Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of May 5
A championship changing hands and the slow process of the changing of the guard highlighted the best of the WWE this week.
The company stopped neglecting the United States Championship, resulting in a pair of entertaining matches and a number of Superstars getting a boost. All three members of The Shield showed once more that they are going to be key to WWE's future. A number of new acts joined the party as well.
A sloppy story inside a steel cage wasn't as fun as all those items.
The Bray Wyatt and John Cena rivalry added another haunting image, but it flopped much of the time before that. Brie Bella and Emma also had a poor week, both women stumbling in ill-fitting roles.
The action from SmackDown, Extreme Rules, Raw and NXT irked and elated, providing highs and lows in a week dominated by the U.S. title, cat-like screams and six-man warfare.
Best: Fatal 4-Way for United States Championship on SmackDown
Inactivity hampered much of Dean Ambrose's United States Championship reign. It certainty closed in exciting fashion, though.
Before Ambrose lost the title on Monday's Raw, Triple H ordered him to defend it against Alberto Del Rio, Ryback and Curtis Axel on Friday's SmackDown.
The show's best match featured Del Rio's trademark viciousness, Ambrose fighting frantically and both collusion and conflict between RyBaxel. An exciting pace coupled with the high stakes of a championship on the line led to memorable action.
Had WWE done more of this earlier, Ambrose's reign would have been one of the company's highlights over the past year.
Too few challengers were snapping at his gold. That's something to keep in mind now that Sheamus is wearing it.
Worst: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt Disappoints
Bray Wyatt and John Cena's steel cage match at Extreme Rules wasn't without its highlights, but in the end, it sagged.
Fans will most remember a young boy saving the match for Wyatt with a demonic rendition of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Before that striking image, though, a match that promised brutality and character development delivered disinterest and convolution.
This was supposed to be about Wyatt toying with Cena's psyche, the shifting allegiance of his fans and a rising darkness in a hero.
Instead, it focused too much on Erick Rowan and Luke Harper ganging up on Cena. Wyatt's win felt cheap as a result. It didn't so much even the series between him and Cena as it gave him a victory with a large asterisk next to it.
It felt longer than it was. The WeeLC match to open the night thrilled more consistently, an outcome that would have seemed insane beforehand.
WWE continued this rivalry the next night, so it looks as if it will have a chance to produce something more solid at Payback.
Best: The Shield vs. Evolution
Extreme Rules' main event was more brutal and more shocking, thanks in part to Kane falling through a flaming table, but The Shield vs. Evolution was better. The six-man clash was the match of the night and one of 2014's best offerings so far.
The bout had an electricity to it from the first staredown on.
WWE wisely made it a means in which to elevate Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Ambrose thrived as a frenetic brawler, Reigns did the same as the team's wrecking ball and Rollins as the risk taker. Rollins' dive from the stands onto his enemies will remain with WWE fans forever.
Questions about whether this was the only clash this feud would have were answered on Monday's Raw. Evolution attacked "The Hounds of Justice," signaling that the second round is coming to Payback.
Expect more excellence and for the contest to aid The Shield in its continued rise.
Worst: Brie Bella's Acting Struggles
Brie Bella is struggling in a lead role in the Kane and Daniel Bryan story.
The rivalry borrowed heavily from the horror movie genre. Kane played a role much like Michael Myers from Halloween, stalking the world champ and his wife.
Some fans will argue that the champion shouldn't be made to be on the run as Bryan was. There is a point to be made about how weak he looked scurrying through the arena, but he will get his chance to make up for that. Bryan overcame Kane at Extreme Rules and most likely will do the same at Payback.
Brie, though, remains the weak point of this angle.
Rather than provide emotional depth, she only took the audience out of the story. As Bryan and Kane battled on a car on Monday's Raw, she wailed in the background, providing little more than a grating distraction.
In backstage scenes leading up to that, she overacted. She thrives at being catty, but the emotions required of this drama appear to be beyond her range.
WWE should scale back her contributions, letting Kane and Bryan take up more of the focus.
Best: Double Battle Royals
Monday's Raw began with 20 men battling for the United States title. As with most Battle Royals, it started slow.
Once the field thinned, though, the pace quickened and various stars started to make their mark.
Ryback and Curtis Axel looked like bruisers and strategists. Dolph Ziggler was the gutsy fan favorite, Kofi Kingston delivered a creative escape and Dean Ambrose looked impressive in surviving as long as he did. Not only does Sheamus get new life with another U.S. title reign, but the championship itself gets a boost.
It's been too long since there had been this much buzz around the belt. Combine this Battle Royal with the Fatal 4-Way on Friday's SmackDown and it was certainly a great week for an oft-neglected title.
NXT had its own chaotic action with a Battle Royal to determine the No. 1 contender for the NXT Championship.
This version was more exciting in the early going. Prospects like Baron Corbin, Colin Cassady and Jason Jordan battled it out with Superstars from the main roster like Tyson Kidd.
Kidd was involved in the controversial finish, one where he, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn all fell to the floor at the same time. A Triple Threat match between them next week will decide who faces Adrian Neville at NXT Takeover.
While the Battle Royal format has its flaws, these two bouts remind us how thrilling it can be to hold the chance at a title up for grabs and have hungry challengers compete for it.
Worst: Emma Continues to Be the Female Santino Marella
Emma scored a win over Layla by way of cobra puppet on April 21. That was no one-time joke or brief homage to her tag team partner Santino Marella.
WWE is apparently intent into turning her into the female Santino.
In the first round of the tournament to decide who becomes the second-ever NXT women's champ, Emma turned to the cobra again. She was made to look the goof while her opponent Charlotte turned the silly move into a win for herself.
Emma used to be a tough competitor with a little ridiculousness sprinkled in.
The ratio continues to shift, the goofy side taking over. It's going to have her typecast as a bumbling joke a la Santino. She simply has more value than that.
She would make a great rival for Paige or a valiant fan favorite the crowd can get behind. Her current role is too limited and too repetitive. WWE doesn't need two snake puppets.
Best: Debuts Aplenty
The future keeps creeping up on the present. Fresh talent hit Raw and NXT, giving WWE more options and three wrestlers a shot to make an impact.
Adam Rose's debut wasn't as fun as his first appearance in NXT, but his first moments on the main roster showed plenty of promise. Some fans began to sing his entrance music, and Rose delivered the kind of fun energy he was concocting at Full Sail University.
WWE slid him into a feud with Jack Swagger, offering him a relatively high-profile stage on which to work right away.
The NXT Divas division got a new addition as well. Alexa Bliss' first match saw her surprise Alicia Fox in an upset.
She was certainly raw in her first televised effort, but she displayed a bit of the showmanship she'll need to prosper.
Kalisto tagged with El Local in his first NXT appearance. As exciting as it has been to watch videos of his work when he was known as Samuray Del Sol, watching him soar under NXT's lights was a thrill.
In the short match, he showed that he's going to challenge Kofi Kingston as WWE's best leaper.