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WWE’s Ten Best Matches Of The First Half Of 2014

July 10, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Through questionable booking, a stock market crash, fan discontent, and the unfortunate loss of JTG, WWE has provided audiences with, if nothing else, a lot of great in-ring action. Here are my personal picks for the ten best bouts so far in 2014.

10. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Cesaro vs. Christian vs. Sheamus (WWE Elimination Chamber, February 23)

As long as the performers cut a watchable pace in the epic-length Chamber matches, and there’s some creative mayhem taking place between the chain-link walls, it generally adds up to a great match. This was no exception, and it even came with some added drama: would Bryan avenge his exclusion from the Royal Rumble match and become WWE Champion? A spurned Twitterverse, led by a bat-wielding Mick Foley, glued their eyes to the action.

Bryan, of course, didn’t win here, succumbing to Corporate Kane (RepubliKane?) in a screwy finish. Cena also didn’t win, as a Wyatt Family teleportation cost him Orton’s gold as well. It was Bryan’s portion of the story that received the most focus, with him taking a beating (being whipped through an empty pod by Cesaro), and valiantly clawing his way back before the heart-ripping finish. That only made the WrestleMania payoff more enjoyable.

9. Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Takeover, May 29)

This was certainly surprising. You’d expect a good match from Natalya under required circumstances (read: a match of reasonable length where she’s not selling for the trade show model du jour). But Charlotte? She never really impressed me in NXT, and it seemed her push was based on that she was tall, blonde, and the offspring of wrestling royalty. To say this match was incredible might be the understatement of all of 2014.

In a match to determine the new NXT Women’s Champion, Charlotte held her own in what ended up a highly intense match-up, most notable for the Sharpshooter/figure-four spot with determined reversals and realistic selling. Perhaps having Ric Flair and Bret Hart at ringside was a heaven-sent dual muse? Charlotte capped off the match with the win, which many predicted, but the story in getting to that point was something no one saw coming.

8. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Royal Rumble, January 26)

Forget the aftermath of the night, which consisted of two hours of fan anger the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 1991 Great American Bash. Contained within its frame of time, Bryan and Wyatt held their own in a match that essentially saved the Rumble from being one of the absolute worst PPVs of all time. Even with the match, the night retains its unfathomable infamy, but at least you can say, “Well, one match was awesome.”

Bryan and Wyatt’s match opened the Rumble, and was pretty oddly structured for an era bent on mechanical pacing. Bryan worked Wyatt’s legs early with a series of kicks, and the match didn’t really hit the WWE Main Event Style until well into the proceedings. That was for the better, because different can be highly enjoyable. The finish was memorable, with Wyatt catching a Bryan dive into Sister Abigail against the crowd barrier, very suitably slick.

7. Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover, May 29)

Takeover’s a serious contender for the best WWE show of 2014. The women’s match makes this list, and the NXT Championship bout between Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd was a viable list candidate that just fell short. Breeze and Zayn’s number one contender match was the best of a well-executed card, hardly surprising given Zayn’s general Midas touch. However, the match served as Breeze’s coming-out party, making him one to watch.

Making anyone this generation’s Shawn Michaels is a risky proposition, equal to calling any NBA player “the next Jordan”, but WWE’s all in with making Breeze the risk-taking pretty boy incarnate of today. He was game on exchanging crazy moves with the experienced Zayn, including a weird reversal sequence that ended in an improvised powerbomb. The ending was also a creative bit of screwiness, involving a questionably-blatant low blow.

6. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Arrival, February 27)

Nothing better than a feud over who is simply “the better man.” Strange concept to some in power, but for my simple eyes, the Zayn/Cesaro rivalry was some of the most enjoyable wrestling over the past several years. After a two-out-of-three falls match that Cesaro won in August (hailed by many as the 2013’s best match), the story was Zayn was bent on avenging the loss, and challenged Cesaro to a final battle at WWE Network’s first major special.

The cat-and-mouse nature of the match, with Zayn’s eager risk-taking and Cesaro’s defiant power response, built feverishly to Cesaro gaining the definitive upper hand, and Zayn looking the beaten man. Cesaro even begged Zayn to stop kicking out, but Zayn countered the Neutralize. That led to Cesaro brutalizing him with Swiss Death, a discus uppercut, and the punctuating Neutralizer. Afterward, Cesaro gave Zayn the gesture of respect he’d wanted.

5. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE WrestleMania XXX, April 6)

Nostalgia always feels best when its employment seems natural. There was no shoehorning of classic Attitude Era elements into the WrestleMania main event, which saw the use of a crooked ref, even more crooked authority figures, and a teased stretcher job for Bryan that turned into a Willis Reed comeback special. Add to it the legitimate want of the audience to see Bryan prevail, and the elements were there for a tremendous ‘Mania finale.

It took a lot to get the crowd back into it after The Undertaker’s streak was startlingly ended less than an hour earlier by Brock Lesnar, but all three performers held their own, even the maligned Batista. The bomb/neckbreaker combo on Bryan through the table was memorably sick, and Bryan’s forcing of Batista to submit erupted the Superdome appropriately. If this were the Newlywed Game, WWE held up cards that had every fan answer correct in this one.

4. The Shield vs. Evolution (WWE Extreme Rules, May 4)

The Shield coming to Bryan’s rescue the night after WrestleMania kicked off a highly enjoyable run against the reformed Evolution (until Rollins was swiftly turned, apparently in response to low Memorial Day ratings if you believe the sheets). A rematch at the June 1 Payback event, under elimination and ‘no DQ’ rules, was pretty great in its own right, but the original from Extreme Rules remains the superior exhibition, with its faster pace and livelier crowd.

Rollins continued his campaign to become the modern WWE generation’s Jeff Hardy, doing so by leaping off of the upper deck at the IZOD Center onto Triple H, Randy Orton, and a sacrificial Dean Ambrose. Say what you will about Batista, but he’s been a good sport since the poorly-received comeback, putting over Roman Reigns clean as a sheet by eating the Superman punch, and the emphatic spear. WWE has issues creating stars, but got the Shield 100% correct.

3. John Cena vs. Cesaro (WWE Monday Night Raw, February 17)

If you’re given twenty minutes on free television to work with John Cena, and you’re still kicking around the midcard or upper midcard with little in the way of promising direction, chances are this is your litmus test. WWE seemed to be flirting with a true push of Cesaro in the preceding weeks, sticking him into the Elimination Chamber match, and even put him over champion Randy Orton in a non-title bout. So far so good, but the real test was at hand.

The win over Orton raised the possibility that he *could* beat Cena, instead of having it be the obvious “LOL CENA WINS” trope, and Cesaro held up his end. The most notable spot was the deadlift superplex, now a Cesaro staple, which was used on the B-shows before its unleashing on Raw. Cesaro did end up losing clean to Cena, but everyone had to be encouraged by what they saw, especially when the crowd went crazy for the Cesaro Swing attempts.

2. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Elimination Chamber, February 23)

Pretty good sign when the fans are chanting “THIS IS AWESOME” before any of the six have even made contact with one another. Then again, it raises the bar pretty high for a group of men, none of whom have been truly juiced-in main eventers yet, that are being counted on to deliver in a prime spot. It was hailed as a match-of-the-year candidate before it even ended (and indeed while it was still going), and remains in the running four months later.

The Shield weren’t particularly babyfaces in the run-up to the match, aside from not backing down in face-to-face confrontations, but the trio took to the good guys formula with the sort of timing and pacing that made it seem like they’d been faces for years. The chaotic end-run of the match, which was a star-maker for the kamikaze Rollins, puts it above most other spotfests by having logic and organization behind each stunt. The Wyatts won, but really, so did the Shield.

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WWE WrestleMania XXX, April 6)

After “The Game” made Brock Lesnar slow down to his pace for a trio of matches, and needed Shawn Michaels to play rodeo clown in the overrated “End of an Era” match, I went into his match with Bryan with lowered expectations. I’d figured Bryan would have to slow down to allow his 44-year-old boss with two bum legs to keep up. Lo and behold, the Fountain of Youth resides in New Orleans, as Triple H had his greatest match in probably a good decade or so.

As if he was determined to prove he could still go with the best, and maybe feeling slighted that CM Punk brushed off a match with him, Helmsley wrestled a beaut with the best technician in the company, mixing pure wrestling with the sports-entertainment transition spots you’d expect out of his matches. In the end, Triple H put Bryan over 100% cleanly, and allowed him to kick out of the Pedigree in the process. And we all though Hunter didn’t know how to elevate.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Dean Ambrose Talks Shield Breakup and More

June 27, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Dean Ambrose is at a crossroads in his WWE career. Now that he is on his own, there are only two ways his career can go and according to a confident Ambrose, his trajectory is moving upwards.

I recently questioned the booking of Ambrose in a blog here on the CCB. I was concerned after the first few weeks that Ambrose may be the odd man out. Within a week he has been added to a Money in the Bank match, a match some are predicting he could win. Whether it is the start of the ascension or a missed opportunity is something we won’t know until Sunday.

Ambrose is doing media to promote the event and was asked flat out in an interview with RVmag.com whether or not he is worried about being the odd man out. According to Ambrose, while it may be a rocky climb, he is confident that his journey will end at the top.

With Reigns being booked as WWE’s next big star and Rollins aligned with Triple H, are you worried at all about getting lost in the shuffle like so many other superstars are lately?

Nope.

Pretty confident, huh?

I’ve got confidence for miles and miles every day I wake up. If you know anything about me or anything about my history, if I’m backed into a corner, I will put my head down and swing and bite and scratch and crawl and throw punches until my arms fall off. I get where I want to go whether anyone likes it or not. I’ve made a career and life out of proving people wrong and making people eat their words. I get where I want to go and get what I want. It’s not always a typical storybook because it’s Dean Ambrose – it’s not going to be. It might get ugly and might not always be the prettiest. I might have some scratches and bruises, but I’m going to get to where I want. You know, it can be really easy to listen to people. I’m a guy – I don’t listen to things or to the little things that is. The gossip or comments of public perception. All that matters is the crowd. I know who I am and I know what I do and I know how hard I’ve worked to get here. You never know which way the road is going to turn. I think the top guys wake up every day in the morning and look at themselves and say, “I’m a top guy, I’m a world beater, and no one’s going to stop me from getting what I want.” I do the same and I feel the same and have for a long time.

If confidence constituted your spot on the card, Ambrose would be headlining MITB on Sunday. Confidence is a weird thing to carry in a WWE locker room. You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t depending upon who you are. Hopefully in Ambrose’s case it will work for him rather than against him.

Ambrose was asked about the big angle in which Rollins turned on the Shield. Did Ambrose think it was well done? You bet he does.

You never know what’s going to happen on Monday Night RAW. You always got to to tune in because anything can happen and the same things goes for us when we show up each Monday night. You never know what’s lurking around the corner or what twist they’re going to throw your way. The cool thing is The Shield never started going on the downslide. We went out at our absolute apex with a clean sweep of Evolution, one of the most decorated and dominate stables of all time. The cool thing to take away is that we did go out on a high point whereas other groups don’t and I take a lot of pride in that. We’re all still three of the best performers in the company and are still always going to carry that mindset and that work ethic and be that symbol of excellence. That becomes part of your psyche and you want to go out there every night, bust your ass, put on the best show possible, and refuse to be out-done by anyone. You’re still going to see that from us. You won’t see us working together in the classic Shield way, but all three of us with all of our egos and aspirations and desire are still going to be on your TV making our way up top. It’s an exciting time for the fans.

He makes a great point about the turn. The turn came while the Shield was hot, arguably hotter than ever in the WWE. While some may argue that as a reason not to turn them, Ambrose thinks that will work for them. I tend to agree.

Ambrose goes on in the interview to talk about prepping for Money in the Bank, his love of professional wrestling, who he is closest with in the locker room and more. Check out the entire read over at http://rvamag.com.

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WWE Is Botching The Shield Post-Breakup

June 23, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I don’t think it’s too early to be concerned about the Shield. Thus far it would appear that the lessons the WWE creative team got right when the Shield were together have been forgotten now that they’re apart.

It’s easy to play fantasy booker without the responsibilities the WWE Creative Team carry but this one isn’t brain surgery. If there is one thing that this writing crew has gotten right in the last year and a half it is the booking of the Shield. Every mistake this team has made when introducing or elevating talent on the roster was avoided with Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose. That is why it is concerning to see that playbook thrown out now that the trio have been split apart.

Let’s go through the team individually and take a look at how their first couple of weeks apart as singles stars is going.

Seth Rollins - Rollins is obviously positioned better than anyone else at this point. He is associated with the top act in the company and appears to be the darling of Triple H on and off camera. Rollins is playing his role to perfection and in the ring, he has been fantastic. Yet a closer look at the booking reveals a few warning signs that need to be addressed quickly.

The biggest WTF moment for me came last week when Rollins gloriously told the fans that he was signed as the first guy in the “B” Money in the Bank match. I watched the promo on Superstars and my first thought was, “Why is this guy so happy? Shouldn’t he be angry?” Rollins’ position was clear and that is mid-high mid-card star and nothing more.

Think about this for a second. Shouldn’t the guy who turned his back on his brothers for the Authority be rewarded with a spot in the WWE world title MITB match? The only reason not to put him there would be personal business such as going to war with Ambrose or Reigns. Yet Rollins is rewarded with a spot in a MITB match to earn a title shot, not the title. Rollins should be angry, fired up, feel betrayed, yet he gloats about that. I look at a guy bragging about being outside of the main-event and I don’t see a guy positioned in a good spot period.

Roman Reigns - Clearly nothing is wrong with the booking of Reigns now that he is in the WWE world title match right? Wrong. The hotshot move of Reigns to the MITB title match thanks to Vickie essentially being drugged is too much too soon. Reigns should simmer, have a slow burn to the big dance, giving the fans a chance to salivate over it. Instead he is shot right to the big dance without having more than a handful of singles matches on television. This one can only go one way and that is wrong.

What if Reigns wins the title, will I think differently? No. Reigns is not ready. Could they protect him? Sure, but when is the last time that anyone got over who was obviously protected? Bill Goldberg and that was over ten years and two decades ago. Losing is probably better for him but what does that say about him in the eyes of the fans? Keep in mind that this also comes at a time when fans still want to see the Yes Movement continue. I am sure those fans who booed Batista will surely be understanding of Reigns taking away their hero’s spot right? Exactly.

Dean Ambrose - Than there is Dean Ambrose, the Shield member once predicted to go furthest after a breakup. Sadly the opposite is happening and Ambrose is going south faster than anyone could have imagined and I don’t get it. This guy has it all. He is arguably the best promo guy in the company (his promo last week on RAW was one of the best all year), he is fantastic in the ring, and arguably has more charisma than any of the other Shield members yet his position is clear. He is a low-mid card wrestler. He’s wrestling in jeans and a t-shirt and getting squashed by Kane (multiple times). This in addition to recently losing the U.S. title in a battle royal. I am almost inclined to think that he has some kind of heat with the office because there is no other explanation for the way he’s been booked recently. He is obviously the odd man out and is about six-months away from doing comedy angles with Santino and Fandango.

Maybe I am jumping the gun here because after all, it has only been a few weeks that the Shield have been apart. I am the first one to preach patience when it comes to letting an angle play out so I am a bit of a hypocrite here. Yet my gut tells me that something isn’t right and there isn’t a lot of time left to change it.

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Seth Rollins Leaves The Shield: What’s Next for Reigns and Ambrose?

June 09, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

While the wrestling world wants to see what the next move for the Authority and Seth Rollins, did the WWE forget about the other two members of The Shield – Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose? What are the plans for the two superstars and will they still remain joined at the hip or part ways and seek singles success. As I watch the split – which made the WWE look like the WWF of old – I am reminded of what happened after the Four Horsemen finally disbanded and how the incarnations that were devised by WCW were never like the original or the four comprised of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham. Wresting was never the same once that era was perforated.

In September of 1988, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard left, to join the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). This forced them to drop the Tag Team Titles, at the very last minute, to the Midnight Express (Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton). Anderson and Blanchard were known as “The Brain Busters”, in the WWF, and were managed by Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. The fans were disgruntled and wanted the Horseman to remain a viable, important part of the NWA.

Flair, Windham, and Dillon continued to refer to themselves as “the Horsemen” and the NWA even flirted with the idea of bringing in new members. Butch Reed was a singles star, managed by Dillon. The trio even flirted with the idea of bringing in Barry’s brother Kendall. At one point Dillon left the group to take a front office job with the WWF, and they dropped the Horsemen name, hiring Hiro Matsuda as their new manager and changing their name to Yamazaki Corporation.

It never worked and although it appeared that a regrouping of the trademark stable stirred the drink of fans wanting a new and improved foursome, it was never the same.

Could the same thing be destined for Reigns and Ambrose? Could they add another member and be the same kind of reckless outlaws fan love to watch? Windham was the perfect addition because of his history with the original group. Windham joined Flair because he could not beat him (rather the NWA and WCW did not want to put the strap on him). And with his outlaw looks, talent and his wrestling bloodlines, he was the perfect foil to Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Luger and Nikita Koloff. It was without a doubt the best heel turn in wrestling history. When the writers brought Curt Hennig in to replace Arn Anderson, it looked to be as solid a move as Windham years before – but in reality it was such a bust.

The Horsemen concept helped define the NWA in the mid to late 1980s. The departure of Anderson and Blanchard was huge at the time, Dillon and Windham’s departure made it worse, and despite numerous revivals over the coming decade, things were never quite the same.

If Rollins can achieve super stardom and win the WWE World Title within the year and leap over Randy Orton, this move could be the crowning achievement of the company this year, but there must be plans for the other two – who carried the group before the sudden advancement of Rollins.
And for that matter, will there be another addition to Evolution or the Authority to give fans more to complain or cheer about?

The most logical choice for Evolution is still Cody Rhodes, but do the writers and creative team have the stones to create a situation where the youngest of the Rhodes clan not only turns on his brother, Goldust, but also walks away, arm-in-arm with Triple H?

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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The Problem with the Seth Rollins Heel Turn

June 06, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

While we were still shocked at how it was played out, the fact that Seth Rollins has left the Shield should still not be a hug surprise to the WWE faithful. All great things in the WWE and the wrestling world have to come to an end. Even the original Freebirds parted ways – leaving Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts to fight it out with the Samoan Swat Team as part of the feud.

What is surprising to me, at least is the fact it was not Roman Reigns who the WWE sought to leave the flock. Reigns appeared to be the Chosen One of the group – big, thick, and talented and someone the WWE can use to build up in the image of his cousin –The Rock.

I am also a little shocked – as I have replayed Raw from the other night – that the tier system in the WWE is not the same as it used to be, leaving me to think while the plan for Rollins to run at Daniel Bryan in the future with the WWE Title on the line could be tremendous, it may not be what is best for the business Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have planned for the remainder of the year.

By giving the ball to Rollins and allowing him to run with it toward the top of the company food chain, the WWE is in essence squashing many of its superstars that should be receiving more push. I realize there is only one world title right now, but if there was ever a time for the company to celebrate two titles and have cross branding or individual branding – now would be the best time. Sometimes, great ideas come back to bit you on the ass, and it looks like this might have been the time due to Bryan’s injury.

And no, we do not need Superman in Shorts to come save us from the evil empire and save the day in the process.

The WWE may have put a wrap on the four superstars who were getting a huge push as of late in Wade Barrett, Cesaro, Sheamus and Bray Wyatt. Will either of these wrestlers jump back into the WWE World Title picture now that Rollins is the “Chosen One?” Can Randy Orton deal with the fact he may not get another title shot for some time and in the process, does that mean John Cena now jumps back into the title picture since we have learned about the unknown timetable for Daniel Bryan’s return?

I sure hope the WWE has thought this through as it is the shake-up the company needs and the jump that could make us all run to the stores and the arenas to wrap ourselves back in WWE merchandise.

But these are the questions that trouble me now about this move…

– What happens to Reigns and Dean Ambrose? Do they stay together or part and challenge each other or Rollins? I would love to see Ambrose and Rollins roll through the rest of the year. This could be Steamboat and Savage of another generation.

– Does Reigns immediately become the one to beat in the Money in the Bank Match? I would love to see all three of the former Shield members the last standing in the MITB match with the WWE World Title on the line.

– Will Cesaro be happy chasing a lower tier title when he may be the hottest wrestler in the company right now? Can he somehow chase Rollins with Triple H or Stephanie McMahon standing word for word with Paul Heyman?

– And how long before we watch Bray Wyatt become a fan favorite and challenge someone like Cesaro, Barrett or even Brock Lesnar?

I’m not saying the WWE must fall into place this week, but it makes sense to explore these possibilities. But until then, we can bask in the fact we knew this was coming, we just did not know how it would happen.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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Why Seth Rollins’ Heel Turn Was Pure Genius on WWE’s Part

June 05, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The news has not been good lately for WWE.

First, its owner lost $350 million in one day. Second, probes are being launched everywhere into WWE’s new contract with NBC Universal. Third, arguably the promotion’s most popular performer, Daniel Bryan, is on the mend from neck surgery and likely will not be back in action until later this month.

So when good news finally shows up, it’s magnified thanks to its previous circumstances. And we saw some great news on Raw Monday night. It could even be referred to as pure genius.

The heel turn of Seth Rollins was absolute gold, partly because it gives a rising star unfettered access to two wily ring veterans. Mostly, though, it worked because it was so unexpected and carried out so well.

Really, can anyone who has watched the growth of The Shield honestly say they expected this move? After all, Dean Ambrose was the odds-on favorite to make the turn because he walks like a heel, he talks like a heel and he acts like a heel in the ring.

Roman Reigns? The least likely to change. He is destined to be one of the most monster babyfaces in WWE since John Cena at his peak.

But Rollins? The man with two-tone hair? The man Michael Cole deemed as the “architect” of the faction? The man who went above and beyond to keep his band of brothers together when it looked as if they were on the verge of implosion?

Yep. It’s the quiet ones that you have to watch out for.

We all thought that if Rollins were to turn, it would come in a combo with Ambrose. They would grow tired of all the accolades that Reigns was getting – particularly from the female fan base – and attack him. After all, it would take both of them to knock and keep Reigns down.

But we saw their popularity grow over the past few weeks. The fact that they presided over the expected downfall of Evolution seemed to cement their legacy as a complete face faction.

That all changed with a few swings of a metal chair. Rollins went back to the dark side.

And he played his turn to the absolute hilt. He didn’t rant or rave. He did not wildly scream at and kick his former mates. He did not go after them in a windmill of arms and legs.

Nope. With a whack-whack here and a whack-whack there, Seth Rollins made his choice. He stared steely at both of his fallen former comrades. He spoke no words. He moved deliberately as if in slow motion.

The crowd’s reaction was priceless. Stunned silence, then a smattering of boos turned into a barrage of catcalls and screams of simultaneous screams of anger and cries of disbelief.

It was perhaps one of the greatest and most unexpected heel turns since Hulk Hogan joined the New World Order. The only thing missing from Monday night was the constant showering of cups and debris over the ring like we saw when Hogan turned.

The question now is, where will Rollins go from here? He has at least two big matches ahead of him. You know in your heart of hearts that in addition to joining Triple H and Randy Orton in tag matches, Rollins will have to go one-on-one with Reigns and with Ambrose. A Rollins-Ambrose match is perfect for SmackDown, while a showdown with Reigns is an absolute main event for WWE’s Flagship show, Raw.

It also will be interesting to see if the heel turn will bring a change in Rollins’ appearance – not just with ring attire but with physical look. Will the two-tone hair go in favor of the crew cuts favored by the other Evolution members?

Summer was looking like a bummer with news of the money loss, the investigations and Daniel Bryan nowhere to be found on television. This latest move, though, has put the sizzle back in summer for WWE.

Bill Atkinson is a contributor to Camel Clutch Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.

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Seth Rollins Is What Is Best For WWE Business

June 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The WWE kicked off its summer season with a bang on Monday night. The Shield disbanded as expected but it was the most unlikely justice fighter who deserted his team. Seth Rollins is on his own and business is about to pick up!

The breakup of the Shield is funny in that we all expected to see it happen yet every single one of us was surprised when it happened. Kudos to the WWE for pulling off a big shocker in this day and age. Rollins turning and seemingly joining Evolution just may be the start of his ascension to the top.

When the Shield debuted it was Dean Ambrose who everyone picked as the breakout star. I even predicted that he would be headlining the next SummerSlam against John Cena. Ambrose was the leader, Roman Reigns was the muscle Vince McMahon always seems to love and Seth Rollins seemed destined for a nice, yet limited run in the middle of the cards post-Shield. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Something happened a few months ago and all of the sudden Rollins started getting more attention. It went from Ambrose being seen as the leader to Reigns being picked as the next chosen one to Rollins stealing both of their spots right out from under them. The beauty of Rollins’ rise is that it is 100% organic. He wasn’t shoved down anyone’s throats, he slowly moved past his brothers in arms and grabbed his spot all on talent. It’s a heck of a story in 2014 if you really think about it.

Reigns has been pegged by many as the next in line for John Cena’s spot. I like Reigns a lot and I think he’s destined for big things, but I just haven’t been able to see him in that big of a role. Ambrose is fun to watch but I think that U.S. title run did more damage than we’ll ever realize. Yet Rollins is the right guy at the right time with a future I can buy into.

Chris Jericho recently interviewed Daniel Bryan on his podcast. He told Bryan that he knew that Bryan was destined to succeed because he got over elsewhere as the top guy (Ring of Honor). How astute! Jericho may be on to something here because Rollins also worked his way up to that top spot and anyone doubting his abilities to rise to the top are severely underestimating him.

Timing really is everything for Rollins. The WWE needs a fresh face in a top spot. Rollins has the best chance of succeeding as the next great top heel of anyone in recent memory that was given a shot in that spot, including CM Punk. The difference between Rollins and everyone else that has failed when elevated in recent years is that the WWE allowed him to be different. He wasn’t beaten for weeks, he wasn’t made to look like an idiot, he wasn’t screwed due to his own stupidity, he was booked like every great heel or babyface that was elevated in this company up until 2010 and succeeded. By doing less, WWE Creative has done more to help this guy than anyone else in years and that will pay off.

I am excited to see what the rest of 2014 brings for Seth Rollins. I predict that this guy will be in a WWE championship match at WrestleMania, he’s that good. It’s unfortunate that we have to lose one of the greatest acts in modern history in the Shield. Yet that could be a small opportunity cost to pay to get a fresh face on top and next big superstar of the future in Seth Rollins.


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Seth Rollins, John Cena and Other WWE Thoughts

June 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

About two months ago when Seth Rollins walked out on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in a match on Raw, I made a comment to one of my friends that it would be Rollins who left the flock of The Shield first.

My friend (who shall remain nameless) laughed at me and told me I was well, let’s just say it wasn’t nice.

Guess who is laughing now? In a neat genius move by the WWE, Rollins finally made his move, replacing Batista in Evolution and shocking the wrestling world.

While we have been waiting for Roman Reigns to get his push toward coming the WWE Champion, it looks like it is now Rollins world, and we as fans are living in it on the edge of our seats. The company took chance, saying goodbye to a wrestler who could not win over the fans, and taking one of the best wrestlers to come along since Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit.

Now the company must use him effectively as a threat to the World Title and as a member of the Authority, not as much as a unit member of Evolution. Yes, Triple H, you won the game. The war is soon to follow.

I have always been partial to the work of the cruiserweights in professional wrestling. Tight work of Dean Malenko, the snap in his game of Eddie Gilbert and the aggression of Kevin Sullivan. Add the work of Eric Young, the precision of CM Punk and the craft of a Daniel Bryan and you have some of the best “smaller” wrestlers of this generation.

Someone like Rollins could be added to this list.

Rollins found his rightful place in the WWE and now is about to build on it.

Winning is not immune to Rollins as he has enjoyed success before he came to the WWE and quickly snatched the tag team titles with Reigns. He is a former FCW Florida Heavyweight Champion, FCW 15 Champion and FCW Florida Tag Team Champion with Richie Steamboat and is the first FCW Grand Slam Champion, the most decorated FCW star in its history. He first gained notoriety in Ring of Honor, where he is a former ROH World Champion.

Rollins reminds me of a smaller version of Chris Benoit. Quick as lightning and shows a snap in his work that I haven’t seen since Shawn Michaels. Now, the company needs to pass the torch on to Rollins and allow him to have a decent title run against Daniel Bryan upon Bryan’s return.

The WWE has a real chance for something special. How they choose to use him with Triple H as his “boss” puts a different twist on how the summer months and Evolution are used in booking.

Cena does it again
Leave it to John Cena to stick his nose where it does not belong. While the WWE gets kudos for making the Money in the Bank Ladder Match the fight for the WWE World Title should Daniel Bryan not be able to compete against Kane, the company made a huge mistake to insert John Cena into this program.

Cena should be one of the 12 competitors fighting for a right to wear the strap, but it looks like Cena is defending Bryan, something Bryan fought against with Cena before the two battled at SummerSlam. It would be interesting if Cena and Bryan would compete for the title again at SumerSlam and this time the Bella Twins would reside in opposite corners. Cat fights are pretty cool, especially when sisters are involved.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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The Shield’s 10 Best Six-Man WWE Tag Team Matches

May 29, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have had as impressive an 18 months in WWE as any three men, let alone most singular performers. Individually, they’ve stood above the fray as characters worth getting behind, unpoisoned by the company’s wont to bungle a good thing. As a group, they’re the company’s most prolific collective since DX’s first incarnation in 1998.

Their six-man tags have buoyed the most lacking of Raws and, even as heels, they’ve captured the crowd’s attention by simply standing out in a sea of half-baked commonality. Listed here are The Shield’s ten best matches in which all three have taken part.

10. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (April 8, 2014, Main Event)

Three disappointments were spawned from a great WrestleMania weekend, of varying emotional sting, obviously: The Undertaker’s streak ending, the death of The Ultimate Warrior (which still doesn’t feel real), and WWE Network not reaching the estimated 1,000,000 subscriber mark, falling about 330,000 purchases short of the stated goal.

With Main Event airing live on Tuesdays via the Network, WWE seemingly responded to that last bit of bad news by instituting a second rematch of the company’s two most reliable supergroups, trying to entice more subscribers. This time, The Shield actually went over in a 20-minute brawl, with Ambrose spiking Erick Rowan with Dirty Deeds.

9. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Randy Orton (June 3, 2013, Monday Night Raw)

There are far worse ways to eat up the minutes on the overblown three hour Raws than to give The Shield twenty minutes and a few capable opponents. Orton was still a face at this stage, as he and Team Hell No were just another combination of guys that failed to beat The Shield in the past, and were partnered up here for another kick at the heavy can.

Bryan tends to shine in these matches (which should surprise no one), either in the face-in-peril trope, or getting the hot tag and kicking everyone into smithereens. Bryan was the latter here, busting up Ambrose with his arsenal. A face miscommunication between Bryan and Orton undid the faces’ efforts, but keeping the Shield strong has served WWE well.

8. The Shield vs. Damien Sandow, Ryback, Titus O’Neil, Alberto Del Rio, and Bad News Barrett (April 22, 2014, Smackdown)

Technically not a six-man tag, but the Shield were still a three-man unit here, so it’ll be counted. The story was that Evolution had begun running The Shield through eleven-on-three wringers to soften them up and break their spirit before the match at Extreme Rules. Since the Shield has perfected their unbreakable hero act, this Smackdown told a great story.

An eleven-on-three match was booked for Dumping Ground Smackdown, but The Shield mercilessly took out the likes of Jack Swagger, 3MB, Brad Maddox, and Curtis Axel beforehand, whittling down the odds. Sandow took the fall via a Reigns spear. Amazing how effective faces can be when they’re not smiling and making corny wisecracks for eight-year-olds.

7. The Shield vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback (February 17, 2013, Elimination Chamber)

Only the group’s second televised match for the company after three months of vague beck-and-calls on CM Punk’s behalf. The group had been facing combos of the aforementioned opponents and Randy Orton on the house show loop. Conventional wisdom had The Shield going down here, as Cena had a date with Rock in grand fashion at WrestleMania.

It was a bit of a shock that The Shield ended up winning, as their uber-group push wasn’t firmly established, win or no win at TLC. The match was encouraging, both for the amount of offense The Shield got, and the way in which it elevated the game of their opponents, all of whom are known for eliciting mixed reactions. More of an ‘arrival’ moment than TLC.

6. The Shield vs. Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Kofi Kingston (May 20, 2013, Monday Night Raw)

Any combination of Bryan and the Shield is worth watching, and you can pretty much go plug-n-play with the last two slots. In this case, the opposition consisted of the three men who lost the United States and Tag Team Championships to Ambrose, Reigns, and Rollins one night earlier at Extreme Rules, and WWE just loves their mix-and-match rehashings.

Minor gripes about WWE’s molasses-speed storytelling aside, this was an excellent 25-minute match, so at least it’s a quality product eating up the three hours of infomercial time. Such was the length that Kingston and Bryan each had runs as face-in-peril. It was the larger Kane who would end up taking the fall over his considerably smaller cohorts, via a Reigns spear.

5. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (March 3, 2014, Monday Night Raw)

Only eight days removed from their unforgettable classic at Elimination Chamber (stay tuned), a rematch between the warring factions was instituted for ‘that’ Chicago Raw. Fans were threatening a protest over WWE’s recent booking, and WWE giving them an encore of their favorite match from the last PPV was a pretty good counterstrike by the office.

Though not quite up to the level of the Chamber match, it was still a high-impact bout of chaos, with an unexpected twist: Rollins would walk out on Ambrose and Reigns. This was done to cast light on the alpha-hubris that Reigns and Ambrose directed toward each other, threatening the team. The Wyatts won, but the Shield would benefit long term.

4. The Shield vs. The Undertaker, Kane, and Daniel Bryan (April 22, 2013, Monday Night Raw)

Pleasant surprise to see The Dead Man actually working a weekly TV show, let alone any PPV not called WrestleMania. In fact, it was his first televised non-WrestleMania match in two and a half years, and first Raw match in three years. The Shield at this point were undefeated, and it was explicitly said by announcers that no trio of all-stars could fell the well-oiled combo.

Well, WWE wouldn’t dust Undertaker off to have him lose on free TV, would they? They certainly did, having Ambrose pin Bryan after a missed diving headbutt, but not before giving Reigns a major moment of glory by having him spear Undertaker into oblivion. WWE’s general lack of character commitment was offset by now-four months of Shield dominance.

3. The Shield vs. Evolution (May 4, 2014, Extreme Rules)

Post-WrestleMania crowds make everything better. For several years running, the pilgrimaging fans make their voices heard on Monday Night Raw, serving as the actual pulse of viewer sensibilities, while also throwing in some irreverence (Fandango’ing, for instance). It was in New Orleans after WrestleMania XXX that fans approved of further Shield elevation.

Evolution reformed earlier in the night, after a brief but tense meeting in which Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista re-realized their collective strength. As the three set out to screw Daniel Bryan out of his newly won championship, The Shield (after finding out that Triple H put a hit on them via a blathering Kane) were the counterbalance for the company hero.

After Reigns speared Triple H, the match for Extreme Rules was inevitable, and the dynamic was perfect. Evolution rarely went down in their heyday, but the surging Shield went over cleanly on their first try, complete with a Rollins balcony dive, and Reigns putting away the maligned Batista with a Superman punch and spear, with all six stealing the show.

2. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (February 23, 2014, Elimination Chamber)

Say what you will about WWE, but their best work these days is being done with powerful trios. Between these two groups, the Evolution revitalization, and even the partnering of John Cena with the Uso Twins, the stable warfare that was enjoyable in the Attitude Era has experienced a revival. Still no cure for the Hell that spirals around 3MB, though.

After the Wyatts were set up to cost The Shield a chance to compete inside the actual Chamber (per Bray’s hellbent overtures toward Cena), this match was signed for WWE’s final traditional PPV, and the interest was immediate. The Shield vs. The Wyatts? That’s like the 1996 nWo vs. the 1988 Horsemen by modern standards, with all six men in their prime.

The fact that the fans were chanting “THIS IS AWESOME” during the prematch Mexican standoff, with a single punch yet to be thrown, proves how good the booking of the six has been. The Wyatts won after Ambrose exited on a vague miscue, which was meant to be the start of a Shield split. That was nixed when WWE realized there was much left for the group.

1. The Shield vs. Ryback, Daniel Bryan, and Kane (December 16, 2012, TLC)

The long-standing RSPW Awards provided a miniature surprise when this match was named 2012’s Match of the Year, over heavy favorites such as John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan, and the clinically-overrated Undertaker vs. Triple H. That’s not to say the match was undeserving, but the fact is it was merely a replacement match at 2012’s final PPV.

Originally to be Ryback vs. CM Punk for the WWE Title, plans changed as Punk sat with a knee injury. For the group on their 29th day in WWE, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns floored home viewers and soaked in the adulation of notoriously-loud New York fans, as they warred in a TLC rules match, with a seldom-used pinfall and submission modifier.

It speaks to the faith that WWE held in three relatively new guys (no matter what experience Ambrose and Rollins had setting up their own matches in the indies) to go for well over 20 minutes in a marquee spot, and give them an early boost with the clean win, with Reigns pinning Bryan after a double powerbomb through a table. Greatest in-ring debut ever.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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WWE Rumors – Dean Ambrose girlfriend revealed in this fan video?

May 13, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Is the Shield star Dean Ambrose dating WWE announcer Renee Young?

Dean Ambrose has admitted on more than one occasion that he’s dating a woman within the WWE. Does this fan video reveal Dean Ambrose’s girlfriend is actually WWE interviewer Renee Young?

Ambrose is a rising star in the WWE. He’s not only a hot commodity in the squared circle but in the ranks of the most coveted wrestlers among female fans. If you don’t believe us, do a web search of Dean Ambrose and “Dean Ambrose girlfriend” is among the top searches.

In this video, posted by a fan after the March 11, 2014 edition of Raw, Ambrose is seen riding in a car with Renee Young.

Sure, wrestlers and talent ride together all the time, but this seems like an interesting pairing considering Dean Ambrose and Renee Young don’t really share screen time or a storyline.

Could Renee Young indeed be the girlfriend of Dean Ambrose?

Where Does The WWE Go From Here?

May 07, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The carnage left by wrestlers and the WWE in the wake of Extreme Rules has opened the door for new feuds, continuing feuds and the birth of potentially a unification of mid-level titles.

With “Payback” on the horizon, it is a great time to jump back on the WWE and professional bandwagon of sorts. Extreme Rules did exactly what it was supposed to do on screen and backstage created more drama after the program that any soap opera and reality television program would love to get its hands on.

Two pay-per-views, two success stories. Slowly, the WWE is pulling its own ass out from under a rock.

I am cautiously optimistic, but I also know that quicker than a Jake Roberts DDT, things change in this company – leaving us wondering why things change and what the hell happened to stars we just saw at the top of the company’s food chain. In the end, everything happens for a reason, and lessons are learned as the WWE moves forward toward the next pay-per-view.

New Title Holders

Finally, the WWE has done the right thing and put the mid-card straps – the Intercontinental Title and the United States Championship on Wade Barrett and Sheamus. I have been waiting to see these two men from across the pond get back into the ring and kick the crap out of opponents – or each other. I even suggested once that they become tag team partners. For now, they are foes. In a few months – who knows?

With Barrett winning and Sheamus gaining a victory does this mean the two men can not only make each title mean something, but could it lead to a unification of the belts, with the Intercontinental strap becoming the second most important title in the business again after many years?

I like the chances of this becoming a major focus of SummerSlam.

Women Unite

The win by Paige did a lot to solidify the Divas in the WWE. Not that the win will bring the Bellas and the new Divas Champion closer together, but what it did do, especially in a match with Tamina, is prove there are women who can WRESTLE. I have been preaching this for months that the division needs revision. The fact AJ Lee is not on the dance card right now means other wrestlers have to step and fast.

Tamina should be the champion in this division, but it is nice to see other wrestlers get a push and are able to take the bull by the horns and showcase.

Questions about Evolution

Now that it appears Dave Batista is done with his time in the WWE, what happens to Evolution? Why can’t the company take this great idea for a new “old” program and help it grow? Since several reports have Batista leaving the WWE after what was a great showing by Evolution members Triple H, Randy Orton and The Animal, what happens to Orton? Does he get another title shot at Daniel Bryan after Kane?

Would he and Roman Reigns be a good fit for war as the company figures out what to do with the overload of talent on its current roster? If Evolution should continue as a group, would Cody Rhodes be someone the power of the WWE looks to as an heir?

Personally, I love the idea of Rhodes joining the faction, which would set up nicely for a brother vs. brother feud and the return of the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes to try and save the day. Only in the WWE can you have this much drama with only minimal return.

And no, you cannot make this stuff up.
Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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Seth Rollins Talks The Shield’s Entrance, WWE WrestleMania, & More

May 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The Shield are one of the hottest acts in the WWE. It is easy for three young guys to let their instant stardom get to their heads yet for Seth Rollins, he is a wrestling fan living out his dream.

The more I read about Seth Rollins the more I really like him. He appears to be one of the most down to earth and level headed wrestlers in the WWE. Quite frankly that appears to be the attitude of the majority of the new stars. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be in the ring with your wrestling heroes, Seth Rollins will tell you all about it.

Rollins recently talked to IGN.com about a variety of topics. One is whether he is still a big wrestling fan and according to Rollins, he is living out his dream.

Yeah, getting to have conversations actually with guys that I idolized or being across the ring from someone like an Undertaker, that’s crazy stuff. That’s stuff you never ever think’s going to happen to you. I always wanted to be a wrestler, and I always thought that this was a place I was going to end up, just because that was the goal for me. But some of these things that we’ve done over the past year and a half have been really surreal, just being in a WrestleMania, wrestling guys like Undertaker and being in the ring with The Rock. You think those guys are going to be long gone by the time you get here. For them to be around and having a WrestleMania match with the Outlaws and Kane, who I watched when I was 12 years old, that’s just crazy stuff, man. That’s stuff you can write chapters in your book, you know what I mean? It’s just crazy.

It’s funny because most fans were disappointed when The Shield were booked against the New Age Outlaws and Kane at WrestleMania. Yet to someone as humble as Rollins, it was a thrill to work with guys he used to watch as a kid growing up. If that’s the case he must be ecstatic about working with Evolution.

Rollins also talked about their entrance. The Shield continue to come through the crowd but what will happen when the trio inevitably splits up? Rollins talks about the day he may just have to go down the ramp like everyone else on RAW and SmackDown.

Yeah, I like it a lot (the entrance). It’ll be weird if we ever have to come through the stage. That’ll be strange! But it’s cool, man. Every time we go up there and we’re waiting to come down, we get a little crowd that kind of surrounds us, and there’s a lot of energy there. As soon as that music hits, man, it’s just like, “Boom!” You know what I mean? Everybody turns around and stands up. It’s just a crazy energy. I can’t really describe it. It’s awesome.

Finally, Rollins talks about when he, Ambrose, and Reigns knew they had something with The Shield. I always like to ask this question on shoot interviews as the answers vary from star to star. Rollins thought they had something special immediately.

Yeah (on everything coming together), and I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment when we knew it was going to be good. For whatever reason, man, it was just clicked with the three of us. We all had the same work ethic and the same goal in mind from day one. We wanted to be the best, and we wanted work as hard as possible to get there. For whatever reason, it just all seemed to come together. We complemented each other very well, not just as performers, but as people too. It’s good for everybody.

Overall this was a great interview with some interesting perspective from a guy who is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in the business. Check out the entire interview on IGN.com.

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