No Post For Smackdown

As is obvious, I couldn’t find time to write about Smackdown last week. The next couple of weeks will be very busy, so I can’t promise any posts, though I will try if I find the time. For regular readers (and, indeed, people reading RTV-WOW) for the first time, please, bear with me.

In the mean time, I will still be providing my live twitter commentary on Monday Night RAW (here in Britain, it starts at 2am, when I wont be working). If you’re on twitter, follow me at @RTVWOW!/RTVWOW


RAW Recall (‘2 21 11’): Back from the Verge of Disappointment

HHH and Undertaker seemed to agree to a match at Wrestlemania

This will have to be a quick post because I’m really busy this week.

The show opened with Cena’s rap about the Rock, which turned out to be awesome! After last week, it would be hard to even come close to matching Rocky, but it seemed he did. What he ‘said’ certainly seemed to have some truth to it, and his insults were very cutting! It’ll be interesting to see what will happen now. Cena seemed to win the crowd over with what he said, and I can’t imagine Rock not being on the show next week to address Cena’s words.

At the top of the hour we had the revelation of the ‘2 21 11’ mystery, which was, just about a success. When it counted down and ‘Taker came out, I think it’s fair to say most were disappointed, but when Triple H stole the show by returning before Undi could speak made the whole thing more surprising and rewarding for the viewer. I still think it was a mis-judgement to use the vignettes for this. You can’t have that sort of mysterious vignette, reveal who the returnee is, and it not be a swerve. The right thing to do would have been to have the exact same footage, but sell it with the subtitle ‘Undertaker Rises. 2 21 11.’ rather than just ‘2 21 11’. It set up for a fall by doing that. As I say though, Trips coming back saved it all (I think his huge pop was more relief from the crowd) and their interaction in complete silence was reminiscent of a great cinematic scene. That silent negotiation about a match at Wrestlemania was very well played out. Next week, however, they’ll have to add some colour to the story. One problem I had with all this was that HHH seems to have completely forgotten about Sheamus. He needs to have a big match with him before ‘Mania, or I would have a bit of an issue with HHH not having an issue with Sheamus taking him out for so long. As for Undertaker, he still has unfinished business with Nexus (though most of those responsible for burying him are now in Corre). I think it’s also important that he finishes something with them.

Cole was an excellent heel once more during his interview with Jerry Lawler, culminating in Cole’s shocking comments about King’s mother. Huge kudos to Jerry for being able to go through that segment. The King-Cole match at ‘Mania seems to be on it’s way, especially after Cole threw water in King’s face (maybe that could be his special move, ‘The Water Splash’). Very compelling viewing here, and again, well played out.

The main event displayed the sort of chaos you might associate with Wrestlemania season. Corre vs Miz/Cena was certainly weird booking, but I think it did a good job. I was wondering how Miz and Cena would lose, expecting The Rock to maybe appear in some way, but instead, and shockingly, Miz and Cena went over. It made for better build between Miz and Cena, but made Corre look pretty weak. That, in fact, was very good for Miz, who certainly looked closer to Cena’s level than theirs, dominating Gabriel and Slater with ease. I’m glad Corre managed to win the belts back though, as I think Miz and Cena being tag champs would have been a little gooyf at this stage and could have obstructed their story. They have a good enough history as it is without anything like that. Miz’s Skull Crushing Finalé to Cena as he was attempting an AA Slater. Nice. Maybe they could have had that finish in one, longer, match in which Miz and Cena looked to be working as a really good team, but in the end, I guess that’s of little consequence. Chaotic, and while i’m not really sure what I think of it critically, I think I enjoyed it.

Elimination Chamber Review, 2011: A Clear Road to Wrestlemania

Cena cemented his place in a predictable but 'must-see' Wrestlemania main event

My impression after last night’s Elimination Chamber was that it was a good PPV with every match delivering at least decent quality. The results were somewhat predictable, but that is easily forgivable because the results were, in my mind the ‘correct’ ones, and ‘shock’ results, say Jerry Lawler winning, would have set up less interesting match-ups for Wrestlemania. Also, in a noteworthy bit of trivia, this PPV was the first time since No Mercy in October, 2008, that the RAW world title match didn’t feature HHH, Batista, John Cena or Randy Orton, the first time since Cyber Sunday, later that month, that none of Cena, HHH or Randy Orton were in the RAW main event. There is of course the large caveat that one of the guys in the match was 61 years old, but nonetheless, any move away from that monopoly of the RAW main event is a good thing and a good sign for the future.

Match 1) Alberto Del Rio def. Kofi Kingston
Now, my stream cut out half way through this match, so my critique of it comes out of context, having watched it again this morning. The main thing I liked about this match was how Kofi was booked to be a little green, a little too nice in the early goings. Where Del Rio was ruthless, Kofi would hold off on inflicting further punishment, like when Del Rio was sent to the outside. Kofi seemed to go through a learning-process though, as, in the second half of the match, he really brought it to Del Rio, including an awesome missile dropkick which was legitimately the highest i’ve ever seen with incredible hang-time. Throughout, Del Rio was working Kofi’s gut with ingenius moves, like his double knee-buster reversal of Kofi’s cross-body. This, and some distraction from Ricardo Rodriguez, helped him finally overcome the Intercontinental Champion, but only after fighting off a nice counter to the cross-armbreaker which involved him holding his other hand and stopping his arm from hyper-extending. Del Rio pounded Kingston until he couldn’t continue this defence and had to tap.

Match 2) Edge def. Rey Mysterio, Kane, Drew McIntyre, Big Show and Wade Barrett to Retain the World Heavyweight Championship
This chamber match was fantastic. That may be something of a surprise seen as the mystery entrant turned out to be the always (recently) disappointing Big Show. I barely see the point of having him in, other than him being a scary guy. I would have rather Christian (if he was fully healthy) or Cody Rhodes to interact more with Rey Mysterio and purposefully target only him, this costing him the title and creating more heat for Wrestlemania. In some ways it took a while to really get going, starting out tentatively with little interaction with the Chamber, but once Drew McIntyre (one of the stand-out performers of the night) came out, business picked up! McIntyre was a house of fire, throwing Mysterio in to one of the pods. He then teamed with Barrett for a while, which I thought was a nice touch before the even nicer touch of his turning on Barrett as he entered the ropes and throwing him through one of the pods, and generally causing brutal havoc, even managing to Future Shock Big Show! He was eventually eliminated, but his intensity, and the heat he managed to generate (he had to work for it) showed him off as a big deal at the highest level. On the other side, I don’t think Barrett succeeded at making much of an impact. He was eliminated first and didn’t really get to do anything memorable. The same really goes for Big Show, who was clearly nothing more than filler. Kane was a house of fire (pardon the pun) for a while, and added a psychotic element to the match, but the match really went to the next level when we were left with Edge and Mysterio, the two opening combatants. They had an excellent, dramatic mini-match with lots of near-falls, with either kicking out of each-other’s finishers. The only way the match could be won was with an even more powerful version of their finisher, and Edge accomplished that with his super-Spear which met Mysterio coming off the turnbuckle, and resembled a spine-buster. Great match overall, probably the best of the night. After the match, in a move that made complete logical sense, Alberto Del Rio returned to the ring to beat down and intimidate his Wrestlemania opponent, getting Edge in his armbreaker and refusing to let go. Cue Christian, who came out (not looking too injured) to take down Del Rio. This points to me as if Christian will have some involvement in the world title match at Wrestlemania. Why do it otherwise! It makes sense too. Not only was it Del Rio that took Chriatian out for months, but, more importantly, the history that Edge and Christian share is deserving of any Wrestlemania story, be it as opponents or partners, and if we get to see this, it will be what they call a ‘mark out moment’.

Match 3) Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre) def. Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to Win the WWE Tag Team Championships
This was definitely the weakest match of  the night, but that doesn’t mean it was particularly poor. Santino was continuing to show his wrestling skill, while Corre used quick-tags while the teams traded the ascendancy. There was a good, conclusive ending as Slater dropkicked Santino to ringside while Gabriel hit the 450 Splash on Kozlov. This was probably a good result for Corre, as they need something to catalyse their impact. As for Santino & Kozlov, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to them. Keep them together; they’re popular.

Match 4) The Miz def. Jerry “The King” Lawler to Retain the WWE Championship
Though the Smackdown match was the better match in many ways, this match was the most moving. Lawler’s story of never being WWE Champion, and never competing at Wrestlemania was moving enough, but the added (legitimate) tragedy of his mother’s death just added another, and very powerful aspect to the atmosphere of the match, partly because we knew Lawler had to be thinking of his mother, even if he knew he was going to lose. I could feel my heart beating during the match, and that’s telling. I must add to this point that I didn’t want Jerry to win. If he had, i’d have been pleased about his moment in the sun, but I think it would have hurt Miz too much. I think it was right that he lost; he’ll get his moment at Wrestlemania, probably against Cole. As for the match, it played on all of this very well. It was quite an evenly-matched contest, but if anyone looked like they could win, it was Lawler, who had the most near-falls. You know a match in which you can believe that a 61 year old man could become the WWE Champion is a good, dramatic and unpredictable match. Cole, who had been obviously berating King at ringside, finally got his when Lawler threw Miz over the announce booth on to Cole, and thus surely starting their road to Wrestlemania. Back in the ring, Miz, rightly, managed to just get the better of King with a Skull-Crushing Finalé. This was followed by a nice spot where Cole went in to the ring to congratulate Miz and raise his hand. Very well played-out.

Match 5) John Cena def. CM Punk, Sheamus, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth
This was another good chamber match. Perhaps not as good in terms of drama as the first match, but it used the chamber very well and was probably more brutal than the first. The stand-out talent here was, as you might expect, CM Punk. His character was by far the biggest in the match, be it in his general demeanor in the pod, his re-instatement in the match, and his amazing elimination of ‘Randall’ Orton which involved him mocking Orton’s Viper taunts before delivering a GTS. Elsewhere, Morrison got in his obligatory parkour (kinda) spot in the match when he scaled the roof of the chamber in a way we’ve never seen before, before dropping down on to Sheamus with a cool but slightly messy crossbody for the three. The last two fighters were Cena and Punk, and after a little wrestling, Cena went for the AA, to which Punk responded with the standard block of grabbing the ropes. However, that obviously doesn’t work in a chamber match, and Cena adapted nicely, hiting the AA over the rope on to the steel grid for a well thought out but abrupt finish. Perhaps the finish was so abrupt that it was a little anti-climactic, but we had the right winner in my opinion (Cena and Miz have had tension for about 2 years now!) and a good finish using the chamber, so it’s fine by me.

Overall, we learned a lot about Wrestlemania from five good matches which produced the right winners. Not as shocking as in the past, (though Christian’s return was surprising and points to the much desired and highly sensical involvement of Christian in the World title match at Wrestlemania) but very well realised.

Elimination Chamber Preview and Predictions, 2011

Elimination Chamber, 2011, from the Oracle Arena, Oakland, California, 20/02/2011

Elimination Chamber is always one of the more unpredictable PPV’s. It’s Wrestlemania season, and anything is possible in the name of hyping up the big dance. The past two years have seen shock championship switches to people not in the actual chamber match, and this year, the empty spot in the Smackdown chamber guarantees some sort of surprise, surely! Also, I don’t think we’ll see an extra match, eventhough a diva match is missing. No doubt we’ll see a segment, and hopefully one introducing Awesome Kong. They seem to be specifically making the divas division look to be in chaos, so maybe she could be the one to clear it up. Why wait on her!

Match 1) RAW Elimination Chamber Match: John Cena vs Randy Orton vs CM Punk vs King Sheamus vs John Morrison vs R-Truth
I have said before that the only way to avoid Cena headlining Wrestlemania this year would be for Triple H to return and win the thing. I don’t, however, see this as likely or necessarily desirable. Cena was the main guy that helped Miz get over in my opinion, and their history stretching back I think 2 years to Miz’s anti-Cena days (inspired surely by Jericho’s ‘feud’ with Goldberg in WCW) would make for a big pay-off in Atlanta. The only other real option is John Morrison. One day he could headline Wrestlemania with the Miz as his history with The Miz (if he is to win his later match?) is obvious. But I don’t think they’ll be booking that match just yet, they’ll want an established name to pair up with Miz and Morrison simply isn’t ready yet, though he has been improving. Everyone (except probably Miz) will turn on Punk, surely, after all he has done to them, and as for Morrison, he needs to pull out some more awesome parkour. It is that that has started to get him over, so I expect him to try something ridiculous and unbelievable in the match. As a little extra tit-bit, I think it will come down to Punk-Cena in the end, to put a final bullet on their rivalry.

Winner: John Cena

Match 2) WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov (c) vs Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre)
The only thing making me doubt that Corre will take the championships are the sheer popularity of the champions. I think it would probably be a good idea to have them keep the titles for a long time (a year, say) and make them look like really strong champions. That would be good for the division in many ways. However, I also suspect that the fortunes of Corre are more important to WWE right now. They need to do something. Also, why have a DQ finish on tv if you’re going to just have another defence anyway? No reason why this can’t be a fun match though, it’s just a little hard to predict. However, i’m going to go for the stable that WWE seem to be trying to hype, somewhat unsuccessfully.

Winners: Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater (Corre)

Match 3) Kofi Kingston vs Alberto Del Rio
To be honest, despite my enjoyment of Alberto Del Rio, and his reign as Royal Rumble winner, i’ve not really gotten interested in this little feud. A bit of oneupmanship in terms of assaults, but no real storyline as I can see. Don’t get me wrong, i’m sure the match will be of pretty high quality, if for no other reason than to get Del Rio over as a strong challenger going in to Wrestlemania, and it’ll need to be pretty conclusive as you would imagine that Del Rio will be heading in to his feud with the World Heavyweight Champion immediately following, but I’m just not very interested in the match. Kofi will look strong too, however, and Del Rio may need to assault Kingston’s arm on the steps or ringpost first to get the sumbission.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

Match 4) WWE Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs Jerry “The King” Lawler
This match is something of an enigma. No one really knows what to expect in terms of quality, although going off their ladder match a month or so back, there’s no reason why it can’t be good. There is also the unfortunate circumstances of the passing of Jerry’s mother which will automatically lead to an extra dimension for the match. Jerry, in real life as well as kayfabe, will undoubtedly be performing for his late mother, and that can only be good for the emotionality of the match. A little part of me was worried that this would lead to Jerry actually going over, but it’s still highly unlikely. The Miz, whatever happens, will be headlining Wrestlemania, but there has been much talk of giving Lawler a ‘cup of coffee’ reign out of respect and to break his championship duck in WWE. That’s not out of the question, and a big part of me would like to see it, but an even bigger part thinks it’s a bad idea. I think it’s a bit fiddily and complicated at this point in Wrestlemania season (notwithstanding the confusion on Smackdown this week, which if anything, makes another quick exchange more unlikely). I do, however, think Lawler will be wrestling at Wrestlemania, and I would be in favour of a King vs Cole match at the big show. A lot of people believe that Cole will, again, cost King the WWE Championship, thus leading to the Wrestlemania match, and that seems good to me, the only issue is WWE changing the booking because so many people are ‘on to it’.Whatever happens though, I expect a high quality (though relatively short), emotional match.

Winner: The Miz

Match 5: Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship: Edge (c) vs Kane vs Rey Mysterio vs Wade Barrett vs Drew McIntyre vs ???
Dolph Ziggler’s ‘firing’ has completely changed the interest of this match, and for the better! Before this week, the match seemed to only be about how to get Edge, or possibly Rey Mysterio  in to the Wrestlemania main event. Now it seems different. My natural instinct is that whoever enters that match in Ziggler’s place will win the match; after all, that sort of surprise is only ever utilised to crown a surprise new champion, as this PPV has become known for. So the real question here is: who will take Ziggler’s place? Well, of course, it could be almost anybody, but I think there are five legitimate possibilities. The first is obviously that Ziggler could simply return seeking revenge. I think, however, that this would be a bit too obvious and not really much of a sell on the firing (though lest we remember the regular occurrence of John Cena when he was fired!), after all, who would have re-hired him? The second is Kofi Kingston. He could pull shock double-duty and enter the match to seek revenge against Alberto Del Rio (improving their story ten-fold). The problem with this is that I highly doubt that WWE are ready to put the world title on Kofi. Next is Cody Rhodes. This is only suggestion I have which wouldn’t end in the surprise entrant actually winning the match. I’m liking the build for his feud with Mysterio, and this could add to that as Rhodes costs Mysterio his shot at the title etc etc. Another possibility is The Undertaker. I can’t help but think (and hope!) that the sheer obviousness of the ‘2 21 11’ videos being The Undertaker is a swerve, and that they actually refer to Sting or Triple H or someone equally surprising. That would leave Undertaker free for a genuinely shocking surprise. It’s a bold prediction to make though, and I’m not convinced he’ll necessarily be chasing the WHC, so I move on to my number one favourite for the slot: Christian. Now maybe this is wishful thinking, but surely if even if all the worst rumours about Vinnie not liking Christian are true, he must see that there’s money in him facing or teaming with Edge at Wrestlemania! The fun doesn’t stop there though! It was Alberto Del Rio that put Captain Charisma out in the first place. All the pieces connect here for a fresh and hugely anticipated Wrestlemania main event! It all depends on Christian’s physical status, but he has been recouping for a long time now, he might be just about serviceable. This would be the dream scenario for me.

Winner: Mystery Entrant (Hopefully Christian!)

Smack of the Week (18/02/2011): Pre-Chamber Eliminations

Though big tag matches are usually nothing special to watch wrestling-wise the mass of talent in the big Smackdown tag match booked for this week had me anticipating it greatly, so I was excited to see it on first. There was lots of nice build-up in the match too. The first thing Drew McIntyre did, for instance, was insist that his friend Sheamus tagged him in to face Edge, the man he blames for Kelly Kelly’s firing. Though I would have liked more attention paid to the bond of the so-called ‘Celtic Connection’, I was pleased to see McIntyre get some time in the ring with Edge, and sold his anger towards him well as a way to build up future tensions between the two. It was also nice to see him get to perform his finsher on Randy Orton – a symbol for anyone that they can be taken seriously. A notable omission was any interaction between CM Punk and Wade Barrett on the heel team. Unless they’re completely dropping the idea of a Nexus/Corre face-off, that made little sense to me. The real point of the match was to place Ziggler and Edge in the same ring to build for the rest of the show. After the almost obligatory break-down, Edge managed to Spear Edge and gain the pinfall, a nice result showing that Edge truly deserves the World Heavyweight Championship.

In the midst of celebration though, out came Vickie Guerrero to remind Edge that not only would Ziggler be coronated as champion later that night, but that, as promised, he was fired. Edge sold this nicely, looking genuinely hurt. So much so, I was starting to think how booking might adapt if Dolph Ziggler was to become champion.

I’m not sure what will become of LayCool now Michelle has injured her leg. I’d be surprised if she wrestles again any time soon, and I had thought we’d have seen Lay against Cool at Wrestlemania. I suppose it really depends on the severity of the injury, she was, after all, able to get involved in the match between Layla and Maryse against Eve and Beth, helping the heels win with a cool kick combination double team.

Miz vs Kofi Kingston was ok, but nothing on the Miz-Bryan match on RAW, I suppose because Kingston is no Bryan. There was some nice back-and-forth though, allowing both men to look strong and resiliant, though it probably wasn’t as flattering for Miz as Monday’s match was. Build for the Kingston-Del Rio match was added when the Royal Rumble winner approached the ring to distract Kingston, using his scarf to draw his attention and allow Miz to hit a Skull-Crushing finalé for the win, allowing Del Rio to stand over Kingston, gloating and winking. Not that inspired really, but it did the job.

I think a decent bet could be places on a tag title match pitting Santino and Kozlov against Corre and Nexus at Elimination Chamber after the DQ finish to this week’s tag title match. Either that or just a Corre-Santino & Kozlov rematch. In that sense, decent, and needed build for the PPV, but again, nothing really trailblazing from Corre, just more promise of an interesting but surely horrible match between Big Show and Ezekiel Jackson as again, Show came out to scupper Corre in a beat-down against the tag champs.

The main event segment of the show was Ziggler’s coronation, and thankfully, as many expected, Teddy Long returned to interrupt the ceremony. Restraint is a good thing in acting, as Teddy Long has always been deliberately dignified and professional (in terms of his temperament at least), and so when he actually become angry, it is very watchable, and this is what happened in the ring, as he continuously told Vickie Guerrero to ‘shut up’. Strangely though, it appears as if he allowed Ziggler to keep the championship, as his next order was that, predictably, we’d have another world title match. This was, as you might, expect, a short affair. To have a long match would have killed the excitement of such a quickly twisting situation, with Long returning and Edge re-hired. The Spear legal, in only a few minutes Edge hit it to regain his title (he was announced as the new world heavyweight champion). I don’t like that Edge lost the title, even if it was barely noticeable and not taken seriously by anyone. Why not just say, “Dolph, if you want this championship, you’ll have to beat the champion, and this is your last chance …” Giving Ziggler the title for a few minutes isn’t worth anything, and Edge losing the title for a few minutes seems equally needless. As I say though, fans wont recognise the title change. What was interesting was that, in the aftermath of Edge’s victory, Long ‘fired’ Ziggler, and with grounds as it was spilled that Ziggler was behind Long’s assault. But what does that mean for Ziggler? RAW? What could/will he do there if that is the case? Also, what about his spot at Elimination chamber? A free spot suggests a surprise entrant. I’ll talk about this more on my Elimination Chamber PPV, but may I ask, how fit is Christian?

Wrestlemania season has really kicked in now, and it’s getting very interesting!

RAW Recall (14/02/2011): Finally … The Rock Has Come Back!

The Rock returned to RAW last night, and was announced as guest host of Wrestlemania

It seems counter-intuitive to not just talk about The Rock, and the electrifying atmosphere he created, but i’ll hold off and save that to the end.

Even the climax aside, this week’s edition of RAW was fantastic almost all-round. The first match of the night was John Cena against CM Punk, and seen as the stipulation was that there must be a winner, it promised much. Luckily, it delivered. This match was just a great example of a dramatic match with lots of appropriate and exciting back-and-forth. It certainly seemed that Punk, generally, could hang with Cena. It was a really nice exchange of styles; Cena with his blunt but fluid powerhouse style being tempered by Punk’s clinical strong style. There were a couple of great spots, indeed, where Punk just laid Cena out with some stiff kicks to various parts of his body. As the match came to a climax, either man struggled with using their finisher against the other as they managed to escape each other’s clutches, which was a nice statement of at least least near equality. The match had a very nice finish which started with Cena rolling through a cross-body to get Punk on his shoulders for an FU, which Punk avoided by grabbing the ropes. Amongst all the confusion, a Nexus member slid Punk a chair, who slid it in the ring to distract the ref before being handed a spanner which he used against Cena before hitting a GTS for the victory. The pinfall finish was very satisfying here, and helped round off the issues these two have had.

Alberto Del Rio and Edge’s encounter was nice enough, but the real story came when Vickie Guerrero came out to confront the supposed champion, saying that Dolph Ziggler would be crowned champion on Smackdown this week, and not only that, but Edge will be fired! It seems hard to get out of that in a sense now that Vickie’s said it, but surely it can’t happen? Not at this point at least? The way I see it is there are three directions that could be taken with this: 1) Ziggler is crowned champion, but Edge wins back the title at Elimination Chamber, keeping his job in the process; 2) Given how Guerrero is abusing her power and most probably is behind Teddy Long being assaulted, someone from WWE intervenes and fires her; 3) Edge refuses to give up his title and he and Ziggler wrestle one more time for the title on Smackdown to settle it, again, with Edge keeping his title and job. That aside, there are any number of things that could happen and people who could be involved: Drew McIntyre, Kelly Kelly, hell, maybe Christian will be a part of it all (trying to screw Edge by helping Vickie with Teddy Long). Whatever it is, it is very interesting to see what happens!

We has another ‘2 21 11’ promo next in which they literally and clearly showed The Undertaker. It’s getting harder to see how we’ll be spared the slight disappointment of the vignettes referring to ‘Taker. It’s either simply build up now for ‘taker’s return, as opposed to a ‘surprise’, or it’s a complete swerve. My only thought is that it will be a video shown by whoever will take on ‘Taker at Wrestlemania, my two favourites for the position being Triple H and Wade Barrett. If it’s Barrett, he could have made it, in the knowledge that ‘Taker is returning, and as a warning to him in reference to Nexus’ attacks on him and Corre’s ‘revolution’; if it’s Trips, it could just be ‘mind-games’, possibly part of a heel turn. The 21st has been even more highly anticipated since these vignettes started showing, so eyes will be glued to the screen when it’s revealed, though it will be a bit anticlimactic if it is simply ‘Taker.

The Divas title match was a short match, but of high quality for the most part. The wrestling at the start was very accomplished, and Eve managed the significant feat of hanging with Nattie. There was an awesome spot not long in where Nattie got Eve in a Surfboard, which Eve managed to get out of, standing on Nattie’s calfs which looked great. After dispatching Neidhart to ringside, Eve took advantage of the lumberjills attacking the contender hitting a crossbody on to the rest of the divas, the sort of thing we need to see more of from the divas. Back in the ring, there was a slightly sloppy looking moment when the two were supposed to have clashed heads where the selling was a little … crap. But that was only a slight down-point. The match had a nice ending where Nattie attempted a cradle which Eve reversed in to a unique pin for the retention. Too short? Certainly, but still good. This suffered from the show being so packed, and it’s hard to think where they would get more time from to show a longer match. Still, it’s a shame. If they were at Elimination Chamber, they could have put on an even better match. The general anarchy backstage with the divas is something i’m not that inspired by. However, it may pave the way for Awesome Kong to make her debut and clean house!

Next up was champion vs champion, Miz vs Daniel Bryan in what turned out to be the best match of the night, and probably the reigning match of 2011. These two obviously have lots of history, and so even from the start, every move was more accentuated. This was what placed it above the earlier excellent match. Miz dominated the early going with a lot of ‘holds’ with the odd big strike in between. This was another example of Bryan making the audience care about him, as they didn’t pop that much for his entrance, but already, early on, came the ‘Daniel Bryan’ chants. This spurred Bryan on to reverse the momentum, sending Miz to the outside before hitting his flying knee, which sent the WWE Champion almost through the barricade. This was followed in the ring by Bryan’s awesome missile dropkick, and at this point Miz seemed to be unable to respond and the crowd were really behind AmDrag, who attempted a LeBelle Lock, which Miz escaped. Having escaped, Miz hits a running knee on Bryan in the ropes before hitting a sick neckbreaker on to the apron, sending Bryan to the floor. Following this, after resisting a Miz superplex, Bryan hit an awesome Sunset-flip in to a sit-out powerbomb. Stiff kicks from Bryan see a nice near-fall before Miz’s attempt at his combination neckbreaker is reversed in to a nice German suplex by Bryan, which is followed by a straight, stiff kick to Miz’s head for a very close, dramatic near-fall. Again, however, Miz fights out of the LeBelle Lock and later a victory roll, reversing it to a front slam and ending the match with a Skull-Crushing Finalé. Excellent match. Bryan needed this sort of match to keep his run seem impressive (even without the win), but it was also good for Miz to win clean. I like him being a vulnerable champion, but he should also be shown as good enough at times to legitimately be the champion. Both just gained from this. A future main event? I hope so.

Orton-Sheamus promised a lot, but I think was deliberately held back given that it was the prelude to the announcement of the Wrestlemania guest host. Nice enough, and these two are clearly capable of a good match down the line, but nothing much of note. I thought the RKO out of no-where for the win was a bit lazy, but this was, after all, only build for the EC main event, and indeed, Punk and Nexus came out to attampt a beat-down, only to be scuppered by the other competitors in the Chamber. Classic build without being memorable.

Now given who the Guest Host of Wrestlemania turned out to be, this next segment was strange. A limo pulled up, and the announcers suggested that this could be, or was, the host of Wrestlemania. As the door opened, the feet which came out were women’s. My, and I assume most people’s, immediate thought was Stephanie McMahon, but I couldn’t be sure. This may just have been a swerve though, as our guest host certainly was no woman. So why was she there? Just a red herring? Or, hopefully, part of something bigger? Maybe, if it is Steph, it has something to do with Triple H’s return, or maybe it will be somehow part of the angle with the ‘Mania guest host? Or even something to do with Vickie Guerrero? I’m intrigued anyway, but it all was forgotten after the final segment of the show …

We were told to welcome the Guest Host of Wrestlemania XXVII, and then ensued a visual display actually reminiscent of a Chris Jericho return, the lights went out one after the other, and a bright blue-white light emanated from the tron before the lights finally went out all together, and, finally, after a few seconds … IF YOU SMELL, WHAT THE ROCK, IS COOKIN’! Not much needs to be said about this moment, it was electrifiying, incredible, it sent chills up my spine, not to mention the crowd reaction being the biggest pop I have ever heard!

I wont go in to every detail of the promo as it lasted around 30 minutes (a 30 minutes that flew by!). However, there were some crucial, and very interesting things Rock said. The first thing that struck me was that he said he would never leave again. Surely he can’t be staying part ‘Mania? He said he came back for the fans that backed him in his dream, and seemed to mean it, so maybe he will give us some decent commitment past ‘Mania, which would be awesome. Whether or not that is the case though, it’s still unclear how ‘physical’ he’ll be getting. What is clear, however, is that we’re practically guaranteed a Rock Bottom or two at Wrestlemania. The second thing of real note that the Rock said was when he put two superstars on notice: The Miz, and even more brilliantly, John Cena! Rock absolutely nailed both of them on the mic, and it is these two it seems he’ll be confronting at Wrestlemania. It’ll be interesting to see how far this goes. The word has always been that Rock will never wrestle another match, but for the first time last night, I started to question that. Rock’s spirit of performing for the fans may have changed his mind, not to mention the inevitable rumours that have been swirling since last night. A Rock-Cena match , ‘Icon vs Icon II’, at Mania would possibly the biggest match in the history of wrestling, certainly one of them – it’s hard to think of a bigger match, especially as there has been a lot of talk between the two over the years, albeit respectful talk, so WWE will obviously be pulling for it! Lets not get ahead of ourselves though, he mentioned Miz as well remember. My feeling as of now is that Rock will be guest referee and will reconcile with Cena at ‘Mania, but again, we’ll see. I’m sure all the fans can think about now is Rock-Cena, which may actually drive WWE to try to book it, though that would bring up booking issues for the Miz’s match (which i’ll hopefully discuss in my EC preview).

Overall, however, the main thing was that it was “The Rock”,  instead of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who we saw. I don’t mean he didn’t literally refer to himself by his name, because obviously he did; what I mean is, it wasn’t the sort of one-off appearance/ promo we’ve seen from him in past one-off  ‘returns’ where he’s been distant from his wrestling persona, maybe saying his catchphrases, but with a wry smile. This was 100% Rock the wrestler, and his promo was so funny and charismatic it was like he’d never left. His crucial words on Cena especially were excellent and classic Rock, mocking his ‘you can’t see me’ (‘What? Are you playing peek-a-boo!’) and his gaudy, luminous merchandise that made him look ‘like he is shot out of Barney the dinosaur’s anus’. Indeed, it certainly wasn’t ‘PG’, but it wasn’t offensive – it was the balance WWE need to be looking to strike with their edgier talents.

Even now i’m still buzzing. I hope he’s a regular fixture at least until Wrestlemania, and if we get the huge bonuses of him wrestling at Wrestlemania and staying on beyond the event for a while, I will be all the happier. Here’s the video of the historic event:

Rob Drummond: Wrestling, Not as Theatre, But as an Art of It’s Own

Even approaching The Arches in Glasgow on the day of the performance, I was almost completely unsure of what exactly it was about to see. I expected wrestling, knowing that Rob Drummond had undertaken the notable sacrifice of training to be a wrestler for five months for the performance. I also knew, however, that Rob Drummond is, in fact, a playwright. Wrestling undoubtedly deserves credit as an art-form, but I had niggling worries that what I was about to see would be an un-required attempt to legitimise wrestling as theatre, and would feature lots of dogmatic theorising that would culminate in an unfair and patronising conclusion that theatre could, in fact, be lowered to the wrestling ring.

The start of the show is not encouraging, the stage is dressed in the aesthetics of wrestling: colourful lights, metalic surfaces, even a big screen, but the first speaker, “Damo” O’Conor, the head trainer for the Scottish Wrestling Alliance, seems to fall in to the trap of theorising the innate humanity that is symbolised in wrestling – something that is true, but needs no explanation. This was my immediate reaction, but in retrospect, I realise that this was an essential part of the show. Not only is it an establishing segment, letting the audience know that Damo is a good (face) authority figure, but as Drummond says almost instantly and rather glibly upon taking the stage, nothing presented by the show can really be trusted as absolute truth. It is only looking back that it becomes clear where all the pieces fit together, and again, it retrospect, it seems that the entire show until the culmination of the wrestling match was in kayfabe. Drummond doesn’t theorise to show that wrestling can be a dramatic art, he uses the unique conventions of the wrestling art-form to make that fact apparent as the show progresses.

Drummond”s lengthy monologue seems at first to be a slightly soppy hard-luck story. He speaks of the personal flaws he feels he has developed because, as a child, he missed his ‘fight window’, and how, ever since, he has been a victim oh his own humiliating cowardice, always being unable of standing up for himself. Looking at this in the context of the entire show, however, it becomes clear that far from being a slightly disappointing appraisal of the effect of wrestling on his life, Drummond’s monologue is in fact a promo, it is storytelling, it is wrestling. The Rob Drummond on stage isn’t Rob Drummond the playwright, it is Rob Drummond the babyface wrestler, and he is laying the foundations for his archetypal heroic story, that of the hero overcoming his inner-demons to overcome his obstacles.

All the while, Drummond speaks of wrestlers as more literal heroes. Comparing the somewhat weedy picture of himself in training to an almost unattainable paragon of heroic virtue in Bret Hart. But what is clear from his stories of personal ineptitude is that far from being distant to people like himself, the in-ring stories that wrestlers play out are just as relatable to fans as anything that can be shown in any other art form; as Barthes said in his essay, The World of Wrestling, “it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolph or Andromaque.” This is best shown in the often melancholic yet comic stories Drummond tells, commentated by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon, in which he is often accompanied by his small, comforting figure of Bret Hart. The stories Drummond tells of being repeatedly confronted and beaten up by consummate heel “James” do not, in fact, resemble the glossy, almost other-worldly setting of professional wrestling, but the inner-turmoil and the confrontations between good and evil, between innocence and experience that Drummond describes are reminiscent of the same dynamics in pro-wrestling. Earlier on, Damo mentions how wrestling originated as a folk sport, and it is clear from these stories that far from being distant and other-worldly, the stories told in the wrestling ring function more as a folk art form that can resonate with something inside everyone.

Everything up until now has been part of the show, and so is the next segment where “The Antagonist” James Tyler confronts Drummond on stage. Everything about this man characterises him as the ‘heel’, not only does his nickname point to his dramatic stock-type as “The Antagonist” but he shares a name with Drummond’s perpetual antagoniser, “James.” Tyler tells Drummond that ‘the time for talk is over’, but that statement itself shows that wrestling is not just some transient form of physical entertainment, but is instead reliant on the ‘talking’ that is necessary for storytelling. Tyler goes on to do his job, and antagonises Drummond to the point where he is willing, for the first time in his life, to stand up for himself. It is not serendipity that this moment happens right then and there, and it certainly isn’t serendipity that there is a ring behind the stage, which is dramatically revealed after Tyler accepts Drummond’s challenge to a wrestling match. This is pure drama, but of a specific kind to the art form of pro-wrestling, and Tyler’s abrupt entrance to the stage is simply another part of the story being told. “James” is the obstacle for our hero to overcome.

Pro-wrestling has it’s own conventions of oral storytelling, but it also has it’s own very unique conventions of storytelling in the ring. When the characters, as wrestlers, are introduced, every detail, even down to the different colours of the lighting, continues to characterise them and prescribe to the audience how they ought to react. Drummond is out first after a recap of his babyface back-story before Tyler comes to meet him, accompanied by a suitably antagonistic visual presentation and much darker, red lighting.

The match is turned in to a tag team match, partly to add further moral gravitas to either side, and partly, i’m sure, so that Drummond doesn’t have to carry a full match on his own. It is here where the early establisher pays off and Damo comes to join Drummond and add further weight to the virtue of his quest. I wasn’t expecting a heck of a lot from Drummond, but he really surprised me with his ability. He started out with basic takedowns, but moved on to complicated progressions and really quite fierce bumps, culminating in what was perhaps the most shocking achievement, the hurricanrana! This match was in many ways the archetypal match between good and evil, face and heel forces; Drummond and Damo engaged with the audience and fought with virtue whereas the heels sneered at the audience and showed frustration when unsuccessful, as well as resorting to cheating. The ending of the match was excellent, Damo took some heavy punishment from the heels, who were regularly tagging in and out to stay fresh. He managed to overcome these two and recover sufficiently to reach Drummond for the tag. Earlier on, during his promo (as i’m calling it), he mentioned how he had dreamed his entire life of hitting the Superfly Splash on an antagonistic opponent. Bright in the audience’s mind, Drummond received the tag and climbed to the top rope before successfully hitting the move and gaining the pinfall, silencing all of the storyline demons, overcoming his antagonistic obstacle, and gaining dramatic closure all in one move.

The noise in the small audience was deafening by this point. If drama is supposed to move it’s audience and elicit emotion, than this example of pro-wrestling was an exemplary, visceral form of drama that is truly unique. Using the complex medium of pro-wrestling throughout to make it’s meaning patent, this wasn’t a show that explained how theatre can be lowered to the world of wrestling, but showed instead how pro-wrestling is a unique and moving form of drama in its own right.

Not theatre lowering itself to wrestling, but wrestling showing itself as a particularly rewarding form of theatre.