Happy holidays, everyone! This week’s WWE Superstars opens up, yet again, with Divas action but bucks the trend this week – the Divas match is actually pretty good: a veritable festive treat, I think you’ll agree. The Dolph Ziggler v Antonio Cesaro match in the second half is superb.
Natalya is out to kick off the show this week – a Diva who hasn’t really benefitted or been disadvantaged by her appearance on Total Divas. Oddly, throughout the show’s success it has been AJ Lee, a non-cast member, who has held the title. A title that she has now held for 196 days and, at time of press, is three weeks short of becoming the longest reigning Divas champion of all time; surpassing Maryse at 216 days. Natalya is a very strong in-ring performer but her opponent tonight on Superstars is not. At least not normally. I have to say Aksana looks really very good this week…
Natalya vs. Aksana
They lock up and Natalya immediately starts to work over Aksana’s left leg with a variety of holds. She’s started to spank her opponents recently – I’m not honestly sure if this is new or whether she’s always done it and I’ve missed it because I’ve fast forwarded the Divas matches on Raw or ppv. Anyway, it’s odd. After a headlock, Natalya powers out and whips her into a shoulder barge and then tries a victory roll into a bridge but only gets a two count. Aksana then rolls outside and Natalya smashes her with a baseball slide. Aksana is getting her hair pulled and doesn’t like it and so throws Natalya into the dasher boards and rolls her back into the ring and gets a near fall.
Aksana lands elbows and goes for a cover – she actually looks good this week, using a more aggressive style than we usually see from her. She uses the bottom rope to choke Natalya and then works over the lower back with a series of holds and knees to the spine. She covers her with a knee to the stomach but Natalya kicks out at two. Old school style, Aksana uses the top rope to rake Natalya’s face and the poses for the crowd. You’d think she’d learn – she literally does this every single week.
Natalya schoolgirls her trying to steal the win but only gets a one count. Aksana immediately comes back with more intense offense, clotheslining her. She then uses a sloppy kind of half Boston crab, half patriot lock hold but Natalya flips over onto her back and kicks out of it. Natalya now gets the heat and they go back and forth, and Aksana uses a really cool move where she elbow drops the back of Natalya’s head into the mat. It’s good heel stuff from Aksana this week. Natalya blocks a kick to the face and somehow twists and turns and reverses it out of nowhere into the Sharpshooter for the win.
Quite the surprise. Natalya looked good here but Aksana looked just as good – a new tough, uncompromising, combative side to her might be just what the doctor ordered for this Diva.
Winner: Natalya via submission (5:05)
The Raw Rebound is next – Daniel Bryan & The Rhodes v The Wyatts is shown in full followed by Santa v Santa with Christmas at stake. We also get a great Batista promo video: the tagline that they’re going for with his return is ‘The Animal hunts again’.
Dolph Ziggler comes out next on Superstars – he’s without a programme right now and is easily one the most ill-used superstars on the roster of 2013. Out to face him is Cesaro with Swagger and Colter by his side. No promo from Colter must mean that this one is going 9+ minutes which is good news – these two ought to have a fantastic match.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Antonio Cesaro (w/ Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger)
Alex Riley puts over Ziggler as the ‘hardest working man in show business […] clocking up 18 hour days’ in reference to his stand-up comedy work alongside is faltering WWE career. I don’t imagine for a second that Dolph is very funny but I do know he’s an excellent wrestler and its utter nonsense that he’s jobbing on Superstars every other week now.
They lock up and early on Cesaro uses a series of headlocks until Ziggler powers out, runs the ropes and halts. He does the ‘Ziggle Wiggle’ and is about to do the JJ/Flair strut but a charging Cesaro means that he has to use a low bridge to send Cesaro to the outside.
Outside, Cesaro shouts and points at Ziggler, “what the hell is he doing? Stop strutting!” So funny. He rolls back in and the two go back and forth with wrist locks until Cesaro throws Ziggler through the ropes. Ziggler lands on his feet and goes into another full strut, showing off. An infuriated Cesaro comes out and rolls him back in but, in the ring, Ziggler struts yet again. Cesaro is baffled and rolls back in to fight him.
Ziggler hits the most perfect drop kick and then lands the ten elbow drops that nearly killed Jerry Lawler and the crowd love it. Ziggler gets a two count and then Swagger uses a distraction on the outside, allowing Cesaro to punch Ziggler right in the face while the referee is distracted. Cesaro emulates the ‘Ziggle Wiggle’ and plants his hand on his chest and the crowd join in his chant of ‘we the people’ as we head to the break. This match is already a lot of fun.
After the ads, Cesaro is throwing Ziggler around like a rag doll – Dolph is probably sub-200lbs but this man is STRONG. Cesaro puts Dolph into a rear chin lock and Ziggler’s able to use it to hit a jawbreaker to get him a much-needed breather. He climbs to the second rope but Cesaro catches him and smoothly transitions to a backbreaker. Cesaro then uses his double stomp and gets two consecutive near falls.
Cesaro maintains the offence with a number of knees to Dolph’s midsection and he then effortlessly hits a gutwrench suplex, getting another two count. This match starts to really build now and the crowd are into it. This, it has to be said, is pretty rare on Superstars: you’d think that hot crowds would be excited pre-Raw but it’s not always the case and it’s really only when you get the upper mid-carders doing a shift on this show that the crowd respond. Out of a rest hold, Ziggler powers out and starts to run wild with punches and a flying forearm.
Ziggler hits a Stinger Splash into the corner and then lingers for ten punches to Cesaro. He climbs down and hits him with a neckbreaker, covers him but only gets two. When Cesaro gets to his feet, Ziggler hits the Fameasser out of nowhere and gets another nearfall. Crowd love it. Cesaro charges at Ziggler who leaps up and catches him with a DDT. Cesaro kicks out at two. Cesaro blocks the Zig Zag by holding the ropes and the match again turns in favour of Cesaro.
Swagger tries to interfere but Ziggler runs and sees off Swagger, which lets Cesaro respond with a European uppercut to the back of Ziggler’s head. Cesaro puts Ziggler into the Giant Swing, giving him 17 reps. A dizzy Ziggler is then put into the Neutralizer and is pinned by Cesaro for the win in what was a very, very strong match by WWE Superstars standards. If this had been on Raw it would have been one of the strongest matches by far, certainly the strongest singles match.
Winner: Antonio Cesaro via pinfall (9:30)
The show finishes with the last 10 minutes of the Cena, Punk & Langston v The Shield match. Second good show for WWE Superstars in as many weeks. I’ll say it again, this show has turned a corner of late. I could watch Ziggler v Cesaro every week, with pleasure.
– By James Cox