The first match of 2011 will make the highlight reels for the year for sure. It saw John Morrison in his first ever WWE Championship match against The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match. The match was extremely well thought out as Morrison naturally had to deal with Alex Riley who would, of course, get involved. The first big spot of the match went some way towards this, as Morrison hit a cross-body from the giant WWE logo on the stage to both Miz and Riley. This distraction allowed for Miz to gain offense on the Monday Night Delight in a way that was emblematic of Miz’s reign so far. Riley was only dispatched once and for all after Morrison perched him on the barricades and then hit a leaping version of his knee-smash finisher, leaving Miz and Morrison alone to finish off an excellent match. This was a really physical brawl, and each man really made themselves seem resilient and hungry. In this vein, Miz looked like the strongest champion he has to date, kicking out of a Starship Pain (a move i’m not sure has ever been kicked out of). To John Morrison’s credit, after one of the most impressive spots of his career in which he attempted a Starship Pain on Miz through a table, outside the ring, hitting the table but not Miz, he too managed to kick out and seem resilient. This was only delaying the inevitable though, as Miz would hit a Skull-Crushing Finalé on Morrison on the concrete to pick up the victory and clean title retention. Excellent, dramatic and important match. What a start to the year!
Why have a Bella in a tag match? Why not have Gail Kim! Yes, I will single out the parts of the show that do/don’t feature Gail Kim.
An interesting story could be about to be unearthed as The Usos set their sights on the WWE Tag Team Championships. For the first time ever, Tamina accompanied the team opposing The Usos, simply because of her relationship with Santino, as the Usos took on Santino and Kozlov. This was another decent match, continuing the shift of Santino away from a joke wrestler (though he is still very much the clown in terms of character). The Usos were clinical in this match, and picked up something of a shock win over the tag champs (who have been on quite a roll of late) to surely put them on the road to a tag title match at the Royal Rumble. What made this particularly interesting though was the Usos apparent belief that Tamina, in her awkward position, was betraying them. This is actually compelling, because the view-points of either side (Tamina and the Usos) is understandable and believable. If there are some nice segments in the build-up to the match (I dunno, something like the Usos physically threatening Tamina, for instance) then this could make for the first good tag rivalry for some time. It’s a lot to hope for at this early stage though …
In a special appearance on RAW, Smackdown’s Alberto Del Rio came to put the locker-room on notice about his entry in to the Royal Rumble. It seems there will be a few instances coming up where Smackdown talent appears on RAW, eventhough it’s a little bit before true Wrestlemania season where it becomes a free-for-all. It also seems that with Del Rio leading the charge, that they rightly have big plans for him. He was taking on R-Truth, who really isn’t in his league (where was Bryan!), but put on a surprisingly good match with Del Rio, as Truth absolutely dominated the Mexican aristocrat in the early going with a bruising, brawling style. So much so that it only makes me think that Truth would do much better as a heel. Eventually, however, the wiles of Del Rio won through, as he systematically wore down Truth’s left arm for seemingly a very long time before eventually making Truth tap to his cross armbreaker. A good showing for both guys. I’m interested about Del Rio’s chances in the Rumble now. Usually, the book would say that this sort of hype would almost rule him out of contention, but considering the rise he’s on, he seems like a front runner. An idea i’ve just had now is that Del Rio is of course the main target of the relatively soon returning Christian, and so perhaps it points to Christian making it back for the Rumble and taking on current World Heavyweight Champion, Edge, in booking that would elate all fans over the age of about eighteen.
The question of Wade Barrett’s future was addressed up front, as CM Punk claimed what seemed obvious, that he is now leading Nexus. I liked Punk’s promo; it was typically fluent and had more of a hint of truth to it regarding Cena and what could be construed as his lack of regard for his own code. As for his position in Nexus, this left us in an untenable situation. Both Punk and Barrett are top talents now, and neither could really healthily play second fiddle to the other in Nexus – one of them would probably have to go. Indeed, Barrett confronted Punk and called Nexus out to back them up, who seemed surprisingly undecided on who was leading them when you think about their clear statement of being ‘under new management’ last week as well as their salute to Punk. At this point, it was decided that Barrett would wrestle for the #1 contendership to the WWE Championship later that night against Sheamus and Randy Orton in a steel cage, and if he won, he would lead Nexus, Punk and all; but if he left, he would leave Nexus altogether – and sticking to his fair and just persona, Punk made it a ‘gentleman’s agreement.’
However, with it almost certainly being a face that would go on to face Miz at the Royal Rumble, it was clear that a heel wouldn’t be winning the match, and that Barrett would therefore be out of Nexus. This is indeed what happened. Now, in my opinion, the cage match wasn’t that great unfortunately. It revolved, naturally, around the participants trying to leave the cage, but apart from the odd double-teaming, there wasn’t much triple-threat style wrestling going on. It also could have done with being a bit more brutal with regards to the cage – most of the moves seemed to ignore it. It was ok, but after the awesome opener, it was always going to pale in comparison. The end was very interesting. Barrett seemed to be in something of a good position, half way up the cage, but struggling with injured limbs, and with Orton and Sheamus seemingly incapacitated. At this point, Punk came out, seemingly in solidarity, and offered Barrett his hand, which Barrett reluctantly took before Punk ripped off Barrett’s ‘N’ armband and shoved him back down to the canvas, before Sheamus hit him with a Brogue Kick, and Orton hit Sheamus with an RKO, allowing him to escape and become #1 contender. Now, before the match, Nexus (and even Otunga) seemed to show respect and gratitude to Barrett for where he had taken them as Nexus, so Punk screwing him like this, you would presume , would not go down well with Nexus. That is, unless, the rest of the Nexus approved Punk’s move – something I think is crucial; a Nexus reluctantly under Punk isn’t one I think can be really engrossing as they will surely be less determined to succeed in whatever their goals are. As for Barrett, I think there is only one option for him: to go to Smackdown as a heel. Smackdown need another top star, and Wade Barrett, without Nexus, will struggle to get noticed in the coming months. Let him feud with Edge perhaps – those matches could be great! Altogether, a slightly messy affair regarding Nexus. Though it would be hard to avoid that with Punk in the picture for the reasons already stated. It seems Cena will be making some sort of appearance next week, so onward and upward hopefully for Nexus and this storyline!