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: