Smack of the Week (30/07/2010): Rey Attacked Undertaker, Right?

Kane dumps Rey Mysterio in the Gulf of Mexico after fingering him as Undertaker's attacker

There have been two aspects of the major Kane/Undertaker/attack storyline that i’ve enjoyed thouroughly: Kane’s promos and the possibility of Rey Mysterio turning heel. The opening segment of the show seemed to fulfil both of these pre-requisites. Kane has been doing a fantastic job of showing believeable passion and even love for his brother. Although it wasn’t announced, the promo seemed to work towards a casket match at Summerslam, which I think would be fitting. The only problem with it all was that this sort of revelation is best announced at the end of the show. Indeed, as the show moved on, it seemed to dilute the impact of Mysterio being cast as the attacker.  I realise they had a very specific idea for the end of the show, but it is my view that what they did (which i’ll get to later) was much less gratifying than if Kane would have stormed the ring and cut this promo, forcing Mysterio to respond next week.

On the plus side, the following match was the best of the night, between Christian and Drew McIntyre. It must have been at least ten minutes long, and throughout it told a story of a ruthless McIntyre absolutely brutalising a gutsy veteran in Christian. McIntyre is becoming one of the foremost purveyors of ‘Ruthless Aggression’ in wrestling today, this time with a non-stop assault on Christian’s left arm and shoulder. This started with his now trademark attack using the ring structure (the same way he won the Intercontinental Championship) and then hitting a brilliant and unique shoulder-breaker using the ring steps(!) before adding to this various and constant attacks on the shoulder. Christian managed to hang in there nonetheless before his wiley veteran instincts gained him a victory after a great reversal of McIntyre’s Future Shock in to a roll up pin. These two worked brilliantly together, and seen as a potential Christian-Hardy feud seemed to be killed off last week, perhaps these two will set off on a hot feud that will propel them both further up the food-chain and, potentially, to a PPV finish.

Another person deserving of that kind of attention, however, did not feature on the show for the second week running: the man in question being MVP. I realise that everyone has periods when they’re on the back-burner, and in MVP’s case, he’s getting extra attention on NXT and to a lesser extent on Superstars, but I still can’t help but feel that he is someone who should be on almost every show, being as he is, incredibly over with the fans and someone who could progress to the main event with ease. I really hope he finds something major to be involved in soon.

After cutting a typically successful promo, trying to inject a new sense of impact and intensity into the S.E.S., which was followed by a match with Big Show that became more of an angle, again highlighting a renewed intensity from the Straight-edgers, putting a brutal beating on Show, ostensibly breaking his hand. How this will affect their feud or whether it will be a crossroads for both parties remains to be seen. While I liked the attack, I don’t think the two parties make for a very good feud, and would like to see them both move on. For one thing, MVP could feud with Punk and the S.E.S. That sort of adversity in a feud would make MVP a main-eventer with no problem! As for Show, perhaps he could move on to something with Swagger.

For the second week in a row, Intercontinental Champion in waiting, Dolph Ziggler took on incumbant champion, Kofi Kingston. This was an ok match, but the way it was the same match-up as last week perhaps robbed it of any real innovation. The problem facing them was how to put Dolph over (to earn an IC title shot) without making Kofi look weak by losing twice in a row. They achieved this effectively by adding the Vickie factor, slapping Kofi while the referee’s back was turned, making him see red and get disqualified while assaulting Ziggler. This was fine, but didn’t come across as that believeable. Kofi’s reaction just seemed a little OTT after only being slapped. It is, nonetheless though, an interesting dynamic added to the relationship between Dolph and Vickie. As for the IC title match, I think the championship should really be defended at Summerslam, and so I hope that Ziggler goes over so Kofi can have his re-match at the PPV. If Kofi wins, it’ll be hard to justify Ziggler getting another shot a couple of weeks later, not to mention making next week’s match seem pointless.

In some ways, the Women’s Championship match was frustrating. It only got five minutes at best and for that reason, wasn’t a match befitting a title match. However, what did happen was pretty good. Before hand, I was worried about Tiffany being considered for a title match, but to be fair to her, pulling off a superplex and selling some pretty brutal moves from co-champion Michelle McCool was pretty impressive. Michelle eventually went over with a nice reversal in to a Faith Breaker. It was Vickie Guerrero’s second interference of the night that replaced real champion Layla with McCool, and this, again, seemed to backfire when Teddy Long decided enough was enough, and the co-champions would have to decide on who should be called the official, one and only champion. This is a good move for many reasons. Firstly, it will surely lead to a feud between LayCool which will be incredibly easy to get behind and will probably demand good television time; secondly, splitting up the pair will freshen up what has been a pretty small divas division by, effectively, adding an extra diva to the division (either Layla or Michelle on their own, as opposed to LayCool as a unit); and thirdly, it will make their tenure as Kaval’s pros on NXT all the more interesting. I’m looking forward to see how they deal with this unworkable position next week.

The main event was a no-disqualification match between Rey Mysterio and Jack Swagger. Rey came out as usual, interacting with the young fans and acknowledging the crowd. This, however, was after being accused of being Undertaker’s attacker! This is why Kane’s announcement should have come at the end, because the effect was kinda lost by main-event time. I’ve made no secret of saying I think it’s crucial that Rey is indeed unveiled as ‘Taker’s attacker, but I will only accept that it is actually the case when I hear Rey admitting it. As for Swagger, I quite liked his insistance that he would break the limbs of his ‘tequilla’ rival and throw him in the ‘diseased’ Gulf of Mexico, and his intensity is very impressive. They certainly took the ‘no-disqualification’ stipulation to the extreme, ending up out of the ring quite quickly. At first, this action was very impressive, with Swagger slamming Rey’s body repeatedly against concrete walls among the fans. The match continued on though, out of the arena and to the edge of the water outside the arena. To be completely honest, after a while, it became a little surreal, with Swagger being hurricarrana’d into the Gulf of Mexico himself, before Kane showed up and threw Mysterio in with him. Rey being clearly in the frame for Undertaker’s attack is a very positive step, but what the feud really needs is some kind of questioning of Mysterio and more suspicious actions from Rey (maybe be evasive when asked about the incident, cheat to win a match, or interact less with the fans) to atleast make the fans question whether he could indeed be the culprit. If that happens, this storyline will continue to be really interesting and watchable. If not, it may start to become confusing and less emotionally engaging than it has been so far.

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NXT (27/07/2010): Another Eli-mination

Cottonwood's last moments, showing on his merchandise one of the reasons he's gone

This week’s NXT started out with a talk the talk style challenge, again; the unique point being that the rookies could speak on whatever subject they chose. I do like the idea of the talk the talk challenge, but i’m not so keen on having two of them. It smacks of a lack of creativity in what is a very imaginative show. Despite the crowd not being very much in to the challenge either, a few did shine: namely Husky Harris and Alex Riley. Meanwhile, Lucky Cannon continued to embarrass himself with another sob story, this time saying he had no friends as a kid, but now he has friends in the WWE Universe, going so far to say ‘i’m where I am today thanks to Nobody,’ a sentiment you usually get from most heels. A bit of a misfire, eh? McGillicutty seems to have been finally branded a face, calling out heel, The Miz on disrespecting him, crucially challenging him to a fight and not backing down. I have to say, he has been very successful at coming across as increasingly likeable. Good on him.

Percy Watson took on Zack Ryder in the first match of the night, in what was a pretty high quality match. Ryder’s experience and Watson’s athleticism made for a quick placed and sometimes explosive contest. MVP and Watson are the best NXT storytelling team in the show’s history. What I mean from this is that they sell the rookie/pro dynamic better than any other pairing ever have. This week, this manifested in MVP pleading Watson to ‘stay on him’ before Ryder took advantage of Watson’s nonchalance to attack. Watson leter showed he had learned, listening to his pro MVP telling him to ‘cover him’ after hitting his crucifix DDT on Ryder, which he did with his twisting splash. His hitting two finishers saved Ryder from looking weak, while making Watson look strong, which is the most important things for the rookies (generally) on this show.

The ‘Perfect’ Michael McGillicutty was up next, taking on Eli Cottonwood. This was another pretty good match though not as good as the previous match. I just said that it is generally important for the rookies to look strong in this competition, unless they need to justify elimination that is, and in this match, Eli was generally made to look pretty weak whereas McGillicutty was meant to look very strong, for the opposite reasons. The only problem with McGillicutty is that his finisher doesn’t always look that devestating.

In what probably constitutes the NXT dream match, the main event had Husy Harris taking on Kaval. What occured was very good, but I have to admit, the match was a bit short for my liking. Nonetheless, there was a little back and forth, and these two chalk-and-cheese performers actually had very good chemistry. The end was quite good too, with Kaval stayling likeable by showing concern for his pros that were a victim of a ring-apron accident. The ruthless Harris took advantage of this, slamming the distracted Kaval before hitting his senton dive for the victory. A decent match, but with more time it could really fulfil their potential.

The final duty of the night was to eliminate a second rookie. That rookie, as you will already have guessed, was Eli Cottonwood. I have no problem with Eli going. He doesn’t seem to have that much to him, and he isn’t helped by having Morrison as a mentor. I am however quite angry that i’m still going to have to watch and listen to the drippy pleading of Lucky Cannon. Surely no-one sees anything in him!

After the loser was announced, a brawl ensued between all of the rookies. I don’t think we needed this, but it was still a nice angle to get across how desperate all the rookies are to win the competition – leading to a constant tension between them all, with them all willing to take any advantage and opportunity that comes their way. A nice way to reassert the importance of the goal as the show goes off the air.

RAW Recall (26/07/2010): ‘You’re Either Nexus, Or You’re Against … Each Other’

Members of Team RAW start to splinter

The unity between Team RAW of last week instantly and almost completely collapsed this week during the opening segment of the show. Cena came out to maintain momentum following his announcement last week of an opposing team to Nexus, however, after referring to it as ‘his team’ once too often, consumate egoist Chris Jericho hit the ring to put Cena in his place. This promo solidified really well some of the most important themes of this storyline. Most importantly, Cena talked about how the battle was ‘for the business,’ and not about him – quite a relief. Jericho also added an interesting dynamic: saying that Cena is just as destructive to the industry as Nexus, in terms of fighting and pushing others aside for his own prominance (echoing the IWC perhaps?). This sentiment sets the Summerslam match up for the betrayal that many of us want to see.

Then, in some of the most surprising booking this year, Randy Orton took on Jay Uso. Every match on this week’s card was more about promoting Summerslam angles, and this was the same. This was little more than a squash to make Orton look strong, but the booking was refreshing, and the Uso’s will have gotten something of a rub from it. All the while, Sheamus was at ringside, and in the post-match afters he tried to get one up on his #1 contender, instead, hitting his Brogue Kick on Jimmy Uso who was also trying to make a name for himself and eventually eating an RKO. Cue the celebrity stalker, The Miz, again attempting to cash in his MITB contract, well, at least he was going to, until Orton hit another RKO on the (probable) future WWE Champion. I really like the Miz-MITB abgle, in which he’s always on Sheamus’s back, though I hope Miz’s continuous scupperings don’t point to a lack of success in cashing in.

For the first time in years, The Great Khali was meant to look like a big-time player, as he had a verbal and physical confrontation with Edge. This led to a typically (for Khali) in-ring encounter which ended rather strangely. Nexus came towards the ring, apparantly looking to feed of the scraps from Team RAW’s disagreements. Edge fleed and Khali stayed, and after forming the familiar surrounding formation, Nexus let him go. This was out of character for Nexus, and while I would think Khali would be the last person to be given the post of traitor, make a note of that moment.

In what was billed as a taster to the big Summerslam main event, Nexus took on the slightly less impressive RAW team of Evan Bourne, Tyson Kidd, DH Smith, Yoshi Tatsu, Golddust, Mark Henry and Jerry Lawler. Surrounded by splinters in the RAW team, this match was a great metaphor for the contrasting tight-knitted nature of the Nexus. One-by-one, each Nexus member got to put away a RAW superstar, cleaning house. This was followed by a strong set of promos by Wade Barrett, Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield, really growing in to their roles. On another note, I noticed during the eventual beat-down of Bourne that Justin Gabriel (who I had no interest in during NXT) is growing in to a very striking heel.

We then had an uninspiring divas match between Alicia Fox and Brie Bella. The only up-sides being a nice conceit where Jillian Hall stopped the Bella’s ‘switcheroo’ move, helping Fox claim the win; and A. Fox was made to keep looking strong with her deadly axe-kick.

In another match that was more about the splits in Team RAW, Ted DiBiase took on John Morrison. The match was ok, with a very effective finish. R-Truth was on commentary, and on-hand to first save the match for Morrison and then inadvertantly cost him the match. Despite seeing on the tron that it was all an accident, Morrison seemed pissed at Truth, and even looked on the brink of a welcome heel turn, and one that would set up the rumoured MNM reunion to come.

Our main event was quite a breath of fresh air, with Jericho tagging with Cena, and Sheamus tagging with new main-eventer, The Miz. Throughout the night, Miz had been chipping away at Sheamus’s patience, with Sheamus seeming genuinely distraught at Miz’s actions – making Miz seem credible as a main-eventer. The match was pretty good, with some good and unique storytelling between the four superstars. Finally, Jericho, a’la Invasion, 2001, turned his back on his partner, hitting him with a Codebreaker. Miz also demonstrated his prowess as an opportunist, tagging out Sheamus and getting the cover on Cena, making him look very threatening as a MITB brief-case holder. All this dissention made Team RAW split apart yet further, as Jericho locked the Walls of Jericho on Cena, then Cena using his STF on Jericho, before Khali and the rest of team RAW came out to try to calm the situation down, only worsening the situation, with pushing, shouting, finishers, disagreements and inter-fighting. The egoism of Team RAW contrasted completely with the perfectly unified Nexus, still harbouring their secret agenda.

The momentum is now squarely with Nexus, and a nice bit of storyline progression thoughout the night, rightly placing the invasion central to the RAW climate.

Smack of the Week (23/07/2010): Rey has Kane in the Crosshairs, or is it the Other Way Round?

Rey gets the better of his exchange with Kane to end the show

 As expected, but rightfully, the explosive entrance of Kane was the first image of this week’s Smackdown. I was glad to see him get right back on the storyline about the Undertaker, relating it – touchingly, I thought – to his own World Heavyweight Championship reign in a way which neutralised any bad feeling that some may have had towards him relating to the way in which he won his title. It would have been very easy for him to come out and admit to the attack himself, turning heel, and killing the storyline. But thankfully that wasn’t what happened and the investigation is very much on!

 I was glad to see Christian and Matt Hardy tagging together. I think a nice boon to the tag team division and to a future feud would be to have them challenge (unsuccessfully) for the Unified tag team championships. Smackdown has put out a lot of very good tag matches recently, and this was no different, being given a lot of time, and both teams having good chemistry, whcih was no surprise between tag team veterans Christian and Hardy, but a pleasant one between their opponents Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes. This was ultimately a vehicle for the Christian/Hardy angle, with a red herring suggestion of disunity towards them with the classic accidental punch to the tag partner from Hardy something Christian instead seemed to forgive. This would all fit with the brief teaming of Hardy and Christian which would last until Summerslam, if my hopes are to be fulfilled. It was certainly more to do with Christian and Hardy, and didn’t much affact McIntyre and Rhodes, but it was a good match to be involved in and make the two up-and-comers look strong nonetheless. 

Dolph Ziggler then pushed on towards the Intercontinental title by beating current champion Kofi Kingston. This was a pretty good match, with good in-ring storytelling regarding Dolph attacking the back of an already hurt Kingston’s head, and Vickie controlling things at ringside, having Michael McGillicutty ejected and causing Kofi, indirectly, to lose the match. That did necessitate a pulling back in terms of back and forth and chain wrestling etc, which slightly detracted from the entertainment of the match, but it nevertheless pointed to a mouth-watering feud between the two over the Intercontinental championship. all without making Kofi look weak in his loss. Something inside me tells me it’s Dolph’s time. Looking at this level of the card though, where was MVP!? He wasn’t on at all. He deserves much much better than that! Hopefully he’ll be back next week.

The big show match wasn’t of great interest. The revelation that Joey Mercury is the masked member isn’t interesting in itself. While I would look forward to a Big Show-S.E.S. feud, it will only be of real interest if CM Punk is central, which looks unlikely for the time being.

A 2-out-of-3 falls match always promises some great storytelling, and there was some on show at this week’s main event between Jack Swagger and the injured (crucially) Rey Mysterio. The sacrificing of a fall for the greater good is a common but brilliant conceit in these sorts of matches (Ironman matches would also qualify), so I liked how Swagger gave up a fall to administer a devestating ankle lock to Mysterio, the idea being that he could then go on to win the next two falls. Indeed, he did do this, leading up (as you would expect, but again, rightfully) to a third deciding fall. In many ways, I was disappointed initially when Rey took the final fall. I have grown tired of his constant underdog victories, and am keen for Swagger to establish himself at the main event. However, I soon realised that if Mysterio lost, that would take him away from Kane and my overriding hope that he is ‘Taker’s attacker and turns heel (and alter the attributes I previously said irritate me about Mysterio). Kane then came down to the ring and eventually attacked Mysterio, making me wishfully think that he had come to the conclusion that the attacker is Mysterio. Whether this is the case or not remains to be seen, but with Kane’s renewed focus on his investigation, and his clear and distraction-free feud with Rey, it is all in position if they do want to reveal Rey as the attacker, perhaps at Summerslam? I certainly hope their feud centres around the investigation.

iMPACT (22/07/2010): More of a Love-fest Than an Invasion

Tommy Dreamer as a WWE 'company man'

I’m going to struggle to write a level-headed review of this week’s iMPACT! after what I saw. Most of the matches i’m not even interested in talking about: average, emotionless on the whole, even one of the matches I was most looking forward to: Angle vs Hernandez. Speaking of which, the whole story behind that is stupid. It’s nice that Angle will have to fight his way back to the top, but especially ith his career supposedly on the line, it’s clear he’ll win every time, burying talent as he goes along.

There was one good match on the card, the second out of the best of five matches for the tag-team championships. It wasn’t as long, or quite as good as last week’s ladder match, but nonetheless, it was another example of brilliant wrestling and chemistry, tag team or otherwise. Chris Sabin stands out for particular praise, hitting a few unique and huge spots that really added to the spectacle, my favourite being his run up the ramp for A MASSIVE baseball slide. Kudos to them, without that match, my two hours would have been completely wasted.

The main thing I want to talk about is this whole ECW angle. It was apparant last week, when Dixie said she invited them, that it wasn’t an invasion really, and this week’s love-fest just confirmed that. So why all the fighting last week? Nonsense. The whole sentiment was utter bullshit, throughout the entire segment. Dixie sucking up to the ECW guys, the ECW guys sucking up to Dixie, as if Dixie had a clue about ECW in the 90’s! When Dreamer left the WWE, I had a tonne of respect for him as the heart and soul of ECW. Him being that, I could understand him leaving when they decided to axe the SyFy brand. It just proved to me his love of ECW. But here, like all WWE alumni before him, he shoots on the company that gave him that, even having the bare-faced cheek to suggest that he left WWE-ECW when he couldn’t take how it was being treated any more, despite the fact that he left only a month before it was going to get cancelled.

Despite what hapenned after it, the One Night Stand show was superb, and while the ECW brand lost most of what made the original ECW so special, I have no doubt that it was sincere and provided a lot of work for a lot of wrestlers that wouldn’t otherwise be getting paid anywhere near that. Nevertheless, Dreamer goes on to whinge about how his friends lost their jobs at WWE. Well, newsflash, they’ll be losing their jobs again in TNA, not after years, but after weeks!

But it’s also about legacy, right? I believe he may be sincere in this, but if he thinks this blood-soaked spot-fest that they’re planning will improve ECW’s legacy, he’s sadly wrong. Dixie and TNA are clearly milking the ECW legacy for what it’s worth, booking generic ‘extreme’ matches that completely miss the point of the original incarnation. And look at them, every one of the men that stood in that ring are, with respect, totally pst it: Foley, Rhino, Richards, Dreamer himself and especially Raven. One Night Stand, in many ways, cemented a legacy. A night like that can’t be taken away. Unfortunately, neither will this new reunion be reversable, and it will damage ECW’s great legacy. I used to consider Dreamer a legend, now I just see him as a hypocrite, and it’s a damn shame it’s come to this!

A poor poor show. I wont be watching iMPACT! next week. As has been the case with every time i’ve given it a chance, I’ve realised how inferior and backward it still is. I do wish it well, but for me to enjoyably watch it, it needs to fundamentally change. I may be drawn to ‘Hard Justice,’ if they’re still calling it that by the time it airs, but for now my TNA viewership is again over. As I watched the only highlight of the night, the tag team match, I thought to myself something along the lines of ‘The Motor City Machine Guns are probably the best tag team in the world right now. Their talent is wasted here, holding this two-bit show together. It would be nice to see them go to WWE, save their tag team division and become even bigger stars like they deserve to be.’

NXT (20/07/2010): The Rookies Turn Up the Schmaltz for Your Vote

Last week I said I was ok with the rookie challenges as long as they had the same ones each season (at least until they get boring), and this week saw the return of the (much improved and more efficient) obstacle course to NXT. Another efficiency saving came with Matt Striker’s demonstration of the course, meaning we didn’t have to go through the whole thing slowly. This all meant it took up a lot less of the show than it did last season, which is a good thing.

The first segment of the show was an edition of MVP’s VIP Lounge, which was booked to get Percy Watson over as a face again, after last week’s attempts at a rookie attack on his pro. This makes me wonder why they couldn’t have used someone else like potential ‘tweener’ Michael McGillicutty. It would have fitted in well with his claim to be bringing back ‘ruthless aggression,’ without harming his character. Perhaps there is some kind of Percy Watson betrayal planned, which would make it all make more sense, but for now, it seemed a little short-sighted. Another function of it was to introduce all the rookies and pros cutting promos on why they/their rookie should stay in the show. Depending on who was talking, this was a good aspect of the show, but with almost everyone having their pro speak for them too, it was quite time consuming.

As my title suggests, a lot of schmaltz was forthcoming here, with Percy Watson apologising for planning an attack on MVP, McGillicutty suggesting his fans could be called ‘McGilliBuddys’ (a decent pun, but not befitting a wrestler whose whole schtik is being the perfect athlete, using ruthless aggression), and worst of all, perennial also-ran, Lucky Cannon, who took his time to thank the WWE Universe for allowing him to have the time of his life. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn’t want to hear it every week.

The first match of the night was the team of Cody Rhodes and Husky Harris taking on MVP and Percy Watson. As was the case with both of the matches, this was quite short, though not as short as the second match. They did however manage to squeeze a decent amount in to the match, and told a good story about the impatient rookies brawling needlessly outside of the ring while the cooler heads of the pros broke them up, re-envigourating the match in the ring. Eventually, it was Cody and Husky that went over, after Cody’s volley style chuck kick to MVP followed by Husky’s senton dive. The way both moves came in quick succession avoided making MVP seem weak, while helping Husky look all the stronger, with him getting the pin.

Lucky Cannon’s skydive continued with a loss to Alex Riley which, despite some early flourishes from Cannon, was little more than a squash match. It’s clear Lucky is being booked this way, perhaps to underline how hard he will have to fight if he wants to be ‘the WWE’s next break out star.’ Either that, or to legitimise him being eliminated from the conclusion. Right now, i’m edging towards the latter.

Next week, another rookie will be eliminated, so just for posterity, i’ll note that, having won the obstacle course challenge, Michael McGillicutty earned immunity for next week. McGillicutty is certainly being made to look strong, but aside from that, there’s not much of note to say about the actual challenge, apart also from Husky Harris deciding to make a statement (a bit like Tarver did last season) by destroying the course instead of seriously competing. It is actions such as this that have made Harris such a stand-out star on this season of NXT.

Seen that there’s an elimination next week, i’ll give my own personal standings, splitting them in to leagues of quality seperated by line-breaks, who i’d like to be eliminated, and a prediction for who will actually be eliminated:

1) Kaval (The strongest in the ring, and one of the most likeable)
2) Husky Harris (Made the biggest impact on the competition, though he does lack the in-ring skills somewhat)
3) Alex Riley (Great on the mic, solid in the ring and a good heel)
4) Michael McGillicutty (Very good in the ring, a bit non descript sometimes)

5) Percy Watson (I no longer believe he’s that charismatic. A pretty solid athlete, but not much else going on)
6) Eli Cottonwood (Has potential as a ‘monster,’ but never really shows it, instead often being quite goofy)
7) Lucky Cannon (Is too sanguine in his role of underdog. Non-descript and sometimes vomit-inducing with his hard-luck stories)

So I would obviously like to see Lucky Cannon eliminated, and for once, I think that may well be the actual outcome. We’ll find out next week!

RAW Recall (19/07/2010): The Battle Lines Are Firmly Drawn

Team RAW after chasing the Nexus seven out of the ring

The night after Sheamus successfully defended his WWE Championship against John Cena, RAW started out with an all-star triple threat match to determine the next man to challenge the Celtic Warrior, pitting Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Edge against each other.

This was a fantastic triple-threat match, featuring three of the industry’s best against each other and giving them PPV-scale time to put on the match. Lots of momentum changes and good storytelling, with Orton very much the lone wolf to Edge and Jericho’s on/off alliance. Very good characterising for all three! There were many great moments: Orton’s reversal of a double-backdrop into a double DDT, his missed RKO pushed by Edge into Jericho’s Codebreaker, Jericho countering a Spear in to the Walls of Jericho, the chain of roll ups by every man, the triple clothesline knocking them all down. In between all of this marquee work was lots of believeable exemplary, completely believable wrestling and near-falls. In the end, Orton took the match in one that will hard to top this week by anyone. Match of the year candidate? Maybe. I’m not sure how happy I am about Orton winning though. I understand that a heel vs heel main event would have some holes in terms of interest and emotion, but we have seen Orton against Sheamus before. I like Sheamus as champion, but a Sheamus-Jericho or Sheamus-Edge Simmerslam main event would have been very fresh (and I understand the first time in years where neither Cena, Orton or HHH had been in the main event). As I say though, I can understand the temptation to have Orton in a marquee PPV main event as a face against a heel, so the booking has reason behind it.

The next match was very short and not much of anything. Just a way to set up the return of MNM against DiBiase and Maryse. Still, not very well put over either in terms of the match or the storyline. For one thing, there was no reason (unless it’s expanded upon next week, why there should be a refereeing controvercy here – it didn’t affect anything.

Sheamus came out next and showed off his increasing mic confidence in a promo about how he had formed a ‘truce’ with Nexus. This is interesting as it suggests Sheamus’s face-turn might not be forthcoming quite so soon, and it heralded a kind of resignation to Nexus’ power which is what Sheamus has always been good a fronting and, as i’ve said before, would add an interesting tone of a selfish kind of bystander apathy to this storyline arc (all the more so after the revelations of the main event segment which i’ll be talking about later).

Sheamus went on to brag that he will be ‘the longest reigning WWE Champion of all time,’ before, with perfect timing, the new MITB briefcase holder hit the ring. Miz proved that he deserved this spotlight, becoming a truly unique kind of MITB holder. Indeed, he said he will be Sheamus’s ‘celebrity stalker,’ there to gauge whenever Sheamus is at his weakest, and pounce. The power of this resolution was shown when Sheamus had to take on Evan Bourne, with Miz at ringside, cradling his MITB briefcase. At first, I worried for Evan that this was going to be a squash match. It certainly looked like one for the first half, but eventually, the story I think we’ll all have to get used to about Evan’s ‘heart’ shone through as he fought back against Sheamus and had him on the ropes, hitting him with a crossbody to the outside after Sheamus rolled out to avoid Air-Bourne. All the time, Miz is literally on the edge of his seat, visably desperate to pounce. It is clear that with Miz constantly on his shoulder, Sheamus will almost have to guarantee victory or at least avoid a hard loss every time he wrestles, or he might lose his WWE Championship. Sheamus eventually picks up the win after a decent match that really improved towards the end, but Sheamus isn’t even safe then, as Miz hits him with the briefcase several times before manouvering the much bigger Irishman into a Skull-Crushing Finale on to the briefcase. The crowd were amped up for this, and Miz attempted to cash in right then and there! It seemed Miz was going to become WWE Champion that night for sure, until R-Truth’s music hit, and a sensible Miz cancelled the match and ran off with his MITB opportunity intact. This was a move I agreed with. Miz is already benefitting heavily from being Mr. Money in the Bank, and the situation where Sheamus is living under the constant watch of a predatory Miz is good for both, making them look strong, with Sheamus having to be on his A-game constantly, and Miz instilling fear in this established main-eventer. Plus, it would have all been too soon after Kane’s cashing it that it would have depreciated both experiences. I don’t know whether a feud with R-Truth is on the cards, or whether that will help Miz become a main-eventer, though I suppose he needs something to be getting on with, though I would like the feud to be with Sheamus, which I think is possible, even with the Summerslam main event in place – though if WWE don’t want their main event to go off on a tangent, it is certainly understandable.

I’m not going to criticise the tag match between Santino & Kozlov and Regal & Ryder, because a form of comic relief is needed from intense and often dark storylines that are currently on RAW, but I wont be praising it too much either.

The main event was Nexus leader Wade Barrett taking on Mark Henry. Now, I realise the booking seems a little short here, but I suppose Orton was too busy winning his #1 contendership and Cena had stuff to do afterwards. It does suggest though, that a new top face is required on RAW. Nonetheless, Henry was a good fit for this, as the idea seemed to be to get over that Wade Barrett himself, and the rest of Nexus individually, is a legitimate force in his/their own right, making the prospect of Nexus all the more intimidating. The two big men didn’t put on much of a match, but as I said, that wasn’t the aim. It was all building to the spot where Wade (just about!) lifts up the gigantic Mark Henry and hits him with his Wasteland move. This was a genuinely impressive show of strength, especially seen as Barrett nearly couldn’t hit Henry with it, nearly dropping him in what would have been reminiscent of a Samoan Drop! Luckily, Wade hit his move for the win, hammering home the strength of Nexus individually and as a unit.

All through the night, Cena had been teasing a heel turn (a very cruel thing to do to his detractors among the fans!), suggesting that, not being able to beat them, he would instead join them. This was an exciting prospect, though it was quite clear it wasn’t going to happen, not tonight at least. Cena, hearing Nexus’s proposal to join them, but also hearing the WWE Universe and looking at his ‘Never Give Up’ merchandise, decided he just couldn’t join them. In itself, this was all good storytelling, if a little disappointing, but it put Cena too much on the pedastal, which has been one of the shortcomings of this great storyline. Lukily, Cena revealed that his calling Nexus to the ring had all been a test of their attitude and a rouse, and issued the first major challenge to the group, having formed a team of seven from the RAW lockerroom to face them at Summerslam: himself, Edge, John Morrison (sporting blue jeans and an unconvincing new blue-collar look?), R-Truth, The Great Khali, Chris Jericho, and … BRET HART!

This is a subtle but important progression of the storyline. Not only is it no longer just about John Cena, but it paves the way for an escalation of the war. The beat-downs were brilliant, but now it seems we can look forward to all out in-ring rumbles, a’la the Alliance Invasion and, of course, most invasion storylines. This is the chance for the young stars of the Nexus and of the RAW side to come to the fore, while they and the rest show unending sacrifice and passion for their cause, indeed, putting personal issues aside and working for the good of their collective wishes, with the faces, of course, defending the honour of the industry. This puts Sheamus’s truce in to greater perspective. What will his role be during the battles that affect the industry that has made him? If he stays as he is, he’ll be getting a tonne of heat! Another nice image came when the RAW team stormed the ring, reclaiming the sacred ground for the first time really since the initial attack.

Another possibility of progression comes from the new ease with which a betrayal can be performed. I would be very surprised if everyone from the RAW side remains loyal during the Summerslam event. I don’t know who, but I strongly suspect a heel-turn at Summerslam, and of course, this will require face-turns to balance it out, one candidate being Chris Jericho, a man whose proximity to NXT and Wade Barrett makes their attack on him this week all the more sea-changing. As the wronged mentor, he would be very good as a reformed defender of the WWEs honour.

I do question some of the selections for the RAW team though, most of all, the Great Khali. Now, Khali is a former World Heavyweight Champion, but he is one of the few of that elite that has lost all main-event credibility. He is a monster, but how can he be taken seriously in this role having come from kissing Mrs. Brady last week! Where’s Evan Bourne! This would be the perfect opportunity for him to continue his push alongside veterans and in the biggest storyline of the year! R-Truth is ok. Though I question his main event credibility, he can no doubt show a humble kind of passion which makes him a good fit. This is something, however that John Morrison will struggle to do, and while I realise he’s probably a future main-eventer, I don’t think he had the charisma or storytelling skills to do well here.