Smack of the Week: Punk Donnes a Mask and ‘Taker Returns!

The Undertaker made his first Smackdown appearance since retiring Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 26

 

Smackdown started out with one of the show’s top issues: Drew McIntyre. I’m a big fan of Drew and am enjoying this ‘chosen one’ gimmick, in which he has a constant deus ex machina looking over him, and giving him an upper hand in every situation. Matt Hardy is a perfect candidate for his ‘victim’ because, in this role, he doesn’t have to talk (a weakness of his) to invoke a crowd reaction. The image of Matt Hardy is enough to make him the victim that will draw the most sympathy, being a man who despite his charisma and storytelling shortcomings, is no doubt one of the most passionate, fan-driven performers in the industry, a real blue-chip performer. It is this side of him which makes the actions of the privileged Drew McIntyre seem all the more heinous. I do think Drew is above a feud with Matt Hardy though, simply because Matt is no main eventer, and Drew will hopefully be heading there now he’s dropped the IC title (I don’t think he’ll be regaining it next week in his rematch). 

The match that followed, like all of the matches this week, was very good. There was an interesting dynamic between Swagger and McIntyre that i’d like to see more of, both having similar ‘pedigree’ mentalities. It was a good, long, well-told match which had a very good ending for Big Show and Swagger, with Show almost executing McIntyre in front of the visibly shaken World Heavyweight Champion. They’re really giving Big Show some ‘superman’ booking right now, and it could go one of two ways, or even both: in order to give Swagger yet more credibility as champion; or to make Big Show seem an irresistable force against the champion, perhaps on his way to the title.

Another very good match came from CM Punk and Kane. Part of the reason this was a good match was, because Undertaker was also in contention for the championship match, it was a pretty unpredictable result. The main focus of this match was CM Punk’s baldness, or more accurately, his mask. In retrospect, it is a very logical development, but to me at least, it was a pleasant surprise. He is an anti-luchador in many ways, making this very interesting given his recent feud with Rey Mysterio. I only expect it to last until Fatal Four Way, but i’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the angle.

The feud between Christian and Dolph has a lot of potential, but it was a shame to see Hornswoggle wrestling. I don’t have a problem with him being a character, but he should never enter a ring. In this instance it just made Christian look weak. The only upside was that it left a spot open for Chavo to be in the match and put on a good performance. Hopefully from now on, the feud will continue without Hornswoggle, though possibly continue to include Chavo.

There was another very good match between MVP and Luke Gallows. When Gallows first joined CM Punk, I couldn’t see him surviving past the Straight-Edge Society, but he is starting to emerge as an impressive character. This was obviously just continuing to get over the idea of a sprawling, endless Straight-edge movement. Hopefully, MVP will get to feud with Punk following this. It has been hinted at, and would help get MVP the push to the top he deserves. In the mean time, I hope MVP continues to put out consistantly high quality matches.

Finally, Rey Mysterio put on a very good match with the returning Undertaker. It’s good that ‘taker returned to action earlier than he did after last year’s Wrestlemania. He also looked in decent shape, and he and Rey had a lot of good spots together. It was also good that, unlike last year, he had to earn his spot in a championship match. I imagine we’ll see him feud with Swagger over the title, which should be the making of many future memorable matches.

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A Couple of Notes: Tough Enough Revived? and Power 25

I heard recently that Tough Enough may be being revived by WWE, while TNA also want to produce a similar show.

What this suggests to me though, is that NXT has real potential. It’s evolved an awful lot and is now getting numbers similar to ECW used to and continues to evolve and improve. Admittedly, I can’t remember that much what Tough Enough was like. I do however remember that storylines weren’t really on the menu. I’ve really enjoyed NXT, which is an interesting excecise in kayfabe, and hope they back that, rather than plump for Tough Enough, because surely the two are mutually exclusive.

As for a TNA version, my instinct tells me that they should continue to concentrate on iMPACT! I don’t think TNA could put out a similar show of the quality of NXT. If they do try it, though, I obviously wish it all the best!

The other bit of news is just a reminder that Smackdown airs tonight, and therefore, I will be updating the RTV-WOW Power 25.

NXT: Another Rookie Bites the Dust

The 'One Man Rock Band' ended his set last night

I didn’t mention it last week because I wasn’t sure if it was a one-off, but it’s nice to see they’ve scrapped the weekly challenges. Though these were enlightening every so often, they were more often an irrelevent distraction from the wrestling. This is another part of the show’s evolution. It just goes to show that it’s a good show but still hasn’t reached it’s full potential. I hope it survives.

Understandably, a major part of last night’s show was the Cole-Bryan confrontation. This is a very intriguing ‘feud,’ but I must say this week didn’t get us very far. It was basically the same segment from last week, though admittedly more explicitly getting across their differences. Hopefully, we’ll soon see Cole living up to a heel character and being more conniving against Bryan.

The matches were ok, but mainly operated to justify Slater being eliminated from the competition, i.e. having him lose and Gabriel win. Gabriel did have a good match with Wade Barrett, probably his best to date, and one that justified his continuation in the competition seen as he managed to show off a little more in-ring ability rather than just his 450 splash.

There’s not much more to say about this episode, so i’ll get down to my updated poll and prediction. The poll is more straight-forward this week, though predicting the winner may be harder:

1) David Otunga
2) Wade Barrett
3) Justin Gabriel

As for the winner, because next week is the season finalé, I would like to see David Otunga win, as you can see from my poll. It will almost certainly be either him or Wade Barrett, and simply because Wade Barrett has been number one for quite some time now, but lost this week, I think David Otunga will win.

RAW Recall: The Night After OTL

Many loose ends were tied up last night getting ready for Fatal Four Way

It was confirmed in the opening segment of last night’s RAW that, indeed, Batista, has left WWE, for now at least. In case it is for good, i’m going to take some time here to thank him. Until recently (with his heel-turn), I couldn’t stand Batista, but i’ve really enjoyed his heel persona, and even if I hadn’t, ANY wrestler who has put their body on the line for us, deserves our thanks, even if we don’t like their style or character. 

It was also revealed that Bret Hart will be the new RAW GM. This was probably the right decision given that it was difficult to think of anyone else who would make an impact in that position, and especially given the rumours that Abraham Washington was very close to getting the position! Thankfully, they didn’t come to fruition. It also allowed him a highly dignified way with which to drop the US title. It’ll be interesting to see what this means for the guest host concept. It seemed to sideline the guest host to a large degree last night, and in the future might make the concept less and less relevant to the show.

Speaking of which, we later saw R-Truth win his first major championship, taking the baton from ‘The Hitman.’ He and The Miz had a good match which had the required championship drama with lots of near-falls. This was required to help Miz remain looking strong while losing, but I think they may even have overdone the amount of  near-falls to the point where the last ones seemed a little in-credible. This is a minor niggle perhaps, but removing a couple of near-falls would have made it a very good match. R-Truth winning is a very good thing too. Though i’m not a big fan, he’s certainly over with the fans, and will freshen up the division. Any of Ezekiel Jackson, Zack Ryder or Evan Bourne would be good candidates for challengers. Perhaps all three if it gets a Fatal Four Way match-up.

There was one bad segment on the show, the Jon Lovitz talent contest. Not only was it completely irrelevent and almost exactly the same segment that happened when the Osbournes were guest hosts, but it was incredibly drawn out and senseless. By the time we had a guy from the audience pulling out his eye, I was completely sick of the dire segment!

There was an interesting development after the Hart Dynasty’s match with Regal and Kozlov when three ‘unknowns’ stormed the ring and took out the trio. I understand they are descendents of Rikishi Fatu (the males) and of Jimmy Snuka (the female). Being related, the tag team will no doubt be a cohesive unit and are an exciting addition to the roster, and show that the rebuilding of the tag team division is continuing in earnest. This is also a positive move for Natalya, as having a female equivalent means she’ll no-doubt get more ring time to show off her substantial skills.

The main event was very strong with Edge, Chris Jericho and John Cena fighting to shape the Fatal Four Way main event. With Orton being booked in the match already, the winner was predictable, but that didn’t really take away from the match. There was a lot of good work specific to a triple threat match, most notably, when Jericho put the Walls of Jericho on Cena while he was already holding Edge in the STF. I’ve been very critical of Cena recently, but you can’t doubt the man’s drive, wrestling that match after the draining main event at Over the Limit! Luckily, with Batista gone, Cena might get out of his character mire to a degree. He was no less an important factor in this match that was certainly worthy of a main event.

Over the Limit Review, 2010

On a Night rumoured to be Batista's last, he bowed out in spectacular fashion

For the first time in quite a while, WWE put out a ungimicked PPV last night with Over the Limit. I hope that, rather than a simple re-branding, it was an experiment in whether people wanted to see an ungimmicked PPV.

Firstly, I should say that the majority of the matches were of a very high quality, but that there were some moments that were quite strange.

Drew and Kofi had a decent enough match, and I think they will work well together in the future. I found it a shame that Drew dropped the belt. I think he could have done with defending the belt one more time for credibility, and in the aftermath of Kofi winning it and being stripped of it, him winning it again within a few days seemed a bit over the top in terms of booking.

The strongest section of the card were the 3rd and 4th matches. Punk vs Mysterio was one that obviously had potential, but could have gotten bogged down in being repetative. Luckily this was not the case. I’d say this was the highlight of the night, in terms of both in-ring show and storyline consequences. The match was great, with the barber-chair spot and Punk’s rage-fuelled attack after being busted open being particular highlights. I’m usually a proponant of PG, but one area where I wish they’d change on is the covering up of blood. Not only does it interrupt the match, but it gives out a bad message to the kids who do watch and don’t see the consequences of such violence. If they don’t want to blade anymore, they should at least let it go when the guys are busted open naturally.

The Tag Team match followed, and was the other strongest match of the night. If nothing else, it was just a really well worked match and ending. All four athletes are obviously strong in the ring and can be trusted to put on a good match. It would have been easy to put the titles on JeriMiz, but thankfully, they made the right decision and kept it on the Harts. Hopefully, Jericho and Miz will have reason to stay as a unit from now on though.

Following the strongest segment came probably the weakest segment, in matches 5 and 6. The actual match between Edge and Randy Orton was good, as you would expect, but the finish was decidedly strange. PPV’s are not the places for double countouts, except for in the very rare occasions when a storyline warrants it. This was not the case in this match. I inderstand, however, that Orton was legitimately injured, so it’s difficult to criticise the ending. Given Orton’s state, it’s a shame that Edge couldn’t go over. I don’t see why an Edge victory would have hurt anything, and it would have been a lot less dissatisfying. This is with the major caveat, however, that it’s difficult to come up with a pinning finish that didn’t endanger Orton any further.

Then followed the Swagger-Show match. In this case, the finish was less incomprehensible, but the whole package wasn’t as strong. It made sense that Swagger, being unable to beat or even really damage Show would resort to getting himself disqualified, but it was just a bit disappointing, and could have done with some more time in which Swagger got some offence in, to help Swagger not look weak.

I was very impressed by the divas match. Both did a good, solid job in-ring and it did the right job of having Eve retain. One of the better divas matches in the last few months, and probably the best at PPV.

As for the main event, it’s not WWE’s fault, but for those who have heard about Batista’s seemingly innevitable departure from the industry, it was a little predictable. It’s a shame Cena has been so hard to support recently, because their three PPV matches together have been of good quality, each of them being pretty brutal. I must say, I enjoyed the brutality of the end, with the attempted running over of Cena, the being thrown in to the set, and the Attitude Adjustment through the stage especially, which sells Batista’s absence quite well. Luckily the next PPV is Fatal Four Way, because I couldn’t be bothered with another Cena-Sheamus match!

For what it’s worth, i’d give this PPV about 6/6.5 out of 10. If the endings/content of the World Championship and Edge-Orton matches had have been a little less confusing, it could have been really sucessful.

Over the Limit Predictions, 2010

New PPV, Over the Limit comes to you tonight from Detroit, Michigan

WWE Over the Limit comes to you tonight from Detroit, and it’s a pretty packed card with five championships on the line!

 
Unified Tag Team Championship Match: The Hart Dynastry vs Chris Jericho and The Miz:
I think we’ll start out with the tag title match, partly because of the result i’m predicting, and partly because the talent on offer will start the PPV on a high-point. While potent combination of JeriMiz is almost enough for me to predict them winning, I think the Hart Dynasty’s reign will be a relatively long one. JeriMiz losing doesn’t even necessarily mean they’ll have to split up either. We could easily see them coming out in the aftermath of a loss ranting about ‘the company being against them’ because people are ‘jealous’ of their talents, or something along those lines. Natayla and possibly Bret will be at ringside, and I think JeriMiz will (almost certainly) try and cheat, and one of the Hart’s will stop them, setting up the end of the match.
Winners: The Hart Dynasty
 
R-Truth vs Ted DiBiase:
I’ve quite liked the build up to this match from DiBiase’s end. Seeing the Million Dollar Championship and Virgil back on the scene has been great (though it’s hardly ‘fresh’ and could start to hurt DiBiase as a character, too associated with his dad). However, this is the match i’m least looking forward to. Perhaps it’s just a personal thing, but it holds very little interest for me. I’d be very surprised if, giving the way they’ve been building Ted up (getting everything he wants), he doesn’t win. I imagine we’ll see either some paid-off heels (though obviously not Carlito this time) or perhaps some more permanent associates come to DiBiase’s aid for this one. Virgil will probably be there, but I can’t see him getting involved himself.
Winner: Ted DiBiase
 
Intercontinental Championship Match: Drew McIntyre vs Kofi Kingston:
This has the potential to be a very good feud that will really start tonight. Though the two styles are quite different, I think they could compliment each other well. More importantly, they have an interesting point of tension between them following Kofi’s near-victory of the IC title, only for it to be given back to Drew. I’m also glad this match makes it because Drew really needed another title defence to keep building credibility. Partly for that reason, I see Drew retaining for now. I imagine that Kofi will be on his way to the victory, and just as he’s about to hit Trouble in Paradise, Teddy Long/Vickie Guerrero comes out and informs him that the match has been changed to a no-disqualification match, therefore getting over further Drew’s position in the company. Kofi will turn back to Drew to receive either a thumb to the eye or a chair shot, before he hits his Future Shock DDT for the win.
Winner: Drew McIntyre
 
Divas Championship Match: Eve Torres vs Maryse:
This match has had a good build-up, especially on RAW this week with a quite brutal attack from Eve, though the later rumbles in the ring went on for a bit too long probably. I see Eve retaining here. She’s well liked as champion and there really would be no value in having Maryse regain the title again.
Winner: Eve
 
Randy Orton vs Edge:
This one is difficult to call, especially when only ‘pride’ is on the line. Randy Orton’s really been getting over as almost unstoppable recently, while Edge also sometimes seemed one step ahead of his former tag team partner. This feud is still in it’s infancy though, and I think an Orton win would kinda kill it off, so i’m predicting an Edge victory, but it could go either way.
Winner: Edge
 
World Heavyweight Championship Match: Jack Swagger vs The Big Show:
I’ve enjoyed the back and forth in this feud, with Swagger getting over as a pedigree champion, and Big Show undermining it with his size and power. I do, however, think it will only be a mini-feud, and I think Swagger has at least another defence in him. They’ve been going to great efforts to get him over as champion, so I think he’ll keep the title at least until Fatal Four Way, where a loss would be more acceptable. I also think this will be a (relatively) clean victory, making way, hopefully, for Christian and/or MVP to get in the title match next month!
Winner: Jack Swagger
 
Pledge vs Hair Match: Rey Mysterio vs CM Punk:
We’ve had a pledge match, a hair match, and now we have a pledge vs hair match, and, one way or another, this will end or importantly alter this long-running feud. For ages, I could only see Rey winning this match, and definitively ending the feud, however, recently, the idea of Mysterio being in the S.E.S. seems more credible to me. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but I would love to see a Mysterio heel-turn, and this could happen by him joining the S.E.S. I also think that, with the sheer (apparant) volume of S.E.S. members, willing to come to Punk’s aid, that interference from the masked man (or even several people) will help Punk take it. We might also have the regular masked man revealed …
Winner: CM Punk
 
WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs Batista:
I don’t have too much to say about this. Usually, John Cena’s sheer passion at least gets over in part, but recently, he’s been absolutely devoid of interest. We all know a face Cena (at least with his current gimmick) will never quit, and so this is probably the most predictable match on the card. I usually like ‘I Quit’ matches, but I don’t like them to end in normal submission, like this one almost certainly will! I prefer it when, like in the Ric Flair-Mick Foley I Quit match at Summerslam a few years back, someone wins by threatening his opponent not with violence, but with some sort of unbearable emotional consequence. While I like Cena’s passion and as a guy, this isn’t the sort of thing he can get over that successfully. Given that this will quite possibly be Batista’s last match, i’d just like to say that before he turned heel this last time, I, like so many others, thought very little of him. But this heel run he’s had has been his best run yet. He’s played the better part in building this match up, even coming up with a new submission move which looks distinctive and painful (rather than just sticking in an armbar or something like that, which is the sort of thing i’ve seen others do in his situation). He’s been a great and distinctive heel, and he deserves plaudits for that. Also, I don’t know in what capacity, but expect to see Sheamus turn up at some stage.
Winner: John Cena

Smack of the Week: Over the Limit ‘Go Home’ Episode

Jack Swagger continues to grow in to the role of World Heavyweight Champion

This will probably be a shorter post than usual, partly because i’m tired, and partly because Smackdown ‘go home’ shows have tended recently to have less substantial progression take place during them. This is understandable, and probably the right way to build up PPV’s. It does however mean that the episodes can offer less of interest and fewer memorable moments.

The Lay-Cool shift continued as Layla and Michelle were announced as ‘co-champions.’ This doesn’t really alter the way in which the duo will apparantly split, but it makes the implications of the split more interesting. Perhaps we’ll have co-champions in the way Chyna and Chris Jericho were with the IC title in 2000, for instance? Perhaps their co-reign will be officially recognised and they’ll have to defend the championship together. It has real potential for innovation. Unfortunately, though they put on a solid enough match with Kelly Kelly and Tiffany, there aren’t many other really ring-savy divas – now Beth Phoenix is injured – to help make the storyline peak in a really good match. There has been speculation about Victoria returning, but it seems unlikely to me, given her age and the heat on her for disparaging the company after leaving the last time. I’ve said before that i’d like Gail Kim to have been drafted to Smackdown anyway, so that’s my preference. It’d be hard to justify that so soon after the draft though.

It’s clear that Smackdown is trying to re-build a tag-team division, with the arrivals of ‘the Dudebusters’ and most recently, Vance Archer & Curt Hawkins. The latter pair were certainly impressive in their squash this week, and their ‘attitude’ certainly has me interested as to how they will try to ‘make an impact’ over the next three shows. I haven’t seen much of Vance Archer, but I liked what I saw of his style and character. Meanwhile, JTG had a match against Caylen Croft. I’m not sure how much this helped either guy, or at least JTG. It certainly got over the Dudebusters to an extent, but seen as JTG isn’t going to be feuding with them as a singles competitor, it seemed like just getting him some TV time, rather than starting any kind of storyline. This is still positive for him, but doesn’t progress his character that much.

I am very intrigued by the brewing Dolph Ziggler-Christian  feud. Two very talented and charismatic guys having a decent feud will be among the best things in the WWE if the storyline has some decent weight behind it. We are yet to see, I think, the driving force behind Ziggler’s actions, but if they’re interesting, this one could be mouth-watering.

There’s not too much to say about the Punk-Mysterio feud after this week’s Smackdown. This exemplifies what I initially said about ‘go home’ Smackdown’s being slightly less creatively driven, preferring instead to build general tension. The shaving of heads, while always engaging TV, is something we’ve seen a few times now, and again, Rey Mysterio came out and challenged the S.E.S. While Rey and especially Punk are always interesting and exciting to watch in different measures, it seemed this week like tension through repetition (though the bald picture of Punk was pretty funny!). By the way, MVP impressed as always. I hope he gets a real substantial feud soon so he can start climbing the card! Saying that, I suppose wrestling a match with two former World Champions is a good foundation to be on!

I really enjoyed seeing Drew McIntyre vs Big Show. There was an interesting dynamic in that match, due simply to their differences in size and techique, that I enjoyed. It was a shame then that the match was cut short by Swagger’s intervention. This is a match i’d definately like to see again under different circumstances in the future. The brawl between Swagger and Show built some great tension for Over the Limit I thought, with them both getting their respective anger across well. I have to say, Swagger’s expression was great and really believeable. This segment was probably the best i’ve seen Swagger in where he has been telling a story. Other than simply being on the back foot against his face challenger, Swagger really got across not only that he has a reason for showing up on Sunday that isn’t just defending his title, but that he might have a chance of defeating the behemoth, something that is not all that easy to do!