Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of March 24
The week proved to be a celebration of WWE's rising stars.
When the spotlight pointed at Luke Harper, Adrian Neville and The Shield, those wrestlers turned in memorable performances. Much of the week's focus was on WrestleMania, but it was hard not to get sucked into the present with a number of stellar bouts.
WWE's handling of the Divas title and the annual battle to end Undertaker's streak suffered from poor choices and flawed booking.
Those misses, along with the hits that Harper, Neville and Co. provided, made up a week full of action to cheer and decisions to question.
Best: Luke Harper vs. John Cena, Rounds I and II
While hyping Bray Wyatt and John Cena's WrestleMania match, WWE also managed to elevate Luke Harper.
He looked tremendous in two bouts against Cena. On Friday's SmackDown, Harper's size and viciousness had him in control of his opponent for much of the match. The big man cracked his boot against Cena's chin and planted the former champ's face into the mat.
Cena and Harper clashed again on Monday's Raw, a contest that was every bit as good as their first go-round.
The two foes displayed great chemistry and raised the bar for what fans will now expect between Wyatt and Cena. Harper, meanwhile, bolstered his resume, adding two standout performances.
Look for him, not just his clan leader, to get some major opportunities in the near future.
Worst: Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational
WWE answered the question of who would face AJ Lee at WrestleMania by going in an ill-advised direction.
AJ is set to defend the Divas Championship in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational. Apparently all it takes to be invited to this is to be female and be on the roster.
Rosa Mendes, who has barely competed in recent months, is getting an opportunity at the championship. So is Eva Marie, Layla El and the entire Divas roster. Allowing everyone, regardless of their standing or record, into this match degrades the value of a title shot.
Rather than have AJ battle Tamina Snuka in a reprise of the Shawn Michaels and Diesel story, WWE is going with an option that sets each woman up for failure.
There is little chance that a match with that many wrestlers crammed together under this format is going to be anything other than a cringe-inducing mess.
Best: Intercontinental Championship Getting Some Love
A concussion forced WWE to shift its plans, but the company had the right idea in having high-profile stars hungrily compete for the Intercontinental Championship.
Christian won a Fatal 4-Way on Monday's Raw to earn a crack at Big E's title. According to F4WOnline, Christian suffered a minor concussion in that match and was pulled from his championship bout on Tuesday's Main Event.
Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, the three men Christian beat out, went at it once more, this time in a Triple Threat.
Ziggler earned the victory this time and put on a solid effort against Big E. The powerhouse retained, increasing his momentum going into WrestleMania and reinvigorating the IC title picture.
Having four former world champs vie for the belt ups its prestige. Using Main Event as a showcase for the championship is a smart move as well.
This is something the company needs to do more consistently. Otherwise, championships will lose their meaning and fans will lose interest in the champs, which is exactly what is happening to Dean Ambrose as United States champ right now.
Worst: Brock Lesnar Looking Weak in Undertaker Feud
Despite the fact that Brock Lesnar has defeated Undertaker in the past and is younger, hungrier and a human wrecking ball, it's hard to buy that he has a shot against "The Deadman" at WrestleMania.
WWE has done a poor job in selling him as a threat to Undertaker. He's too often played the victim in this drama, with little chance to retaliate.
On Monday's Raw, the sight of Undertaker rising out of a casket that Lesnar thought was empty caused the powerhouse to jump back in fear.
Undertaker then threw him out of the ring onto the casket. Lesnar retreated.
Lesnar is more mouse than monster in this story so far and it's hurting the build to their match. With less than two weeks left before WrestleMania, WWE has to find a way to have "The Beast" strike fear rather than suffer from it.
Best: The Shield Steal the Show on Raw
The Shield thrived on Monday's Raw, forcing fans to pay attention to the group despite not being part of the more hyped WrestleMania stories.
The show focused on Bray Wyatt, Triple H and Batista's roads to WrestleMania, but it was the black-clad trio who left the biggest impression in the ring. Their match against The Real Americans was the best of the night, another display of their electric energy.
Seth Rollins flipped around the ring, landing on his feet. Dean Ambrose seemed to have great fun playing the wild man.
Roman Reigns, not even part of the tag match, produced a few highlights of his own. When Cesaro attacked Rollins after the match, Reigns charged in and knocked down the Swiss strongman with a Superman punch.
The Shield then went back to their roots—triple powerbombing folks through the announce table.
Kane then announced it would be him and The New Age Outlaws against The Shield at WrestleMania. It's disappointing usage of this stellar team, but as good as they have looked recently, count on that match to exceed expectations.
Worst: Titus O'Neil's Heel Turn Hasn't Led to Anything
The story of Titus O'Neil venturing on his own and adopting a new villainous attitude appears to be over after chapter one.
WWE has done little with O'Neil after splitting with and battling Darren Young. He served as fodder to Big Show on Monday's Raw. That followed a loss against Sheamus on last week's Raw.
O'Neil hasn't had much mic time lately and hasn't done much on WWE programming as a whole. Even racking up cheap victories on WWE Superstars would be something to build on.
Instead, O'Neil's heel turn hasn't taken him anywhere, his latest angle sizzling out.
Best: Adrian Neville and Bo Dallas Battle in NXT Title Rematch
WWE's best match of the week came at the end of Thursday's NXT, not on one of the more marquee shows.
Still seething after losing the NXT Championship to Adrian Neville at NXT Arrival, Bo Dallas cashed in his rematch clause. The result was a compelling bout that spoke highly of each man's future.
An intense glare between both foes opened the action.
The story then became Neville trying to land his most dangerous weapon—Red Arrow. Dallas slipped away before Neville's first attempt of the move, only to see "The Man That Gravity Forgot" flipping at him with a moonsault.
The second try failed as Dallas kneed the high-flyer in the gut and rolled him up for a near-fall.
Finally, Neville went another route, hitting a reverse 450 splash for a well-earned win. Neville got incredible height on many of his moves and Dallas showed off his improving showmanship and in-ring storytelling.
They proved that they are a pairing NXT can go to several times over to produce great theater.