Before I get on to reviewing the matches, I just want to say that this was the best WWE PPV in a long time. It’s when they put out shows like this and Mania that they show they are leagues ahead of the nearest competition.
Dolph Ziggler def. Kofi Kingston to Retain the Intercontinental Championship
This one was perhaps the most predictable of the night, but that didn’t take away from the quality of the action. Early on in their feud, these two had some quality matches before, unfortunately, it got a little stale. This one, however, renewed some of that early chemistry as these two highly athletic superstars put on a long, believable match that was more than worthy of opening the show. As the match went on the story of the stipulation was dealt with well, as Ziggler seemingly had to stop Vickie Guerrero slapping Kofi as she had in the past, before he took advantage of the situation to hit the Zig Zag and earn the win. It seems that the hesitancy of Vickie in slapping Kofi, and Dolph’s in turning back to his opponent was all part of a rouse to draw Kofi in for a loss, which is a nice, subtle bit of storytelling. Importantly, this one will go down as a clean victory, and Dolph will move on to his next contender – with Hardy, Rhodes & McIntyre (as will be later explained) out of the way, a good bet is MVP for that role.
Big Show def. CM Punk
This, as I suspected was the least interesting match of the night. What we saw, however, wasn’t terrible. Punk came out, S.E.S-less and cut another fantastic ‘straight-edge’ promo to draw heat from his home-town crowd. It’s unclear whether the S.E.S. is even still together. As for the match, it was ok but short. Other than a suicide-style senton to the outside from Punk, we saw nothing special here, and Big Show took it with his KO Punch, surely to kill the feud.
Daniel Bryan def. The Miz to Win the United States Championship
This was another predictable but pleasing and correct victory that also provided an excellent match. As I said in my preview, it was important that these two put on a good, long match to show that both are credible as top draws. This was indeed what happened. This was a very well paced match, starting slowly but with good quality and slowly building in pace. Both superstars used their platform well and got in good, high-quality offence, something probably more important for Miz who still (for some reason!) needs to prove himself to certain purists. Riley being at ringside offered another aspect to all of this, but Bryan dispatched him in a sharp believable way to give him the opportunity, one on one, to defeat Miz, eventually with the LaBelle Lock. Miz took a while to tap, and didn’t look too weak himself. No doubt from now on the concentration will be on his MITB opportunity, so expect a re-match and loss for the Miz on RAW to get his association with the US title out of the way sooner rather than later.
Michelle McCool def. Melina to Become the Unified Women’s Champion
For those that read my preview, you’ll know that while I knew this was a possibility, it wasn’t my favoured outcome for this match. Nonetheless, while it was among the shorter matches on the card, I felt the divas were given ample time to show off their skills, and did so in a very good match. Melina and Michelle are among the better wrestlers in the lucky dip pot that is contemporary televised female wrestling, so they could, indeed, be trusted to put on a good match. They did this, with tough bumps, good chemistry and believable near-falls. The real story was on Layla and the other ‘lumberjills’ though. Layla was at ringside looking huffy while the other lumberjills, understandable, were acting with great bias against the bully, Michelle McCool. Unfortunately for them, they got too involved in their battles to notice Layla sneak in, attack Melina and distract her sufficiently for a McCool victory. That in itself was very strong storytelling, and the ending of the match was well realised. It remains to be seen what happens from here, but as long as they keep the Women’s Championship, i’ll be happy!
Kane def. The Undertaker to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
I’m sure there were many that breathed a huge sigh of relief when Kane won this match. I know I did. This is no disrespect to the Undertaker, but I had no interest in seeing him return and get back the world title straight away, yet again. This was another high calibre match, and the No Holds Barred stipulation was apt. The animosity was clear straight away as ‘Taker went after Kane before he’d even reached the ring, beating his brother and going so far as to throw him off the stage. As is only right in these sorts of matches, there was a lot of great back and forth, with both men using their environment well, another example being when ‘Taker leaped over the time keeper’s barricade, Wrestlemania-style, onto his brother. Later on and back in the ring, it looked like the Deadman was back, choke-slamming Kane and setting up for his Tombstone. However, both showed great strength and athleticism (given their sheer size and age) to have Kane reverse ‘Taker’s Tombstone in to his own, drop him and earn the clean victory. The crowd seemed legitimately stunned at this, which is testement to the quality of the drama on show.
Drew McIntyre & Cody Rhodes def. Mark Henry & Evan Bourne, The Usos, Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov, and the Hart Dynasty to Win the WWE Tag Team Championships
My hope for this match was to see the Hart’s retain the tag titles one more time, and I thought that would actually happen, despite the chaotic ‘Tag Team Turmoil’ stipulation, as a means of making them look strong. Of course, this was quelled as soon as the Uso’s defeated the Harts first. Again, though, kudos must go to Tyson Kidd, who hit a fantastic springboard moonsault to the outside on the Usos before being eliminated. Next on the gauntlet were Santino and Kozlov, and after a brielf but impressive flurry from the Comic tag team, they were eliminated too. The Usos then fell victim to the strangest pairing of the night: Evan Bourne & Mark Henry after a World’s Strongest Slam. As you can probably tell, I didn’t much like this team, but I suppose it was good for Bourne to get some PPV time. Finally, out came Drew and Cody, and in retrospect, it was clear they were going to take the titles after their Smackdown victory. I was, at the time though, worried that WWE might want to give Bourne something meaningful to do (which in itself, I would welcome) and give him the tag belts (which I wouldn’t welcome, with Mark Henry. Eventually, however, Rhodes won it with Cross-Rhodes to take the victory and become a three-time tag champion. This wasn’t my favourite match of the night, but I do like gauntlet matches, and the chaos was sufficiently well performed as to make it exciting viewing. I would, however, have liked to have seen the Harts make it to the end and then get beat. That would have set up a good feud with Rhodes and McIntyre, though i’m sure we’ll be seeing an invoking of the re-match clause for Hell in a Cell. As for Rhodes and McIntyre themselves, i’m not sure it’s that positive a step (as I mentioned, Rhodes has been tag champ before), but if it gives them something meaningful to do, it’s hard not to support the decision.
Randy Orton def. Sheamus, Wade Barrett, John Cena, Edge and Chris Jericho to become WWE Champion.
Before I say anything that may be bad about this match or it’s outcome, I want to say that it was a fantastic match, and one of the best main events we’ve seen in a long time. The early shocker was that Chris Jericho was eliminated in a couple of minutes. Now, i’m probably going to write something separate about this later, but it is being strongly rumoured that this would be Jericho’s final appearance with WWE. If it is, then his acting and reaction to his elimination shows how much he will be missed. Not only that but the shock in the arena and among the other combatants was very telling as to the talent of Jericho. Indeed, in retrospect, their watching him back to backstage seemed almost like a respectful send-off. If it is, I hope it wont be a permanent one. Moving on, we had a long chunk of the match where, again, there was a lot of chaotic (but in a good, rather than a confusing way) action, with, characteristically, alliances being made and broken in a heartbeat. It is clear why these guys are considered the pinnacle of the industry when they can put out a good ten minutes of chaotic but entertaining wrestling without another elimination. The man to break the duck was Edge, who after a series of great finishers and reversals, fell victim to Cena’s Attitude Adjustment. At this point, Cena managed to get Sheamus in to his STF submission hold, and after he dragged the Celtic Warrior to the centre of the ring, anyone would have bet on him tapping, but Sheamus, with some of the best acting i’ve seen in that sort of situation, stopped himself from wanting desperately to tap, and managed to drag himself to the ropes. At this point, Cena again became the target of Nexus, who had stormed the ring to help their leader, Wade Barrett. Their attack gave Barrett the chance to hit his Wasteland for the victory. A furious and indignant Cena then went wild, attacking Nexus with a chair, and along with Randy Orton, wiping them out completely, as well as Barrett’s advantage. Without his allies, Barrett would later fall victim to an RKO and elimination, leaving just Orton and (rightfully so), the champion, Sheamus. Sheamus had been outside teh ring after escaping the STF, and blindsided Orton with a Brogue Kick. I thought and hoped for a 1-2-3 at this point. With about seven minutes left, it left ample time for an attack, perhaps by a bitter Jericho, and a Miz entrance and victory for the WWE Championship having cashed in his MITB opportunity. Instead, Orton kicked out! Many were shocked as it could have gone either way, making for a very entertaining near-fall. A frustrated Sheamus set up Orton for his Celtic Cross (?) powerbomb and again I had thoughts of the Miz, but Orton slithered out of it and managed to start a flurry that ended in an RKO and a new WWE Champion. Even at this point – though it would have been much less worthy timing – I thought we might hear Miz’s music, but as time and the replays went on, this became an impossibility. I think I said in my preview that I didn’t understand the need to put the belt on Orton right now, and also that if Miz was to lose a championship, he’d need something big (like an MITB cashing-in) to keep up his credibility as a top guy. Now, as for Orton, he’s certainly a great champion, and no doubt he’ll go into a compelling feud as such (though we have seen him take on Sheamus – his most likely opponent (via his re-match clause) – twice for the championship already). As for Miz, i’m sure they’ll have us forget about this loss as quickly as possible, while him being just MITB holder gives him a focus as top and a platform to further build himself as credible at that level, so it’s not all bad, just not how I would necessarily have done it.
As I have said, this was one of the finest PPV’s from anyone in a long time. Every match (even CM Punk vs Big Show) was at the very least, watchable, and at best, supreme. I said it had to deliver in four matches in particular: the US title match, the Women’s Championship Unification match, the World Title match, and the WWE championship match, and on every one – though perhaps to differing degrees, they did so. Kane and Bryan winning were especially crucial to the success of this PPV, which of course happened. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here going into Hell in a Cell which is only two weeks away (I’d rather see them drop a PPV than have such a short build-up for one) so no doubt we’ll have feuds hotting up straight away on this week’s RAW and Smackdown.