On the back of a momentous Survivor Series, we are about to witness a royal changing of the guard at WWE headquarters after the demise of Team Authority.
Not since the days of The Alliance and McMahon-Helmsley factions has there been such a shift in power at the world’s premier wrestling company, but as those two previous strangleholds will tell you; HHH and Stephanie will be back.
Their demise at Sunday’s Survivor Series was brought about thanks to the company’s next big thing and a first appearance in the stable of an iconic figure of four-sided sports entertainment.
Dolph Ziggler was the driving force behind Team Cena’s victory but it was Sting’s first appearance at a WWE event that truly captivated the St. Louis crowd. And while Ziggler could well prove to be the new ‘face of the company’, Sting’s contribution will titillate the WWE Universe until his intervention is given some context.
The former TNA, WCW and NWA World Heavyweight champion helped the young pretender lead his team to victory and put an end to the dominance that Triple H has held over the WWE with a hair-raising intro and Scorpion Death Drop that had the COO laid out on the canvas.
In support, the pay-per-view, and follow up Raw, allowed feuds to delightfully simmer between the Bella sisters, Ambrose and Wyatt and among the tag-title contender. Mix all of this together with the return of Daniel Bryan and a potential showdown between Stinger and The King of Kings at Wrestlemania could prove to be the most exciting months in recent WWE history.
Move of the week
Sister Abigail – Bray Wyatt’s dominant finisher on former ally, Dean Ambrose, was brutal and sets up a mouth watering battle at the TLC PPV.
Tweets of the week
— Triple H (@TripleH) November 24, 2014
— John Cena (@JohnCena) November 24, 2014
— Dolph Ziggler (@HEELZiggler) November 24, 2014
Hero of the week
Sting – It has to be The Franchise, whose first WWE feature at the weekend literally turned this one upside down. One of the most popular wrestlers in its history, he played the role of Survivor Series saviour to perfection.
Villains of the week
Adam Rose and The Bunny – A truly awful tag pairing, the duo have no redeeming features that spring to mind. Time to move on, methinks.
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As the WWE Universe prepares itself for the 11th, and penultimate, pay-per-view of 2014, this week’s Raw was geared at garnering hysteria around its main event at Survivor Series.
One of the franchise’s ‘big four’ PPVs, Survivor Series has thrown up some of the greatest fights in WWE history (who could forget Stone Cold vs Bret Hart in 1996?).
It has also regularly pitted a team of heels against a group of faces, a format that is brought back to life at the 28th edition of Survivor Series.
Desperate to ramp up excitement for Sunday’s showpiece, the majority of this week’s Monday Night Raw was made up of the main protagonists exchanging words of ill feeling that ultimately ended in the WWE Superstars picking their sides and having a good old fashioned brawl.
The Authority kicked things off, with Triple H at his evil CEO best, before a series of events unfolded to show us who will be fighting in what corner at the Scottrade Centre in St. Louis.
It will be Team Cena that they face. A group of fan favourites aimed at upsetting the odds and engineering some appeal from a largely disgruntled set of WWE fans who have been let down this year by botched storylines and the obvious disappointment surrounding the launch of the WWE Network – the organisation’s digital TV service.
As the night wore on we saw the beginnings of a fruitful rivalry between Dolph Ziggler and Luke Harper (the latter claiming the Intercontinental Championship in predictably controversial fashion), The Miz talking to a cat, a pair of sisters acting equally catty and some heavyweights suplex each other into submission.
That was all before the contract signing which saw all hell break loose and the names confirmed for the big one this weekend.
Team Cena: John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Ryback and Erick Rowan
Team Authority: Kane, Seth Rollins, Luke Harper, Mark Henry and Rusev
Hero of the week: Dolph Ziggler
Jumped by Harper’s henchmen before the fight, Ziggler demanded the referee continue with proceedings despite getting a battering before his title defence even began.
Ziggler went on to lose but Harper as a combatant could make for a good run for Ziggler who has long been in need of a rival with some real venom.
Villain of the week: Triple H
Doing what he does best, Hunter’s role at the heart of all things evil is one he has mastered over his career.
He may just about be able to breathe some life into this rivalry yet and deliver a main event to bring cheer to fans of the WWE.
Sami Zayn, a Canadian-born wrestler of Syrian descent, was in Dubai recently at NXT’s training camp.
Having wrestled in 29 countries before joining NXT, Zayn has a deep history with hardcore wrestling fans all around the world.
The attention he’s received from matches against Antonio Cesaro and Tyler Breeze has vaulted Zayn to NXT prominence and he’s poised to be featured on the big stage at WWE.
What attracted you to wrestling?
I just always liked it. When I was 17, a friend of mine called me and told me he had found a local wrestler who could train us. I essentially got pretty low quality training, nothing like we have today at the WWE Performance Center. I trained literally in the backyard with no ring and learned how to fall on the grass. But I learned a lot on the job.
I’ve been very privileged to work with a lot of great guys who’ve helped me get a lot better over the years.
You grew up in the 1980s and 90s, which was a golden age of professional wrestling. Which wrestler was your favourite?
There are wrestlers who I’ve enjoyed watching and then those who have influenced me to become a wrestler. When I was very young my initial influence was Hulk Hogan. As a kid, I was blown away by the theatrics and the showmanship.
When I got a little bit older, Bret Hart was a huge influence on me. Then, in my teens, Mankind and the stuff he was doing was so out of the box, it was very appealing to me that he was just a kid wrestling in his backyard and made it his way. By the time I was in the my late teens, it was the Hardy Boyz, who again were unconventional, very athletic and just did a lot of cool stuff. And they too started out in their backyard just like I was at the time. To see them rise to that level, it really influenced me. It was like ‘wait a minute, this is a possibility’.
You never think you’ll actually end up here when you’re a kid, but it just touches you.
You’ve wrestled all around the world. How much has that international experience impacted you?
I would say it’s 100 per cent why I am the way I am or how I am professionally. I mentioned those five wrestlers who had an influence on me, but there are others like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenkos and Eddie Guerrero who started out from whatever region they were and made their way to Mexico and Japan and then Europe and to ECW or WCW and then finally WWE.
So that was the career path I wanted because to me, I liked that work. Those are the guys who spoke to me. To me, that was just the road a wrestler had to take. It’s like you had to be a craftsman and a journeyman and that was the journey you had to take. But the business has evolved a lot from that and right now, we’re in the middle of a camp full of guys who have never wrestled a day in their life and tomorrow they could be in the WWE.
So that tells you how much the industry has changed. I do feel it gives me an advantage because I’m a big believer that work is the only way to get good. You have to work in front of every crowd and that’s my advice to up-and-coming wrestlers, just work everywhere as often as you can.
Don’t ask me about money. That shouldn’t be in your mind starting out. Just go everywhere. Learn what’s it’s like to wrestle in front of five people in a basement. Learn what it’s like to wrestle in front of 300 people. Learn what it’s like to do a show in front of 5,000 Japanese people. You have to experience all of this and when you do, you learn how to adapt and it just makes you a complete performer.
How different is your style in the ring after joining the WWE from your earlier wrestling days?
Adapting to the WWE was interesting and in general, coming from the independent life and all these mixed shows, style-wise it’s not as if a lot has changed. Things are not a whole lot different from what I was doing earlier, but there are some adaptations that need to happen. They’re not going to turn your whole world upside down, but it’s a slightly different way they like things to be done and there’s a specific reason why it needs to be done.
You’re not going to work the same way in front of 300 people as you would in front of a camera that’s going out to 140 countries.
How important do you view NXT as a developmental circuit to get wrestlers up to the WWE?
I actually think it’s pivotal. NXT is a great replica of what’s done in the WWE. It’s really important to get adjusted to the little things that I mentioned and to be a little more TV friendly, learning camera angles, learning to communicate with the commentators and just all these nuances. So I’ve grown a lot as a performer and not just in NXT, but also in the day-to-day stuff which can be… I don’t want to say monotonous, but you don’t realise until you look at yourself after a few months that you’ve made some strides.
That’s coming from me, who’s 12 years deep. If you’re someone who’s starting from scratch, it is an amazing tool that we never had. It’s never been like this. The word ‘developmental’ is now kind of like a brand. It wasn’t like this when it was getting started so it’s a good time to get signed.
What’s your go-to or favourite move in the ring right now?
There’s definitely some signature stuff that I hit and have been doing for years. I don’t necessarily have some favourites and matches are really circumstantial. If I’m wrestling the Big Show and my favourite move is the ‘Blue Thunder Bomb’, it probably won’t work there. But that’s all about adaptability. I haven’t had to throw a whole lot of moves out of my repertoire when I got to NXT. I just adjust and go match by match and day by day really.
How soon do you think we’ll see you on the main roster of the WWE?
Barring any catastrophe, it’s just a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of people take note as getting people’s attention can take a while. I want to continue to hold people’s attention to the point where people go ‘okay, this is ridiculous. We need to have this guy on Raw already’. There’s been a lot of support from within the company and from fans. [But] it’s not my call. If it were, I’d be there tomorrow, but if I have to keep doing what I’m doing and keep having people demanding or really let it bubble. I’m a patient person and I realise that’s important. The shorter answer would be, hopefully soon.