WWE Week in Review, March 2: Hulk Hogan Returns, Batista Turns Heel
With WrestleMania 30 quickly approaching, it was quite the controversial week in WWE over the last seven days. From the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view to a stacked Raw to the launch of the WWE Network, it was surely a great week to be a wrestling fan.
Daniel Bryan came close to capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber, but no cigar. Although he has since challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania, is there any chance of Bryan being inserted into the world title match at the event?
Batista wrestled his first match in over four years at Elimination Chamber, dismantling Alberto Del Rio. Following a much-talked-about heel turn on SmackDown, what does the future hold for The Animal going forward?
The Shield and The Wyatt Family competed in the best match of the year to date last Sunday, where the bearded clan emerged victorious. With a rematch set for Raw in Chicago, which faction will reign supreme this time around?
I will break down the week in wrestling by analyzing all of WWE's weekly programs and occasional pay-per-views, including each show's highlights, low points and other noteworthy, monumental moments. Also, I will give an award to the show and Superstar that shined the brightest over the course of the week.
Match of the Week: The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family, WWE Elimination Chamber
When The Wyatt Family initially arrived in WWE, members of the WWE Universe began pitching dream scenarios to see them clash with The Shield at WrestleMania 30. The seeds were first planted for the inevitable feud last November, finally coming to a head this past week at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view after weeks of showdowns and brawls.
To the surprise of almost no one, the match lived up to (or even exceeded) the expectations of many. It was a phenomenal match that started before the bell even rang with the two factions brawling with each other.
Everyone involved was showcased in one way or another, especially Seth Rollins and Luke Harper with their death-defying maneuvers. The way The Wyatt Family systematically took out each member of The Shield was brilliant, leaving Roman Reigns to fend for himself before taking the pinfall loss for his team.
If this match was any indication, their upcoming Raw rematch should be just as awesome.
Superstar of the Week: Batista
Needless to say, Batista has been the center of controversy since his return to WWE in late January. Despite being gone for nearly four years, he has been met with boos for the last several weeks simply due to the fact that he won the annual Royal Rumble match instead of Daniel Bryan.
Fans have every right to be mad that Bryan will more than likely not be headlining WrestleMania this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean Batista is at fault. Either way, it was smart of WWE to turn The Animal into a full-fledged heel on SmackDown this past week before dismantling Dolph Ziggler in a quick contest.
Face or heel, one thing is for sure: Batista is going to 'Mania for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Show of the Week: NXT Arrival, Feb. 26
First off, I am excited to announce that WWE NXT will be a part of my Week in Review column going forward now that it is a part of the WWE Network and available to a much bigger audience. So don't be surprised to see it earn the award for Show of the Week in every edition going forward.
This week's show, in particular, was special, as it became the first show in history to air live on the WWE Network. Longtime NXT fans were very much looking forward to it, and it also gave new viewers who hadn't been exposed to it before a chance to check it out.
Obviously, the event definitely didn't disappoint. Everything from the well-done pre-show panel to the brilliantly produced video packages to the exciting in-ring action, there was very little about this show not to love.
The three main matches (Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro, Emma vs. Paige, Adrian Neville vs. Bo Dallas) were all excellent and kicked off the new era in the show's history with a bang. NXT has officially arrived!
This Week's Highlights
Batista Turns Heel
There was no way WWE could have waited any longer to turn Batista heel. The heat he has been garnering in recent weeks has been stronger than most heels on the roster today. The promo he cut on the WWE Universe was hysterically truthful and brought back flashbacks of his heel run in 2010.
The question now is if he will be put into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at WrestleMania and who else will be in it, as a heel vs. heel match wouldn't make much sense at all.
The WWE Network Launches
Two and a half years after it was first announced, the WWE Network is finally upon us! Granted, the debut of the Network didn't go off without a hitch, but that's to be expected on launch day. It was definitely worth the wait, as the Network's extensive video library is absolutely amazing, to say the least.
Hulk Hogan Returns
He's back, Jack! Hogan's first Raw appearance in over six years made for a great moment at the start of the flagship show this past week. He flubbed a few of his lines, but the pop he received from the live crowd made up for it. I'm happy to see him named the host of WrestleMania 30, and he should certainly bring some new eyes to the product as The Show of Shows approaches.
Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
If you hadn't seen any of their matches prior to NXT Arrival, you were in for a treat. They work so well together and have amazing in-ring chemistry. It was an excellent way of kicking off Arrival and gave new viewers a glimpse of what both Cesaro and Zayn are capable of.
It has been the same situation for years, but it never gets old. That was evident on this week's Raw when he confronted Brock Lesnar and signed the contract to face him at WrestleMania. Sure, he looks older, but I like how Undertaker is always altering his appearance and switching it up. 'Taker vs. Lesnar wasn't my ideal 'Mania match, but it should still be great, and I look forward to how it will be built.
Adrian Neville vs. Bo Dallas
These produced a great main event for NXT Arrival. Neville's high-flying style fit perfectly within the Ladder match environment, and the Red Arrow onto Dallas while he was lying on the ladder was a cool finish. Throw in the fact that Neville unseated Dallas after reigning as champion for nearly eight months, and you have yourself an excellent ending to the show.
Paige vs. Emma
As expected, these two lovely ladies had a very good match over the NXT Women's Championship that managed to surpass their last encounter back in August. The only downside to this match was that it showed just how bad the state of the Divas division is at the moment and that women wrestlers already on the main roster may never get this kind of time.
Big E vs. Jack Swagger
This feud was hardly built up going into Elimination Chamber, so I was surprised to see the fans in attendance as into this match as they were. It was very well wrestled and gave the Intercontinental title a boost in the process. I could easily see these two colliding for the strap in a Triple Threat match also involving Cesaro at WrestleMania 30, but only time will tell.
This Week's Low Points
Darren Young vs. Titus O'Neil
I really want to like this feud because I am a fan of both competitors, but it's difficult to get invested into it. The match between them at Elimination Chamber was mediocre at best, but any heat O'Neil gained from winning on Sunday was quickly tarnished when he lost to Young in a rematch days later on WWE Main Event. I fear both guys will be lost in the shuffle on the road to WrestleMania, but I hope I'm wrong.
AJ Lee vs. Cameron
I didn't care for either of their matches at Elimination Chamber or on SmackDown. As good of a worker as AJ is and as much as Cameron has improved in the ring, they just don't have exceptional matches together.
This is obviously a filler feud until Naomi returns, but I hope it ended with AJ's clean win over Cameron on Friday night. Furthermore, I have no desire to see Tamina break away from AJ to contend for the Divas Championship at WrestleMania.
Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio
The match wasn't truly terrible, but the relentless chants and boos for Batista made the match much worse than it actually was. Keep in mind that this was still when Batista was a face, so that didn't help matters at all. The Animal was blatantly gassed by the end of the bout, and their Raw rematch the next night wasn't much better. Del Rio's win over Batista meant nothing, as it was quickly forgotten about by SmackDown mere days later.
The New Age Outlaws vs. The Usos
There wasn't anything necessarily wrong with the match from Elimination Chamber, and I didn't mind the outcome, but the tag-team division definitely doesn't seem as hot as it was just a month or so ago.
Unlike many, I don't have a real problem with The Outlaws as tag champs only if they drop the straps to The Usos at WrestleMania, but it bothers me to no end how they continue to act like babyfaces with their pre-match shtick. The fans shouldn't have been booing when The Usos cut their promo short on Raw.
Aksana and Alicia Fox vs. Natalya and Eva Marie
Obviously, the match itself was a train wreck, but that wasn't even the worst of it. Eva Marie acting as a babyface made zero sense after she portrayed a heel the week before. Why would Natalya be the one to get pinned if Eva was also involved in the match? Shouldn't she have been the one to take the loss for her team?
Finally, Aksana shouldn't be picking up wins after she nearly ended the career of Naomi a few weeks ago. It isn't like she's being set up to contend for the Divas Championship anytime soon.
Kofi Kingston vs. Damien Sandow
On WWE Superstars, a show that consists mostly of Raw recaps, why would this match only go for a few minutes? They were capable of much more, and the fact that part of the bout was spoiled on the Raw pre-show on the WWE Network was strange.
CJ Parker vs. Mojo Rawley
The match served its purpose in acting as a filler bout after the insanely hot Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn match, but it felt random. Rawley is still improving, and I'm not exactly sure what Parker's character is supposed to be going for. Despite being a heel, nothing has changed about his persona at all, so character evolution is needed for the heel turn to work.
Tyler Breeze vs. Xavier Woods
I realize this match was used to get Alexander Rusev over as a dominant monster, but it shouldn't have come at the expense of these two. Woods is directionless at the moment, and Breeze is a star on the rise, so it would have been wiser for Rusev to destroy two nameless local athletes instead.
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Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.