I was super hyped this week because I knew that Superstars 284 featured the rubber match of the latest Superstars best-of-three series (which has sort of become the calling card the 2014 version of this show), this time with Sin Cara and Justin Gabriel, who came in deadlocked at one win each. Aside from that, I entered these two episodes spoiler free, without knowing so much as even the participants of any of the other three bouts.
No long winded intro this week. Let’s get to the matches, and see if Sin Cara/Justin Gabriel III lived up to the hype created by the first two excellent bouts.
WWE Superstars 284
1. Erick Rowan & Luke Harper vs Los Matadores – Rowan & Harper on Superstars? This was a nice surprise. In my version of the WWE Universe, where I create my own little kayfabe WWE world in order to make sense of the sometimes nonsensical WWE booking, I imagine Rowan & Harper are here working their way back up the tag team ranks after losing a (very) long feud to the (then) champions, The Usos. Harper worked the laziest of side headlocks on Fernando, which was the meat of a very short heat segment leading to the Diego hot tag. Things broke down from there, with Rowan & Fernando turning this into a four way brawl. Rowan dumped Fernando over the top, Diego dumped Rowan, and Harper leveled Diego with a big lariat just as Diego turned his attention back to the legal man. One, two, three. This was very short, with the Mexicans/Puerto Ricans/Spaniards/whatever they’re supposed to be getting very little offense. If this was going to be a short squash, i’d have preferred a decisive one, with the Wyatt’s plowing through these dudes like the Road Warriors mauling the Mulkey’s at Techwood Drive Studios, but whatever. The point of this was to show that the Wyatt’s are well ahead of these guys in the pecking order, and it did accomplish that. *1/2
We revisit the Brock/Cena segment from RAW a few weeks ago. Well, not “we”, because I saw it already and Bryan Rose already reviewed it. You can watch it if you want, but i’m moving on.
Reigns vs Rollins from the same RAW. Look, this stuff is super redundant if you consume everything WWE produces, but you have to keep in mind that some (probably most) people don’t, so with that in mind I do have to conceded that Superstars does do a decent job recapping the key segments from RAW. I do find it interesting that they never bother to recap anything from Smackdown.
2. Sin Cara vs Justin Gabriel – No special lighting, and no mention at all of the Lucha Dragons. Gabriel is no longer “The Player” in my alternate kayfabe world, as he’s appeared to have ditched the douchey sunglasses he was rocking the past two weeks. I wonder if Gabriel receives a WON HOF ballot, and I wonder if he’s voting for Jan Wilkens. This was a completely different style of match from the first two, with some stiff strikes early and lots of power stuff. Gabriel caught Sin Cara coming off the top with a dropkick to the gut, and they cut to a commercial. When they came back, Gabriel was working full on heel, with some dirty tactics including a boot to the throat and an attempted unmasking. A very cool spot was Sin Cara rolling through a school boy and delivering a one armed powerbomb. Sin Cara ran through some Mistico spots, before hitting a big top rope senton that nearly scored the win before Gabriel grabbed the bottom rope at two. The finish was super cool. Gabriel hit a sloppy looking second rope moonsault on a standing Sin Cara for two. Gabriel screamed in frustration and went up for (presumably) the 450, but Sin Cara caught him on the turnbuckle and delivered a rana from the top rope. Gabriel rolled through for a two count before Sin Cara reversed that with a Malenko/Guerrero style counter for the pinfall. Another really fun match, with some good striking and subtle heel character work from Gabriel. ***
WWE Superstars 285
1. Naomi vs Alicia Fox – This started with a really cool exchange that ended with Naomi kicking Fox’s legs out from under her in a way I had never seen before, followed by a kick to the face, all from a seated position. Fox then started meowing & crawling around like a cat, because she’s crazy. Naomi was fantastic here, with some athletic & innovative offense, including a jumping enziguri while Fox was on the top turnbuckle, a great looking dropkick, and a very smooth hurricanrana. Naomi has athletic tools that very few WWE women (if any) have ever had, and her work is really starting to come together. She was very raw & sloppy in her early Funkadactyl days, but has improved exponentially since then. She is good in ways that the very talented & soon to be called up NXT group of women are not, which will always allow her to come off as something unique, even if surrounded by better traditional wrestlers. Naomi won this with a new finish that looks like the old Mariko Yoshida spider twist, which makes me think Naomi is watching 90’s joshi tapes. If so, good on her. I’m probably overrating this, but she’s my favorite WWE woman to watch these days, and Fox was good here too as always. ***
They aired a WWE.com exclusive backstage interview with Dolph Ziggler (is it “exclusive” if it’s airing here, too?). He does a lot of these website & WWE app exclusive promos, and he always shows so much more passion & intensity in this setting, where I suspect the promos are not scripted. That raw emotion would get him over much stronger if they’d ever let him loose like this on RAW, or even just air the stuff he does for the app & the website that nobody ever ends up seeing.
Rusev vs Henry from RAW is shown, which I tried to warn anyone who would listen both on the podcast and in these reviews, would be a horrendous in ring feud. Rusev is at his best in fast paced, hard hitting hoss fights. That’s not Mark Henry’s speed. Henry is at his best plodding around, making mean faces, and putting people to sleep. Regardless of my disdain for watching Henry, I knew this was a bad style matchup because Rusev struggles when he has to slow things down, Henry is incapable of working at any speed other than sloth, and predictably the result has been terrible matches. Despite the match quality, this feud has been effective from the standpoint of Rusev essentially squashing a guy who fans do respect as a monster.
2. Kofi Kingston vs Justin Gabriel – Tom Phillips explains that this is the first battle between two African born WWE superstars. Is that true? Probably. This was two excellent athletes doing cool athletic things, with Gabriel doing his new “start as a face, end as an aggressive tweener” routine. Gabriel has been on a real hot streak over the last few months, both bell to bell and with his subtle character work, which unfortunately not a lot of people have been exposed to because it’s all been hidden on NXT & Superstars. The finish was awesome, with Kofi hitting Trouble in Paradise on Gabriel while Gabriel was in mid air coming off of the top rope. This was a cool sprint, which is rare in the WWE lately, where the long side headlock spot grinding the match to a halt has been very trendy spot these days. Sometimes you gotta just let these guys GO, and these two did just that. Fun match, capping off the fourth consecutive good to great Superstars episode. ***