Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of May 19
Violence and mic mastery provided WWE's highlights of the week.
The Shield's feud with Evolution, Luke Harper challenging John Cena, and a gem of match on Superstars energized audiences. When WWE went a goofier route, the results weren't nearly as good. A surprise appearance by a literary character and an arm-wrestling contest inspired head shaking.
The stars of Payback's marquee matches were, as one would expect, the stars of Raw, SmackDown and Main Event.
Brawling between the men set to collide at the upcoming pay-per-view delivered many of the week's highs. A man in a deerstalker cap counterbalanced that with a low moment that fans will try to wash from their minds.
Best: The Shield and Evolution's Post-Match Violence
Batista wanted to show The Shield how destructive he was.
After his match with Dolph Ziggler on Friday's SmackDown, The Animal went on a rampage. He threw Ziggler into the barricade and powerbombed him on the outside of the ring. This was the most vicious and compelling we've seen Batista since he returned.
He carried over that momentum to Monday's Raw.
With Triple H and Randy Orton lurking, Batista battled Seth Rollins. As fun as that match was, it was the violence that erupted afterward that was truly entertaining. Dean Ambrose flew at Orton from the announce table, and Roman Reigns speared Batista during the crowd-pleasing brawl.
Collisions like these continue to make the upcoming match one to look forward to. It's almost enough to allow one to forget that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship isn't part of the program.
Worst: Arm Wrestling Is Never a Main Event
Tuesday's Main Event ended with Cesaro and Mark Henry facing off.
That sounds like an intriguing matchup, but it wasn't a wrestling bout the two strongmen had. They arm wrestled instead.
Like with all arm-wrestling contests on a WWE stage, it ended with an attack. Cesaro flipped the announce table onto Henry before exiting the scene with Paul Heyman. That moment, designed to make Cesaro look powerful and vicious, could have happened after an actual match instead.
Even the most ordinary of matches are more entertaining than two men trying to put the other's hand down on a table.
Best: Luke Harper vs. John Cena
All eyes are on Bray Wyatt as he and John Cena prepare to collide in a Last Man Standing match. Luke Harper, though, reminded us on Monday's Raw that there is more than one star in The Wyatt Family.
The big bruiser put on another standout performance against the former world champ.
Harper threw in surprising athletic moves in between his hammering offense. He crackled with energy as he pounded on Cena, making the most of his opportunity in the main event.
It was one of the most hard-hitting, dramatic matches of the week. Slams rattled the ring. Strikes smacked against flesh.
Cena and Wyatt now have to try to top that come Payback.
Worst: What Is Going on with Damien Sandow?
Sherlock Holmes pinned R-Truth.
That's a strange sentence to type, but not completely unexpected, considering how strange Damien Sandow's journey has been as of late. After all, he's already played a bad Santa and dressed up as Magneto. On Tuesday's Main Event, he wore a Holmes costume and oddness ensued.
In dress shoes and a vest, Sandow earned a rare win.
The commentators cracked up as Sandow eyed his shirt with a magnifying glass mid-match. As well as Sandow handled his bizarre role, one has to wonder what's next for him. Does he continue to don costumes and be the punchline?
Try to imagine WWE asking Randy Orton or Kane to do something like this.
Sandow is headed down a road filled with ridiculousness. The more images like these fans see of him, the more impossible the trek to relevancy will be.
Best: Paul Heyman, Master of the Mic
Paul Heyman flourishes when armed with a mic. It's something fans have come to expect, but something that still needs to be appreciated.
On Monday's Raw, he reminded us once again that Brock Lesnar broke Undertaker's streak at WrestleMania. This time, he did so after lying on his back and telling the London crowd that he was not a dead Queen Elizabeth, but Undertaker at the end of WrestleMania.
In an era where kayfabe is on life support, getting heat is an art. Heyman reminded us of his artistry with that shot at the queen and continued needling of the crowd about Undertaker.
The next night, Heyman had more work to do.
He was the star of the segment involving him, Cesaro and Mark Henry. That included his dramatic facial expressions in response to Henry telling him to shut up and his usual lawyer-like finagling surrounding setting up a match for his client.
Many are ready to crown Bray Wyatt the new king of the microphone, but Heyman's clearly not ready to concede the throne.
Worst: Too Many Main-Roster Superstars on NXT
Having a main-roster Superstar come to NXT is a special treat, a blend of the present and the future. WWE overdid that treat on Thursday's NXT.
Paige battled Tamina Snuka in a rematch from Extreme Rules. Big E, Natalya, Adam Rose and Curt Hawkins all performed as well. That meant stars like Bayley and Corey Graves had to sit on the sidelines.
Bo Dallas lost to Big E, a result that forced him to leave NXT behind forever.
Props to Dallas for his spittle-filled tantrum following the loss. It would have been smart to let someone else send him packing, though. Big E doesn't need that notch on his belt. Had Colin Cassady or Sami Zayn ousted Dallas, it would have given their resume a healthy boost.
Blending WWE with NXT can be entertaining, but it can't be done at the expense of the prospects down in Florida.
Best: Cody Rhodes vs. Jack Swagger
Cody Rhodes and Jack Swagger managed to make a match on WWE's "C" show feel significant.
As hard as those two men fought, as dramatically as they made every near-fall feel, one would have thought this was the main event of Raw instead. Swagger earned a victory, an unfamiliar sensation for him lately. It was Rhodes, who shined the most, though.
He showed the same fiery side of him that was on display during his standout performance at last year's Money in the Bank and during his feud with Damien Sandow.
Rhodes was ferocious, kneeing Swagger in the jaw and roaring when he was on a roll. He flew at Swagger outside the ring and gutted it out as long as he could in the ankle lock.
With this standout match, both men sent a statement to WWE's creative team—"Don't forget about us!"