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).