By Luke Winkie
October 27, 2014

“Two Out Of Three Falls” is the Most Underrated Stipulation in Wrestling

We open the show with Cesaro and Dolph Ziggler taking their minutes-long bloodfeud deep into the undercard with an awesome, violent, two-out-of-three falls match in direct opposition to the autopilot way WWE has been booking lately. This was an absolute barnburner, with Cesaro chucking everything he possibly could at Ziggler, only to watch him desperately flop out of each and every cover. It put Dolph over as an everyman champion holding on to crowd for dear life, and Cesaro came out looking like a more convincing bully than he ever has during his awkward, post-Mania solo heel run. Was it anything you couldn’t have seen on an average episode of Raw? Well, no, but it’s not like the writers have given them a lot to play with. We’re not going to fault solid, unremarkable wrestling matches simply for existing.

Mostly I came away remembering how much I love two-out-of-three falls matches, because they offer so much flexibility in the ring. Covers are useless. In 2014 people are still trying to cover John Cena after a single chairshot to the back. It never works. But in two-out-of-three, every roll-up, counter, and transitional move can and will add up to a pinfall. That means the Famouser, a move I don’t think Dolph Ziggler has pinned anyone with his entire career, is immediately injected with far more drama than it deserves. More like this, please.

Strike When The Iron is Hot

I clowned on Nikki and Brie’s feud A TON in that run of Raws ahead of Night of Champions. There was the immortal “I wish you died in the wooomb” line, there was that utterly pointless Jerry Springer segment, it was just a whole lot of bad. Fun bad! But bad.

Here’s the thing though – the feud was still hot. It came out of SummerSlam! It’s a twin betraying her sister to ally with Stephanie freaking McMahon! That’s going to be spicy no matter what. For all the missteps, I was genuinely curious to see where this feud was going. Some of it was schadenfreude, sure, but still! I’d rather watch the Bellas work stuff out than like, endless Usos/some other guy vs. Dusties/some other guy rematches.

But unfortunately, the WWE held off on the big confrontation till Hell in a Cell, and pretty much kept the Bellas off TV entirely, save for a few boring handicap matches. This showdown, buried at the very start of the show, felt weirdly anticlimactic. I stopped caring about these girls when the feud got less personal. Generally, you should hold the blow-off in the same month you drop the “wooomb” bomb.

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Nikki goes over clean, which is mildly surprising, and the stipulation means that Brie will have to serve as Nikki’s personal assistant for the next month. ALL ABOARD THE PROP COMEDY TRAIN! So yeah, there’s probably a much bigger match on the horizon, (Team Nikki vs. Team Brie at Survivor Series?) I’m still not sure if the Bellas will ever be great wrestlers, but they’ve certainly improved a lot. The first step in the models-into-wrestlers transition is erasing the fear of injury, and anyone who thinks Nikki and Brie are wrestling soft anymore is simply not watching the program. I’ve got high hopes, man. I’ve even started watching Total Divas.

You Reap What You Sow

I’ve spent the last four weeks watching Raws that begin with the Dust Brothers semi-losing to the Usos in rematches. Now they’re on the PPV, where the Usos to retain the belts with some mild heelish cheating. These are four of the best wrestlers in the WWE, bar none. But the booking has been so stodgy and uninspired that they’re doomed to the sort of midcard bout that’s so stymied by the build that you actually forget wrestling is even happening. I still love the Dusties, but man do they need something to do.

Exactly as Boring as You’d Expect

There was something of a desperation heave last week, as wrestling fans tried to internalize Randy Orton’s non-sleepwalking promo on Raw as a reason to be excited for Cena/Orton MMMMXXXXVVVI. Paul Heyman got RKO’d, the winner was going to face Brock Lesnar, it was the sound of the WWE scrambling to give its fans a reason to care.

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Yeah, it didn’t work. Cena/Orton is just as boring as you’d expect. Hilarious, depressingly PG-rated bumps into the steel with the force of a gentle summer breeze, a table spot that felt like it took 15 minutes to consummate, Randy in maximum “I’m going to walk slow and make the optimists say I’m great at pacing,” not a lot of fun. The RKO counter were entertaining, but endlessly kicking out of finishers is something you’re supposed to do when a match has stakes. This, on the other hand, is the ultimate shrug. A flaccid stopgap that exists solely to distract the viewing public from the fact that Brock Lesnar is not in the building. This is Hell in a Cell in name only. I get it, it’s part of the business, but it’s still lame.

Maybe if You’re So Scared of Disappointing Your Country Stop Booking Rusev With Mid-Carders?

Big Show is the latest American to fall to the brutal hands of Rusev, in a subpar match that was actually performed a lot better on Raw where Rusev went over clean despite Mark Henry interference. Show got scarcely a second of offense, but the suplex he subjected himself to was certainly impressive:

At one point Henry stumbles down to ringside, and everything thinks he’s going to interfere but instead he kinda just stares a bunch as Show passes out in the Accolade. There’s not much to say really; we’ve been watching this match since April, and I wish we could just fast-forward to the inevitable John Cena Mania showdown. At least then the crowd will have something believable to invest in.

Big ups to Lana though, she’s been so great lately. Her alien pink dress tonight was fire, and I loved the way she freaked out during nearfalls. Man, I hope they convince her to get in the ring more. She’d be a great addition to the Divas division.

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A Brief Moment of Humanity in the Midst of a Wrestling Column

A.J. vs. Paige was fine. They’ve had better matches. The Alicia turn was awkward and weak. There was a lot more potential here with the understated sexual tension that was legitimately being handled in a subtle way, but now they’re just two people who wrestle each other every show, and that’s never a good place to be.

I will say one thing though. There’s this dude who wears a red hat who goes to WWE shows and has a bunch of Twitter followers. He’s @RickWWESignGuy, and I barely pay attention to him. I don’t have an issue with people who go to wrestling shows and try to get themselves over. I mean, Frank the Clown seems like a genuinely solid dude. I’m not going to bag on your thing, especially when I’m writing several thousand words about wrestling every week.

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But here’s the thing, Red Hat Guy. When I see you yelling lewd, hateful nonsense at talent, I’m going to get pissed off. There was a moment when A.J. and Paige were working on the barricade where the whole world heard you scream “GET SOME SUN FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE.” Paige is pale. That’s the joke. Earlier, according to world-renowned wrestling writer Brandon Stroud, he was yelling at Lana telling her to “get back to the truck stop.”

This goes out to everyone who loves wrestling; please leave that stuff to Reddit. “But they’re evil heels, it’s a fantasy wrestling show, we don’t actually mean it, etc.” I get it! But when you’re literally calling people whores over the airwaves of an internationally-broadcasted pay-per-view, it’s awkward for everyone involved, especially when it’s just the means to push your own personal brand. Don’t act like you can’t see the line as you’re crossing it.

Go to the show! Shout, boo, hiss, cheer, bring a funny sign – just don’t be an idiot. It’s not that hard.

Only Five More Months ‘Til WrestleMania, I Guess

As you’ll see later this week, I recently revisited a number of those super gory early Hell in a Cell matches. I watched Mick Foley’s bloody, toothless smile get chokeslammed onto a bed of thumbtacks, I saw Undertaker beat Brock Lesnar to death with a cast, which means I might’ve gone into Rollins/Ambrose with the worst context possible. You know what modern, educated Hell in a Cell matches look like? It’s two of the youngest stars in the company making sure to climb halfway down the cage before independently jumping into the announce-table bumps. Still cool! Safety first! But man is it a far-cry from what this stipulation used to mean.

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Whatever, the rest of the match was fine. Dean’s entrance, where he charged into the cage and started chucking chairs and tools into the ring was awesome and supremely confident, and it’s a shame the rest of the action didn’t live up to that initial momentum. If there’s any situation that calls for blood-curdling violence, it’s Seth Rollins – a man who’s been on the run from Ambrose for months, finally in the palm of his hands. There’s a bit of that, a couple good psychology moments where Ambrose mirrors the breakup of the Shield and a great table spot, but we’re talking mostly standard affair.

That seemed odd. The context of Hell in a Cell is perfect to blow out this particular sort of feud, and they didn’t seem to be going full-throttle. I was confused, up until the moment the screen turned black and an ominous, ultra-badass Bray Wyatt ascended from the center of the ring and put Ambrose down hard.

I love me some Bray Wyatt, and I’m incredibly happy his month-long hiatus has ended and he’s back in the main event picture. There was some mist, some backmasked chanting, a hologram(!?!?) and a definitive Sister Abigail. Rollins got the cover, and we’re staring down the barrel of a very volatile Ambrose/Wyatt feud. I’m totally down.

Does it suck that the Rollins/Ambrose saga is seemingly delayed till WrestleMania season? Sure! But I think this was the best thing possible for both parties. Firstly you’re a fool if you don’t think Wyatt and Ambrose will have a ton of chemistry character-wise, and secondly, this was the first moment where Bray was getting some serious heat. Putting down Ambrose in his moment of triumph in front of the most cowardly heel in the company? That’s great! That gets some actual, deep-seated boos! Yeah, it’s a main event that only plants seeds for a later feud, but you can’t tell me you’re not a little bit excited.

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