WWE Week in Review, May 24: Luke Harper and Cesaro Impress, Bo Dallas Debuts
WWE traveled across the pond to England once again this past week to film its weekly programming. From the debut of a new Superstar to the return of Hulk Hogan, it was a fun seven days in WWE that will not soon be forgotten.
The ruthless rivalry between The Shield and Evolution was taken to new heights on Raw when chaos ensued during Batista's bout against Seth Rollins. With The Shield hotter than ever before, could the trio be closing in on a second victory over Evolution at Payback?
John Cena looked to exact revenge on The Wyatt Family during Raw this week but was instead on the receiving end of a vicious attack to close the show. Will Cena be able to rise above adversity when he squares off against Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing match?
Stephanie McMahon addressed the status of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on Monday night, threatening Daniel Bryan to return next week so he can relinquish the title in person. Will Bryan show up to fight the decision, or will he give up what he's worked his entire career for?
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: John Cena vs. Luke Harper (Raw, May 19)
Despite amazing matches against the likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler in recent years, there are still people out there who will claim that John Cena can't wrestle. Well, if he wasn't able to prove them wrong in the past, he definitely did on Monday night in his match against Wyatt Family member Luke Harper.
Sure, these two have clashed multiple times in the past, but they always produce solid matches, and their latest encounter was no different. Harper pulled some impressive maneuvers out of his repertoire to put away Cena but came up short at every pinfall attempt.
Cena also had a difficult time defeating the bearded cult member and didn't dispose of him as quick as some of his past opponents. Though Erick Rowan interfered before a rightful winner could be determined, both competitors looked great after this match concluded.
Not to mention, there was the awesome angle that took place afterward with The Wyatt Family decimating Cena on the stage.
Superstar of the Week: Cesaro
Since becoming the newest "Paul Heyman Guy" the night after WrestleMania 30, Cesaro has been riding a wave of momentum. That was evident on this week's Raw during his heated battle with Sheamus in a rematch from the prior week's edition of WWE Main Event.
The two developed instant chemistry and had a highly physical match filled with hard-hitting action from bell to bell. With a little help from his mentor, Paul Heyman, at ringside, Cesaro nailed a German suplex on the United States champion for the non-title victory.
Cesaro went on to demolish Mark Henry on Main Event the next night before delivering a Neutralizer to Sheamus on SmackDown. Expect a barn burner of a matchup when they clash for the United States title at Payback.
Show of the Week: Monday Night Raw, May 19
No matter how good or bad the product may be, WWE always puts forth a strong effort whenever it's in England. That was certainly the case when Raw emanated in London on Monday night.
The biggest talking point going into the show was the status of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship following Daniel Bryan's successful surgery last week. While the content of Stephanie McMahon's promo was nothing of note, it was entertaining for what it was worth.
The show also saw two great matches in Batista vs. Seth Rollins and John Cena vs. Luke Harper. It may not have been a home run of an episode, but the England crowd made it entertaining and much more fun than it would have been anywhere in the States.
Main Event, despite being the show to watch last week, was pretty deplorable on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, SmackDown was solid and featured several good matches and moments, but Raw was successful in building excitement for the Payback pay-per-view.
This Week's Highlights
Seth Rollins vs. Batista
The first match between Rollins and Batista on the May 9 edition of SmackDown told a better story, but this clash had the more entertaining action. Say what you will about him, Batista has more than held his own in all of his recent matches, and Rollins was excellent as usual. The combustible elements of The Shield and Evolution at ringside made their inevitable brawl more exciting and had me looking forward to their No Holds Barred Elimination match at Payback.
Stephanie McMahon promo
With the exception of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon has to be one of the biggest (and best) trolls in all of the WWE right now. She comes off as so disingenuous during her promos that it's almost impossible to like her.
She turned the crowd against her from the moment she entered to Daniel Bryan's theme music and cut a great heel promo from there. The story surrounding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was delayed for another week, but this was a good way of furthering it.
Beat the Clock Challenge
Usually, this gimmick calls for shorter matches, but I didn't mind as much in this case if only because all three matches were fun while they lasted. More importantly, they made the Intercontinental Championship feel important again, especially following the tournament to crown a new challenger last month.
Bad News Barrett should have turned the crowd against him in his home country like a good heel should, but that's merely nitpicking things. It was a cool moment, and I was happy to see him return to his homeland with gold around his waist.
Batista vs. Dolph Ziggler
WWE hasn't done much with Ziggler as of late, but Ziggler makes the most of the big matches he's involved in, including his No DQ match with Batista on SmackDown. It was obvious that he'd be coming out on the losing end, but he put up a great fight against The Animal and looked strong in defeat. Batista continues to look ruthless and has been shining as a heel in recent months.
It was nearly two months in the making, but Dallas finally made his main-roster debut on SmackDown (not including his brief stint in 2013). He worked a decent match against Sin Cara, scored the victory and got under the skin of viewers with his pre-match promo. It might take time for him to garner heat from live crowds, but it's so far, so good with Dallas, and I expect him to flourish if he continues to stay true to his great gimmick.
Cody Rhodes vs. Jack Swagger
It's rare that I ever suggest someone watch Superstars, but the match between Rhodes and Swagger on this week's edition was worth going out of your way to see. It was given good time, and both competitors did an excellent job of building to the finish. It also did a nice job of teasing Cody's eventual turn with his loss.
This Week's Low Points
Summer Rae returns
First, let me say that I'm glad Summer is back and that the Divas division can definitely benefit from her return.
However, I couldn't care less for her apparent feud with Fandango and Layla. Could a pairing with The Miz be imminent? I certainly hope not. The live crowd reacted to Summer's brawl with Layla, but although she came off as a babyface on Raw, she was right back to being a heel on SmackDown. So, which is it? Better yet, why should I care?
Cesaro vs. Mark Henry
While I wasn't necessarily looking forward to this matchup, I was hoping it would save Main Event from being a complete throwaway show this week. Sadly, it did not. The match didn't even come to fruition.
Viewers instead had to sit through an arm wrestling contest that lasted less than a minute and ended with Henry being buried underneath the commentary table in weak fashion.
Remember when Henry used to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with? Yeah, me neither.
Damien Sandow vs. R-Truth
I have simply come to accept the fact that WWE has no plans for Sandow at the moment, but he went from him being "The Voice of the Voiceless" one week to dressing up as Sherlock Holmes the next. The fact that he wrestled in the Holmes outfit was ridiculous in and of itself and made the match even more painful to sit through.
The win did nothing for Sandow, and why this match was given so much time when Cesaro vs. Henry wasn't given any at all is beyond me.
Naomi vs. Aksana
One would think that Naomi would have gone directly after Aksana upon her return to the ring in March after she busted her eye and took her out of action for several weeks.
Instead, she decided to wait two months before getting her revenge. It could've been much worse if the commentators didn't bother to acknowledge their history at all, but their match didn't feel any more special than any other Divas match because they haven't feuded at all since Naomi's comeback.
As much as it pains me to put Rose in the Low Points column, it was necessary to do so. I enjoyed his appearances on Raw and SmackDown, and the live England crowds seemed to enjoy him as well, but he hasn't evolved his character at all since his debut. He's nothing more than an entrance and a few one-liners.
His feud with Jack Swagger hasn't been anything special, and he'll probably go back to not receiving a reaction next week in the States. Perhaps things will change when he starts wrestling (I expect his debut match to come at Payback), but he needs to prove that he'll be more than just a flash in the pan.
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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.