Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of March 17
The enthralling nature of an evil executive's latest act of violence topped the best work WWE produced this week.
Triple H mauling Daniel Bryan ensnared fans, as did Dolph Ziggler fighting off defeat, Aiden English improving his resume and WrestleMania matches getting hype aplenty. The week delivered enough to appreciate that Mr. T heading to the Hall of Fame and Natalya vs. Alicia Fox on Superstars have to settle for honorable mentions.
A lack of Brock Lesnar, Fandango's flubs and Scooby-Doo heading for the Barclays Center provided the week's worst offerings.
The following is a look at the highs and lows from Raw, SmackDown, Main Event and NXT, a blend of attention-grabbing beatdowns and sloppy suplexes.
Best: Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio on SmackDown
It doesn't matter how many times Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio face off, they continue to produce compelling action.
Even without any real stakes, the latest round of Ziggler vs. Del Rio was the best match on Friday's SmackDown, a dramatic tour de force. Frustration on both men's faces, near-falls aplenty and their stellar chemistry made for action that popped on screen.
Del Rio hit Ziggler with a conveyor belt of his best weapons, but "The Show-Off" refused to stay down.
After delivering a reverse superplex and getting only a two-count out of it, Del Rio howled out toward the crowd. Ziggler soon nailed him with Zig Zag, getting a win that felt important largely because of the quality story both wrestlers told in the ring.
This is the kind of performance Ziggler supporters point to when arguing that he's capable of being a headliner.
Worst: Goldust and Fandango Stumble on Raw
The highlight reel of Goldust's latest WWE run will not include his battle with Fandango on Monday's Raw.
The first half of the match was a goofy display of awkward dancing. Missteps brought down the quality of the second half.
Goldust began the contest by mocking Fandango, doing his own bizarre version of the ballroom dancer's moves. He then showed off his creepy side, crawling on the mat to unsettle Fandango.
After the two locked up, they inadvertently butted heads, creating a gash over Goldust's head. Moments later, a suplex attempt turned ugly as Fandango and Goldust tumbled over.
"The Bizarre One" appeared to be legitimately upset afterward, perhaps angry about being part of such a poor match or the stinging cut on his head.
That marks Fandango's second stinker of the year, the first coming against The Miz on Feb. 3. Goldust's legacy is already set, but another belly flop or two like this will have Fandango earn a bad reputation that will be hard to shake.
Best: Triple H Beats Down a Warrior
The best dramas churn up such searing emotions in the audience that fans forget that they are watching characters acting out a script. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon assaulting Daniel Bryan on Monday's Raw was exactly that.
Triple H began by complimenting Bryan, saying that he'd earned his respect via his gutsiness.
This was only a means to have Bryan let his guard down. A team of fake cops handcuffed Bryan and Triple H swooped in to administer an Attitude Era-esque beating.
McMahon shrieked at Bryan and slapped him in the mouth. Triple H slammed him onto the announce table and swung a chair at the top of his head.
The result was a surplus of hatred built up for Triple H.
WWE doubled the anticipation for Triple H vs. Bryan at WrestleMania. Bryan's revenge will be that much more delicious. Watching Triple H suffer defeat, embarrassment and the aftereffects of Bryan kicking him repeatedly is going to be even more cathartic.
Of course, this segment works only if Bryan wins. If Bryan suffers another setback at WrestleMania, WWE would essentially be punching Bryan fans in the stomach.
Worst: Lack of Confrontation in Brock Lesnar and Undertaker Feud
While WWE can't have Brock Lesnar and Undertaker collide every week until their WrestleMania match, the story is suffering from the two foes not being in the same room enough.
Last Monday, Paul Heyman did the talking for Lesnar. He and Undertaker traded words while Lesnar was away.
On this Monday's Raw, neither Undertaker nor Lesnar showed. WWE waited until after Raw went off the air to have "The Deadman" appear, per WrestlingInc.com.
Heyman and Undertaker met once more on Tuesday's Main Event. Heyman is brilliant in his role as the weasel advocate, but the Lesnar and Undertaker rivalry needs more Lesnar.
Bray Wyatt and John Cena have been delivering compelling promos aimed at each other and Triple H drew a wealth of heat by thrashing Bryan. Lesnar and Undertaker, meanwhile, have had little to work with as of late.
Lesnar's limited schedule makes storytelling tough, but there needs to be more animosity generated in this feud. It is feeling far less special than it could be.
Best: WrestleMania Video Packages
The WWE production team elevated the WrestleMania matches in a big way.
Both the Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker package and the video promo for Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena are mini-movies packed with intensity. They sum up each story beautifully and dress them up with music and editing.
The Lesnar/Undertaker video sets up that match as a WWE version of an Old West showdown. It portrays Lesnar as a wrecking ball capable of ending Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania.
Eminem provides the soundtrack to Wyatt and Cena's story. Wyatt's many memorable lines are fused with a cinematic portrayal of Cena's connection with young fans.
The folks behind the camera truly added to the WWE experience with these offerings, upping the hype for two of WrestleMania's major bouts.
Worst: Scooby-Doo Announced for Next Week's Raw
When Raw heads to Brooklyn, N.Y., next Monday, Scooby-Doo will join Daniel Bryan, John Cena and The Shield.
WWE announced that the cartoon detective dog will make a guest appearance. The motivation behind this is clearly to promote the new Scooby-Doo and WWE straight-to-DVD release.
Why not just put a commercial on during the show? Inserting Scooby-Doo any more than that is just asking the Brooklyn fans to boo in disapproval.
Whatever segment WWE has in mind for Scooby has about as much chance to succeed as Zack Ryder has of main-eventing WrestleMania.
Too much overlap between these kinds of side projects is a mistake. It creates an unappetizing mix of flavors. Case in point, a masked Kane discussing his love of Scooby-Doo in the above video.
Best: Aiden English's Best Match to Date
NXT's Aiden English has been entertaining as a wannabe Broadway star, but he had yet to have a true standout match. He changed that on Thursday's NXT against Sheamus.
The two began their showdown with ridiculousness: Sheamus singing an Irish song and English snatching the mic from him.
Once the bell rang, though, intensity replaced comedy. English held his own in a slugfest with the powerhouse. He gave out almost as many thunderous forearms as he received.
Unable to overpower Sheamus, English lured his foe to the outside where he rammed him into the ring post.
The bout showcased English's craftiness and toughness. It is the highlight of his career thus far, an example of him being on a main roster star's level.
This is the kind of performance that will increase WWE's confidence in him and snag him a few new fans. Look for additional opportunities of this quality to come his way now.