I think most people wary of a poor PPV with only a limited build-up will be pleasantly surprised today, as for the second time in a row, WWE produced an excellent, surprising PPV. A picture of the biggest surprises can be seen in the picture heading this post, and though it’s tempting to go right on and talk about those, i’ll discuss this PPV ‘as it happened’.
Daniel Bryan def. The Miz and John Morrison to Retain the United States Championship
This is only the second time this stipulation (Submissions Count Anywhere) has been enforced, but I am now convinced that the stipulation is fantastic! It is hugely important for a match with a stipulation to tell a story that incorporates it (I may talk about this more later in the review), and this match certainly did so. In a falls or submissions count anywhere match, you want the fall to occur outside of the ring, and indeed, this match was probably only inside for the first few minutes. All three worked really well with their surroundings, with Miz even at one time hooking Morrison in a Dragon Sleeper using a guard-rail for leverage. Everything was used, guard-rails, production chests, the set, and every competitor looked great. Bryan, as you might expect, really shone hear, deploying submissions of all sorts from his regular LaBelle Lock to the Cattle Mutilator. For Miz and Morrison though, this is uncommon ground, but nonetheless, they took to it, with Miz, as I already mentioned, using a Dragon Sleeper among other things and Morrison using a Texas Cloverleaf (a move I think he should incorporate permanently), and consequently, every guy looked like accomplished wrestlers. That is the real joy of this stipulation; apart from innovation, it provides some great grappling. No one thought it would be Miz that would tap out, and indeed, I was surprised when he did as I too thought there was a risk of him looking weak, but then I realised the beauty of it! Not only now can Miz have no claim whatsoever to fighting Bryan or fighting for the US title, and can finally concentrate on his MITB opportunity; but now Bryan has a good feud to transition into; remember, Bryan helped after Alex Riley stopped Morrison winning with the Texas Cloverleaf. No doubt Morrison will have a problem with that! No doubt either that he will be the next challenger from RAW for the US title.
Randy Orton def. Sheamus to Retain the WWE Championship
In some ways, for me, this was a pleasant surprise. While a HIAC match will always produce at least a decent match, I expected nothing more from this. As it happened, I believe that at least in terms of an isolated match, this was the superior Cell match on the night. It took a few minutes to really get some momentum going and to start exploring the hostile environment of the cell, but when it did, it really worked! The real pivot was Orton’s extraordinary scoop-slam, driving Sheamus in to the steel steps – not only a feat of timing, but of aggression and physicality on both parts. From there we saw a real interaction with the cell: face-scraping, bodies slamming and sheer brutality. If WWE wants to show it’s detractors that PG wrestling can still be brutal and aggressive, they should show this match. Both men were made to look excellent here, with a lot of great near-falls. Indeed, it seemed at certain points that Sheamus might do the unthinkable and reclaim his title just two weeks after losing it! In the end it took the pretty extreme move of an RKO on the stairs to put the Celtic Warrior away, and Orton to retain the title. Sheamus will most likely float around until HHH returns. Looking at the RAW roster, it’s difficult to work out who will be Orton’s next challenger. For me though, there is a front-runner: Wade Barrett, who, now that Cena is ‘Nexus’, has no particular nemesis, may use his recent success to reason that he deserves a WWE Championship shot. We shall see.
Edge def. Jack Swagger
While I thought Edge could possibly show up at the PPV, I didn’t expect to this match at all. The affair began when Alberto Del Rio decided he deserved some PPV air-time and started complimenting himself on his recent achievements and wondering just who would be next for him … It seemed Edge wanted to provide the answer as part of his crusade to rid the WWE of stupidity. That is fine. Edge has the sense of humour to pull it off, though I did think he took too dogmatic a view in his definition of stupidity at times. Before anything could happen between those two, Swagger made his way to the ring, still stinging after Edge made him the first victim of his crusade on Smackdown. This was all starting to feel like filler, but at this point, Edge was cornered by Del Rio and Swagger before Del Rio decided he had had enough and left and the anonymous GM sanctioned a match between Swagger and Edge. The match itself was ok. It picked up a lot towards the end, with lots of reversals (as you might expect from the grappler, Swagger and the veteran Edge) and good chemistry. It is a testement to these guys skill that an uninspiring match which the fans weren’t behind at the start eventually elicited interest and emotion from the WWE Universe. Eventually Edge got the better of Swagger and Speared him for the win. At that point I though ‘well, what was the point of that? They’re on different brands, it’s meaningless.’ But I have since ‘learned’ from the dirtsheets that there may be plans for a full-blown Swagger-Edge feud. That would give the match more meaning, and so I would support it, but it also points to a trend that, now Smackdown is on an NBC network, there will be lots more cross-promotion between the brands, allowing for this sort of feud. I may talk about this more in my now inevitable brand-merging post, but for now i’ll say that though the Del Rio angle was probably just filler, and this match had (obviously) the least build-up and therefore emotional draw for the audience, they did a decent job – enough to make me interested in a feud which would be great especially for Jack Swagger.
Wade Barrett def. John Cena
Yes. Maybe just knowing the result is remarkable enough. Eventhough I was well aware of the importance of this match beforehand, I can’t recall the last time I had such butterflys and goosebumps while watching a wrestling match and a storyline unfold. This a symptom of my being beyond childhood and having more an adult reverence for the spectacle and the performers, y’know, as opposed to thinking it’s real. But here, as at Taker-HBK at WM 26 or, as a pre-teen, the final match of the 2001 Invasion storyline, my heart was in my mouth the whole way through. This says a lot for this storyline which, only two weeks ago I thought had never been more interesting than it’s first night, but has now gripped me entirely. The atmosphere was electric and this lended itself to a well-wrestled match, which Barrett and Cena produced. I loved that the WWE locker-room came to dispatch Nexus. That instantly added to the idea of camaraderie that is important for this sort of storyline, and was probably missing before two weeks ago. This storyline lives on Nexus being perceived as a legitimate threat to what the fans hold dear, and if their ‘bigger plans’ were to recruit Cena and ‘demoralise the WWE’ than I totally buy-in to it (before now, many people included me thought that the ‘bigger plans’ thing had been forgotten). Every pinfall was therefore nerve-racking, and I, praying for a Barrett win, was convinced Cena would do it again, especially when he hooked in his STF. But then we had the crucially non-Nexus interference, which I thought was actually a fan interference, so good job there. To me the second guy who clocked Cena looked a bit like Husky Harris. Now, if it were other ex-NXT guys and Nexus incorporates some of them, then this storyline will get even hotter as Nexus grows evermore. That remains to be seen. When Cena was pinned I was almost breathless, as were most in the audience (I understand lots of kids started crying and some parents had to take them home at this point). For this reason, this match is a Match of the Year candidate. The wrestling, although very good itself, was probably not as good as in, say, the first match, but as a story and a spectacle, it stole the show and will undoubtedly be a legitimate classic moment forever. Michael Cole did the best announcing job i’ve heard him do too. J.R. has always said announcers should be emotional at the table, and Cole certainly went nuts in a ‘not this way’ fashion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Cena, how Nexus will utilise him, and whether he’ll be a willing heel or an uneasy task-master. Of course it will be much more interesting if he turns heel. Indeed, hell would have seemingly frozen over …
Natalya def. Michelle McCool via DQ
After all that, it would be difficult for anyone to follow and rightly (though i’d rarely say that) this match was a short one without much shock. That is not to detract from this match however, Michelle and especially Nattie are extremely skilled and put on a pretty good match despite the time constraints. This one was really submission-based and with either woman’s submission move being so compatible, there was some really good grappling – speaking mainly of Natalya locking in the Sharpshooter only for Michelle to turn her over seamlessly into her Heel Hook and back again. With the Sharpshooter apparently locked in, Layla took it upon herself to throw her shoes at Natalya and earn a DQ for Michelle. A DQ was probably a good call, then, for another reason, i.e. that Natalya will probably get a re-match which will allow for further heat to build between the two sides and make for a good title match, probably with Layla, the shoe-throwing culprit being the one to defend the title next. Nattie has shown she has the skills and I hope she does stay in the title picture.
Kane def. The Undertaker to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
Well, i’d actually venture that this was the most unpredictable result of the night! It is important to not that this was a very different kind of Cell match to the first, and the participants very different in both. My reaction to the match as a Hell in a Cell match was that it was pretty good, but nothing particularly special. It was violent enough, and the wrestling was certainly very good, but the match was much more driven by the storyline than by an interaction with the Cell. When the match started out outside of the cell (and indeed when the door was later opened), I hoped for more action outside of the cell, if not on top of it. This however was limited, and though it was violent, it never really seemed like ‘hell’. However, alongside the Nexus, this has been one of the most engrossing storylines of the year and for a very long time. I remember thinking ‘I sure am glad it didn’t turn out to be Rey Mysterio that attacked the Undertaker, because then we’d have none of this!’ and I stick to that, as this match certainly had an atmosphere that only the Brothers of Destruction could provide. As the match goes, it was solid throughout and grew towards the end with near-falls only believable because it was Kane or the Undertaker kicking out. The two mirrored each other in an eerie but brilliant way, and after Chokeslams and Last Rides and even a Tombstone Piledriver, neither brother was willing to be defeated. Enter Paul Bearer, who initially seemed to be in Kane’s firing line, shuffling away with that intentionally grotesque gait of his. But as Undertaker went to take advantage with a Tombstone Piledriver of his own, Bearer used the power of the urn to elicit a light to startle the Deadman, before handing the urn, with all it’s power, to Kane, with which he clocked his brother and Chokelammed him for the win. Despite what anyone might say, a heel-turn at this point was (literally) unpredictable, and again, the Dallas crowd was stunned quiet. Again this feud progresses in a surprising and entrancing way, and it is hard to see how the Undertaker will recover from this. I still, however, see a rubber match being booked (if not for the inter-promotional Bragging Rights PPV, for the seminal and seemingly apt, Survivor Series, where we’ll see, I hope, who will survive a Buried Alive match – though prolonging the feud at it’s current state for near two months may be tricky and quite hurtful to the storyline).