Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of June 23
The last week of June proved that there are scores of ways to shine as a WWE Superstar.
Dolph Ziggler did it in defeat, Dean Ambrose did it with delirium, Adrian Neville did it in opposition to gravity and Vickie Guerrero did it covered in muck.
That quartet reminded us that the key to WWE success is maximizing one's time on screen. There are no truly bad parts, even if one puts a performer face-down in a pool of brown goop.
Repetitive booking and some of the worst commentary WWE fans have ever heard provided the week's low points.
If Bad News Barrett's injury turns out be serious, add that to the worst of the week as well. However, his latest Intercontinental Championship was the kind of great match fans are hoping to see unfold each time the bell rings.
Best: Dolph Ziggler vs. Bad News Barrett (Raw)
Bad News Barrett had to fight off a rabid, focused challenger in Dolph Ziggler. Given a good amount of ring time, both men made the case that their match should have been the main event on Monday's Raw.
A fluid, well-paced bout showcased both Ziggler and Barrett. They made victory seem vital, each near-fall resulting in realistic frustration. Desperation rose with each kick-out.
It's competition like this that gives the Intercontinental Championship more importance. If two warriors are willing to fight this hard for it, it must surely be valuable and worthy of audience investment in others' pursuit of it.
The contest ended with a nasty Bull Hammer, a blow that sent spit flying from Ziggler's mouth and seemed to whip his head back like in a car crash. Barrett hasn't had a better match since winning the title, and Ziggler once again showed WWE officials that he's more talented than the low-ranked midcarder they make him out to be.
They will meet once more in the Money in the Bank Ladder match, the stakes even higher this time.
Worst: Cameron on Commentary
Art Donovan doesn't seem all that bad anymore.
Cameron sat in on commentary for her partner Naomi's match against Alicia Fox. She then distracted from the in-ring action with a grating performance at the announce desk.
The Funkadactyl used the word "actually" ad nauseam, hammering it into the audience's ears. Her squabbling with Paige turned out more like squawking. Her boastfulness was vexing, but not in the way that a wrestling heel is when working the fans; it came off artificial and forced.
WWE offered Cameron a chance away from Naomi but she flubbed it, compelling the company to keep her nestled in her partner's shadow.
Best: Dean Ambrose Loses His Mind
Seth Rollins has let loose an animal.
Betrayed by his partner, Dean Ambrose has morphed into a nuttier, off-balance version of himself. On Monday's Raw, he came as close as he has with WWE to being the intriguing lunatic he often was during his indy days.
Ambrose made sure Rollins didn't defeat Rob Van Dam. He pounced on him, cracking him with right hands. After his enemy slipped from his grasp, Ambrose took hold of the mic and warned that he would ruin the upcoming pay-per-view if he didn't get in the Money in the Bank Ladder match with Rollins.
His eyes jittered in their sockets. His voice undulated with anger.
Were Brian Pillman watching from the heavens, he would likely smile at what he saw. Ambrose was carrying on his loose-cannon tradition.
Backstage, Ambrose continued to display this wild energy, saying he would have sold the Money in the Bank briefcase at a pawn shop had he not been added to the Ladder match.
It looks as if breaking up The Shield is going to benefit all three former members. Roman Reigns is already in the hunt for the WWE title, Rollins has been compelling as a slimy, suit-wearing villain and Ambrose has been allowed to burst through the door, a rabid beast now uncaged.
Worst: SmackDown/Raw Repetition
It's impossible to have a fresh matchup on every show, but there are times it feels as if the booking team puts no effort into what bouts fill out a card.
Fans who watched last Friday's SmackDown and then the following Raw likely felt that's what was happening. Dolph Ziggler and Bad News Barrett met on both shows, but one match naturally led to another. "The Show-Off" won a non-title match on SmackDown, earning himself a title shot on Monday.
The 4-on-3 Handicap match, though, felt far too similar on both nights.
The entrants in the WWE Title Ladder match squared off, the fan favorites on one side and the heels on the other. They did so to end both Raw and SmackDown, and with the same outnumbered team winning. It felt like WWE was just cramming all the competitors into a single space.
When Raw's main event is a repeat of the SmackDown one, it makes the latter feel less special. Why not just skip the Friday offering and wait for it to appear on Raw?
Having all these Superstar collide again made sense, but why not put them in a Battle Royal the second time or switch the teams up? A small change would have gone a long way.
Best: Adrian Neville vs. Rob Van Dam
Adrian Neville's journey as NXT champ has seen him take on a conveyor belt of visitors from the main roster, from Justin Gabriel to Tyson Kidd, Brodus Clay to Curt Hawkins. On Thursday's NXT, he faced a bigger star than all those men: Rob Van Dam.
The announcers played up that Neville had grown up watching Van Dam and emulated his style.
In fact, there were moments during the action when it seemed as if we were witnessing a portal through time, a warrior battling a younger version of himself. Their creative, exciting offense blended well together, with dives, moonsaults and kicks powering a fun match.
Given a fresh challenge, Neville stepped up again. He has made standout efforts against just about everybody WWE has thrown at him. This was Neville's first crack at a former world champ, and he looked comfortable in that role.
Each week, the NXT titleholder has made NXT's main event must-see entertainment, a feat he achieved once more, this time opposite "Mr. Monday Night."
Best/Worst: Tribute to Vickie Guerrero
WWE saluted Vickie Guerrero on her way out, but not without resorting to childish, lowbrow means.
With a world of choices before them, WWE officials decided that Vickie's last act would be to battle Stephanie McMahon in a "push the other person into a pool of stinking, brown liquid first" contest. Vickie lost of course, emerging from the mystery sludge (that McMahon implied to be various bodily fluids) covered in the stuff.
Somehow, Vickie managed to salvage a moving tribute to her late husband out of this. She stood on the entrance ramp, shimmied as Eddie Guerrero did so many times and blew a kiss to the clouds.
It's hard not to see that image without having to wipe one's eyes afterward.
Still, WWE could have allowed Vickie a dramatic, fun and memorable exit without being so juvenile. The company's heart was in the right place in making her departure a momentous one, but it went with one of its more ridiculous options.
There is humor outside of the bathroom. There is theater beyond the boorish. WWE just has to seek it out.