Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of April 28
Bray Wyatt seized the attention of WWE fans this week, hypnotizing them with haunting images. Both his creepy sing-along on Monday's Raw and intense battle with Sheamus the next night highlighted the best of WWE's offerings.
Several Divas joined him in thriving on-air. A host of female wrestlers reminded us that their division can be more than just cheap filler.
WWE's flops of the week featured Damien Sandow's continued downward slide and a notable absence of extremeness in an event that is supposed to be built around it.
Wyatt will have the opportunity to paint a violent masterpiece at Extreme Rules that helps us forget that pay-per-view's lack of the hardcore. It would be fitting after being the star of every show he's been on this week.
Best: Divas Shine
Fans of women's wrestling had plenty to savor over the week.
Tamina Snuka prepped for her Divas title bout by defeating Natalya on SmackDown. Considering the talent involved, it was no surprise how compelling this was.
Tamina looked like a predator and Natalya was her usual gutsy, skilled self.
Paige had a standout match of her own, besting Alicia Fox on Tuesday's Main Event. This was Paige's best work on the main roster so far. It was a solid showcase of her aggression and a good warm-up before Extreme Rules.
The Divas excelled on NXT as well.
In the first round of the tournament to decide who replaces Paige as NXT champ, Sasha Banks and Bayley put on a short, entertaining match. Banks capped that off in memorable fashion—a backstabber rolled into a neck-stretching submission hold.
Hopefully, this successful stretch is no mere blip, but a precursor to WWE being attentive to its women.
Worst: Damien Sandow Wasted
Remember when "The Era of Sandow" was set to begin?
WWE has since taken a man capable of being a marquee villain and made him into a punchline.
Damien Sandow interrupted Hugh Jackman and Dolph Ziggler on Monday's Raw. He had traded his ring gear for a loose-fitting Magneto costume. His powers of magnetism failed.
Jackman and Ziggler tossed him aside, snickering.
That's been Sandow's story for months now. He's playing the rodeo clown rather than the mastermind he's capable of.
WWE could turn this into a story of Sandow's frustrations boiling over, but the company hasn't played up that aspect enough. Silly segments like these are overshadowing any aggression he shows.
He has to wait until the dimmer spotlight that WWE Superstars offers to look strong at all, as he did against Sin Cara on May 1.
Best: Bray Wyatt's Choir
It's rare that one's skin grows as cold as it did watching Bray Wyatt lead a children's choir to the ring.
"The Eater of Worlds" has been claiming that his message is reaching the youth, that he is taking John Cena's young fans away from him. He showed proof of that when he led a sing-along of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
The lights went out at one point. When they came back on, the children had on sheep masks.
This was the kind of unsettling image seen in horror movies.
Wyatt's continued delivery of the unexpected is making him a bigger star every week. His feud with Cena remains the most compelling WWE story right now.
Judging by his recent in-ring performances, he's set to follow up the excellent build with a memorable battle in a steel cage.
Worst: Lack of the Extreme
Extreme Rules is feeling more like a standard pay-per-view than the night when WWE goes extreme.
The list of matches without "hardcore" stipulations is long:
- Big E vs. Bad News Barrett
- Jack Swagger vs. Cesaro vs. Rob Van Dam
- The Shield vs. Evolution
- Alexander Rusev vs. R-Truth and Xavier Woods
- Paige vs. Tamina Snuka
There is no Strap match, no Street Fight and no Falls Count Anywhere bout on the card. The only clash that promises to involve ladders is the WeeLC match between El Torito and Hornswoggle. As fun as that could well be, no one is expecting it to be Jeff Hardy vs. Edge from 2009.
To continue this trend of sapping the violence from the inherently violent, Adrian Neville and Brodus Clay's No Disqualification match on Thursday's NXT didn't make much use of the stipulation.
No one swung a chair. The announce table remained intact. Clay tried to use the NXT title as a weapon, but other than that, this was a standard match.
Neville and Clay put on an entertaining performance, but not dipping into the options this match offered made it feel as if it were missing something.
That's going to be the feeling throughout much of Extreme Rules. It's poised to be the least extreme version of the event ever.
Best: Bray Wyatt vs. Sheamus
Sheamus is a warrior one rarely sees fall.
Bray Wyatt took him down on Tuesday's Main Event, continuing his climb up the WWE hierarchy. He infused his usual creepiness with the hard-hitting action that is the hallmark of a Sheamus match.
The bout began slowly, but it became mighty dramatic toward the end.
Sheamus flew at his foe, increasing his willingness to take risks as the match went on. "The Celtic Warrior" had to contend with the distraction of The Wyatt Family circling the ring while dealing with Wyatt's power.
Wyatt looked like he belonged with Sheamus, a titan at the Irishman's level. He gains a store of momentum heading into Extreme Rules, where he will attempt to top this bout and make an even deeper mark on the audience.
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