Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of May 26
NXT dominated WWE programming in the week leading up to Payback 2014.
The conclusion of Batista's side feud and Bray Wyatt threatening an announcer excited, but it was NXT Takeover that sent the most electricity along the veins of WWE's fanbase. A battle for the No. 1 contender's spot and a clash between daughters of former champions highlighted NXT's second live event.
The buzz from that night did well to drown out the week's low points.
WWE is straining the audience's ability to suspend disbelief with how it's booking a man in a bull costume. Damien Sandow's strange journey was a letdown as well. He had further reason to pine for a time machine that is set to before Oct. 28, 2013.
The positives outweighed those gaffes, though.
When quality matches like Tyson Kidd and Adrian Neville's NXT Championship bout and The Usos latest collision with The Wyatt Family don't make the cut as the week's best offerings, you know it was a successful stretch for WWE.
Best: Dolph Ziggler vs. Batista (SmackDown)
Intensity pulsated as Dolph Ziggler sought to take down a foe who has overpowered him in the past.
Ziggler has gotten closer and closer to defeating Batista. On the May 16 SmackDown, his win came at a heavy price—Batista's low blow earned him a disqualification. They met on this past Friday's SmackDown in a no-disqualification match.
Both men were compellingly aggressive, pounding on each other with stiff strikes and forced flights into the ring steps.
What could have just been a warm-up match for Batista before Payback became a standout performance for two former world champs. Ziggler's fire and Batista's moments of dominance made both men look stronger coming out of this.
After hurting his leg falling over the ring steps, Ziggler went from the gutsy babyface nearing an upset to a wounded animal lying helplessly on the plains.
He continues to get the best out of Batista, who is slowly returning to the level he was on before his departure. Outings like this make one wonder why WWE doesn't showcase Ziggler more often.
Worst: El Torito Defeats Another Member of 3MB
Some underdog stories are just too implausible.
Maybe the audience can buy Rey Mysterio defeating Jack Swagger, but El Torito knocking off Drew McIntyre is a bad idea. El Torito, who is around 4'5'', didn't need a fluke, an injury, a foreign object or an act of God to pin a former champion who towers over him at 6'5'' and 245 pounds.
Good luck trying to restore McIntyre to a level higher than jobber now.
More than a week before that, El Torito earned a pinfall victory over Heath Slater on SmackDown. These silly showdowns were meant to add fire to the Hornswoggle vs. El Torito feud, but they hurt Slater, McIntyre and the credibility of WWE in general.
As ridiculous as WWE can be at times, it has to be consistent in terms of what is possible in the ring. You can't have Zach Gowen beat Brock Lesnar or Michael Cole beat John Cena. The result is a lot of eye-rolling and sighing rather than cheering.
Best: Bray Wyatt Brings Jerry Lawler into His Web
Fans are cheering for Bray Wyatt and singing along with him. He's supposed to be the monster in this story. You can't have the audience rooting for Godzilla to demolish Tokyo.
Therefore, WWE wisely gave Wyatt an opportunity to show off how merciless and dangerous he is.
The "attack the announcer to get heat" routine is a familiar one. Wyatt's version, though, was particularly compelling. He urged Jerry Lawler to sit in the ring for "a chat."
"The Eater of Worlds" promised not to bite. Trusting him on that would be like trusting the rain if it told you it wouldn't fall.
Without much more than roughing up Lawler, Wyatt was haunting. He grinned as he threatened to harm the announcer. He acted as if he had to hurt him, as if he were simply carrying out orders from a higher power.
Luke Harper and Erick Rowan held Lawler up, and Wyatt closed in.
John Cena and later The Usos came in to make the save, but Wyatt had already made his imprint on the crowd, putting his prey in his mouth but never clamping down his fangs.
Worst: Damien Sandow's Downward Journey Continues
Tally up the Superstars that WWE would ask to dress up like Davy Crockett before falling to Adam Rose or put on a fake gold grill and wear duct tape on a chain. It's not a long list.
Cesaro, Bad News Barrett and Bray Wyatt are in no danger of being turned into the clown that Sandow has become.
He is not on those other villains' level, though, one might say. How much of that is because he has so often been the punching bag, the punch line and the roadkill for other wrestlers zooming toward their goals?
WWE found a vehicle for Barrett's talents with the "Bad News" gimmick. Husky Harris became one of the most engaging characters in the industry. Cesaro got a boost by being aligned with Paul Heyman.
Sandow, on the other hand, is digging through the costume trunk. Portraying D-Sizzle, as he did on Tuesday's Main Event, is far from the best way to use his talents.
Best: Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze (NXT Takeover)
Fans who complain that today's WWE is not entertaining and that the PG Era is dragging the company down aren't paying close enough attention.
As Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn displayed at NXT Takeover, the future of the company is heavy with promise. In a battle to decide who would be the next No. 1 contender for the NXT Championship, the two wrestlers took hold of the audience and didn't let go until Breeze walked away the victor.
Breeze has been increasingly aggressive and piling on his collection of standout matches.
Zayn was his usual engaging self. There are few wrestlers working today who can exude as much emotion in the ring as him. Every moment of frustration and every bit of pain he experiences is real and electric.
Breeze yanking Zayn away from the ropes and turning it into a powerbomb, Zayn's flights to the outside of the ring and both men's gutsy showings were among the highlights in a match that deserves to be revisited several times over.
Best: Natalya vs. Charlotte (NXT Takeover)
Charlotte announced to the world that the future of the Divas division doesn't begin and end with Paige.
In the process of defeating Natalya at NXT Takeover and becoming the second-ever NXT women's champ, Charlotte showed off a command of the ring that showed why WWE is so high on her. Even with some moments of awkwardness and her inexperience showing, Charlotte put on a career-defining performance in a match that reached deep inside the audience.
As for Natalya, the lesson she taught us again is that if you want to bring out a woman's best, pit her against "The Hart Dungeon Diva."
After she was a part of one of Brie Bella's best matches ever on Main Event earlier in the week, she led Charlotte to her crowning moment. Quality mat wrestling, Ric Flair and Bret Hart's presence in the corners and a feisty energy made for a show-stealing performance.
Charlotte slammed Natalya's head into the mat with the figure-four headlock, the two women slapped each other with stinging blows, and Charlotte missed a moonsault, belly-flopping onto the mat. Those highlights and how important both wrestlers made this match feel made it one to celebrate.