Welcome to another edition of The Steel Cage Standings. I’m your host, Psyniac and this is where I rank the Top 10 and Bottom 3 Main Roster stars as well as the Top 3 of NXT (and for the first time ever, a Bottom 1 of NXT). The 2015 season of the WWE has officially started and as usual it’s been half rematches and half shake-up. There’s lots to look forward to but, whilst Raw has been hit and miss, I think Extreme Rules was a pretty solid PPV and there’s a lot of things to look back on in April 2015 that were decent.
10. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose has been at a bit of a loss of things to do recently, it seems. After failing to grab the Intercontinental Championship he headed into a feud with the man who took him out during Wrestlemania’s Ladder Match in a very thrown together and hardly built story. He and Luke Harper were due to face off in a Chicago Street Fight match at Extreme Rules and that’s basically the one place we didn’t see but was definitely a part of the match as the two managed to leave the arena in a car whilst still fighting and return later just to finish the fight in-ring. Not only was this very original and rather hysterical, Ambrose’s victory was his first PPV win since splitting with The Shield almost a year ago.
09. John Cena
Speaking of Ambrose, Cena started his weekly open challenge for the United States Championship against him last month and managed to continue that for most of April. Some were great (Stardust), some were average (Kane) but he and Rusev still managed to make a decent story leading up to what we believed to be their final match in at a “Russian Chain Match”. Sure, it was silly and slightly overstayed it’s welcome, but it showed that occasionally strap matches can really break up the monotony and can provide for some interesting spots. Unfortunately, the feud still isn’t over for whatever reason and Rusev has to lose to Cena a total of three times apparently but at least we’ll hopefully get to see Cena putting over some more underused talent and improving the stature of the US Title on his way to that.
08. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph is back to his perpetual position floating around the upper mid-card after ‘Mania and we were all very nervous about the fact he was going up against a returning heel who needed to go over in, of all things, a “Kiss Me Arse” match. WWE actually did a pretty good job in surprising us by having Dolph go over and not look totally weak (and also let him show off his butt, which let’s face it, he probably loved). Sheamus getting the upper-hand post-match anyway made him look like a real arse (no pun intended) as he desecrated Dolph’s wonderful face. Continuing on from that and having them both screw each other over in King of the Ring means they’re back on a collision course for each other and Ziggler busting the Celtic Warrior’s eye open in their last scuffle really made for a cool sight. If that isn’t enough to warrant putting him on this list, his great matches against numbers two and one on this list should help.
Back in 2013, Naomi was looking like she was lined up to win the Diva’s title at Wrestlemania before an injury took her out of action. Even if she hadn’t, a match against the longest reigning Diva’s champion to date, AJ Lee, at the grandest stage of them all would have been a pretty cool thing. So it’s ironic in a sense that her shot at the belt at Extreme Rules didn’t seem like the original plan. With Paige out to film a movie, Naomi turned heel to take her out and went up against Nikki Bella herself complete with new music and light-up shoes. She may not have won, but good on WWE for trying something different and finally changing some aspects of her character, and good on her for trying something out of comfort zone. Now give her less of an ass-based moveset and we’ll really be in business.
06. Randy Orton
I’m surprised that I’m continuing to be amused by Orton. His quips against Seth Rollins have been pretty funny and their habit of being the focus of Raw has let them tell some really decent stories. With the RKO banned at Extreme Rules, Randy took it upon himself to “get it out of his system” beforehand. Whilst I’m not entirely on-board with him overshadowing other segments, his backstage attacks and such were totally fine. He had a solid showing at Extreme Rules and he’s still pretty over but we’ll see if he can keep it up when a little less of the spotlight is on him in a Triple Threat storyline with the champ and golden boy Roman Reigns.
05. The New Day
Who could have expected this? Seems like the writers are really throwing in curveballs a lot recently in terms of wins and losses which I am not complaining about. I’ve seen described best as “The New Day are the Bo Dallas of the Main Roster”: they don’t know how obnoxious and hated they are, they’re still out there having a good time and they’re getting some true heat because of it. I’m really happy for them that it’s working out and the turn was a stroke of genius I didn’t expect from main programming. Kofi may seem a little unsure but Big E and Xavier definitely have the character figured out. Let’s hope Vince “gets it” too and they get a nice long run with the Tag titles which, thankfully, they’re bring back to the Free Bird rule for.
“You look stupid! You look stupid!” Sheamus is back. He’s heel. And he’s doing it right. From his shameful-thing-rooster-head mohawk and ridiculous beard braids to his entrance change, Sheamus was instantly interesting again. Gone are the days of “ugh, here comes the usual schtick”. It’s kind of impressive how much of a turn around one guy can have. Now this “Kiss Me Arse” obsession is getting him real heat since it’s so degrading and embarrassing as a wrestling fan. Whether or not this is a good thing is up to you, but Sheamus has been on a roll so far playing the big, dumb bully we all knew he could be, targeting “the little guys” we all love and becoming one of the more interesting characters on Raw at the current time.
03. Bad News Barrett
What a mess things have been for Barrett since he came back. His gimmick was too over for them to bother using it since he was supposed to be getting boos, he was given his Intercontinental Championship back which was basically worthless at this point since Ziggler had only had for a month or so after winning it from Luke Harper, who he lost it to for all of, in fact, a month. He then dropped this to Bryan who was suddenly rumoured to not be okay to fight at Extreme Rules.
My predictions were that if he was there Bryan would move the belt back to BNB so it could be on TV; but if he wasn’t Barrett would suffer yet another loss, this time against newcomer Neville. It turned out to be the former but that was far from the ending. Bad News ripped through the King of the Ring tournament and faced off against the man who beat him previously in an amazing match with a killer Bullhammer Elbow to score the three-count. Is this the end of a vicious losing streak? All hail King Barrett.
02. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins has been main-eventing PPVs for a long time now and has usually been putting on match of the night at most shows he’s been at (save for thrown-together tag-team Raw main event snorefests.) This continues to be true with an awesome match on Raw this month against Ziggler and a solid cage match against Orton at Extreme Rules. It may have become a bit over-booked and stupid by the end of it but the main bulk of the match before any Kane involvement was the kind of sold we’ve come to expect from Seth Rollins. This match felt extra special since it was Rollins’ first (real) defence of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Outside of competition, Rollins has made some segments far more bareable. The Authority is a bit of state right now with Kane at the forefront (I’ll get to that) but Seth’s wonderfully constructed character has saved things from total doom. He’s starting to creep more out of the slimy, cowardly heel into something a bit more confident without turning into an archetypal badass/monster.
Anyone who told you Rollins beating Neville was burying him can now receive the obligatory “I TOLD YOU SO” or “SHOWS WHAT YOU KNOW” at this point. After two incredible, hard-fought matches against the Heavyweight Champion and workhorse Dolph Ziggler, Neville came out looking good and things were looking up for this debuting star. A long, fulfilling road was ahead. The following week, he’s suddenly dropped onto his first PPV, albeit the pre-show against Bad News Barrett who now doesn’t have an opponent since Bryan is not cleared to compete. He went over, which was all fine and feel-good. Suddenly, WWE surprised us with the King of the Ring event.
Suddenly, Neville was the biggest thing in the world. With the only other face getting through to the Semi Finals being the lukewarm R-Truth it could be argued that this was all part of the plan and if so I applaud the minds back at Stanford. The crowd was crazy for Neville and whilst he didn’t quite get the win it ended in an even more perfect finish: it was insanely close and all he needs, kayfabe-wise, is more experience. He’s almost the anti-thesis to Reigns. It’s almost like they’ve learnt. Build him slow and Neville is going to be a big deal. Barrett may be King of the Ring but Neville is the real winner this month.
03. Adam Rose
Adam Rose has been a perpetual victim of the ball being dropped. He had a shaky introduction that wasn’t helped by fading off of TV. He had The Bunny, which admittedly was kind of stupid, which built up just to disappear in a puff of smoke. Then they seemed to be turning him… I mean, is he heel now? I think? But why? All he needed was a little more TV time to explain himself and he’d be in a much better spot. Hell, you could have the commentators do it – have them explain his frustrations of being under-utilised has caused him to snap a little and that his Rosebuds are following him out of fear. But for now, he seems to be waiting for his storyline with face Fandango (I know, right? What?) to vanish.
02. Bray Wyatt
Maybe I’m still bitter but maybe it’s warranted. Bray Wyatt is defeated at Wrestlemania by an old dude with nothing really left to give who is disappearing for another whole year. Bray comes back to TV (admittedly not to fight since he had an ankle injury) every week following his loss and he’ll be here for years to come. But do I care? Not at all. Do I want to? Of course! But he’s not a threat at all now. He’s calling himself the New Face of Fear for reasons totally unknown but he clearly knows he’s not a big deal anymore since he finally revealed his new promos were targeting Ryback; attacking him with a Sister Abigail this week on Raw and leaving us with our heads in our hands.
It’s hard to write about this because I don’t even understand what it is. What is Kane doing? What’s his storyline? He’s angry at Seth so he beats him up, then changes his mind. Ad nauseum. It’s been at least twice and that most certainly isn’t the end of it since he’s not inserted himself into a title match yet and that’s clearly where this has to go to have some kind of resolution. In the meantime though, he just keeps getting in the way and needlessly dragging out segments. Part of me will always love Kane but this needs to stop because it’s embarrassingly boring.
03. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
They’re so over now that they got a commercial on the end of Mick Foley’s Cheap Pops show this week to promote NXT. Sure, I’ll accept that their in-ring work isn’t the greatest but it’s definitely been improving. Mic-work wise, there isn’t a heigh that they can’t reach and every week it feels like they’re adding more and more. The inclusion of Carmella, who at one stage was generating a decent amount of heat, didn’t slow them down and I think the story is intriguing. It’s at least more than your average “we want the belts, we got the belts, let’s fight”. A highlight of NXT every week.
02. Sami Zayn
Zayn is back and he’s maaaaaaaad. You know something is wrong with the world when Sami’s happy bouncy music hits and he comes down seething with rage. Zayn is one of the best story-tellers in WWE; not just in NXT, but the company as a whole and there’s no match I want to see more right now than his rematch against Owens. By putting him on the offence, and even making him retreat from the arena for the first time ever, Sami has played the necessary mind-games to get a shot at his former NXT Championship belt because he “fights for a prize”. Simply awesome. If Neville got over this quickly, just imagine how Sami could explode.
01. Becky Lynch
Surprises are exciting but not necessary. As much as we all love Bayley, it seemed pretty clear the correct choice for a new #1 Contender for the NXT Women’s title was Becky Lynch: she was the champion’s former best friend and the one of the three who needed the spotlight the most. The triple-threat between the Charlotte, Bayley and Becky had a pretty clear finish of the former two fighting and Lynch stealing the win but the way it played it out in ring negated the need for a shock ending.
But, that being said the surprise, to me, is just how well Becky is doing on NXT. I’m not saying I expected her to be awful but I think I’m just continuing to be amazed at how strong the women’s division is. She’s stepped into the spotlight and is basking in it. Becky looks to be as good or better than anyone who came in before her and this is just step one on the ladder.
BONUS: THE BOTTOM OF NXT
01. Dana Brooke
Oh my God.
You can find Psyniac on Twitter at Raw is Psyniac where he tweets about Raw 18 hours after it’s aired, how much he loves Dolph Ziggler and, occasionally, candy.