Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of July 14
Arrivals and exits provided the highs and lows of the WWE week. Fans saw Kenta sign a deal with the company, CM Punk say adieu and Sting just dip his toes into Vince McMahon's empire.
The sum of all those transactions is that WWE now boasts one of Japan's top stars on its roster and also has Sting around (but so far only promoting a video game). Punk hasn't competed since January, but the latest update on the future Hall of Famer's status had fans saying goodbye.
The best in-ring moments featured a rising prospect against a man who continues to rejuvenate his career at NXT.
Damien Sandow has spent much of 2014 in the negative side of this weekly feature. It's not his performance that is suspect but the roles WWE has asked him to play. This time, officials asked him to bicker over a fast-food item before a bit of slapstick.
The nasty taste that scene left in fans' mouths is balanced out by the delectable nature of having Kenta as part of the WWE team.
Best: Kenta Joins WWE
NXT added one of the world's top pro wrestling talents.
WWE announced that it had signed Pro Wrestling Noah star Kenta (the company has done away with the stylization of his ring name) to a developmental deal.
That confirms months of rumors and speculation and injects a large supply of excitement going forward. With as excellent as Kenta has been throughout his career in Japan and Ring of Honor, he has a great shot of becoming WWE's most successful Japanese wrestler ever.
Members of the roster seem just as psyched as the fans.
Daniel Bryan told WWE.com, "Some of the best matches I've ever had have been against Kenta. He's going to make everybody step up their game." Seth Rollins added, "It's a coup for the company. He's a legitimate, bona fide global wrestling phenomenon."
There's the fear that WWE may misuse Kenta or attempt to dilute his style too much, but with as much fanfare as his signing has received, it appears that the company is well aware of his value.
Worst: Rock Bottom for Damien Sandow
A good number of the wrestlers on the roster have been asked to do silly things, but WWE is making Damien Sandow a special kind of buffoon.
When his fans are longing for the days where he was dressed up as Sherlock Holmes, there's something wrong with how the company is portraying him. His latest costume change saw him don a Sonic employee uniform and argue about a hot dog.
Adam Rose eventually won this little spat, pushing Sandow (who was on roller skates) offscreen and forcing him to crash into something.
There is no greater misuse of talent in WWE right now than making a skilled talker and showman become a punchline. Sure, he's getting consistent TV time, but should WWE ever try to have him be taken seriously after this, it's going to find that his aura has been damaged too much.
Best: Intercontinental Championship Hype
The Intercontinental Championship is getting some major love.
The buildup to the Battle Royal at Battleground to crown the new champ has exceeded expectations. This hasn't been some thrown-together match. Several Superstars and the title itself have garnered spotlight leading up to the bout.
On Monday's Raw, a number of Battle Royal entrants collided.
Rob Van Dam met Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler bested Fandango and Cesaro faced Big E. The Miz, after announcing his entry in the match, earned an upset over Sheamus. The Celtic Warrior would even the series between him and The Miz on Tuesday's Main Event.
Not only did WWE mention the upcoming fight for the championship on Raw nearly as much as it plugged the WWE Network, it highlighted several rivalries that will all be a part of it.
It will now benefit from a variety of subplots, which include Cesaro looking to end a losing streak, The Miz and Sheamus' growing animosity and the lady-centered issues between Ziggler and Fandango. Even this week's Superstars focused on the IC title with Renee Young talking up its prestige during Ryback vs. R-Truth.
Worst: Saying Goodbye to CM Punk, for Real This Time
It's been months since CM Punk has wrestled, but that hasn't stopped fans from chanting his name and holding out hope that he and WWE would work things out.
Those last drops of optimism about him making a return anytime soon have now evaporated.
WWE moved Punk to the "WWE Alumni" section of its website. After several fans began to thank Punk on Twitter, he responded by tweeting, "Nope, thank YOU. Thanks for all the help and support through the years. Health and happiness above all."
That's likely as official as an end to his WWE career as we're going to get.
WWE hasn't released its typical "best of of luck in your future endeavors" announcement. There will be no last salute to fans on Raw from Punk. This is it. It's really over.
One has to be happy for Punk to have found peace outside of the ring, but selfishly, it's hard not to pine for his sharp tongue and swift boot.
Best: Tyson Kidd vs. Sami Zayn
The week's best match came after SmackDown, Raw and Main Event had been recorded. Tyson Kidd's continued character shift and Sami Zayn's stellar showmanship were on display on Thursday's NXT.
The developmental branch of the company delivered again.
Zayn, angry over Kidd abandoning him during a tag match and later attacking him after a clash with Justin Gabriel, sought revenge. Kidd, on the other hand, was in desperate need of momentum. He's been losing at too high of a rate for his liking.
A grappling-heavy matchup saw Kidd evade Zayn early on. Fans saw more of Kidd's still-in-progress transformation into a full-on heel here. He was hesitant about his own cowardice and showed flashes of being ruthless.
Counters and reversals had the crowd roaring.
Kidd looked to have the match won with a Sharpshooter. He wrenched Zayn's legs screaming, "Tap!" Zayn, though, refused to give up and showed himself to be a warrior in gutting it out until he could escape.
Zayn responded with his own submission hold, the Koji Clutch, which was enough to add another defeat to Kidd's resume. That result is sure to have Kidd grow even more angry, frustrated and desperate.
That's good news for fans is the darker Kidd has become, the more compelling he's been.
Best/Worst: Sting in WWE, Sort of
On Monday's Raw, the crowd watched anxiously as a haunting promo came on the big screen. After cutting through an orchestra, the trenchcoat-wearing, baseball bat-wielding Sting turned to the camera.
Before fans could celebrate Sting's arrival, though, text popped up explaining that he was part of a video game. He's not the next Raw general manager, not a member of the roster.
It's still exciting to have Sting be a part of WWE after existing in somewhat of an alternate universe his whole career. This is certainly a big step to forming a closer relationship with WWE, but there's no guarantee that he's anything more than a playable character in WWE 2K15.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc), Sting hasn't signed a deal, although he and WWE are working to get one done. It seems his deal is just one involving 2K Sports for now.
That's a disappointment after so many months of rumors and anticipation. Expect more of both until Sting appears for WWE in the flesh.
However, the company continues to hint that he will be doing more than video game promotion.
When Michael Cole asked Triple H in a recent interview if Sting would ever wrestle, the COO said, "Never say never, if it's best for business." Vince McMahon also teased a bigger role for Sting via Twitter, asking, "Does art imitate life?"