Royal Rumble Preview & Predictions, 2011

Royal Rumble 2011, Sunday January 29, from the TD Garden, Boston, MA

The Royal Rumble is one of my very favourite events of the year, trumped only by Wrestlemania, and no matter what people say, the result is really never as predictable as some IWC fans might suggest. As of now, there are only 3 matches booked apart from the Rumble itself, so there will be at least 1, and possibly 2, further matches announced on the night, either a US title match for Ted DiBiase, or more probably, a tag team title shot for New Nexus members Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty, and even possibly with Gabriel and Slater from the Corre.

1) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (c) vs Husky Harris & Michael McGillicutty (Nexus) (vs Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre)?)
Cole practically spoiled this match taking place when he introduced the Nexus pair as going in to a title match on RAW when in fact it wasn’t, so i’m quite confident this will appear on Sunday. I think however, that is a Nexus pair take part, perhaps a pair from the Corre should also compete given the tension between the two groups, and the fact that Slater and Gabriel have already been tag champions. Unfortunately for me, whether or not Corre appear probably affects my prediction. If it’s just Nexus, I wouldn’t see the point in putting them in this match instead of the Usos (who could easily could have been booked) unless they were going to pick up the titles, so I would pick them. If Corre are involved however, I imagine the story would be or Nexus and Corre being too pre-occupied with each other and take each other out, allowing Santino and Vlad to retain. Of course, though I wouldn’t like to see it at this point, there is also the possibility that Corre could interefere in the match to cost Nexus the titles.

Winners: Nexus (if Corre are not involved)/Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (if Corre not involved).

2) 2-on-1 Handicap Divas Championship Match: Natalya (c) vs LayCool (Layla & Michelle McCool)
I have no idea why WWE have stopped the programme between Natalya and Melina. It makes to show a lack of ambition, as it seemed to be a feud with some genuine tension behind it. The only justification I can think of is that the feud isn’t, indeed, over. Here’s what could happen if that is the case: Melina, angry at not beating Nattie at her first attempt, continues her vendetta by costing her the title against LayCool, just as she is about to overcome the pair again. The upside of this is that it keeps a potentially fiery feud  while giving the Smackdown divas something meaningful to wrestle for; the downside is that it would cut Nattie’s reign pretty short (shorter than she deserves). I think, however, it would be worth it – it wont reflect badly on Nattie, and will be good for the divas division. So maybe it’s wishful thinking for this particular development, but …

Winner(s): LayCool

3) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Edge (c) vs Dolph Ziggler
This is perhaps the most predictable match on the card. Having only won the title a month ago, I can’t see Edge dropping it so soon, and eventhough Ziggler’s on a big push, I think it would be too much of a rush to that level for him; though he seems destined to one day be a world champion one day, I see him as a MITB winner or having to wait until after Wrestlemania. This is even given that the Spear was banned on Smackdown. I think that this, if anything, makes Edge even more of a favourite as these sort of stipulations that put (especially faces) at a huge disagvantage, tends to be something of a red-herring, making the victory seem all the more impressive. It will make for a better match in terms of storytelling, but I think it will make for an even more gritty win for Edge. Saying that, Ziggler’s been putting on some excellent matches of late, and he will know that this is the biggest match of his career, so I expect that, along with Edge’s big match experience, to produce a big performance from them both.

Winner: Edge

4) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs Randy Orton
This match is harder to judge. It seems to me that the arm-chair fans are convinced that Orton will be taking back his title, and that could be the case, but i’m less sure. Obviously at this point, this result could set the stage for the RAW main event at Wrestlemania, and so is crucial for that. If Orton wins, he will be main-eventing Wrestlemania against (most probably) Cena or CM Punk, and if Miz wins he could still main event, but it still wont be certain. Eventhough Miz has already won and defended the WWE title at PPV, like Ziggler, this is the biggest match of his career simply because it’s at the Royal Rumble, and so again, I expect a very good match from the two. I also expect Miz to look strong in this match, though without winning clean. Miz will bring every dastardly deed possible to the match: obviously, Alex Riley will be there, but I think ther’ll be other things us Miz’s sleeve. My instinct tells me that Miz is going to keep the title. He’s a new poster boy for the company, so I see him having a longer run than he has until now, and possibly going on to be a new face in the Wrestlemania main event.

Winner: The Miz

There are so many questions to be asked about this match, but i’m going to attempt to answer some of them nonetheless. The first question is who might appear at the Rumble, seen as all the spots haven’t been filled. I love a surprise in this match, it’s almost a convention, and this can come in several forms: debuts, returns, and one-offs. I’ve heard rumours about legends appearing, but i’ve tried to avoid finding out who it is so it’s not spoiled. I think, however, that there are three ones who are genuine favourites: firstly, Roddy Piper, who turns up every so often for WWE and specifically recently when he gave an excellent promo to John Cena before Survivor Series; secondly, I think the amount Jerry Lawler’s been wrestling of late, he would be a good addition to the match, and would allow Josh Matthews some PPV commentary time and would make sense seen as he’s by the ring anyway!; thirdly, and more excitingly, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who has just been announced as a Tough Enough personality. The glass smashing will get a MASSIVE pop, and not only that, could be good publicity for the show’s return. Plus, imagine the rub for whoever gets to eliminate him!

Speaking of returns, there are four potentials: the most likely is HHH to set up his programme with Sheamus, wishful thinking on my part leads me to suggest a return for Chris Jericho, perhaps to confront Randy Orton after punting him out of the game; next up is the dream return for loads of wrestling fans – Christian. I’ve tried to avoid to see how his injury rehab is going, partly to avoid spoilers, but if he’s healthy, he’s got to be a candidate – everything’s in place for a return and a programme with Edge; finally, the spectre of the Undertaker. WWE will want him for Wrestlemania, so he’ll have to return soon, making him a possible entrant.

Finally, in terms of debuts, there is only one I can think of (other than potential FCW debutants), and that is Awesome Kong. I think WWE will like to have women in the Rumble more regularly from now, and I also think the rumours of her being a Nexus member may be true too, with her being an in-ring enforcer to try and gain the victory for CM Punk.

Now to spots and images that may occur in the match. The one that I think is most likely is a Nexus/Corre stand-off, maybe not in it’s entirety, but at least Wade Barrett and CM Punk in the ring, facing each other.  I also think we’ll see some unexpected double-duty, especially from one or both of the losing competitors from the world title matches. Another potential thing to happen is a fresh face being among the final few: i’m referring specifically to either Drew McIntyre or John Morrison, both of whom I think will make the main event more regularly this year. These things would be typical of what is so great about the Rumble.

Finally, to the crucial question of the winner. Who do I want to win? Christian, but seen as I don’t even know if he’s in the match, I can’t really predict that way. In predicting a winner, you have to predict a blockbuster Wrestlemania main event along with it. With that in mind, here are my four favourites:

Alberto Del Rio: Del Rio is this year’s red herring in the sense that he is constantly saying he will win the match. Usually, this means he will be the last to win, but this year, it could be more complex. WWE are aware of this dynamic, and so could be playing with it. Del Rio is already a main eventer, and could, some day, main event the big show, so him winning wouldn’t be that shocking. He will at least be there close to the end. It’s harder to imagine a Wrestlemania feud for him. They couldn’t return to Mysterio, but I guess he has had a lot of issues with current champion, Edge. Nonetheless, this is why he is only my fourth favourite.

Undertaker: As I say, ‘Taker needs to return soon, and he is so strong that it is hard to imagine someone beating him if he does return. If he does win, he would probably taking on Wade Barrett, which would definitely be Wrestlemania-worthy, and would bring a lot of good closure and significance to the original storyline.

John Cena: A joint-favourite for me, Cena will always be considered for this match. He is a Wrestlemania main-stay and will always be in one of the final three matches at the main event, so a Royal Rumble route there is always on the cards. Not only that, but he has tension with many people who could meet him at the big event. For instance, he could take on The Miz, who has always been a thorn in Cena’s side. This would make for an excellent Wrestlemania match as it has been building for so long, and would pit the top face against arguably the top heel of the company. There is also the possibility that he could meet Punk at Wrestlemania, which would require Punk winning the WWE title at Elimination Chamber (and would also be a way for Miz to lose it that would make him look less weak). Finally, there are the rumours that I remember circulating about a Cena-Orton Wrestlemania, which would require not only a Cena Rumble win, but an Orton title win. Orton-Cena would definately make for a memorable Wrestlemania blockbuster main event, but if it were up to me, i’d want to save that for a year or two, simply due to the proximity to their huge feud last year.

CM Punk: The other joint-favourite for me. Punk has risen straight back up to the main event, and has been absolutely fascinating at that level. Personally, while Cena is the favourite in the eyes of most, I think WWE wont want him to win again, especially as they are trying to make new top stars. Some might think that the Nexus element might actually hurt Punk’s chances as in wrestling theory, it’s usually too good to be true, and is overcome, but I think here, Punk could continue his role of  the truth-telling icon, and do exactly as he says by winning the Rumble. If he does win, it would either be to take on Undertaker, who he does have history with, as do the Nexus, or with Cena, who he is feuding with currently. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but i’m plumping for Punk over Cena. So …

Winner: CM Punk!


Smack of the Week (28/01/2011): Royal Rumbles

The first thing of real note on this week’s show was Kaitlyn’s debut match, teaming with Kelly Kelly, the two of them uncharacteristically attacking LayCool from behind before their match, dealing them a pretty decent beat down. As the match swung pretty quickly towards the heels once the actual match started, the important thing was the behaviour of Kelly Kelly, who was acting more like a member of LayCool than her sweet self. This took on especial significance after the match that immediately followed it.

Drew McIntyre was out next to take on JTG, who it is always heartening to see in the ring these days; he deserves to be there. Initially, it looked like JTG was going to get squashed for McIntyre’s benefit (which would have been understandable but a shame), but JTG fought back and bested McIntyre quite a few times, frustrating him. All the while, Kelly was at ringside watching, and this made the psychology of the match very interesting, as she seemed to be on McIntyre’s mind, affecting McIntyre’s actions. The match ended after an amazing counter from McIntyre to JTG’s backslide where McIntyre rolled through in to position for his Future Shock DDT. After the match, Kelly entered the ring, approaching McIntyre, but apparantly not seeing her, McIntyre left the ring, with her looking on. It definitely seems WWE will pull the trigger on this ‘relationship’ soon, but given Kelly’s previous heelish actions, it will be interesting to see whether McIntyre turns face, or Kelly turns heel to accommodate it.

It looks like WWE are preparing a Mysterio-Rhodes programme for Wrestlemania following last week’s incident where Mysterio hit a 619 with his brace to Rhodes’ nose, supposedly ruining his ‘dashing’ face. This would be great for both guys, a push for Rhodes, and a much needed new direction for Mysterio.

More Royal Rumble banter as Alberto Del Rio hosted a Rumble-style battle royal which was going well for him until Kane and Kofi Kingston showed up. This set up a tag match between Mysterio and Kingston against Del Rio and Kane. This was on ok match. Mysterio was flying about more than usual, and was really exciting to watch at times. Kane and Del Rio couldn’t work together, in true Rumble fashion, and Kane left Del Rio high and dry to be 619’s and Trouble in Paradise’d for the pinfall. Interestingly, Kane, who has been absent of late, got quite the pop when he came out to at first, and ended up acting more like a face than a heel in some ways. If he does turn face, it might be a good thing all considered, but it’s a damning indictment of his feud with Edge, that he’s getting cheered already.

Another rumble occurred after Corre tried to again take out Big Show. This angle is definately missing something so far, but maybe that’s just the spectre of the Rumble getting in the way. Time will tell, but it needs a ‘headline’ moment pretty soon.

Our main event was all about the two world title matches at the Rumble as Miz and Ziggler took on Edge and Orton. This was pretty good, if a little forgettable. Tension grew between Miz and Orton as they continued to play cat-and-mouse, with Miz often out-smarting The Viper, and Viper otherwise getting a taste of the retribution he will seek on Sunday for all the mind-games and beat-downs. The real statement was made by Edge, who pinned his #1 contender clean with a Spear. This made such an impact, in fact, that Vickie Guerrero felt she had to swing the pack more in Ziggler’s favour at the Rumble, stating that, until further notice, the Spear was banned, and that if he uses it at the Royal Rumble, he will lose the world title. I quite like this stipulation as it adds a further tension and dimension to the match just to differentiate it from the other title match. I will talk about who I think this favours in the WHC match, however, in my Royal Rumble preview.


RAW Recall (24/01/2011): The RAW Rumble

The annual statement-making impromptu ballte royale to build up to the Royal Rumble

Before I start, my apologies for a late post on this week’s RAW. I’ve been really busy as of late, which is also the reason for there being no review of last week’s Smackdown. The posts may be a bit thinner here on RTV-WOW for the next couple of months as well. In the mean time, check out my work at the Bleacher Report, for which I have just started writing on WRASSLIN’ and other things besides:

Now, this RAW was a very good ‘go home’ show for the Royal Rumble, but often, that means shorter matches and more symbolic angles, and for no event is this more prevalent, than the Royal Rumble. Indeed, the show started out with Edge (who will only enter the match if he drops his title, which seems unlikely) having to stop Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd and Drew McIntyre throwing him over the top rope. I actually liked what I saw, but I don’t think Edge was a good choice: as I say, Edge probably wont be in the Rumble, so him defeating three entrants in a Rumble style match seemed only to serve to weaken the entrants. I think this ‘exhibition’ would have been better served with Alberto Del Rio, this year’s primary-bleater about the match, issuing an over the top rope challenge which culminates in the free-for all which eventually ended the show.

The Divas Title match was a bit of a disappointment. Melina and Natalya are excellent wrestlers, and I thought that, with some more build-up, this would have made an excellent Rumble match. Instead, we got a 3-4 minute retention on RAW (though I have to say, the way Natalya leaned back on Melina during the Sharpshooter was amazing – it looked too much even for Melina!). It also seems that one or both of LayCool will be getting another title shot at the Rumble instead. In general, this isn’t a bad thing, Layla and Michelle are very talented, and obviously draw, but it seems a shame to drop an angle which could have been really heated so soon in favour of a return to LayCool.

Edge vs Miz was a very good match, and an example of when indefinitive finishes are correctly used. It started out with Edge remaining something of a house of fire, following on from his opening confrontation. He really dominated Miz in the early going, even preparing for  a Spear, which Miz managed to avoid. Miz’s characteristic ingenuity, which makes him a good champion (see helped him get an upper hand on Edge, and had his share of domination. As it sounds, this match was very back and forth, which made the two seem, roughly, like equals. In the end, Dolph Ziggler, who had been excellent on commentary, interrupted the match before Edge could hone in on a potential win. This made for good build up for both title matches as Ziggler created more heat between himself and Edge while Miz went in to the Royal Rumble without losing. Meanwhile, an understandably angry Randy Orton hit and cleared the ring of the heels, which again added more tension to the PPV matches, though I would have liked to have seen him selling his injuries from last week a bit more given how much last wekk’s beat-down had been hyped.

Daniel Bryan and the Bellas against Ted DiBiase was good story-wise if not wrestling-wise, which would have been ok had it had much to do with the Royal Rumble. Bryan was distracted by one of the Bellas coming on strongly to him, distracting both him and the other Bella, who was quickly rolled up by Maryse. That was good in itself as it carried on the dynamic of DiBiase being emasculated by his girlfriend who picked up the victory for him. After that, the Bellas went to confront Bryan as to which one of them he preferred, only to find him kissing up with Gail Kim, who then got in to an altercation with the two. It was pretty funny, and it was good otherwise to see Gail on TV. Perhaps now we might get to see her in the ring in a meaningful way and get traction for the Divas title!

Nothing much to say about the tag match, as Cole spoiled, it was a way to justify Nexus getting a tag team title match at the Royal Rumble. I just wanted to note that that Husky Harris has taken a huge step forward by changing his finisher. His Downward Spiral style finisher is a lot more threatening than his senton, so good job there. It’s also worth mentioning that my worries about Mason Ryan’s voice being, frankly, silly, seem unfounded. His voice is actually quite good from what I heard – that makes him more credible as the eventual main-eventer he’ll no doubt be.

Next up was the main event, Punk vs Barrett. Now I liked Cena comically abusing his authority, that was cool, but i’d have liked to have seen Punk and Barrett go. Instead, Cena disqualified them both before any action could really get going, ostensibly to eliminate both Nexus and Corre from the Rumble. Of course this wasn’t going to happen, if for no other reason, they have 40 spots to fill this year. Luckily, the GM stood in to stop Cena from completing another act that Punk could easily righteously criticise, and both groups will be in the Rumble. As for Punk-Barrett: them not being able to fight points to a Punk-Barrett/Nexus-Corre match could be in the future. That has potential, but i’d rather it at least waited until after Wrestlemania – Both groups have lots more potential elsewhere, and before they wipe each other out, I want to see that.

The show ended with the traditional ring full of superstars trying to make a statement by throwing each other the top rope. It happens every year, but I have no problem with it!

Why A Strong Champion Isn’t Always ‘Must-See’

The Miz winning his first WWE Championship in opportunistic fashion

Before I start with this article, I would like to inform you all that I have started writing for The Bleacher Report, and direct you to my sportswriter page there: My first article was on first-ballot Hall of Famers and I hope is well worth a read!

Anyway, on to this article. When I was about to write it, I thought it would be quite a lengthy affair, but on reflection, I don’t see why it has to be. The idea is really quite simple.

When Miz first became champion, and was struggling to retain against people like Jerry Lawler and was retaining against Randy Orton with lots of help from people like Alex Riley and even Cole, and under less than heroic circumstances, the immediate talk among a lot of fans was to do with how Miz’s apparent weakness as champion is a terrible thing and completely stupid booking. Now I understand that a strong champion is appealing in that it adds a ‘big fight feel’ to title defences, especially when against a viable challenger, while adding a certain awe-inspiring quality to the champion which is inspiring and exciting to see.

Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that, while strong champions can be a good thing, every champion becoming seemingly unbeatable as soon as they get the belt is not only uncreative, but, depending on the person, is also simply uninteresting.

The Miz deserves to be WWE Champion, and is certainly viable having not only won a MITB ladder match, but having wrestled excellent matches against WWE’s top stars since. Despite this though, to have the Miz suddenly booked like Cena would be completely unbelievable and unintriguing. He has proved that he is among the best, in kayfabe terms at least, on the WWE roster, without being realistically called by anybody, ‘the’ best.

For me, Miz simply represents a different kind of champion to the dominant, heroic champion. Indeed, strong champions are often restricted to face characters as heels are by convention wrestlers that have to, and want to win with minimal effort, and are therefore drawn to shortcuts, while acting with cowardice when confronted by their face antagonists. This is not only true of The Miz, it was true of Randy Orton as a heel champion, and similarly by figures like JBL and Batista when they were heels, and yet whenever a heel champion is booked in this way, the booking is criticised as if the alternative would be acceptable. Indeed, it is this character of heel champions which helps them draw heat from the crowd. Of course the audience aren’t going to appreciate what is presented as a contest being undermined by dirty tactics.

The fact that Miz seems especially weak is not just down to the booking, but is due in large part to Miz’s portrayal of his character, who is good enough to compete without being able to dominate any of his contemporaries. The interest of Miz’s reign is that the audience know, especially after his defence against Jerry Lawler, that the Miz, far from being strong, is beatable. On any given night, be it on RAW or at PPV, Miz could lose his title to any challenger if not at the top of his game. This is an entirely different feeling than when wrestlers, even heels like Orton or JBL in the past, would at least seem able to defend in any given match. What keeps Miz afloat as champion is his often quite dark and slimy techniques which he uses to out-maneuver his stronger opponents. He beats them with smarts as well as talent, as opposed to just talent.

Every time Miz defends, it is fascinating to see how he will try to beat his challenger, and that is much more ‘must see’ than just another strong champion.

RAW Recall (17/01/2011): Another Joins the New Nexus Flock

Punk kneels before his new leader to receive the iconic 'N' armband

The first match of RAW this week was, unfortunately, a big disappointment. The stage was set, as far as I believed, for a good tag match at the Royal Rumble between Santino & Kozlov against the Usos. The Usos score a clean victory over the champions, their match was delayed last week, and to add some genuine feeling to it, Tanina was backing Santino against her old allies. How does that make a PPV match, especially when there is barely another contending team for the titles? Instead, we get a five minute (if that) squash of the Usos on RAW in a tag title match. So now what? Not only did it render the past couple of weeks with these teams pointless, but it was a match too short to be in any way good. No Doubt Mark Henry will find another literally random partner to compete for the titles.

Luckily this was followed by the best match of the night, pitting face against face, United States Champion, Daniel Bryan against meteoric star, John Morrison. Both guys had been booked as incredibly strong up until this point, so it was a tough one to call. Lots of good technical back and forth here, and a nice element where the two were consciously shown to be equally-matched. The match had it’s share of physicality though, with Bryan nearly beating Morrison with a straight roundhouse and a horrifically powerful mid-air cross body to each other. After a throwback pin/reversal progression, Morrison nearly got caught in the LeBelle Lock. Escaping this, Morrison managed to hit his flash kick, and then his running knee for the victory, which seemed to impress the Bellas. Now I like this storyline with the Bellas being besotted with Bryan; it’s good for him and his character, and I like how Bryan’s natural skill and likability is being shown as admirable. Or is it? After the match, the Bellas were talking about Morrison, admiring his looks, seemingly a little disappointed in Bryan. Nonetheless, they went on to fight over who would be Bryan’s ‘first’. Now, whatever meaning you attach to that, I think it’s a step in the goofy direction. I wonder whether this could point to a Morrison heel-turn, somehow to do with ‘stealing’ the Bellas from Bryan; either that, or the more preferable situation where Brie (the nicer one – indeed, it wasn’t long ago, Brie was being shocked/disturbed by Nikki’s aggression and attitude) sticking with Bryan, and Nikki (the mean one (and genuinely decent wrestler)) valeting for a potentially heel Morrison. Whatever happens, with a victory under his belt, it seems this story will stretch at least to a US Championship defense, and more of these two working together is to welcomed. They are certainly two of the leading lights among the up-and-comers.

Orton and Ziggler had themselves a very good match too. It was a push match in the style of Miz’s last year against Orton and Cena in many ways. Ziggler was allowed to beat down on the Viper for a long time, really working in his leg and weakening him to make Ziggler look legit at this level. This was also achieved with back-and-forth which gave Ziggler the appearance of resiliency. Ziggler even came very close to beating Orton after reversing an Angle Slam in to his Sleeper, which really seemed to nearly end the match, before hitting him with his Fameasser for a VERY near fall. Water off a duck’s back to Ziggler, who decided to go for his finisher, the Zig Zag, the first attempt saw Orton hold the ropes, but Ziggler went for it again, and this time Orton reversed it in to a slightly messy but nice idea of an RKO for the win (I like Orton’s attempts at unique reversals of finishers in to the RKO). Both #1 Contenders looked strong in a good match that was nice build-up for the Royal Rumble.

Orton didn’t look so strong, however, when Miz, almost immediately, put a savage beat down on his Royal Rumble opponent. It was nice that they continued to attack Orton’s knee before ramming him brutally in to the announce table, ring post, and new favourite toy, the collapsible barrier at ringside. It was then that Miz delivered his catchphrase (as he’d promised to do earlier in the night). Very powerful and intense from The Miz, showing just how much of a step he gains (kayfabe) with his opportunistic ruthlessness.

The main event saw CM Punk against John Cena, and as soon it was announced that New Nexus were banned from ringside, I was even more sure of my prediction of last week that we would see a new member. Even before this new member was unveiled though, we had ourselves a good match. Cena dominated early, which made sense given he would be pretty mad at how Punk had treated him weeks ago, injuring him. Lots of back and forth and good reversals. Punk seemed to be re-jigging his moveset somewhat, reusing his springboard clothesline, and returning to his submission grounding, incorporating an awesome Koji Clutch in to his move-set, which had Cena in a lot of trouble (and made Cole (who had previously called the Koji Clutch the Anaconda Vice, a move that works on a different part of the body!) labeling Cena as the ‘submission specialist’ a damn joke). This match built perfectly, with both guys gaining momentum at the same time, simply moving towards their finishers as the match went on with reversals in to and out of the GTS and AA. Both guys looked very good, and it was at this point that the mysterious new member of the New Nexus (FCW talent, Mason Ryan) came to the ring. He distracted Cena so Punk could attack him. It was at this point that we saw the extraordinary scene of Punk opening his arms and asking Ryan  to attack him, which he duly did, destroying him with a big boot, causing the DQ victory for Punk. This is really unprecedented, and while it has similarities to the Straight-Edge Society, as long as they don’t start shaving each other’s heads, i’m happy to call it original, because there is something unique about it. It’s really a backwards look at the whole climate of wrestling, and it’s very interesting. Trust Punk to come up with something like it. As for Ryan, we’ll see in the coming weeks what he’s made of. The guys main problem is that he’s Welsh. I’ve never heard a wrestler with a Welsh accent speak and be able to be taken seriously, especially as a heel. His aesthetic similarity to Batista is remarkable, and it seems he’ll be treated similarly. He seemed quite sprightly when he delivered his boot to Punk, so maybe he’ll have a bit more about him than Batista (who is/was genuinely underrated to be fair) or fellow countryman Rob Terry (who it is impossible to underrate). Meanwhile, the growth of the New Nexus has been very good, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more member join in the coming weeks (either next week or at the Rumble).


Smack of the Week (14/01/2011): The End of Days for Big Show and Edge?

Wade Barrett's new group, but are they linked to the New Nexus?

Can WWE not keep Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio apart for two seconds!? I liked Cody Rhodes getting involved with those two and R-Truth, placing him high up on the card, but seeing them wrestle again is enough to put me to sleep, despite their fantastic chemistry. The angle should be over; I thought it was over. It is quite illuminating about the lack of depth in the Smackdown roster that they had no other choice. They put on a decent tag match, and Cody looked pretty good, which was the most important thing to come of this in my view.

One of many things I liked about this Smackdown was the apparent call-up Trent Barreta seems to have been given. Two weeks ago when he took that almost absurdly huge bump, uncaught, from the ring to the floor, I thought he was just being used as a means to Drew McIntyre’s end after McIntyre inflicted even more pain on the injured newcomer. But as soon as Barreta showed up this week, it was clear that it was the beginning of something between these two: it was shown what happened to Barreta two weeks ago, and then he went after McIntyre furiously. This match was short, but was excellent in terms of content. McIntyre took control quite early, with Barreta selling his injuries of a fortnight ago, making McIntyre’s attack seem all the more needlessly brutal, especially that knife-edge chop to the face – that was excellent. McIntyre seemed to have added to his move-set a little, refining it, which was something he could probably have stood to do. His picture perfect dropkick (literally, accompanying it with a picture taunt) and his belly to belly suplex were disciplined and well executed, without detracting from his brawler style. It got to the point where is was awkward viewing (in a good way), as McIntyre looked to press Barreta out of the ring – it was at this point that Baretta shifted his hips in to a sunset flip style move, earning a huge shock victory. This was great for Baretta, cementing his position on television I think without making McIntyre look weak – after all, Barreta’s win was, in many ways, a fluke. Good foundation for a good feud. Afterwards, McIntyre attacked Barreta backstage, furious at his loss, when Kelly Kelly appeared, disarming McIntyre. Needless to say she wasn’t too impressed with McIntyre’s actions, and walked off disgusted. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, or if they were killing the angle.

It was a shame that the Kofi Kingston-Jack Swagger match was so ordinary. Fine, but ordinary.  As a triple threat feud with Dolph Ziggler, this really worked, but by now, it seems a little redundant. I think Swagger needs to move on, concentrate on being in the main event again, which maybe means he can join the ranks of those who say they will win the Royal Rumble, and make a play for that, and the Elimination Chamber. As for Kofi, he needs a new challenger; send it the way of Cody Rhodes.

The end segment of the show was #1 Contender, Dolph Ziggler appearing on the Cutting Edge with Edge’s ex-wife, Vickie Guerrero in-toe. Both guys are good on the mic, so this was a decent segment, and I liked the way two separate clips of Vickie being cheated on were brought up (where the hell is Kaitlyn by the way!?). This was all well and good, but it centered more around Vickie than the World Heavyweight Championship match. That was made central, however, at the end of the show when Ziggler cold-cocked Edge with the mic before attempting to beat him down. Another moment I liked was when Edge gained the upper hand and looked like he would Spear Vickie. If that were ever to happen, it would be genuinely memorable, highlight reel stuff, simply because of the history between the two and the current, hated profile of Vickie Guerrero. Ziggler saved her from this fate (maybe it will happen at a later date?) and beat down the champion, hitting a horrible (in a good way) Zig Zag on the ringsteps. This was genuinely quite surprising – I was expecting a ‘tail between his legs’ moment for Ziggler at this stage, but Ziggler got the best of the veteran, again adding weight to his push.

The main talking point, however, is the formation of Wade Barrett’s (kinda) new group! I suggested on RAW that Gabriel and Slater could come to Smackdown and join Barrett, but, in reality, I thought it was just wishful thinking!  Indeed, on the wrong end of a beat-down during his match with Big Show, Barrett looked to be the next victim of Big Show’s monster-like booking, but (former?) Nexus partners, Gabriel and Slater showed up on the scene to attempt the usual Nexus-like beat down. Then ‘Big Zeke’ arrived. At first I expected Jackson, a babyface at first, to help Big Show, a prospect I wasn’t keen on as the two 1-dimensional monsters on the same team could be boring, but then he started helping Barrett’s group! The announcers couldn’t get enough of his slam to Big Show, and to be honest, I don’t blame them – that sort of feat is truly amazing. Show then suffered the usual mix of finishers before the four posed together over his carcass. I’ll be very interested to see how this group justifies itself next week, and whether or not they call themselves Nexus. In an ideal way (for this fan), they would announce being linked to the New Nexus, and being a kind of Smackdown wing of the group. As I have said from the beginning, I love the idea of them swarming and infesting the WWE – it makes them seem like a threat to the very spectacle we are seeing. It’s also good, because it makes Big Show more relevent and interesting than he has been in a very long time (probably since his tag team title runs). All I know is that I can’t wait for next week! Maybe we’ll have more members! I’d love to see Tarver return to the fold!

RAW Recall (10/01/2011): Trials by Fire

Miz leaves the ring 'like a scolded dog', unwilling to take on Orton

This week’s RAW was very segment heavy, maybe too much so. Indeed, I think there were only two really serious matches throughout the show, which isn’t really enough. Nonetheless, it was definitely a compelling show as ‘The New Nexus’ emerged for the first time as a definable unit and the dynamic between Miz and Orton continued to mature.

The first appearance of ‘The New Nexus’ was very similar to that of the older incarnation. Before a scheduled tag team titles bout, they came out and cemented their will, saying the match was now postponed. Punk’s promo was obviously very good, as you would expect, and he commenced characterising the Nexus along his own lines. Punk has always, as a heel at least, toyed with parallels (and parody) of Christ and organised religion, and this began in earnest with his new followers, saying that they could all reach a promised land (stardom and success in WWE) if they, including himself, were willing first to make sacrifices. The first one of which was a cancerous attack from the group to one of their own, Michael McGillicutty. And so, reluctantly at first, Nexus went about this familiar sight, hitting each of their finishers on McGillicutty. This seemed to provide a disturbing bodily bonding among the members, who carried the injured McGillicutty from the ring on their shoulders, as if to a pyre. Excellent viewing.

Husky Harris’s initiation was to receive three lashes from the remaining Nexus members, including Punk zealously strapping Harris nine times. This was an even more archaic ordeal, and the stunned silence in the scene and among the crowd spoke to the success of the scene as it carried a real atmosphere of genuine sacrifice.

At some point after this, we had a strange segment where Cole read an email from the Anonymous GM which praised Cole to the sky. Surely this makes it sure that the GM will be a heel and/or actually Cole? It’s pretty interesting, and is just waiting to be utilised in a storyline now it’s been in place for so long. I hope they do actually reveal the GM’s identity sometime.

David Otunga was next sent in to the archetypal lion’s den, to provoke the Big Show and take the punishment he would innevitable receive. Otunga appears to have changed from self-serving egoist under Wade Barrett to perhaps the most unquestioning of the Nexus disciples. Facing an angry Big Show, Otunga held out his arms and closed his eyes to receive the beating. The real success of these seacrifices, and especially this one for the sheer passiveness of Otunga is that it has managed to make an attack not shocking in it’s brutality, shocking, in an arena where violence is commonplace. This is because there is an innate lack of comfort with seeing a passive man get beaten up, especially when it comes from a supposed ‘hero’.

The first match of real note on the show was the re-booking of Sheamus against John Morrison. Though we must have seen these two square up a good dozen times or so now, they, for whatever, reason, have excellent chemistry meaning the booking hasn’t yet gotten stale. This match featured simply excellent storytelling with Sheamus wearing Morrison down while Morrison stayed in the game, showing a lot of ‘heart’. This feud has been excellent for both, helping Sheamus become a more rounded in-ring performer, and helping Morrison get over as a legitimate, tough, main event player. Apart from the solid technicality of the match, there were other eye-catching moments, firstly, Morrison attempting a Starship Pain, only to be shoved from the turnbuckle to the floor. This started an attack on Morrison’s arm, on which he landed awkwardly. That wasn’t all though. Sheamus also worked on Morrison’s abdomen. It’s not that often where you see an aggressor work on more than one area of the anatomy. The abdomen attack really accelerated when Sheamus hit a front suplex to Morrison on the ring stairs. At this point, Morrison was really debilitated, and Sheamus was setting up for his Brogue Kick. Now what happened next was remarkable (though i’m not sure it was intentional). At this point, you expect Morrison to turn around and either take or avoid a Brogue Kick. However, Morrison just, sort of, fell over. As I say, i’m not sure it was intentional, but if it was, what a powerful way of getting over someone’s vulnerability, especially in this industry where competitors can generally stand until they are actually beaten. Sheamus took this in his stride, and approached Morrison for more offense, before Morrison grabbed ‘The Celtic Warrior’s’ arm, dropping to the floor and snapping it against the top rope, leaving Sheamus vulnerable for his running knee smash, which again took Sheamus out for a three-count. Another excellent match between these two. I wonder what they’ll do now though. I feel they’ve exhausted the feud in storyline terms, so it’s important that both move on to new storylines and keep up the good ring-work.

Next up was the initiation ordeal for Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. CM Punk asked them to look each other in the eye and hit each other with kendo sticks until he told them to stop. This was another psychologically interesting one, but Gabriel and Slater refused to take part, even after Punk offered to let them attack him. It seems their problem was with the clear needlessness and irrationality of the act, which the announcers were talking about throughout. Indeed, given Punk’s clear parallels with Christ, even down to the stigmata, I think it was a conscious parallel of the irrationality of unquestioning followers of big institutions, such as organised religions, but not restricted to that. That is to be applauded not only for the sentiment, but for the creativity and depth of the storytelling. It seems, then, that Slater and Gabriel are out of Nexus (though it probably wasn’t clear enough), and Punk didn’t even seem that annoyed. If that is true, they could possibly get over as faces more than Barrett could, and so could possibly stay on RAW. Unfortunately, for Gabriel (though less so for Slater), he is/was infinitely better as a heel, and if he has to change, it’ll probably be to his determent. The other option is they follow Barrett to Smackdown, having realised that he was a less zealous leader. The Old Nexus, so to speak, could definately be a fresh entity on Smackdown, and would fulfil my dreams of Nexus permeating all of WWE. This of course is something Punk suggested in his opening promo, but perhaps it’s too much to hope that, if there are two organisations, they will be coordinated. As for the New Nexus, they need new members sharpish. There are lots of potentials: We know Awesome Kong is being considered, but aside from her, David Hart Smith hasn’t been seen on TV in a while, and certainly works better as a heel, similarly, Tyson Kidd could replace Gabriel as a disturbing high-flyer; and seen as this is the time of year where the brand borders become a bit more fluid (e.g. Wade Barrett to Smackdown); from Smackdown, Tyler Reks could potentially make a good member; and also, from FCW, Seth Rollins (Tyler Black) could get his break this way, the same maybe for Wes Brisco.

Next up was an incredibly moving and ‘showstopping’ moment as, in a relative surprise, Shawn Michaels was revealed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the first inductee in to this years Hall. Not only that, but he made an appearance! His music got a HUGE pop, and deservedly so. He looked great and very thankful to be there. Before he could say anything, however, Alberto Del Rio, who had managed to beat R-Truth again earlier in the night (including an ear-aching, heat-gaining Mariachi performance from Rodrigo Rodriguez), came out to some of the worst heat i’ve ever heard to make a name for himself against HBK. He cut a textbook promo to Shawn about him being washed up, and him being the future (a future hall of famer indeed) before Shawn delivered one more Sweet Chin Music to shut him up and make the crowd happy, before shining his old boot and leaving the ring to near-hysterical reactions from the crowd. J.R. pointed this out on his blog (I think): Shawn drew all this emotion and appreciation, without having to even say a word. Now that is a performer! The Hall of Fame is no less than the Showstopper deserves.

In a complete switch of mood, it was now Punk’s turn to undergo his initiation ordeal. He ‘stole’ the segment from John Cena, who was meant to address the crowd, instead appearing at the dizzying height of the top of the tron. A height that is of course, just another element of worship. Now, without seeing this segment, it may be hard to really comprehend the seriousness and gravitas of this promo, and for that reason, I will post a video of it below. The announcers really helped sell the danger here, as Punk was apparently about to leap from the top of the tron, which was basically up in the rafters of the arena. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think he was actually just going to jump to his death, but I thought he might dive in to a bunch of cardboard boxes or something like that (a’la Shane McMahon at Summerslam 2000), or jump off the back of the tron with a harness. Even knowing this, it would have been a spectacular and shocking move. The whole crowd bought it anyway, as did, i’m sure, most of the audience, and there was a real sense of panic among his baiting of the crowd. In the end, however, Punk revealed that he was never considering such a ridiculous act,  that, as leader, he doesn’t have to prove anything, and all that he did prove was how gullible the crowd can be. Indeed, this fitted in nicely with the whole theme of people acting irrationally in the face of charismatic/hope-giving/apocalyptic rhetoric.

(I’ll try to get a more specific video, but for now, the segment in question begins at 2.00 in this video).

Cena soon confronted Punk in full stride, by way of live satellite, saying that given that he had promised to take out every member of Nexus, Punk still needs to be ‘dealt’ with. Cena really cut through this atmosphere making him seem even more heroic, confronting this powerful new entity. He even got so heated that he said the slightly un-PG ‘i’m gonna whoop your ass’. Cena stated on twitter that he was fined for his outburst, but that makes me think that it was actually done on purpose. Why would Cena, the consummate company man, reveal that on twitter other then as a way of covering his own (and WWE’s) ‘ass’ for slipping that bit of impassioned speech in there. Well, maybe anyway. It’s not like ‘ass’ is that bad! Next week we’ll see Punk take on Cena, and I am fascinated to see what happens. I would like to see (and I think there’s a chance of it happening)  the debut of a new member to help Punk.

Our main event saw Jerry Lawler in the main event again, tagging with Randy Orton to take on The Miz and Alex Riley. This match was all about The Miz trying to escape the match with a victory. Miz had even said earlier in the night that he was worried about his WWE Championship match at the Royal Rumble because of how intent and demonic Orton is. During the match, Miz wanted no part of the action unless he was on top or was needed, tagging in when the opponent was beat-down. Of course, both Orton and Lawler took it to A-Ri, so Miz had to get momentum by manipulating the match. He did all this with the old-fashioned ref distraction. As Lawler was crawling to Orton for the tag, Miz got in the ring, meaning that the ref missed the tag to Orton, and while Orton was remonstrating, Miz dragged Riley to their corner and tagged him before knocking Orton from the apron. This was really good storytelling for a resourceful heel champion, but before he could hit a Skull-Crushing Finale on King, Orton recovered and hit an RKO on Miz. This left Riley in the ring with Orton, who received his own RKO before Orton tagged in Lawler to finish the match. In a move that i’ve never seen before, Orton (poetic licence being played with Orton’s obligation to vacate the ring) stood in front of Miz, daring him to save Riley and the match as Lawler dropped a fist on his apprentice from the second rope and pinned Riley. This was brilliantly played off by both men, as Orton glared glassy-eyed at Miz and Miz, intimidated and confronted by the challenge to his reign, backed down and left, hugging the title close to him. A good way for this feud to get the final word in on a show packed with emotion. Over the past two weeks, Miz’s contrasting performances have really set him perfectly as a man who is skilled enough to be champion, without necessarily being better than everyone else. He knows he could be beat on any given night, just as easily as he could win, and so he exercises excellent self-preservation. King is really stepping up in the ring, but i’m still not sure he should be appearing so regularly. I think it’s time for an up-and-coming face to take his place, the problem being, both blue-chip candidates, Daniel Bryan and Evan Bourne, are not suitable at the moment for varying reasons.