's been while Breeze elevated his aggressiveness.
Breeze watched Neville tumble like a gymnast into the corner before cracking him with a corner dropkick. Neville later countered with a running uppercut that would make Cesaro smile.
Neville continued to showcase his in-ring excellence, powerbombing and soaring his way to a win. Breeze sinks deeper into his character more each week, the way that Windham Rotunda has lost himself in Bray Wyatt.
Fans who saw this great match will hope that this rivalry restarts on the main roster at some point.