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Ladies First
April 20, 2014

by PyroFalkon
Master of the PyroFalkon Multimedia Empire, Incorporated
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It's no secret that I build bicycles for Walmart for my day job. Normally, the job is merely okay, but some days are more rewarding than others. And some days make me feel that shoving my hand in a blender would feel a lot less painful.

I'm not sure when Easter became so commercialized, but I do know that we've got a lot of parents who buy bikes for kids. It's great job security, since I'm damn good at it, but man, I've been run ragged today. Too many bikes, too many customers, too much running around to cover departments that, as always, have too few people. I couldn't keep up, not with the quantity nor the demands. Days like this just fuel my fire to apply elsewhere, because I'm damn sick of the job overall and I need a change that doesn't involve wearing an embroidered navy polo every day.

For some reason, I have this image in my head that says, as an adult male, I'm supposed to heavily drink on days when I'm stressed out. I even have a bottle of bottom-shelf bourbon whiskey for the occasion. But if I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that alcohol generally bores me (Rick's trademark Orange Russians excluded), and they don't often make me feel good or help ease my stresses. Retail therapy does that, but I'm going to have issues making rent as it is.

So I bought myself a little treat: grape soda, which is my version of a normal man's alcohol, I guess. The day has been awful, but settling back in my chair with some grape soda has calmed my nerves. It doesn't hurt that I'm in 5th place in my fantasy baseball league, since I was in the basement the whole time last year. (Rick's team is still one place above me though, with a team that 70% auto-drafted no less, so it's a little hollow of a temporary victory.) Hopefully WWE helps me the rest of the way. Let's roll with the recap...

Segment 1: Triple H hits the ring to open the show. In his capacity in the offices of WWE, he looks for talent to sign and he always wants to see them succeed. He's never been prouder of any man or group more than The Shield. He liked them so much that he gave them power... but perhaps he gave them too much power. It's natural for one to explore one's boundaries of personal power, but—and he wants all us kids to remember this lesson—once we find that line, we shouldn't cross it.

Well, The Shield crossed that line a couple weeks ago, so they paid the price last week. A video package reminds us of the 11-on-3 handicap tag match that quickly stopped being a match before they were obliterated by the newly reformed Evolution. Of note, they spliced that footage with past footage of Evolution, trying to edit around Ric Flair's presence aside from one rear shot.

Back to the ring, Trips goes on that Shield is now humbled, and has an idea about how they can move past this. He begins by saying, “On Wednesday I offered...,” and I can't help but remember that SmackDown is taped on Tuesdays. I used to wonder if that kind of temporal mindfuck confuses the live fans, but at least for me, it doesn't; we all know SD is taped, so it's not a big leap for us to pretend we're there on a Friday too. I wouldn't try that excuse with a boss if I don't show up for work the next day, but hey, it's not hard to wrap your head around.

Anyway, Trips says that Shield can move past Evolution's brand of justice if the members of Shield just grovel and beg for forgiveness. Shield apparently answered with silence, except for a tagline from Roman Reigns: “Wars are won by soldiers, not kings.” Cute, but Trips counters that that's not reality; reality is that “Soldiers are the currency with which empires are bought and sold.” Also cute, and probably belongs in Game of Thrones more than professional wrestling, but whatevs. Trips goes on that The Shield's value is gone, and while it pains him to destroy that which he created, Trips will end The Shield at Extreme Rules, because The Shield will face Evolution. What type of match it will be is not clear, but it's likely a standard six-man tag match if Trips isn't adding any stipulations... for now.

Pre-Segment 2: Big E cuts a to-camera pre-recorded monologue during his entrance as he weighs in on his potential opponents in the Intercontinental Title tournament. It's pretty much the first time I've heard the guy talk, and he's got charisma, as he called the combination of Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Cesaro, and Rob Van Dam “one heck of a tea party.” The delivery of that line was cute.

Segment 2 [Singles Match]: Big E defeats Alberto Del Rio by disqualification. As we get started, Michael Cole paints a nice picture as they say that Alberto Del Rio feels he should already be the #1 contender to the IC Title since he beat Big E clean in a non-title match some weeks ago. JBL counters that Rob Van Dam beat ADR clean in the first round of the tournament, so ADR may no longer have said argument. I love it when they set stage without stupid bullshit.

Feeling out to start, E gets about two moves offense before ADR starts the heel beatdown, including a rest hold within a minute. E gets a hope spot after a few minutes and tries a splash (which Cole says is a homage to the Ultimate Warrior), but ADR counters with knees to the gut. E takes the hit and rolls out of the ring to regroup, and we get ads.

Back, and both men are down outside the ring. Thanks to a replay, we see that ADR had been on the apron, and E decided to do a combination spear/suicide dive, which had the net result of making him slam his face into the black mats at full speed. That could not have felt good.

Back in the ring, ADR dodges a charge, so E slams himself into a ring post. ADR continues the offense, targeting the head after E's spill to the outside. Smart play. ADR can't close the deal but decides to go high-risk with a top rope something-or-other. However, E catches him and hits a backbreaker, then hits what I can only call a front body drop.

E then hits his splash, to which Cole says “Shades of the Warrior,” which frankly would make a great name for the move. E then goes for the Big Ending, but ADR reverses it to a backstabber. Pin, only two.

But ADR has the advantage, so he slaps on the Cross Arm Breaker. E tries to deadlift him up, but can't quite do it and falls on his face. ADR keeps the hold locked, but it's modified and resembles a Daniel Bryan Yes! Lock, sort of. Regardless, E claws his way to the ropes, and he grabs the bottom one. The ref starts the count and... wait, he gets to five? He calls for the bell, citing that ADR ignored the rope break. Man, when was the last time we saw that finish?

Post-Segment 2: ADR swears he broke the hold in time, but arguing with the ref isn't getting anywhere. So instead, ADR starts beating the crap out of E, injuring the shoulder. But E still has enough strength to hit a Big Ending when ADR whiffs on a charging knee. ADR is sent packing with both the moral and actual loss.

Segment 3: Do you Bolieve yet?

Segment 4: Paul Heyman is already in the ring as we come back. He puts over Cesaro and the “One in 21-and-1,” which is one hell of a resume item, for sure. He's here to scream “My client, Brock Lesnar, conquered The Streak” about 47 times. And, that's it... shitty way to kill time.

Segment 5: Hornswoggle and El Torito apparently got into an argument. This includes Hornswoggle “turning” and joining 3MB. Whee.

Segment 6: I almost bitched that we had to deal with Heyman when the divas are criminally underused, but then Paige hits the ring. So, there goes my argument, although I probably would have liked to see whatever this match is last the couple extra minutes that went to Heyman instead.

Also: Paige is about three seconds away from “My” status, especially with a ring entrance that includes arching her back while standing on the apron. Just saying.

Tamina also cuts a pre-recorded to-camera monologue during Paige's entrance, in which she said that she spent most of the last year “helping to keep the Divas Title around the waist of someone else,” but at Extreme Rules, she'll make sure that the Divas Title goes to “someone who deserves it by any means necessary.” Holy shit. Does that count as a face turn? (Certainly at least a tweener turn.) And for that matter, what's been going on with AJ? Has she simply vanished off the face of the planet? (Maybe her fate just wasn't on the Hulu broadcast?) [Ed. Note: She asked for time off. They gave it to her. Because they don't want to do anything to COMPLETELY estrange her boyfriend/fiancee. Truth be told, my secret/tin-foil-hat/conspriacy theory is that Punk has negotiated his eventual return to TV, and they had AJ go on TV BLATANTLY wearing an engagement ring the past 2 weeks, so that they can use their relationship as part of said massive return angle. In order to accomplish the "reset," they had to take the title off AJ, and remove her from TV for a while. That's my story, and I'm most certainly NOT sticking to it.]

Paige's entrance is the entirety of Segment 6, then we go to ads.

Pre-Segment 7: Back from ads and Aksana is in the ring... with a microphone. Huh. I thought this would end badly, but surprisingly, she cuts a half-decent and mostly face promo. She starts by saying all divas are jealous of Paige, but only because they're insecure. Aksana, for her part, is totally cool with Paige doing the whole pale goth look, the very look that also really rumbles my controller.

Paige doesn't look like she's fully trusting these compliments though, and she's waiting for the “but” to drop. And Aksana certainly drops her but when she says that Paige was just so totally lucky in winning the Divas Title. So tonight, “your lucks rans out.” Heh, accents.

Aksana then flings the mic and punches Paige in the face a few times, knocking her to her bottom. The ref manages to separate them, and Aksana doesn't resist. The ref clears the ring of debris, waits for Paige to get back to her feet, and then hits the bell.

Segment 7 [Singles Match]: Paige defeats Aksana by submission. Holy shit, a full-length women's match! What the hell is this, SHIMMER?

Aksana opens with a gut kick and a fisherman's suplex, thus showing more actual wrestling in five seconds than the Bellas usually show in an entire match, brief flashes of awesomeness from Nikki aside. Aksana takes Paige's back, but Paige runs backwards to drive her into a corner. Aksana still holds on, so Paige answers by throwing elbows like nobody's business, likely scrambling Aksana's brains so completely that she'll forget English entirely.

Paige takes the offense by going to the apron as Aksana leans against the second rope; think that Aksana is in the 619 position, but semi-voluntarily. Paige exits to the apron, grabs Aksana's head, and proceeds to knee her a dozen times in the collarbone. Paige then arches her back as she does during her ring entrance, then unleashes a primal scream that often isn't heard outside of women's tennis. I haven't been this turned on since My Melina incorporated a Screaming Orgasm into her sunset flips.

Aksana, conversely, is very much not turned on, and instead exits the ring entirely to leave. Paige follows... and Aksana shows she was playing possum by beheading Paige with a stiff clothesline. Jesus.

Back in the ring (after a really weird camera cut, making me think something got fucked up when Aksana tried to throw Paige into the ring the first time), Aksana hits a standing spinebuster followed by head smashes and elbows to the spine. Who knew Aksana could wrestle too?

They transition to a chinlock, except it's an actual submission since Aksana keeps her knee planted in Paige's tailbone, meaning it's more interesting of a rest hold than what Orton usually shows us. Paige at least gets to her feet after a few seconds, but Aksana just slams her back down into the canvas.

But then Aksana does her little cat crawl around Paige, killing time before trying a pin, which fails. So Aksana throws “wrestling” out the window by just punting Paige in her ribs a few times before Irishing Whipping her. This results in twin standing crossbodies, thus turning the ribs of both women into flan at best.

Both women back to their feet, exchanges of slaps, and then Paige flips a switch. She grabs Aksana's wrist, hits a few short arm clotheslines (picking up Aksana between each one without letting go of the wrist), then hits the ropes to come back with a dropkick that didn't have the usual height but had way more than the usual distance and stiffness, making it look awfully sick. Then Paige stood up, arched her back, and screamed another orgasm, officially upgrading her to My status in my heart, and quite possibly my grape soda-induced dreams tonight.

Paige then slaps on her fucking insane submission, one that starts as a Sharpshooter but turns into a camel clutch halfway through. Cole calls it a “modified scorpion cross lock.” Might I suggest the “Paige Layout”? (Stop sniggering, I'm totally serious... and a big nerd.) Whatever it's going to be called, Aksana taps.

And I will be calling it the Paige Layout until WWE tells me to stop.

Segment 8: Renee Young interviews Sheamus in the back, who says that he's none too pleased with Batista after Bats beat the crap out of him with a chair some weeks ago. To Sheamus, it's not about hitting the hardest; it's about getting hit and getting back up. When Sheamus's boot hits Bats's face, will Bats be able to get back up? We'll see... and we'll see if Orton sticks his nose into the match.

Cut Scene: Hornswoggle and El Torito are working out with their respective team members. So, I guess this match is actually happening? Can I use that time to go grab another grape soda?

Pre-Segment 9: Oh god, this match is actually happening. JBL and Cole are trying to take it seriously... or they're trying to be good satirists and failing miserably. Either or.

Segment 9 [Singles Match]: El Torito (w/ Drew McIntyre & Jinder Mahal) defeats Hornswoggle (w/ Los Matadores). As they grinded foreheads to start the match, Cole said, “This is intense! They're face-to-face, nose-to-nose, horn-to-horny!” JBL lost his shit, and I bow my head; it's going to be one of those matches, as if I expected any better.

So, the match was technically not awful, but it wasn't really that good either. Hornswoggle is clearly not much of a wrestler... but El Torito is, or at least can pretend to be. His finisher was rather amazing, a step-up moonsault from the corner, which looked pretty sick regardless of size.

The real standouts here were Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, as their encouragement and intensity were absolutely staggering. Drew especially chewed the scenery, at one point screaming during a Hornswoggle taunt, “Yes! Enjoy it! THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!!!” If I had half as much fun at my job as Drew McIntyre does, I wouldn't even consider it “work” at that point. The only thing that would have made it better is if Drew had had the eyeliner and Bret Michaels cowboy hat combo going on; instead, he just opted for a Tazz Towel, which is kinda lame.

Also hilarious was the fact that the crowd gave fewer fucks than a paraplegic porn star, but JBL sold the crowd silence as “total astonishment” on par with the ending of The Streak.

So, I was wrong... they were satarizing themselves and actually doing a good job. A waste of time, sure, but hopefully it stays as a one-off.

Segment 10: Bad News Barrett appears on his magic podium to tell us that we suck for applauding the previous match. No sale, WWE: you can't have your cake and eat it too. Either let the match stand on its own as satire, or let it be taken somewhat seriously and deride it. Deriding your own satire just makes you look like a moron.

Pre-Segment 11: I love Russian accents from women. Love the way they can roll their Rs. So hot.

Segment 11 [Singles Match]: Alexander Rusev (w/ Lana) reverse-squashes R-Truth (w/ Xavier Woods) by submission. They pretended the match was competitive since Truth maintained offense for the first half of it, but let's not kid ourselves. Hilariously, the fans were completely dead for this one; Lana's “Rusev... crush!” calls were clearly heard despite that she wasn't miced.

Rusev ended the match with the camel clutch. Rick mentioned he couldn't recall the name WWE is giving it [Ed. Note: I could recall. I was pretending. Or, in wrestling parlance, I was "no-selling" it. Because I'm a jerk, and I don't want any of the fans out there to believe in it.]; it's the “Accolade.” Which is a) stupid and b) nonsensical. Hell, I daresay that “Paige Layout” is better in both respects.

After Truth tapped, Rusev didn't release the hold, so Xavier Woods slid in the ring to try to break it, and he got his ass kicked for his efforts. Whatever.

Segment 12: Replay of the opening of RAW, with the ten-bell salute and the montage for the Ultimate Warrior. I did like the montage... excellent highlight and music selection. I caught Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior, but I've not yet seen his new DVD yet. It makes me wonder exactly how others, like Hulk Hogan, were able to make peace with the guy in the years between Self-Destruction and the latest one. Or maybe it's less “making peace” and more an editing thing, since I'm sure WWE cherry-picked certain shared thoughts toward the end of the DVD to tell their narrative... a narrative that they themselves backpedaled on once the wrinkles in the relationship were ironed out.

(Then again, maybe it all boils down to a personal thing for me, since forgiveness has seemed to be hard to come by in my life. The entire storyline between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels made me think miracles of forgiveness could happen, though my biggest regrets and biggest sins are unlikely ever to be forgiven by any of the players involved, no matter how much I want it.)

The montage includes clips of his daughters, and that's a punch in the sympathy testicles. Losing your parent sucks; losing your parent when you're still in the single-digit age count is... well, I honestly can't even begin to imagine it. [Ed. Note: in that case, don't watch Night Four of "Warrior Week." It's an hour long documentary covering Warrior's two weeks or so leading up to, and including, WM Weekend. By the end, when Warrior gifts Vince with a copy of "The Little Engine That Could," I was weeping like a little girl. The WWE Network's best work to date. And I'm saying that as a man who -- with one exception -- can't say enough good about the WWE Network. True story: feedback to the special has been so strong that there's apparently interest in airing it on real TV.]

Segment 13 [Singles Match]: Santino Marella (w/ Emma) reverse-squashes Fandango (w/ Layla) by pin. Sloppy, a dead crowd, and pretty much a spot-for-spot replay of their last match (on Monday, I think?), including Layla stealing the Cobra sock. But this time, Emma was there to forearm Layla in the back of the head, and Santino was able to resist the flash pin, instead hitting a sunset flip.

After the match, Emma recovered the sock for Santino, who put it on and chased Fandango out of the ring with the Cobra readied. Emma was all smiles, so Santino high-fived her... with the Cobra sock. Emma then looked like she was going to cry, and she let that arm go limp. Heh, that was kind of cute, if a little overly silly.

Segment 14: Replay of RAW, where Stephanie McMahon fired up Kane, who sexually harassed his mask before promising to “eviscerate” Daniel Bryan.

Segment 15 [Singles Match]: Batista defeats Sheamus by pin. Batista opens with some light offense, and... man, is the crowd still dead, or is there something going on with the audio? I wouldn't think the midget match would have taken this much wind out of their sails. But holy crap, is it noticeable. I wonder if the wrestlers notice... or care.

Sheamus manages some light offense on his own after a bit, mostly roughneck punchy-kicky stuff, along with some arm bars and a whiffed attempt at the 10 of Clubs. Bats fights out of it but, as he tries to get back in the ring, Sheamus rams him to send him flying into the barricades. That takes us to our final ads.

Back, and now I'm hungry thanks to a DiGiorno ad. Also, Sheamus is on offense as he whips Bats to a corner. Apparently, Sheamus had all the offense over the break, putting this in reverse formula. But then Bats gets advantage by smacking Sheamus's face into the stairs, then kicking them into him. Ouch.

Punchy-kicky from there, whether it's Bats or Sheamus getting a hope spot. Sheamus finally hits the 10 of Clubs, though he reversed their positions on the apron so he could follow it up with a vaulting battering ram. Nice combo, but only gets a 2.8 for the pin attempt. Ditto the follow-up Irish Curse Backbreaker.

The end game starts then; after a nice exchange, Sheamus whiffed on the Brogue Kick and ate a Spear instead, but managed to kick out of the pin. Bats called for and set up the Batista Bomb, but Sheamus countered out of that and went to the top rope. Bats was quick to his feet and shoved Sheamus to crotch him on the top rope. Bats then took Sheamus and finally delivered the Batista Bomb for real, then made the pin.

Good match, and the crowd woke up for the last few minutes, so that was something.

Final Thoughts: I don't know, man... you'd think I'd be happy that the diva match was the highlight of the night, but the real problem was that most of everything that came after was garbage. The main event happened to a cold crowd and without a real point (other than giving Bats some momentum as he continues Evolution II), and the opener, as unexpected as the finish was, was totally pointless. ADR loses in the first round in the tournament but gets a match anyway? Sure, it was non-title, but it just seems... so... pointless. Not to mention ADR's star seems to be falling pretty fast at this point.

Again, I don't know... Paige/Aksana was actually really good, and not just in a “compared to the stupidity” kind of way. But I can't help but feel that the ladies' awesomeness is overshadowed (and buried) by the bullshit that bookended it. This wasn't sustainable episodic TV, but at least things are going right on RAW.

Anyway, I'm tired, it's after midnight, and this recap is about twice as long as normal since I gave Paige and Aksana the full treatment, which for once isn't a euphemism. Enjoy your weekend, folks... and happy Easter.

Episode Grade: B+ (Paige/Aksana), D- (everything else)


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