WWE Week in Review, April 26: The Shield Conquer, Kane Decimates Daniel Bryan
As April quickly comes to a close, so does one of the most historic and unforgettable months in WWE history. With Extreme Rules drawing near, one can only imagine what else is in store for the WWE Universe in the weeks ahead.
The Shield left a lasting impression on the WWE landscape this past week by almost taking the fight to Evolution on Raw and cleaning house of half of the heel roster on SmackDown. Now riding a wave of momentum, how many more obstacles must The Shield overcome before the trio finally go to war with Evolution?
Despite losing their 3-on-1 Handicap match, The Wyatt Family got the upper hand on John Cena this week by destroying him at the end of Raw. Have Bray Wyatt's mind games affected the psyche of Cena going into Extreme Rules?
Daniel Bryan made his return to Raw this week before being brutilzed at the hands of Kane at the start of the night. With a match between the two now confirmed for the pending pay-per-view, what will Bryan have to do to bounce back before their upcoming encounter?
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: Bad News Barrett vs. Sheamus (Raw, April 21)
First off, I'd like to applaud WWE for coming up with the idea of holding a tournament to determine the No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship. It features worthy competitors, makes the belt feel more prestigious and we've been getting great matches out of it.
That fact was furthered on this week's Raw in one of the semifinal matches of the tournament when Bad News Barrett went one-on-one with Sheamus. Although Barrett has been on a bit of a roll as of late, I didn't at all expect him to emerge victorious here.
After all, he had never scored a win over Sheamus in the past, so one would've assumed that history would've repeated itself. That aside, Barrett and Sheamus had an excellent matchup that even had the live crowd chanting "This is awesome" down the stretch.
To the surprise of many, Barrett connected with the Bull Hammer on The Celtic Warrior for the three-count and the clean victory. Could Barrett be the next Intercontinental champion?
Superstar of the Week: The Shield
Since turning face in March, The Shield has been absolutely unstoppable. The group made a bold statement the night after WrestleMania 30 when they aligned with Daniel Bryan in his crusade against The Authority, and the rogue trio has been a force to be reckoned with ever since.
On Monday's Raw, The Shield made its presence felt when it interrupted the promo of the reuniting Evolution. The Hounds of Justice looked to brawl with the former world champs right then and there, but a wall of 11 heels prevented them from doing so.
Days later on SmackDown, The Shield exacted its revenge on those individuals by taking them out one by one. With The Shield's message to Evolution clearly sent, what's next in this massive war between the two factions?
Show of the Week: Friday Night SmackDown, April 25
This week's Raw had a very hot first hour that kicked off with the return of WWE World Heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan and his subsequent demise at the hands of Kane. That strong segment was followed up with the awesome match between Bad News Barrett and Sheamus, but the show seemed to drag from that point forward.
There was plenty of solid build for the Extreme Rules card, but everything featured on the show either fell flat or felt inconsequential. It wasn't until the main event matchup between John Cena and The Wyatt Family that things started to get interesting again.
SmackDown, on the other hand, hasn't been much to rave about in recent weeks, but the latest edition in particular was one of the best in recent memory. It was mostly focused around The Shield strategically taking out all of its opponents in the main event, but it also saw Cesaro and Jack Swagger have a great match and Bray Wyatt cut yet another excellent promo—inside a steel cage, no less.
This Week's Highlights
Kane attacks Daniel Bryan
First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Danielson family after the abrupt passing of Daniel Bryan's father this week. He was in no shape to go out and cut a promo, so having Kane viciously attack him was the best way to write the WWE World Heavyweight champion off television for the rest of the night. Kane came off like a complete monster, and it put a great amount of heat on him going into his title match against Bryan at Extreme Rules.
John Cena vs. The Wyatt Family
The match itself was solid enough, but it was the story being told during it that really caught my attention. Bray Wyatt's mannerisms were entertaining, and the idea that he's "taking" Cena's fans is intriguing. The fact Cena almost won this match despite being against all odds bothered me (yet didn't surprise me), but the ending angle with Wyatt signing to a fallen Cena was a cool visual. I'm ready for this feud to end soon, but their upcoming Steel Cage match should be a good one.
Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro
Of the two semifinal tournament matches on Raw, I enjoyed the one between Bad News Barrett and Sheamus more, but this was a still a good match. It was clunky at certain points, but I felt like they were holding back more than anything else. That could be due to the fact that they'll probably work a match against each other at Extreme Rules, which would explain the count-out finish here.
Cody Rhodes and Goldust
I don't usually put people who lost two matches within the span of one week in the "Highlights" column, but I figured this was an exception. The Rhodes brothers had fun matches on both Raw and SmackDown against The Usos and The Wyatt Family, respectively, so I give them props for that. More important, their inevitable breakup finally seems to have been set in motion. I know how great they are as a team, but they have been underutilized for far too long, and an overdue feud between them could be very interesting.
Cesaro vs. Jack Swagger
Heel vs. heel matches rarely ever work, but these two managed to have a very good match that entertained both this viewer and the live crowd. Cesaro played to the crowd at various points, so despite being a heel, he came off as the fan favorite. Swagger had a nice showing as well, and I was happy to see Cesaro go over clean. I don't think they'll be facing each other at Extreme Rules anyway, so I was fine with this match being held on SmackDown. I didn't feel like creating a separate bullet point for this, but the debate between Paul Heyman and Zeb Colter was brilliant.
Sami Zayn and The Usos vs. Corey Graves and The Ascension
This match belongs in this column if only because it saw The Ascension work with people that were enhancement talent. Well, that and the fact that this was a great match and a fun way to close out NXT. We don't see multiman matches very often on the show, so this was an entertaining treat that made everyone involved look good.
Tyson Kidd vs. Mason Ryan
Kidd was successful in getting a good match out of the extremely green Ryan and coming off like a star in his post-match promo with Renee Young. Based off what he said, it appears he'll be a mainstay on NXT going forward, which I very much look forward to since he has great potential that isn't being tapped into on the main roster at the moment.
This Week's Low Points
Los Matadores vs. 3MB
Do I really need to explain why this match belongs here? I realize some people find the feud between Hornswoggle and El Torito to be "harmless," but in reality, what purpose is it supposed to serve? It'd be different if the live crowds were actually reacting to anything they were doing, but the lack of crowd response indicates that, simply put, no one cares. I'm more annoyed by the fact that 3MB and Los Matadores are still facing each other all these months later and 3MB have yet to win a match against them.
Hornswoggle vs. El Torito
Copy and paste everything said about the prior match and apply it to this one. The action between these two wasn't even all that bad, it's just more of the fact that it was a complete waste of time that had me rolling my eyes by the end of it. If nothing else, I'm glad it only took up time on Main Event and not Raw, where it could have been dragged out even more.
Alexander Rusev vs. Sin Cara
Personally, I don't have a problem with Rusev or his act, but I can definitely understand why some people see it as outdated or boring. My only issue with this match was that it didn't give us anything new from Rusev that we haven't seen from all of his prior squash matches. If anything, this match hindered him more than it helped him due to the fact Sin Cara got a significant amount of offense over him at one point. I was also surprised to see a Handicap match between Rusev and the team of R-Truth and Xavier Woods actually confirmed for Extreme Rules in advance.
The Usos and Curtis Axel and Ryback
I'm still a huge fan of The Usos' act and am liking them as Tag Team champions, but I'm bored to tears by their feud with Ryback and Axel. I like both competitors on their own, but as a team, they have zero chemistry. The singles matches between the two teams were nothing to write home about and didn't make me want to see them clash for the Tag titles. It's obvious that Ryback and Axel are only being set up as the challengers of the month, so why should I take them seriously as threats to the straps?
Emma vs. Layla
I didn't have a problem with the match itself given that both Emma and Layla are very good workers. If anything, it was a nice match from the ladies, but the finish and all the shenanigans afterward left a very sour taste in my mouth. The pairing of Emma and Santino simply isn't working, and why they continue to feud with the comedy duo of Fandango and Layla is mind-boggling to me. I hope to see her branch out on her own sooner rather than later before her character becomes damaged beyond repair.
Sheamus vs. Titus O'Neil
I was shocked that O'Neil got as much offense over Sheamus as he did, but did anyone honestly think that O'Neil would win? He's been the jobber to the stars since his heel turn, further proving why his split from Darren Young was a major mistake. Meanwhile, Sheamus is directionless and is in need of either a heel turn or massive character overhaul. Until then, he'll just be treading water.
Tamina Snuka vs. Natalya
The match was fine for what it was, but you'd think it would mean more given that these are two of the best women's wrestlers in the company at the moment. I'm sorry, but seeing Natalya defeat Tamina within minutes on multiple occasions a few months back didn't help matters, either. I appreciate the effort in making Tamina a monster heel, but she'll need to interact with Paige at some point.
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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.