Breaking Down the Best and Worst of the WWE for Week of Aug. 4
Heath Slater provided astonishment and NXT tag teams provided thrills on WWE programming in the first week of August.
Slater scored a pair of surprising victories, one of which was a highlight of Monday's Raw. The pursuit of the No. 1 contender's spot led to quality tag team matches on NXT.
Those high points balanced out having to say goodbye to Alberto Del Rio and WWE losing focus on SummerSlam too often on Monday night. Roster depth went down with the former and viewer interest did the same for the latter.
Slater's wins are the kind of unexpected development that rewards the patient fan, the prize in the bottom of the cereal box. With Mexico's Greatest Export gone from the company, it's certain that Slater won't extend his burgeoning streak against Del Rio.
That would have been a fun sight.
Best: Chris Jericho vs. Erick Rowan (SmackDown)
Chris Jericho's quest to make his SummerSlam match with Bray Wyatt as even as possible resulted in a standout contest against Erick Rowan on Friday's SmackDown.
In what was a preview of sorts of Wyatt vs. Jericho, speed went up against power, cunning against brute force.
The match's stipulation stated that if Jericho won, Rowan would be banned from ringside at SummerSlam. That added some intriguing stakes to a physical, well-worked bout.
Jericho knocked the big man around with dropkicks, sending him flying off the ring apron and crashing into the security barricade. Rowan responded by hurling Y2J into the ring post. He followed that move with a beastly roar that would make Roman Reigns proud.
A spin kick from Rowan, the referee throwing Luke Harper out of the ring area and Jericho's fear of Wyatt at ringside helped make for a memorable offering.
Harper and Jericho didn't get as much time to impress in their bout on Monday's Raw. Jericho won that encounter by disqualification, assuring himself a one-on-one battle at SummerSlam.
Worst: Raw Filler Rather Than SummerSlam Buildup
With SummerSlam just two weeks away, Monday's Raw needed to both add some new matches to the card (which it did) and give fans reasons to be excited for the upcoming pay-per-view.
WWE accomplished the latter when it came to Brock Lesnar and John Cena, courtesy of a fantastic video package. The issue is that the show otherwise meandered too often.
It was a case of too many snacks and not enough meals.
Diego vs. Fandango was the same silly fare we've seen from them as of late. El Torito hugging Layla uncomfortably and Hornswoggle dancing in Fandango-like gear is not getting anyone to buy the WWE Network.
Bo Dallas took on R-Truth again in what may end up being a feud that makes its way to SummerSlam. However, is that something really worthy of that show? It feels far more like something that belongs on TV as padding in between more substantial offerings.
Mark Henry returned on Monday's Raw where he steamrolled Damien Sandow. That certainly won't help increase interest in SummerSlam.
A backstage segment where Adam Rose encountered the mirror from Oculus felt like filler as well.
That's far too many times during the three-hour show that failed to promote SummerSlam or provide anything memorable. Hall of Famer Jim Ross summed it up well on his blog: "Too many meaningless talking segments w/ prelim acts feels like a waste of time."
Of the Henry vs. Sandow match, he said it was "neither entertaining nor did it have anything to do with Summer Slam. So why was it on the show?"
It's not surprising then that fans tuned out.
According to Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net, "Monday's WWE Raw scored a 2.86 rating, down from the 3.06 rating the show drew the previous week." The report also notes that "WWE took another hit in the third hour of the show this week."
If WWE insists on making Raw three hours, it has to do a better job of utilizing that time. Repeating the price of the WWE Network and mentioning it ad nauseam is not going to pull in subscribers—more consistently entertaining programming will.
Best: Heath Slater Surprises
Living up to WWE's motto that "anything can happen," a perennial loser defeated the man holding the Money in the Bank contract.
On Monday's Raw, Seth Rollins needed to beat Heath Slater in under 15 minutes and 42 seconds in order to beat Dean Ambrose in the Beat the Clock challenge. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Rollins, a far more prominent star than Slater, would win. When he did would be the only uncertainty.
Slater hung in the match, though.
Ambrose's distractions helped keep Rollins off-balance and Slater fought on. The clock kept ticking.
Eventually, WWE's resident bottom feeder pulled out the upset victory. That departure from the norm created a thrilling moment, a jolt to the system.
Titus O'Neil was quick to congratulate him after rejecting their partnership for so long. Slater Gator then defeated Stardust and Goldust on Tuesday's Main Event, giving Slater more wins in a week than he usually gets in months.
It's a smart move to go in an unexpected direction like this every so often. Wrestlers have less value if they aren't a threat. Their defeats become anticipated, diminishing the entertainment value of their matches.
Thanks to these two wins, fans are forced to pay more attention to Slater's future battles. He may just have a few more triumphs in him.
Worst: Backstage Incident Leads to Alberto Del Rio's Release
WWE's recent budget cuts have led to unsurprising exits, including Curt Hawkins and Ricardo Rodriguez. An incident backstage, details of which are scarce right now, led to a far bigger name in Alberto Del Rio parting ways with the company.
On its website, WWE announced that the company released Del Rio "due to unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee." He was not wished well on his future endeavors.
Dave Meltzer reports on F4WOnline, "The story going around is that he slapped a a Social Media manager, at this week's television, but there are a variety of different stories going around regarding what led to this."
Whether one was a fan of his character or a critic of his lack of charisma, it's undeniable that losing him hurts the roster. He was one of WWE's top in-ring workers, a guy who produced great matches with a variety of names, from Dolph Ziggler to Christian.
Whatever frustrations and bad judgment calls happened with Del Rio to get him fired leaves WWE with one less mat technician, one less star at a time where Daniel Bryan is injured, CM Punk is retired and John Cena is missing shows to shoot movies.
Best: NXT Tag Team Tournament
The race to battle The Ascension began in entertaining fashion.
The next few editions of NXT will decide the No. 1 contender to the tag team titles by way of a tournament. Thursday's NXT featured two first-round bouts, both of which compelled.
Jason Jordan and Tye Dillinger put on their best performance to date against Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore. Jordan's athletic ability and improved showmanship paired with some intriguing viciousness from Dillinger.
Throw in Cassady and Amore's antics, including Amore not being able to remember how he won the match, and fans could walk away satisfied right there. Another tournament match followed, though.
Sami Zayn and Adam Rose defeated Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel in a match powered by a hot crowd. Kidd and Gabriel were also able to continue their characters' development, and Rose showed how superior of a wrestler he is in the NXT environment, especially when compared to his work on the main roster.
Tag team wrestling is thriving in NXT right now. We're only two matches in, and the tournament has already impressed.
Bull Dempsey and Mojo Rawley, The Vaudevillains and Kalisto and Sin Cara will do battle in this tourney as well. Things are just beginning to get interesting.