Bryan Danielson Post-WWE Speech on PG Wrestling

I don’t know whether this is the first time Bryan Danielson a.k.a Daniel Bryan has spoken since his WWE release, but nonetheless, it is a post-WWE speech.

For someone who deeply hopes he returns to WWE, I was encouraged by his speeach after his appearance at CHIKARA. If anything, he reassured the suits at WWE and their affiliates (if I may be so cynical) that it is possible to ‘wrestle hard’ and keep it PG, like they do so well at CHIKARA, and that he is one of the best proponants of it. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. He didn’t shoot on WWE, and said he isn’t sure about the direction of his career.

He is, at the moment, one of the most important men in the entire industry, with everyone hanging on his every word. With this apparant, it is nice to see him championing indy wrestling. Good on him!

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Apologies and a Quick MITB Note

Just a quick post to note that, as I am going away on Monday (until Friday), I wont be able to post my usual critical reviews of RAW, NXT and Smackdown, though I may update the power 10 if I can catch up on the episodes quickly over next weekend.

On my last Smackdown review, I suggested who i’d like to see in the Smackdown MITB match, but seen as I might not get a chance to do so before they are announced, i’d like to do the same here for the RAW match. So, here is who i’d like to see in the RAW MITB match on PPV:

Evan Bourne, Ted DiBiase, John Morrison, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, Yoshi Tatsu, The Miz, and Primo – for what it’s worth!

Smack of the Week: McIntyre and Punk ‘Dash’ Away!

Smack of the Week: 25/06/2010

Conspicuous by his absence at Smackdown this week was new World Heavyweight Champion, Rey Mysterio. I heard he booked the taping off for a holiday. Y’know, the more I hear about Rey backstage, the more I think he’s not quite the passionate wrestler he makes out and this is the latest example. It’s remarkable to me that Rey wasn’t at the taping after winning the title. Even if he did want a holiday, the least he could have done is cut some sort of video promo. It’s as if he doesn’t know or care how important it was to appear on this show! This was acknowledged in the opening segment by Teddy Long and Vickie Guerrero in which they both (even Vickie, which I thought was needless) berated an angry Drew McIntyre (now temporarily without his friend in a high place, Mr. McMahon), but more importantly, told us about the Money in the Bank PPV and how they would be selecting superstars who impress to take part in a Smackdown-only match. Before any of the particiapants are announced then, I thought i’d suggest who i’d book for the Smackdown match: MVP, Christian, Kofi Kingston, Matt Hardy, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes and Chavo Guerrero.

The first match of the night pitted former World Champion, Jack Swagger against the Big Show. This was a good match, though was cut short to get over the aggressiveness and brutality of Swagger’s actions. Swagger was on top form athletically, and this seemed to raise the Big Show’s game too (surely one of the best giants to have ever wrestled), so that the two engaged in some quality chain-wrestling, as was seen in the way the match ended. The way Swagger applied that ankle lock made him look – apart from like Kurt Angle – more aggressive and ruthless then perhaps his more confident in ring ‘swagger’ has allowed so far. There is no doubt there are deliberate similarities to Angle, but this si no bad thing; Swagger’s size and look will help him pull off that sort of later-WWE Kurt Angle-style role in a very effective way if he chooses to do so.

There then followed one of the best tag matches i’ve seen in a long while, especially for a six man tag, which can easily get messy. MVP, Christian and Kofi Kingston showed great solidarity (a trait that is currently very meaningful in the WWE) against ‘the Gatecrashers,’ Vance Archer and Curt Hawkins, with Dolph Ziggler. I don’t exactly know where this angle is going, but the match was  very good. Almost seemless wrestling which told a good story in which the besmurched faces looked for revenge for all the attention-grabbing attacks they have been subject to, and to educate the newbies on how to act in the ring. Their intensity was too much for the heels, and after a good amount of believable near-falls, Christian hit the killswitch on Dolph for the win. As I said earlier, I would like to see 4 of these competitors make the MITB match on PPV, but I have a feeling all 6 are with Archer and Hawkins making up the numbers. I hope not though. Archer and Hawkins making the match would be a waste seen as it’s clear that neither of them would never win it.

When it was announced that Matt Hardy was no longer suspended, it was clear that this match had to live up to the hype. The good news is that it did! There was quite a big fight feel about this, and the actions of both men portreted a great amount of bad feeling, with ring-posts and steps and barriers all being used during the match. A very nice story was told in the throwback reference to when Drew stamped on Hardy’s head on the steel steps. Here, as the match was reaching it’s natural climax, McIntyre set up again for the stomp, but this time, Hardy swept his legs from under him in a bump which looked especially tough. It was a nice refernece which got over the age-old idea of rivals ‘knowing each other very well.’ The actual end of the match was very sudden, which is a bit of a shame, in a match that was otherwise carefully mapped out, but I don’t think it detracts too much from the match. When Hardy got the 1-2-3, I started to wonder where the storyline could possibly go from here. It turns out that McIntyre is being ‘deported’ because his visa has (kayfabe) run out, and he was escorted from the ring, on his way back to Scotland. Striker repeatedly mentioned that McIntyre is entitles to a 90-day stay of deportation and that someone should help him. I imagine then, that at MITB, there will be some sort of match with the surreal stipulation of McIntyre wrestling for his citizenship. As long as it’s not some sort of undignified ‘green card on a pole’ match, I will be ok with it.

Cody Rhodes then came out and cut a promo about how good looking and talented he is.  Though charismatic, Cody still has trouble really getting the most from his promos. He did, however, get a lot of heat from this one and had some good lines (“I can almost hear you getting fatter” to a female fan being a personal favourite). One thing I didn’t understand was why he didn’t say or do anything to Matt Striker while he was out there. It would seem obvious given their NXT run-ins. I can’t think of any justification for ignoring it really. Anyway, Cody now wants to be known as “Dashing” Cody Rhodes, which I quite like, partly because it reminds me of new Hall of Famer, Gorgeous George. This marked the start of a new conceitedness that I like in Rhodes, and one that was missing when he was trying to start up that ‘Uncommon Man’ gimmick.

The main event was a no-disqualification match between Kane and CM Punk. With all the build up to it, I worried that Kane would struggle to get over the sheer anger he is meant to be feeling. This wasn’t a problem though, with him absolutely demolishing not only CM Punk, but his whole Straight-Edge Society throughout the arena! He was putting anyone and everyone through tables, no selling most of what aggression came his way and taking on three guys at once, the very sight of a wrestler running on emotion. This was obviously an excercise in punishment, rather than a match, so there is little else to judge, other than to praise the way Kane (and the others) used their environment in this, with Kane even utilising merch stands as weapons. I don’t know where this will go next week. Once Punk managed to run away, questions were asked by the commentators about what this meant for the S.E.S. it’ll be interesting to see if it does, and whether Kane realises (as is surely the case) that Punk is innocent and moves on to another suspect, or whether the S.E.S. further court suspicion by getting violent revenge on Kane. It’s all very intriguing!

Savannah Fired

I don’t know if i’ve been scrupuously documenting every firing in the wrestling industry, but why not.

It seems WWE announcer Savannah has been ‘future endeavoured.’ It comes after seeing Ashley Valence doing a spot of hosting and ring announcing on NXT this week and maybe they see her as ‘surplus to requirements.’

While it’s obviously not as impactful as an actual character being fired, it’s nonethless a shame. I thought Savannah was a good ring announcer and interviewer, certainly better than Ms. Valence.

NXT: Continuing to Breed Insubordination

Husky Harris was pretty proud of his attack on Matt Striker this week

The wrestling on this week’s NXT wasn’t as good as it has been pretty consistently since it’s conception. The first match of this night was tag team action pitting Percy Watkins and MVP against Alex Riley and The Miz. Given the great chemistry between the two in the past, I hoped for a good match here, but in truth, it was a little bitty, never really getting in to passages of wrestling but mostly keeping to a smashmouth style that didn’t suit either of the pros really. Likewise, the match between Titus O’Neill and Michael McGillicutty was a pretty average affair.

The first match of any real note was Kaval against Eli Cottonwood.  Last week I mentioned that I wasn’t a big fan of the buzzsaw style (if that is how you would describe the style of Kaval), but Kaval, again, as I said, is a verytalented purveyor of it. His work in the ropes showed great ring-awareness and his timing in some of his springboard attacks. Cottonwood did alright for his part, being your typical powerhouse monster. I didn’t think much of his reverse chokeslam (ish) finisher, but his psycho character is watchable, a nice touch being his stroking of Kaval’s face after his victory. I have noted before Kaval’s similarity, at least in terms of his role on NXT, being similar to Daniel Bryan. With that in mind, I notice that he is now 0-2. I really hope they don’t go the slightly unoriginal route of putting Kaval on a losing streak.

Speaking of Bryan, there were again very audible and widespread chants of “Daniel Bryan!” I suppose he has a lot of links to NXT, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard them on Smackdown too. The someone surely will have to listen!

I’m not a fan of Lucky Cannon. Though I like the semantics of his first name, and the possibilities it offers, he comes across as something of a uninteresting stock face character. From what I saw against Cody Rhodes (though, to be fair, he  was intentionally limited), there was nothing to suggest he is anything special in the ring.

The real story, the cliffhanger, was what came after when the rookies made their final statements before next week’s elimination. Everyone had a decent short promo, with Alex Riley probably being the strongest. As this went on, I was starting to think how unremarkable Husky Harris was, and his actions may not have said much about his charisma, but it sure made a pretty good impact. There are two things, out of many others, that I have noticed recently. One is that during this NXT storyline, there has been a general sense of rebellion. Another is that Matt Striker has been getting in more physical confrontations. Bearing this in mind, Husy Harris attacked Striker in what was seemingly a continuation of what his pro, Cody Rhodes, did last week. This must be some sort of angle between Cody (and Husky) and Matt Striker, perhaps leading to a brief return to the ring – ála Taz – to take on Cody. While the attack in itself wasn’t that mindblowing, but given the current climate, it was an interesting seedling with which to extend the rebellion atmosphere to the new season of NXT. It’ll be interesting to see how Striker reacts next week.

Given that next week sees the first elimination, and despite the fact that the season 2 rookies haven’t had the same time to assert their characters than the season 1 rookies did, I’ll add my two cents to how I think the pros poll should materialise:

1) Kaval
2) Alex Riley
3) Percy Watkins
4) Husky Harris (mostly after this week’s performance)
5) Michael McGillicutty
6) Eli Cottonwood
7) Titus O’Neill
8) Lucky Cannon

Obviously, I hope Lucky Cannon gets eliminated, but my instinct is that Titus O’Neill hasn’t asserted himself enough for ‘management’ to keep him in the competition.

RAW Recall: The Rebels Get Contracts, But What Else Do They Want?

McMahon became a target of a rebellion he thought he had under control

RAW started not with Sheamus, or John Cena, as you might expect, but with Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and he had a bit of a shocking announcement: that Bret Hart is no longer GM. I suppose this was always coming, and it was best that he went out quietly. The replacement is ‘anonymous,’ which is fine, even preferrable given the current tension that hangs over RAW. However, though I doubt it will continue, the email alerts were a bit cheesy and tiresome. Hopefully future announcements will be  announced without the email alerts.

The first match of the night was Chris Jericho taking on Evan Bourne for the first time in a week, but this time with the caveat that if Jericho couldn’t beat Bourne this time, he would leave the WWE. My initial instinct was that he would indeed lose and leave the WWE for a while, coming back to a faces return. Given that this was their third match in quick succession, it was possibly difficult to do anything particularly new here, and perhaps they didn’t, but it was still an entertaining match, this time, having Jericho get over his hump and defeating Bourne before pie-facing him to the ground. Despite this however, I foresee a Jericho face turn soon, and in the immediate future, a very watchable feud with Evan.

A quick note on Ted DiBiase. Although it was great to see Virgil back, his dismissal is the best thing to happen for Ted. With Virgil around, Ted’s career  was too much based on his father’s legacy. This is still a problem, but the addition of Maryse as a valet (if that is what she’ll be) adds a new element to his character, and in very base terms, what an element! Despite how ridiculously attractive Maryse is, it could have it’s downsides: for her, it might take her out of the ring for a while, and for … feminism (I guess), the way she is treated may be a bit regressive. Though Ted’s joke about ‘protection’ was funny, if his whole  schtik with Maryse is making unsubtle suggestions about sleeping with her, it could get a bit uncomfortable. There’s a fine line here between acknowledging her wonderful beauty and treating her as some sort of sexual object, and it’s one that shouldn’t be crossed.

Perhaps if Maryse gets less time in the ring, Natalya will get the time she so deserves. This week, she had her first singles match (to my knowledge) ever on RAW against Tamina. It wasn’t that great a match, but that was more to do with the no-contest finish. Natalya was mostly carrying Tamina, but nonetheless, it’s good to see a deep-rooted divas feud taking place.

It was pretty encouraging to see The Miz interact with Randy Orton this week. When Orton came out to challenge Sheamus, I was relatively exciting about the prospect of a title match between the two. Miz’s music was very unexpected. What was even more exciting was that it initially looked like Miz was getting the upper hand. He spoke the truth, that it is boring to see the same people in the main event (though WWE have been producing lots of new stars recently, the main event has been kept among a certain few). I think Miz has been over and ready for the main event for some time now, and I don’t see why his attack would take place unless he was being considered for that position. Lets hope so. As for Edge attacking Randy and saying “the fun has only started,” I didn’t think much of it, it’s almost stock storyline progression. Hopefully Edge’s idea of ‘fun’ will be something quite unique.

Despite their earlier apologies and assertations that simply getting to the WWE was their goal, the NXT ‘Nexus’ seem to have more in their sights following this week’s main event. It was a WWE Championship re-match between Sheamus and John Cena, presummably to make concrete the title change at Fatal 4-Way, but with the seemingly random inclusion of  Mr. McMahon as special enforcer. However, in wrestling, nothing is random, and everything has a purpose. The match itself was ok, with some impressive brutality (note the setting up of the ring steps on the ramp and Cena taking the awkward looking bump on it), but the real story was about the actions of the NXT rebels. After the apology, it seemed there was no reason for them to continue to get involved, but alas, here they came! Again, we had the commentators run for the hills and leave us with some tense viewing, but this time, there was somebody that wasn’t attacked: Vince McMahon.  Indeed, Vince seemed to enjoy what was happening (explaining perhaps his strange tone when talking to Cena earlier in the night). He explained that he had some sort of influence on the NXT guys in their brutal attacks of the last few weeks, which in itself was interesting, with the chairman himself supporting some kind of cleansing of his company. However, we then saw the NXT rebels turning on McMahon himself! Not only was this shocking because of just how iconic Vince is in the industry, but because, if he thought he held the reigns of the ‘rebels’ before seeing that he didn’t, it makes the rebellion seem all the more deep-rooted, with Vince, a man who has been an unquestioned figure of power, being not only questioned, but bested. Indeed, if he has been toppled, who indeed is in charge. It’s difficult to digest it all right now, and surely it will all become more clear as the story progresses, and indeed this furthers the story in a fascinating way.

What is also interesting is the amount of unexplained limo shots, the attack on Bret Hart last week with an unseen driver, Vince driving away last night, seemingly for no reason, and today, a limo drawing up, without explanation. I suppose the question here is, who is the driver? I hope that the answer could be the name the fans were chanting thoughout the night … “Daniel Bryan!” Maybe if he comes back to WWE, it could be.

Fatal 4-Way Review: A Fatal Stipulation

Sheamus was one of many to benefit from the chaos surrounding this event

The show stared out, unexpectedly, with ‘the chairman of the board,’ Mr. McMahon, waxing serious about the recent NXT rebel attacks and reminding us that Bret Hart would be in some way puniching his attackers on RAW. This was followed by the intoduction of Drew McIntyre for his Intercontinental title match as a way of reasserting the strength of their special relationship. This was understandable. What was confusing (in retrospect) was the shot of Mr. McMahon leaving in his limosine. Especially given the limosine-related attack on Bret Hart, this seemed to set up some sort of NXT angle involving McMahon. Alas, this was the last we saw of him …

Drew cut a decent heel promo, calling out his current ‘rival,’ Teddy Long with the understanding that he would make the Smackdown GM personally award him the IC title upon capturing it. This was one of the matches of the night, partly due to the high level of technical acumen, and in part due to the excellent storytelling of the match’s conclusion. Drew still needs a bit more depth in his move-set, but that doesn’t really show during the match because his smash-mouth style is so entrenched. It compliments Kofi’s unpredictable, high-flying style very well though, and i’d like to see this develop in to a full-blown feud. The story, as I say, was remarkable, with Teddy finally standing up to his ‘bully’ (I suppose going some way to legitimise the footage of Vince leaving). The way Drew forced him to put the referees shirt on Teddy was very powerful, a visual symbol of him putting the onus on Teddy, and while Drew lost, the clarity of his ability to beat Kofi was underlined by Teddy’s refusal to count. The involvement of Matt Hardy not only made Drew look less weak in losing, but showed the depth of this storyline.

There’s not too much to say about the divas match. While they can be highly successful, fatal four ways are poor mediums when trying to show off great wresting as the story inevitably turns to each man or woman constantly stopping others from winning.  This one wasn’t very good though, not necessarily because of the competitors (who are all ok to talented wrestlers), but because it was too short and didn’t flow very well. While I would’ve wanted Eve to keep the title a while longer, and while i’m not sure whether A. Fox is ready for the post, Alicia Fox is certainly an intriguing personality, and I look forward to seeing how she deals with the spotlight.

Just when I was starting to wonder what the last WWE PPV was that didn’t feature Chris Jericho, his music hit to an impressive pop. Jericho’s low profile of late may or may not have been intentional in the wake of his promo which seems to signal the start of a tweaked, less confident, character. This wasn’t too apparant during his match with Evan Bourne – which was, incidentally, the best match of the night – in which the story was of the veteran being one step ahead of the newcomer. Bourne performed very well in his own right, and I wouldn’t want to take that away from  him, but Jericho makes everyone he wrestles look even better.  His genius, as in this match, is often to incorporate his opponants size or style with his own to create absolutely unique passages, like when he rolled through into the Walls of Jericho in a unique and surprising way, or when Bourne missed his Shooting Star Press before walking in to a Codebreaker. This is a great feud for Bourne to get over with, and I hope it continues. Given the pop he got, and the more humble side of Jericho, it could be one that finally sees him turn face, (perhaps in some sort of mentoring role?).

We the had the Smackdown main event. This match was pretty good, but a little too short for my liking. The ending seemed a bit sudden, and perhaps made Kane’s innevitable involvement a little less earth-shattering. To be honest, Rey regaining the title was something I never even considered. I had a feeling he would never again be World Heavyweight Champion, but as soon as Kane arrived and attacked Punk, I had a gut feeling Rey was going to win. This is just my instinct, but I think (and hope) this solidifies Rey’s place as the Undertaker’s attacker. Though CM Punk was attacked by Kane, there is no way in hell he is the actual attacker. The sharpness of Kane’s conclusion, heading straight for Punk and removing him in the space of about a minute was too quick to be considered an acceptable conclusion. The way Mysterio benefitted from the attack, and his facial expression during the Smackdown segments with Kane incriminate him in my view. It’s all very fascinating, as for the match again, I think it could have done with a few more minutes of the four competitors wrestling, and when Kane arrived, his involvement could have lasted longer and caused more upheaval, legitimising even more his affect on the match and more directly causing (if my instincts about Mysterio are correct) Swagger’s loss. It is my hope that Swagger finds himself in a decent feud/storyline following his reign that will see him cemented in the main event. I’m sure he will.

Miz and R-Truth the fough over the US title. This was an exercise in cementing Miz’s title reign, but the match was pretty good. Miz’s rap at the start was pretty good and funny, and showed just how charismatic the man is even compared with R-Truth, who’s rap seemed a bit flat after the round mocking it received from Miz. I don’t know what the plans are for Miz and the US title, but Miz reasserted himself as an up-and-coming player.

Another unannounced match was between the Hart Dynasty and the Uso’s. This was a pretty good match but carried by the Harts, and I was really pleased to see Natalya get decent ring-time. Despite the decent quality of the match, it was a little out-of-the-blue and even repetative given their numerous encounters with the Uso’s in recent weeks. This has happened to them before, when they got bogged down in a feud with the late Cryme Tyme. I hope this doesn’t happen again, and that their feud has some new aspects to it soon, or it may become tiresome.

The main event was for the WWE Championship, and as soon as we saw the Harts and Evan Bourne watching backstage, it was clear – if not already so – that the NXT rebels would have some sort of involvement. Even before that though, the match was really quite good, if a bit clunky in progression, with one man hitting a few of his signature moves, before another man hit a few of his and so on. This eventually became more naturally flowing however, with a feel of a main event which any four of them could win, even to the point where an NXT invasion seemed less inevitable, and therefore, still surprising. The approaching noise of the NXT rebels destroying the set, approaching the ring like a storm was exciting to see happening. Again, the commentary was cut off, creating extra shock value to the ending of the match. I had a feeling Edge would again be ‘the ultimate opportunist’ and take the title, but I was quite happy to see Sheamus take it in the end. Now that he’s the WWE Champion, it’ll be interesting to see whether the NXT target shifts to him. While Edge tried to attack the NXT rebels, it seemed Sheamus acted more selfishly, stealing the win. Will this make Shaemus an even bigger heel, turning against the WWE lockerroom, or will him becoming the NXT target of the rebels help perhaps turn him face? This just goes to show the wide-ranging possibilities of this brilliant storyline!

On a final note, I understand this PPV ended 30 minutes before they (roughly) usually do. This is a shame, and just seems a little silly. They could have used all or part of those 30 minutes to extend the shorter and perhaps weaker matches on the card, for instance, the World Heavyweight Championship match, the Divas Title match, even the main event, which wasn’t that short, but would have grown even more in tension with more time. It seems like a bit of a needless mistake in my view. But that nonetheless doesn’t take away from what was a pretty good PPV, with lots of good storytelling, despite one or two slightly forgettable matches. With all fatal four way matches producing new champions, this will no doubt ensure the reputation of this stipulation of one of high jeopardy for the champion, a notion that is an interesting one on which to base a PPV.