The End of Survivor Series, For Now At Least

The logo for the first ever Survivor Series in 1987

This has come as a shock to me. It must have been announced when I was trying to avoid the IWC. This is obviously massive news. As one of the ‘big four,’ Survivor Series has been one of the most cherished PPV’s. I’ll quickly share one of my favourite Survivor Series memories. One of the most emotional moments in wrestling history for me was when Big Show won the WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1999 after his father had (kayfabe) died. His father had in-fact died a few years earlier, but the emotion he showed was palpably genuine. It was, of course, the same PPV in which Stever Austin was ran over, beginning the intense feud with Rikishi.

The survivor series matches are also dear to the fan’s hearts. Hopefully they will remain a part of whatever PPV will replace it.

Saying this, I was personally left more flat by the PPV. I think after 23 years it may have gotten a bit stale. And though it is surprising, perhaps now was a good time to put it on hold. I’d also like to think it may come back some day,when it could be fresher. I’m sure there has been a lot of indignation about this move, but really, I think it was definately the weakest of the ‘big four’ (or should I say ‘big three’) and the only ones that should never be changed are the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. Summerslam will probably be never scrapped either with it only growing (cities have started bidding for it like they do for Wrestlemania).

So, while it’s certainly an end of an era, and full of great memories, I think it’s right to put it on the back-burner for now. I hope that it’s replaced with a deserving concept. I like the new themed PPVs as long as they are broad (Bragging Rights, Breaking Point etc), rather than the ones based around specific matches (Hell in a Cell). Luckily, I think WWE have realised this.

There are rumours that WWE want to replace it with a War Games style PPV, which would be very welcome, as it’s already established.

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J.R’s Future: An Update and a Plea

This is just a quick post to say that in the last week of J.R’s contract, he tweeted this morning that nothing has progressed. J.R. has been central to so much of WWE’s success both on and off the screen that it would be such a shame and a mistake for WWE to let him go. I’d like to see him back announcing, but if he was to take some other job, e.g. in talent relations, it’d be great for the industry (as I can’t see him going to TNA).

I will withhold from a tribute to him for now, but i’m starting to fear he’ll be leaving the industry.

NXT: Tarver and Bryan Steal the Show

Bryan's personality shone though, as did his ring skills, briefly

This week’s NXT was probably the best episode since they started doing the weekly challenges. The fact that the challenges were spread out, rather than in one, irrelevent segment, was a real improvement, and the best superstars used it to show off their character well. David Otunga, Michael Tarver, Wade Barrett and especially Daniel Bryan instantly garnered interest in a challenge that, being a whole minute a piece, could easily have dragged. On the flipside, you have your less interesting stars, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield, Darren Young and especially Justin Gabriel struggling to make it interesting (for this was surely the real aim of the challenge).

I’d really like to compliment Michael Tarver’s performance this week in the ring too. He doesn’t seem to get much credit for this, but every week he pulls out really innovative stuff. Second only to Daniel Bryan, he’s probably the most innovative in-ring performer of the rookies. His reverse/inverted scoop slam, for instance, was something i’ve never seen before, and it was fantastic! I also like his non-commital approach to the challenges, and his angle was strong when he said ‘I don’t need to sell programmes, i’m the product,’ and quite right he is too.

I was glad to see Daniel Bryan get (slightly) more ring time. But even in the short time his match took, he looked great in ring. What a dropkick he delivered! He is just naturally a really solid performer when it comes to the more basic stuff too. A joy to watch. I wonder when he’ll get his first win. I get that it’s an angle, but I still don’t quite get how the angle helps him. I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later.

Loving the pro’s video packages by the way. Really enjoyable and interesting. Another layer to the NXT story.

WWE Draft: All Change and an Awesome Episode!

The Hart Dynasty finally won tag team gold last night in what was the first of many great matches

There was not one bad match on last night’s RAW, but with that in mind, i’m only going to really talk about the non-draft matches and the draft picks themselves.

The Hart Dynasty-ShoMiz match was a classic. Eventhough the result was almost innevitable, that didn’t detract from the in-ring performance. Matches like this just go to show that you don’t need blood or spots all over the place to make a great match. This was quite subtle. It built really nicely and had a few near falls (though not loads and loads) and had a good finish with Bret Hart at ring-side administering justice, leading to the Hart Dynasty win with the very fitting Sharpshooter. It is matches like that that will save the tag team division.It was nice to see the familial celebrations at the end. It really made it seem like an achievement (which of course it is) and a career mile-stone. They now look the complete package and I look on with interest at their first feud as champions.

The first draft pick was the most baffling. Kelly Kelly to Smackdown? For someone who doesn’t have title aspirations, it seems slightly odd to have her switched (at least in the main show). I would have liked to have seen Gail Kim get the call. She could help Smackdown’s improving division. However, if Kelly Kelly has something to do with Team LayCool (perhaps joining them) something interesting could happen.

Big Show to Smackdown I suspect was partly to aid the split of ShoMiz, but on Smackdown he might get a good shot at the main event, so I approve.

Morrison and R-Truth to RAW was a good idea. They were starting to stagnate a bit. I think they’re going to be a bit behind on charisma, but it’s certainly fresh. Expect JoMo to feud with Miz over the US belt.

Edge to RAW is an exciting move that I predicted. Given their history (and their lack of past feuding) I think the Orton-Edge feud will be great. Is Edge turning heel though? That would be a very quick turnaround? We’ll have to wait and see. It’s not a lock yet seen as it could be part of an angle. I hope he stays face though.

Kofi Kingston to Smackdown is another one that will breath freshness in to both show and wrestler. I think he needs to go for the IC belt and build up again. We know he has the potential.

Christian going to Smackdown and making the title gesture to Swagger was very encouraging. Given the lengthy feud these two had in ECW, they could really put a good programme together and give Christian the title he (probably) deserves. Shame he wont be on the same show as Edge though …

Jericho to RAW really was a surprise. He’s always a good draw though, so perhaps it’s something to do with that. The potential for a feud with Orton in the future is mouth-watering, and i’m sure he could make Cena look good in a decent feud too. But as he said (on Twitter or something) he’s ‘spent the last year on RAW, Smackdown and NXT, so it makes no difference’.

The main event was the other non-draft match of the night. Though there was a bit of a hangover from Extreme Rules, once the match got going it was another good show (I always say, even Cena and Batista can do it!) Sheamus has shown real improvement over the last few appearances, incorporating a few more moves (like the brutal knee to the temple to Orton) and after beating everyone he has now, he doesn’t need to get over any more, he’s a credible main-eventer through and through. There was a feeling someone was going to interfere, but it was mighty shock when it was Edge! As I said earlier though, I hope this is a feud signifier and not a heel-turn signifier. I was pulling for Sheamus. The last thing I though I wanted to see was a Cena-Orton/Cena-Batista repeat, but knowing that Batista’s career may be coming to an end, i’m happy with the fact that his last match will be a main event. Him and Cena have done good work recently too, so it should be pretty good.

One last point i’d like to make about the show regards the guest hosts. This was the best RAW in a long time (a compliment to this episode, not a criticism of others) and it was one without a guest host. Though the show’s success was down to the wrestling, I think it raises a case for ending the concept. As i’ve previously said, i’m broadly approving of the concept, but I think it will naturally run it’s course, and I think that time may be sooner than I thought.

From the supplemental draft, the best moves went to Smackdown. Chavo Guerrero (especially with Vickie there) might start getting the ring-time a Guerrero deserves. I think Cody Rhodes going there is a good move too. He could have got lost on RAW without Legacy, but on Smackdown, he should be able to show off his talents. Most of all though, i’m most excited about MVP to Smackdown. He’s skirted along the fringes of the RAW main event, not quite able to penetrate. I think he really deserves a main-event run, and hopefully one is coming his way on Smackdown! Smackdown’s main event really is wide open, with lots of opportunity for young talents.

Extreme Rules 2010: Results and Reaction

In what could be Batista's last championship match, Batista squared off against John Cena in a brutal last man standing match for the WWE title

The first point i’d like to make is that Extreme Rules was under quite a bit of scrutiny last nigh simply because it has replaced Backlash on the PPV schedule. Happily, it seems to add something to the ‘unfinished business’ character of this time of year, with it’s gimmick matches adding a touch of ceremony and credibility to the intensity of the feuds.

The first full match was the unbilled tag-team gauntlet match. Unexpected matches are always nice, but I was more expecting (and hoping for) Drew McIntyre vs Matt Hardy for the IC title – he really needs more defenses. Miz talked about the lack of competition in the tag-team division, and for sure, WWE is in a between teams situation right now that needs to be addressed. It was good to see the talent of Morrison, Truth, Henry and especially MVP make the card, and they put on a decent match for what it was. Good to see the Hart Dynasty finally pull through to get a title shot. They deserve it, and I think if anyone’s going to bring credibility to the division, it’ll be them (if they win, that is)

Then came the hair match between Punk and Mysterio. I had high hopes for this match, and right up until the end I probably would have classed it as the weakest showing of the night. The match was certainly enjoyable, but in it’s first half, a lot of the progressions from hold to hold and stage to stage were a bit clunky I thought. This improved a lot in the second half of the match, and with the S.E.S. intervering and being barred from ringside, the tension built as it seemed innevitable that Rey would take the match. I was pleased, however, to see the decisive interference of the ‘masked man.’ Not only has it been a while since we’ve seen that kind of thing in WWE, but if fits the underhand S.E.S. very well. The next question is who is it? Darren Young perhaps? or someone completely new or unexpected? My appetite is whetted.

Shad took on JTG next in what was at times a very intense strap match. They’re still inexperienced at this level, and struggled to get the crowd going consistently (though they certainly did get a reaction when the strap was involved or when they were particularly energetic). There is still much more to see from them, and I hope they can continue to improve. One bigger problem I had however, was with the way the match was won. While i’m sure there’s only a limited way you can entertainingly win this match, I remember Sable beeting Luna (I think) using the exact same method. A bit of a shame, but not too much to ruin it.

Orton vs Swagger came next, and these two showed again that they can work very well together. The match made both guys look strong while continuing (importantly) to develop Swagger’s character (as the overly confident, complacent champion). These two are great technical wrestlers, so perhaps it was to be expected that the ‘extreme’ content would be kept to a minimum (that, and on a card of extreme matches, there have to be varying degrees of brutality), and I agree with that move. They don’t have a hot, personal feud going yet, it would be a bit strange to see them trying to cripple each other (however, that shot by Orton with the belt was pretty great). While perhaps a bit abrupt, I enjoyed the ending of this match, putting Swagger over not only as physically capable, but mentally so too without making Orton look weak.

Probably the best storytelling of the night went to HHH and Sheamus. I was starting to think that there was only so far this feud could go with things like backstage attacks and whatnot, but this time it worked really well, really picking up heat for Sheamus too. The use of ‘accessories’ was befitting of a street-fight as well. I think in a street fight, things like metal bars and the ring surroundings should be used more than tables and chairs and the more usual sort of stuff. It builds a solid, ‘down and dirty’ character of the match making it meaningful, rather than just a tarted-up no-DQ match. It was great for Sheamus to get over (and a pox on those that call HHH a buryer!) in a way that genuinely made him seem like a straight-up bad person. I did however think the 4 kicks was bit excessive. Maybe 2 and then his crusifix-esque other finisher (Cole gave it a name, ‘Pale ____’, but I can’t quite remember), but this is more of a minor qualm.

There was a lot of skepticism going in to the divas match (specifically to do with the ‘extreme makeover’ concept), but I have to say, I think both divas made a very good accounting of themselves, and even brought the division along somewhat. I don’t know how frequently this stipulation can be used, but make no mistake, this was a pretty brutal match, with both Beth and Michelle taking big bumps and shots with foreign objects. This is what I mean by bringing on the division. Occasionally, certain, more confident divas, have toyed with ‘hardcore’ elements, but this was the first in WWE that i’ve seen (at least in a long rime) that has involved such a strong and well realised hardcore element (Beth’s bump on to the two ironing boards was pretty impressive, for instance) and not only that, but my worry about the inclusion of the ironing board in a ladies match were alleviated when Striker said of Michelle something like: “I guarantee this is the first time Michelle’s been near an ironing board.” The divas matches have been much improved recently (at least on Smackdown). Lets hope it continues.

The pnultimate match was the the cage match between Jericho and Edge, and like the HHH-Sheamus bout earlier, this match told a strong story (one, in this instance founded about 8 months ago with Edge’s injury). It was a very good cage match, with good use of the structure, but even more important than that, it gave us a good ending to the feud with Jericho (who decided to defer his victory in order to further injure/threaten Edge) was instead put in Edge’s position with a devestating attack to the ankle.  I’d also like to give kudos for the innovation involved in Jericho’s springboard super codebreaker. Jaw-dropping. A poetic, cyclical and fitting end to a great feud. Perhaps the match of the night.

I think in many ways, the main-event was one of the lesser-anticipated matches on the card, but to be fair, like at Wrestlemania, Cena and Batista put on a great match. With the PPV certainly extreme but nonethless lacking in sheer devestation up until this point, this match cetainly provided it. There’s not much more to say than that about this match, other than Dave’s intensity was again very well pitched and some of the spots (especially the Attitude Adjustment through the announce table) were brilliant. I liked the way it ended. The story being that neither of them could keep the other down, and so Cena found another way to do it. It was innovative and (in terms of the match) made Batista look good and resiliant, though the duct-tape may have been a little too embarrassing, and I can’t help but wonder whether it has anything to do with Dave’s potential decision to leave WWE. If he does, it was a good match to retire on.

On a side not, I broke my own record for predictions, getting 6 out of 8 right, for what that’s worth!

PPV Predictions: Extreme Rules 2010 (and some draft predictions thrown in)

Extreme Rules, Sunday, April 25 from Baltimore

Welcome to my first set of predictions on this blog! I always say WWE PPV’s are mostly unpredictable, and that I am certainly no better necessarily than anyone else, but I like to think I can put some interesting, educated thoughts towards it! On a side not, its a shame there’s no Drew McIntyre vs Matt Hardy match for the IC title on the card. Hopefully it will be added on the night. Anyway …

CM Punk vs Rey Myseterio (Hair Match)
The first match will be what will probably be the climax of the engaging and entertaining Mysterio-Punk feud. This should be a very good match with the innovations both guys can bring. I think Mysterio will win this one. Firstly, I think the stipulation is unclear about what happens if Punk wins, and secondly, as I say, I have a feeling that  this is the end of the feud, and that wouldn’t be the case if Punk won.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Women’s Championship Match: Michelle McCool vs Beth Phoenix (Extreme Makeover Match)
This one is quite difficult to predict, not least because no one’s quite sure what an ‘Extreme Makeover’ match is. However, I don’t think the Michelle-Beth feud has ran it’s course yet. Usually, therefore, i’d predeict Beth to win, but I can’t quite see that happening yet either. With the draft coming up, i’m not sure what will happen to Beth, but I am sure its not the end of the road for Team LayCool. I can also see the potential for adding a third diva in to the equasion (perhaps to replace Mickie James?) and for those reasons I can’t see Beth vanquishing Michelle yet. Expect the height of cheating from Michelle though!

Winner: Michelle McCool

Shad Gaspard vs JTG (Strap Match)
This one was probably the hardest to predict, simply because the feud is in it’s formative stages. The story will be of how much bigger Shad is and how he is more suited to this sort of match, and therefore, I think it will be about the passion of JTG coming through. Also, a JTG win is probably more condusive to the feud’s continuation.

Winner: JTG

Triple H vs Sheamus (Street Fight)
This match could go either way. It could either be brilliantly brutal, or a bit of a let down. I think the result is probably a bit clearer though. Having lost at Wrestlemania, and with the feud still going strong, I can’t see HHH winning again. Sheamus will go over and cement his main event credibility further.

Winner: Sheamus

World Heavyweight Championship Match: Randy Orton vs Jack Swagger (Extreme Rules Match)
I would like to see this as the main event, but I doubt it’ll happen. A couple of weeks ago i’d have said 100% Jack Swagger will win, but considering his minor losing streak, it’s more difficult to tell. I’m hoping it’s a work of some kind and he’s not going to be a transitionary champion. I think however, they’ve gotten behind him in terms of booking, and perhaps they want his first big win to be at PPV level (he is a heel after all), so i’m going to edge it to Swagger. Whatever happens though, this will probably be the best match of the night.

Winner: Jack Swagger

Chris Jericho vs Edge (Steel Cage Match)
Like with the Punk-Mysterio feud, I think this has been great, but it’s coming to a natural end now. The injury and ‘spear’ angle is good, but I think if it goes beyond this PPV, it will start to get tired. For that reason, I see edge winning this one and coming out on top in the feud, especially since he lost at Wrestlemania, and even more especially given his ‘damaged goods’ situation that he will have to overcome. I think this is a pretty safe bet.

Winner: Edge

WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs Batista (Last Man Standing)
There are certain rumours flying around that Batista will be taking a break after this PPV, and I never thought i’d say this, but its a shame. I’ve enjoyed this Batista heel character, and it’ll be some interesting intensity that will be missed if the runmourse are true. Who knows what the match will be like. Obviously both guys can put on shome great shows as they did at Wrestlemania (or they wouldn’t be where they are!), but they can also put out some slightly disappointing stuff. Like many, i’m sick of the sight we will probably see at Extreme Rules: John Cena, the last man standing.

Winner: John Cena

As for the draft, perhaps ‘predictions’ is the wrong term. Again, it’s genuinely unpredictable, but one thing that does seem highly possibly is Orton getting traded to Smackdown (a very very good move for both shows). If this happens, I believe Edge will be the one to replace him on RAW. As I say, his feud with Jericho is reaching it’s climax, and the best way to sever ties is to draft him to RAW. Face for face, Orton for Edge. Who knows about the rest!

Smack of the Week: Extreme Rules ‘Go Home’ Episode

Will the Straight-Edge Society be the same after Extreme Rules?

I’d just like to point out, for those unaware, that, unfortunately, this week’s Smackdown featured the final performances of Mickie James and Mike Knox in WWE (well, for now at least). I’d also like to suggest that Mickie has done enough to one day be considered a Hall of Famer. This depends on what way her career goes from here, but as long as she doesn’t end up at TNA, I think she has a chance.

The first match featured our All American-American World Heavyweight Champion taking on John Morrison. I was very critical of Morrison a while ago because he always botched (or at least awkwardly performed) his high-flying manouvers. Now however, he lands his peles, moonsaults and starship pain pretty consistently and is starting to show the skills of a top performer. He still, however, has shortcomings (mainly in the charisma department) that he needs to improve upon before he gets the shot that Swagger has had. Swagger looked confident on the mic, cutting probably his best promo to date, though it tailed off to the end. In what was probably the best match of the night, each superstar put on a great performance, showing a glimpse of the future main event scene, with drama, near-falls, back and forth and unpredictability. Indeed, I don’t think anyone would have predicted Morrison going over. You’ve got to think (and hope) that Swagger’s losing trend has got to be part of  a work. I’m not sure exactly how that would work, but otherwise it makes no sense to make your champion, and up-and-coming main-eventer look weak this way …

Drew McIntyre and Matt Hardy’s feud continued in something I am really interested in. The story of Drew taking advantage of (probably concussed) Matt Hardy is an interesting one, and adds an extra wildcard dimension to the matches they have. Some of the best, most stimulating acts in wrestling are the ones that are difficult to watch: Jericho’s attack on Edges ankle last week was one, and Drew’s stomp on Matt’s head was another. I was starting to think this was leading to an IC match (I think Drew really needs another defence on his record (unless, of course, his not having to defend is part of his ‘chosen one’ angle …)), but it seems not. Maybe it’ll be added to the card during Extreme Rules itself, but if not, lets hope it continues to build to one.

Shad and JTG continued their hot feud going in to Extreme Rules. Striker made an interesting point regarding the symbolism of the strap match. These guys who have grown up together in each other’s pockets, even in seperation, will be bonded together. This week really highlighted their bond, creating more interest in tgheir match for sure. This is almost certainly going to be the biggest night of their careers. They’ve been at a PPV before, but not with the sole limelight. If it goes well, they could grow in the company, but they’ve got to be careful (and this is especially a worry with Shad) that their characters don’t get too reliant on their dislike of each other. This feud has a while to run, but afterwards, it’s going to be important for them to make a clean break from each other on to new, fresh feuds.

It was probably the right decision not to have Edge in a match this week, selling the fact that he will be ‘damaged goods’ at the PPV. The promo was good, and included the classic angle of taking place in the arena of the steel cage, which Jericho made good use of, and was later used quite symbolically with Jericho sacrificing his rookie Wade Barrett to Edge, who showed he will play through the pain to ‘spear’ Jericho with finality. It will be the right and fitting point to end this impressive feud.

Team LayCool continued to shock (in a good way) with their humiliation of Beth Phoenix this week. The match itself was good as well, showing the superiority of the Smackdown divas division (and regrettably, how much Mickie will be missed) with four very capable wrestlers giving us a good match with an ending which set up the PPV match well. The LayCool feuds continue to make a positive point about femininity (which though possibly undermined by some other aspects of the divas division, are still valid) as the heels continue to get commupance for their bullying and attempted vanquising of divas that don’t fit their ‘flawless’ mould. There were, however, a couple of problems with this segment. The first is that it wasn’t really explained what an Extreme Makeover match is! I get the feeling it’ll simply be an extreme rules divas match (called ‘extreme makeover’ because there is already an extreme rules match on the card), but their seems to be another aspect to it, i.e. it’ll will be a feminine themed extreme rules match. This makes me worry somewhat. I had no problem with the lipstick, as that fits well with the LayCool mould; the ironing-board however seems a little out of place and possibly a bit prescriptive about gender roles. We’ll just have to see hoe Extreme Rules plays out to see.

Finally, we had the Punk-Mysterio feud to end the show. This match was pretty good, and having the barber chair there with a threatening Rey Mysterio was a good closing image. I do hoever think that, folloing this PPV, the feud (which has been a long one to be fair) will have run its course. It is also my feeling that the unexpected events in Iceland affected the build up. With Mysterio cutting some of Punk’s hair on RAW, I think they were robbed of an even more powerful image on Smackdown and perhaps even a better leading image to Extreme Rules. I also think some of the in-ring build-up will have had to have been shared with RAW, also to this episodes detriment. Another query I have is about the clarity of the stipulation. I know Punk’s hair is on the line, but what about Mysterio? If he loses, does he still have to join the S.E.S.? It’s not explicit, but Punk has hinted at it. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.